Sexual Politics

With the demise of my relationship, it seems, I’m far less interested in writing about the personal and far more interested in the political.  Excuse me if this blog becomes a place for polemic for awhile.

The sex blog community, such as it is, was in a twitterific uproar yesterday over a Facebook page called “Kill a Hooker and Get Your Money Back”.  Like any curious, civic minded person snowbound in the greatest storm of the last century with nothing to do but surf the internet, I visited the webpage that was causing some of my favorite bloggers to bust a 140-character gasket.  It was really quite appalling.  Some idiot had set up a fan page on Facebook recommending that you kill a prostitute?  I couldn’t even imagine what would prompt such a thing, nor why the folks involved were bragging about how awesome it was that their “lesson” was spreading fairly rapidly in the fertile climate that is Facebook, where over a million people have become members of a group called If your name starts with A, C, D, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, S, T…join!!!

But if Facebook is increasingly the stomping grounds of inanity, Twitter is increasingly the forum for urgent action.  So, at the prompting of the people I follow, I dutifully reported the offending Facebook page for violation of Facebook’s terms of use.  I really couldn’t see how advocating killing women was anything besides hateful, malicious, and threatening .  I patted myself on the back for my righteous leftist piece of political action accomplished for the day, and went on my way.  As it happened, my way on this particularly depressive, snowbound day involved hours of playing a video game that involved killing aliens (and occasional humans and humanoids) in order to save the galaxy, a fact that might become relevant in a moment.

This morning I woke and checked first my email and then my twitter feed, as is my morning routine.  (I know.  I need to get a job.  Shaddup.)  The sex bloggers were now sending out alarming “RETWEETS” urging us all to “REPORT” the new version of the “Kill the Hooker” page, which, I was informed, had simply renamed itself and moved after being shut down by FB. What was worse, according to the exclamatory tweet, was that the page had called the excellent bloggers over at Feministing “worthless cunts”.

So I dutifully went to the new Facebook page.  Only, it wasn’t the same as the old facebook page.  This time, it was called, “GTA Taught Me That If You Kill Your Hooker, You Get Your Money Back”.  Verbally, the difference is that the title reports information received rather than advocating an action.  Culturally, the difference is that I now had context for what the whole thing was about in the first place.  Grand Theft Auto is, of course, one of the most notorious and controversial video games of all time.  I didn’t know that it rewarded you for killing a hooker, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  The moral universe of video games is a dark, disturbing place, where you rarely get penalized for anything but dying.

I read most of the posts in what passed for this group’s “discussion”, and they were, in fact, about the video game, which gave me pause.  I may not like the premise of GTA, but I don’t have a problem with a bunch of gamers discussing what they did like about it.  And you know what?  Anger about the content of GTA is misdirected, if directed at the gamers themselves.  It might be warranted, but as politics and activism, it’s not effective.  It’s like going after smokers and gun-owners instead of cigarette companies and hand gun manufacturers.  You have a problem with getting rewards for virtual murders of prostitutes, take your complaint to where it really belongs and where it could really make a difference: Rockstar Games, the developer.  (I’m not kidding.  This is a technically excellent and proficient game developer, and they’re only going to make more of this stuff.  If you don’t like it, here‘s how to contact them.)

More: if we’re going to complain about what other groups do, let’s at least get our facts right.  No one in the new Facebook group called the Feministing bloggers “worthless cunts”.  That was a member of the new group.  If you think the term is malicious, hateful, or threatening, I suppose you could report that specific user–not the group.

But perhaps we could have a sense of proportion here, and look to our own glass houses.  As a recent book whose author I don’t know but whom I will locate soon argues, the Internet is probably the primary source of the atmosphere of incivility and nastiness that plagues our society and our politics right now.  A decade ago, the most idealistic among us believed that the internet would breed democracy, openness, and connection.  Instead, it’s let us connect with only those we choose to–only those, for example, who also like to kill hookers for money while playing video games.

It’s tempting to get angry at people who would do this, who would call women worthless cunts, and to shut them up for good.  But there are two problems with doing so.

