Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sex, drugs and rock and roll

The oddest thing just happened. I was browsing blogs, and trying to find people I used to know. I didn't find the person I was looking for, but instead found his daughter. YOW! (Ain't middle-age GREAT?)

The thing is, computing this person's birthday, I realized it is likely I was THERE when she was conceived. YES! I was there! (Or, at least there is an even chance.)

And at the time, I joked about it. I wasn't particularly upset or anything.

In my political collective, it seemed that there were two people who simply could not keep their hands off of each other, and fucked like bunnies. (So, you see, I might NOT have been there for her actual conception, but anyway...) On at least four occasions, they decided to copulate in space I shared with them: twice inside a tent, once in a motel room that housed 7-8 people, in DC for a mass demonstration (yes, we were trying to save money, okay?), and once in a non-converted loft in New York City, provided with limited mattresses. On that last occasion, I was actually ON THE SAME MATTRESS WITH THEM--which was what brought the jokes later. They said, hey, can we sleep here? Of course, the question was a mere formality, I would have been bourgeois and fucked-up to say no, and it would never have occurred to me anyway. They plunked down on the mattress, and within seconds, I could feel the mattress rocking. I remember thinking, Oh boy, these people need a fucking break! They were fairly quiet, although on at least two of the four occasions, she ordered him to SLOW DOWN! and he'd reply in a mumble sorry! and that was it. Pretty quick, and THANK YOU, so I could go back to sleep.

And now, I see this young woman's blog. She looks just like her dad!

As Joan Didion's fantastic book THE WHITE ALBUM (required reading!) made clear, the 60s and 70s were something else. What a long strange trip, etc. The situation above, also described well in Marge Piercy's VIDA (where the two political comrades end up having sex on a pile of dirty laundry--I loved that!), was not uncommon. Not at all. The whole idea was that everyone was supposed to be "less uptight." And yes, I am fully aware that this usually/often translated into women not being uptight, and therefore expected to put out on demand. I know that; I was there. But in the above-referenced example, I also know that the headstrong female activist who fucked the guy in my tent and on the mattress I was already occupying, was not forced by any man (least of all, that guy) to do it. I can also see, from the blog I discovered, that her daughter is as headstrong and into sex as she is, which is not surprising.

I also know that the "put out or you aren't helping the revolution" was a factor in early feminism and separatism, and I got as pissed off over that as any other feminist. Nonetheless, many of these early feminists were very sexual, as the aforementioned Marge Piercy was and is.

And so, I ask: what the hell happened? (One of my friends always blames Nancy Reagan, Just say no!, and the reactionary puritanism of the Reagan Revolution.)

Children saw people fucking. Like, right there, in front of them. This was live, not on DVD.

Children saw people fucking in the middle ages, too, if they were serfs and lived 12 to a room. I daresay, this is pretty common throughout the world in impoverished areas. Children live through the shock of the primal scene, really they do.

Keeping this in mind, what exactly is the fear of porn? Is it because it is highly stylized? The clothes? Rubber? Close-ups? I think the kids have probably seen a few close-ups already, if they are sharing a bed. I sure did!

During the 70s, it was not uncommon to hear people talk about children's rights, even "sexual rights for kids", etc. I'm not kidding! It HAPPENED, yes, right here in the USA! I heartily recommend Judith Levine's HARMFUL TO MINORS, which takes on the subject much better than I could:

Anthropologists concur that America is an exceedingly "low-touch," high-violence culture. But America's diversity, mobility, and high immigration probably belie any biological relationship between the first characteristic and the second. A more likely interpretation of these facts and Prescott's other findings is social. A culture that lavishes gentle attention on its young also may encourage tolerance of the vulnerable and discourage physical power-mongering. People brought up to be aggressive and suspicious of intrusions against their own body's "boundaries," on the other hand, will be more self-protective and territorial and thus more belligerent, both socially and sexually.
I am far more "shocked" by a customer's young child's report that they had actually seen a movie like HOSTEL. Certainly, violence towards women in media is at an all-time high, but this violence is not considered by the mainstream to be pornographic, and they give these movies R-ratings, despite how disgusting, over-the-top grotesque and misogynist they are.

