Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Self-Portrait Photography

This is just a list I wrote up one day while bored.

The advantages of being a self-portrait photographer:

* You don't have to coordinate your schedule with other people.
* Your model is always on board with the kind of shots you want to take, as well as how you want to use them.
* You never have to bother with the confusing issue of model releases.
* You get experience modelling.

The disadvantages of being a self-portrait photographer:

* You can't really take any truly spontaneous shots.
* You get less experience behind the camera.
* Shoots encompass an awful lot of guess and check.
* You only ever have one body to work with, whether it's the one you want or not.

As a social recluse, I am greatly advantaged by the choice to be a self-portrait photographer. However, that last point is the crucial one. Luckily, in my case, I am at least moderately attractive, and that has brought me quite far. But in the end, it's not far enough. I know it's hard to believe, but I didn't pick up a camera to take pictures of feminized erotic male nudes. That means I am going to have to start working on my people skills.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Stigma of Sex

If a person can become a photographer because he's inspired by the beauty of natural landscapes, and wants to capture and share that beauty with the world, then is it any less valid if a person becomes a photographer because he wants to capture the beauty of naked women and share it with the world?

I think that the biblical concept of lust as a mortal sin presupposes that one's disproportionate interest in sex outshines other important concerns in life; and I think that, from an artistic perspective, this is the problem with most pornography, where the goal is to produce a sexually appealing - rather than an artistically accomplished - image. But if your goal is to depict eroticism artistically, then what's wrong with that?

Sex is an uncomfortable topic for many, but it is a part of life, and I feel that it deserves the artistic treatment just like everything else. And it's not like sunsets or wildlife or flower macros or sports or newborns or any other popular genre of photography is any less cliché, or has any less potential for commercialism, than taking pictures of nude subjects (that may or may not be engaged in sexual activity). Yet, as an erotic photographer, I have a really hard time finding like minds among respected art communities.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why YOU Should Be Sex-Positive

I'm a pervert. I'm sexually liberated. I enjoy the sensual, erotic aspects of life, and I voluntarily spend a lot of my time indulging in them. Obviously, being sex-positive serves me, because I can be positive about who I am and what I do, and not wallow in shame. But why should you be sex-positive, if you're not like me?

The answer is, being sex-positive doesn't just help you to have better sex - although it does, and that's a worthwhile goal of its own. But I imagine that not everybody places "having better sex" as a high priority in their life. Maybe the sex you're having right now is fantastic. Maybe you don't really like sex - whether or not it's due to a sex-negative attitude - and having better sex is actually contrary to your goals.

But there's more to sex-positivity than just having better sex. And even if you, personally, are not in a position to reap the physical and psychological benefits of having a sex-positive attitude (although I doubt that's completely possible), I believe that embracing sex-positivity on a widespread scale will do much to alleviate the pain and suffering of many who currently live under a sex-negative framework, and increase their pleasure and enjoyment of life significantly.

The attitude of sex-negativity hinges on the belief that there is something immoral or sinful about sex. Obviously, if you have this opinion, then you're not going to think that embracing sex will improve the state of society. But sex is a natural part of human life, and as sexual organisms, we all experience sexual feelings and desires. Going against the grain, and saying that sex is the problem in the first place, is a very warped view of human nature and, if you're religious, God's creation.

Look at all the problems that sex-negativity fosters. How many people experience guilt and shame over their sexual feelings and desires? How many people grow up hating themselves, or being hated by others, because of the sexual feelings and desires they experience? Additionally, gymnophobia (the fear of nudity) contributes to the body image disorders that are becoming pandemic in modern society.

Sex obsession and sex addiction are often cited as sex-related problems that modern society faces. It is understandable that sex-negative social activists would caution us that embracing a more positive attitude toward sexuality would feed into these "illnesses", but this is actually backwards. Addiction and obsession are rampant, now, because we repress our sexual urges, and they are forced to manifest in unhealthy patterns of behavior.

Just because sex-positivity celebrates the positive role of sex in life, does NOT mean that it advocates turning a blind eye to people who engage in unhealthy patterns of behavior. Sex-positivity does NOT mean saying "sex is always awesome, let's all have sex all the time". It simply means having a more positive attitude toward sex, and treating it with the reverence and respect it deserves - which also means taking it seriously when it causes problems in people's lives.