First, it’s hypocritical.  I did a quick search on Feministing this morning and found at least half a dozen examples where the authors called men with whom they disagreed assholes (here, here, and here) or dickheads (here, here, and here).  If I could search the comments, God knows what I’d find.  So let’s look to our own glass houses: if we don’t want others to reduce us to body parts, we shouldn’t either.  If we want to elevate the discourse, the place to start is with ourselves.

Second, it’s the wrong approach–morally and practically speaking.  It’s an old chestnut (well, as old as John Stuart Mill, which is pretty old) that the remedy for bad speech is more speech.  And that’s not always true; the proverbial cry of “fire” in a crowded theater really doesn’t brook an eloquent reply.  But in this case, when there’s no direct, imminent threat–when it’s a small group of misguided folk talking about a video game, for example–there is time for measured reply.  And I’ve increasingly noticed as I’ve spent more time in the trenches of those who write and speak about sexual politics that responses aren’t measured.  I’ve noticed that they are knee-jerk, that they “follow the news cycle”, as the President would say, that they tap into anger, outrage, and an impulse for feel-good “activist” solutions (boycott!!!) rather than thoughtful prioritizing of problems and approaches at solutions.

It’s really easy to trawl the internet looking for the outrageous things people say about your kink, about your gender, about your politics, and to get angry.  It’s much harder to spend time articulating what you think kink, gender, or politics today should look like–but it’s much more useful.  And, unfortunately, it’s not the sort of action that lends itself to 140 characters.

Perhaps too much on a topic of only marginal interest, but that’s what struck me this morning, as the snow melts and the temperature rises.

Photograph by Anthony Koeslag on Flickr.

Edit: The book I mentioned is Jared Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget.

(Check it out. This is actually an Oreo.)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m going to Dark Odyssey’s Winter Fire in a few weeks.  Squee. I could not be more excited.  For those who aren’t familiar with it, Dark Odyssey is “a wholly unique experience which brings together sexuality, spirituality, education, and play in a fun, supportive, non-judgmental, diverse environment where fantasy becomes reality.”  Basically, it’s a three-day sex-conference with workshops during the day and play at night.

The whole event is so well-organized that there’s a private web-page for those who are attending to post little profiles, FetLife style, to introduce themselves.  I finally got around to doing this the other day and listed myself as bisexual.  This gave me pause, and I’ve been thinking about it since.

I don’t really identify as bi.  As I mentioned, I’ve been to bed with women before; the problem isn’t that I’m not attracted to them, or that I wouldn’t consider a relationship with a woman.  The problem is political; if I identify as anything, I identify increasingly as queer because of my sexual politics.  But Robbie and I went to hear Sarah Sloane speak about polyamory earlier this year, and her quick-and-dirty take on listing yourself as “bi” v. “queer” was that, “If you’re trying to attract mostly men, put bi; if you want to date mostly women, put queer.”  I’m mostly trying to attract men, but it pisses me off that in putting “bi”, the sexist ones will think I’m going to fuck girls for their benefit.  I suppose the last thing I should think about is what the jerks I am not going to date might think . . . but that still leaves me with the question of what I actually think.

Perhaps “feel” is a better word than “think”.  Robbie and I met a woman he’s been interested in during this last visit, and I expected myself, from pictures and emails and descriptions, to be incredibly drawn to her as well.  (If you’re reading this, hi hon!)  But I wasn’t.  I just didn’t feel sexual tension there on first meet.  For awhile, I was thinking, “well, it’s just because  you really don’t feel that pull to women”.  But that’s not true either.

Today, I was thinking that I just feel drawn to some people.  It sounds like that cliche–“Oh, it’s the person, not the gender, that I love.”  But that’s not true either.  I’m not talking love.  I’m talking raw desire.  Most men I meet I have pretty much zero desire to touch, much less fuck.  So when Robbie used to tell me that he could tell that I “loved cock”, I was befuddled.  Mostly when I contemplate a new cock–and the person attached to it–my overriding thought is, “Is it going to be ugly or smell bad?”  Because I hate finding out that someone is mangled and stinky when he’s six inches from my mouth.

