I'll Get on My Knees Only for Myself
In my series, "I'll Get on My Knees Only for Myself," I present self-portraits that challenge hegemonic ideas of race, gender and sexuality. These images are a depiction of an impossible, yet enticing, fantasy of being simultaneously dominant and submissive to oneself as a form of self-love. Through this collection of photographs, I also wanted to create visuals that mainstream cultures do not provide or support.
In the gay community, it is often understood that gay East Asian Americans are submissive and deserving of penetration, due to histories of colonialism and imperialism where East Asian men were emasculated and thought of as more feminine. During the course of understanding my own sexuality as a gay Japanese American, I realized that I am submissive, and I felt guilty. I was scared of enabling dangerous stereotypes, and I took extra steps to not seem submissive. Nevertheless, I did not feel happy doing so.
During my time in an Asian American Sexualities class at Northwestern, I learned that we all have certain levels and types of agency— and even though we might desire the product of hegemonic forces, we do not have to feel guilty or responsible for it. Sexuality is riddled with power dynamics, but they may not necessarily be “bad” if they are desired. One of my biggest personal revelations in creating these photographs was that elements of BDSM can be simultaneously an exchange of power and an exchange of trust. After all, perhaps trusting someone to pleasure you is a form of sexiness. In short, there exists a stereotype where East Asian gay men are often pigeonholed as submissive, but that should not stop me from pursuing what I desire, as long as there is trust and understanding involved.
I decided to incorporate these ideas into my project in order to not only create rebellious images for the audience, but also to learn how to trust and love myself. These are self-portraits which were edited to create two different but sexy versions of me. The process of setting up the shoot, tying myself up, and creating the composites was incredible, and I felt beautiful. I believe self-portraits can be political in that they can challenge status quo ideas of beauty aesthetic. More importantly, I believe that self-portraits allow individuals, especially marginalized people, to come to terms with their own reality and to create a world where they can love themselves.
Alex Furuya graduated from the Medill School of Journalism in 2018, majoring in journalism and statistics. He is currently working at a media company in the Bay Area and hula hoops and strips in his free time.