In “SAFE WORD” I dictate gender as a vessel for power. The work deconstructs binaries, such as masculine/feminine and dominant/submissive, and how they are used by straight cisgender men (SCM/ the “firmly male”). SCM will be tied and bound in shibari bondage in different settings — bars, restaurants, offices, laundromats — public and commonly frequented places. The work offers a new way of viewing gender to the seemingly most stubborn of identities, the dictator of gender in a patriarchal world. Fetish pornography of the feminine in bondage is bountiful and abundant: the continual notion of women as submissive is perpetuated so. Yet, feminine/masculine are not the same as man/woman, nor are these categorizations indications of gender. Within the limits of a sexual play, I ask the firmly male, “Would you dare give up your power? How would your gender change?”
Ashley Zhang is a New York-based photographer whose work focuses on paradoxes such as intensity and delicacy, life and death, and ecstasy and pain. Her work exhibits the juxtaposition of not only color, but thematic elements, often showcased through an editorial lens. Zhang received her BFA in photography from Parsons School of Design in 2023.