But every so often when contemplating that new cock and its owner, my overriding thought is, “I WANT.”  I want to tear the person apart, shove him into the nearest piece of furniture, get my hands up inside his shirt, and feel him pin my arms as payback for my enthusiasm.  This is a relatively rare feeling for me–rare in proportion to the actual numbers of men in the universe, frequent enough that I’ve managed to get laid more than the average number of times for an American woman (last time I checked the stats).  And it’s an even rarer feeling when it comes to women.  But when I find it, it’s magic.

So whatever the label is for people who get electrically turned on by some individuals in ways they can’t always predict but always enjoy–that’s what I am.

Clever photographs by Kevin Van Aelst, via Feature Shoot.

I stumbled across this video the other day in the New York Times.  I wish I could embed it.  I really liked watching it.  It’s about two working-class brothers who made their fortunes by launching a leather business in Pakistan.  It took them time to succeed because in a place with an extensive garmet industry, they had to identify a niche market.

You see where this is going yet?

They make bondage gear.  The first thing they made was a straightjacket.

What really moved me about the story was not the rags-to-riches tale of the two brothers, who really do seem to have been through the school of hard knocks, but the attitude of the journalist.  There was no sneering or giggling-behind-his hand at his interview subjects.  In the wake of the publicity bizarre articles like the one SF Weekly recently published about, kinky people can become paranoid that everyone hates them and that the media is out to get them.

It’s nice to remember that it ain’t necessarily so.  It’s good to see that some folks, like the lovely, 25-year old woman who has designed and sold garments for the company for three years, can look at a dog collar and recognize both their own desires and the desires of others as part of the great pattern of human nature.


[Picture?  Oh go-on. I’ll put a picture up later.  I’m at work–you do some work too.]

Edit:  Okay, pup, your patience is an inspiration.  Here you go.

There is a lovely photo essay in the New York Times this weekend about the Muxe of Mexico–men who live as women in a quite traditional society.  It seemed a little too bougainvillea and embroidery to me–I have a hunch that life for the people documented may well be more difficult than the author portrays.

But what shone through most clearly in the article was how loved and accepted the Muxe are, by their families at least.  Carmelo Lopez Bernal is 13, and beautiful.


The wonderful thing is that his grandmother thinks so, too: “I feel normal about it, it is how God sent him, and I love him even though he isn’t a woman.”

Rosa Taledo Vincente’s parents say the same thing: “It was God who sent him and why would I reject him? He helps his mother very much. Why would I get mad? God sent him for both of us. Why would I get mad?”


I just read a synapse-stretching post by Matisse. In it, she answers a reader’s letter. Usually I very much dislike it when she does this, because her general attitude is a riff on one or more of the following: *sigh*-*you dimwit*-*I don’t know and I don’t care*-*how can you not know*-*how can you not know that I don’t care*-*sigh*. But since my own overwhelming response to the internet lately has been profound irritation, and since in this case, her bafflement seems quite justified, I repost her comment here.

Her reader asked her to explain his kink to him. Trouble is, his kink seemed to be to get nothing from friendships with women to whom he was attracted but who were not at all interested in him. I can identify. For years I went through long patches of platonic “relationships” in which I imagined myself in love and went to great lengths for the other person, and my other half mostly ignored me and my needs. It takes a lot of hard work and far more talking than I would ever have expected to do in any relationship, but Robbie meets my needs. MINE.

And I do try to meet his . . . though there is always more to do, I know.

Here’s Matisse:

You’re only 25, so nip this in the bud now and learn how to have real relationships, because whether you’re vanilla or kinky or somewhere in between, being attracted to unavailability is a recipe for frustration and unhappiness.

There are many different motivations to be a submissive, and I’m not one to say “Your motives are valid – but you over there, yours are not.” But I think a spell of good talk therapy would teach you a lot about yourself that you need to know, and then you can make a better decision about whether you really want to be controlled by another person.

There are many different motivations for being submissive. Exorcising and reveling in “bad” feelings that we shouldn’t enjoy–degradation, humiliation, pain–these all are routes to an emotional and erotic thrill that comes from (almost) being harmed. They can be cathartic, allowing those strong feelings, and the reactions to them, to take place in a safe and loving place.

