Mar 31, 2011

Momentum Con Prep, Eman al-Obeidi, Arizona is Batshit, and Sasha Grey's Neü World Order

It's been an ever-so busy week over here, and I apologize for the paucity of blog posts, dearest readers, but do not fret! This weekend I will be attending Momentum, a convention for feminists and sex-positives and all sorts of other thinky/sexy bloggers, social media types, writers, thinkers, and etc. I am frickin PSYCHED! I'm going to attend talks by some of my favorite porn directors and stars, polyamorous theorists and activists, feminists of all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, and oh so much more. I'm packing today and will head down tomorrow, and I promise blogs all weekend!

In the meantime, I've been pondering a few things. This past week has been filled to bursting with exciting/scary/interesting sex news, and I kind of don't even know where to start. I think a quick run-down of the biggest deals is in order, with my very own commentary, of course.

1) Eman al-Obeidi: The Libyan woman who burst into a hotel last week to tell foreign reporters that she'd been repeatedly beaten and raped by Gadaffi's (or however you spell his name) troops after being detained at a checkpoint; who showed reporters her bruises; who was chased through the hotel by government loyalists, wrapped in a tablecloth by a waitress, and pushed into a car and driven away to an undisclosed location; whose parents say she's being held at Gadaffi's compound while Gadaffi's people say she's with family; who was called a drunken prostitute by the government and whose parents then went on TV showing photos of her getting her law degree (I realize that having a law degree in no way precludes anyone from becoming a prostitute, but it is a bit toward the unlikely side)... is now being sued by the men she accused of raping her. Sued. One would assume the charges are being pressed on the basis of defamation of character, but I'd like to point out to these men that, while al-Obeidi's image and name are all over the international news... NONE OF THEIRS ARE. Sure, they might face a bit of annoyance over all this, and I'm sure that the alleged attackers' names have been mentioned here and there, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how these men could possibly think that they have been in some way more damaged than al-Obeidi herself. Regardless of whether they actually did rape her (as far as I know, there was no physical examination given and so the allegations are just that and no more), somebody sure as shit beat her up, as her bruises proved. And while I understand that in some parts of the world, beating a woman for no discernible reason isn't as much of a shameful thing as it is here, she surely experienced physical pain and embarrassment at their hands. And then was humiliated by the rough treatment she received from people who would do anything to get her out of camera's reach in the hotel where she tried to tell her story. And then was whisked off to an undisclosed location and called a drunken prostitute on the news. And now she is being sued because she is hurting other people?
It just boggles the mind.
I try to understand the differences between cultures and gender-based ideology when I consider these things, but from a purely and completely logical standpoint, this makes NO sense. This woman was abused in some way physically before she came forward, and she was damn well treated abominably on camera by hotel staff and government workers, and now she's somewhere in Libya probably being treated terribly again while her parents are offered money and houses to get her to recant her story... And she's being punished. There is just no fucking way this makes sense. And I'm kind of pissed off that this isn't a bigger story.
As I've mentioned before, in times of war and upheaval the struggle of women to maintain their rights and legitimacy as human beings seems to often be compromised. I mean, hell, since we've been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, abortion rights and same-sex marriage debates have become the hot topics here, and that's an incredibly softened version of what's going on elsewhere. Sex-based repression seems to go hand-in-hand with military action and civil unrest. And granted, it's sometimes difficult to keep a real focus on the struggle of women when there are bombs going off, guns firing, and riots in the streets. But women are half of every single equation there is, and when they start getting treated as if they're invisible and expendable simply because there's violence to be gawked at, there's a serious problem. Where's the outrage over Eman al-Obeidi's situation? Where's the international demand for justice? Where's our giving a shit about women in trouble in other parts of the world? Where IS Eman al-Obeidi, for god's sake? Why don't we care?
This is maybe a bit of a silly diatribe; after all, women are treated with contempt, disdain, and violence every day in so many parts of the world. The Congo, Saudi Arabia, Iran, hell, everywhere. I can't get on here every day and lecture everyone for not paying enough attention when the amount of attention that needs to be paid is far beyond the cognitive capacity of most of us. But when such a radically insane story pops up that seems to me to demand attention and very little gets said about it, I get all kinds of pissed off.
Eman: if you're out there and you're reading this (which would be amazing), I can't offer you much aside from support. I'm too poor to buy you a plane ticket, and I'll be damned if I know how to get you out of wherever they're holding you and onto a plane. But if you can make it to New York, you've got a place to stay. You've got friends here. Hang in there.

2) Arizona has just passed legislation that will, ninety days after signing, prohibit women from getting abortions based on the assumed race or gender of the fetus. Which is just like... what? I mean, really? In Arizona, are people really going to abortion clinics and saying, "You know I just REALLY wanted a boy and the early sonogram showed that it might be a girl, and anyway, it might be Pacific-Islander and I really want a black baby, so let's get rid of it"? I cannot fathom that this is a problem so dire in the state of Arizona that this law is necessary to protect the welfare of fetuses. One more notch in the bedpost for anti-womens-reproductive-rights conservative assholes who will take any chance to further restrict the ability of women to make their own medical and reproductive choices. Sigh.

3) Sasha Grey has a "neü" book out: a series of photographs from her time in the adult film industry called Neü Sex. She's been out and about promoting it and has been getting media attention from her oh-my-god-a-smart-girl-who-did-porn public, and that's fantastic. Go, Sasha! But as Tracy Clark-Flory pointed out, a lot of what Sasha said at her appearance at Housing Works this week didn't make much sense. And that's kind of the thing about the entire Sasha-Grey-post-porn phenomenon that gets on my nerves: in context, none of this makes sense. Sasha Grey isn't in any real fundamental way radically different from a ton of other porn stars I know. She's incredibly sexual, beautiful, business-minded, well-spoken, attention-seeking, and... here's the not-shocker... intelligent. I get it, I get it, the stereotype of the female porn performer is a big-boobed, tan, not-so-smart blonde, and Sasha breaks that mold in a whole crap-ton of ways. But the only way in which she stands out from all the hundreds of other porn performing brunettes with brains bigger than their breasts is that she's so vocal and so public about how smart she is. Which, again, isn't really a problem. Good for her for being vocal about the fact that porn doesn't equate to stupidity. But I guess what I find missing from her soapbox is interest in expanding this platform of hers to include anyone but herself. Sasha is not the only smart sex worker out there, and since she's so fixed on being a crossover star based on her brains and ballsiness, it'd be really nice of her to mention more often that she knows lots of great, smart, talented people in the adult business. But she doesn't. She's distanced herself from the business for years, ever since her career started blossoming in other areas. I've heard rumors that she didn't even call AVN back when they sniffed around asking her to host this year. She hasn't performed since, I hear, 2009. She hasn't been at many conferences lately, and I haven't seen her in a signing booth since 2009. She's become separated from her past, and while there's nothing wrong with that if she wants to move on, she continues to use her past in the sex industry as her raison d'etre for everything else she does, and that seems like something of a dirty move to me.
I think what it comes down to is that, look, Sasha is capitalizing on what made her famous to get more famous. And I certainly can't fault her for that--after all, I named my blog after the McSweeney's column that got me enough attention to drag a readership over here in the first place, and to which I will now completely unabashedly post link. But it seems that in order to use her past to promote her present, she is joining the crowd in casting aspersions upon the industry she left. By showing how different she is from the industry and very purposefully distancing herself from it to gain more legitimacy, she's just adding to fuel to the fire of public opinion about how porn is no place for an intelligent and talented woman. But I know many intelligent, talented, interesting, educated, beautiful, incredible men and women in porn, and Sasha, it seems, is totally willing to pretend they don't exist... or worse, that she is better than them... to get what she wants. And it annoys me.
Every time she does something new and the media goes bananas about it, I scratch my head. "Why do we still care?" I ask myself. Obviously, Sasha is a captivating porn performer with a presence that earns her a fanbase that includes porn fans and merely curious anti-establishment types alike. And I applaud her for that. But at the same time, I mean, she's not the only person who's ever done porn to possess a brain that works, and it's an indictment of our culture that we are so endlessly fascinated by this "diamond in the rough" idea that we fail to look for any more diamonds. It's more fun to look at "the exception that proves the rule"--who we like to assume is Sasha and only Sasha--than to look at those who comprise the rule. Most porn stars are happy to do interviews in which they can prove that they are indeed smart, but for whatever reason, people don't like to read them that way. It seems that we want most porn stars to talk about sex and money and prove the stereotype so that we can all go on paying them no attention until they end up on Charlie Sheen's arm or starring in Stephen Soderbergh movies, because that's easier for all of us. But if we instead spent any time really thinking about people who make make porn, talking to them and about them like thinking individuals (as I try to do in my interviews here and on WHACK! Magazine), we'd notice that Sasha Grey is totally great and everything, but she's not much more of a diamond than anyone else.

