Friday, October 31, 2008

And the Lord Said: Thou Shalt Not Meet Thine Dates on the Facebook...

... nor shalt thou convene with them in the bars, nor in their apartments, nor go unto them on All Hallow's Eve and eat of the roast chicken prepared there. (Guess what I'm doing tonight? PARTY.) 

This is a pretty obscure commandment, actually, but Melissa McEwan points out that at least one Hell House is dedicated to preaching it: 

A girl makes friends with a guy on Facebook. They decide to go out on a date. When they meet, the guy brutally rapes her. A demon emerges from the shadows, sneering, and tells her she deserved it. She shouldn't have agreed to meet someone from one of those sinful online communities.
 

Here I thought I was being safe! I sure have learned a lot this week. For those keeping track, here are some places you should never show interest in boys, lest you get a deserved molestering: 

  • Clubs
  • Bars
  • Any location outside of your apartment
  • Your apartment
  • The Internet
  • Planet Earth

OMG my BFF Aaron P. Taylor!


You know: Aaron P. Taylor, who did not rape you (although he totally could have, and he thinks you deserved it), is a very sensitive guy. Aaron P. Taylor is an artist who did not rape you; an iconoclast who did not rape you; a thinker of thoughts about raping you (OR NOT), which he selflessly shares with the world. So imagine how hurt Aaron P. Taylor was when his silly little blog post about "How Not To Get a 'Deserved' Raping" got folks all in a huff! I mean, all of these mean Internet people - Jezebel, Shakesville, the Washington City Paper - kept linking to Aaron P. Taylor, and saying mean things about Aaron P. Taylor, and even (gasp!) commenting on Aaron P. Taylor's blog.

Look, Aaron P. Taylor is going to say this ONE TIME, so you all better listen up:
It’s stupid for any woman to believe that she can go through life teasing guy after guy after guy after guy, and not think that at least ONE of them might take what she thinks is a “joking” lil’ tease routine too seriously, to the point where he thinks she’s still “joking” when she says she really doesn’t want sex. If you’re constantly putting yourself in positions or situations where there’s a possibility of something like that happening, it’s only a matter of time before it might eventually happen.
See? Aaron P. Taylor thinks that women who get raped are stupid and bring it upon themselves! Why are people so upset about that? Aaron P. Taylor can't imagine!

Anyway, it's really rough on Aaron P. Taylor when you blog about him. So stop it, OK? Especially you two:
I wasn’t going to even do a rebuttal to this post… but then I found out that other blog sites have been re-posting this article and saying negative things about me personally. (To read some of these sites, you can click http://news.mensactivism.org/node/10802, or http://tigerbeatdown.blogspot.com/2008/10/andrew-p-taylor-did-not-rape-you-he.html [this one is pretty sarcastic, but kinda funny].)
Wha... wait a second. Did Aaron P. Taylor just say that I'm funny? Oh, my god, you guys, does this mean that we are destined to be friends... or possibly more? I can imagine running with Aaron P. Taylor through a field of daisies, holding his hand, sharing a cone of ice cream with him... I'd run my fingers through Aaron P. Taylor's pencil-thin douche beard and gaze tenderly into Aaron P. Taylor's non-lazy eye... and all the while, Aaron P. Taylor would be not raping me, unless I accidentally turned him on, in which case he'd pretty much have to... Aaron P. Taylor: imagine me and you! And you, and me! No matter how you toss the dice, it's meant to be!

IIIIII CAN'T SEE ME [BEING VIOLENTLY RAPED BY] NOBODY BUT [AARON P. TAYLOR] FOR ALL MY LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!

Ha ha ha, oh, we have fun, don't we? But wait: did I just made a joke about sex with Aaron P. Taylor? Because we all know that "joking" about sex with Aaron P. Taylor means that Aaron P. Taylor will later think you are "joking" when you decline to actually have sex with Aaron P. Taylor. So that means...

OH MY GOD HE'S COMING RUN RUN LOCK ALL THE DOORS AAAAAAAHHHHHH.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes, It Is a Golden Cow

A golden cow with dude parts: 


They are praying to save the economy! WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

 

Can You "Spot" the Unnecessary "Quotation" Marks?

You know, when a woman of my persuasion sees that the New York Times has published an obituary for Gerard Damiano, the director of Deep Throat, she really only has two options: to accept that the New York Times will not report Linda Lovelace's claims that she was beaten, raped, and coerced with threats of further violence or murder into making that movie, or to accept that the New York Times will manage to report on those claims in a shitty manner.

Guess which path Margalit Fox chose?
In later years, Ms. [Lovelace] denounced the film as depicting her “rape.”
Let's leave aside, for the moment, the fact that sex workers' voices are routinely dismissed (if they say they enjoy their work, they're perceived to be lying, and if they say they don't enjoy their work, they're also perceived to be lying - the one constant is that a sex worker never has the right to be the final authority on her own experience). Let's leave aside the fact that some people still don't believe that sex workers can be raped. Let's leave aside the fact that sex workers are perceived as disposable and subhuman, and the fact that they are therefore disproportionately targeted for violence, and the fact that their rapists, attackers, and/or murderers are rarely if ever brought to justice because the society at large perceives sex workers as less entitled to protection than other people. Let's leave aside, finally, the fact that this has dangerous implications, not just for sex workers, but for any woman who is perceived as "too" sexual, as evidenced by the Haidl rape case, in which a teenaged girl was drugged, raped, and sodomized with a glass bottle and a lit cigarette and a pool cue and the defense argued that it was not rape because she'd said once that she wanted to be in porn. Leaving aside all of this, let me just point out that it is relatively uncommon for women to have clits in their throats, but that there seems to be a nationwide epidemic of "dick fingers."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Envy Columbia Students

Roy Den Hollander, the man who exists solely to confirm your darkest fears about men who look like Roy Den Hollander, has filed suit against Columbia for having a Women's Studies program. Here, he explains:
“To me, Columbia is a bastion of feminism, a boot camp for turning out feminist stormtroopers who pervert the constitutional law and destroy men.”
WHAT.

Seriously, dudes: there's a feminist stormtrooper boot camp in town and no-one told me? Now I'll never get to command the Feminist Death Star! (It looks like this.) I hold each and every Columbia student responsible.

Of course, you know what the best part of getting your Stormtrooping degree at Columbia would be:


COLUMBIA SPRING BREAK! Yeah, SPRING BREAK, wooo.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aaron P. Taylor Did Not Rape You. He Deserves a Cookie!

Yes, it's true: if you are reading this, Aaron P. Taylor of UnCommoN SENSE ("a Blog on Deciphering the Enigma that is Life") probably did not rape you. (If he did: my apologies. You can put away the baking sheet now.) In fact, Aaron P. Taylor cares so much about rape, and your safety from it, that he put together a little blog post, entitled "Advice 4 Women: How Not to Get a 'Deserved' Raping."

Ha ha, well, too late for me, I guess! If only I'd found Aaron P. Taylor earlier. Aaron P. Taylor: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? That is what I would like to know!

