It’s Just me and my Porn

Images half-inched from pornSFW.com

sfw-porn-1229822926-60829Tuggin’ It Old School
I have had a somewhat ‘bulimic’ relationship with pornography. By that I mean ‘binge and purge’. Of course, when I was a kid, porn wasn’t as readily available as it is on the internet now nor the kind of thing that would normally be the subject of public blog posts and discussion.

Times change.

I only really got access to the internet in 1997 or so and by that time I was already 22. The internet was already too late to provide me with a sex education or sated curiosity, not that I was a total stranger to porn. Prior to the age of the internets you had to be one cagey, cunning motherfucker to get your hands on wank material – or you had to lower your standards to lingerie catalogues, fantasy art, your imagination or that one time you got an accidental look into the girl’s showers after PE.

You couldn’t just Google up ‘Redhead dressed as Santa getting a facial from a ghetto pimp’ you took what you could get and there weren’t many options for that.

1. Find it: Some guilt-riddled teenager or adult would occasionally dump a treasure-trove of smut at the side of the road, on some waste ground or in the woods. It’s amazing we didn’t grow up thinking women were naturally wrinkly and covered in black mould.
2. Steal it: High risk, high reward. You could shoplift a jazz mag from the top shelf of the newsagent if you were sneaky and tall. The penalty for fucking it up would be huge though. Sometimes, someone’s old man who went travelling would have a stash and this could – perhaps – be nicked with impunity as they wouldn’t want to get into trouble with the missus by striding about the place bellowing about stolen porn. Of course, the corner-shop stuff was tame as hell and stealing someone’s dad’s wank material could be psychologically scarring. “Do you think he pees on your mum?”
3. The Black Market: Every school had one and pre-internet there was also a loose means of trading porn between schools. I used to sneakily sell some on after I’d tired of it with a chum up north and made a fair bit of extra pocket money.
4. Buy it: I don’t know how porno shops made money even before the internet. Even if you were old enough there was an aura of shame involved and what was on offer was tame as hell anyway. Hardcore was barely a music genre, let alone a kind of porn so far as you’d know from these places.

sfw-porn-1225946340-80630Pornucopia
Compared to the old ways, the internet with its full-bore firehose of pornography was a revelation and highly educational, even to someone in their 20s People diss porn for creating unrealistic expectations of sex but it provided a much better and more accurate education than any number of mumbling, embarrassed school teachers or red-faced birds-and-bees conversations ever could.

Prior to ready access to porn it always seemed like sex was a terrible imposition upon a woman that a man had to essentially apologise, wheedle and beg for. Like the terribly rude imposition of needing to borrow money. This isn’t entirely untrue even today, but an important revelation that porn created was that women had desires of their own and that they could enjoy and pursue sex for their own sakes.

The other thing pornography teaches you, even if it perhaps belabours the point, is that there’s more to it than just a bit of the old ‘in out’ and lots of fun things in the form of foreplay, kinks, positions and so on that even the people forced at gunpoint to educate teenagers don’t talk about. You’re going to get a wall chart of a floppy penis and ovaries, not PE classes on how to do the reverse cowgirl or the horse-eats-the-lotus.

In short, porn may provide a distorted and imperfect sex education, but it’s a damn sight better than the one you get in ‘Life skills’ class. Not to mention the variety of women – and men – in porn runs the full gamut of shape and form, unlike fashion and pop imagery which is decidedly Aryan. Porn has to account for people’s kinks and desires and a size zero just doesn’t jiggle enough for some people.

Much like prostitution, pornography also provides comfort and relief for people with no other outlet. A safety valve for erotic urges that otherwise go unsatisfied. I find this is one of the strongest arguments for legal prostitution as well as porn. Not everyone has success with the opposite sex, I certainly didn’t for a very long time. Are we really going to deny these people sexual relief or sexual contact – even if its only by proxy – with the opposite sex? What a miserable thing to do to people! What about widows and widowers, people with disfiguring conditions or crippling social disorders? Even if you can’t get sexual contact, everyone capable of it deserves some sexual pleasure don’t they?

