Article translated from German. view the original article here
By Johanna Senn
"Your body is a temple." A mantra that has made the fitness industry its own. Bonnie Bakeneko is non-binary , artist and would probably deny this statement vehemently.
In June, Bonnie, whose pronoun "he" or the English "they / them" is, released a video in which he eats his own nipples . The performance is called "Your Body is not a Temple." The seven-minute video shows Bonnie at the beginning, as he strokes his body. His hands are in red gloves with long, glued nails. A cheek spreader directly releases the look in his mouth. The whole thing has something oppressive.
When his voice says, "I came into puberty relatively late, at the age of 14," it is redeeming. He continues: "Because I was anorexic at that time , my body did not develop properly and I always hated my breasts and nipples."
His hand reaches for a plate. Under a bell jar are two small fleshy knobs - it's Bonnie's nipples. They are dark red, brownish and almost blue in certain places. Gently he puts a fork in the nipple, she leads to her mouth and bites seemingly with relish. Over the next few minutes you can see how he gets his nipples incorporated.
We talked to Bonnie, who lives back in the countryside in the East of England, on Skype.
VICE: You had your own nipples removed and eaten. How so?
Bonnie Bakeneko: I've had body dysmorphia since I was little. I have never seen my body as a whole, but as a collection of parts that have no relation to each other. Sometimes, because of body dysmorphia, I'm fixated on one body part and then again on another. But I always hated my nipples. As I got older, the control of female nipples came along. For example, that women are not allowed to show their nipples on Facebook, but men are. Especially because I am non-binary, my nipples do not feel like a woman's. They are rather trans nipples. I never wanted to be a mother, and the idea of nursing a baby is totally strange. So I got it removed.
How did that go?
First I went to a cosmetic surgeon, but he did not want to. So I came in contact with body mod artists . Many people in the scene thought it was not possible to remove female nipples as the weight of the breast tissue could rupture the scars. I've found someone who has done this once with a woman with smaller breasts. After I said that I really care about scars, the person agreed. Of course I can not say who that was. The laws in the UK are very strict in this regard. Just recently, a body mod artist ended up in jail . Also, because he had someone on request removed the nipples.
Why did you decide to eat your nipples?
First I wanted to put it in, like a formaldehyde drug. But I found that somehow disgusting. Also, the thought that my nipples would survive me or someone would inherit, I found oblique. I wanted to keep it in a transformative way. But not as they were now. Eating them seemed to me the best solution.
A part of you that you will always carry with you.
Exactly, I'll take her back to myself. I do not blame him for all the problems I have with my body. He's only doing his best to keep me alive. Nevertheless, I did not want my nipples. I think I almost looked for a way to make it right. By having them with me, we are one again, but not the same as we were before.
Not blaming your body for how you feel is a nice thought.
Eating my nipples was a healing process for me. My aunt said that I should hold a funeral for the nipples. But I thought that was stupid, because they were not dead, they just were not there anymore. She said I should not eat her, because that's why I would get a lot of hate. But the whole thing was about not giving in to social expectations. To do something so that I do not get any hatred for it would have nullified the whole point.
Did you feel liberated after eating them?
I was like on a high. I was very pleased. One of my biggest fears was eating them and getting sick. I am also vegan and have not eaten meat for a long time. I thought about cooking them, but then they changed shape and color - I did not like that. So I ate it raw. As it turns out, it felt totally natural.
In the performance, it looks like you enjoy it.
I do! Having so much control over yourself is very enjoyable. For me, the nipples were also associated with many traumas from the past and bad sexual experiences. It was beautiful to let this pain go. The next day, I mentally got to a very bad place. Not because of what I did, but because of all the things that had happened to me that I had to face.
It is very difficult to recover from trauma.
Yes, I also have a dissociative and multiple personality disorder. Some of the other personalities identified themselves as cis-women and were very unhappy about what I had done. So I had to face them the day after. There was a personality who found that particularly bad and was acting totally crazy. The other personalities have silenced her, from then on I heard nothing from the voice. It was like one last piece of self-hating that got loud again and then died. The whole experience was very surreal.
It seems you are just yourself.
I am at a point in my life where I can not help myself. I had a time when it bothered me what other people thought. But I do not like adapting to other people anymore. I mean, I got a lot of hatred for the action. But there have also been many people who wrote me a message explaining how much it helped them. I do not care about the shit comments because I'm not part of the world these people live in.
How did you find out who you are?
With a dissociative disorder, it's really hard to remember; what belongs to me and what not? I was ketamine addict. That helped me to understand. I think if you are not neurotypical, ketamine will have a different effect on you. Most humans make Ketamine foggy, but I've been able to access parts of my brain that I could not otherwise reach. I was a working addict; went to work and into training while I was constantly high. But that also got me in touch with my own mortality and I had to face a lot of my addictions. What has helped me the most is Exposure Therapy. So to face the things that you are afraid of.
Was the action about making your body your own?
Yes, that's what the whole thing was about: reconciling body-recovery, body-autonomy, and the relationship to my body. This was especially difficult because of the body dysmorphism. I can never look in a mirror and be OK with what I see. Often what I see is not even human. I do not think, "I look ugly." But I do not know exactly what I'm looking at. I appear to myself then as a large mass of meat. It's also about having the freedom to adjust the body to feel more like your own.
What does it mean for you to own your body?
To realize how I think about things, because I see them myself or because those views have been instilled in me. Find out what you think is good for yourself. Before I had my nipples removed, I made a pros and cons list. All Kontras had nothing to do with what other people might think. But I want to do what I like. I do not want to live for other people.
You break the norm, it scares people.
That's OK, they do not have to like it. I am here for the people who understand it. Not for the others.
Why was this kind of gender suspension important to you?
It is unbelievable how much women's nipples are sexualised and at the same time demonized. Men and women - both have nipples, but women, for example, are not allowed to walk upstairs without being in public. I've never had a sexual relationship with my breasts or my nipples, so I wanted to take that out of the equation.
Why is the freedom of sexual expression so important?
It's hard to be non-binary and look as feminine as me. But I can not help it. I could cut all my hair off and dress differently, but then I would not be myself. If I were a man, I would run right around. After being a woman for most of my life, I want people to know that's not what I am. But I want to do it my own way. So I do not cut my hair, so I look more masculine. It should not be a non-binary thing to look androgynous or neutral.
For the people who do not know you, what kind of art do you do?
My art is about trauma processing. For example, the cheek spreaders: I had enamel hypoplasia as a child. When I ate sweets, it immediately attacked my enamel. One of my teeth is not real, that's why I was always afraid to show my teeth. That's why I wanted to do something that exposes that. The trauma works with me, not against me. I try to settle the relationship with my body.
What do you have to do with art?
It makes me feel perfect and happy. Especially in the current political climate, which is so bleak, I want to create something that has nothing to do with it. A safe place for other people. I also create this place for myself. It is my little island and all who want to come are welcome.
Your art is often dark and scary. What fascinates you about it?
This is a safe place for me. I have always felt safe in the dark. It's a powerful place for me. It's not about shocking me.
What's the biggest compliment you got for your art?
I love it when people say they have never seen anything like it. I try to explain a feeling without words, and when I realize that someone understood it, I did my job. Anytime someone says that my art helps them. That's one of the biggest compliments for me.