Let's get down to business. Aaron P. Taylor - born on January 7, 1982, in Petersburg, VA, where he did not rape you - begins by laying down a little slice of the enigma that is his life, so as to decipher it. Here, he finds himself at a club in Atlanta, GA, where he has been living for the past several years while not raping you:

We got on the dance floor, and started dancing. At first it was no-touch dancing, with both of us dancing in front of each other doing the best two-steps we could. After the first dance session, she went away for a while, and I proceeded to continue dancing by myself.

A few minutes later, she came over again, and wanted to dance to another song. Once again, I agreed.

This time, though, the dancing she did was more suggestive...

The next time we danced, our faces were touching again. Me, being the guy I am, decided to go in for a light kiss. I puckered up my lips, tilted my head to the side, and…

BOOM! She turned her face and I got the cheek!

BOOM! Aaron P. Taylor got the cheek! POW! That girl did not want a sexing from Aaron P. Taylor! ZAP! Aaron P. Taylor is ugly! (Seriously, look at the picture. Is that a lazy eye?)

Anyway, Aaron P. Taylor, who graduated from Hampton University with a degree in Fine and Performing Arts that he earned by studying hard and not raping you, was inspired by this curious incident to write a little bit about what he could have done, had he not chosen to engage in the fine gentlemanly not-raping-you type of behavior which Aaron P. Taylor always strives to uphold:

Had I been a less-than-understanding guy (i.e., a forceful-type of guy who always “gets what he wants by any means necessary”), I could have just as easily forced a kiss on her, or worse - waited until after the club let out to follow her to her car, then followed her to her house. And, when she got out her car, I could have been right there ready to pounce on her, saying: “I think you owe me something, lady!!”

My goodness, Aaron P. Taylor! That is a very active and suspiciously detailed fantasy life you've got going on there! On the other hands, it is certainly nice that you are including these super helpful "Tips for the Rapey" in your anti-rape article: it shows that you don't take sides.

So, we've established that Aaron P. Taylor did not rape you, because Aaron P. Taylor is not a less-than-understanding guy. (He certainly understands how to stalk and rape someone! NOT THAT HE EVER WOULD.) Here are some other things that Aaron P. Taylor did not do:

  • Aaron P. Taylor did not did not videotape himself throwing a puppy over a cliff while serving a term of military service; he also did not post the subsequent video on YouTube.
  • Aaron P. Taylor did not commit the Zodiac murders; he also did not taunt various individuals with cryptic messages pertaining to said murders.
  • Aaron P. Taylor did not start the popular internet practice of "Rick Rolling."
  • Aaron P. Taylor did not conspire to conceal the location of Osama bin Laden following the attacks of 9/11.
  • Aaron P. Taylor's favorite American Idol contestant was not Sanjaya; he was not moved to hysterical tears by Sanjaya's performances, and he did not vote for him repeatedly.
  • Aaron P. Taylor did not boil a rabbit belonging to Michael Douglas following the end of their affair, thereby exposing his deep rage and mental instability; close examination reveals this to be a scene from the movie Fatal Attraction.
  • Aaron P. Taylor was not present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; at the crucifixion, when given the choice to free one man, he did not shout "Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!"
  • After substantial investigation, we have concluded that Aaron P. Taylor did not assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thereby triggering the first World War.

There are so many terrible things that Aaron P. Taylor has not done! Through not doing terrible things, he has gained the wisdom that comes with not doing them. Wisdom like this:

In short, ladies: if you don’t want a guy to rape you, don’t do stuff intentionally that you know will make him want to jump your bones. You may think doing these sorts of things is “cute” and “just being a girl,” but it’s dangerous, and can get you hurt. Teasing a guy with soft whispers, body groping, or any other type of enticing maneuver is wrong if you don’t plan on following through.

You heard him right, ladies: if you want to stay safe from Aaron P. Taylor, do not flirt with him, touch him, speak to him, or show him any kind of sexual or friendly attention, lest he be enticed, lose control, and accidentally follow you to a deserted location and give you a raping. What sound advice! I think we can all agree that no woman should ever interact with Aaron P. Taylor again for the rest of his life, can't we?

So, Aaron P. Taylor: thank you for your insight into why women should run away from you, shrieking in terror, whenever you approach. Were I not so busy getting a restraining order against you, I would most definitely give you a cookie.

[Via.]

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Want to Fondle Your Beautiful Mind

I've been trying to speak with people lately about genius and gender. Not surprisingly, no-one is taking the bait! This is why one starts a blog - because the issue of whether women can be imagined or understood as "geniuses" is a tricky one. I can't quite figure it out.

Not long ago, I read a blog post about "misunderstood geniuses" in film. (This blog post has disappeared into the ether, apparently; it is not Googlable. COME BACK!) The writer pointed out that in most stories about "misunderstood geniuses" - and you know these stories, all of them, all about the struggles and eventual triumphs of people whose dazzling intellects make them misfits - the MG in question tends to be a dude.

This is a tricky statement, since many films about MGs tend to be about people who actually existed, and were, in fact, dudes: off the top of my head, I can name Amadeus, Shine, and A Beautiful Mind (misunderstood geniuses tend to be batshit nuts, apparently). As for women... I don't know, The Hours, maybe?

Yet this also points to a certain ugly facet of the narrative: when we think of "genius," we're far more likely to apply the word (and the narrative that comes with it) to men. When I type the word "genius" into Google, I get this list, which features Einstein, Dylan, Chapman, Chomsky, Da Vinci, Darwin, Mozart, Lennon, Bach, Beethoven, and so on down the list until you get to Ayn Rand, the only woman, at #109. One doubts the smarts of the people who made the list - "Dexter," a TV character, is included, and Thom Yorke's name is misspelled - but it is instructive, in that it was assembled by voting and must reflect the biases of more than one person. Harold Bloom's Genius list looks similar: Shakespeare, de Cervantes, de Montaigne, Milton, Tolstoy, Lucretius, Virgil, St. Augustine, Dante, and on and on and on and, you know, maybe it would just be easier to tell you which women are included. They range from the obvious (Austen, Dickinson, Eliot, Woolf, two out of three Brontes) to who-says-old-codgers-can't-do-multiculturalism picks (Murasaki) to relatively minor talents whose presence seems puzzling (O'Connor, Wharton, Cather, Murdoch) to sheer bloody pandering (Christina Rossetti!?). There are 101 names, by my count; twelve of them belong to women.

You would like to think that the game changed in the twentieth century, and that as more women gained access to education and became intellectuals or artists we would begin to understand women's work as more central to contemporary arts and to intellectual life. That is not, unfortunately, true: we reference Derrida and not Cixous, Lacan and not Kristeva, and the kids are still talking about Yorke, Malkmus, Lethem, DFW, Kaufman. And no one - no one - talks about Artemisia Gentileschi.

--- HERE WE PAUSE TO TALK ABOUT ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI ---

You probably know the bare bones of Gentileschi's life story: lived in ye olden times, had to struggle to become a painter because she had lady parts, got raped, pressed one of the first rape cases anywhere, was tortured during the case by having her goddamn fingers broken to prove she wasn't lying, kept on painting, etc. What no-one seems to talk about, or value, is the fucking incredible relationship her paintings had to standard painterly conventions and to narratives about women. Here, for instance, is Tintoretto's "Susannah and the Elders."


Here is Gentileschi's.


Here is Caravaggio's "Judith Slaying Holofernes."


Here is Gentileschi's.


