Sunday, December 30, 2012

"It's not just wrong, it's illegal."

"Buying tobacco for minors
It's not just wrong
It's illegal"

Why does this ad bother me? You're just gonna have to take my word for it that I have no desire to see (much less encourage) minors smoking. I think smoking is a filthy habit, and I don't look too kindly on the use of addictive substances that are filthy and/or a serious risk to your health (nor do I tend to rate very highly the intelligence or at least judgment of those who choose to try them). Wholly apart from the question of whether children need to be "protected" from things they [allegedly] don't understand (which is an argument of noble intention, but one that's all too easily - and often! - used for nefarious purposes, especially when it's not allowed to be countered), and ignoring even the vast and significant difference between minors who are seventeen and minors who are three, children are people and I absolutely do not want them to start smoking (now, yesterday, or in the future).

Nevertheless, this ad bugs me. Why? First, let me point out something that goes unnoticed and overlooked far too frequently. Just because you have a qualm with something (this ad, for example), does not mean you do not agree with its message. But often, the way a message is sent has alternative consequences (both intended as well as unforeseen) both parallel and also perpendicular to the message being sent. Therefore, arguing the details of the way a message is sent should not be mistaken for arguing with what the message is trying to say. Indeed, it may very well be the case that a message is having unintended consequences that work at cross-purposes to what the message is attempting to accomplish. In which case, only by attacking the message and picking apart its meaning can it be amended to affect the right kind of effect that was intended all along. Or, as in the case with this tobacco ad, it could be sending out an admirable message at the cost of compromising some other issue it was not intending to address. In either case, we cannot be too reticent to allow complaints to be lodged, even when we think they may be in bad taste.

So what compromising message is this tobacco ad sending out, if it's nothing to do with the gist of preventing kids from getting their hands on tobacco? It's this conflation by proximity of the concepts of what is right/wrong and what is legal/illegal. The latter is pretty straightforward, if not always clear on the details. A thing is either against the law or not. If it is, then it's illegal; otherwise it's safe to assume that it's legal. When we speak of of right and wrong, however, it's not always or immediately clear in what sense we mean. There is a sense that relates to society and ethics - in the way that stealing from somebody is "wrong" because it violates that person's right to property. This sense is quite well tied up with the concept of legality, and so would be somewhat redundant in the context of this ad. Instead, I think it's clear that the ad is implying (if read in reverse) that buying tobacco for minors is not only illegal (a straightforward fact), but that it is also morally wrong. As in the sense of being "just wrong", wrong in essence, wrong because a moral authority deems it so.

And it's not law's place to make that determination. Law exists to set down the rules that require society to function - namely, they govern the way people are allowed to relate to one another, to promote order and protect the equal rights of all. This is a question of ethics. Morality is something else altogether, something that answers the question "how can I lead a virtuous life?", that concerns itself with decisions people make in their own lives, not about what codes of behavior are required for society to function, but about what acts must be aspired to in order to reach a higher level of righteousness. And the answers to these questions depend on subjective beliefs. What's more, the law does not exist to punish people for leading unvirtuous lives, for committing immoral or sinful deeds, or for not living up to their altruistic, spiritual potentials. That is between a man and his god, not a man and his government. The government's rules must concern themselves with civil rights, not with the qualities of virtue.

So the ad, "buying tobacco for minors is...wrong" is not a political ad - it's a religious ad. But "buying tobacco for illegal" is the other way around. And it's dangerous when the two get mixed up, because then you have people getting confused and thinking (as too many do already) that if it's "wrong", then it is also (or else should be) illegal, and that if it's illegal, then it is "wrong". This is dangerous thinking not only because it's far from always being true, but also because it predisposes people to reject any skeptical approach toward the law (giving conservatives an undeserved advantage) and promotes a sort of blind allegiance to the authority of the state over matters of virtue. By thinking this way, you are inviting the state to issue you your spiritual beliefs. And this is not the state's job. What's more, the state that makes it their job is a corrupt one that will oppress you (the only question is, do you want to let it?). Freedom was formed on the basis of separation of church and state for a reason.

And one of the symptoms of blind allegiance is the concept of things being "just wrong". This argument leaves no room for debate. If something is wrong, it's wrong for a reason (and hopefully a good one). Nothing is just wrong. "Just wrong" is a tactic used on unquestioning, weak-willed people, to dictate a belief without allowing room for debate (usually because the belief profits someone, yet could be easily defeated if one were to apply sound reasoning to it). "It's illegal" is actually a much better argument (for critical minds) than "it's wrong" because, as I have discussed, right and wrong are subjective, but the law is not. Well, except in matters of interpretation, but there's not a whole lot of room for that in cases of buying tobacco for minors, I imagine.

So there you have it. I don't think kids should smoke (although at the end of the day, I would prefer to let them make that decision for themselves, or at the very least put it in the hands of their parents, instead of giving that decision to the state and making it a legal standard). I don't even think adults should smoke (but, again, that's their decision), so I'm not especially concerned about laws restricting the use of tobacco (other than from a basic civil rights perspective - which is important, I don't deny, but of all the fights out there to fight, there are others more pressing), but this ad bugs me because it's trying to "preach" to me about what is right and wrong, while making a statement about the law. The point of the ad is "it's illegal", but in getting there, it insists on including that "it's wrong". What if I disagree? Hmm? It's still illegal - which is why that is a better argument. It means something to me: that I'll be punished if I disobey. But this profession of wrongness encourages me to lose my respect for the law, since it doesn't reflect my beliefs. But it's not supposed to. So let's stop saying things that seem to suggest it is. In that respect, the "buying alcohol for minors could cost you" ad is a lot more honest, even if it is an excessively authoritarian response to a humiliatingly futile struggle.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Controlling Sex

It occurs to me that I just don't understand the need to control other people's lives when it comes to engaging in sex and sexual entertainment. Surely it comes from some kind of desire to enforce the way other people live their lives, particularly to promote conformity and eliminate practices that are unfamiliar or threatening to one's own experience or belief systems.

But then, aren't we a relatively enlightened, postmodern society? What happened to the basic tenets of democracy - freedom and equality? Freedom and equality demand a tolerance for diversity, and, indeed, we have concepts like freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and the like to protect the varied beliefs and opinions of the public.

So what business is it of anyone's if some people like to shoot porn for entertainment, or sell sexual favors for cash, or indulge in any of those services from a consumer perspective? I have to think about my own life sometimes, to try to put myself into the context of the rest of society. I am unusual in that I generally avoid vices - drinking and gambling and fighting and what have you - but I revel in the enjoyment of my own sexuality.

And sometimes I want to say, well, everyone has their vice, and this is just the one I choose. But then, I have to wonder, is the enjoyment of sexual entertainment really a vice? Because who does it hurt - myself included!? I avoid things that are legal, accepted, even popular - thinks like drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco - because I have the will to make a choice, and enough wisdom to recognize that those activities are very unappealing, and whatever short-term high I may get from them is not worth the long-term health risks and financial cost.

And what about sex? Surely, promiscuous sex carries health risks, but I'm not talking about engaging in promiscuous sex. I'm talking about consuming pornography, and exploring the rich and detailed realm of sexual fantasy, and being frank and curious in my sex life not with a multitude of strangers but with the few partners I trust - and then maybe talking about that sex life with a multitude of strangers who can't hurt me if they're never in sexual contact with me.

But then we have these harsh restrictions on what we can say about sex and when we can say it, and a cultural tradition of shaming people who aren't properly embarrassed about their sex organs. I respect that, like many other issues, sex is not always an appropriate topic of discussion among specific company and in certain contexts, but what I don't understand is why we have to police who does get to enjoy sex and when.

We have rules against things that hurt other people. You're not allowed to commit murder or violence against other people. You're not allowed to steal from them. You're not allowed to deceive them in issues of particular importance. These are the basic building blocks of a cooperative society. But then we have weird rules pertaining to vices that seem to stem from some kind of moral background.

