Archive for November, 2009
As I mentioned in my last post, on Tuesday of last week Ms. Violet Blue appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the topic of which was women and pornography and erotica. A few days ago Alison Tyler linked to the comments on the episode at the show’s website. I read said comments, and while there are many things that could be commented on (there was much talk about “porn addiction,” pornography “destroying families,” its being the “leading cause divorce in America,” etc., etc., etc….sigh), I am commenting here on one particular theme that I noticed not for the first time.
A lot of people seem to want to talk about “most women’s experience” working in porn (apparently men’s experience is not relevant). In this specific instance, featured guest Jenna Jameson’s experience, for example, was hailed as an “exception” to “most women’s experience” in porn. Well, indeed, Ms. Jameson is an “exception” in that she’s arguably the most famous porn star in the world. Just as Michael Jordan is an “exception” in his profession as one of the most famous basketball players in the world. That’s great. But the reason people seem to be pointing this out in Ms. Jameson’s case is to claim the generalization that most women’s experience working in porn is degrading, exploitative, harrowing, etc.
I wonder how many people (women, presumably) these individuals know who have worked in porn? Or how else it is that they think they know this? Sometimes there have been exposes or stories told via the media about people working in it or who used to work in porn, but it has seemed to me that what is reported by the media in general (on all sorts of topics) may not be representative of the majority of experience. Why is it that some people seem so certain about the experience of the majority of women who have worked in porn — have they met most of the people about whom they are speaking? Are they familiar personally with a vast number of porn performers?
Incidentally, this type of widespread assumption seems to extend to people (usually women) working in almost any facet of the sex industry. I recall having a conversation with a former co-worker of mine at my last full-time day job a few years ago. I was explaining that I supported the decriminalization of prostitution, and he said he didn’t understand why and/or whom that would benefit since “no one does that job voluntarily.” I asked him how he knew that. He stated that it was “obvious.” I asked him how many whores he had known from whom he had apparently gleaned this understanding.
Guess what his answer was.
Anyway, back to porn, it’s not even that I am out and out disagreeing with these naysaying individuals, because I don’t know a whole lot of porn performers either, especially professional ones (in my time working in porn I only met one). But I have been a porn performer myself (amateur porn rather than professional — a loose description of the difference may be found here), and when I read or hear generalizing comments like this, I have experienced the odd feeling of someone’s seeming to speak for me to whom I have never spoken about this aspect of my experience—as well as that of my experience being virtually unacknowledged or, if it is, dismissed.
Working as a pornographic performer did not seem to me like some big scandalous/radical/shocking embarkation. It seemed like something interesting and appealing to me to do in line with the interest I felt in working in the sex industry. I appreciated the opportunity and in general enjoyed the work I have done therein. It doesn’t seem strange to me to imagine that I wasn’t some major exception in feeling this way and that a number of people may similarly have freely chosen/choose to and enjoy working in porn. What does seem mystifying to me is how many people seem to think they know what “most” women’s experience working in porn is or that this experience somehow tends to be homogenous for women in general. How exactly is it that they think they know that?
I would like to digress here for a moment and say that on the referenced episode of Oprah’s show, I did find the comments from Steve Hirsch (CEO of Vivid Entertainment Group) about condom usage—that they weren’t part of people’s “fantasy” and that porn featuring condoms just didn’t sell as well—considerably disheartening. For me condom usage was unquestioned. I respectfully insisted on condoms for all vaginal and anal penetration, and it was simply not a point of negotiation. In my experience working in amateur porn, I very rarely encountered resistance to this. On the occasions I did, there was no hesitation in me to simply decline that job.
There are things I myself personally don’t appreciate about the way some pornography is made and (especially) marketed, sure. The things I have not liked about pornography, however, for the most part have seemed to me reflective of societal propensities and not the inherent fault of pornography—the graphic depiction of sex with the intent to arouse—as a genre. Incidentally, it also seems to me that to say that pornography is inherently “degrading to women” is to say that sex is inherently degrading to women and that when they partake in it they are being intrinsically objectified (whereas men are not). I not only find no merit in that position but moreover see that contention itself as what is degrading and oppressive to women.