Gentileschi's art existed in response to a tradition which did. not. get. female experience: a tradition in which Susannah was a peep show and not a woman experiencing sexual assault, and in which Judith was a meek girl cowering at her task (what, is she shaving him?) and not a determined assassin willing to use violence to defend herself and her people. Gentileschi was to her tradition as "Exile in Guyville" is to "Exile on Main Street." Gentileschi was vastly ahead of her time in understanding how one could pose a critique of an image by responding to it with another image, which reinterpreted its key components or centralized a marginal presence within it. Gentileschi was able to look at the big guns, the great painters, the men that she was supposed to be learning from, and say, no, you got that wrong; I will show you how to do it. Gentileschi was a genius.

--- HERE WE END OUR PAUSE ---

It probably shouldn't be surprising that we think of men as geniuses more often than we think of women that way: they've always had access to higher education, and they've always been encouraged to "make an impression" and to believe that their voices and opinions are worth hearing. Genius requires ambition, and ambition requires a certain amount of ego: you have to believe that you deserve to be at the top of your field before you can take the chances that might get you there. Bravado and confidence have always been nurtured in boys; girls are encouraged to be smart, but not scary smart, because one-upsmanship or assertiveness or even the ability to do something better than someone else might make people (boys, mostly) feel dumb and therefore less likely to invite one to the Spring Fling.

Then, too, there is the fact that genius is associated with a certain technical innovation. In my experience, most of the men I know engage with art on a technical or structural level; most of the women I know seek to understand it on a human level, as something which exists in the context of lived experience and has the potential to shed light on it. One approach asks, how does X speak to its tradition - is it smart, is it innovative, does it show fine craftsmanship? The other approach asks, how does X speak to me - is it true, does it resonate, does it open up new avenues of understanding? I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions to this rule; I can enjoy good technique, and I know plenty of men who have been moved by art. Still, I think that it says something about the qualities that men and women are socialized to value, and what they might therefore try to achieve in their own work.

I don't think either line of questioning is superior to the other; I think we need both. Technical skill should be matched by humanity and depth; leave out either one, and you end up with either a sentimental mess or a science experiment. DFW had the balance; so did Proust, and Shakespeare. Still, if given the choice, people tend to choose the science experiments - and, unsurprisingly, it's boys who are running the labs. This might explain why so many geniuses are sort of boring, and why so many men who try to be geniuses are worse, and why, when reading (for example) Mark Leyner, or Dave Eggers, or all the guys in my Creative Writing classes who wrote nonsense poems which they said were intended to demonstrate the essential emptiness of language because they'd read "Differance" and been like WHOA, I so often got the urge to scream, dude, put down your toys and tell me something.

I will tell you something: girls don't have to be geniuses to be misunderstood. We're too smart from the moment we open our mouths. We're told to let men win arguments, make people comfortable (which means not telling them when they're wrong), consider our professional or artistic achievements secondary to our human achievements, be warm not cold, feel don't think, and speak only in ways that are conducive to reflecting the fantasies and needs and worldviews of the people around us. The narrative of the misunderstood genius speaks to a deeply felt need; everyone, at times, feels that they are smarter than the people around them, and that their intelligence has been suppressed, and that they deserve a chance to be recognized for their talents. I would say that girls feel that way far more often than boys do. We need those stories, no matter how smart we are (or aren't), to reflect that internal narrative back to us and give it some grace.

It's just that, when we go to the movies for our stories, we're always played by dudes.

There Was... a Man...

So, I thought I was going to miss the Mad Men finale, and then it turns out that you can find it online!




Ha ha, no, this is from Saturday Night Live, and I am a dork for posting it.

I can, however, confirm that Steps #1 and #2 will actually work on a real live woman! Try it. She says, what are you thinking? You say, I... do not know. Perhaps... I never have. She says, wow, you're deep. Or she would, if she could talk through all the smooching.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eh, It's Been Done.

I know that last post was pretentious as all fuck, and a bit heavy on the hipster-hate, and I know that hipster-hating is played out and pointless, but seriously: 

If the truth must be told, he was a little bit frightened of middle and lower class humanity, and of foreigners not of his own class. He was, in some paralyzing way, conscious of his own defenselessness, though he had all the defense of privilege... Nevertheless he too was a rebel: rebelling against even his own class. Or perhaps rebel is too strong a word; far too strong. He was only caught in the general, popular recoil of the young against convention and against any sort of real authority. Fathers were ridiculous; his own obstinate one supremely so. And governments were ridiculous: our own wait-and-see sort especially so. And armies were ridiculous, and old buffers of generals, altogether, the red-faced Kitchener supremely. Even the war was ridiculous, though it did kill rather a lot of people... Everything was ridiculous, quite true. But when it came too close, and oneself became ridiculous too...? 
- D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley's Lover, 1928

Friday, October 24, 2008

Del Martin Will Have Her Revenge on California

Do you remember Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon? The really unbelievably adorable old lady activists who founded the Daughters of Bilitis? They got married in California in 2004, and then their marriage was voided, but last June they got married - again - almost instantly after the Supreme Court overturned the ban on same sex marriage, and all of this came after they'd lived together for 56 years? They moved in together on Valentine's Day. In 1953. They told these kind of wonderful stories that made you believe it was possible for two people to stay together, because, just like everyone else, they had problems (Phyllis threw Del's shoes out the window to demonstrate that she was displeased at having to pick up after her; Del got frustrated because Phyllis won arguments by leaving the room and refusing to engage) but that didn't matter as much as the fact that they wanted to be with each other. And then Del died two months after their second wedding, and it was really sad, but also really beautiful, because that's how she got to go out, she won, she got to marry to the person she loved?

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that if Prop 8 passes, Del's widow Phyllis will have her marriage once more declared legally void. This time, since Del is gone, there will be no take-backs.

Jesus fucking Christ, Prop 8 supporters. Why don't you kill some puppies with nail guns while you're at it?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When You Think You Are Fucking Up

Think of W.H. Auden.
Hannah Arendt reportedly described his living quarters this way: "His slum apartment was so cold that the toilet no longer functioned and he had to use the toilet in the liquor store at the corner." 
Two differences between W.H. Auden and the rest of us: (a) W.H. Auden was one of the major poets of the 20th century, and (b) he had a liquor store on his corner, the lucky bastard. 

---

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there must always be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. 
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. 

And Counting

Here is a fact: I have been living on my own (after many years of doing, well, not that) for about a year now. Friends were made! Life lessons were learned! Landlords were avoided! I've been rolling these facts over in my mind, trying to understand how my life has changed, and how I have changed, and what it all means.

You know what?

It's been a good year.

I've written more in the past year than I have in the past three or four years combined. I even get paid for some of it. I've given myself license to care more about researching French feminisms than I do about cleaning the bathtub. Many of the people that I now consider friends were strangers a year ago. I've been to Seattle; I've been to Olympia; I've ridden a bike along the length of Manhattan. I've consumed burritos of strange and wondrous make. I've routinely stayed out past my bedtime. I've worked rooms and microphones and parties. I've made enemies. I've cried and I've chainsmoked and I've gone without sleep; I've identified with Emily Gould. I've done things that have made my friends' jaws drop. I've done things that have shocked even me.