This runs counter to freedom and equality and tolerance and diversity. Who says your morals are absolute, and should be used to dictate the way I run my life, when my morals differ? We have rules to govern the way people treat other people to facilitate the social order, but there's no reason to extend those rules to the way people choose to run their own lives.

If a person wants to engage in sexual intercourse (no matter how) in their private bedroom with a consenting partner (no matter who), that's their choice. If they want to film a pornography scene for the enjoyment of other people who want to watch pornography scenes, what's the problem? If they want to offer their sexual talents for a price to people who are willing to pay for that professionalism, who cares? You can live your life the way you want to, but you've got to give other people the same courtesy.

And, honestly, of all things a person could get up to - many of which are totally legal and even socially accepted, and some of which are far less 'natural' to the human experience - sex (especially voyeuristic forms of sexual entertainment which carry none of the risks of sexual contact) is not one to get all up in arms about.

And if you think the prevalence of sexual media will give people ideas about having sex that they wouldn't have got otherwise - let me tell you, mother nature has already taken care of that impulse. This is merely satisfying a curiosity that is inevitable. A curiosity for something that shouldn't be feared so much, and a curiosity that can, in significant part, be soothed by indulging in that sexual media.

Watching sex and talking about sex can get a person more interested in sex. But it's their responsibility to make good decisions about their own sexual activity. Being interested in sex did not make me any more willing to engage in risky behaviors, it just made me more keen to develop a safe situation within which I could experiment. Not everybody is that cautious, this is true, but trying to hide sex from them - an impossible task - as if thinking that if they don't see it they won't think about it - may only make them more desperate to seek it out, when having a safer alternative might have helped to sate their craving.

And, ultimately, teaching people (especially, but not limited to, young people) to make good choices about sex is the responsibility of education, however that is implemented. If it's not working, maybe that's a problem that needs to be fixed. But it is not the result of exposure to sexual media, the restriction of which runs counter to the freedom of speech.

I have seen people make poor decisions about sex without significant exposure to pornography, and yet I, who am a pornographer and an avid consumer of pornography, continue to make responsible decisions about my own sexual activity. It's high time we stop displacing the blame for people's decisions and attacking an easier target, instead of facing the issue head-on, and learning to accept some of the difficult truths in life.

It's time, also, we stop trying to control other people's lives that aren't our own, beyond the helpful practice of friendly persuasion, even if we love them and they do make bad decisions against better judgment from time to time. No peace will come from agonizing over others' bad decisions, and no justice will be served by trying to change the world so as to coerce and control the choices other people have to choose from.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Pornographer's Judgment

What worth has my opinion? My opinion is only the word of a dirty-minded pornographer. You, who don't mind the pornography, can look past it and judge the value of my taste on its own merits. But others will not give me that much consideration, and seeing the pornography, will judge me by that quality alone.

I do not want to cater to this mindset, because I do not believe they have the right of it. However, I cannot simply ignore them, either, for some of them will be people I have need of influencing in the course of my life, and others will be difficult to identify as such until it is too late. And though I might lose my respect for someone that displays intolerance, the force of their judgment still stings.

Ultimately, in the mainstream social circle, a person who judges others on the basis of sexual perversion maintains his moral integrity, because tolerance is not so highly valued as sexual purity (which is not to say sexual abstinence, necessarily, but whatever is the socially-accepted model of sexuality). If nothing else, that is something around which I'd like to influence society to change, if I can.

That I find beauty and pleasure in depictions (sometimes explicit) of human sexuality does not in any way mar the quality of my ability to determine beauty and pleasure in life and the world around me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sodom & Gomorrah

One argument I've encountered against San Francisco's (formerly, regrettably) lax restrictions on public nudity, and its (threatened) cultural heritage of sexual liberation is the fear that it may become (or already be) a modern day Sodom or Gomorrah. I shall respond to that argument in this post.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the most infamous stories in the Bible, located in the book of Genesis. As the story goes, these cities were so wicked that God felt it necessary to utterly destroy them and all their inhabitants in a rain of fire and brimstone (classic Old Testament stuff, here).

All their inhabitants, I say - save the devout Lot, that is, who nevertheless offered up his own daughters' virginities to satiate the carnal hunger of an angry mob of Sodomites. Curiously, for all their wickedness, the mob didn't take the bait, preferring instead the angels disguised as men that Lot was harboring in his home.

After fleeing the city just moments before its destruction, Lot's wife was transformed into a pillar of salt for having the gall to look back and witness God executing his wrath on the hordes of unrepentant sinners (you know what they say about the cat and its curiosity).

Then, mistaking this act of divine vengeance for another apocalypse on the scale of Noah's Flood (apparently not being aware of God's covenant with Noah - symbolized by the rainbow - never to wipe out humanity on such a scale again), Lot's apparently not-too-bright daughters take it upon themselves to ply their father with wine until he passes out, so that they may "lie with him" in order to pass on his seed.

There's got to be some twisted moral in there about trying to control your daughter's sex life - if you value your daughter's virginity, offer it up for the taking. If she gives it to you, then it was yours all along. Actually, I include this part of the story because it makes for a deliciously perverted tale, and also because it places God's condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah on largely sexual grounds in a critical light.

There is not a lot of description about just what it is that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (and a few other nearby cities) were engaging in to warrant the brunt of God's wrath, but the two clearest interpretations involve inhospitality and homosexuality. As for the latter, we can see why the term "sodomy" has entered the popular lexicon as a euphemism for anal sex, or sometimes other 'perverted' sexual practices.

Obviously, if we interpret the Sodomites as truly wicked beings - ones that would willingly engage in the rape of nonconsenting individuals - then there's not much room for sympathy; this is exactly what people do who hold up Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of sexual perversion turned abhorrent.

But, it could also be interpreted as an example of a civilization engaged in alternative sexual mores, who are wrongfully punished by a judgmental and vindictive higher power. This is my preferred interpretation, loose though it may be, as it most properly parallels the way that religious conservatives disparage the freedom of citizens to engage in sexual practices that they don't personally condone.

This is, in fact, the perfect context within which to throw around the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah - cities which were actively condemned to destruction by God - to illustrate the perceived danger that sexual licentiousness will inevitably lead to not just sinful but criminal and abhorrent practices that must be stopped before it goes too far.

And this is, indeed, the exact context within which the example of Sodom and Gomorrah is raised in comparison to the sexual liberties that are practiced (or were, until just recently) in San Francisco. Acceptance of homosexuality? Naked people gathering in city parks? Street festivals celebrating sexual fetishism?

Surely, to a sexual conservative, this all must sound pretty frightening. Gay men in leather with their genitals exposed whipping each other while jacking off out on the streets!? Heavens! If God won't strike this city down himself, then we must act in accordance with his divine will, as set out by precedent in the Book of Genesis!

But the truth is, these are just people proudly celebrating their sexual identity. They are not raping innocent bystanders, nor are they particularly unwelcome to tourists and strangers. If they were engaging in actual criminal behavior, then neither the city board nor the neighborhoods would tolerate their festivities.

And if they were, that would be a matter for the police, to serve and protect the public in the course of upholding the laws (against ethically-based crimes like rape) that are already on the books. That this community permits public activities that other communities may deem 'morally hazardous' is irrelevant.

Who does it harm to let them celebrate? If you are offended by it, you are welcome to steer clear. If you think it pollutes the purity of the human soul, then that's your belief, and you're entitled to live your own life in accordance with it, but it is not your responsibility (nor your right) to impose those beliefs on the lives of others, like some classical missionary.

After all, doing so would violate the principles upon which a fair and just society is constructed, which is exactly what the concept of a single righteous God attempts to accomplish. Who is to say that your God is superior to any others, when you don't have any proof whatsoever (other than blind, empty faith - which your opponents may also have, by the way)?

The founders of American democracy understood this, as can be interpreted from their inclusion of the principle of free exercise of religion in the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and what is sexual morality if not an establishment of religious beliefs about purity and carnal hunger?