I do not at all purport to speak for everyone in the pornography industry here any more than I assent to other people’s speaking for me in that context. I know what my own experience working in porn has been, and I am happy to share/discuss it. That which I have discussed in this post simply brought to my attention once again what seem to be some automatic/unquestioned assumptions prevalently applied to working in and workers of the sex industry. Those assumptions seem to me indicators of underlying societal attitudes and conceptions we may do well to examine.
“How dare you say that my behavior’s unacceptable, so condescending unnecessarily critical…”
-Maroon 5 “Harder to Breathe”
Isn’t it funny how I slack for almost two weeks here on my blog, and when I finally get it together and post something, another thing pops right up for me to post about the same day? Funny, sure, as well as enormously exciting — because the incredible Violet Blue has read my story “Shift Change” from Best Women’s Erotica 2010 for her amazing podcast Open Source Sex!
I am simply giddy that Violet wanted to podcast the reading of “Shift Change,” and she does such a beautiful, amazing job reading it that I was seriously left breathless. I’m also still blushing about what she said about the story on her blog as well as in the podcast.
The reading of “Shift Change” is not available on iTunes Open Source Sex because Violet reserves that for nonfiction podcasts, so you can check it out if you so desire directly at her Open Source Sex page online — it’s Open Source Sex 72. Violet also offers another brand new podcast (which is on iTunes — Open Source Sex 71) in which she reads the introduction to Best Women’s Erotica 2010.
To add to the excitement, Violet is also going to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show today (Tuesday, November 17)! The topic of the show is women and pornography and erotica; more information is on Violet’s Facebook page. I can hardly wait!
Love and breathlessness,
Recently I purchased a chakra poster (pictured left) at the wellness center where my acupuncturist practices. The chakras are part of an ancient spiritual tradition that discerns seven energy centers in the body, which run in a line basically up the spine/nervous system. They are represented by the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple.
I have not done much specific chakra work on myself. I was introduced to the system three years ago in a course with one of my spiritual teachers. During that course the teacher specifically brought my attention to the second/orange chakra in me. This chakra is said to be the seat of emotions and sexuality, among other things.
On the poster now hanging on my wall, the Affirmation for the second/orange chakra (also referred to as the sacral chakra) states the following:
Well, I can certainly appreciate the importance of that. While it strikes me as more poignant than funny, it appears so painfully obvious to me that this statement has NOT been reflected in the historic tendencies in me that it is nearly laughable.
“I welcome and acknowledge all of my feelings and desires, easily discerning the appropriateness of acting on them.”
The sacral chakra column on the poster also shares that “if we do not keep a witness to our emotions,” it may result in an extreme of either “a constant need for pleasure or rejection of pleasure due to fear or shame.”
Some of the central patterns of the personality structure in me have been specifically geared toward not acknowledging either feelings or desires in me. “Easily discerning the appropriateness of acting on them” frankly didn’t even seem very relevant for much of my life because the feelings and (especially) desires were not acknowledged or recognized enough to consider acting on them consciously. Unconsciously, of course, these things would still be there and would be influencing me in ways of which I was unaware since they were suppressed and kept in the unconscious or subconscious, but consciously it seems there was simply a rule to not act on such things in general because they were not even supposed to be recognized. Frequently, I likely did not even realize they were there.
So I feel certainly famililar with the “rejection of pleasure due to fear or shame” component of the sacral chakra imbalance. When the orange chakra was first brought to my attention during the aforementioned course three years ago, it came to my attention that the question, “What do you want?” elicited little more than a blank look from me. It was almost as though I didn’t even understand what the question meant. What does “want” have to do with anything? You do what you’re supposed to, what you should do, what you’ve said you would do, what’s “right,” etc., etc., etc. Want doesn’t really enter into the picture. That was truly what the habitual patterning in me seemed to see.
Sexually speaking, that historical pattern seemed to reign in me up to about my mid-twenties. When an emergence of consciousness occurred in me and that shifted, I won’t claim the pendulum didn’t seem to swing to the other side, so to speak. That has not seemed unusual in my experience — a tendency toward extremes/”all or nothing” has been characteristic in me historically. “Feelings and desires” that may have been so suppressed and ignored in me suddenly allowed to come forth may have done so in a manner similar to that of a caged animal suddenly being set free.
