(This post is #3 in my Carnita series. Links to #1 and #2 are below.)
Carnita had all the right instincts for how to handle the pandemic. When the book tour for her porn travelogue was cancelled, she instinctively turned her talents to the virtual world and began to engage the audience for her erotic novels through video chat. Her genius exhausts me. I mope with an international cadre of authors whose plans have been cancelled by the virus. When bookstores closed, we sulked while Carnita gathered her fans, a moist communion of velveteen souls, on Zoom. The unique features of that platform were an invitation to exhibitionists. At her Zoom meetings, fans presented themselves naked in her honor, liberated by the safety and privacy of their unknown location, and the Nipple Club was born.
What I saw as an act of desperation, stripping to get attention on Zoom, Carnita saw as her new side hustle. That’s the difference between her and me. I skipped bathing and wallowed in my empty calendar, a stubborn victim complaining of lost opportunities. Through the same torpor, Carnita ascended, lit, undaunted by isolation, pimping her vision on social media, fingers deep in the begging black hole of cyberspace teasing out a new kind of satisfaction — crowd-sourced porn. A naked rave. Safe, silent and separate, with the option for anonymity. A way to relieve human solitude without risk of exposure. She was Imagineering virtual intimacy, a harmonic convergence of lust and loneliness, open to the public. Porn church. Come one, come all.
I found this burst of empathy previously missing from her repertoire of genital provocateurs, seducers and soft targets. Making the connection between intimacy and wellbeing conferred legitimacy on her catalogue. Her book sales spiked. She was crowned queen of erotica. After her first interview on morning TV, I stayed in bed for three days and ate chocolate. Without any formal credentials, she became the darling of schlock producers and magazine sidebars on how to stay mentally healthy in isolation. Jerk off! Really, I thought, that’s the cure? Carnita smiled for the cameras and said she wanted the people who felt unseen to be seen. The Nipple Club was therapy. A celebration of the cosmic connection between mother and child since forever.
And so, she built her platform one nipple at a time. No faces, no bodies, no clothes, no possessions, no status stuff. Just nipples or the place where a nipple once was. With a simple set of rules, she made the Nipple Club a safe genderless congregation, absent the messy complication of proximity, all microphones off, each participant in their own solitary box, exposing their unit, sharing, wholesome as a mother’s love. When the History Channel interviewed her for a show on breasts as a symbol of abundance from the Venus of Willendorf to Cardi B, I ordered ten pounds of bacon. Feels without borders, she said. Right. I dipped my bacon in ice cream and licked the drips off my pajamas as Carnita’s side hustle became an empire.