Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Inside a Confessional Booth

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“We’re in a confessional booth. I can’t even see your face!”

What will people tell you inside a confessional at an old convent? Nerve chatted with strangers at “Ungodly,” the Found Festival closing night party at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, Australia.

Nate, 22

So as we sit here in this confessional booth, is there anything you’d like to confess to? Maybe anything in the last week?
I did feel awful the other day because I —people — I work in a bar and sometimes people give me tips and when I say “Oh thanks so much, I’m going to go put it in the jar,” they say “No! I want you to have the tip.” I am conflicted what to do about customer satisfaction versus being fair, maybe? But I spoke to my friend and she was like “Fuck it! If they gave it to you they gave it to you!”

What you’ve done, would you say you’d sinned?
Uh. No. I don’t really believe in sins.

Do you know what the seven cardinal sins are?
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, vanity…

I don’t think vanity is one. Oh, pride maybe? Is that the same one?

Wrath and envy.
Oh. So no, I know five of the seven sins.

Do you think you’ve done all of them?
Yeah. I’m gonna ask a question that I think is interesting: which of those sins do you think is actually the worst?

Like causes the most damage. And I’d say greed, because you can sort of excuse all those other things by saying you’d been greedy.

Hmm. Or because you’re human, in the case of lust or envy, maybe?
Well, you can feel lust but it’s whether or not you act on it and make it your prime motivation. For example, I’m in a pretty happy committed relationship (to the mic) very happy. And I experience lust. A lot. Because we’re doing long distance.

Oh god. So where does your person live?
They live in England.

Ah, and that’s where you’re from. I can tell by your accent. So your person is in England. How long have you been long distance?
Oh, longer than we’ve been going out.

What’s the worst part?
Uh, physicality. I still have her emotionally. And miscommunication as well, a lot of the time. Because sometimes you’ll be feeling something and it may be a bit cheeky, and you say it but you haven’t used the right emoticon!

So do you feel like most of your miscommunications happen over text?
Facebook messenger, but essentially yes. But it’s just difficult not to be with that person. And sex is a big part of a relationship.

Massive. So what do you guys to do to combat that?
Do you want to get dirty?

I want to hear all about it.
Okay [laughs]. We do a lot of Skype sex.

Skype sex is a hard one for me because that could mean anything from like, typing to…
Oh we’re jacking off in front of each other.

Yeah. That’s the sex of the future.
I think maybe the future is actual relationships where two people are in the same place.

That’s the past. That’s retro.
Uh, phone sex as well, but it’s not really what you want, mostly because of the time difference. It’s good, and you do feel a closeness. Like the other day I was jacking off and I called her at work and I don’t know… this feels creepy.

We’re in a confessional booth. I can’t even see your face!
I was like, breathing heavily down the phone like “…hello.”

Did she have people in her office?
She moves around a lot. I think she was on the train. I don’t know where she was. But it was sexy and hot and she sent me a message after and was like, “that was really fun.”

Yeah! That is spontaneous. So how do you keep the lust from being a problem? A lot of long distance relationships struggle with that one.
Alcohol. Well often when I’m at a party I can drink to the point where I am super super charming. Like too charming, considering my situation.

So how do you keep yourself…
[interrupts] Oh, I keep drinking. Until I’m a mess, and then women don’t find me attractive.

So your solution to not being unfaithful is them not finding you attractive.
I’m being flippant, yes. Oh I don’t know. We have like this open thing but I feel like if I really wanted to cheat on her I would have done it by now. I’ve had the opportunity like a lot. I’ve prioritized other things, such as drinking more or speaking to someone else.

Now interestingly, cheating is not one of the seven sins.
Yeah, well I think it’s a sub-sin of lust.

Lust, you could argue, happens whether you want it to or not.
Yeah, like if I look at you and think “you’re genetically viable to carry my seed,” that’s not my fault.

No, and it’s what we’re programmed to do, etc.
Exactly. And I’m so good at fucking! I’m so good at it. And it’s annoying.

Do you want to…
[interrupts] No I’m alright for now actually, thanks though.

[laughs] No, do you want to say what you miss the most about your current partner?
Choking her.

Oh you guys are into that?
She was into it and the first time she was just like “would you choke me?” But now it’s really nice because it feels like we trust each other a lot. And there’s a closeness. I find it nice to be able to release a more aggressive side.


Kirsty/ Audrey/ Goldfang, 28

So you have three names. What’s Goldfang for?
That’s just my general party-fun times inner demon name.

How do you choose what to introduce yourself as?
Depends on the professional setting. So as the director of this show it’s Kirsty. Generally people call me Audrey. It becomes very convoluted when they cross over. Some people just know me as all three and come to understand the context and then they swap.

So you’re the director of the show. Can you tell me a little bit about the idea?
I’m a visual artist and I have my own personal practice, a lot of which is public art. So I was one of the recipients of an award they have here, which is to make work about the history of this site because it has a really long, really intense history. I didn’t know anything about it [the Abbotsford Convent] until I looked it up to apply for this award. It’s been a site of misery for a lot of people, particularly women. And then when they were showing me sites, I made a neon artwork for that. They were showing me sites that I exhibited in and they showed me the Laundry [Magdalen Laundry]. Do you know about the laundries?

Yes, roughly.
Well most people only have a rough knowledge because the churches still don’t admit that they did it. So everyone’s knowledge is rough. But the laundry space was just really intense to me. Like it has an intense feeling even when it’s empty. I was pretty horrified.