Presently, I wonder if the second part of the Affirmation is emerging in my experience. The part about “easily discerning the appropriateness of acting on them.” Acknowledging and staying with feelings in me has been a colossal part of the Work I have done and continue to do on myself. Acknowledging want is actually a front and center issue for me currently, and it occurs to me that as I start to see it, the discerning/acting part of the equation does become relevant as the historic rigidity of the simple strategy of suppression and indiscriminate restraint dissipates.
Perhaps now for me, as on one level things seem to balance out more (i.e., I recognize want within me), I am presented with a different challenge on a deeper level. This of course is how growth works, so it is not a surprising occurrence. In this case, it may be that when feelings and desires are allowed, the question of whether and when to act on them comes forth as an opportunity for me. While for some people that might be an area that has seemed long familiar or to some degree understood, for me it seems brand new and thus unsettling at times.
I had a dream a few nights ago right before I woke up to go to an acupuncture appointment. It was a dream that involved intense sexual yearning, and in the course of talking about it with my acupuncturist, we/I surmised that the yearning seems representative of something within me that is asking to be or ready to be developed. In other words, something that is within me that I have not yet recognized fully (or maybe even very much), and something I am to provide for myself rather than look outwardly to find.
The sexual desire in the dream seems to me an attempt by the part of me not interested in growth to simply project it outside and try to get this from someone else — which authentically speaking may not be done. This kind of phenomenon has occurred to me before, as I mentioned in my post about (the outrageously beautiful) Billie Joe Armstrong, and reflecting on this dream, it once again struck me how seductive the urge to project things outside of ourselves may be. This invitation to develop a capacity within me manifested in this dream as an incredibly magnetic attraction to something outside myself — a strategy to get me to ignore or avoid the recognition that it is something that I must provide for myself (and is already within me whether I see it consciously or not) and that cannot be obtained from the outside. I deeply appreciate seeing this information via this dream.
In Five-Element acupuncture, we are currently in the season of Winter, which holds unknowing, mystery, stillness, silence (yes, obviously in this culture we have managed to skew that a bit by throwing in what tends to be a hugely non-silent “holiday season,” but regardless, those are gifts of Winter according to traditional Chinese medicine). The element of Winter is water. I noticed the description of the second/orange chakra on my new poster includes, “It holds the spectrum of emotions from the depths of silent dark waters . . . .”
Sexuality once again strikes me as such a beautiful, awe-inspiring gift to us. In its fundamental connection to life it holds so much potential and energy, manifestable both authentically/supportively and inauthentically/destructively.
Authenticity is absolutely the aim in me, and right now there seems once again to be an invitation for me to recognize this within the realm of sexuality. Since all of the service I offer around sexuality, including erotic writing, is an offering of this invitation as well, it seems not only appropriate but imperative that I answer that call myself.
Love and Namaste,
-Rob Thomas “Little Wonders”
I love Halloween — especially when I get to dress up. This year I have also quite enjoyed reading the various Halloween–themed posts I have encountered around blogland. I myself am a little late with my post-Halloween post, as a fair amount of time for me over the last few days has been devoted to a submission deadline and watching the World Series (which I much enjoyed the last two nights…and not nearly so much tonight).
On Halloween night, in fact, my evening was spent watching said series and eating way too much candy corn. I had, alas, no trick-or-treaters, by which I was not surprised since I live in an apartment building (and a security one at that) and have not had trick-or-treaters any of the years I’ve lived here. (The presence of trick-or-treaters is yet another of the many things I look forward to about having a house!)
The night before Halloween, however, I was all dressed up and out trick-or-treating myself — well, not really, but I was out in public and food was involved. While my plans for the evening changed at the last minute, it did not affect my costume. ; ) As pictured here (both front and back!), I dressed up this year as Minnie Mouse.
I noticed as I was composing this post that “Sex+ Diversion” is at this time my most-used blog category. What a diversional blog I apparently have. : ) And isn’t it funny that I created the “Sex+ Diversion” category just for our trip to Walt Disney World earlier this year — and now, of course, I use it to categorize this post about this year’s Halloween costume, which I chose in honor of said trip.
I hope everyone had a lovely Halloween weekend, and best wishes for a beautiful November.
-Sparks “Minnie Mouse”