As a free and enlightened society, it may be our duty, by some perspectives, to prevail upon other establishments of civilization that are not so humanistically enlightened as us. But, in the process of doing so, we must be extremely careful not to presuppose the supremacy of our own moral standards over others.

Thus, if there is a situation in which someone is in need of assistance to combat an abuse of power that violates the fundamental rights of the individual, it is a just and honorable act to step in and offer a hand. But this is not the same as forcing heathens to adopt alternative standards of morality against their will.

If, for example, a group of citizens desires to establish a community (within our jurisdiction or without) that is characterized by beliefs and behaviors that some other group deem morally contentious, there is no justice in oppressing that group and denying its freedoms, for the sake of normalizing the standards of the country or the world.

Now if, by chance, some member of that community expresses distress for one reason or another, then it is justified to examine the circumstances and determine whether the group actually is engaged in criminal acts. (Which, incidentally, may well have been the purpose of the investigating angels who were visiting Lot in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Alas, their suspicions were realized.)

But so long as the people involved in any questionable practices are consenting to do so, then we have absolutely no right to intervene. Even if, perhaps, we think they are harming themselves, for ultimately, it is their choice what to do with their minds and bodies, just as it is every individual's choice whether or not to "sin". After all, even by religious arguments, it is not man's duty to pass judgment, but God's.

If we think they are being criminally misinformed ("brainwashed" in cult language), then it is prudent for us to attempt to better educate them. And if they are in danger of severe and irreparable harm, then it is only natural to expect some sort of explanation for why they are doing this. But so long as those activities are conducted only upon those who have given their express consent, then the ultimate choice is theirs.

But San Francisco is no secretive cult, and even the consensual BDSM practices you might witness during the Folsom Street Fair are becoming mainstream, thanks to the recent popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. When people complain about the sexual liberties in San Francisco, it's never about acts that are legitimately crimes - like people being raped, robbed, and attacked.

No, it's always framed in terms of decency and perversion. I think those prudes are terrified - that in any place in this country, perverts might have the courage to take to the streets in broad daylight. Well, if you ask me, I think we're due for another sexual revolution.

Monday, November 26, 2012

When vs. How

Regarding the question of whether abstinence-only sex education delays loss of virginity, I have the following to say. The education I received was abstinence-"plus", but it (particularly a very Christian guest speaker), in conjunction with the social environment I was brought up in - which taught that sex is naughty and only the bad kids engage in it outside of marriage or very committed relationships, or before reaching the age of 18 - was enough to prevent me from going "all the way" with my girlfriend when I first had the chance. I didn't get another chance until about ten years later, after which point I thought, why the hell did I wait so long to get started?

The point I wish to make is this: even if abstinence-whatever education does delay loss of virginity, the question I ask you is - why does it matter when people start having sex? Isn't it far more important that when people do have sex - no matter what age that is - it's an informed decision they've made willfully and consensually, and that they are knowledgeable enough not only to be able to practice safe sex, but also to understand why practicing safe sex is a damn good idea? That people are having safe, consensual sexual encounters in a pleasurable and psychologically positive context is far more important to me than whether or not they 'wait for marriage', or whether they start experimenting at 25 or 15 years of age!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fearing Desire

I think the reason a lot of people are uncomfortable about sexual arousal may be that we are capable of being turned on by some fairly alarming things sometimes (consider: the appeal of transgression, also the reason people are drawn to or threatened by rebellious music). And these people don't have the confidence or the assurance that if some atrocious idea appeals to their sexual desire, that they will have the power or the will to prevent themselves from pursuing it or engaging in it.

And so sexual desire becomes this frightening, monstrous thing, that resides within our selves and constantly threatens to turn us into monsters. So we shun it, and, likewise, we shun other people who are less restrictive than us about their own sexual desires.

We fear those who freely fantasize, because we see them giving in to their twisted desires, and we think they are becoming monsters, and it scares us. It scares us that they exist, and it scares us that as a society we would consciously allow people to do that. If exploring one's sexual interests beyond the purely mundane is seen to be a path toward chaos, then it cannot be condoned.

But this is all fear of what may be. The BDSM community, in particular - which, you'll notice, has had a history of being acutely feared by the mainstream for some time - is in an excellent position to demonstrate that people can have disturbing sexual desires - like the desire to whip someone, or the desire to be whipped - and they can engage in them humanistically, by communicating with partners, and only engaging in consensual play, so as to create the illusion of whatever degeneracy turns them on, without becoming soulless monsters, hellbent on hurting others and corrupting innocent people for selfish sexual satisfaction.

This needs to be discovered by the mainstream, if we are to continue to pursue the path toward healthy sexual enlightenment. People need to learn that they can explore what turns them on, without it taking control over them. And they need to learn this so that they CAN indulge in the fantasies that turn them on without believing that it justifies their becoming actual monsters. So that, for example, a man can discover that dominating women turns him on, and still be able to understand that it is not okay for him to dominate women outside of a sexual context, or to dominate women who do not consent to be dominated by him.

I tell you, this is imperative to our smooth running as a society, that we confront and address and learn to mend our sexual hang-ups, because the way we are now - frightful of anything remotely sexual because "what if!" is not a healthy way to be. When we turn our heads from the shadows and condemn them to the corners of society, we are indirectly condoning the darkness, even as we preach against it. A new approach is needed, whereby we confront the darkness, accept that it is a part of human existence, and learn how to acknowledge it without letting it control us.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Exhibitionist Resort

You might have guessed by now that I'm a proponent for the legalization of public sex acts. Whatever the reason public sex acts aren't currently legal, I'll bet it's a combination of reasonable ones and irrational ones. I've never seen 'public sex' in action, so I don't know, practically, what the issues are. In other words, I don't know if people's fears of what may happen are well-founded or superstitious. I imagine it's probably a combination of the two - certainly, I don't have much sympathy for the fear that public sex acts will denote the 'moral decay of society'. I'd rather there be public fornication than wars. I'd rather children be introduced to the circle of life than have to witness gang violence. But that's a whole different can of worms.

In theory, it may be said that open permission for anyone and everyone to perform public sex acts more or less anywhere they like (or at least only on public land) may lead to chaos, and open the door to more serious acts that are rightfully criminalized (for ethical and not moral reasons) - like rape and other nonconsensual sex acts. I'm not entirely convinced that the only way to prevent this is to keep all sex acts (even the nice, polite, fun ones) out of the public space - that sounds rather like moralization and fear-mongering - but let's for a second assume this fear is at least plausible. Could there not at least be specifically designated places, with carefully enforced rules, where those who can prove themselves to be responsible can become members, where those that cannot would be kept out?

It is pretty much inevitable that, at this point, I begin to think about nudist resorts, which - while not being sexual environments - are in pretty much the same position. Replace 'public sex' with 'public nudity', and there you have it. They may be in the minority, but it's proven true that enough people are interested in being nude in a more or less "public" atmosphere (at least, more public than staying hidden in your bedroom, or indoors), that nudist resorts - if not thriving - do maintain some interest. Could there not be a similar demand for, say, 'exhibitionist resorts', where, within a privately owned space (or a specially designated public space), open fornication can be permitted?

Indeed, I've heard of one or two such places in the world, although they are always at odds with the nudist community because of the fear of people mistaking (ignorantly or deliberately) the one for the other, and the last thing a genuine nudist resort wants is a reputation as a swinger's resort. But then again, if this is a recurring problem, doesn't that suggest to you that there's a demand? Maybe even a greater demand than there is for genuine nudist recreation. After all, there are a hell of a lot of perverts in the world, and nudists seem to remain a curious minority. So why not have more spaces for open sex play? A place for swingers, perhaps, but a place also for voyeurs and exhibitionists to let it all hang out without fear of retribution. And without pressure to engage in an expected form of play that may be beyond what they're comfortable with.

