Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 26, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Dec 31
Permalink

pretty girls don’t make graves (but lustful guys perhaps do)

I didn’t know until just recently that Pretty Girls Make Graves were a female-fronted band - and a pretty good one at that; “post-punk” in a manner quite similar to Q and Not U. I always thought, out of complete ignorance and assumption, that they were a ‘emo’ band more along the lines of My Chemical Romance or some other group with a name that imbues romantic relationships with apocalyptic significance. I did know it was a Kerouac quote (or alternatively a Smiths song, but I reckon it’s a safe bet that  Morrissey borrowed it from the Beat author). Thus the original meaning of the phrase - that “lust was the direct cause of birth which was the direct cause of suffering and death” in Kerouac’s Buddhist theology - is not perhaps as esoteric as I first thought.

Writing this post got me thinking about the phrase and its significance in the context of a backlash against ‘classic’ male authors such as Kerouac, as described in this piece:

"For many of these women, the reading experience begins from a place of seething rage. Take Sara Marcus’ initial impression of Jack Kerouac: “I remember putting On the Road down the first time a woman was mentioned. I was just like: ‘Fuck. You.’ I was probably 15 or 16. And over the coming years I realized that it was this canonical work, so I tried to return to it, but every time I was just like, ‘Fuck you.’”

(Incidentally, I was probably the same age when I first read On The Road, and then - as I was the only one who had gone and bought it - passed it around my group of male school friends until it came back with its spine broken)

Then’s there the valid point that “there’s no female equivalent of Jack Kerouac because nobody would take a woman who lived like that seriously”; or, as the Beat writer Gregory Corso put it, “There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock”.

I’m inclined not to defend On the Road too strongly - it’s not so much that it’s overrated, to my mind, as it is over-exposed and over-mythologised outside the messy context of Kerouac’s other writing - although I did think it was a strength of the recent film adaptation that it showed the ill-treatment of the female characters in a perhaps more powerful way than the prose did. My argument is that Kerouac’s novels are just as much about bleak tragedy as they are about youthful exuberance; and more importantly, the former proceeds from the latter. That its ‘sadness’ is invariably seen from a male, introverted perspective is true - and thus shouldn’t perhaps be taken as such a generation-defining voice - but the whole point of reading literature is usually to access that inner perspective, male or female. So while I can be sympathetic to the alienation that female readers might experience while reading his books, and be sensitive to the misogyny woven into their historical, cultural and personal fabric, I still have more to get out of Kerouac’s work - even if it (rightly) makes me uncomfortable at times.

Part of that is confronting the context of its misogyny (alone with its more mundane contradictions). It’s appropriate that the quote comes from The Dharma Bums, my favourite of his novels, ahead of On The Road, and the one with I think the most highs and lows of experience (or at least the most crammed together in one relatively concise book) and the most Buddhist theology/philosophy. Again, one drives the other, and it’s a novel as much about the failure to realise wild expectations as it is about transcending suffering. The immediate context of the quote is about celibacy, or more pertinently Kerouac’s abandoning of it to join in ‘yabyum’ with Japhy Ryder and his girlfriend. It’s one of the sillier parts of the book really, and also dispiriting both to reader and author. It’s not good that it ignores and elides the female experience. But considered reflectively, it does point to something - albeit from a narrow male perspective - about the morass of gender and social rules about sexuality. Likewise, the other well-known phrase, from On The Road, ‘boys and girls in America have such a sad time together’ (made even more famous by the Hold Steady) has its own background

The theology of ‘pretty girls make graves’ is fairly sound in Buddhist terms, although as Sallie Tisdale points out in Women of the Way, why is it that of all the sensory distractions that Buddhist monks are meant to overcome, lust is the one that necessitates excluding 50% of the population? It’s a question about responsibility, and exercising it in a way that shows compassion towards others rather than blaming them for one’s own failures. 