Mar 28, 2011

Interview Success and Silicone Sadness

Well, I'd like to report that the interview I last posted about went beautifully. Lisa Ann is not nearly as intimidating in person as she seems she might be, and we had a lovely late lunch and very successful interview. It'll be up tomorrow on WHACK! Magazine.

The evening of the interview, Lisa invited myself and my publisher, j. vegas, to a party she was hosting at Sapphire Gentlemen's Club in Manhattan. I was reluctant to go, as sometimes "porn parties" can be... well... awkward. There have been a few where, despite press credentials and all the best intentions, all attempts at interviews and mingling have been crushed by throngs of fans and a lack of organization. But I then learned that there was an open bar and free food at this party: I've been to Sapphire before, and the drinks are normally upwards of $18. Any opportunity to stick it to such a stingy-ass bar seemed worth it to me. And so I trooped up to the East side with several friends in tow to take advantage of Lisa's hospitality.

And take advantage we did! We got premium seats, table service, and a great view of the dancers. Sapphire really is a nice club, and the free drinks helped me appreciate it more. Some of their dancers, notably Rosa and Victoria, are talented and--best of all--enthusiastic about what they do. So many exotic dancers seem to take their time on stage as an opportunity to slouch on the pole and wiggle, as if it's a cigarette break with music or something. And trust me, I understand that dancing is tiring: I was a go-go dancer myself for a while, and shaking your ass for twenty minutes at a time really is exhausting. But, come on ladies, that's why you're there. It's your job. So I like Sapphire, because there are few of these phoning-it-in types, and more women who seem to really enjoy what they're doing, love showing off their talents with the pole, or their bodies, or what have you, and don't even seem to care so much about the tips. It makes me feel good to see women getting down with themselves like that--and the crowd loves it.

One thing, however, that I do not love: really bad implants. They seem to abound in the NYC strip club scene, perching atop otherwise normal bodies like hyper-inflated beach balls that never bounce. I just can't abide them. The whole point of a gyrating female body on display, as far as I'm aware, is that it jiggles a little. It shakes. The squishy parts get to show their squishiness. Right? That's the appeal? Or am I just out of the loop? Cause if so, I should be told. I just don't enjoy the sight of breasts that don't jiggle at all. And it makes me wonder why on earth the women who got them didn't go back to their plastic surgeons and demand a refund. I know that breast enhancement surgery isn't all that pricey, but I'd damn well want my $3,000 for a pair of sweater puppies that look more like torpedoes than breasts! And the thing is, there are very nice-looking implants out there. I've seen a lot of them. Many porn performers have breasts so lovely and natural looking that I don't believe them when they tell me they're enhanced. So I know it's possible to get an enhancement without looking as if someone grafted particularly firm squashes onto one's torso. Why, then, the sub-par boobies? Why settle for less?

Ah well, life is full of mysteries, and I guess badly-done breasts are just one of the many. But does anyone out there agree with me that real breasts, even if floppy or saggy or small, are sometimes nicer? Anyone?

Mar 26, 2011

Performance Anxiety

Oh my gosh, you guys. Today I'm scheduled to do a face-to-face, one-on-one, video interview with one of the biggest, baddest, most beautiful adult stars in the world. I've said hello to her before at conventions and the like, but she's always intimidated me enough that I haven't sought out any personal attention. She's one of those whose signing line is always miles long and who's somehow got the energy to have a kind word for everyone, while managing to look professional and stunningly gorgeous all at once. Scared? I'm petrified.

Now the thing is that when I do interviews with adult stars, particularly for WHACK! Magazine, as this one will be, I know in my heart of hearts that said adult stars have volunteered for the interview. It's good publicity for them. Publicity is one way to keep themselves in the spotlight. So they want to talk to me. And actually, as far as interviews go, I often find face-to-face ones easier than phone or e-mail interviews, because I can see their reactions and gauge which direction to take the conversation in based on them. We usually end up having a fun conversation instead of a stilted, awkward exchange.

But... It's so intimidating. I mean, what if I ask stupid questions? What if I end up asking only questions she's answered a thousand times before? What if I ask a totally wrong question about something she doesn't want to discuss? What if she's just so far above and beyond my level of professional-ness that halfway through my lame interview she just gets up and storms off because I'm such a moron? What if...? What IF?

The truth is, though I've made a name for myself in part of the porn world as an interviewer that fans and stars alike seem to feel comfortable with... I've always hated it. Even when I was younger and working for a local newspaper, being sent out to interview people was the absolute worst part of the job... aside from having to CALL people, interrupt their normal life routines, and make them talk to me. Interviewing people makes me feel like a nosy, interfering, prying pain in the ass. Even though, on a rational level, I know I'm not really. I know that personally, I'm a live-and-let-live type. I don't care what you do with your life so long as you're not hurting anyone, and I'd love it if you stayed out of my business too. And on a more practical professional level, I know that I'm only interviewing people because they WANT to be interviewed. But the logical, practical, and paranoid emotional parts of me just cannot seem to get it together!

Egads! Ok. I'm going to have some more coffee, put together a loose set of questions I can riff off of, and pray to the gods of porn star interviews that this incredible (she really is amazing) woman will find my gawkiness and nerves endearing rather than annoying. ...sigh. Wish me luck!

Mar 23, 2011

On Penetration

I kind of squealed when I read Max Levant's article, "How I Learned to Get Pegged and Like It," on Jezebel. I have to admit, I went into it with low expectations. The title seemed to connote the idea that this was some "dude, brah" fist-pumping type who was absolutely amazed that something so "homo" could be enjoyable, and I fully expected to write an angry diatribe about it after reading. Instead, I got this: "I never realized the incredible amount of bravery it takes to let someone inside you. It's asking someone to stab you in the back, but lovingly. Masculine courage is throwing yourself headfirst into danger, like jumping out of a plane, but feminine courage is letting danger throw itself headfirst into YOU. It's even more badass."

Aside from some problematic assumptions about what constitutes "masculine" vs "feminine" strength, and a comment about how he sees older women as "retired" generals (what, they have to stop being actively brave in bed when they get older?), Max's sentiments made me sigh and go, "Thank GOD someone else sees this!" It's a very simple idea, so basic that I haven't even bothered writing it down before because it seems inevitable that some feminist writer already wrote The Book on the topic. But it's worth mentioning now that someone else has reminded me about it. 

I mean, look, we're a little past the "men are strong and women are weak" days, but when it comes to overwhelming generalizations about female vs. male and penetratee vs. penetrator sexuality, there's still a trend toward the idea that as the receivers, penetratees are the passive ones. The meeker ones. Given that penetratees are overwhelmingly women, it's safe to say that this has expanded into an idea about women being the weaker ones. And, though there are too many examples of how women don't really deserve that classification much of the time, the idea is still out there, informing many about how women "are" about sex. After all, the logic might go, penetrating someone is a masculine tendency: the desire to push oneself into another person is a mark of power. The ability to passively receive makes women the less active, the less powerful sex. And there's a certain weird truth in that: the penetrating man is the "adventurer," seeking out new territory. He's the British Empire of the sex world, whereas the woman (or, duh, anyone else who's penetrated) is the pillaged New World. Or something. But enough trying to explain a reasoning process I don't fully understand. Because I don't get it.

And I don't get it because it makes sense to me to appreciate the power inherent in penetration, but to equally value the strength it takes to open oneself up to being penetrated. As Max said, it takes courage. And to those who have never been penetrated (except of course in prostate exams) sometimes I'm afraid it seems like the easiest thing in the world. Of course, anal sex, which Max is talking about, does take a measure more courage for most; it is, in reality, an "out" hole that the body has to be coaxed into relaxing enough to become an "in" hole, and that's a very conscious battle one must pit between mind and sphincter. Vaginal penetration is a more natural bodily function, one that, for most women, doesn't require as much concentration or determination. But at the same time, especially for the many of us who have undergone sexual trauma, letting someone into either hole can be difficult, even terrifying. Not only must one be prepared to get close to someone on an emotional level, but one must actually open one's body to another human being. Our most private parts. Our most vulnerable, pink, tender, squishy parts. The ones that are so easily hurt, so often abused, so sadly un-understood by so many. And not only must the penetratee open up, but he/she must also expand inside. Make room for not just him/herself, but for another person's body. Another person's penetration. Expand, grow, accommodate to become not just one body, but two. Sex does bring people together on many levels for both partners, but the one being penetrated is literally making this combination of two in one happen in his or her own body. In the dark, secret places inside us. And that takes, well... balls. Heh. Women have balls. Hehehe...