Well, I'm not going to pretend this is an original idea. But I was giving it some thought, and I came up with some ideas about what rules would probably be a good idea to have in such a place. Here they are:

The Rules of Engagement

Rule #1: All Contact MUST Be Consensual. Do not touch another human being without explicit permission. Always ask first. This will reduce drama, prevent you from getting kicked out (or even tossed in jail), and keep this venue from being lost.

Rule #2: No Harassment! Be polite. If somebody doesn't want to play with you, leave them alone. If your behavior is clearly bothering somebody, then take it somewhere else. There is enough room here for everyone. A little preemptive kindness goes a long way.

Rule #3: Don't Leave A Mess. Nobody should have to clean up after you. Keep it sanitary. Always have a towel on hand. We don't allow you to pass waste just anyplace you want, so don't think we want your mess left behind on our facilities, either. Keep it contained and controlled.

Rule #4: Be Cool. You wouldn't be here if you weren't open-minded. Know the line between stepping outside your comfort zone and feeling threatened. If somebody or something is bothering you, walk away. If the problem follows you, report it. But if a person's not bothering you, don't bother them. People come here to have fun. Let them.

If you are caught in violation of any of these rules, you will be subject to immediate expulsion from the site. Repeated violations may cost you future privilege of entry. We have rules for a reason. Without them, we wouldn't be here. So don't ruin it for everyone else.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bogeyman

This is for those idiots who think every sex offender is the bogeyman, and deserving of identical punishment - that is to say, the full force of the law.

Hypothetical. Let's assume that a man gets drunk, stumbles out of a bar, and begins to urinate on the sidewalk. I would certainly not condone this behavior; I would even support a fine or some other small punishment to discourage such behavior in the future. And if the man makes a regular habit of getting drunk and engaging in such behavior, then further measures would be justified.

Now let's assume that this one time that this man urinates on the sidewalk, he happens to do it in front of a woman and her kid. He didn't do it in front of them intentionally - he didn't even realize they were there. He wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings, you see, as he was very drunk.

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that the kid this man urinated in front of was a boy, so that he wouldn't be particularly shocked, at least, by the fact of a man relieving himself in that way. Yet, still, the woman - the boy's mother - goes and complains to the police about this man who "exposed himself" in front of her child.

Bam! Just like that, the drunkard becomes a sex offender. Now, as I said, I don't condone his behavior. But firstly, what he committed was not, linguistically speaking, a sex offense, so it's simply inaccurate (and dishonest) to classify him as such. But of course, the law doesn't work that way.

Now, even though this man's behavior was problematic, does he deserve the full brunt of the punitive sex offender registry? Because he "chose" (obviously, he's responsible for his acts, but it's not like he made a conscious decision) - because he chose to "commit a sex offense", he gives up all of his civil rights?

What is it, anyway, with this idea that when a man commits a crime, he "gives up his rights", and that if he feels like complaining, then he "shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place"? Criminals are punished for a reason, in very specific ways that relate to the nature of their crime.

The point is not to turn anyone who engages in even a minor breach of the law (or just sex offender laws - because sex offenses are treated different, worse than murder even) into an inhuman slave of the state, beyond any retribution or sympathy. To be punished for the rest of his life, even beyond prison. With no consideration to the fact that sometimes people make mistakes in life, that in hindsight, they regret. I could understand extreme vitriol for criminals who commit heinous crimes like violent rape and murder, but does someone who peed on the sidewalk deserve the same level of hatred?

Sure, he deserves criticism, but to have his civil rights suspended? To lose his internet privacy, as California's atrocious new Prop 35 commands? Why is every sex offender akin to the worst among them - the child rapist? It's like, if you get labeled with the term "sex offender" you're not you anymore, you're this faceless predator, and if your crime happened to be poor judgment of where to urinate, then somehow you're at high risk for seeking out children to kidnap via the internet? That's insane.

I wish I could let the facts speak for themselves and just leave it at that, but this world doesn't work that way. Our brains don't work that way. People are frighteningly susceptible to persuasion by seductive lies - although, I don't know why anyone would want to believe that every year, tens of thousands of children are abducted into highly lucrative (yet suspiciously evasive) sex slavery rings in this country alone...

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Good Mother (1988)

Starring Diane Keaton, Liam Neeson
Directed by Leonard Nimoy

I feared The Good Mother was going to be a predictable story about how all fine and dandy sexual liberation is - until children become involved, which unveils its limitations and how it's ultimately an unrealistic pipe dream.

You could still argue that, but the reason it doesn't work isn't because sexual liberation is broken - that it traumatizes kids or whatever - but because society is so dysfunctional that they won't let it work, and they'll happily destroy you if you try.

And that's what this movie turned out to be - a story about how wonderful sexual liberation is, but how society will step in and crush you if you dare try to find sexual satisfaction, shake off the shame and stigma that's forcibly applied to sexuality, and, god forbid, make an attempt to avoid teaching your children those same guilty feelings you grew up with.

That's where they get you, you see. Adults are allowed to be as perverted as they like (well, within limits). Polite folk will turn their nose at you if you're a perv, but ultimately it's your freedom to be a pariah. But if you dare try to teach a child to be unashamed of her body or sexuality, then they'll nail you to the fucking wall.

You see, it's very very important that children learn to be ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality. It's how this sexual dysfunction - this social poison - maintains itself. And that's exactly what happens in this movie. A mother finds sexual satisfaction after an unfulfilling marriage, and begins to teach her daughter not to make the same mistake she unconsciously had by sealing up her sexual feelings.

And then social forces close in, first in the form of the jealous, vindictive, conservative ex-husband (who has himself had no problem relating sexually to women, but in a way that never seemed to count the woman's sexual satisfaction as a relevant factor), and then in the form of a puppet court that makes a cruel mockery of both truth and justice.

And lives are ruined as a result. And the process of sexual healing is halted and stilted, and two women - one of them still a child - are pulled back into the realm of sexual shame and misery. What a sad state of affairs.

I find it ironic that the man - the catalyst who inadvertently invites the turmoil - is European, almost as if to emphasize by contrast the nature of American morality, to show how corroded and diseased it is on the subject of sexuality. Except that things do not seem to be faring significantly better outside of America, either, in the so-called "developed world".

It's the sad truth about passion and sexuality, that the current status quo is so invested in its dementia, that it will mercilessly destroy you if you dare to rebel. I wish it weren't the case.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sex is not Creepy

I take offense at the notion that acknowledging a person's - any person's - sexual attractiveness is "creepy". Staring strangers down is creepy. Making rude comments is creepy. Making unsolicited advances is creepy. Certainly stalking and raping people is creepy. But acknowledging that a person - whether it's their body, their fashion sense, their personality, or what have you - is appealing to you in a sexual way is not, in my mind, creepy.

Why is noticing such a thing about a person creepy? We are sexual organisms, attracted to one another, why should we not acknowledge that attraction when it springs up, and why should we be so anxious as to put up arbitrary rules on who should be allowed to be attracted to whom and under what circumstances, when our bodies simply don't work that way?

What is it about sex appeal that transforms a person into meat, that degrades them for possessing it - isn't that illusion in the mind of the perceiver and not in the body of the perceived? What is it about sex that we are so scared of, that making any reference to it freaks us out?

"No, he can't think she's sexy because that means he wants to have sex with her, and that means he WILL have sex with her, and sex is rape, or sex is disease, or sex is power imbalance, or sex is freaky nonconsensual fetish, or sex is degrading! And even if he doesn't actually have sex with her, the fact that he thinks about sex - in association with her!, whom he doesn't even know!, or who is already attached to someone else!, or isn't attracted to him reciprocally!, or isn't ready for sex at all! - the fact that he thinks about sex is just gross!

"No, I don't care that he's a human being, a sexual organism, that sex is a pleasurable activity that makes people feel good. It's disgusting and he shouldn't be projecting it onto good, obedient virgins who know better, otherwise they'll be spoiled and defiled and perverted and oh god make all the sex in the world stop!"