***

Yesterday I read another short e-book, this time The Art of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I’d normally avoid that kind of [insert derogatory term for popular literature on esoteric topics] preferring to get my simplifications and reductions from a more fun kind of literature (like Kerouac) but I was interested in him because he is mentioned an awful lot by an Irish author, Tony Bates, who writes very well on depression and mental health, and because he is from a Zen tradition. My scepticism about mindfulness as a therapy is not about its effectiveness per se (it’s probably much better than the alternatives offered) but an issue of subsidiarity: ‘mindfulness’ alone doesn’t address the existential question, and cut off from its Buddhist roots it becomes I think a rather shallow philosophy. Of course, that’s most of its appeal, and to be fair the book - a condensation of a condensation - had some quite inspiring passages at the start. What I didn’t like was when it took a rather conservative turn in describing the ‘Five Mindfulness Trainings’ (which, despite the lack of any explicit reference to Buddhist tradition, clearly show their influence in their form), which include:

"I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment"

Now, that’s a perfectly valid stance for anyone to take in relation to their own life, but is it necessarily an aspect of mindfulness? Later it’s expanded upon and justified by saying “Respect for the body is at the same time respect for the mind”, and while it is (or ought to be) true that “there is no true love without respect”, it’s not necessarily the same the other way round (or, rather, that the ‘love’ needed is the same one as goes with long-term commitment). Then it goes on to discuss “sacred zones” in our body for which “we have lost our respect”. This is basically just the sex-positive v. sex-negative debate; on the one hand, it ought to be a choice (a negative liberty with regards to sexuality, including the paramount freedom to refuse) but both sides of the choice should be seen positively. The alternative position is moralistic conservatism.

This ‘Third Mindfulness Training’ (I have issues with the others, but not perhaps quite as sharply) derives from the traditional Buddhist injunction against ‘sexual misconduct’ (which is mentioned explicitly). “Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct…” is basically the updated version of “pretty girls make graves”, but the emphasis is more conservative than ascetic. The original Buddhist 'precept' - akin to the vow of a monk, but in this case aimed at the laity as well - is a step or two short of celibacy, and of course much depends on what ‘sexual misconduct’ is understood as referring to. It’s a conservative tradition which can be interpreted more or less sensibly depending on cultural demands; but more importantly:

"They’re not commandments; they’re commitments made by individuals after having meditated on suffering and its causes. This is a practice. It is determination born from our own insight."

On the first part, when is a commandment not a commandment? If something is merely a voluntary commitment, yet it is made clear that it is a necessary step towards the achievement of ‘mindfulness’ or is otherwise ‘correct’, then how does that effectively differ from the moral force of a commandment, especially in a society where religious proscriptions are already so widely devalued? On the second part, if it genuinely emerges from our own meditation and insight, then we must be free to come to our own conclusions (within reason). Yet to admit that would rather undo the neatness of the argument - and its appeal to existing attitudes:

"The Five Mindfulness Trainings have a universal nature. Practicing them, you become a better friend of the Buddha, a better friend of Jesus […] If you are from a different spiritual tradition, when you read your scriptures, you can identify the elements of the Five Mindfulness Trainings in your own traditions. They can help you better understand your tradition. You can’t be happy if you’ve lost your roots."

But if you come from (or have adopted) a humanist and sceptical tradition, by reading you can also question what traditions mean. So that’s why I prefer the muddle of Kerouac to the easy certitude that there’s one right way to be.  

buddhism sex kerouac books
Comments (View) | 21 notes
Jul 24
Permalink

The Economics of Porn (and music)

Via Erosblog, I found this blog (NSFW) of a self-described “feminist” and “capitalist” female pornographer. On Tumblr reinstating the robots.txt rules for Adult blogs (but not as yet fully admitting to their classification as such), she has this to say:

"The Tumblr adventure is just another episode in the ongoing clash between porn and the increasingly corporatized internet. In just the last month I’ve had issues with Blogger, Vimeo and with Google Plus (an ongoing drama that I’ll blog about soon), all of them determined to expunge adult content from their services. Unfortunately the internet’s public and social spaces are all owned by private companies that want nothing to do with porn and it means that adult content is being forced into a ghetto, starved of traffic and discriminated against. As someone who believes in freedom of speech and who is trying her hardest to make a better kind of porn, it’s an ongoing source of frustration. At least this latest move by Tumblr is a small sign of hope."

