In conversation with Big Sis, the sex-positive feminist cartoonist whose drawings will make you feel less tragic about your sex life. By Kristen Cochrane.
From internet presence alone, Toronto-based Big Sis is like a sex-positive feminist Banksy. No name, no self-promoted biography, no information, but a significant following relative to when she started posting her intimate, honest, and brutally self-aware illustrations of crude drawings with sometimes even cruder text (because it talks about periods and sex! But you know what I mean).
After sliding into her DMs, I went over to Big Sis’s Toronto home, where we drank beer and talked about her illustrations, and our thoughts on the subject matter behind them, while laughing so hard that it probably echoed down the street. Read our convo below. It’s just like an art podcast, but sexier!
Kristen: Do you feel like a lot of guys still don’t go down on girls?
Big Sis: I think they exist, but I can’t confirm personally if they exist.
Wait, which guys? The guys who don’t go down?
I imagine they’re real. I’ve heard that they’re real.
So you’ve always had a guy go down on you?
Not always. But in my adult life, yeah. This comic in particular is about these guys who call themselves feminists for their own advantage and not because they care about women. They think it’s what they’re supposed to do, they think it will get them laid, maybe. They don’t live a feminist life, so to speak. They just say that because they think catcalling is stupid, or something. Or they’re willing to say catcalling is inappropriate. They might be talking about feminist issues, but when it comes to how they actually interact with women in their life they’re not upholding the same values, and to me it’s really important to do both. You don’t get to have certain politics and then be abusive in some way to your girlfriend. You can’t have it both ways.
Like the guys who put “feminist” on Tinder but they’re doing it because they want points.
Yeah! That’s the guy. Like, congrats dude, you put this in your bio, it took you ten seconds. Like, what’s your motivation to do that? I’m suspicious of that—maybe overly so. It’s these guys who are like, “Oh I’ll let her cum first,” and “That was my gift to her, how wonderful am I?”
Walk me through this one.
The first part is pretty self-explanatory—you know, lots of us are looking for approval, or an insatiable amount of approval. It’s not always about men, but often it is. I started drawing stuff to take care of myself. So when I started posting them, I was worried that I was now looking for external validation instead of just the satisfaction of having expressed an idea. So I have to make sure that I’m not drawing for Instagram—I’m drawing for myself, which means that there will always be stuff that doesn’t make it to Instagram, or somewhere else online, and it means that I can’t always draw to try and satisfy an audience. But of course, once you start getting a taste of the likes, and the comments and the positive feedback, it’s really hard to do that. I like to make people laugh too—that’s been really rewarding. So I guess it’s this weird thing where I’m trying to do this for myself, but now I’m getting this validation online that is helping me continue to do this, because it’s so much encouragement. But I don’t want to just replace one form of external validation for another, you know?
But it’s a different kind of validation—it’s a validation that comes from your work resonating with people, rather than seeking this male gaze to satisfy hegemonic standards of society. It has a political purpose.
It’s a little wholesome. From what I can see of my followers, most of them are women, and so it does feel different. It doesn’t feel like I’m playing that same game of like performing for men or trying to appease men or gaining the attention of men. In reality, a lot of the posts I make do the opposite of that. I mean, sure, some guys might be into the period stuff, but I’m sure some of them are not. And so that’s powerful for me, to be like, “I’m gonna do something that I know some guys are gonna think is gross.”
Do you get trolls commenting on those posts?
Off the top of my head, there was a comment like, “How is this art? Like why don’t I just cum on a bedsheet.” I’m like, “That’s already been done.” I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Jackson Pollock before, but that’s basically what his shit was. Jizzing all over a giant canvas. With paint, but whatever.
This one really resonated with me because I remember one guy, he was British, saying “some girls think doggy-style is degrading.” And I was like really? It’s so sexy! So I laughed when I saw this and I thought, does this have to do with certain attitudes that prevail about certain sexual positions?
I mean, I do understand. I have another comic that’s about minimizing eye contact during sex—that’s maybe what distances people when you’re having sex with someone from behind. You’re not looking at that person’s face—or you don’t have to.
So this “still a whole person thing.” Can you walk me through that?
It’s mostly about shame.
Does it not have to do with doggy style? Or does it have to do with more of just having sex?
I would say it’s primarily about having sex but conveniently, this seemed like the most appropriate way for me to do that. I felt a little bad when I cropped his head off, because he’s not a whole person in this? So the irony of that doesn’t escape me. But to me this is mostly about not feeling shitty about getting laid how you want to get laid. For a lot of people, shame almost immediately follows certain interactions—or you can feel kind of fragmented by your choices after the fact, and during, or whenever. And maybe this is just a little reminder that it doesn’t really matter—like it does, sex is so important, but it doesn’t actually change you!
Okay, this one made me laugh a lot, because I love getting my back tickled—in a non-sexual way too. And sometimes I meet people, whether it’s platonic or intimate, and they’re just like, “What do you mean ‘tickle your arm’?! Do you mean ‘caress’?” So this was really important for me because it made me feel like, yeah, that’s what I want sometimes with people, whether I’m not emotionally available or they’re not emotionally available, but you just want the back tickling, instead of them just being like “Peace, nice meeting you” after.
Yeah, I think often we say “Women always want the men to spend the night, and they’re so emotionally needy, and they want boyfriends,” you know that whole like…
No! We just want you to stay for an hour or two…
…and then leave so I can listen to my podcasts and fall asleep!
Like Invisibilia or something, just throw that on.
This was amazing, it feels like I’m in therapy. I should be paying you. Thank you!
This interview was edited and condensed for length. You can see Big Sis’s comics here :)