Is porn the problem? I think not. However, I am not "pro-porn" by any means. But I must be honest here: I am more upset by the cookie-cutter appearance of women in mainstream porn (are there any flat-chested gals in porn????) than I am upset by anything they are doing, which I've probably done too. Or I've seen other people do. Certainly, my above example is far from the ONLY casual sex I've ever witnessed. (Are you kidding???) I only mentioned it because it is the genesis of this post.

I am far more upset by misogynist torture-horror movies like CAPTIVITY and SAW, than I am by blow-jobs, butt-fucking and so on. I'm just old-fashioned that way!

Since I have recently been excommunicated* from radical feminism, decided to take on the porn issue, which I have never felt comfortable with as a feminist crusade.

No reason to hold back now!

*as William F Buckley used to say, more about which in due course.

13 comments:

belledame222 said...

heh. yeah, the whole "it's your duty to put out as a groovy love flower child!" must've been aggravating. There's a funny anecdote from a book called "Merril Markoe's Guide to Love" (a very snarky and funny-sad look at the various self-proclaimed self-help gurus for het dating/hookups, from John Gray to the "pick up artists" to Christian modesty advocates to...) where she remembers petting a dog on campus at the height of the peace n love era, and some dude going up to her and going, why would you give love to a stray animal and not to ME?

and her actually having taken it seriously, at the time; in retrospect, she says, she would've answered, something like, because, unlike you, the DOG is cute and non-obnoxious; and i'm less worried about getting mange from him, too, frankly.

but yeah, i think people tend to do all kinds of shit in overcompensation: uh oh, I'm being patriarchal/a prude/bourgeois/an imperialist pig-dog lackey! can't have THAT.

and sooner or later you figure, y'know, boundaries: look, Mary and Joe, it's great that you want to get your groove on, but I. Need. Some. Sleep. Bourgeois schmourgeois, get the proverbial room if you NEED to do that RIGHT NOW.

belledame222 said...

per flat-chested: well, you know, there's "alt porn," along with any number of fetish niches, including, yep, smaller breasts. In general I actually think the mainstream porn ideal is a little healthier than the mainstream fashion model one (typically not quite as bone thing); but yeah, in general the whole Conform! Conform! thing isn't ideal. mainstream gay male porn's at least as idealized: smooth, muscular, a certain butch or boy-next-door look, etc. etc. etc.

antiprincess said...

(sorry about your excommunication, daisy.)

Trinity said...

"Keeping this in mind, what exactly is the fear of porn? Is it because it is highly stylized? The clothes? Rubber? Close-ups? I think the kids have probably seen a few close-ups already, if they are sharing a bed. I sure did!"

I'm really glad you said this, Daisy -- I always thought being anti-porn a la Dworkin and MacKinnon was supposed to be a central tenet of radical feminism and everyone agreed with it back then.

That statement really opens my eyes.

Cassandra Says said...

This whole issue has always confused the hell out of me, and I think you may be on to something. Although I also have some issues with porn, the whole crusade thing just baffles me. I'm all for talking about safe working conditions and the economics of the whole thing and etc etc but there really does seem to be aspect of the crusade that's something to do with the idea of all hetero sex being A Bad Thing. There also seems to be a sort of "it's OK to do it, but watching it is just awful!" thing which I don't get.

See, I grew up in a touchy-feely family. I also grew up in a touchy-feely culture as a small child (Libya). If you look a few posts back on my blog I actually wrote about the general lack of touchy-feely-warm-huggy stuff at radfem events and how much that confused me at first. That initial impression has remained, and on some level I always have wondered if some of those people just weren't hugged enough as children and just aren't really comfortable with physical intimacy in general. And I think that influences people's politics in a big way.

Daisy, since you probably know quite a few hippies from the 60s/70s who now have grown kids...other than the girl you describe, what's your impression of how they turned out? Are they lacking the American puritan "ex is wierd and icky and scary" thing in general?

Cassandra Says said...

Also, RE Belle's point, I'd agree that the mainstream porn ideal is probably less societally damaging than the high fashion one. The mainstream porn ideal is pretty much just reasonably-in-shape woman plus implants and big hair, wheras the fashion model ideal is unobtainable for all but the tiniest fraction of women. To me, models look a lot more "unnatural" than porn girls, on average. I've MET girls who look like Jenna Jameson. The only girls I've ever met who looked like high fashion models actually WERE models (I went to school with Stella Tennant).

Daisy said...