Of course, when you finally do manage to get a girlfriend (or boyfriend) you probably have to dispose of your stash (see option 1 above) and you also have to wrestle with the difference between your expectations and the reality of doing the mattress mambo with an actual human being rather than a mere image of one. People don’t like to feel they’re competing with porn models though why they feel this I’m not entirely sure. After all, firemen don’t compare themselves to Superman.

sfw-porn-1225142378-49068Rumpy-Grumpy
It’s popular to try and say that porn is ruining real sex by creating terrible, horrible expectations in people heading to the bedroom for the first few times. Usually the men are blamed for that, for the kinky, demanding stuff that porn leads them to expect is de rigeur. This is the same sort of reality blurring argument that is popular to make about video games, role-playing games and was probably made about cave paintings back in the day. The assumption being that people who consume media somehow can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. An attitude that is more insulting than any number of ‘Yo mamma’ jokes.

Obviously I’m only one, single, data point but I can’t regard myself as particularly exceptional and in my experience people are far better at differentiating reality from fantasy than people give them credit for. I didn’t develop my particular kinks and proclivities as a result of porn, but rather as the result of a oral-sex based accidental explosion and a control-freak personality trait that manifested in an interest in BDSM long before I ever even knew what it was. Porn hasn’t created any desires, it has only provided a means to indulge and expand upon what was already there. It wasn’t a ‘gateway to harder drugs’.

Porn – most of the time – can only really satisfy a physical need and that isn’t enough sometimes, even for us horrible, nasty, smelly boys. Sometimes you need something different and more, something that gets into the emotional and feeling aspects as well. Some people are trying to get into that, as women have taken over the adult industry more its become even more prevalent. There’s more attempts at context and not just ‘I’ve come to fix your phone… oh, all your clothes have fallen off!’

Erotica covers that to an extent as it gets you inside people’s minds and not just their ‘bits’. Then there’s cybersex of course, anonymous or otherwise. A creative outlet and one that can be – in many ways – better than any amount of visual porn. I imagine that’s a dying art in these days of sexts and photo-sharing and that’d be a shame. I like to imagine many erotica authors cutting their teeth hunched over keyboards, desperately searching the thesaurus for another alternative to ‘cock’ or a word for ‘vagina’ that doesn’t sound stupid or horrible and which can easily be typed one-handed.

Feelings, of course, inevitably get involved when there’s more than one active participant and it all goes horribly wrong more often than not – just like any other sexual relationship. People who say it’s ‘just sex’ often seem like sociopaths or to have levels of self-delusion (or control) that even Batman would consider ‘pretty damn hardcore’.

Even when you’re with someone then mismatched desire, time apart, distance and non-negotiable kinks can leave a void that pornography can fulfil, It can banish frustrations and annoyances with a flash of seminal magic to the plane of not-giving a shit. It’s not really a threat to anyone, so long as it’s under control and everyone’s up front about it. So long as everyone can be grown up and mature about it as well. ‘You’d rather read a novel than have a conversation with me?’ is an argument that rarely – if ever – happens, unlike arguments over porn.

Even porn production these days isn’t what it once was. Studios are having a hard time, the money isn’t there to beat people over the head with. More women are heading it up and women have always earned more in the industry. Like everything else, perhaps even more so, the internet has disrupted the adult business and democratised it. That seems to be for the better. It’s a lot more direct, a lot more ‘amateur’, a lot more fan-oriented and direct from maker to market, artisinal porno if you will.

sfw-porn-1225104299-86466Porn isn’t like a gun or a toxic chemical. It’s not inherently dangerous. Your ancient copy of PRIVATE can’t ‘go off’ accidentally and kill someone. Porn, even the hardline super-kinky shit doesn’t make anyone a rapist or a molester. If anything evidence is to the contrary. Since the internet firehose was turned on sexual crimes have declined rather than increased, yet people treat it with the same disdain – often – as smoking in public or openly carrying a loaded pistol to a political rally. Porn is inert in and of itself, harmless. As with so many other things the idea that it is harmful rests upon the patronising idea that ‘problematic’ media warp everyone else’s minds but not the people highlighting them – and that’s bollocks.