I think it's fucking ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Ethics of Desire

Say, for example, a man is consciously and consistently aroused by the thought of violently raping women. Now, I don't see how any reasonable person could ever consider rape a justifiable action (although there may be some extremely convoluted circumstances I'm not considering - I don't claim absolute knowledge, especially not on highly emotional issues). Suppose, also, that this man - in spite of his extremely anti-social sexual desires - is a well-adjusted gentleman, and has no intention whatsoever of committing a crime as heinous as rape against anyone.

Take a moment, if you need to, to internalize that concept - that a man could be sexually aroused by a criminal act but remain virtuous enough not to realistically want to commit it (separating fantasy from reality, as they ought to be). Now if this man rejects his sexual desires because of their violent and anti-social qualities, he is in essence demonstrating that he believes they are violent and anti-social, and is thus in a better position to receive sympathy from those who feel that way about the things he happens to be sexually interested in. After all, a man is not really in control of what happens to interest him sexually; but he can choose how he approaches those interests.

But what, then, of the man who decides that he is entitled to sexual satisfaction? Not, mind you, the man who goes out and commits rape because it turns him on, but the man who allows himself to enjoy rape fantasy - because he knows the difference between fantasy and reality and is capable of allowing the fantasy to excite him while simultaneously understanding that it is, in reality, an extremely undesirable act to commit, on account of entirely non-sexual reasons, if not sexual reasons as well (i.e., not everyone who is turned on by the idea of rape is turned on by actual rape - take another moment, if necessary, to internalize that one, too).

The essential question is this: to what extent is a man free to derive sexual satisfaction from ideas that disturb "prevailing public opinion"? We, as a collective culture, worry about people getting turned on by rape (among other things) because we fear it will encourage - if not the same people, then other, less morally guided individuals - to commit rape, in the belief that if society allows us to think about it and talk about it and fantasize about it - especially in positive terms - then society will be more forgiving (if not downright accepting) of those who commit it.

Isn't this pretty crazy, though? Does the human brain not have the capacity to differentiate between what are good fantasies and bad realities? And if a fraction (could it really be a majority?) of the human population is lacking this capability, is it the responsibility of the rest of us to curb our speech, essentially punishing ourselves for the infirmities of our neighbors? Frankly, I think the hysteria arises from a misunderstanding of the role of fantasy - which is not necessarily a blueprint for reality - but especially the nature of sexual fantasy.

I don't exactly blame society for this, because our bias on the way we view sex prevents us from learning and understanding a whole lot about human sexuality. I do, however, blame society for not doing more to combat this anti-sexual prejudice. As a human being with a sexual libido, and no driving force (at least not since I left my "abstinence is grand!" sex ed long behind) to withhold my curiosity about sexual desire, I've embarked on the exciting adventure of finding out what it is that turns me on. And to my surprise, though I've always considered myself to be vanilla (and still do, for the most part), I've found that I can be turned on by some pretty twisted things (as I imagine most people - if given the chance - could, even if it's not what they prefer).

A lot of such things I wouldn't even want (let alone consider) to do in reality - and not just because they're not practical, but because they're the kind of fantasies that are just fantasies, ideas that appeal because they aren't bound to the laws of reality. And while you can certainly argue that my modesty and my chastity has gone out the window (good riddance!), when you start talking about "morals" - regardless of my beliefs about sex, I am not the sort of selfish, sociopathic person who hurts, deceives, or takes advantage of other people for my own gain, sexual or otherwise.

I can revel in sometimes (but certainly not always) sick sexual fantasies and it doesn't make me a rampaging monster. What it does, however, is increase the amount of pleasure I experience in life. And given how shitty life can be - especially to someone who wasn't popular in high school, didn't get a well-paying job, marry a beautiful wife, have healthy kids, and find a sturdy house for them to live in - that's a goddamn blessing!

And if anyone should be on board with a sex positive, "don't be ashamed of what turns you on" approach, it's the BDSM community, who is used to having strange and often anti-social (sometimes violent) sexual desires and being demonized and misunderstood for it. But there always seems to be a caveat - "our desires may be sick, but I understand them so I know they're okay - but yours, yours I don't understand, and they just seem wrong!" The sadomasochists criticize the bestials who criticize the necrophiles, and every one of them criticizes pedophiles.

I'm not saying everything is always sunshine and rainbows in sexland, and that nobody ever engages in dangerous or criminal acts, motivated by sexual desire, I just want to develop an approach towards sex that works across the board, with noone left out. An approach that says, it doesn't matter what turns you on, you can be human and you can be a good person and you can find sexual satisfaction, so long as you're not harming anyone (where 'harm' is differentiated from 'hurt', which a person might be aroused by receiving). You can talk about consent, but if you define it in such a way as to deny it to a broad class (whether of persons or non-persons) on principle, then it's not really about consent, it's about your personal morals.

One of my fundamental rules for sex would be that noone should feel ashamed of what turns them on - no one. That is part of the truth about beauty. What exists in your head - what makes you feel good, and especially what you find to be appealing, regardless of who or how many people vehemently disagree, can never be "wrong". It's what you do to other people (and your treatment of non-persons) that matters. Thoughts are not actions, and fantasies are not realities. It is not our desires that determine who we are - it is our behaviors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Sexualization of Halloween (Part 2)

The article I linked on my first post on the sexualization of Halloween mentions the fun of a masquerade ball, and I had a thought while browsing the Halloween store the other day. Dressing up is fun, and there's a wide variety of costumes to choose from. But not all of them are scary. I was looking through the costumes, and I thought to myself, man, it would be a whole lot of fun to pretend I'm a ninja. Or, I'd love to dress up like a princess for a day. But neither of those costumes are very Halloween-y. Halloween is supposed to be for witches and vampires and ghosts and zombies and the like. Not faeries and superheros. But hell, there should be a day for kids (and grown-ups!) to dress up like non-scary things, because it's just plain fun! Maybe we need yet another costume holiday in addition to Halloween and Slut Day - Call it Fantasy Day or Make-Believe Day!

And another thought came to my mind while browsing that Halloween store. Some people complain about how sexist it is that women's costumes are sexy and men's aren't. Well, that is kinda sexist. But when they bring in the 'sexualization' issue, they like to complain about how young girls are encouraged (or even "forced" by alleged lack of alternative) to dress like sluts. Well my experience was that the 'sexy' costumes were restricted to the adult section. Yes, there were a lot of "cutie" costumes in the little girls section, and a lot of "sweetie" costumes in the tween girls section. And maybe it's similarly sexist to expect little girls to be cute and sweet, when little boys are free to be brats and hooligans.

But the fact remains, the whole 'sexy Halloween' phenomenon seems to me to be a way to get adults more interested in a holiday that has traditionally been more for the kids. And I don't see any problem with that. There's no reason why Halloween HAS to remain a holiday JUST for kids. And if it's the case that, if you invite a bunch of adults over to a costume party, they will be more likely to want to dress like sluts, just because it's fun, then who cares?

However, it's still true that this is taking away the emphasis of Halloween as a SCARY holiday. Actually, I think there is much about Halloween that can appeal to adults, without making it a sexier holiday. Halloween is all about the horror movies - the scariest of which children aren't even allowed to watch! Then again, maybe it was the slasher formula of mixing sex with violence that ultimately inspired Halloween to become a sexier holiday. In a classic slasher, you frequently have sexy, half-dressed teens running from homicidal psychopaths. And isn't that pretty well reflected in adults' Halloween costume choices? I'll admit, it's still pretty sexist to expect the woman to be meat and the man to be monster, but if it's just a role you're putting on, and you allow for transgression of the boundaries (i.e., monster costumes for women, and sexy costumes for men), then where's the harm? It's all good fun, if you ask me.