And... it appears that little middle-school level joke is the end of my brains ability to make anything like a decent point, so, it's also the end of that little tirade. But hey, worth thinking about, no?

Mar 21, 2011

Issues of Consent: Do Passers-by or Pornographers Deserve a Say?


I was perusing the interwebz this morning and came across a link on Violet Blue's blog tiny nibbles to an article by Charlie Glickman, PhD, a sex educator and leading member of Good Vibrations. The article, called "Consent and Public Disgrace," discusses the Kink.com site "Public Disgrace" and how, though he loves porn and kink, the site gave him an icky feeling. Apparently the MO of Public Disgrace (which I'll admit I'd not heard of until Violet pointed me in its direction) features footage of women being publicly gangbanged, most often indoors in controlled situations, but apparently sometimes also on the street and really in public, which involves passers-by being more or less forced to watch the action. Glickman makes the argument that while he's ok with an environment where one has every reason to believe that everyone in the room knew what was going to happen, the idea of onlookers not being prepared nor inclined to watch a gangbang crosses the all-important consent barrier and should be nixed.

I thought about it for a little while. The issue of consent in porn, while vitally important to both performers and viewers' understandings of those performers, usually only applies to participants in sexual acts on camera. So Glickman applying it to the watchers gave me pause. Part of me wanted to balk: well, is this really important? Is watching someone getting gangbanged really so bad? But then I remembered an experience of my own in which I ended up watching something I wasn't prepared emotionally for, and I recalled walking away feeling frightened, discombobulated, and used, and I realized he's right. (I'll tell you that story another time: let's just say it involves a summer night, a crowd all in white, and a swing party I thought I was ready for... but wasn't.)

While most of the Public Disgrace scenes in question are filmed in countries with more lax rules about sex in public and it stands to reason that the general moral tone of the people in those countries may follow suit with the laws, imagine if a child happened to walk by a gangbang. What then? Or if someone's dear old granny, prone to heart conditions and always very religious, passed by? Her heart might give out! But there's more to it than that: the issue of consent in a porn viewer is something we like to overlook here in America, where obscenity is defined not by the law but the onlooker. Where pornographers can be, and are, sent to jail when the wrong person sees their smut while the people who actively chose to watch it and most often to pay for it are vindicated for upholding "community standards," and where anti-porn sentiment is currently running high, it's always better to implicate the pornographer than the poor, unsuspecting viewer. But ah, there's the rub: the viewer for most porn is suspecting. That's why he's there. If someone really, truly, accidentally stumbled onto a Max Hardcore scene, then sure he or she might have every right to be offended. But that's not the kind of thing that pops up when you click onto your favorite astrology site: you have to find it to watch it. You have to seek it out

And that's the idea: for people walking by on the street who might have religious mores or strict moral codes they want to follow, happening upon a public gangbang could be a serious breach of.. well, everything. Children could come away with a very skewed version of what's normal, and though the men and women in the gangbang might be having a blast being humiliated in public, not everyone wants to watch them being humiliated. Kind of like the stocks in olden times: you didn't have to walk through the center of the town square if you didn't want to see someone being hit in the face by rotten tomatoes. There's a line being crossed when someone surprises you with a gangbang, whether you're the recipient or merely getting an unwelcome eyeful. You could walk away with your whole worldview shattered, feeling used and violated. And the whole point of wanting people to pay for porn is so that those who don't want to watch it don't feel violated by it. Ever.


Speaking of lack of consent contributing to making one feel cheap and used: how about the fact that the online porn community is being shunted off, despite loud and very logical protests that have been vocally going on for years, into the realms of the brand-spanking-new .XXX designation? Violet Blue got me thinking about this topic, too, with her excellent article, ".XXX Domain Approved: Now Begins the Era of Meaningless TLDs."

A whole lot of things bother me about this state of affairs, but two more so than others. Firstly, for all intents and purposes, adult content sites, which are doing just fine, as far as I'm aware, as .coms and .nets, have no need to be hidden in the .xxx corner, which immediately fishbowl-izes them. The online public can now officially and easily deem a website dirty, and those dirty pornographers are being ghettoized against their will. Kicking and screaming. Even Speaker Boehner would have to admit that this move is forcible. And that gives me the ickies all over. "Oh, come on, they're just pornographers," one can here the ICANN and ICM people drawling. "They don't have feelings. They're loaded. Why not make them buy new, expensive domain names that label them for all the world to see as morally degenerate pseudo-people? We can protect our kids easier this way." Yeah. protect them from respecting sex workers and pornographers as human beings. Protect them from the arduousness of learning not to label people automatically based on their attitudes toward sex.

Which brings me to the other thing about .XXX that pisses me off. There's a whole burgeoning world of erotic film out there that doesn't fit neatly into a category as "porn" or "not porn." The general consensus on things pornographic is that porn is intended to be utilitarian (ie, you can jerk off to it and you're supposed to) whereas all non-porn entertainment is meant for another purpose (ie, to tell a story, deliver a message, etc), but as time goes on, more film-makers like Erika Lust, Jennifer Lyon Bell, and even Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) step forward with sexually explicit fare that also tells a story, delivers a message, and gratifies physically as well as intellectually. From where I'm sitting, it seems to me that sex-positive and thinking people everywhere should be eager to see the lines between "the nipple ghetto" (as Nina Hartley put it in an interview) and mainstream entertainment blur. The more we let ourselves and generations to come be exposed to graphic sex in ways that involve the brain, demand respect, raise important questions, and show the act as an important and sometimes-beautiful part of life, I would argue, the healthier we'll all be. Integrate sex into the fabric of society, not as a bane or a titter-worthy punchline, but as the driving force it actually is. We'll be able to devote more of our time to thinking about it without blushing and running out of the room, perhaps. Of course, I realize that for many people, taking the sleaze out of sex on screen isn't a goal; keeping sex off the screen entirely is a cherished goal for many. But the people behind this whole .XXX thing aren't trying to protect anyone's morality--they're after the money. Ah, wait, I sometimes forget that in our culture, greed isn't sinful. But sex is. And so let's treat it thusly! Why not?

Bleh.

Mar 20, 2011

Tidbits to Tantalize You

 I may not appreciate all the sentiments in The Observer article, but I gotta admit,
this graphic is quite entertaining.


Welcome to spring, my lovelies! It is officially post-spring equinox now, and we are officially on our way toward warmer days and higher libidos! I don't know about you guys, but I find it a whole lot more difficult to get randy when my toes are freezing and I'm under five blankets. How are you supposed to throw your partner around and enjoy yourself when it's fifty degrees in your apartment?

Oh, wait, that's just me because my landlord's a psycho and keeps the heat too low? Ah. Well. At any rate, I'm looking forward to warmer weather. This winter in NYC was brutal, outside and inside.

Anyway, as it's getting warmer I'm having a harder time sitting still to write. I'm assuming you are, too. Given it's a beautiful spring weekend, let's not be too serious about our fodder today, shall we? Let's link:

1) Fascinating study results on the LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation) phenomenon: turns out women don't experiment with other women nearly as much in college as we all thought they did. Surprisingly (or not) enough, less-educated, less-privileged women have substantially more same-sex sex and relationships. Well I'll be damned! You mean less-educated working women have rich and interesting personal lives less informed by what society expects of them and less carefully considered in light of what feminist literary theory says? No way!
Actually, this news makes me feel much better about my notably less-than-lesbian college experience. I've known for most of my adult life that I liked women, but I've never been good at expressing that to other women. Especially as a petite, femme-by-genetics woman who also liked men, I just never knew how to attract women who wanted to "experiment" as much as I wanted to. When I found one who wanted to make out in a bar, it always turned out she was experimenting for the benefit of the watching men nearby. I wanted to take her home. It never worked out further than some awkward fumbling, and I felt very sad about this because I believed that women were supposed to do this in college and I must have just been that unattractive to the experimental ones. That or I was at a Catholic university... hm... Might've been the Catholicism, now that I think about it.

ANYWAY...

