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We've been playing telephone tag with Gen, lead singer and ringmistress of the Orlando-based, hard-core band-cum-traveling S&M shockfest known as the Genitorturers. We're expecting the voice on the other end of the line -- once we finally make contact -- to snarl and spit venom. The GTs are, after all, the band whose reputation for live body-piercing and audience participation precedes their local appearances and has caught the attention of major record labels as well.
Instead, when we finally do reach out and touch her, we encounter an upbeat, articulate woman who sounds more like an aerobics instructor than a dominatrix with a silver stud through her tongue. Unfortunately, we've caught Gen on her way to stomach class. "I like working out," she explains hurriedly. "I get off on the endorphin release." We agree to call her back in two hours.
So, Gen, how was the workout?
"Titillating," she responds, and that sixth sense all great journalists have tells us we're in for an interesting interview. We've engaged in a few workouts ourselves over the years. Titillating is not a word we'd have chosen to describe any of them.
"Muscles were exercised and it was good," continues Gen, a graduate of the pre-med program at Rollins, with a B.S. in microbiology. "It's part of being more aware of your body. A good workout should be a turn-on."
Gen is big on endorphins. "There's a lot more to the body than a lot of people are aware of," she explains. "There's a medical connection between the endorphins released during exercise -- runner's high, for example -- and those released at other times, like during sex or using drugs. They have a chemical structure akin to narcotics and are received the same way by the brain. They can block pain and create euphoria."
Pain and euphoria. This is how we segue into a discussion of body piercing. "We use piercing as a form of spiritual enlightenment," she says. "Because we're part of Western society, we've lost touch with a lot of our instinctual side, not necessarily with the instinct itself, but with the means of interpreting it. Piercing releases endorphins, but that's just one aspect of it. It forces you to be more aware of your body."
Piercing, of course, is only part of a Genitorturers performance, along with S&M, bisexuality, bondage, aggression, semihard-core music, and an eight-foot-high rack, often accompanied by a spinning bed. All of it is masterminded by a Rollins graduate who has been described elsewhere as possessing the blond good looks of a swimsuit model, but who has no trouble assuming the dual role of dominatrix and ringmaster in public.
"On-stage I come across as very aggressive," Gen says. "A lot of people can't believe it's the same person. But you don't have to be a Nazi skinhead to enjoy power and aggression. I'm not a passive person at all, especially not in the peace, love, Sixties sense, which was actually twisted around until it became a crutch and a mode of conformity for a lot of people. A lot of what we're about is self-empowerment. We believe that God is within each of us, that our temple is our body, and that we can best experience love and spiritual enlightenment through understanding and controlling the flesh."
Controlling the flesh is what got the Genitorturers into trouble at the Lollapalooza show in Orlando, where one member of their troupe was arrested for exposing his sexual organs during a genital-piercing exhibition. According to Gen (whose mother was present at the show, helping out at the Torturers' booth), this was a miscarriage of justice. "Dennis [Garland] was just exercising his right to express himself. He wasn't doing anything obscene. Our society is so repressed."
Gen is understandably reluctant to go into much detail about the spectacle her gang can be expected to create for their Halloween gig at Washington Square. "We don't do the same things every show," she notes. "It will definitely be an adult show. There will be piercing, that's safe to say. In our stage show, we try to convey different aspects of the use and abuse of power. For example, the master-slave bond is very close and very spiritual because it requires trust, which is the strongest element in a relationship."
When queried about which side of the master-slave mentality she identifies with, Gen says, "Undergoing slave training is not something I'd submit to. I'm more dominant. I'm a person that likes to feel more in control. Sexually, if you're into control, you're probably dominant. Sex for me is spiritual and cerebral. I like role-playing and fantasy."
We're getting a little warm under the collar. Let's switch subjects for a moment. How did you get started in music, Gen? "I was into the music scene in junior high. I knew from the outset the drug scene wasn't for me; it seemed like those people were becoming victims and I knew early that I was more interested in power. I was into the early punk and hard-core scene, X, the Germs. Punk was great at first. It showed kids they could start their own band, or magazine. But then it became a fashion show, spiked hair, mohawks, et cetera. It's like a cycle. There's this incredible energy and creativity at first, and then it becomes conformity.