So I don't think sexualizing Halloween is necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, I'd like to have a holiday where I can afford to be scary without feeling like I'm missing my only opportunity to be sexy (as a person who loves being sexy), and I think we still could absolutely use a holiday like Slut Day. Plus, the purpose of Slut Day is not simply to dress sexy and have a good time - it also contributes to social justice by creating awareness for the very same ideas that SlutWalk was created, by emphasizing that a person's dress or behavior does not make them sexually available to anyone they do not consent to have sex with; that they are not a free target for assault or harassment. Mixing sex up with a holiday that traditionally glorifies violence works at a cross-purpose to that...

The Sexualization of Halloween (Part 1)

Every year I hear people whining about the sexualization of Halloween. Personally, I think the sexualization of Halloween is great, but I believe everything is more fun after it's been 'sexualized'.

However, the point stands that Halloween isn't really about being sexy. It's about being scary. And sexualizing the holiday tends to change its focus. Most whiners don't earn my sympathy, because instead of accentuating that point, they allude to how horrible it is that people should have a holiday where they're encouraged to show off their sex appeal.

Truth is, despite all the vocal complainers, a lot of people like to be sexy, so you're not gonna win by telling them to stop it. If you want to reclaim Halloween - and that's a respectable goal - the ideal solution would be to create a new holiday that IS all about being sexy. That way, people can dress up in scary costumes on Halloween, and not feel like they're wasting their only excuse to dress like a slut in public and not be criticized, because there would be that other holiday, too!

Of course, it would only work if we, as a culture, didn't criticize people for celebrating it. We could call it Slut Day, although that might be a little too on the nose. It could be a natural progression of the SlutWalk concept - a day where people can dress like sluts and raise awareness of slut-shaming, and how it feeds into a culture that enables sexual violence. And that way, people all over could celebrate it - not just those who live near an organized SlutWalk event.

So if you don't like people commandeering Halloween for sexy purposes, slut-shaming isn't going to solve the problem. Start acting nicer toward sluts, and they will no longer feel like they have to hide under the aegis of Halloween. Nobody would have to resort to the excuse, "I'm not a slut, this is just my Halloween costume," if dressing slutty wasn't considered a valid source for criticism.

P.S. After writing the above, I came across a news article where the author basically comes to the same conclusion. He suggests picking out the first Saturday in August as Slut Day, which is great, because it'll be hot enough to wear really skimpy outfits. Plus, it'll always be on a Saturday (unlike Halloween, which cycles through the week), so it's a perfect day to have parties, and you won't have the excuse of "I can't wear that to work/school/church" for not participating! I am so going to start celebrating Slut Day on the first Saturday of August from now on. Who's with me?

(Read Part 2 here)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The War On Sex

It's very obvious that there is a cultural demand for sex (in many forms). It's the fundamental nature of life. What I don't understand is why some people wish to eliminate that demand (are they sexless robots?), and punish all those who create a supply to meet it.

Lucky for us perverts, the continuation of the human race depends on people having sex. But there's a long history of society policing how we get sex:

Within the bounds of marriage? Fine.
Outside of that? Adultery.
For recreational purposes? Perversion.
With unapproved partners, or involving unapproved acts? Sodomy.
Recorded in media form? Pornography.
Exchanged for money? Prostitution.
With one's self in a quiet room? Mental illness!

Could somebody please inform me as to the point of all this anxiety? Sex is fun, and it feels good. It can carry severe consequences - this is true. But public ostracization should not be one of them. Why the shame, when knowledge ought to suffice? Why the stigma against safe practices (like masturbation, pornography) when things like teenage pregnancy are considered an unavoidable (if unfortunate) state of affairs? Why all the guilt and hangups about the simple fact that people are sexually drawn to one another?

Seriously, what gives?

Siding With The Prudes

Consider this hypothetical: a young woman takes a naked picture of herself with her cell phone camera with the intention of posting it on the internet. Unless you're a shameless pervert like me, chances are pretty good that if you know this woman (or even if you don't), you're going to be concerned about her intended course of action and, given the opportunity (or even not - you might just decide to whine to noone in particular on the internet), would likely counsel her to keep that picture to herself.

But why? Are you really concerned that perverts are going to enjoy it? I mean, isn't that the point? Or is it the case that you're really more concerned about what the prudes will do - to this woman's reputation, when (if) they find out? So how come you're more likely to criticize the perverts' attitude - which creates a demand for these kinds of pictures - rather than the prudes' attitude - which is eager to punish anyone who addresses that demand?

You might be right that a total lack of demand would eliminate these problems, but you're never going to eliminate demand (and I don't understand why you would even want to). It's a delusion! Why punish people for meeting it, then, instead of creating an allowance for those who choose to? What is even the point of propping up some moral ideal when the result of doing so is hurting people (like by hurting their feelings, or ruining their relationships, or costing them a job)?

Me? I'd rather be an 'immoral' pervert than an asshole. And I'd be happy if I never again heard someone criticize a woman (or a man, or anybody) for posting sexy pictures of herself on the internet, and instead heard people criticizing her family/friends/employer for treating her with disrespect upon finding out that she is - gasp! - a sexual organism. If you ask me, that kind of treatment ought to fall under discrimination - discrimination for being human. And, unlike the puritans, for wishing to enjoy life.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Are you a cross-dresser?"

Cross-dressing seems to imply a disconnect - a crossing of sorts - between your sex or gender (depending on where you choose to measure from) and the clothes you wear (which are themselves subject to gender stereotyping - e.g., skirts may be appropriate for men in one country or time period but not in another).

In a purely factual sense, I suppose that what I do isn't technically incompatible with the term "cross-dressing", especially if you believe the fact that I have a penis makes me male. But when I dress as a girl, it's not so much a costume I put on - which is why I shun the label "drag" - so much as it is just the clothes I relate to and feel more comfortable in.

"How you holdin' up, Stewie?"
"Umm... I feel right, Brian. I feel right."

Which, I guess, reflects my transgender feelings. It's not just the clothes of the female gender that I assimilate, it's the whole appearance (even to the point of grooming my body in such a way) and the mannerisms and personality. And it's something I prefer to do on a regular, day-to-day basis - and not exclusively for sexual stimulation - that rather than putting on a mask as for a performance, it's like I'm showing my true face instead.

So when you ask if I am a cross-dresser, the answer is really yes and no, depending on what you mean.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grappling with Guilt

In spite of my enthusiasm for the perverted pleasures in life, there is some part of me that is still infected with a sense of shame about indulging in pornography. Sure, everybody looks at pornography, but to star in it yourself? That shows a whole different level of commitment to debauchery.

And then there's the issue about sexual orientation. I'm not hung up about the whole gay/straight dichotomy, but I'm not really attracted to men. Using myself as a subject, it's different in some weird way, and I don't really want to try too hard to psychoanalyze that. It has a lot to do with my exhibitionism.

But there's still that part of me that's infected with those prudish beliefs about sexuality, where I feel like I'm denigrating my reputation (in the socially accepted strata of, quite literally, "straight" society) by acknowledging the erotic potential of the male subject, much less myself (which taps into social paranoia about narcissism - but why shouldn't I love myself?).

In the end, I try not to let that thinking infect what I do, and a large part of the appeal of what I do is the freedom of being able to say, "fuck the rules, fuck how I'm supposed to act, I'm going to express myself however I feel like it". I can appreciate that from the angle of reason, but it can only go so far as to influence my irrational feelings.

But the thing that always reassures me is this idea that I am modeling the sort of behavior I want others to replicate. I'm not doing it all for me. I'm demonstrating that you can take sexy, slutty pictures and share them on the internet and not have to sacrifice your principles or your self-respect.

Because, ideally, I want to see people I am attracted to doing the same thing, and I want them to feel comfortable doing it and owning up to it. The people who would say I am sick for taking pictures of my genitals and posting them on the internet would turn around and delight in viewing pictures of other people's genitals on the internet.

I call that hypocrisy. I don't want to be a hypocrite, but instead of punishing myself for liking porn (why the hell should I do that?), I decided instead to start making some of my own. So that I would be invested in it. So that I couldn't turn around and lie about its evils to someone else.