As I tried to suggest previously, this crackdown is part of a wider and more fundamental issue. Within Tumblr though, there’s a further very important criticism of its own porn-sharing network to be made:

"… consider this: the images I’m posting [on Tumblr] are licensed to me, chosen by me and authorized to be shared in what I consider to be a promotional manner. I also have the 2257 documents for those images.

Compare this with the millions of Tumblr porn blogs that post unlicensed, unauthorized, un2257′d images without so much as a link to where they came from. It doesn’t matter that their terms state you can’t post copyrighted content; Tumblr is built on stolen, unreferenced porn. People don’t hesitate to copy and share an image they like and to build giant blogs and traffic bases from that. If I may get a little Grandma Scrotum about this, in my day you didn’t do that. If you wanted to make a porn site you absolutely had to buy a licence for that content. At least, that was the case until the porn tube sites came along and obliterated the rest of the business with rampant piracy.

(By the way, you’ll note in Tumblr’s terms that they forbid you from uploading sexually explicit video because “hosting this stuff is fucking expensive” and they recommend you use xHamster instead. No mention of making sure the video is yours to begin with.)”

This is an issue I deliberately didn’t address in my original post on Tumblr porn, partly because I wanted to focus on the community aspect but also because it’s not a problem specific to Tumblr nor, indeed, is it specific to porn on Tumblr. The site is built on uncopyrighted content in a lot of ways, even without the porn blogs. In a lot of ways I think the situation is similar to that of music: it’s really incredibly easy to get a hold of for free, and I’m not sure why anyone of my generation would pay for it (or rather, I know that most don’t). Yet if we want to respect pornography both as culturally significant and as a form of sex work, it’s problematic to add to its argued inherent exploitativeness the exploitation of its labour as free, stolen content.

Of course, I know why pay for music - a mixture of the moral and prudential argument that artists ought to be recompensed, and the value I find in vinyl records as physical objects or, lately, the convenience of Spotify (even if its actual worth to the artists is debatable). Porn doesn’t really have the latter option, and although I think the former probably ought to apply, at least to professional content, it is weakened by porn’s social status and even stigma. The image of someone who pays for porn is instinctively one of an obsessive, one who can’t get enough kick out of the freely available tidbits or pirated copies and needs the genuine completeness. Yet that is basically describing the serious music fan.

Part of it also comes from the extent to which sites already appear to operate on a mixture of promotional and ‘freemium’ models, with most using ‘free hosted galleries’ (/fhg) to display selected images at relatively low resolution (why porn superfans are so attracted by super high resolutions I’m not quite clear, since imagination generally does a better job in the first place; but I suppose it’s the medium’s equivalent of high fidelity). From what I’ve seen - generally of classier producers like X-Art, Joymii, Met-Art - the subscriptions per site appear pretty steep; but then again, it’s perhaps not far off what many music fans might spend monthly on vinyl or downloads. There are also more flexible options emerging for smaller producers, like the self-explanatory ‘Clips4sale’; but nothing that I see that would revolutionise the market like streaming has for music.

As I say, I’m chiefly referring to professionally produced content here. I am attracted to a notion that for certain amateur or self-shot content, such as features often on Tumblr, the ideal is for it to remain unpaid, unsullied by commercial exploitation. An illusory purity, perhaps (and ‘amateur’ content is widely exploited, both commercially and morally without consent). But while I believe the body, even in its pornographic representation, can be a free tool of self-expression, I still recognise that when someone puts in effort into something they have the right to ask for money for it - and, as always, fair control over their creative property. Again, a similar argument applies to the artistry of independent music, where expression and creativity vie with sustainability and due recompense. 