Doggy-Style Bag
What’s the take-home from this? Much like piercings and tattoos, kink, porn and sex are now part of the culture as a whole, not just some hidden subculture. Attitudes towards it from without – and often from within as well – seem to be stuck in the early 90s and haven’t progressed much since. Teens are sexting each other, making amateur porn, writing slash-fic and everything else under the sun but our attitudes are those of shock and horror. Apparently we’ve forgotten that we used to play ‘doctor’ or sneak peeks at each other all of this ‘wild’ behaviour is just a more public form of the exact same sexual experimentation and curiosity we all had growing up and its no reason to shame someone or even to make that much of a fuss over.

Share some of your experiences and thoughts in the comments, dress ’em up in humour if you want to feel a little safer about it, I did!

Pax.

Transisterised

Monty Python- women shopping

Many people’s impression of trans folk

I guess people already think I’m some kind of reactionary monster thanks to previous commentary on free speech issues, so I have little to lose. I do have a sort-of resolution this year about not stirring the pot or arguing so much with arsehats on the internet, however…

So this whole Julie Burchill/Suzanne Moore thing blew up this week over supposed transphobic comments by Moore and quite-definitely-hurtful comments by Burchill. As a result of which I have found myself to be in the uncomfortable position of nodding along with elements from both sides, which is terrifying for a lefty when one of those is the Telegraph.

Moore’s comment, in a larger article tackling gender bias and other issues, was:

“[Women] are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.”

Which, if anything, seems to me to be a statement of jealousy and a kind of compliment to brazillian transexuals more than an insult. I’d find Gok Wan constantly going on about ‘bangers’ more insulting, not to mention that awful de-gothing on his new show, but I digress. One wonders whether the same up-in-arms attitude would come to defend the victim if she’d said ‘that of a pneumatic porn star’ rather than a brazillian transsexual.

I’m biased of course. I’ve been on the receiving end of the Social Justice Sallies myself on more than one occasion, one of them involving a particularly obnoxious and horrible trans person and so I’m less likely to courteously extend guilt-free, oppressed-victim status to people than others might be, despite my progressive and leftist bent. Still…

To understand a thing is not to accept or condone a thing but there’s a marked lack of willingness on all sides of pretty much every debate to even try to understand the point of view of others who disagree with you. I mean, we can all look at the WestboroBaptistChurch and agree that they’re thundering fuckmuscles for their hatred of homosexuals etc but it is also possible to understand where they’re getting it from (a particularly vile spin on Christianity and selective reading) without thinking that its OK for them to galloping cuntbadgers and picket funerals.

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Roz Kaveney – MtF trans and campaigner

Similarly I can understand where feminists like Burchill, Moore, Greer and so many others have issues with trans people – at least in the context of feminism. I can also understand why Burchill would lash out – and do so in a fashion designed to hurt. They perceived the reaction to a single line in an article by Moore as an unwarranted, hurtful, unnecessary attack and overreaction. You lash out when you’re angry, just as the trans lobby did in picking on Moore. I did the same thing under sustained assault by my trans denigrator and their backing singers. You regret it, but a testy insult doesn’t reflect your true attitude and thoughts. It just reflects the fact that you’re pissed off and want to hurt the person hurting you or your friends. Mature? No. Understandable? Yes.

Why do I think feminism has trans issues?

Well, if you think about it trans people present challenges to base assumptions around many aspects of feminism. Principles of equality, definitions of what makes someone a ‘woman’ in the first place, feminist challenges to claims about those self same things on the part of ‘kyrarchy’.