The only problem is, I don't see nearly enough people doing it the same way. The professional model - infected with the poison of capitalism - places money over the value of quality and integrity. And the prudes and religious nuts and anti-sex feminists who hold way too much power in society are succeeding at making everyone else feel guilty about sex and enjoying themselves.

I wish I knew a better way to cut at the heart of that disease. The one that infects people - the way I have been infected - with a prudish set of values surrounding sex and pleasure and modesty. But the best thing I know how to do is to lead my life the way I want to, and as an artist, prop myself up as an example for others.

But I wonder sometimes if I'm making any kind of an impression on people. Because I want to be more than another pervert on the internet. I want to be a role model for perverts on the internet. A role model who can make perversion look a little bit more palatable to the non-perverts who waste too much time trying to spoil the fun of others.

Maybe it's a futile struggle. But it's the sort of thing I live for. I prostrate myself before the Goddess of Pleasure in the hopes of seeing more girls liberate themselves from the evil doctrine of modesty. So far, the vast majority of perverts that have been coming my way are either men, fakes, or old hands.

But you know, men are allowed to be perverts. Men are supposed to be perverts. Men are frequently assumed to be perverts even when they're not. Women, on the other hand, can't be perverts. They can only be sluts - and that's not a good thing.

Well I'd love to change that, somehow. I don't exactly know how I can do that by posting pictures of myself, but I try in my writing to address the issue, and I hope that somehow my non-standard approach toward gender stereotypes can make some kind of an impact. I've got my fingers crossed.

Because, after all, it's all I really know how to do.

Covered Beauty

It's a sad state of affairs when a girl with a perfect body is reluctant to show it off, either because she doesn't believe it's good enough, because she thinks she'll be criticized as being 'immodest', or because she's afraid or just plain bored of the sort of attention she would receive from men if she did.

All I want is to create an environment where a girl feels comfortable showing off her body, where she can be complimented and not judged for her flaws, where she would be made to feel appreciated and not ashamed for giving others a chance to admire her, and where others would behave politely and considerately in her presence, treating her like a person and not a piece of meat (and that involves leaving her alone when she'd prefer to be left alone).

If you are a girl, and you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to accomplish this, I am all ears. As a guy, I am constantly searching for ways to approach the appreciation of a girl's figure that do not make her uncomfortable. If you are a guy, you could help by doing the same.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Feminism and Feminisn't

Feminism is a woman being able to wear slutty clothes in public, and not be considered sexually available to any man that wants her, as the "patriarchy" would conceivably demand.

Feminism is NOT criticizing a woman for choosing to wear slutty clothes in public, because she's exhibiting her sex appeal to someone other than the man that "owns" her.

Feminism is a woman being able to express her sexual agency - by degrees if desired - on her OWN terms; it does NOT consist of stripping her of the freedom of self-expression and the right to free association (or non-association, if she doesn't want to fuck or flirt with you).

A woman's rights do NOT depend on her choice whether or not to keep her legs crossed, and her dignity is NOT defined by the modesty (or immodesty) she displays in her choice of dress.

Sexism is problematic, but the solution is NOT sexless "feminism". Feminism - in its truest and most honorable sense - is not at odds with the natural process of sexual courtship between men and women.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Day In The Life (Illustrated)

As a self-portrait artist, I have inevitably developed an acute awareness of my appearance that acts almost like a fifth sense, a kind of third eye that hovers about me, always judging my visual presentation and alerting me when a potentially good picture presents itself, so that I may grab for my camera and try to capture it - if possible - before the moment is gone. This feeds into my narcissism and my exhibitionism, as I am constantly conscious of how I am putting myself on display (even in an empty room) - but for better or worse, this brings the privilege of being able to capture some pretty awesome pictures from time to time - which, as a photographer, is pretty much my goal in life.

So the other morning, before I had even become fully awake, I had pushed the covers off of my body, and with my morning erection and my body arched against the bed - the covers haphazardly pushed off of me in that oh-so-sexy way - I recognized the opportunity for an intimately erotic picture. I grabbed my camera, and began to snap away. And then it hit me - I could do a photo project where I took snaps of myself throughout the day, engaged in whatever it is I do on a random day, as a sort of illustrated 'day in the life' of zharth! I thought it was an excellent idea, and so I proceeded to take some 458 shots with my cell phone camera (the majority of them blurry or off-angle alternates of the keepers) throughout the course of the day. I will now share the best of them with you.

7am - rise and shine

checking my email (and flickr views!)

8am - breakfast

at the computer again
(where I spend most of my time)

10am - dressing for a jog
(gotta stay in shape!)

light exercise

11am - busywork
(doing preparations for a photo project)

12pm - making lunch

1pm - sweeping the floor

2pm - looking at porn
(one of the biggest perks of being an erotic artist -_^)

sitting on the toilet

3pm - guitar practice

4pm - in the shower

my hair is at its prettiest just out of the shower

5pm - dressed (reluctantly) to go out

checking my reflection

driving 'round town

7pm - bringing home dinner

back at home

 8pm - stripping

9pm - getting ready for bed

10pm - exhaustion

It's really surprising to me that I didn't get any pictures of me washing dishes. It's because I ended up having takeout for dinner. Usually I spend lots of time standing in front of the sink after dinner. Another thing I do frequently that I didn't do on this day was go shopping. But you can see pics of that elsewhere.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

San Francisco Proposes Ban on Public Nudity

"while the Castro’s reputation for promoting free expression is part of the neighborhood’s character, some nudists have taken matters too far."

Here's what I have to say about the people who are upset about having to encounter naked people in (a very localized part of) San Francisco. Like it or loathe it, public nudity is part of San Francisco's heritage. If you're not used to it by now, maybe you're living in the wrong city. Why push through legislation to normalize San Francisco, making it conform to the cultural standards of other cities?

Consider this: if you're uncomfortable seeing naked people on public streets on a regular basis, you have MILLIONS of other cities in the world to choose from! The fact that this is becoming an issue demonstrates that there is a demand for cities with relaxed public nudity regulations. What about the people who want to go nude? Far from forcing their strange and offensive lifestyle on others, they have nowhere else to go to lead the life they want to live.

Do these people deserve to be marginalized out of existence? Nudist resorts/beaches are nice places to visit, but for people who are into the nudist lifestyle, they're not enough. Entrance fees (not to mention membership dues) add up over time, and many people have to go out of their way to get there. For those of us - though a minority we may be - who want to live where reasonable nudity is a protected right and not a marginalized privilege, there are very few places in the world we can go. San Francisco is, to go by its reputation, one of the best places in this country for that - and even there, it's far from a nudist paradise.

And you're going to take that away from us? You're going to force San Francisco to be like every other city in the nation - just about every city in the world! - and leave us one less place (indeed, perhaps no other place) to go, to live the way we want to? I think that in the interest of freedom and choice, at least one large city in this country ought to be welcoming to nudists, and it seems very likely that San Francisco is the best bet. Why would you ruin that by cracking down on public nudity when there are already countless other cities that do that already? What alternative are you prepared to give us instead?

I believe that if you can't handle public nudity, then you ought to stay away from San Francisco. Either get used to it, or get out. And that's not me being rude - that's me returning the sentiment that people like you have been giving people like me all over the country on truly countless occasions. I'm not asking the whole world to adopt my stance on public nudity - the way you're asking the whole world to adopt your stance against it, by stamping it out wherever it crops up - I'm merely asking you to give us at least one city! Is that really too much to ask?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PDAs in the Park

I saw this one young couple at the park that was very affectionate with one another. The girl was kind of a wild child, with streaks of bright color in her hair. She was tall, and thin, and dressed to flatter her body. The guy was an odd match for her, slightly plump, unremarkably dressed. But I saw them kissing and touching one another playfully, the way that only intimate couples seem to do.