It is easy - maybe too easy - to stop asking yourself what would make you happy, and stay close to the things that you think will make you safe. This is wrong, and I will tell you why: you are never safe. Loss and change are constants. You will never be safe, and you may not always be happy - but you owe it to yourself to start asking the question.

And a few months ago I was on the Staten Island Ferry, drinking beer and watching the city get bigger in the dark, and I was trying to place that experience within the context of other experiences I'd had; I was asking myself what it resembled. And the answer came from some corner of my skull: this isn't like anything that you knew; this is what happens next. And I asked myself, well then, what happens next? And the answer was, being an adult.

That is kind of a big revelation to cope with while you are drinking cheap beer on a free boat ride, but you don't always get to choose when to cope with things, and anyway, most of the revelations in this what-comes-next world will probably share space with low-cost booze. And I liked the boat ride; I liked the people on the boat ride; I really liked this year.

Busted.

Hey: do you remember "Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No?" You know, the infamous poster/slogan that became a touchstone for the second wave of feminism, insofar as it illuminated the second-class status of women within left-wing activist communities by presenting women as sexual rewards for radical men rather than as people who were themselves working for radical change? Well, good news; now that feminism has succeeded and no-one will ever experience gender discrimination or misogyny ever again, we can bring it back!



It's ironic, you see; you can tell because they are doing nothing to deconstruct or critique the original image, preferring instead to faithfully re-create it with new models and slightly different copy. You've come a long way, baby, but no need to worry - the place you've arrived at looks just like the place you left.

You can probably guess where I found this. Ah, darling BUST: things would be so much easier for you if you admitted that you weren't a feminist magazine any more, and that at some point along the line you transformed into Hipster Cosmo. Really, you don't need to worry about the political coverage; I have far better sources for that. Just show me how to knit a bright pink dildo cozy and keep me up to date with the newest rockabilly looks. It's what you want. It's what you've wanted all along.

Anyway, on November 4th, I'll be doing my part by offering my sexual services to any and every man in my district who promises to vote for the Democratic candidate. RSVP for location. Lines will form; get there early.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yeah, That's Metallica. WHATEVER.

Axl Rose has a Twitter. Well, "Axl Rose" has a Twitter. Apparently he spends a lot of time remastering?

My suggestion: ditch the "Chinese Democracy" title. "ReMaster of Puppets" is way better. 


Monday, October 20, 2008

Landlord: The Not Sarah Connor Chronicles

Seriously? If you spend most of Sunday in my room, and I keep asking you how soon you can leave, don't call me on Monday morning. If you call me on Monday morning, and I don't pick up the phone, don't call me on Monday afternoon. If I don't pick up or call back after you've called me twice in one day, don't come knocking at my door that same evening. If I don't answer your knock at the door after I've ignored your two phone calls, don't call me once more from my fucking hallway. And, if I finally pick up the phone, concluding that there must be some huge emergency which requires my immediate attention, don't open with, "so is it OK if I come by tomorrow to do some maintenance?" 

My coworkers think my landlord has a crush on me. My roommate thinks he's lonely. Personally, I think the only plausible explanation is that he is a Terminator, and is therefore convinced that I will bear the future savior of mankind. 


"And after the robot Apocalypse, I'd like to do some spraying." 

Salty!

Do you ever think about who you might like to be when you are an old lady? Have you ever considered that you might be best suited for a life as a Salty Old Broad, a la Cloris Leachman? Yes, Cloris Leachman, who is 82, and who, when asked what she would do next with her career (after appearing on Dancing With the Stars, ew), responded thusly:

“I could get pregnant,” she said in an interview in her trailer, where, completely coincidentally, she insisted on changing out of her ballroom gown in front of a reporter. “I’ve got a bit of time before my next project. Maybe I’ll be on ‘American Idol.’ ”

God, Salty Old Broads are the best Broads of all. They get to drink and smoke and say whatever the hell they like because everyone agrees that they are old and kind of crazy. Age gives the Saltiness of the Broad in question a sort of bawdy gravitas; she's seen whippersnappers like you come and go, and she knows that the problem is not that she doesn't take things seriously, but that you assume they should be taken seriously in the first place. The Wife of Bath? That was a salty dame:

He was, I trowe, twenty wynter oold,
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth..
As help me God, I was a lusty oon,
And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon,
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.

Yes, "quoniam" means what you think it means. Yes, that is awesome.

There are days when I wake up and feel old and kind of wonder where I am going with my life; then, there are days when I remember the Salty Old Broads of this world, and realize that my most awesome years are yet to come.
My only regret: every Salty lass must pass through an inevitable period of Quirky Aggression. Read, friends, and tremble.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How Can We Dismiss the Charge That Palin's Critics Are Merely Sexist? I Know! We'll Make a Blow-Up Doll!

Two ways to make sex jokes (or porn) about noted conservative figures: 

A) Recognize that the conservative viewpoint is fundamentally sex-phobic and therefore lame, and playfully situate the conservative in a context of super-louche uninhibited fun times, thereby demonstrating that sex is awesome and that the person in question is missing out. 

B) Embrace sex-phobia by conceiving of sex as dirty and shameful (particularly for women, who are pure because they are naturally averse to it), take that one step further by presenting sex as a process whereby men dirty women who've stepped out of line, and invite everyone to laugh at "that dumb bitch getting fucked," thereby taking basically the same right-wing stance as the figure you're claiming to parody, but branding that stance as "transgressive" and "progressive" because you show (gasp!) screwing. 

Now, I'm not saying anything conclusive, because I haven't seen the movie in question, but that Sarah Palin porno? Is a Larry Flynt joint. 

Boooo.

Resolved: "Writing Every Day" Is an Approach That Has Some Weaknesses

Tonight, I fear, I am suffering from a condition known colloquially as "bitchface." Here are some reasons: 

1) This morning, I hauled myself out of a very comfortable bed so that my Dread Landlord could install a thermostat.

2) The Dread Landlord told me, upon his arrival, that he had decided not to install the thermostat. He just wanted to drop by and say hello! WHY NOT PLACE A PHONE CALL, I ask you? 

3) One hour later, DL arrived again! It was time to install the thermostat! Could I possibly cancel my plans for the rest of the afternoon? This would take some time. 

3a) Upon successful installation, the DL informed me that he would be dropping by - yes, dropping by my bedroom - frequently for the next few weeks to make sure that I was keeping the rest of the house at an appropriate temperature. Yes, I am responsible for the temperature of the entire three-story house. Yes, I can use this to punish my obnoxious downstairs neighbor for his many crimes. No, it is not worth it. 

4) Because here were my plans for next Tuesday (on which I will not be working): shop at vintage stores, shop at yarn stores, shop at grocery stores, make soup/knit/look great. Here are my current plans for next Tuesday: wait for DL to show up, try to get him out of house quickly. 

5) Also, before I hauled myself out of the comfortable bed (I left before pancakes - pancakes!) I dreamt that Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan had hired me as their couples counselor. They were doing fine! They just needed some help keeping it romantic. Maybe I am bummed that this is not my actual career? 


Ladies! Does your love lack the "spice" that you require? Because, you know, I can help with that. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Powers of Horror: Gore, Gender, & Abjection

Here is something you probably shouldn't try: defending that movie Irreversible. Yeah, you know - the rapey one. Unfortunately, nobody warned the AV Club, and their resulting examination is about as incoherent as you might expect.