2) The Observer says that young people in New York are no longer interested in sex because they're too busy worrying about their online personas getting mixed up with someone else's, preserving their mystique, and doing cocaine. Lucky for the libido of the city, however, we're assured that the younger generation, the 19- and 20-year-olds, are horny as ever and ready to take their places.
I've never been much of a hard partier or bar-goer myself, so I guess I can't comment much on the phenomenon, but I think some of the ideas mentioned in the article as side notes should be taken way more into consideration than your Facebook wall the day after a one night stand: for instance, Freeman mentions that "the cab right back to Bushwick" after a Manhattan bar is awkward and better avoided. But Freeman seems not to take this into real consideration: he's assuming that, A) the young professionals have enough cash to get a cab way the hell out to Bushwick, and B) that it's ridiculous to think young people would let a commute get between themselves and boning. But let's be real. A) Most young people between 21 and 30 in NYC are people like me, who have taken the very worst of the brunt of the recession. We're not exactly swimming in cash here. Cabs are expensive. An awkward cab right is one thing: a fluorescent-lit, crowded, uncomfortable, and too-long-because-the-MTA-never-fixes-anything subway ride? Dealbreaker. If one of you lives in Astoria and the other in Bushwick and you've got work tomorrow and you need to rely on getting the N train home after midnight? Fucking forget it. Sex is great, but it's not worth that. Make a date for later or drop it. B) Speaking of getting reamed by the recession more than the opposite sex: anyone who wants to have a real career in NYC right now who's at the "assistant" or "associate" level at his or her company isn't make shit for a salary and is probably working another job when he/she gets home at night. We all have blogs, some of which are professional in nature. Lots of us wait tables or tend bar to make extra cash to cover the rest of the bills in this overpriced metropolis, or we take night classes in the hopes that someday we CAN make enough money at one job. By the time our daily routine of work, work, and more work is over, that subway ride home with a new acquaintance is looking more dismal than ever.
Look, I'm not saying they're RIGHT. I know plenty of people who have fun random hook-ups all over the place. But I admit, I often marvel that they can muster the energy. Being young and in New York right now is exhausting. It's always been exhausting, but I'd argue that most of us are balancing a whole lot more work than social life right now to stay afloat, and sometimes, even when you're young, it's too much to want to get it on with that cute piece of ass at the end of the bar.
Also, c'mon Observer. Can we please be done making new and improved versions of "Sex and the City" headlines and titles for things? God, that show's been off the air for years now, and it's obviously ruined living in New York for everyone young and sexy by making people expect way too much out of our libidos already! Thanks.


3) Can I just show some more disgust for Apple real quick? Seriously, I've been annoyed at this company for subtly brainwashing its faithful into a weird state of Mac-crazed, glazed-eyed submission for years now. And I was pretty annoyed that in some circles the release of the new iPad outweighed the disaster in Japan as a newsworthy topic last weekend. And I've always found Apple's creepy sense of over-morality unsettling: come on, you make some of the most user-friendly tech gadgets in the world and you won't let people put porn apps on them? WTF?
But now I'm really pissed. While the App store continues to deny anything "overtly sexual" admittance to the Pearly, Sleek, and Impossibly Cool Gates, it's ok with the Exodus International app. Exodus International is a virulently anti-homosexual organization that favors exorcism, the God/Satan dichotomy, and demon-blaming when it comes to homosexuality. Ummm... Apple? You got anything to say about this? You might, um... Want to do that. Stat.

Mar 18, 2011

An Interview with May Ling Su


A few months ago I came upon one of the many websites of May Ling Su, a Phillipines-born pornographer based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, who's been making strong statements about her sexuality and femininity since just after 2000. Her work is strong, bold, kinky, and beautiful, and she's got a stronger feeling for her own version of feminism than most of us do, if you ask me. As I perused her site, I realized that she had worked, in 2002, with the notorious Max Hardcore, as one of her first big porn accomplishments.

This fascinated me. I've been confused and intrigued by Max Hardcore for years now. For any of you who don't know, he's still behind bars at La Tuna Federal Prison in New Mexico serving time for distributing "obscenity." The movies he made, in his infamous "Max Faktor" series, were renowned for their depictions of truly kinky, wildly over-the-top, borderline violent content. Max engaged in piss play of a whole new breed, using funnels and siphons in all sorts of orifices to get urine from point A to point B, which was usually the mouth. He had the women he filmed dress up as little girls and acted as if they were underage on camera. He "throat fucked" his women to the point, sometimes, of vomiting. He went all-out. But interestingly, when he went to trial for obscenity charges a few years ago, none of his costars (the "Hardcore Girls" as he called them) testified against him. For all his extreme antics on camera, he'd followed the rules about filming to a T and was only locked up for the distribution of his materials across state lines into territory where they were deemed obscene by "community standards."
I've been intrigued by Max for a while. I've never seen one of his movies because I don't think I would enjoy them, and so I'm torn as to what to think of them. I wrote to him a year or so ago as Miss Lagsalot for WHACK! Magazine, asking if he'd be interested in an interview via letters from prison. He wrote back on lined notebook paper he'd turned into makeshift letterhead and enclosed a photo of himself in jail with his guitar, smiling for all the world like someone's kindly grandpa. I decided to wait until he was released to try to talk to him; his letter was mostly a PR piece on the injustice of his situation, but I wasn't interested so much in his imprisonment as what, in the first place, made this man tick.

Let me make one thing clear: I don't think he should be in prison. Everything he did was technically speaking legal, to the best of my knowledge. He followed the rules. I might not personally like the things he did to women, but I neither have to watch them nor participate in them, and I believe that prosecuting people for obscenity in film-making is just a first step down the long road to censorship and the end of the First Amendment. But I wonder about the impact that his material could have on viewers, and more than most other pornography, his really calls questions of consent and empowerment into question.
And when I found out that May Ling Su, an outspoken advocate of feminine power, had not only worked with Max but furthermore really liked the experience.. I had to talk to her, about herself and her ideas, and her involvement with the infamous man himself. Here follows our interview. It's fascinating.


MISS LAGSALOT: What type of feminism do you bring to the table? And to porn?

MAY LING SU: What type of feminism? I'm not sure I stand for feminism, let alone bring anything to the table. But I do find ancient stories of feminine power very exciting, feminine deities of different cultures, the work of Merlin Stone and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I think after thousands of years of living in a patriarchal society, it's empowering to remember that there was a matriarchal society that flourished before it. I try to get in touch with that through my porn.


ML: You’ve been doing these things for a while now; in your opinion, where does feminism stand in pornography at this point? How big a part of the whole picture is it? Is it growing? Shrinking?

MLS: I think women in general are taking on more power roles on and off camera. More women are telling their own stories. More women are watching porn. It doesn't even matter which side of the debate women are on, whether they are pro-porn, anti-porn or somewhere in between. What's important is the dialogue.


ML: What I’m super curious about in this interview is your work a few years ago with the now-infamous, now-incarcerated-for-distributing-“obscenity” Max Hardcore. You must have trusted him a lot, since you shot with him the same day you met him, at AVN. Can you tell us how that came about?

MLS: I'd seen some of Max Hardcore's porn before I met him in person. My husband had some and I thought it was outrageous. Never seen anything like it. Watching it made me nervous, and honestly it turned me on. So when I saw him at AVN I recognized him and chatted him up. My husband was with me, so I was partly showing off in front of him. I just blurted out, “Are you looking for talent?” Max said he wasn't sure, he'll see if he can rustle up a crew. A few minutes later we were shooting an intro. Then we made arrangements to meet up after the expo to do the shoot at his hotel room.


ML: Max is notorious for his extreme on-screen antics and persona, but from what I’ve heard, he’s actually a very nice person when the cameras aren’t rolling. Can you tell me about what he’s like behind the scenes?

MLS: What I noticed immediately while we were talking at the expo was how well-mannered Max Hardcore was. He's got this old-fashioned gentleman vibe that I liked. Then as we were going up to his hotel room I got the feeling he was testing me. He said things like, “Well, when you play with snakes, you have to expect to get bitten.” So I wondered if he was trying to talk me out of it.
Before our shoot, he showed me his website. He read the text on his website out loud, as if he himself was amused at how outrageous it was. It was all very funny to him, and I found if difficult to take it seriously.
We talked about his routine. Do I do anal? Can I throat fuck? What do I think of golden showers? I told him I was curious about golden showers, but I've never been on the receiving end of it. I also told him I wasn't into any vomiting or using a speculum. And you know what, he kept to my limits. I respect that.
Now I have to remind you that my husband was with me. I don't know what it's like being a single woman walking into that situation, although there was a point when my husband left the room to photocopy my ID at the hotel lobby and I was left alone with Max in the room. But even then I felt at ease with him. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all.
At another time later on Max confided that he was leary of me because I was “too easy.” Most women took a lot more persuading than I did. He told me he thought I might be a sting operation.
I actually saw him trying to convince a woman to do a scene with him. We were at a party and this Southern woman, very proper, engaged us in conversation. Max whipped out his laptop and showed her his work. He asked outright, "Would you do anything like this?" Now her boyfriend was there too, and he was just quietly observing. She said, "Not on camera." I was so amused. She went on to say, "Sometimes I get tired of men treating me like I was made of glass. I want a man who'll take me." Her boyfriend looked really uncomfortable. Max didn't get anywhere with her, but that was an interesting night.