The girl was wearing a really short jean skirt and these cute brown boots. The two of them were making out on the playground equipment, oblivious to pretty much everything around them. At one point, I saw the girl standing in such a way, that I imagined for a brief second how it would look if she pulled up her skirt and let the guy give her cunnilingus.

Of course that wasn't the case, but the thought passed through my head, and the next thing I considered was how it would never happen - at least not out in the open in broad daylight. But then I started to wonder, why not? I mean, there are obviously laws against that sort of thing, but hypothetically speaking.

Let's get past the whole "people think sex is a sin, and public sex in particular is disgusting" bit, which is a cheap objection. What would be the harm in a guy giving a girl affectionate cunnilingus in the park? They weren't soliciting strangers, and there wasn't enough activity on the playground for them to be getting in the way of anybody. So what would happen if they were allowed to go about their business?

The first thing that comes to my mind is, if a hot young girl is letting some guy pleasure her orally in the park, then a lot of other guys are going to get jealous. Now I would hope that most of them would behave and leave it at that, but I can't help imagining that some guys with a lot of confidence and arrogance and, let's admit it, stupidity, would think that because this girl is getting intimate in public, they're somehow entitled to get in on the action, too.

These would be the same type of people who think that if a girl wears a short skirt, she's game for sexual harassment. Just imagine their thought process when the girl is not only dressed like a slut, but is actually having sex in public. "No fair, me too!" At the very least, they'd proposition the girl (while probably ignoring her guy), asking rudely to join in; and at worst, they'd force themselves on her regardless of her objections.

Okay, that's pretty scary. But it's mostly a symptom of the "if a girl looks hot, she's asking for it" line of thinking, which we ought to be working harder to combat anyway. That, and the idea that there are horny men out there who want more sex than they can get (whether it's because women don't want it as much as them, or because the women just don't want it with them).

But that's pretty much inevitable when we make sex something that's hard to get, and when we shame people (girls, usually) out of 'giving it up'. If people felt more comfortable having as much sex (and it would be safer sex if we could pull our heads out of our asses on the education front) as they wanted, then there would probably be less instances of pushy men resorting to rape (even if it's 'soft' rape) cause they can't get it legitimately.

I'm not saying those men are justified in their actions, I'm just saying I can see the chain of causality, and if a healthier approach towards sex on a cultural level (which is a good thing in and of itself) has the side bonus of reducing some rapists' motivation to rape, then that's even better, right?

Another thing that would help immensely would be to legalize prostitution across the board. If a desperate man could put down a few bucks to get laid, he'd be far less inclined to manipulate women to get the same end result.

More so if we reduce the stigma on prostitution - namely, that 'johns' are pathetic low-lifes (not to mention, at this time, usually criminals) who can't get it 'the real way'. That, and whores are always filthy sluts who carry diseases (which is far less true than you might think, and would be even less true if sex work were a legal, legitimate vocation).

I just don't see how the whole, "sex is a dangerous force, we have to regulate it tightly and keep people from thinking about it too much in order to reduce instances of sex-motivated antisocial behavior!" works. Are we not about as obsessed with sex, collectively, as we possibly could be in this country? Fat load of good that approach is doing then, isn't it?

And antisocial sexual behavior occurs all the time! The people running the show would say, "oh, it's just because we're not doing enough, send us more money." But I say, it's because the whole damn approach is wrong. Prohibition turns sex into a criminal activity. No wonder sex hounds act like criminals.

It's not because people want sex or because people think about sex or because people are exposed to sex. Give everyone who wants sex an outlet, stop criticizing them for thinking about sex, and give up on the whole stupid idea that being exposed to sex is offensive or even traumatizing. (Okay, maybe sex is gross to look at sometimes, but outside of porn, nobody is forcing it in your face).

I suppose that if we relaxed restrictions on sexual activity, there would be a whole lot more sex going on - or, at the very least, the sex that's already going on will be a whole lot more visible. All I can say is, so what? Sex is exciting. It feels good. It gets you turned on.

I imagine people who really do hate sex (and hate being reminded of it) would just love to see it all disappear, the way we try to make it do now. But I wouldn't mind being inundated with sexual media everywhere I go. God knows I'm inundated with other kinds of media, most of which don't even thrill me the way sex does...

Let couples get it on in public. Emphasize that sexual morality consists of how you treat people - specifically, whether you honor their consent, and only do things with people who want you to do those things with them - and not of whether or not you 'indulge' in the mortal sin of lust. That's a god damn given!

Being a good person is about more than resisting the temptations of the flesh. Flesh is tempting for a damn good reason - and it's not so that we can prove we're able to resist giving our body what it wants.

Moderation is a good thing, yes - but you can't be moderate unless you indulge sometimes. Abstinence is about as wacky as total, unrestrained hedonism, and if that's what your precious 'god' values, then He scares me as much as you do. Come off it already. Sex is a natural part of life. Let's learn to deal with it in a mature way already.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Boycott Good, Censorship Bad

I came across an internet news article (of dubious origin) on the subject of sexualizing Halloween, with the following headline, and it got me to thinking about what exactly it is about calls to action like this that disturb me so, as a civil rights advocate:

"Stop Selling Halloween Costumes That Sexualize Girls!"

Really? So much for freedom of choice. If you don't like this trend in Halloween costumes, I fully respect your right to your opinion, but how about "Stop Buying Halloween Costumes That Sexualize Girls" instead? Your objection to the notion that people would willingly buy into the sexualization of girls is duly noted, but your insistence that businesses not even be allowed to offer this choice to potentially discerning customers (benefit of the doubt, anyone?) is alarming.

I would fully support a new chain of costume stores that specialize in 'traditional' (that is: scary) Halloween costumes, or even one that's totally geared toward 'age-appropriate' (by completely subjective standards) kids' Halloween costumes (assuming such a thing would be profitable), as long as they're not accompanied by vindictive ad campaigns designed to smear the sexier competition (rather than offering "a refreshing alternative").

But you know, what's popular will be popular, and supply has a tendency to meet demand. The important thing is that people have a choice. You can argue why you think one choice is better than another, but calling to eliminate the very option you detest from being considered by others is very dangerous ground. Why can't we just live and let live?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ladies and Men

I'm going to tell you a true story, and then I'll let you come to your own conclusions about it.

A little while back, I stopped at a rest stop on the interstate because I had to use the bathroom. I went into the men's room, as I usually do, because that's what I was taught to do, having been raised without conflict as a boy. While standing at the sink washing my hands, a man came into the restroom. He took one look at me, and quickly turned around and walked out, thinking he had stepped into the ladies' room by mistake. This is not an unusual occurrence, and is not the first time this has happened to me.

Well, I recently stopped off at the very same rest stop, but this time, I decided to go into the ladies' room instead. According to the social rules I was taught, this is an enormous violation. But the rules weren't designed with transgender individuals in mind. Well, I was standing at the sink washing my hands (in a weird reverse image reflection of the earlier time in the men's room), and a woman came into the restroom, leading her school-aged daughter by the hand. They walked right past me without flinching.

Now I've got all the physical plumbing of a man, but not only do I feel more comfortable in the ladies' room than I do in the men's room, but men and women seem to feel more comfortable with it, too.

As I said, you can draw your own conclusions from this. I was very convincingly dressed and groomed as a woman the day I went into the ladies' room, whereas I wasn't trying especially hard to be feminine the day I used the men's room. Is biology the more important factor in determining proper restroom usage, or is psychology more important? Is it entirely a superficial issue - whether other people would guess you are male or female just to look at you - and if so, why are we gambling people's comfort and safety on something as unsubstantial as image?

If I go into the men's room looking like a girl, I fear for my own safety. But if I go into the ladies' room and am not convincing enough as a girl, I risk threatening other people's safety. Yet I know I wouldn't hurt anyone, and I'm not there for the purpose of violating anyone's privacy. Other people may not know that, but is it my responsibility to put myself at real risk of harm, in order to avoid imposing on anyone else the false threat of harm? Is that the price transgender individuals have to pay for being different?