Clearly there are a lot of things wrong with porn, before you even get down to questioning its content. Like music, it’s not that no-one makes money off it any more, it’s that generally it’s what most regard as the wrong people who do. Yet unlike music, there’s not a whole lot of political or social capital in campaigning for the business to be reformed to respect copyright, rather than puritanical mores (even if that is perhaps just swapping one bourgeois morality for another). Squeezed between search providers, social media corporations and advertisers who have all chosen to be prudish for business and legal reasons, and a consuming public who feel little pressure to actually pay for the content they furtively use, porn is increasingly pushed into a ghetto where ethics are expensive (or rather, unprofitable). In another post, on 'Porn for Women'  (interesting for this and other topics), the feminist, capitalist pornographer sums up her frustration at this social hypocrisy:

Why, in 2013, is sex still such a huge problem for people? Why does every corporation out there assume that I’m evil or criminal or not to be trusted because I want to make porn? How am I supposed to change porn from within and make it more ethical, more feminist, more positive when I’m blocked at every turn?

[…]

And meanwhile, there’s the alternative universe of porn-friendly sites that echo the main ones: Offbeatr (Kickstarter). Paxum (Paypal). Pornterist. Fuckbook.

Except that I don’t want to be shunted off to the porn ghetto. I don’t want the internet to have this sex-based apartheid. What I want is to share my erotic films and writing with people who don’t normally frequent porn sites. I want to get the word out to everyone about feminist and ethical porn. And I want my porn to be found by everyone when they are legitimately looking for it. Right now, Google isn’t letting them do that and, quite frankly, it sucks.”

tumblr internet economics sex pornography
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Jul 01
Permalink

sexisnottheenemy:

“I have educated myself about feminism, patriarchy and gender politics just as you have, and I do not believe that all porn always has a positive effect on humanity, or is always a positive experience for performers. However, I think that just as it is possible for humans to have consensual sexual experiences that are not inherently exploitative, it is possible to record those experiences in a respectful way. Feminist porn is no less impossible than feminist sex, and I think as a political movement we’ve moved on from Dworkin’s idea that “violation is a synonym for intercourse.” Sexuality is personally and socially complex, and so is porn. As feminists, both are possible.”

— Pandora Blake (On not being exploited | Spanked, Not Silenced)

I’ve had this post I’ve wanted to write for a while now about the ‘other’ side of Tumblr, but I guess reblogging this is the closest I’m going to get. The above is a response to a fairly extreme, indeed absolutist, anti-porn view, while it is also a statement that ‘much work needs to be done’ in the full potential of feminist sexuality is to be realised, without unnecessary exploitation. It’s also focused on the professional production of porn, which is somewhat different from the consumption-focused aspect of Tumblr I wanted to talk about

Occasionally I read journalistic pieces attempting to square the circle, to varying degrees of success, between a liberal and broadly sex-positive feminism and a generalised fear and distaste for pornography (usually of the ‘worst’, most extreme, and/or most commercial kind) linked to concerns about male sexuality. And it has long seemed to me that the discussion is lacking a grounding in the range of actual experiences that people of both genders might be having, in a large part probably because it remains a difficult subject to talk about - and since pornography clearly doesn’t appeal to everyone (or at least not all kinds of it do), it’s quite easy to see what is essentially the lowest-common-denominator face of internet porn, and assume it’s all despairingly awful.

Much of that exists on Tumblr as well, but I guess what interests me is that there is a community there that exists both to ‘curate’ and also sometimes to produce pornographic imagery in a way that is far more expressive, and reflexively self-aware, than the conventional criticisms of internet pornography give any credit for in their anxiety over social influence. A tweet on an entirely different topic from hautepop summed up the nub of the issue quite well for me: ”My feeling is that Pinterest is in fact unusually sincere - performative yes, but also laying our fantasies naked & public”. In this case, the nakedness is far more literal, and the rules are correspondingly more liberal on Tumblr than on Pinterest, but the principle seems the same.

Read More

sex tumblr feminism pornography
Comments (View) | 532 notes
Jun 22
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likeapairofbottlerockets:

“There is then some truth in the phrase, misattributed to Andrea Dworkin, that “all sex is rape.” Rape and sex are far from foreign to each other, but rather are mutually constitutive elements of a broader structure of exploitation. Rape’s violence and transgression is not aberrant but rather a defining aspect of sexuality. It is the original appropriation driving all subsequent consumption or self ownership, a threat or reality that renders sexuality meaningful. Defining the qualities that make sex an event unlike rape becomes difficult; there is no true absence of force, nothing to “consent” to that isn’t on the terms of male power.”