The fact is, if we embrace sex, we will become less obsessed with it, and it will no longer be a marginalized aspect of our lifestyles, just dying to break out after dark and transgress all boundaries; it will instead be re-integrated into our daily lives, and recover it's own appropriate level of focus.

Another problem that sex-negativity causes - and this is a serious one - is a lack of communication. Negative attitudes support a stigma surrounding sex and our bodies. This makes it hard for people to develop healthy attitudes, and to seek help when problems occur. That not enough people practice safe sex often enough, which itself leads to the transmission of diseases and unplanned pregnancies, is a symptom of a lack of communication, often caused by embarrassment about the topic of sex, but also by prudish, overly modest attitudes - the kind that support abstinence as a "form" of contraception and the cultural institution of slut-shaming.

All of these problems could be alleviated by embracing a sex-positive attitude. Chances are you've been raised in a sex-negative culture, whether those influences have been blatant or more subtle. And if so, you feel uncomfortable about the topic of sex. Naturally, you're going to feel uncomfortable about adopting a more sex-positive stance, and probably healthily skeptical about the good it can do.

But think about all the social problems we have to deal with related to sex. Many of them are directly caused by the same embarrassment you feel, the stigma that causes people to feel less than happy, and be less than vocal, about the sexual aspect of their lives. And most if not all of the others are exacerbated by the culture of silence and shame that keeps these problems in the dark, where they fester without access to solutions.

Do you want to continue to contribute to that? Is your embarrassment, your allegiance to the social mandate that there is something unholy about the natural biological function of sexual desire and intimacy, more important to you than helping to heal society of its crippling sexual malaise? If not: if you're ready to stop struggling against your natural impulses, if you'd rather stand up and do something good for the world, then start to adopt a more sex-positive stance today. The more of you who do, the more popular it will become, and the better off we will all be in the long run.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teacher's Pet

A message to students everywhere: have a great school year! And don't forget, your teachers put a lot of work into preparing those lesson plans, so be sure to show your appreciation by giving them something in return!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Porn Without Plot

I've come to you today to talk about a very frustrating issue: the current state of pornography in modern culture. It's pretty sad when a person as sex-positive and pro-porn as I am can't stay interested while watching porn. I mean, take any television series with a premise that intrigues me, and I could sit down and watch several hour-long episodes in a row - because the story keeps me interested. But after an hour of, say, Girls Gone Wild, I'm plain bored. And it's not that the porn isn't hot and exciting. But it's just sex. And how long can just sex keep an intellectual guy like me stimulated?

This is why I want more from my porn. But there's a problem, because a lot of people believe that porn should remain separated from the rest of our entertainment media. This is, incidentally, a great example of the compartmentalization of sex that I've written about before. The prevailing opinion (from the non-shamelessly perverted majority) on erotic scenes in non-pornographic movies is that they should be "tasteful" which is to say merely suggestive and never explicit. Why? Because, if a person wants porn, they'll seek out porn.

And that's precisely the purpose for porn. Not to tell stories that involve human sexuality, but specifically to turn people on and then get them off, as concisely as possible. And I have to admit, there is a place for media like that. Sometimes, you're just really horny, you've got noone to get it on with, and you need something to stimulate you. But is that all media depictions of human sexuality are good for? It sounds to me like a symptom of the mindset that sex is only good for one thing. It's not worth intellectual discussion. It's not worth artistic consideration. And it should stay well away from all non-"sex ghetto" parts of daily life.

Sometimes, you have people who try to make porn with a plot. In fairness, sometimes it works really well (please read Alan Moore's Lost Girls if you like good porn with plot). But a lot of it is just really bad. And it contributes to the stereotype that porn with plot is terrible, and reinforces many people's belief that porn has one function, and telling a story is not part of that. On the other side of the divide, you have professionals who are telling really fantastic stories, but they almost always avoid bringing sex into the story. And when they do, it's always "tasteful" and "suggestive", and never explicit. (George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, is one notable exception to this rule).

What, exactly, is wrong with including explicit depictions of sex in mainstream entertainment - not even gratuitously, but where it serves the story, like in romances, for example? And not just sex, either, but explicit nudity? Unfortunately, the barriers to doing so are formidable, and have much to credit our modern taboo on sex for. Many people are happy to keep sexuality marginalized, but I fear that it does us (as a species of sexual organisms) more harm than good. And one of the symptoms is really crappy porn that can't hold your interest.

