Performance piece – Penis-scanning lasers

By , December 30, 2012 10:26 pm

I performed this piece at Chances Dances on Monday, 12/17/12.

A week ago today, I was in New York City getting my penis scanned by lasers, so that a feminist, queer-positive sex toy company could give me a mold, cast from my own cock, that I could use to make candles, chocolates, and – of course – dildos.

Perhaps I should explain.

I recently scheduled my gender reassignment surgery. On December 9, 2013, I’ll be traveling to New Hope, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, where Dr. Christine McGinn will be using the powers of medical science to turn my penis into a vagina.

This is not a cheap surgery. It’ll cost $20,000 and – although I plan to fight them on this – my insurance wants to pay for absolutely none of it. They have an exclusion in their policy for any costs “for or from a gender transformation operation.” Since I don’t have twenty grand lying around, I’ve decided to hold a fundraiser for my surgery. I’m using the Kickstarter model: people can donate at different levels, and they’ll get rewards in return. $10 gets you a postcard, $15 gets you an origami vagina, and so on. The list of rewards includes artwork, salon services, sex toys, trans-positive porn, and more.

As a shameless plug, you can go to to donate.

One of the items I really wanted to offer was a dildo, using myself as a model. This was an idea that, like so many good ideas, came from a night of drinking and getting high. “Oh my god, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I made a dildo of my own cock?” As it turns out, the idea remains hilarious, even sober.

I’m not an expert on sex toys (and my preference generally goes toward the vibrating models) so I wasn’t sure what this project would involve. I emailed Searah, the owner and operator of Chicago’s own feminist sex toy shop, Early to Bed. She pointed me in the direction of home kits, but said they may not be good for making more than one dildo, let alone penis candles or chocolate cocks. Searah suggested I contact some sex toy companies, and gave me their info.

Most of them didn’t get back, one very generously offered to donate some sex toys to my fundraiser, and one, the New York Toy Collective, said, “Well, we’re doing this project to scan people’s penises and make them their own custom dildos…If you can get to New York City, we’ll give you the actual mold instead of the dildo. Then you can make whatever you want with it!”

I was out with friends when I saw this email on my phone. “I can’t possibly go to New York City,” I said, “even if it’s to get my penis scanned by lasers. They want me there in four days! I have too much shit to do, and I’d need to cancel rehearsal with my students!”

My friends said what any supportive friends would say: “Of course you’re going to New York City to get your penis scanned by lasers.” And the artistic director of my theater said “ I’ll run your rehearsal. You’re going to New York.” Since she ran the theater, I couldn’t exactly say I needed to check with anyone for permission; you can’t argue with friends like that. So I bought a ticket and was on my way to New York City.

The penis-scanning was part of a larger 3D printing fair, where companies and individuals were selling vases, bracelets, sculptures, and more, all printed right in front of you using fancy 3D printers. 3D printing is like those old dot-matrix printers, where the printing head moved back and forth, but instead of moving in one dimension, across the page, these move in three dimensions and spit out plastic or epoxy.

Chelsea, a co-owner of the New York Toy Collective, met me in the lobby of the hotel where the 3D fair was being held, and took me up to the hotel room to meet Jeff, the photographer. It was like the set of the world’s least sexy porn: A gorgeous New York City hotel room, piles of towels and bathrobes, huge amounts of lube, and a giant, out-of-this-world camera (hooked up to a computer) pointing downward at a swivel chair. Jeff explained the procedure to me, saying (very professionally, I might add) that they would need to get five to seven photos from various angles to capture the “morphology of my anatomy.”

“You mean you’ll need lots of dick pics?” I asked

“Yeah, basically,” he replied.

I was sent back to the bedroom to change into a bathrobe and told to “get into the right mindset.” I assumed (correctly) that this was code for “get and maintain an erection” so I whipped out my….

…cellphone and pulled up some porn. It was surreal: Here I was, naked under a bathrobe trying to get myself aroused so a stranger could take 3D photos of my cock, while in the next room I could hear Jeff and Chelsea discuss what pay-per-view options were available on the hotel.

After a few minutes, I was in the “right mindset” (as Jeff would say) and went out to sit down in front of Jeff’s giant camera. He told me how to sit and position myself, pressed the spacebar on his laptop, and a series of beeps were emitted from the camera. A red laser scanned over my crotch and Jeff looked at his laptop screen. “Good capture,” he said. Then, turning back to me, he continued, “…but you’re losing some definition.”

Translation: I had gone soft instantly after the picture was taken.

Back to the bedroom to get into the right mindset. It took a few back-and-forths for the next two or three photographs, but by picture four or five I had found my groove. I was able to focus only on the porn on my phone, and not on Jeff’s directions, or the fact that he and Chelsea were fully clothed, or the fact that I had only met them both twenty minutes prior, or the fact I’d be using the results of this process to sell facsimiles of my own penis to people via the Internet.

To paint you the picture, there I was, sitting spread-legged on a towel thoughtfully draped over the swivel chair, pointing my erection at a 3D camera, looking at porn on my phone in one hand and grabbing my tit in the other, trying desperately to stay aroused long enough for Jeff to finish the fucking shoot.

I got through the whole process, and flew back to Chicago the next day. Chelsea said she and her partner at the New York Toy Collective would mail me the mold sometime in early January. You can go to right now and pledge money to get a penis candle or penis chocolates. Assuming everything goes right with the mold, I’ll also be offering body-safe dildos, made from my own penis. Sometime in early 2014, once I’m recovered from the surgery, I will be one of the few people who can say “I’m going to go fuck myself.”

I’m not sure what lesson to take from all this. “Always say yes to life’s opportunities” is probably the most appropriate. But I prefer to think of that old saying, one I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard at one point or another:

If a stranger offers to scan your penis with lasers in an effort to make a mold so that you can sell cock candles, you let them.

Thank you.

One Response to “Performance piece – Penis-scanning lasers”

  1. Sasha says:

    Rebecca, your post just made my freaking night. Your friends sound like the best ever to insist you go to NYC to get your penis scanned by lasers – I think my friends would just stare and say, “The hell do you want to do that for?” Keep us updated on your fundraiser – I’m going to try and scrape together some funds to donate. :)

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