From this essay, one of the most interesting things I’ve read in awhile.  

In summary, because it’s dense and long, what they say is that sex positive attitudes are not valid as radical feminism because all sex is based on self-reification (making yourself into an object to be consumed) and on a system that creates selves and not-selves, and needs to keep producing/consuming these subjective and non-subjective halves in order to maintain itself, and because of this sex can never be “pure,” or truly outside the influence of this system (patriarchy/capitalism). They also deconstruct the idea that there is such a thing as “pure” “natural” sexuality that is fundamentally “good,” an idea that has been heavily argued by sex positive feminists. 

I think I basically agree with this. They end the essay by stating that they don’t really know how to fix this and they seem very frustrated (understandably). They hint that they believe the abolition of gender would fix these problems (which is obviously basically impossible for as long as the idea of gender exists, at least for a very very long time). It’s a fascinating piece that hit me pretty hard and goes beyond what a lot of people are willing to consider now that we’ve entered this, if still deeply troubled, somewhat “utopian” era of sex positive thinking. The conclusion of this essay reminds me most of the Phillip Larkin poem “High Windows,” in which he implies that the “freedom” that each generation achieves in terms of sexuality is ultimately meaningless and doesn’t solve basic existential human issues. 

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear what anyone else who makes it through this essay thinks. 

It’s a good critique of sex-positivity, although as such I think its more equivocal, at least at its start, than your summary might suggest - as it says, “Sex positivity as a supposedly coherent social movement would be only a paper tiger”, or in other words it is not, and should not be seen as, a ‘social movement’ in terms of addressing most of the real sexual oppression. The critique is accurate in addressing the utopianism that is probably a fairly naive interpretation of sex positivity itself, but much beyond that it starts to feel like relentless pessimism. Like the idea of there being no such thing as “pure” sexuality, which is accurate as far as it goes, but the same can be said about any human abstraction - whereas sex (or I dunno, maybe food) probably feels the closest thing to ‘pure’ pleasure that most people experience, while simultaneously being the act most directly embedded into relationships of power.

Elsewhere it states “It’s not a stretch to say that the affective labor of sexuality, the emotional work of another’s subjectification, is exploitative” - which is basically saying all relationships are exploitative. Again, this is true in a sense, but the point is we agree to do that work, to trade vulnerability and ourselves. Making the historical insight that all this is based on thousands of years of patriarchy is not really all that insightful; what would be an insight would be to further the understanding of how people can make those negotiations in the way that does the least harm to whatever value of ethics one subscribes. And yes, a radical social critique has a part in that, but so also probably does a liberal feminism that allows people to make their own decisions based on a certain non-judgemental attitude when it comes to how others view different aspects of sexuality. 

In fact, ‘sex-positivity’ might be a slightly misleading name, since really it’s about being neutral about the relative merits of different acts between consenting adults (and by the way, I can understand the intellectual impulse, but is pursuing a radical feminist deconstruction of the notion of ‘consent’ all that wise?); but in recognition that social forces usually dictate that sexuality outside of narrow parameters is ‘bad’, the positivity is a means towards making freer choices more acceptable. The essay is right, also, to critique this as a negative liberty rather than a positive one, as it takes a certain degree of privilege to be able to make sex-positive choices (although I think it does work as a positive freedom in one’s own mind).