Look, in my life, sex is not simply a disconnected act that occurs behind closed doors and is not talked about outside the bedroom. And I'm not just talking about sexual intercourse. I'm talking also about sexuality - sexual desire and sexual orientation - sensuality, and eroticism. Sex is a part of life - and an important one - and I believe in the importance of integrating sex into other aspects of one's life. Thus, when telling a story about people, it makes sense that sex may come up as a topic with real importance (and not just to titillate the audience). And, because I do not fear and shy away from sex, I don't see what's wrong with depicting that sexuality explicitly.

Even if this formula for fictional entertainment is not suitable for widespread audiences (and obviously it won't be, so long as taboo and negativity prevails), I do believe it has its place. We are plagued with a scarcity of really good erotic entertainment - and here, maybe an appropriate distinction between pornography and erotica can actually be made. It's not that porn is more explicit than erotica, but that porn is produced solely for the purpose of getting people off, whereas erotica is more like other kinds of entertainment, but it does not shy away from approaching the subject of sex, and does not try to refrain from titillating its audience, but is concerned first and foremost with telling a good story, or appealing to other aspects of a person's interest beyond the simple goal of arousal to orgasm.

And, really, that's the definition I've been using for my photography all along. Photos tell stories in a much different way than narratives do. But putting the story-telling aspect aside, I have never shied away from being "too explicit" in the service of my erotic photography, because I know it is not a coy attitude toward sexuality that sets my art apart from simple pornography, it is the sensitive approach I use to depict my subject - whether it is the sensual appeal of nudity, or the full-scale titillation of sexual intercourse - with consideration to all the artistic elements that come together to form a beautiful and artistic (and not just sexy) picture. And I think the very same approach could be applied to the production of pornographic videos.

Obviously, it would require a different mindset - the goal being to make a great product, not to bring the audience to orgasm - but the result would be far more interesting, and I think it would serve to promote a healthier attitude toward sex, that integrates it back into the great multitude of facets of everyday life, liberating it from marginalization and helping to shed its stigma. Sex is a beautiful thing, and a regular part of life - like the sunrise; it is not a tool brought out of the woodshed only for the purpose of making people cum.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nude Fashion

There's one thing I don't understand about fashion photography - why do all these people think these models look better with their clothes on? This realization hit me when I saw a clothing ad in a magazine featuring a girl wearing one of those shirts with a wide collar that almost hangs off her shoulder, thereby exposing her beautiful clavicle to the world. And then I thought, I wonder how much more interesting the rest of her body would look without those boring, lifeless layers of manmade fabric covering up her natural beauty (or at least as natural as a photoshopped magazine ad can be).

I mean, I know I'm a pervert - I don't deny that fact - but it's not even about that. I'm not saying all these models should do porn (not that I would be against that, either). I'm just saying that I think the naked body is infinitely more interesting than the clothes we put on it. That's not to say that I have no interest in fashion - I do. Clothes can be a lot of fun, and they can look nice, too. But as an artist, the naked human body is so much richer an object for study and appreciation. (I think this is among the reasons why I will always be an art photographer, and not a commercial photographer).

I recently added a new quote to my sidebar on this topic. Well, actually, it's an old quote, and one that I'd passed over in the past. I've seen it used an awful lot among the nudist community, and that, I think, caused me to view it as a sort of cliche. But I'd always liked it, and recently I realized that, not only was it written by an artist (as opposed to a nudist) - I'm sure you've heard of Michelangelo - but it actually applies to art. Specifically, nude art, which Michelangelo had no qualms about dabbling in (see: endless controversies over whether or not David should be covered up). So, as a nude artist (in both senses of the term), I am reclaiming the quote for art.

"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?"
 - Michelangelo

And I don't give a damn whether you're an artist who thinks there is nothing sexual about nude art, or a pervert who thinks the great appeal of nudity is sexual in nature (I give weight to both of those arguments), either way, the truth and the importance of this quote is not diminished. A naked body is more beautiful than a clothed one, and that's true whether you're sexually attracted to it, or if it's rather your aesthetic inclinations that are aroused (my ideal would be both, simultaneously).