If you can be a woman just by saying you are and acting like one or dressing like one, then where does that leave feminism? What does it say about certain behaviours, actions, even phrases, clothing choices etc that these are adopted by trans folk (obviously I’m only talking about Male-to-female here but most of it applies the other way). If clothes maketh the man (or woman) then how shallow and meaningless does ‘womanhood’ become? Adopting ‘female behaviour’ presumes that there even is such a thing and reinforces gender stereotypes and that’s part of why – I think – some have problems with it.

If womanhood is behavioural, then women who don’t act that way ‘aren’t women’.

If you take a more biological approach to womanhood then trans people having cosmetic operations, hormone treatment etc presents another challenge to your definitions. Are you a woman because of your shape? Because of brain structures? Because of your hormones? Is it something more fundamental? If you grow up a man but then ‘become’ a woman do you share experiences and viewpoints with women or are you something unique?

If womanhood is purely biological/morphological then there are significant biological differences between the genders which may be a basis for discrimination.

Can we now begin to see where there might be some conflicts of interest, definitional problems and clashes of ideology? These are pretty fundamental things that its hard to gloss over.Then there’s the desire to set up male-free ‘safe spaces’ which presents its own challenges when it comes to trans people’s desires versus the fears and trepidations of people who may have suffered abuse and been left with androphobia.

For my part I decide to cut through all the surrounding bullshit and take it down to the genetic level. Your chromosomes and the genes they carry determine what biological gender you are and – as of yet – that can’t be changed. You can change your gender identity – and more power to you if you do – but you can’t change your actual gender. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/gender

I’m perfectly happy for trans folk to be addressed by whatever title they prefer, to go through life in the gender identity that they see themselves as being but, short of huge advances in retroviral treatments and direct reshaping and modelling of the human body and brain tissue, a trans person will never actually be the other gender.

Is this any reason to be horrible or prejudiced to them? To deny them rights and privileges? No. It’s just a bald statement of non-judgemental fact like ‘the sky is blue’ or ‘this product contains sugar’. Not that this hasn’t prevented people from lambasting me for holding this viewpoint. When ideology trumps reality, that’s where you get religion and I want no part of that, thanks. It would also be nice if coffee enemas cured cancer, but they don’t.

picture_big_queen_transgender_2012

Winner of ‘Miss Transgender’

Yes there are genetic outliers like de la Chapelle syndrome, but even these are separated by gender and in the specific case of de la Chapelle syndrome the second X chromosome contains transposed genetic material from the Y chromosome which causes the development of male characteristics. Not that the issues facing intersex or genetically anomalous conditions have that much to do with trans issues anyway – different things, different causes.

You can pick and choose your studies of course but, while people with particular traits and sexual alignments do have certain differences and characteristics it seems that gender dimorphism in the brain isn’t one of them particularly when it comes to trans: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21467211

Peoples reasons for saying or believing things may be bullshit, but for there to be any progress effort must be made to understand why they say or believe those things and games of ‘more oppressed than thou’ don’t do any cause any good. That’s part of the reason ‘privilege’ is such a toxic and stupid thing to bring into debates, but that’s a conversation for another time.

The Iron ‘Lady’

MargaretThatcher[1]Apparently it was on last night. I didn’t watch it, I lived through her tyrannical slash-and-burn of British society and that was enough. Living through a second band of it is no barrel of laughs either. My comments to this effect on Twitter appeared to attract some BNP-Lite reactions but I do have to wonder, a great deal, about anyone who remembers the Thatcher regime fondly.

The best, most succinct, yet complete description of Thatcher I have ever seen appears in Warren Ellis’ ‘Planetary’:

“Jack always said it was difficult for us Americans to understand what it was really like here in the darkest parts of the eighties. We had a doddery old president who talked about the end of the world a little too often and was being run by the wrong people. But they had a Prime Minister who was genuinely mad. You know there were even feminists and women’s studies theorists who denied she was even really a woman any more, she was so far out of her tree? She wanted concentration camps for AIDS victims, wanted to eradicate homosexuality even as an abstract concept, made poor people choose between eating and keeping their vote, ran the most shameless vote-grabbing artificial war scam in fifty years. England was a scary place, no wonder it produced a scary culture.”