‹autonomous sex-toys›

Interview with Friederike Nastold, questions by Johanna Ziebritzki

03.03.2017, Karlsruhe

Dear Frieda,
specialist for autonomous sex-toys,

thank you for the wonderful afternoon! As I told you then, I’m sending you the first tasks/questions now, more will follow depending on how you respond. I’m eager to finally find out more about your specialization. Feel free to take on the role of being a specialist for ‹autonomous sex-toys›, play with it, or object to it.

All right, thats it for now. Enjoy!

Johanna Ziebritzki: Please describe the toys, for which contexts you construct them and how they are to be used.

Friederike Nastold (13.03.2017):


I invite people with different sexual orientations to play together: it’s up to the group what they discover, how their playground is formed and how far they go. Everything is possible, nothing has to happen. There are no instructions, it’s up to the group to face and to ‘understand’ the toys in their functions. I want to create new playgrounds and to offer new spaces where people can discover new erogenous zones and desires with the toys.

JZ: Was there an awakening moment which led to your specialization in autonomous sex-toys? Do you perceive specialization as your vocation?

FN: I had a shocking moment while I was doing some research about toys – every toy was so heteronormative, so cliché, so sexist.

So I wrote slogans working with the advertising text of the ‘usual’ toys. At the same time I started with the productions of my toys. Furthermore the toys told me that they want to be used, to be played, so I invited people to do so. There’s now a starting platform where desires can be developed.

‹specialization as my vocation?› Yes – we need more playgrounds, more queer (film) festivals, more experimental porn, more humor, more honest talk about our sexual needs. So sexual education, sex positive experiences/images/representations are still a huge topic which has to be discussed. We need more positions like Annie Sprinkle or Laura Mérrit who offer a platform for body images out of the heterosexual matrix. Start playing, start talking, and discover yourself! Viva la vulva and every part of our bodies which want to be discovered!

JZ (18.03.2017): Thank you for the answers! Love reading your answers, they make my body smile.

The idea of toys and actual material toys seem crucial to your practice since the platform which you founded is called TOYTOYTOY– it’s a space to discuss, deconstruct and play with social and psychological norms (is that said well?). Why do you believe in toys and play having the power to screw with social norms, in your case heteronormativity?

FN (21.04.2017): Johanna, thank you so much for your inspiring questions – it’s a real pleasure to be in a dialogue with you.

TOYTOYTOY was founded in 2015 and since January 2016 this platform can call itself a collective who invites theorists of different disciplines and artists focused on gender questions with a queer feminist point of view to discuss their ideas and works in lectures and workshops in Mainz. Furthermore we all should believe in toys.

For me toys were and are the starting point to deconstruct the binarity of gender. As we have a huge implantation of porn visual environments in urban spaces since the 70s and furthermore its endless digital diffusion through the internet, we need queer sexy images to offer (dis)identifications.In my case I see this offer in my toys. To say it with Judith Butler: We need to act within the system, to elaborate subversive strategies to queer and to change the order of sex and gender.

Every moment of disidentification may have the power of showing us the ‘more’ in our heterosexual organized society: So every disidentification can be taken as a moment of power, of change and of hope. If there is more visibility of queer (dis)identifications, of queer desire, we may produce less exclusions. And may have more pleasure in our daily life.

JZ: Which power do you ascribe to sex?

FN: Wow, very good question. To answer this one we have to do a little excursion into the thoughts of Michel Foucault, a French philosopher and historian: In 1976 and 1984 Foucault wrote The History of Sexuality, which is a three-volume series of books.

Foucault’s main goal in the books is to disprove the idea that Western society had repressed sexuality since the 17th century and that sexuality had been something that society did not talk about. On the contrary: everybody talked and talks about sex. The books were written during – and as an answer – to the supposed sexual revolution in the 60s.

Foucault asks three questions about the repressive hypothesis:
(1) Is it historically accurate to trace what we think of today as sexual repression to the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 17th century?
(2) Is power in our society really expressed primarily in terms of repression?
(3) Is our modern-day discourse on sexuality really a break with this older history of repression, or is it part of the same history?

So the modern sexuality and its pleasures aren’t the result of repression of an original desire so much as specific configurations of power-knowledge. In modernity truth arises from experience and pleasure itself to a sientia sexualis, a set of political and social techniques aimed to produce what Foucault calls ‹the truth of sex›. Modern pornography is one of the paradoxical techniques of government for producing sexual identity and modern sexual subjects. So pornography became in the 19th century a totalizing system of social power claiming a single subject of desire.

In total: Pornographic techniques of representation and the normalization of the body are inevitable connected with the political construction of the gaze and of the managements of the body. So pornography and sexuality are a cultural practice – following Foucault sex(uality) is powerful, is a result of different political techniques and influences, constructs our bodies and identities. As I want to take it as such, sex is power, is constructed culturally and therefore we can, we must offer in our practices more than a heteronormative perspective on sex.

JZ: From former talks I know about a video you shot with four protagonists playing with the toys and with one another. The video is shown in art-exhibitions. What kind of experience do you try to create in the art-frame? What are the similarities and differences between the rather protected, private playground and its filmic re-presentation in art-exhibitions from your – the specialists – perspective? That is: Which power do you ascribe to art?

FN: As I take the private as political, sexuality as political, so art is political as well. This standing includes the thinking of art(spaces) as powerful and as a productive space to discuss political questions. As there is a rising amount of artists negotiating sexuality in their artworks, we actually can claim a huge discourse on sexuality in the white cube. Why do we still have this huge interest to talk about sex?

I want to take pornography and sexuality as a productive and educational tool to change our ideas of bodies and desires. So to show my videos and installations or even my toys in museums, means for me to take out the supposedly private thing called sex into the public and to offer different body images which hopefully change our views on bodies, especially on our bodies. As the wonderful vulva is still being taken as a taboo in public spaces or in many cultures, it is important for me to fight for a visibility of the female and queer desires. Museums seem to me as a suitable vehicle to take on these issues, as they already are taking the scene of queer film festivals and different forms of activisms to a wider audience.

The project ‹Toys in spaces› – to which you are referring to – invites the public through its ground covering projections and powerful music by the amazing musician Mint Huus into an immersive space: The celebration of different bodies is one focus, as well as the further discussions wich may take place after experiencing the video installation.

So let’s stay critical and develop together a critical view on body practices to produce subversive strategies to irritate the heteronormative body regime!

Ausstellungsansicht im NKV Wiesbaden, Toys in spaces, Video-Installation, 2016.