I regret that modern "civilized" society likes to throw a fit about anything that has to do with human sexuality, but I'm not going to let that get in the way of my appreciation for the beauty of life. As a matter of fact, whether you're for porn or against it, I think that in either case, if you were to be honest with yourself, you'd find that you agree with this statement: the world needs more nude art. (Whether for supplementation or diffusion, I leave up to you).

Of course, if all you can see in an image of the unclothed human body is ugliness and sin, then, as Oscar Wilde would say, you are the one who is corrupt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Entertaining Myself

I'm in the middle of a weeklong process (delayed partially because I didn't have enough space on my hard drive for all my pictures) of organizing several gigs of photos I took on a trip to the mountains last weekend; I have several other photo ideas in my head that I'm holding off on until I finish this set, including one that's very time-sensitive and I want to get done very soon; and I still end up doing a spontaneous, unplanned shoot when a bolt of inspiration strikes me while browsing random pics on the web (from conception to completion in just one hour!).

Yeah, you could say I'm obsessed with photography.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slumber Party Campout

Back in 2010, I produced an image titled Slumber Party. I don't remember what the genesis of the idea for that image was, but the goal was to capture the iconic atmosphere of a girls' slumber party. As a self-portrait photographer, this - of course - could only be accomplished via a clone shot, with me posing as each of the girls. In choosing the outfits and hairstyles for the four girls, I ended up creating distinct personae for each of them: the beauty queen, the athlete, the sex pot (a.k.a. lolita), and the air head. The result was one of my most elaborate shots to date, and proved to be very popular.

One of the elements that most intrigued me about Slumber Party was the different outfits the girls wore. I liked their variety, and how they reflected the girls' personalities, indicating the different styles of pajamas a girl might wear to bed (or a sleepover). There were still more outfits I wanted to depict, so after a time I began to consider shooting a sequel to the first image. I was inspired by the slasher film Slumber Party Massacre, and decided to make my sequel an homage to the horror genre that I am so fond of. But due to my experience and interests, I chose to focus on the sexual subtext of the concept, without ignoring the violence completely.

During the planning phase, Slumber Party Massacre grew from a single image into a 7-part series, featuring each of the four girls twice - once together, during the titular party, and each of them individually, offering insight into their personal, daytime lives. As a result, we learned that the air head was a cheerleader, the athlete belonged to a swim club, the beauty queen had a substantial wardrobe, and the sex pot liked to engage in illicit activities in the boys' restroom. Additionally, a fifth character was introduced - the perverted killer - showing up in each shot (usually hiding in the background) - and an aftermath shot was included to round out the week and provide closure.

Months of effort went into producing the series, aided by my creative assistant and close friend Willow, who also helped out with the original Slumber Party image. The sequel, released in 2011, was even more elaborate than the original (to a substantial degree), and though I don't think any of the individual images stand out quite like the first Slumber Party, they work well together to tell an entertaining story. (You can dive into it right here on my blog).

Understandably, I needed a break after Slumber Party Massacre, so it was a while before I even considered the thought of completing the trilogy; and when I finally did, I was determined to scale back and produce another single image like the original Slumber Party. But the thing was, I didn't want to repeat myself. So I needed an original idea. And then it hit me. What's similar to a slumber party, but different enough to avoid repetition? Sleepaway camp! It was a fantastic idea, so I got started on planning the third image in the series: Slumber Party Campout.

Which I have just finished this weekend. Here it is, for the first time ever:

The name of the camp is Camp Climax, an homage to a sight gag in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Lolita (a book that appeared in the original Slumber Party). This time, the athlete is decked out in (rather skimpy) hiking gear; the beauty queen is traipsing barefoot through the grass in a sundress and flower crown; the sex pot has donned a string bikini, no doubt headed for the nearest swimming hole; and the air head's got her Girl Scout uniform on, enjoying a toasted marshmallow. By far, the most difficult outfit was that Girl Scout uniform, which Willow and I created from scratch - including that sash complete with made-up badges! Here's a closer look:

This was my opportunity to apply my own perverted touch to the Girl Scouts, so naturally I didn't hold back. As a result, I proudly introduce to you the Girl Sluts of America! In this organization, girls are awarded badges both for demonstrating experience in sexual skills and for reaching a variety of milestones on their journey to adulthood. Allow me to describe the various badges featured on the sash above, in the order that they appear (left to right, top to bottom), along with the requirements for earning them :

