rubby Valentin, Saturn and Knox murdock in 'enchanted gardens' by ryan pfluger

RISK MAGAZINE: Historically, what is your relationship to shame? How are you unlearning shame?

Rubby Valentin: I started exploring my sexuality on a predominantly rich white boarding school campus in Connecticut. I was surrounded by bodies that didn’t see mine as desirable. For example, my sophomore year at 2AM in the morning I went to the bathroom only to find one of the only gay boys in my school with another boy. When I walked in they both laughed at me and called me a monkey. It wasn’t until I started educating myself about my queerness, blackness and own artistic process that I started unlearning the shame branded on my skin. That, a long with the many men I hooked up with to fill in that empty space, made me regain my confidence (for better and for worse).

RISK MAGAZINE: Have you ever experienced fetishization that made you feel uncomfortable?

Rubby Valentin: Earlier in my life I was naive to the allure of fetishization. I thought that people liking me for my skin color, hair texture etc. was a valid, fulfilling form of attention and affection. This was due to my early sense of rejection by white gays. Then when I was actually being accepted into sexual circles in college and on in life, I understood that I was wanted as a black person but only as this super aggressive top. I found that many guys paid attention to me for how hung I was but weren’t interested in topping me (lol). As a full vers, this made me feel a lot of bottom anxiety and made me want to act more masc so that the gays would be sexually attracted to me. I am very happy to have found a boyfriend that makes me feel comfortable whichever way I want to act and still wants to fuck me no matter how masc or femme I act.

RISK MAGAZINE: What are some or all of the ways you censor yourself on a day to day basis? why do you?

Saturn: I think anyone that knows me would say that I don't censor myself. I mean I grew up with an example of repression so I went against it and became someone that speaks their mind regardless of the situation. Although if a guy is involved, I have been known to hesitate. Which I believe is rooted in shame. Obviously, shame is constructed in the way that it has affected black and queer people. It's given to us before we understand the concept. So while I don't believe in the shame itself, the effects of it pop up from time to time. I am working on eradicating it in real time. If I see an opportunity to express myself to a guy I just do it now. I always admired the really emotive girl. Even if deemed crazy, her open heart on her sleeve allowed her to experience real things. Which is the opposite of what censorship brings.

RISK MAGAZINE: What would it look like for us to express ourselves creatively and sexually without the gaze of ANYONE? what would you do?

Saturn: In my mind it’s what I do now. I live at this weird intersection of performance star and bitch who shuts the world out. The whole point of my job is being perceived. However, I work without the thought of others. On stage is my relationship with myself. I am forever grateful to those that look with whatever gaze and where that takes me. But personally, I don’t consider it. I think that comes from a lifetime of being looked at for being queer and outside of the margin. So, to have any SELF at all, I had to shut the world of my head. I walk down the street super confident in my soul and couldn't care less about what the next person thinks of me. Unless we’re friends lol.

Wait I just realized the question mentioned sexual expression as well. Which is so different from creative for me. I do care about being desirable. Visually and internally. I think I am but am learning about the confidence of holding that power. So many guys are just figments of their own imagination and have no idea how someone like me lives proudly. That turns them on sexually. I never really break that facade though so it's always going to be intimidating and odd for both of us. Until I find someone who lives equally or even more so by their own terms exclusively. But my commitment to my vision of myself will always matter more than anyone's gaze. I hope this statement is inspiration.

"Obviously, shame is constructed in the way that it has affected black and queer people. It's given to us before we understand the concept."

RISK MAGAZINE: How does racism affect your social, romantic and sexual relationships as well as your relationship to your own sexuality and the way you socialize?

Rubby Valentin: Racism really affects how I interact with all of my relationships but especially my sexual relationships. My boyfriend of 1.5 years and I have a pretty open relationship when it comes to sexuality. We like to explore and sometimes even include others into our sexy time. Something that I’ve noticed is that because my boyfriend and I are so different looking (he is a super white Scottish descendant looking guy and I am a dark skin Dominican) many guys will only be attracted to either one of us if we are trying to plan some play time. It goes to show how many guys are only open to being with one body type, but for us we are really open to many types. That socialization of our sexuality has made me really weary of the gays and who they chose to advocate for in the bedroom but also in the real world.

RISK MAGAZINE: Do you see your body as art? Have you always seen it that way? What work did it take to see that?

Rubby Valentin: One of the great things about constantly creating work with my body, whether it be photo or video, is being able to see the evolution of my features over time. My work has become an extension of myself through the archival process. I enjoy looking back to music videos I recorded a couple years back and thinking about the relationship I had to my body. Most of the time I notice how I was self-conscious about being too thin or too fat in the moment but looking back I see the true beauty in whatever shapeI was. I try to remember that when I’m feeling present-tense anxiety about my body.

"That socialization of our sexuality has made me really weary of the gays and who they chose to advocate for in the bedroom but also in the real world."

RISK MAGAZINE: What do you think about the hyper sexualization of the black body? Why do you think this exists and how can we combat it without desexualizing ourselves?

Rubby Valentin: The hyper sexualisation of the black body is a direct reaction to the hyper devaluing and racial violence against black bodies. It’s a twisted and disorienting cycle. I unfortunately don’t think we can combat it in a direct way, however I do feel like black people taking ownership of their visual representations is a great place to work from and learn for the larger audience.

RISK MAGAZINE: How much does outside validation contribute to your overall self-esteem? *think about this one*

Saturn: Ooooof! I may have answered this above. Um, I know that I am not hot to everyone because of colonization. And if someone's root thought is so trapped by media and public perception then I don’t consider their opinion valid. So it’s rare, but depending on the person, acceptance and validation could matter a lot. I haven't met them yet though.

In a Risk Magazine series "Decolonizing Sexuality", Rubby Valentin, Saturn and Knox Murdock star in 'Enchanted Gardens' photographed by Ryan Pfluger, styled by Beoncia Dunn.

Models Rubby Valentin, Saturn & Knox Murdock

Photographer Ryan Pfluger

Stylist Beoncia Dunn

Interview LaQuann Dawson

Producer Jack Goldsmith

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