ML: How does he behave differently on camera? Is there a hugely noticeable difference between his on- and off-screen personas, or is it more subtle? Before the shoot Max was helping me get dressed. He had a whole wardrobe set up in his room, lots and lots of tiny bright colored outfits. He picked something out for me, I got into it. My husband was in the corner of the room taking pictures. I guess playing dress up with me turned Max on, he just bent me over on the bed and started fucking me right there, putting on a show for my husband. His crew scrambled to try and get a shot, but as soon as they got in there, Max pulled away and I got back to getting dressed and made up.

MLS: I think he's the real deal. He turns the switch up for the cameras, of course, we all do when we're being watched. It's a performance after all. You have to infuse it with drama and conflict to make it interesting to watch. But you have to start from a point of honesty.


ML: Tell me about your experience at the shoot. What happened? Was it fun?

MLS: Yes! I had a great time. Like I said earlier, he kept to my limits. I was vague about the golden showers. I told him I was curious but never tried it. But we didn't pre-arrange whether we were going to do it or not. He surprised me. It was a great ride!


ML: You are a pretty radical feminist—doing anything from sexy photos of yourself to experimenting with menstrual blood as an art medium (which we’ll get to in a minute) doesn’t daunt you—and you’re also into very, very kinky sex from what I’ve seen and read. Obviously, what is sexy versus what is obscene is different for everybody, but what about your personal take on these issues? Do you have a line that you would be willing to say, “If this is crossed in a video, then I would find that video ‘obscene’”?

MLS: Consent. That's the line. It's obscene when the participants are below the age of consent. It's obscene when the participants are coerced or drugged against their consent. Obviously there are videos that depict non-consensual sex or underage sex, played by consenting adults, and those can be scary and sexy and it messes with your mind. But I want to know that it's all in the realm of play, and that in real life it's being carried out by responsible adults.


ML: Your husband blogged about his response to Max’s sentencing, saying that Max is “fighting for free speech every time he gets his dick out.” Would you agree that Max’s videos are political? Artistic? Just hot?

MLS: Artistic or hot, that's subjective. But political, I say yes. Sex is very political. Property ownership often hinges on marriages and offspring. That's why the law wants to control it. The law wants to control how we have sex and with whom. And anyone who makes a spectacle of deviance becomes a target.
Max Hardcore may not have started out thinking he's going to make videos to challenge authority. I think he just made videos he wanted to make. It was the law that made a political statement out of him. What that means for us is up to us. Do we shrug our shoulders and say, "Serves him right for being so deviant. No one should do anything beyond the norm?" Or do we say, "This is wrong! No one should go to jail for consensual sexual expression, on camera or off?"


ML: Your preferences run to the very kinky side of the spectrum, and so you enjoy shocking/extreme activities like piss play and rough sex, which is fascinating in a feminist. Of course, there are many types of feminists out there as there are any other kind of person, but I think many people think of politically correct, female-centric, super-empowering material when they think of “feminist porn.” Where does feminism fall into scenes like Max’s that involve a high level of trust and consent, but appear shockingly violent and extreme to viewers?

MLS: I would put Max Hardcore's work alongside BDSM and contact sports. It's violent, extremely physical, you could get hurt if you don't set clear boundaries. But feminism isn't about tiptoeing around women and treating them in a patronizing manner. It's about women's rights and self-determination.
I found it empowering to pit myself one on one against a notorious pornographer. I walked in there knowing the experience would be a test of my strength. Like sexual sparring.


ML: Have you heard of any girls who got onto a Max Hardcore set who found out through their experience that they didn’t like these things? Anyone who had a bad experience?

MLS: Someone named Neesa contacted me through YouTube. She posted videos of herself talking about her experience working with Max Hardcore. She says she's speaking up on behalf of many others, that she didn't know what she was getting into when she shot with Max, claims he raped her and that she filed police reports afterward.


ML: I agree with you and your husband that the things Max did should not be considered obscene or prosecutable—they were made in compliance with all laws governing the filming of sex acts, with models who had signed releases and met all the required standards of age, competency, and sobriety. But I have to ask: do you think that the difference between the experience of his costars with him as a friendly, polite film-maker and that of the viewer, who might not understand how things really work on a porn shoot, could be a real problem? Someone who’s never been on a porn set or thought about all the rules surrounding a porn shoot might think that this man is really hurting, or hating, the woman he’s with. Do you think maybe the jury of his peers that declared him guilty believed that he truly had hurt someone?

MLS: I've only hung out with Max a few times several years ago. I don't know what he's like with other people. He may have truly hurt someone, as Neesa claims. I can only speak from my experience, and that's what forms my opinion of him.

ML: It's difficult to measure, though, what effect his work has on his audience. We're not privy to what his viewers do in their bedrooms. I have yet to hear about anyone who was hurt by someone trying to emulate Max's sex moves.

MLS: However, I have seen a man come up to him, take his cowboy hat and stomp on it. You know, challenging him to a fight. This was in Vegas. Nothing happened, there were a lot of people around to stop anything from happening. But that man was mad!


ML: Ok, now going on past Max, since did your scene with him years ago… I’d like to talk to you about your projects, especially your On My Period book. What a fascinating idea. Can you tell us about it?

MLS: On My Period is a collection of photographs, videos and diary entries about my menstrual flow. Every month brought new insights on what it meant to be a menstruating woman, and what it meant to me personally. I make porn, I make art, I explore my menstrual blood in many ways, including painting my body with my menstrual blood.


ML: What kind of response have you gotten for it so far?

MLS: On My Period seems to polarize people. I get a lot of positive responses from people who feel inspired and empowered after seeing the work. And I also get people who are disgusted by what I do.


ML: What did your husband think of the project?

MLS: Jay is really supportive of it. On more than one occasion he has volunteered to help me with it. But when he gets confronted with the flesh and blood reality of it, the sensory overload of the smell and the blood, he buckles. I prefer doing it alone actually. Nowadays he gets out of the way unless I invite him.


ML: How do you feel about birth control methods that delay periods or change their cycles?

MLS: I don't think it's healthy. We're supposed to menstruate. It's part of our biology, part of the natural rhythm of life.


ML: What would you say is the strongest message you’d like us to take away from On My Period?

MLS: In our present society there is this denial of menstruation. People are either suppressing it through medication, or making women feel ashamed of it. On My Period is my way of showing people that menstruation is beautiful, empowering, natural, mysterious and sexy.


ML: What would you say is the strongest message you’d like us to take away from all your work?

MLS: I've received email from people who told me that they read my blog and in between getting turned on, they found themselves weeping because they caught a glimpse of the kind of love they wish they could have.
My story is about an average woman who found love, and that love gave her the courage and freedom to be truly herself. It doesn't matter how you find that love or with whom. What is important is that when you do, you give it all you've got.

To find out more about May Ling Su, which you TOTALLY should, visit her website (which links to many more websites of hers!): http://maylingsu.com/ or follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/maylingsu

Mar 17, 2011

Scrumptious and Sexy in S Magazine

Prrrowr! I just got a glimpse of some images from Daniel Levitt's recent feature in S Magazine, courtesy of my daily Bust Magazine newsletter, and... prrrowr! These images are, to coin a high fashion term, "fierce" as hell. Curvy ladies in super high fashion accessories and classic erotic poses, sometimes with yummy food nearby, mostly nude, totally sexy. I like it way much. Take a peak!


Bust points out that the issue of food in high fashion and women's ideas about their own sexual acceptability is, well, one that's so omnipresent it's always thought about but never featured. I think it's way brave of these women to not only say "fuck the status quo" as per bodies in fashion, but to also say "fuck what you think about me eating" by posing with sumptuous feasts like the above. This is ballsy and flat-out gorgeous.

Mar 15, 2011

Planned Parenthood and Feminist Porn Awards

I just got back from a long overdue visit to genderqueer porn star Jiz Lee's blog, which is fabulous, and it got me thinking about a few things:

1) I'm going to the Feminist Porn Awards, too! Yes, dearies, I will be in Toronto from April 14-16, geeking out about all my favorite porn peeps being nearby. I may get all shy and ridiculous, so bear with me. I'll try to cover the madness as best I can!

2) Planned Parenthood. I have avoided this topic for a while because, as so often happens with me, I got too upset when the news about Congress voting to reduce funding to the family planning and sexual health clinic came out to really write intelligently about it. But I've been thinking, and Jiz got me thinking more.