So perhaps it’s bad therefore to slip into seeing positivity as an end in itself, but in terms of celebrating pleasure - regardless of whether it’s ‘pure’, ‘natural’ or entirely artificial and/or battery-powered; only that it be as ethical as possible - I don’t see a better ultimate goal. And that’s the thing - in going ‘beyond’ recent feminism, and beyond adding to the description of the myriad ways in which the world is messed up, what is the attraction of a non-sex-positive view? Since sex-positivity is basically by definition non-prescriptive, it should be open to any redefinition of the social relations on which sexual ethics are based (kind of like a Marxist superstructure) but, just like other areas of human pleasure-seeking activity, we’d rather retain the freedom to pursue our own definitions of what feels good. I’d agree that as it stands much of that freedom is constrained or illusory, or even downright harmful (to others and to ourselves - but then the issue is whether and how much we are aware of it), but sex-positivity seems much more like the answer than the problem.

Many of the aspects of the critique aren’t in themselves that radical, only the focus on radically changing the fundamental basis of society before accepting any changes as positive: the existential quandary of our sexual being, however, will remain until then. It’s kinda like a question of being able to live in the world, while pursuing an ultimate understanding of it. And the terrible aspects of it, while not there to be endured, can only be eroded gradually. A radically-ethically sex-positive feminism seems to be the way to go, if you want to combine genuine freedom and pleasure.

sex feminism
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Mar 26
Permalink
thewoodquarter:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the president of the Republic of Ireland.
(Nonsense Context)

thewoodquarter:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the president of the Republic of Ireland.

(Nonsense Context)

irish sex Michael D. Higgins
Comments (View) | 218 notes
Mar 13
Permalink

moneyfire:

[…]

Interesting piece on men speaking out about the complicated problems with porn.  (via likeapairofbottlerockets)

[…]

(via hardcorefornerds)

Good thoughts above. I think the fantasy, rather than the degradation aspect, is far more crucial than is often acknowledged in pieces looking to push the former. As an interesting companion piece the porn search engine, Porn MD released their top 10 searches by country and broken down by state. Quick run through of the states and it seems as though “college” is the top search rather than any specific sex act, degrading or otherwise. 

Some other interesting takeaways: Kentucky’s top search is “free gay porn” which seems like a joke, the deep south searches for “ebony” at a way higher rate than any other state, and lastly, looks like good old Oklahoma would be your hotbed of degrading/hardcore sex searches. Looking at Europe, seems like priority number one is finding people fucking in the home language. 

That is interesting. Unfortunately Ireland isn’t included (too small, probably). But I notice that the #2 term in the UK is ‘Indian’ and in France  it is ‘Beurette’ (the feminised form of Beur, or ‘Arab’, a colloquial term for someone of Maghrebi - i.e. North African - descent). I can’t find an equivalent in any other European countries but those two are the two major post-colonial, multicultural states - so add in your own analysis (how much of it is white British or French people searching, or the other ethnic groups themselves, one doesn’t know). ‘Asian’ is #1 in Canada, too.

Ebony, though, that just seems kinda weird. Is that just a porn term, or do I even want to know?

Iceland and Venezuela are very into gay porn, as is Kentucky (if it’s free). China and Japan about 50/50 as well, apparently.

This is kinda addictive, actually… Nigeria includes ‘things I jack off to’ which is a bit of a brainteaser as an internet search term. (ah, ‘ebony’ is #1 in Ghana too - guessing there’s some cross-cultural influence there though)

porn sex europe american exceptionalism
Comments (View) | 22 notes
Permalink
The truth is, says Jensen, that because pornography consists of the same repetitive sexual acts, it needs some form of emotional content to succeed commercially. It’s that which staves off the boredom. “Now, if pornography went towards emotion that was about mutuality, respect and egalitarian relationships,” says Jensen, “then men wouldn’t buy it, because they’re using porn to avoid those aspects of sexuality. So the route to maximising market share involves including emotions that men are more willing to accept in a commercial sex relationship – anger, aggression and domination.”

Interesting piece on men speaking out about the complicated problems with porn.  (via likeapairofbottlerockets)

Ugh, this article is kinda terrible. ‘Interesting’ in some senses but lacking in a lot of others. I saw another quote of a line that preceded this:

"opposition to intimacy, says Jensen, helps explain why porn has become so cruel, degrading and humiliating – why, to quote Martin Amis, it has become "a parody of love" addressing itself "to love’s opposites, which are hate and death".

which was an interesting thought, but I resisted the urge to click through then because I knew Guardian pieces on subjects like this are inevitably over-generalised and one-sided - a sort of semi-handwringing, semi-polemical take on social controversies. ‘Porn’ is a monolith, seen through the eyes of the advocates du jour, who in this case come off like a collection of recovering alcoholics discussing hard spirits.