Can you explain the laundries?
Laundries were… the wording is difficult because different laundries had different “inmates,” you could call them. Some were orphans that they had nowhere else to send. Others were women or girls that were pregnant or who had been sexually abused. Basically just, hide a girl here. So that was pretty intense. I was horrified. And now that the Abbotsford Convent is this fun, social atmosphere…

…and really socially conscious!
Exactly! It’s got all of these progressive people and this history is totally hidden. It just washes over it. So I wanted to do something big about that. And that was two years ago! It wasn’t meant to be as big as it is. But I’m a yes person!

So tell me about what you’re wearing. You look incredible.
What? Oh my god. This is my sneaking out and going home outfit. I was wearing a spacesuit before.

You’re wearing the fluffiest thing I’ve ever seen.
This is my daywear. I wear this everyday. It’s a beautiful silver fox. Hmm…what I’m wearing.

Do you have a good story about anything you’ve got on?
Well, my boots are because I also run a forge with a friend of mine at a place called Testing Ground. So these are what a wear to bash steel and weld metal. That’s pretty interesting. That’s why I bought them. The other most interesting thing is probably my hair. It was done by a guy called Jared in his kitchen. He’s a taxidermist and hairdresser.

Yeah, that’s his thing. I posted something on the Found page and said “Hey, I want leopard print hair, who can do it?” And this guy called Rainbow Slam was like “I fucking can.” And there you go.

And you were like, “You sound like the person I’m looking for.”
Heaps of people told me to go to him. People keep stopping me. These adorable girls at the bus stop today who looked about fourteen were like “oh my god! I love your hair!”

Cute. So what’s next for you?
Actually, this is a good story. My friend is flying me to the States for two months to tattoo his whole back. I’m leaving in two weeks!

What are you tattooing on his back?
Um, well he’s really funny. He has a butterfly tramp stamp at the moment. He got it in the ’90s. It was very meaningful at the time but it’s sort of worn off since then. He doesn’t want to go over it because it was really meaningful, but he wants to expand and have it just become a much smaller part of a bigger back piece. So it’s all very symbolic to him.

Has he designed it?
Our friend Roadkill designed it.

Roadkill is quite a name.
Yeah, she’s pretty wild. She’s definitely earned it.

Nicki, 26

You were just about to tell a story when I walked up to you. Can you tell it now?
So I’m working at an event today and the emcee and I were talking and I told him that I was a little bit shaken because last night I was at a bar and I had a stranger grab me on the ass.

And I kind of turned around and called him on it and an argument happened as a result, the man was thrown out of the bar. Then when I left, he kind of followed me home a bit and it creeped me the fuck out. I had a few people step in like on the side of the street and they got rid of him for me. I was like, “Okay, I’m just gonna ride my bike now.” But yeah, so I told this story to our emcee and he remembered me from a story about two months ago where the exact same thing happened, only it was his friend that was grabbing at my… I was wearing these shiny shorts. And yeah, I just sort of lost and yelled at him for awhile.

And what did he do after that?
Well, both times after it they kept just saying “it’s a joke” and “it’s not creepy” but the fact is that I didn’t know either of their names and I’d never met either of them before. The way that I’d described it is that it’s not a joke between friends because I don’t know you. You’re playing a joke on me and I don’t find it acceptable behavior.

Totally. So there’s some sin talk at this event.
There is some talk of sins. I, myself, am representing a fallen angel.

Yeah, your costume is super cool. Your story is interesting to me, because sexual violence and harassment, I would argue, are among the biggest sins.

Do you know the actual cardinal sins?
Greed, sloth, lust, envy… yeah I know them. I can’t think of them.

Do you believe in sin?
Yeah. [pauses] I believe that everybody is capable of doing bad things and sinning, I suppose. I don’t think…yeah.

Do you think you have to be religious to think about sin?
Not necessarily. I think people generally have a pretty good moral compass of what’s right and what’s wrong and with making mistakes you can’t really realize why they are bad or reasons behind it. That being said, things like not killing people is pretty straightforward.

Ya, murder is up there.
It isn’t in there! Wait, but is wrath like “feel my wraattthhh!”

I think it’s just anger. I actually Googled it and it just listed it as a synonym for anger. Anyway, what do you think happens after people die? Do they become fallen angels?
Well, I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t done any focus groups on it or anything, but I like to believe in reincarnation. I think it’s a nice way to look it at, that everyone comes back again, although not necessarily as a human. I wouldn’t mind being a bug, although I really think I’d excel at being cat.

Because they embody everything that I admire. They’re just the laziest, not-giving-a-fuck animal.

And why a bug?
Well I just mean you could be a bug. A bug would be fun.

Would it?
There are so many types of bugs. They have so many more like, receptors than we do, like having different visual spectrums and stuff. A mantis.

I was literally just thinking that!
I know! I could see it in your eyes! [sings] I want to be a mantis shrimp!

Those are the ones that eat their mates after sex right? The women?
Ya, they like drive something into them. Oh no, that’s a praying mantis. A mantis shrimp is a crustacean, like a prawn. They live down deep in the ocean and they are incredibly colorful and incredibly scary and they are one of those ones that has super strength compared to its size.

We have three visual receptors, rights? And dogs have four. Oh wait, dogs have less. They have two.

Black and white, right?
Yeah. And mantis shrimp have like sixteen.

They’re like on LSD all the time!
Well I’ve only seen a photo, but that’s what I’d like to be reincarnated as: a mantis shrimp.


Feature image via Facebook.