As you can imagine, I got a wee bit testy after reading this piece and the resulting conversation. I will spare you the spiel about gendered violence, and appropriation, and about how artists laying claim to experiences they are protected from in order to show how edgy or deep they are is fucking Privilegetard 101, and about how said artists usually manage to demonstrate that they know nothing about the topic at hand in their Great Masterpieces. I want to blow past all this, and bring you to my only positive thought inspired by this article, which is as follows:

In My Skin is a damn fine picture. Seriously, it is! How many horror movies have inspired you to revisit Julia Kristeva? Probably very few, unless you've seen In My Skin.*

For those who have not seen it, here is a brief rundown: it centers on a woman, Esther, who rips her leg open on a shard of metal at a party. She doesn't feel the injury for some time. When she finally does notice it, it fascinates her; she becomes obsessed with cutting herself up, and she studies, plays with, or eats the parts of herself that she's cut away. Her body is not her any more: it acts without her permission, and she can't feel its pain as her own. Her relationships fall apart. (In one scene, she explains her compulsion to her boyfriend, and he decides to fuck her sane, saying, "can you feel this?" She says no.) She finally takes her body away to a motel room, and carves and eats it in front of a full-length mirror, in a scene that can't help but be sexual - a protracted and bloody jouissance.

It should be clear by now that this is a disturbing movie. I saw it with a man who loves gory horror movies, and it upset him to the point of nausea and tears. I think that In My Skin's capacity to sicken and disturb is one of its virtues; shock can be a valuable tool, as long as it makes you think about why you're shocked in the first place.

In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva sets forth her theory of abjection. The abject which is anything that violates the binary of me/not me, or subject/object: shit, blood, filth, injury, death, madness, and our mothers, because we were part of them once and are not any more, among other things. We feel a special sort of terror and revulsion when we encounter the abject, because it threatens the foundation of our identities. We create rules, rituals and taboos in order to deal with that terror; we separate the "clean" from the "unclean" in order to experience ourselves as stable and fixed subjects.

It could be said that every woman lives in a state of abjection. Think about how we bleed and grow other bodies within our own bodies, or all of the products and procedures designed to ensure that women, and especially women's genitals, remain "clean," or the persistent identification of women with madness, both in art and mythology and in more current ideas of "hysteria" or period-related "craziness" or "irrational" behavior. Fear of the mother becomes fear of all women, because all women are perceived as mothers or potential mothers themselves. There is a reason that we eroticize women who look as if they've never reproduced.

Moreover, it can be said that every woman experiences her own body as abject. Say what you like about the theory of the male gaze, but the fact is that women's bodies are presented as Other and object in most art and discourse, simply because the people who have produced art and controlled discourse for most of recorded history have not inhabited female bodies. Women internalize this, and therefore live in the uncomfortable position of perceiving our bodies as objects while also having our subjectivity inextricably bound to them. Lots of female trouble arises from this predicament - anorexia, inorgasmia, many complex and varied forms of shame and self-loathing - and so does In My Skin.

Someone on the Internet called In My Skin the female version of American Psycho. While I think that's limiting, I do agree with it, in a sense: if American Psycho is about the masculine prerogative of establishing everyone and everything as Object, with oneself as the supreme Subject, and about taking that premise to its logical extreme, then In My Skin is about the female experience of being embodied as both subject and object, and about the logical extremes of that position. The question is posed, not only by the movie, but by the way in which it was made: Marina de Van, who wrote and directed the movie, also plays Esther, and I'm told that she actually did cut herself at times to save money on special effects. I don't know if that's true - if it is, it raises a host of other questions - but I am fascinated by how she plays with being the woman who creates the image and the woman who comprises the image, the watcher and the watched.

In My Skin isn't about self-mutilation as we understand it. It's never clinical or therapeutic (in the vulgar sense) in how it approaches Esther's behavior. It's got more in common with certain Cronenberg movies than it does with Girl, Interrupted. (While we are on the subjects of abjection and gender and body horror in film, here is a great scene from a so-so movie: Jude Law, in Cronenberg's eXistenZ, explaining to Jennifer Jason Leigh that, "I just have this phobia of being... penetrated." Jennifer tries to convince him that it's great, it's fun, everyone does it, he should let her stick it in. He gets very prissy as he explains that just because everyone does it, there's no reason he has to do it, too. He's trying to keep himself clean! This scene, in context, has absolutely nothing to do with sex, and I love it very much.) In fact, Esther's boyfriend stands in for the concerned audience, and functions as a way to dismantle their preconceptions: as he tells Esther to think of herself, or think of him, or be for God's sake a little bit rational, the audience is brought to the uncomfortable realization that he has no clue what's going on.

Esther doesn't hate herself or her body; she simply doesn't identify self with body any more. She's puzzled by the body, and she wants to figure it out. The AV Club review quotes her as saying, "
If I am no longer my body, what am I?" Here is another way to phrase that question: if your body is no longer you, what is it? Meat, project, enemy, lover? When Esther has answered these questions to her satisfaction - or at least taken her investigation as far as it can go - she puts her clothes on and walks away.

*Or, you know, Alien. Forced male pregnancy, ahoy!

And Now... I Shall Look Into THE FUTURE!

Yesterday, I wrote that John McCain "has no use for you" - you being the ladies - "unless you're on his dick, and it shows." Well, check out his awesome scare quotes here:







Hey, "John," I hope your "melanoma" comes back and eats into your "brain."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"My children should not have to be taught that marriage is between two people who love each other."

Is Fundamentally Flawed the best single-issue blog ever? Science says yes! 

McCain to America: LADIES, What is UP?

Hey, ladies, remember that dude who cussed you out last weekend? You know, the one who came up to you when you were talking with your friends at the bar or walking to the grocery store, aiming to bless you with his hideous presence - the one who, when you ignored him or laughed at him or told him to go away, started to yell at you and call you names? Yeah, that guy: the one who got you thinking about misogyny - how we're all sweet cute sexy little girls when we do what men want us to do, and ugly rude bitches and cunts and whores when we don't - and about entitlement, and about how a woman is always assumed to be fair game for every loser in the world unless she's in the company of a man, but mostly about precisely how much trouble you'd get into if you gave that dude a well-deserved punch in the nuts? 

Well, good news! Turns out he was John McCain
McCain was not only a lousy student, he had his father's taste for drink and a darkly misogynistic streak. The summer after his sophomore year, cruising with a friend near Arlington, McCain tried to pick up a pair of young women. When they laughed at him, he cursed them so vilely that he was hauled into court on a profanity charge.
 The surprise is that there's no surprise. There's a reason for not liking John McCain, and it is the same reason that you instinctively blew off that creepy dude: he has no use for you unless you're on his dick, and it shows. What an ugly fucking cunt. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hello, It's Dick Whitman

Here are two things I love: Mad Men and Mean Girls. It is permissible to love one of these things, but not the other, and I will let you guess which one is which. The thing is, I love both of them for the same reason, and that reason is that they are both about how we are robbed of ourselves when we agree to perform traditional gender. They just tell that story from two different perspectives.