It’s usually a good idea to be distrustful of anyone who starts off a statement with the phrase “the truth is”, especially when it’s about a subject as psychologically and culturally varied as sexuality and pornography, but what I really object to is the bald assertion that porn is used to avoid “mutuality, respect and egalitarian relationships”. In some cases that might be true, but it’s wrong to imply that it’s an issue of either/or, or even one of replacement: is it not obvious that such relationships are not attainable all the time, but rather than taking their place or allowing people - men or women - to ‘avoid’ them, pornography sates, at least partially, other desires? 

Whether such desires are sometimes structured in ways that are inimical to egalitarian relationships, and what role pornography (or some forms of it) plays alongside the rest of society in exacerbating that, is a more complex question than virtually any of these interviewees allow. None of them that I see admit to holding a ‘sex-positive’ view, nor do I see that any of them are female, aside from the author - naturally the article is about ‘the men who believe porn is wrong’, but in making sweeping statements about its effects on gender relations it seems odd to exclude women who might disagree. 

Tumblr is a great place for sex blogs, both in that it disrupts (as it does with many non-pornographic mediums) the commercial nature of porn distribution and because it offers an opportunity for individual tastes, desires and sexualities to be expressed. Of course much of it replicates the problematic (and aesthetically terrible) nature of much commercial porn, but other blogs span between the artistic and the genuinely amateur. Again, the sexuality on display often reflects existing habits of performativity and social beauty standards, but variety and autonomy offer the choice not easily available in the commercial world.

Significantly, many users are female: probably only a small minority overall, but a frequently vocal one that belies the pronouncements of this article - women who not only tolerate, but appreciate and enjoy pornography and have their own opinions about what is good and what isn’t. It’s not that the influence of much commercial pornography isn’t problematic - it is, but the nature of pornography in general is far more complex and doesn’t submit to easy psychological or moralising dismissal (pace Martin Amis).

This article argues that our culture “doesn’t want to look at” pornography as an issue, and according to the same man that “a lot of it simply has to do with the number of liberal-left men who use porn themselves and don’t want to engage in self-critique”. It would be a good issue to critique, but reductive and negative analyses like this aren’t a good starting place - not least because it gets men who don’t believe that ‘porn is wrong’ defensive about such an inaccurate portrayal of the subject.

sex porn
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Jan 26
Permalink

Seattle, sleepless readings in

Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels, §65

*

"Ah Seattle, sad faces of the human bars, and you dont realise you’re upsidedown - Your sad heads, people, hang down in the unlimited void, you go skipplering around the surface of streets and even in rooms, upsidedown, your furniture is upsidedown and held by gravity, the only thing prevents it from flying off is the laws of the mind of the universe, God - Waiting for God? And because he is not not limited he can not exist."

(As an atheist who doesn’t ‘believe’ that God ‘exists’ - two epistemological and ontological assumptions imposed by culture on our thought - I like to think that such rational scepticism doesn’t contradict a mystical notion of a universal godhead. Actual existence implies limits, so naturally underlying the logic of reality is a limitless, non-existent being)

*

"In the paper store my God a thousand girlie books showing all the fulsome breasts and thighs in eternity - I realize "America’s going sex-mad, they cant get enough, something’s wrong, somewhere, pretty soon these girlie books’ll be impossibly tight, they’ll show you every crease and fold except the hole and the nipple, they’re crazy" - Of course I look too, at the rack, with the other sexfiends."