But too often I read things written by women who sound like emotional masochists. As if they feel lucky that the Doms they are with grace them with their presence, their sexuality, the right to share them with other women, the right to be *nothing* to them. Literally nothing. I want to scream and hit the screen when I read this. That kind of weakness, that kind of submission, does not impress me, and I want to deny that I am submissive at all. Of course, that’s not the right reaction either. I read a wonderful thing Bitchy Jones wrote the other day about truly owning your own desires. (Well, actually it was about cock, but part of it was about desire, too.):

. . . understanding and acting on your desires can never be weak. And saying that it does doesn’t actually have anything to do with real feminism. Or any kind of equality. Having desire and acting on it is strength. Knowing your desires is to know yourself, is strength, fulfilling your desires is to acknowledge your strength.

It may well be–and must be, given the way the world works–that there are equal numbers of male submissives who lack this confidence. And I dare say that there are Doms out there (I know one or two) who have their own insecurities, their own soft spots and vulnerable places, the missing scales in their dragon-armor.

I’m not thinking of anyone or specifically when I say this. I’ve been glad to watch over the past two years and see internet and real life acquaintances grow, see Robbie and I get more comfortable and confident with each other and our own desires. But I am glad to read people say repetitively and outright what Robbie used to tell me often at the start of our relationship: “Unrequited love’s a bore.” Amen to that, baby.

Moderately assertive pics from le Chagrin and Darker Sights and Sounds, respectively.

The witty and lyrical debauchette and Kasia have raised a flag for the cause of artistic pornography. They want to create:

Haute porn with a heart. Erotic material that’s authentic, intelligent and aesthetically beautiful. Postmodern porn. A sexual New Yorker.

At one point in her post about their plans, debauchette seems to me to suggest that our society suffers from a false divide between raw porn and art, though I may have radically misunderstood her.

I have found a great deal of art that is raw, obscene, and graphic. But I agree that there’s not nearly enough of it, so I’m thrilled about what they’re doing. This is what I want to see.

Women and men. Men and men.

Men. Not (just) beautiful women, elegantly displayed. I display them here all the time, but that’s because gorgeous female nudes are available everywhere, visually at least. It is not hard to find a woman’s body offered up for the viewer. [Excuse language bordering on feminist argot.]

No disrepect intended to the pair’s stunningly evocative photographs of Kasia.

* * *

What I want in porn is not a “softer” touch, nor is it a story, necessarily. I want to see raw sexuality. I want the feeling that I am almost there, the feeling of being a voyeur or even a participant in a sexual tryst. That’s what I consider pornography: images with heat.

I hope debauchette and Kasia succeed at that, and more. As Kasia says on Beautiful and Depraved:

Welcome filthy fuckers. You’re all invited to partake in the new pornographic revolution. We’ll be soliciting open calls for contributors in the very near future.

To the barricades, everyone!

Photograph of Kasia under Helmut Newton’s desk via Beautiful and Depraved. All other images from the addictive blog Darker Sights and Sounds–and thanks to AtlantaBondage for tipping me off about it.

I’ve been putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for going on three decades now. Like lots of bloggers, I write in “real life”; it’s a thing I do, for money, for kicks, and for my sanity. When I started writing here a few months back, I expected to have the kinds of profound, soul-searching feelings around writing I have always had, the angsty lows and giddy highs when contemplating what I was going to write or what I’d written.

Despite my New Age talk of making a “safe space” for myself, I didn’t particularly anticipate feeling any safer here than I do in my other writing. I figured it would be the same nerves in new bottles.

But writing like this has been gigantically freeing. I get to write things and hit “publish”. And–most unexpectedly–people stop by and read the things I write (or at least look at the pictures. Eye candy is my bribe).

Even more freeing–people respond, with kindness, and generosity. The comments I receive blow me away. I write something feeling like a complete mutant pervert from hell, engaging in the sort of relationship that only a self-loathing freak would engage in . . . and people cheer me on. Which is to say, it is really, really, really good having kinky friends and acquaintances.

(And it is fan-fucking-tastic to have a loving, kinky lover.)

Whether artistic, acrobatic, or arousing, daring dreams require some sense of safety, don’t they?

Images are from the wonderful “I dreamed I [blanked] in my Maidenform bra” ad campaign of the 60s and 70s–more of them here.

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