---

OK, Mean Girls. I was watching this movie for perhaps the millionth time while cleaning my room yesterday, and it strikes me that when I see it now I see mostly the problems. This is a thing that happens to me when I look at something too much. Yes, it is dumb and formulaic in places, and painfully unfunny in others. But! Here, up front, is why it is just so good.

It is about a girl, Cady (as in, I think, Elizabeth Stanton) who was homeschooled (!) and is entering a real school for the first time and has basically no grasp of pop culture (!!) or performative femininity (!!!) and finds herself adopted by a girl named Janis Ian who dropped out of school briefly and came back as a foul-mouthed misfit rageball after having her social world wrecked by a rumor that she was in fact a lesbian (!!!!). So, like, already you could write this off as oh, Sara is going to have a Very Special Moment with this movie and have done with it, but that is not all.

You see, Cady is attractive, which means that she is quickly claimed by Regina George and her Plastics, a band of rich/hot/elite teen girls; these girls comprise the most powerful clique in school and are universally adored, in the way that people only ever adore someone who can destroy them. Cady agrees to act as a double agent for Janis, who is just never going to forgive Regina for her eighth-grade devastation, and together they scheme to infiltrate the Plastics and bring Regina down. So far, so formulaic, but this is merely a plot contrivance! For the real story is about how Cady learns to be a girl: how she learns to sexualize herself, to control while seeming to submit, to be smarter than everyone around her while seeming dumber, to handle rage and the lust for power by wrapping it all up in a little pink dress and some lip gloss, and how sooner or later she stops performing Mean Girl and starts being a Mean Girl, because it is the best way to get what she wants, and because beneath the "Diva"-printed tank top of every girl beats the heart of George Patton. That is the movie, and while it goes off in a lot of directions (this is a movie that will linger on a shot of a five-year-old girl watching a "Girls Gone Wild" commercial and lifting up her little nightie, that will let you think about how you learn what your body is worth and when you start to learn it) it is basically just that, femininity and aggression, how girls learn to look sexy and fun and lightweight and friendly while engaging in the most brutal forms of combat. Yeah, it's a by-the-numbers teen comedy, but it is a by-the-numbers teen comedy that is much, much smarter than it looks.

Also, Tina Fey is in it! She wrote it! So that's nice.

---

Then, there's Mad Men. It's often said that the women on this show are more interesting than the men, and I agree that they are easier to identify with, because they represent such an accessible range of archetypes. You can be the sexy girl who's starting to panic because sexiness loses its value at a certain age, or you can be the powerful girl who's starting to panic because she needs to negotiate her own autonomy in a world where autonomy isn't really an option, or you can be the girl who played by the rules her whole life and got the house and the kids and the husband and is starting to panic because that is all just so much more painful and lonely than they told her it would be, or you can be Peggy, and oh, how I love Peggy, the good Catholic girl from nowhere who is eternally confounded by her own body and her own desire and her own talent, which has gotten her somewhere, yes, but that somewhere is the break room behind the Xerox machine, and it's just not fair, is it, in fact she's starting to suspect that nothing is ever fair, and where she comes from people have manners, where she comes from you get rewarded for being good. These are all interesting characters. However, it's not true that they're more interesting than the men. They're certainly not more interesting than Dick Whitman.

I told you that this was the same story from two different perspectives, and it's true: if Mean Girls is about learning to perform "girl," as exemplified by Cady, then Mad Men is about learning to perform "man," as exemplified by Don Draper, who is not even Don, but Dick.

Everything about Don Draper is a lie: his name, his past, even the way he speaks and moves and inhabits his body. Watch Jon Hamm play Dick Whitman in Korea, and watch him play Don Draper in New York, and tell me those aren't two different people. The fascinating thing is how perfectly Don exemplifies everything that a "real man" is or was supposed to be. It's like he read a manual entitled "How To Construct Your American Masculinity" and just followed all of the instructions. You got your job, right, you're in charge there because real men are in charge, and you got your wife, your kids, your house in the suburbs, you got your mistresses on the side, you got your drinking (rye, it's good to have A Drink, a man's drink, rye is that), you got your cigs, your suits, your deep voice and manner of command, most of all you got your emotional impenetrability, your basic opacity, because that's the key thing there, you've got to be opaque, you've got to make sure no-one knows what's going on in there, because men don't open up or break down or confess or admit or cry out in pain, a man is a suit of armor worn by a suit of armor within which you find yet another suit of armor, because a man's never weak.

Don is the obvious construct, the conscious construct, and for that reason he is the most perfect. Yet all of the men around him are doing the same thing, on one level or another: hail-fellow-well-met Cosgrove, who got his instructions in the frat house, and Kinsey, who's repping the Bohemian model this year, and Roger, who is so used to getting everything he wants that he has to find new and impermissible things to want so he can remember what it's like, and Pete, whose problem is that he's trying so hard you can actually see him trying, and Sal, oh God, poor Sal, who knows what he wants and who he is and will deny or destroy all of it so that no-one else can find out, because what he wants is not what a man wants, which means that what he wants makes him less than a man. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? This is the question Mad Men asks every week, and it provides the answer: privilege, acceptance, profit in the most literal sense of the word.

On Mad Men, the women are clearly suffering, and they are clearly wrestling with gender constructs, and that may be why they are easier to like. Femininity was associated with artifice and deception long before feminism ever happened, and feminism took it one step further by suggesting that the artifice and deception were in fact socially imposed, tactics of survival which kept women relatively safe while estranging them from themselves. The funny thing is the obvious thing which is the thing that people rarely if ever point out: men are doing all of this too, and have been all along. Femininity may be about artifice, but it is far more transparent than masculinity, because at least people are willing to point out or admit that it's an act. Masculinity has long been founded on the idea that it is absolutely real - that men are in charge because men naturally take charge, and no they're not faking, no they're not panicking, yes they know exactly what to do, because that's what men are about. It is only when we start taking that act apart that we make possible the things we really need: things like empathy and change.

---

And, OK, I wanted to write more (shocker! I know) about the problems, about how the stories of people of color aren't really told in either Mad Men or Mean Girls, and about how they both have huge issues regarding queer men's masculinity, to the extent that the only gay male character in Mean Girls is essentially just presented as "one of the girls" and the only openly gay man on Mad Men actually comes over to Peggy's house and gives her a makeover, like despite his background in advertising all he really wants to do is embrace the destiny of gay men everywhere which is to tell straight women how to be fabulous. And is there any chance, even the tiniest chance, that you can tell the whole story of the fucked-upness of gender without discussing the ways in which it has been denied to or used to hurt queers and people of color? No. But I want to end here, with empathy.

People think of Mean Girls as a story about how stupid and shallow ultra-feminine women are; they think of Mad Men as "man porn," a story about how awesome it was to be a guy back in the golden years when men lived like men and women lived like whatever men wanted them to be. I can't help but think that those people are engaging in some Olympic-level Missing of the Point. The point, as I see it, is this: what if no-one is as dumb or as happy as they seem? What if those "golden years" never happened? What if we were never the girls or the men that we tried to be? What if we were something else, all along - something much stranger, much scarier, something we didn't know how to name or accept? What if that something else could save us?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You Say I'm Crazy? I Got Your Crazy.