Daisy, since you probably know quite a few hippies from the 60s/70s who now have grown kids...other than the girl you describe, what's your impression of how they turned out? Are they lacking the American puritan "ex is wierd and icky and scary" thing in general?

I think they're all over the lot! But yeah, I do they think lack the puritan strain.

I think it'd be cool to have grown up in another culture.

Also, RE Belle's point, I'd agree that the mainstream porn ideal is probably less societally damaging than the high fashion one. The mainstream porn ideal is pretty much just reasonably-in-shape woman plus implants and big hair, wheras the fashion model ideal is unobtainable for all but the tiniest fraction of women.

I totally agree.

Daisy said...

(sorry about your excommunication, daisy.)

Ohhh, thank you, AntiP!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Odd, my parents were of the Joan generation, they protested, they smuggled draft dodgers, they too me to see Buffy St. Marie and they were very, very conservative about sex (it's okay, I learned about it later).

As for US violence, I find the violence to be very fantazied compared to the UK where seeing men attack each other with anything to hand including a shovel was pretty much a weekly (or daily occurance). Are there violent crimes in the UK, oh yes, often much more realistically violent than the US (say, 30 teens kicking someone to death). Why the US has violence fantasies I wish I could say, maybe because with so many having guns, there is no room for escalation, so the ability to be hands on violent is more taboo than simply shooting at someone.

Wow, got a little off track there.

A.W. said...

I still think they can't excommunicate you if you don't want to go. Humph.

(are there any flat-chested gals in porn????)

Mmhmm, I've even seen some in vanilla het porn, although those depictions are few and far between.

I vividly remember having an, oh, fifteen, twenty minute argument with a few people during one such flick (there was nothing to do that morning, so the lot of us raided J's porn collection) one of the performers were flat-chested and had a blotch of some sort on her chest, and no one could agree wether it was a birthmark, a mole or a tattoo till someone had the bright idea of pausing the video.

Turned out to be a rose tattoo. Only reason I remember it so well is because I was the only one advocating for the birthmark theory.

"Keeping this in mind, what exactly is the fear of porn?

I'm not sure. What some people seem to be saying is televised porn is seen as images on a screen and it objectifies the body and hurts women by encouraging men to see them only as usable objects (submissive, no actions but reactions, et cetera)and it's assumed humanity is stripped in a submissive role. Why? I'm pretty sure it has something to do with whomever's watching whatever acts are occurring. I think there's quite a few things that could be changed for the better in porn, but I don't know if objectification in porn in necessarily the problem.

If you read written porn the characters, much like on video, are still being objectified. Sure, there might be more of a plot, and as a bonus you might get a look inside the character's head, but a lot of people read for vicarious purposes, not to go in search of someone else's humanity. The people that seem to be for erotica but not the rougher types of porn (I'm thinking the guy Belledame just posted about again, specifically) don't seem to realize that they're still not focusing on the performer's personality, hobbies, likes, dislikes, humanity. If they're not focusing on someone's humanity, than that's still considered objectifying, no? That and it's argued like an either/or issue, you're either objectifying or you're not. I think people can do one, the other or both at different times. Back when I actually had a partner I remember both, anyway. In a way I'm kind of surprised it hasn't been taken to the next level yet, where people are reprimanded for saying someone has pretty eyes or nice hair. Those kinds of compliments have nothing to do with someone's humanity, their goals, sorrows and acheivements, why aren't they being critiqued? Sexual activity is as much a part of a person as any of those things, both are malleable, it's that people are focusing on something different. I think it comes down to being able to tell reality from fiction, myself.

Now, I think What specific qualities that are encouraged to be objectified over others is a bit of a different fish, as is the encouragement to view people first in a 'what can they do for me' way. I don't think porn itself is the cause, but then I also don't think it's an effect. The physical traits favored in popular porn I consider a problem because they're not even remotely balanced.

A.W. said...

...omg, I'm sorry, I didn't think it was that, well....long. I just wanted to add that my theory isn't set in stone, but it's seemed reasonable to me. If you've any disagreements, pick away!

Daisy said...

AW, I love your comments, here and on your own blog, too.

Will said...

Right back at you with the nice post. Porn's actually another thing that I don't know how to evaluate until we fix the current, broken, system. But as with food, it looks like there are glimmers of hope within an overwhelmingly problematic industry: small woman-friendly and woman-run porn makers tend (I hear ;) ) to put out excellent work without all the misogyny...