That House Republicans seem to be out to destroy the reproductive rights of women is a fairly well-established fact at this point, and it pisses me off that so many people could be so small minded. But it pisses me off even more that as part of their tyrannical desire to control the female body, they have brought about a slash in the budget of the nation's biggest and best sexual health clinic, on the grounds that "some of the Federal funding" that went to it might have been indirectly used to support facilities that perform abortions. Which is bullshit. It's always been a rule that federal money is not allowed to fund abortions, period. Planned Parenthood may be a vocal advocate of women's rights, but it's not staffed by stupid people: if their rules said "no federal money for abortions," I feel totally confident that they were not, in fact, using any federal money on abortions.

Which brings up two further points: a) it's riDONKulous that the federal government should be so concerned with whether I try to have or not have a baby. Really. I mean, honestly, isn't one of the things that Republicans have their dowdy panties all up in a bunch about the fact that there are too many gosh-darn people who want too much gosh-darn government oversight and social welfare to support them? So, shouldn't Republicans be somewhat more invested in the idea of controlling the population to avoid further burdening Social Security and the health care system and what not? I mean, logically, doesn't that make sense? And furthermore, Federal Government, I'm ok if you don't want to be specifically funding what goes on up in my biz if I want to have an abortion--I mean, frankly, I'm ok if you stay out of my nether regions, period--but I don't feel comfortable with you trying to tell me, in a roundabout way, that I shouldn't be controlling what does go on up in my biz. How the hell is that any concern of yours? If I have a baby, you're gonna damn well tax me for it, and then tax that baby. Can we leave your involvement at that?

And b) as I mentioned before, I do have confidence in Planned Parenthood being an upstanding example of a respectable business operation. I believe them when they say they follow the rules that Federal funding demands. I believe them whey they say they do just about anything. Why? Because I used to go to Planned Parenthood, for years in and after college. As a young person from a very conservative family with no access to enough money to pay medical bills out of pocket, I decided I wanted to take control over my reproductive health and thus my career and my future, so I went to the Planned Parenthood in the Bronx one scary Saturday morning and got my pelvis examined, my hoo-hah tested for everything, and a bunch of birth control options. I also go some of the friendliest, most attentive gynecological care I've ever received. The people at Planned Parenthood were caring, open to listening to my questions and concerns, in no hurry to rush off to the next patient, and so kind that I was actually at ease while a middle-aged woman felt me up in front of a nurse. She actually put me at my ease, so good was her bedside manner. I was young and terrified. I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, alone, and broke. Yet I felt comfortable.

In years since, I've switched over to private gynecological practices, and you know what? I've never had an experience as good as the many I had at Planned Parenthood. I don't know if it's because a lot of the people who work for PP are actually just there on their days off their private practices, or if it's just the general attitude of good will and service that hangs over the place, but PP was far and away more fun and relaxing to visit than any doctor's office I've been in since. The gynecologists I've visited in recent years have been rushed, impatient to answer my questions before I even ask them, seemingly annoyed when I ask for STD tests, unhelpful about discussing possible birth control options, and totally freaked out by my sexual history. In comparison, the Planned Parenthood people were patient, knowledgeable, courteous, and non-judgmental. They had time to listen to my freakouts and assure me that my situation was normal. They were just there, after all, to help me and other people like me who needed a hand to guide them in difficult times.

If it hadn't been for Planned Parenthood's counseling and cheap-to-free services, I have no idea where I'd be right now. I might very well be a very poor, very overwhelmed mother with no career or prospects. I might never have learned about human sexuality to the degree that I have, and I might have never gotten into the blogosphere. I might have diseases I've avoided because I knew how to. I might be unhealthy, unhappy, and un-Lags. The only thing I have for Planned Parenthood is gratitude, and I'm sure that thousands, if not millions, of other women around the country share that same appreciation for the understanding and treatment that they received. I'm outraged that some people who have never had to consider their reproductive health in the same way that we all did think they have a right to interfere in one of the finest institutions American Federal money supports. I hope we can get our collective shit together soon and undo this wrong, but in lieu of that, I hope we can all at least remind PP how much we love them. Go here, peeps. Stand with them.

Mar 14, 2011

Maybe 10,000 Dead in Japan, and We're All Aflutter Over iPads

Maybe it's daylight savings time messing up my schedule, or maybe it's the fact that my neighbor seems to have decided that she needs to pack all of her belongings to move in the HALLWAY, where it's really loud, or maybe it's the fact that I have to go to work, or maybe it's the fact that there are possibly over 10,000 people dead in Japan, but I just do not have the patience for today. Writing about porn and sex in the face of this massive loss of human life seems as frivolous as the rush to buy iPads this weekend was. Who gives a crap about a tech gadget when one of the largest economies in the world, one of the oldest and most advanced of our civilizations, is in shambles? It's all wrong.

I bet there's very little sex going on in Japan right now. So I won't write about it right now. In times like this, all I want to do is help, but given my poverty and distance from the problem, it's a difficult task. So let me try to help someone closer: anyone out there have a sex/relationship/porn question I can answer? I'd love to hear from you! Dr. Lags, Sexpert, needs a patient, stat! Let the healing begin!

Mar 12, 2011

Wanna See Me As a Whore? Yeah, I Said Whore.


I'm a member of the Poetry Brothel here in NYC. We, the whores, dress up in tartish outfits and read poetry for cash, and it is hot, hot, hot! I was thinking of keeping this part of my life away from my blogging life, but the photo they put up on their website is just too good not to share. So, yes, I'm a whore, and a poet, and I'm vain. So what? If you've got it, flaunt it! Check out my slutty poet character Fanny Firewater and her Wild West bi, here, and please do attend the next brothel and pay me cash moneys for my "services." Yes, they're sexy. I promise.

Mar 10, 2011

Announcements, Pronouncements, and Denouncements

Howdy, folks!

As you may have noticed (and wept over? yes? ...no? damn.), I've been absent from blogging for a few days, and there is indeed a reason for that. After last week's Cinekink madness, I have so much other work to catch up on that didn't get done because I was traipsing off every night to watch super sexy cinema that I have been running around stressed and exhausted trying to get everything done. This has made me realize that long-winded, ranty blogging every day of the week may just be taking a lot of time out of my busy schedule and, well, boring the crap out of readers, very likely. So, an announcement:

1) I must, for reasons of sanity both for myself and my readers, cut back my blogging frequency and length, dearest ones! I will now be blogging three or four times a week on average, rather than every day, so that when I feel a need to rant at length, I will have more time to construct a slightly more responsible and reasonable rant. I will very likely be posting links and small tidbits more often, as well. Get ready, we're going into "chilled-out" drive!

2) Oh, another announcement: it's about that time again, folks! I need sex questions! Dr. Lags, Sexpert, has been dormant for far too long! Send me your questions, your problems, your weird relationship/sex/body issues, your deepest fears (yes, Clarice...) and scariest memories! I will fix them for you! Or at least yap at you for a while about possible solutions! Either way, we'll have a great time!

3) In ridiculous news for you to ponder: Mark Regnerus's book "Premarital Sex in America" rears its controversial head again as a basis for Ross Douthat's article in a New York Times, "Why Monogomy Matters." This article, which really never gets around to explaining why monogomy matters, is a rather laughably inane look at how less promiscuous people tend to be happier and why returning to a time of sexual morality (that never existed) is probably best for all of us, deigning unworthy of discussion the fact that many other things associated with unhappiness and depression (low self-esteem, seeking approval from others, recklessness, etc) are often, unfortunately, also reasons for promiscuity and therefore the two might be incidental rather than intrinsically linked. But it's still worth a read and a ponder: for instance, what about other relationship models aside from monogamy? What about ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, polygamy? Are those people "promiscuous" and depressed, or more sexually open and happy? How does that enter the picture? Oh, wait, those people are all mental cases. We don't talk about them. They don't apply to the "normal" demographic we're talking about. *Eye roll and sigh*

4) I hate to pick on Tracy Clark-Flory because I really do like a lot of her writing and she's a really nice person, but... "The Unsexy World of Porn Wrestling" really got me annoyed the other day. Especially after exploring the world of kink last week at Cinekink and opening myself up so much to the things other people find sexy, I felt that saying that porn wrestling is by definition un-erotic was very small-minded of her. Sure, maybe it's not erotic to you, but if there's one universal in human sexuality, it's that there is no universal definition of erotic. One person's cringe factor is another person's dream, and for many women who do porn and porn wrestling (especially in affiliation, as the match in the article was, with Kink.com), sexual power plays and humiliation are the epitome of sexy. I certainly support Tracy's right to not find it erotic herself, and to write about her experience as one that confused her because it didn't do anything for her, but to call porn wrestling patently unsexy? A bit closed-minded, to my mind.