* Cookie Seller (req: participate in the Girl Sluts Cookies program, where girls learn to work the streets and ply their wares)
* Training Bra (req: purchase/wear first bra or training bra)
* Bikini (req: wear two-piece bikini-style swimsuit in public)

* Thong (req: purchase/wear thong underwear or bikini)
* Naturism (req: participate in a naturist camping trip)
* Shaving (req: first time shaving legs or other body parts)

* Puberty (req: first period)
* Self-Exploration (req: show basic understanding of your own anatomy and demonstrate arousal to orgasm)
* Lesbian Experimentation (req: share an erotic experience, including kissing and/or touching, with another female)

* High Heels (req: wear high heel shoes in public)
* Makeup (req: demonstrate basic competency as a makeup artist)
* Dancer (req: perform a choreographed dance routine in front of an audience)

* Virginity Loss (req: engage in penetrative sexual intercourse with a male)
* Oral Technique (req: demonstrate basic competency giving blowjobs)
* Sexting (req: send sexually explicit image/text digitally to another person)

* Toys (req: demonstrate usage of various sex toys on oneself)
* Discipline (req: submit to an erotic spanking)
* Bondage (req: demonstrate basic competency with knots)

* Free Love (req: show willingness to give sexual pleasure to others unselfishly)
* SlutWalk (req: participate in a SlutWalk event)
* Cock Slut (req: awarded to girls upon completion of the Girl Sluts program)

And there you have it. I hope you're as excited about the completion of the Slumber Party trilogy as I am. I put in lots of work, and had lots of fun producing these images. It is very satisfying to be able to look at the completed images and see the fruits of my labor. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I have no plans for there to be any further continuation of the Slumber Party series, but I will not rule out the future possibility, provided a good, solid idea comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will no doubt continue to produce clone shots, many involving me dressed in various feminine fashions, that are not officially part of, but certainly in the vein of the Slumber Party series (such as this one I put together in 2012, depicting a sex ed class).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Protect The Skin You're In

I just found out that Miley Cyrus recently posed nude for a skin cancer charity. Marc Jacobs is offering for sale a t-shirt with the nude image of Miley Cyrus, accompanied by the slogan "Protect The Skin You're In", with all proceeds going to the NYU Skin Cancer Institute.

This is a double boon - we get to see Miley naked, and it supports a good cause! It's win-win! I am so excited by this news, and my respect for Miley so strong, that I wanted to do something special (aside from purchasing one of her tees) to show my support for her. Please enjoy this self-portrait tribute, inspired by the campaign Miley posed for:

To be clear, I think people should have the freedom to get naked without having to justify themselves. If you or me or Miley Cyrus wants to pose nude in a public forum, I consider that a positive thing, regardless of what it's for. But unfortunately, despite posing nude (tastefully, you'll notice) for charity - in a context where nudity is entirely appropriate and not gratuitous (it's skin cancer, people) - I am still seeing tons of criticism leveled against Miley by moral conservatives, and it makes me sick.

It's that kind of slut-shaming mentality (which is not targeted exclusively at people who actually behave promiscuously, but to anyone who chooses to dress or act in ways that contradict an unreasonably strict standard of modesty) that prevents other, less determined individuals from making decisions like the one that Miley recently made, because they can't (or don't want to) deal with the criticism. The result is a scarcity of healthy depictions of nudity in the media, and a lack of support for healthy attitudes about our bodies and towards sexuality in general, which contributes to the moral quagmire we are currently stuck in.

For that reason, I respect Miley Cyrus enormously, for the strength of will she demonstrates in making these decisions that support the authentic expression of her individuality - and yes, I think she's a great role model, even for children. The irony is that I respect her so much because she's the kind of person who doesn't need my support to be just who she is; but I want to show my support for her nonetheless. These are exactly the reasons I bought her album Can't Be Tamed when it came out just a few years ago, despite not being into the pop music scene. I'll be putting that disc on rotation today.

I heart you, Miley!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mutual Attraction

The picturesque, fairy-tale view of romance that we are all taught to believe in as children involves a mutual attraction, wherein each partner of a couple is drawn to and desires the other. It promotes the principle of love, and freedom of choice in who we choose to marry, even as the reality of arranged marriages and partnerships where one desires the other more than the reverse, and where the disadvantaged party is encouraged to give the relationship time, so that she may "grow to love" her partner, encroaches on that fantasy ideal.