The new Britney Spears video is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever seen. I know, I know, "why did you watch it?!? why are you even talking about it?!?!" But I think that it is actually notably stupid, like, this is what the third wave would look like if we all got together and listened to Peaches all night and drank like twelve Sparks apiece and then instead of going out for ill-advised tattoos in the morning we all went shopping for wigs and lobotomies. Like, why do you keep straddling him if he's such a douche? Why does your kitchen wallpaper have "Womanizer" all over it? Why are the eggs square??? OH MY GOD BRITNEY! WATCH THE ROAD! 

I kind of love the dude's acting skills though. He is so clearly thinking, "this is a real step up from community theater! Next stop: Godspell!


Friday, October 10, 2008

TODAY IS THE DAY

Read the last panel of this comic.

Now, tell yourself I should not be saying those precise words every day of my life.

That's right! You can't! Because it is true - I should be.

Additional Fact: every time I think about posting a link to this blog on Facebook, I have this exact conversation in my own personal head.

There really is no point to my posting these things. You know, I JUST WANT TO SHARE.

Best! Heist! EVER! (Almost.)

Leaving aside, for the moment, the pun-heavy "that's what she said" style of this article, I am disappointed to note that the two "thugs" who robbed a Canadian sex toy store did not take any of the Hitachis.

How can you pull a vibrator heist and not steal any Hitachis?

Dudes*, your girlfriends are going to be so pissed.

*
The thieves' gender is not specified in the article! I'm just assuming that they are guys. Why? Because they have bad taste in vibrators. Also, I'm a sexist.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Satanic Incest Dinosaurs, or: How I Spent My Childhood

You know, we can spend all day talking about "recaps" versus "reviews," and adults reading YA lit, and nostalgia, and triviablogging, and whether those are good things or just a sign of how our generation has infantilized itself. OR - and this is the preferred option, here - we can just celebrate the fact that I was not making any of this up! 

I loved Christopher Pike's books when I was a pre-teen. I passed them around to all the girls that I knew, and they loved them, too. My mother was horrified. I was such a strong reader! Why was I wasting my intelligence? Were these books possibly Satanic? (Mom loves church. So much, Mom loves church. I'm actually thinking of handing out a brief pamphlet to everyone in my life to explain how I came to be, and it will read "CHURCH MOM + BOOZE DAD = THIS." The rest of it will just be pictures of naughty Catholic schoolgirls.) I didn't care. They were about sex, and death, and nobody was going to tell me anything about these subjects, so I had to find what I could.  

Most of my Christopher Pike memories concern reading in the backseat of a hot car, which paused periodically so that my brother could throw up (the boy had a legendarily bad relationship with motor transport; on long drives, we actually resorted to doping him until he fell asleep, so that he wouldn't leave a trail of spew everywhere we went). Something about the heat and the motion and the smell of puke made all of these memories feel hazy and indistinct, like fever dreams, and I could not ever be sure that I was remembering the books correctly. So it is actually reassuring, in many ways, to click through to a recap of Scavenger Hunt and read this: 

Cessy and Davey are actually part of an ancient race of dinosaurs that developed intelligence and found a way to gain immortality after surviving the dinosaur holocaust.

Yes! They were! Dinosaurs who fed on human sacrifice! They also re-animated a dude's dead best friend and disguised him as his teacher for purposes which remain unclear! They were also twins, and they made out! WITH EACH OTHER!!!!! God, I'm so glad I didn't just come up with this. 

There's actually a lot of incest in the Pike books, which I had mercifully forgotten. Also, lots of New Age stuff about ancient astronauts and interdimensional wisdom-bringing gurus (who are inevitably Indian, despite being interdimensional) and walk-ins. I was clicking around last night, and apparently it's kind of a big deal that no-one has ever seen a photo of Christopher Pike or learned anything about him, but I honestly think that, if he exists, he's one of those dudes who wears a quartz crystal around his neck and believes himself to be an alien. Which, if so, his higher wisdom would seem to be kind of incompatible with all the DIRTY TEEN SEX in his novels! 

Did you know that there is a Pike book (Die Softly) in which two cheerleaders have repeated threesomes with a quarterback and then kill him by forcing him to take cocaine? They tie him to a tree and shove it up his nose, I think! They are both super popular at school because they sell cocaine laced cookies at the bake sales. I blame this book for my long-held belief that (a) it was possible to take cocaine in cookie form, and (b) this was the only safe way to do it, because if you put it up your nose, you would instantly die. 

Anyway, I am thrilled to note that Like Pike will soon be covering Whisper of Death, which was the first Pike book I read, and is still in many ways my favorite. In Whisper of Death, a girl fools around with her boyfriend and quickly finds herself in need of a safe and legal abortion, but when she and her dude return from the clinic, they find that their pleasant bedroom community has been transformed into an eerie ghost town, from which there is no escape, and in which they (and the handful of randomly selected teenagers which comprise the town's entire population) have all been sentenced to die grisly coincidental deaths which mirror some unpopular chick's book of extremely violent fairy tales. This is because the unpopular chick died last year, because no-one liked her, and also she was reincarnated in the form of Abortion Chick's untimely fetus. I mean, damn, I sympathize, but don't you think people would have liked her better had she not been plotting to cut them in half via witchcraft? Anyway, the only way for the girl to save her friends is to travel back in time and die mid-abort. Because I guess having the witchcraft child wasn't an option. 

It occurs to me now that Whisper of Death was the first thing that got me and my friends talking about abortion. Yes, it was gory (the goriest Pike book I can remember, aside from Monster, in which space bacteria infested people's brains and made them into cannibals) but the thing that stuck with us was the pregnancy. It also occurs to me that we learned about abortion from a book which told us actually having one would sentence you to a deadly netherworld, but, you know. Sex ed is rarely perfect. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good Things To Think About When You're Bummed: All-Sarah Edition

1. Camille Paglia is still hilariously crazy.

On Sarah Palin's speech patterns:
As a lover of poetry (my last book was about that), I savor every kind of experimentation with standard English -- beginning with Shakespeare, who was the greatest improviser of them all at a time when there were no grammar rules.

Many others listening to Sarah Palin at her debate went into conniptions about what they assailed as her incoherence or incompetence. But I was never in doubt about what she intended at any given moment. On the contrary, I was admiring not only her always shapely and syncopated syllables but the innate structures of her discourse -- which did seem to fly by in fragments at times but are plainly ready to be filled with deeper policy knowledge.
2. BUST is still hilariously clueless.

On Sarah Palin:
Just imagine for a moment that Palin was on our side. Imagine that she was pro-choice, pro-environment, and all the rest of it. Now how excited would you be that we had a woman running for the highest political office who could raise 5 kids and govern a state at the same time? Who was some sort of Annie Oakley, moose-wrestling frontierswoman? And who could give a speech like nobody’s business? I, for one, would be thrilled... She’s a mother, she’s pretty she wears skirts! All of that put me on her side.
3. Sarah Haskins is still (intentionally) hilarious.

Let's ride the euphemism train to shit town!