5) Last night I met with a young Brooklyn playwright who's writing a play about young feminist pornographers. We spent hours discussing porn and feminism and all our various theories and politics, and it was refreshing as hell. He wants to go to the Feminist Porn Awards next month, which is making me want to go even more.... news to follow...

Mar 7, 2011

One More Reason to Love Madison Young

Also because she looks like this.

THIS is why I love Madison Young. I just read this old article on TheWomansPOV.com, and it made me say, "Yes, yes, yes!"

An excerpt:

"There is a rise of feminist and queer porn producers such as myself, Courtney Trouble, and Shine Louise Houston. For us this is not just a living but is a form of activism and is reflection of our community. There are plenty of queers and non-queer women who enjoy messy sex and enjoy female ejaculate, male ejaculate, piss and other fluids. This is an intimate sexual play to be fluid bonded. And to me it exhibits not an act of degradation but a deep hunger and lust for your partner that is so great that you want to swallow all of them, including their cum which is a physical manifestation of this persons release of pleasure. Why wouldn’t you want to gobble that up? Why wouldn’t you want to have that closeness with your partner? Because of possibly getting some in your hair? When I am having sex with someone I love or someone I’m hot for I am not thinking about my hair. This connection has nothing to do with porn. People have desires for different kinds of sex. Porn is a vast medium. We can’t say that all advertisements make us want to have sex in a certain way or that all movies make us attracted to a certain kind of person. Our sexuality is innate, animalistic and porn can often help to guide or inspire or document our sexual desires. Porn Stars are strong,independent, sexually aware, confident warriors. We are artists. We are activists. We are educators. We are fearless. Why shouldn’t we be heroes? I wish when I was 15 that I had exposure to the sex positive adult actresses who are writing about sex and art. Don’t we want women to grow up with a sense of ownership over their sexuality? In no way do I think that persons who are underage should view porn but if they are aware of a sexually confident strong business woman or an activist as a media figure in the mainstream, I don’t think that is giving the wrong impression of sex to young women. I think it is teaching them to be fearless."

YES.

Cinekink: Fin


Last night was the last night of the NYC Cinekink film festival, which is sad, but it was held at Gallery Bar on Orchard Street, where libations flowed freely, which was good. And the crowd got to watch repeats of some of the winning short films, which was great. Indietro from Vivian Darkbloom won the award for best audience-elected feature, Kink Crusaders from Michael Skiff won the best feature documentary award, Piss from Vincent Peone and Bette Bentley won the best humorous short (seriously, click on that link; you will love it!), Butterfly Caught by Joshua Bewig won best abstract short, Love, Hugs, & Kisses: Sissy Stephanie by Mrs. G took the best documentary short award, and Tristan Taormino's Rough Sex II won the coveted Bring It! award for best porn excerpt. And Cinekink "statuettes" were handed out, and the sissies were in attendance and faaaabulous, and filmmakers and porn performers and the lowly masses like myself mingled, and we saw that it was good. And we said, "Let there be a play party in Brooklyn!" and it was so, and we saw that it was good.

Alas, I did not get to attend the play party, which makes me very sad because I have rarely found a group of people with whom I felt so comfortable and free as the Cinekink crew, which means a play party could have worked out beautifully, but I had another meeting to get to and trotted off through the wind and rain, kisses from Jiz Lee and Drew Deveaux still on my cheeks, free shot from the bartender still burning my throat, umbrella blowing inside out and jacket soaking, and I laughed the whole way.

I'll be back next year, and I hope to see all the same smiling faces I saw this year, and a whole lot of new ones.

Mar 6, 2011

Cinekink: Porn Again, Bring It! and Pride & Predelictions

I got to watch this hottness unfold last night at Cinekink. What did you do?

Oh my gosh, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself after Cinekink is over, you guys. I mean, obviously I'm going to write a wrap-up article for the whole week of kinky festivities for WHACK! Magazine, and I'm going to try to get to be best friends with everyone I met there and try to make them all read my blog. But I mean after all that. What will I do?

It's been an incredible experience for me, starting out as I did kind of shy and a little confused about just how one is supposed to behave at a film festival about sex and kink, then getting more comfortable slowly as I began to recognize more faces every night. And letting myself feel right at home by the time I left last night, because I finally realized that here I was, in a room full of--holy moly--like-minded individuals. Of course, everyone comes to an event like Cinekink for his or her own reasons: some love kink, some love film, some love porn, some love sitting in a dark theater and watching sexy movies surrounded by other people... But we all share a commonality: an openness of mind and a desire to share that openness within a community of nonjudgmental adults who find not only erotic stimulation in these films, but mental engagement, too. I've been at porn conventions far too often and felt very little camaraderie there--while everyone at a convention loves porn and supports it (except the ubiquitous Shelley Lubben and XXX Church, of course, and the protesters sometimes hanging around outside), porn conventions are very business-like. People are there to network and to sell things, from sex itself to DVDs to toys to the ideology of commodified sexuality. But at Cinekink, there's no commercial vibe. There's just a bunch of people who love and appreciate sex and sexuality in film and aren't afraid to share that love with others. It's a beautiful thing, and I can't say I've ever felt more at home.

Yesterday's festivities opened with Porn Again!, a discussion panel about ethical porn-making that featured such lusty luminaries as Michael Skiff (director of Kink Crusaders and former gay porn director), Jincey Lumpkin, Esq. (chief sexy officer of Juicy Pink Box), Jiz Lee (duh, the most fabulous genderqueer porn celeb who ever queered), Tristan Taormino (at whose feet I gladly worship for her constantly hotttt and ethical porn), Sarah Forbes of the Museum of Sex here in NYC, Adrianna Nicole (a super intelligent porn performer who is sooo-ooo beautiful in person), and Sinnamon Love (an AVN and Urban X hall of famer and uber smart performer). If the pure porntastic chops on this panel didn't blow me away initially (it did), then the discussion itself would have. The panelists discussed everything from their own personal definitions of ethical porn to their views on condom use in porn to experiences that made them feel great about making porn to the issue of consent on a porn set, and though I'd love to talk in depth about everything they said, that would make this The Longest Blog Post Ever, so I'll refrain.

Suffice it to say that the panelists all seemed to agree on several main points that bear mentioning here. The issue of consent, particularly, merits a mention, as it's such a huge topic and one that enters into every moment and every decision on a porn set--it's been debated a lot recently, from the halls of Congress (John Boehner, you will NEVER live down your opinion that rape is only rape if it involves brute force) to international celebrities (did Julian Assange's actions constitute rape if consent was initially given by his partner [the short answer: YES! but of course it's never that simple... sigh...]) to my own misgivings about how the uninformed public may sometimes misconstrue rough sex porn scenes as nonconsensual without understanding all that goes into filming a scene (ie, explicit, written, spoken, acted, paper-trail-making consent). Tristan's answer to these issues: consent must be determined explicitly before a scene begins and at every juncture during a scene's filming, and it must be conveyed in no uncertain terms to the viewer to avoid any misunderstanding. Kink.com, she says, does the same thing by showing the before-and-after of a kink scene, when the performers are chummy and smiling. For Adrianna and Sinnamon and Jiz, consent constitutes performer choice in partner (s), flexibility in what acts to perform when, and being able to rework a scene when something is just not working according to plan. To Sinnamon, especially, and to Tristan, chemistry between performers is a huge part of what makes ethical porn ethical: "taking one for the team" when it means putting oneself, body and mind, through something one does not want to do because a director says you must, is the definition of unethical. Ethical porn involves valuing the performers and crew, respecting their desires and needs, and treating them as integral to the scenes they perform rather than a throwaway widget that's easily replaceable, said Tristan. Jiz thought that portraying the desire to maintain everyone's sexual health, whether it be through barrier use or explicitly portraying their consent, is crucial.

I think that the panel did a good job of portraying to the audience the concerns and triumphs of ethical porn makers, and possibly bringing to light a lot of the little-seen and badly-understood aspects of making porn. For the average consumer--I cannot say this enough--what you see in a porn scene is what you get, and while the overall idea that porn is fantasy and nothing more is prevalent in today's consumer base, that does not always translate itself into an understanding of what goes into filming a scene. Rough sex, S&M, power exchanges and play, and any number of other things that go into a scene can be taken at face value by those who want to see things that way, and it is of vital importance for the continued health of the porn industry, in the face of constant attacks from the likes of Gail Dines, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, government interference, and general anti-porn sentiment, that the inner workings of what has long been a mysterious industry be more discussed and understood. I believer, personally, that Tristan's approach of filming the mechanations of consent and showing them as part of the movie is a huge leap forward. It's a lot more difficult for the Shelley Lubbens of the world to tell us that all women in porn are being raped when there's footage of them sitting around with the men about to run a train on them, discussing their boundaries and desires in clear, sober, and honest terms. And it's going to be more difficult for people to watch rough sex scenes involving choking and slapping and think that the performer is being taken advantage of when, like Jiz Lee, she finishes her scene by ejaculating all over her costar's face... by her own hand.