(The one essential, sex-positive, pornographic Tumblr. nsfw, obviously)

*

"I go into seaward backalleys, where’s nobody, and sit on curbs against garbage cans and drink wine, watching the old men in the Old Polsky Club across the way pinochle by brown bulb light, with green slick walls and timeclocks - Zooo! goes an oceangoing freighter in the bay, Port of Seattle, the ferry’s nosing her say from Bremerton and plowing into the piles at bottom’s otay, they leave whole pints of vodka on the white painted deck, wrapt in Life Magazine, for me to drink (two months earlier) as we nose in”

(I love living in a port city, so I was disappointed when the local harbour abandoned its foghorn - heard, obviously enough, on foggy days, but also on New Year’s Eve - in favour of less audible GPS technology. Now the air is silent except for cars, airplanes and fireworks)

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Sep 14
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theonion:

No One Murdered Because Of This Image

If you meet the Buddha on the road…

theonion:

No One Murdered Because Of This Image

If you meet the Buddha on the road…

(via raptoravatar)

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Sep 05
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Specifically, it’s because our cultural perceptions of normal sexual relationships have been so skewed by porn that it’s possible to read Fifty Shades and fail to notice how disturbing it is that a woman reluctantly allows herself to be tied up and beaten in exchange for a new laptop.

So here’s a terrible article about Fifty Shades of Grey: The Phenomenon

The first thing that came to mind reading the above (I haven’t, as you may have guessed, read the book so I don’t know if it was an actual plot point) was the story a little while ago about how the son-in-law of bankrupt Irish businessman Sean Quinn traded a €380 laptop “for a $13.4m (€9.8m) property company as the Quinn family advanced a campaign to move their international property assets beyond the reach of Anglo Irish Bank.” Not that I’m comparing potentially massive financial fraud with potentially exploitative (and fictional) sex, although there is a similar kind of sordidness, but the two situations do have one thing in common: the laptop is used as a symbolic transfer of wealth, and power. Its actual, physical or even commodified value is meaningless compared to the (willing) transfer of ownership and domination which it represents.

In terms of opinions of people who have actually read the book, I’d go with this or (from a more technical viewpoint) this. It seems to me that the fault of the book pretty obviously isn’t that it’s about BDSM (bondage, domination and sado-masochism, if you don’t know) sex, but that it’s bad at writing about it, explaining it, and contextualising it an intelligent and emancipatory fashion. Which might be a bit much to expect from a book of cheap erotica, if it wasn’t suddenly so popular. But what’s worse than all these poor women being exposed to and possibly misunderstanding the ideas (lock up the bookshelves! and how seriously do most of them really take it?) are the commentators who write about the book like they understand it either; or that they have any understanding of how kinky sex might actually work. What might be just a relatively obscure quirk has become, by virtue of its popularity, a societal issue, apparently without anybody becoming any better educated on it.

Somehow I think this is a triumph for the mediocrity of capitalist consumption, in which marketing and word of mouth spread a phenomenon by seemingly endlessly multiplying a single product (or, okay, a trilogy of them) into millions of hands without any critique of its inherent value, or potential alternatives. Instead what criticism there is typically pokes fun at it from a literary point of view (which is irrelevant given the quality of most material) or condemns it from a moral standpoint (which entirely misses the point as to why it exists). In fact the second position should be seen as an entirely unwarranted and illiberal interference with individual taste, except that the sheer, phenomenal size of the books’ popularity deems them a threat to social stability. And from thereon in to every aspect of sexual freedom.

The article above clearly connects Fifty Shades of Grey with domestic violence - “a story that might have been lifted straight out of a Women’s Aid training manual” - and blames this on the influence of porn. But comparing the two surely does a disservice to the actuality of BDSM practice, and consequently minimises the entirely different, nonconsensual abuse inherent in domestic violence. And the comparison is so badly misconstrued that it’s hardly worth following their connection to the ideas that follow from it, which essentially list every (legitimate) feminist complaint about modern attitudes to sex, from Todd Akin to labiaplasty.

It would be indeed terrible if women (or men) were to be abused and pressured into  forms of sex they didn’t want based on a misreading and misunderstanding of Fifty Shades of Grey. It would be terrible if the book is so badly written that it doesn’t indicate the necessity of consent, respect and safety within BDSM activity - but surely all that is an argument for better and different porn books, not fewer.

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