The way gender politics are set up in this world, with regard to sexual selection rites, is that the female is expected to preen, so that the male may hunt and choose his mate. It would be naive to believe that the female has no power of choice in deciding her mate, but the balance of power and selection stands squarely in the male's corner. Yet - as loath as I am to feed into misogynistic PUA culture - there is a perceived difference of experience between the "alpha" males, who get to take what they want, and the so-called "beta" males, who must pick from the scraps.

As a rather effeminate male, with a deficiency of social skills and self-confidence, I have rarely been in a position to pursue those females I am attracted to. I do not whine and blame the females for my own deficiencies, however the fact remains. And I am not alone, as a guy who dreams of going out with a smoking hot model-caliber beauty, who nevertheless must largely resign himself to the likely fact that this is no more than a pipe dream. Were prostitution legal, one such as me could trade of his resources (whatever they may be) for an experience with such a woman, but you can not buy that woman's desire (for anything other than what you are buying her with).

Oh, to be wanted, by the very one you want. It must be a lovely experience. To be honest, I am not completely alien to it, but my experience is largely biased toward one-sided attractions, and tragic, unrequited loves. Going in both directions, mind you. As an erotic model, I have made myself an icon of desire. Curiously, though I originally hoped to have a larger female fanbase, I have found that I am disproportionately popular among gay males.

This is curious, indeed, and begs considerable consideration. Loath, also, am I to tap into cultural stereotypes of gender and sexuality, but they are impossible to ignore. Men are said to be more sexual than women. I don't actually believe that, but I do believe that women are more likely to keep their sexuality private, for fear of social ramifications. It is also said that men are disproportionately affected by visual representations of sexuality, compared to women (who, stereotypically, gravitate toward literary erotica instead). As much as I dislike that conclusion, I must concede the possibility that it represents a biological difference between the sexes.

Nevertheless, in my personal life, outside the realm of being a photo model, the trend has reinforced itself. I seem to receive a disproportionate amount of attention from gay males, and a relative dearth of attention from straight females. This may certainly be a result of my effeminacy, which I lament. I want to appeal to straight females, but it would be inauthentic for me to adopt a culturally masculine appearance (and mannerisms) - essentially, becoming someone I'm not to trick someone I like into liking me.

Still, I haven't ruled out the possibility that straight females are simply not expressing their attraction to me because, a) they are expected to be more sexually passive and less aggressive compared to males, and b) my social reticence presents a barrier for most people to 1) get to know me well enough to decide if they are attracted to me, and 2) let me know how they feel if they do. Nevertheless, whatever the causes, I would feel a lot happier, and be a lot more confident, if I knew that I was reciprocally desired by the sort of people (it doesn't have to be every single one of them) I myself desire.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Slut Day

Today is the first Saturday of August - that means it's Slut Day! So be sure to don your sluttiest outfit, and walk the streets! Or, if you don't have the courage, you can still celebrate by throwing a Slutty Party and inviting all your friends to dress in their sluttiest clothes (tip: private homes can have more lax dress codes than public locations!).

Not a slut? That's okay! You don't have to be a slut to enjoy Slut Day, and participating in Slut Day does not mean you are a slut. Slut Day is an opportunity for everyone to get in touch with their inner slut. And the more people that participate, the better we can stand up and fight the culture of slut-shaming!

Slut Day is not officially affiliated with SlutWalk, but it does share with it a common ethos: namely, to raise awareness of the fact that a person's manner of dress does not dictate their sexual behaviors, and also that a person does not give up their dignity, respect, and humanity by choosing to express their sexual agency.

So this is it! Whether you just want to wear that slutty outfit you never had the guts to leave the house in before, or you're looking for an excuse to flirt up a storm, this is your day. But please remember, if you do engage in any promiscuous behaviors - like every other day of the year - be safe! And if you bump into some-sexy-body, remember to treat them like a human being and honor their consent (or lack thereof)!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Echo Chamber

I'm still reading lots of more and less fascinating articles at The Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Here is a quote from one such paper about fidelity and sexual ethics. Some of the author's conclusions are a bit conservative for my tastes, but it is otherwise a good read. And he argues masterfully the absurdity of the dominant view of sex as an activity whose primary purpose is procreation. Allow me to paraphrase for impact and clarity:

"The sex life of a typical person involves thousands of erotic episodes (including masturbation), frequently leading to orgasm. Of these, it would be very unusual if more than half a dozen of these events were reproductive. Thus, the notion that human sexuality is to be explained by its reproductive function is simply based on an ignorance of human sexuality."