They're Selling Postcards Of The Hanging: Max Hardcore & The Business Of Abuse

Yesterday, I tried to write a post about this incident, in which a girl (on my street) was raped in a subway station while the man working the token booth watched. I tried to talk about this incident in the context of my own rape, and the prevalence of rape, and the context of our culture, in which rape is persistently either trivialized and eroticized or swept under the rug. I tried to argue that watching a woman get raped in front of you and trivializing or ignoring the widespread presence of rape in our society are not ultimately that different, in that both reactions essentially give rapists a free pass.

Unfortunately, as often happens, I got mad, and the writing got messy. I also got pretty messy, by the end, and I learned that the "save" button is dangerously close to the "publish" button, and that the "dear God, get this off Google Reader" button does not exist. I'd really rather not tell you guys about my experience of sexual assault, right now or ever, because I am not a precious little flower, and my personal experience is not the point. The point is that it happens to many women, and it is considered acceptable to dismiss or make fun of that fact.

So, let's not talk about me. Let's talk about Max Hardcore. He's a porn director, producer, and "actor" (that last word is HIGHLY iffy, in his case) who was recently sentenced to 46 months in prison for "obscenity." Unfortunately, this means that some folks - including folks at Gawker and Salon - are referring to him as a "first-amendment martyr."

Now, I've done some time in proximity to the porn industry. I know about Max Hardcore. I know the men who like Max Hardcore. I've heard those men talk about why they like him. And before we start talking about the terrible things that have been done to Max Hardcore - before we start talking about his fucking martyrdom - I think it behooves us to talk about what Max Hardcore has done.

Susannah Breslin, in her excellent post on the subject, points to a Hardcore fan's list (not linking here, because I can't visit it right now) of "extreme scenes" he's done. I encourage you to read it. See how far you can make it down the list. Here, I'll give you some highlights, which I copied last night:

* Pamela Dee; In 1992, Little sent performer Pamela Dee to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank "after she suffered vaginal hemmhoraging during a taping," writes Nick Ravo in the 2/98 ICON magazine. Dee, a writer in Reno, Nevada told Ravo that Paul came up behind her and, without warning, rammed his fist into her vagina. "I never heard of anything like that being done to anyone before. I felt ripped open... He could kill someone - he should be behind bars... he really screwed me up."

* Ryan: She is pissed on and anally raped in her scene. Matt wrote in his review for the film. "severely mouth rapes her. Man what a segment that was. She begs for him to slow up or stop and is definitely crying in agony! That only infuriates him more along with her wiping away/spitting saliva in disgust and he pounds harder into her mouth leaning backwards on his chair." I've watched this scene and the girl is in no way faking it, she is crying and begging Max to stop. "Can't you take your prick out." She cries to Max, he keeps saying, "A little bit longer," while continuing to pump away.

* Melody Love pisses onto ground for Max. "after the normal start suddenly the music wells up and overlays the human voices and at this point Max tries to anal her. She's pushing him away and obviously saying no with her face contorted in apparent agony (facially she's not too attractive anyway but this makes her look really ugly). He holds her down and continues anyway, at one stage choking her. She seems to appeal to the cameraguy but of course he just continues videotaping. Then Max goes back to vaginal sex and the music dies down and is replaced by normal human noises." - Patrick Riley.

* Olivia; Actress Olivia claimed that she was coerced into sex during this shoot. All copies of this film were pulled. "After a while he tries to get her to do an ass to mouth and she won't do it. She says "no no no no no". Max sort of pushes her mouth towards his cock, but she resists. She then looks up at him and at the camera man, then gives in and does the ass to mouth. It's pretty compelling to watch. I wouldn't say they forced her to do it, but I think they made it clear that she should. I would think she would have known beforehand that ass to mouth was part of the deal but who knows. There's more to the story here. Later in the scene, Max has her upside down and he's forcing his cock down her throat. After a few minutes of this, she tries to get up and says "that's it, I've had enough." But Max just keeps going. I have to admit, that was a bit distrubing. Actually, quite distrubing. Max ignored her when she said she wanted the scene to stop. That's just wrong. The only other notable part of the scene is when she says something like "god, I'm such a whore" and looks off the set at the camera people as if she's shocked at what she's doing." - bofnyc. Max also pissed on Olivia's face during the scene. Some of which goes up her nose.

Let us be clear here: Max Hardcore is a rapist. He rapes sex workers, who are notably less protected from rape than other women, but that does not in any way lessen the seriousness of his crime. In fact, since those women have less access to legal recourse - remember, we are operating within a justice system where proving a woman is a "slut" can get you off the hook, and monetary exchange or contractual agreement stands in for consent, regardless of whether the sex worker consented to the specific acts which took place in the transaction - it makes his crime greater. He is a rapist, and he is in jail, and it is acceptable to be happy about that.

It is also acceptable to advocate banning Max Hardcore's work on the basis that he is selling authentic footage of rape and abuse, and must commit acts of rape and abuse in order to produce the footage. This is the same argument that we've used to ban child porn and snuff films, and it is not incompatible with a pro-sex or pro-porn viewpoint. To argue that Max is a victim of prejudice against sex work is to ignore the fact that, in his films, he aims to degrade the actresses (not their "characters," but the actresses themselves) specifically because they are sex workers - "whores," in his preferred language, who are "stupid" for agreeing to do the scenes and are therefore "get[ting] what they deserve." Max Hardcore is not a victim of anti-sex-worker prejudice; he actively perpetuates it. Women have the right to have sex when they choose, and in the ways that they choose, and that freedom does not end once a woman enters the sex industry. People have been working for decades to make porn safe and fun and sexy for women - those who consume it and those who make it - and getting people like Max Hardcore out of the business is essential to the success of that project.

It is not acceptable to make like Glenn Greenwald and get all OMG WTF WHAT ABOUT TEH ABU GHRAIBS. As if people who object to Max Hardcore don't care about Abu Ghraib. We do. We care precisely because we believe that torture and forced sexual humiliation are unacceptable. We do not believe that it is any MORE acceptable to torture an American female sex worker than it is to torture a Middle Eastern man.

It is not acceptable to refer to Max Hardcore's films as merely "distasteful," without addressing the fact that Max Hardcore's work rests on the infliction of severe and unfaked pain, and sometimes on rape. It is unconscionable to say, as Greenwald does, that "there was no suggestion that any serious violence was ever inflicted or that the adult actors in the film were anything other than completely consensual." Olivia's rape is on record. The tapes were pulled, which is as close to a public admission of guilt as one can get. Pamela Dee's vaginal hemorrhage is, likewise, a matter of public knowledge. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from within the industry to support the fact that, with Hardcore, the pain is real and there is no safeword. Any journalist who makes Greenwald's argument, or one like it, is either bending the facts to make a point, or else publishing his work without checking to make sure that his article is factually correct. In either case, such a journalist is unprofessional, if not downright dishonest.

Yes, obscenity laws are bad. They use definitions which are broad and subjective, they criminalize sex no matter what level of consent is involved, they are selectively enforced, and they can very easily be used to punish folks who are already marginalized, such as sex workers and queers. Andrea Fucking DWORKIN didn't support obscenity laws. So we can talk about obscenity laws, and we can talk about freedom of speech, but one thing we cannot do, if we want to be honest and accurate, is to argue that Max Hardcore is anything other than a dangerous criminal. Max Hardcore went to jail for obscenity; Al Capone went to jail for tax evasion. Neither one was convicted for his most severe crime, but both were bad men who got caught.