When the next section of the evening, a series of excerpts from a wide variety of porn films, "Bring It!" started, I was feeling so positive about porn that nothing could have brought me down except maybe some JM Productions scenes, but I needn't have worried. Starting off with an all-girl threeway from from Artcore featuring Kelly Shibari, Courntey Trouble, and April FLores; moving through an INTENSELY hot, playful, female ejaculate-soaked scene from Billy Castro Does the Mission featuring Billy Castro and Jiz Lee; a rather monotonous but snarky public-sex scene from Chloe's Column: Fuck Fame from Joybear; a white-hot threeway between director Kimberly Kane and fantastically fuckable bi male stars Wolf Hudson and Danny Wylde that brought blowbang to a whole new, female-empowering level from My Own master; a super-kinky, very hairy, very dyke-tastic outdoor montage from Return of the Post-Apocalyptic Cowgirls; and a somehow hilarious yet incredibly jerk-off-able scene from Tristan Taormino's Rough Sex II starring Sinnamon Love.

I have to admit, watching a whole lot of porn on a huge screen surrounded by other people was an interesting experience. For me, it wasn't oh so very intense, given that I'm pretty much desensitized to watching porn by now. But then again, the smorgasbord of sexual preferences and acts, body types and gender identifications, genitals and proclivities, was so vast, and the material presented so unrelentingly hot, that I definitely felt a few tingles from down below. I can only imagine how the less-pornified among the audience felt during the darkened time in the theater watching the hugely magnified genitals parade across the screen, engorged and aroused. And yet, when the lights came back up, I didn't see anyone mopping up their laps or sitting down longer than necessary to hide erections. I didn't see anyone flushed and hyperventilating. To the contrary, the house was full of excited chatter about voting and smiling faces: I think we all shared a sense of exhilarated freedom at being about having just watched a bunch of explicit sex in public without sticky floors, suspicious looks, or any kind of judgment at all. It was beautiful.

The evening rounded out (I left early; exhausted after so much sexy viewing) with "Pride and Predilections," a series of shorts exploring sexual preference, identity, and expression that boasted a rich and wildly entertaining variety of films, and also the biggest word as a title for a segment of the entire festival. I learned about the wallet chain as a statement of lesbian pride in Chained!, and for the first time ever heard my new favorite niche of sexuality: "Dapper Dyke." If I ever get over my tendency toward men, I am SO becoming a Dapper Dyke. Suspenders, chivalry, good manners, great hair cuts, and wallet chains? I am sooo jealous. Too bad "bisexual" and "queer" (two terms between which I currently find myself vacillating) don't start with "D." Cause "Dapper" is just such a great word.

I also re-examined my relationship with turkey basters with Baby Cake, cracked up over one man's determination to place himself on the Kinsey Scale in Gay Keith, marveled at the richness if imagery in fantasy and the simultaneous simplicity of reality in Butterfly Caught, almost peed my pants while enjoying some girl-on-girl action and overt exploitation of somnambulation in Turning Japanese, almost crying with empathy and then joy in Freak, and finding out a whole lot more about Cinekink's resident sissy and ticket-taker, Sissy Stephanie, in Love, Hugs & Kisses, Sissy Stephanie. I've already written too much to warrant a minute examination of each film, so I'm providing links where possible.

Now I'm off to the awards ceremony! We'll see which films the audience and selected jurors liked best and applaud the efforts of all the film-makers whose hard work we saw over the course of the festival... and get drunk. Tune in tomorrow for a wrap-up, and find your way to WHACK! Magaizne on Wednesdsay for hopefully-less-lengthy writeup of the entire event.

Mar 5, 2011

Cinekink: Adventures in the Skin Trade; Lust, Love, Life; and CAGED

From Life, Love, Lust by Erika Lust.

Last night was a long one at the NYC Cinekink film festival: I arrived at about 6:30 pm and left at 1:30 am. But, you know, it was worth it.

Last night's screenings included a series of shorts under the heading "Adventures in the Skin Trade," featuring everything from hilarious narrative shorts to super-thinky protest documentaries to hardcore porn, another series of shorts called "Lust, Love, Life," which explored sexy and sometimes spooky erotica, and Caged, a film from the brilliant brain of Stephan Brenninkmeijer of the Netherlands that explored sexual agency and punishment.

I found almost all of the 14 films I took in yesterday fascinating, and I'm going back for more! Today will feature a panel of porn directors, performers, and producers, and at least one museum curator (Tristan Taormino! Jiz Lee! Sarah Forbes) at 3:15, and then a whole lotta porny goodness after that. I can't wait!

But before I head back downtown for more of the good stuff, I've been thinking about how to phrase the following. It might be clunky, as I got home around 3:00 am and am still a bit fuzzy even after my coffee, so bear with me.

I'm finding, through the discussions of sex and sex work and porn and all the in-betweens both in the films and in the discussions of the films, and even at the Red Umbrella Diaries Thursday night, that there seems to be an overarching sense of freedom in exploring sexual themes that much of society deems aberrant. I've heard these sentiments before, in interviews with porn stars and other sex workers, and they made sense to me, but being surrounded by people whose lives are spent exploring the sides of themselves that the world tries to ignore for the past few days has really plunged me into the idea and made me consider in a very real way.

Syd Blakovich told me in an interview for TheWomansPOV.com that, "Casting aside the social constraints in one's life can be an insanely liberating process and really frees up one's approaches to the rest of life." Richard Berkowitz told us that he decided, after becoming a gigolo, to "have the time of his life" being both a queer and a whore, because he had nothing left to lose or cling on to from the normal side of life. Last night's screening of Bucking the System, a documentary about Buck Angel, "the man with a pussy," highlighted that after having struggled his whole life to become a man in body as well as in mind and deciding to keep his female plumbing and love his vagina, Buck Angel is very much at peace with himself. Having lived through years of adulthood torn between his mentality and physicality, and deciding to throw all societally-expected caution to the wind to become who he really wanted to be seems to have given him a glow, a peace, a comfort with himself that few of us who struggle every day to reconcile ourselves with the world can understand. In Caged, the main character Stella tells her therapist that she decided one night to stop being miserable and go after her desires: "I became a flower, and every day I bloom wider.... Every day, my body celebrates." The sex workers that Julianne Carroll interviewed for Sex Workers: Your Voice Counts, the actors portraying sex workers in Hooka Face and the Virgin Boy, and the actors showing it all off in Choices, Wiggle Room, Fucking is the Only Prayer, and Erika Lust's absolutely gorgeous Life, Love, Lust, all seemed free in a way that I found hard not to envy.

As a person who's made something of a "thing" out of being conflicted about my involvement in the sex industry, even existing as I do on the periphery of it, I spend my days torn between absolute wonder at the beauty and depth of sex, sexual imagery, and sexual experience, and deeply rooted, deeply entrenched shame. These days, I find the shame isn't as powerful as it once was, but it still creeps up on me from time to time and makes me question what I'm doing. Late at night, my mother's voice creeps into my head and asks why I can't be writing about something more acceptable. Something important. I always tell her, as calmly as I can, that there is nothing more important in this world than trying to help people navigate their own chasms of conflict between what they want and desire and what they've been told is ok. We are a divided society, I tell her, and we are schizophrenic because of it. But still, that feeling, that understanding that even though lots of people are involved in the fight against this schizophrenia and that we are fighting the good fight, is always tinged with fear because I know that there are lots more people who don't want to hear it. Ignoring these things has always been easier for most than it's been for me. And I lie awake and worry that I'm walking down a path I can never walk away from because after this, I'll be labeled. Ruined.

But watching Buck Angel and Drew Deveaux and Audacia Ray and so many other brave, actually fearless souls this week so far has made me take courage. These people have burst through their fears and second-guessing, thrown caution to the wind like so much streaming fabric in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and leapt over that chasm into the uncharted territory that so few report back from. They do report back, and they are free in a way that I have never yet allowed myself to be. They have stopped wondering if people are judging them, because once you get past a certain point the judgment is part of the game, and it ceases to matter. They have stopped caring so much if what they're doing is seen as right or wrong, because it's done, and it's over, and past the point of no return there is a vast, open, no less frightening but certainly less constricting wilderness where they can be pioneers, explorers, and, more importantly, whoever they want to be.

I'm thinking about jumping in, myself.