I really liked this review of the book America's War on Sex, which clearly articulates the problems America has with sex, and exactly the reason I am so frustrated with the American view of sexuality. We are positively obsessed with sex (as is the human condition), but as an erotophile, this doesn't comfort me, because our attitudes toward sex are so poisoned by shame and hypocrisy. You're not actually allowed to enjoy sex, you just indulge in it (because you can't help yourself), and are then supposed to feel bad about it afterward.

On that note, here's a brief discussion of sex-positivity, by Charlie Glickman. Also, in Glickman's dissertation on Sex and Shame: Authenticity in Adult Education (which is very long, and has more to say about adult education than sexual shame), he touches on Rubin's five ideas that feed into the social construct of sexual shame, that are so exciting, I have to introduce you to them here:

(These are discussed, with citations, in Chapter 5 of Glickman's dissertation).

1. "Sex-negativity is the assumption that sex is inherently degrading and sinful. While it may be redeemed through procreation, ideally without pleasure, sex is still damaging. This concept rests in part on the belief that the sexual organs are less holy than the heart and mind, much less the soul, and in part on the belief that anything that involves them is guilty until proven innocent. As Rubin points out, 'such notions have by now acquired a life of their own and no longer depend solely on religion for their perseverance.'"

Simply put, the pursuit of sexual pleasure is either viewed as a sin (if you're religious), or a vice (if you're not). It's not socially acceptable to view it as a virtue, much less an activity with divine significance.

2. "The fallacy of misplaced scale is a corollary of sex-negativity. When transgressions of sex 'standards' and laws are considered as deserving particularly harsh punishments, sexual acts become burdened with an excess of significance. Not only are many consensual sexual acts punishable as felonies in the United States, but outside legal contexts, differences in sexuality frequently provoke anxiety, fear and rage to a degree that differences in diet, hobbies or clothing do not."

This is quite vividly expressed by the attitude that sex is "different", not to be treated like other aspects of human experience, and specifically to be considered more grave and serious than other activities. It's the reason sex offenses carry more stigma than murder, and why gay people get disowned by their parents more frequently than vegetarians.

3. "The hierarchical system of sexual value refers to the pyramid of possible sexual acts in which married, reproductive heterosexuals are given erotic privilege. People who engage in non-reproductive sex, are unmarried, or deviate from this standard in any other way occupy lower positions. The closer one is to the apex, the more one is rewarded as mentally healthy, and given respectability, legality, physical and social mobility, material benefits and institutional support."

Inevitably, when you mention sex-negativity, you'll get some people claiming to view sex in a positive light, but with the caveat that only certain kinds of sex are good (like, straight, married sex). This absolutely feeds into a system of discrimination against sexual minorities and those who practice alternative sexual lifestyles.

4. "As a result of these tenets, United States society also believes in a domino theory of sexual peril. Only through constant vigilance can one climb up the pyramid of sexual value, much less remain at the peak. Any deviation from allowable sex can cause one to slide down to the unregenerate depths."

On the topic of the "slippery slope" argument, have you heard the one about the man who starts watching porn on the internet, only to become utterly addicted to the point of completely ignoring his wife, resulting in their divorce, who then seeks out more and more extreme erotic stimuli to satisfy his perverse hunger, until he finally gets arrested for soliciting a minor for sexual activities involving handcuffs, a leather whip, and a dog?

5. "The last facet of United States sexual beliefs that Rubin traces is the lack of a concept of benign sexual variation. As she describes, 'most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere.' Further, United States society 'discriminates against diversity' in general and with respect to sexual diversity in particular."

Along with sex-negativity, I think this is the most important of the five concepts. We insist upon this model of sexual normality, to the point that any variation is viewed as an undesirable aberration, and frequently a mental illness. Seriously, why can't we just accept that different people have different tastes in sex and leave it at that?