And by “one of the first,” I don’t mean she was doing it before it was cool. I mean she was doing it before it was being done. Her doing it is one of the things that made it possible for the rest of us to do it. She paved the way. She made a space.
I never met Tee Corinne. But she’s one of the people who made my life easier.
I feel bad that I never took the time to write her while she was alive and thank her. So I want to do that now — not just Tee, but all the people who’ve made talking about sex, and making art about sex, and providing/getting accurate information about sex, that much easier. I always get pissy when young sex writers/artists act like it’s always been this easy and don’t acknowledge the debt of gratitude they have towards the people who came before them. So I want to say thank you now.
To all of you I want to say: I am not an ungrateful child. I am more grateful than I could possibly say.
“(Carly) Simon has found that physical pain often trumps psychological terror. ‘If you have something that’s hurting you physically, the pain is the hierarchy,’ she said. To that end, she has been known to take the stage in tight boots, to jab her hand with clutched safety pins, and even, just before going on, to ask band members to spank her. At a celebration for President Bill Clinton’s fiftieth birthday, at Radio City Music Hall, in 1996, Simon, terrified of following Smokey Robinson, invited the entire horn section to let her have it. ‘They all took turns spanking me,’ she says. ‘During the last spank the curtain went up. The audience saw the aftermath, the sting on my face. I bet Olivier didn’t do that.'”
I’ll have to remember it, though. The next time I do an erotica reading, I’ll have to insist on getting a spanking beforehand to cure my stagefright. Of course, I’ve never suffered from stagefright in my life… but that’ll be our little secret.
Damn. Only eight planets in the solar system. Freaky.
And I heartily approve. The whole “pro-Pluto” movement reeked of rank sentimentalism. We can’t just go around all willy-nilly calling things planets just because we’re fond of them.
But now we have a far more serious question on our hands: What’s going to be the new mnemonic? Like many of you, I learned at a very early age that my very elegant mother just sat upon nine porcupines. What’s she going to sit upon now? Ninjas? Nunchuks? Narwhales? Nixon? We need a new mnemonic, and we need it fast! Suggestions, people? We don’t have a moment to lose!
Hide and Seek
by Greta Christina
Dirty Found Magazine, issue #1
Davy Rothbart & Jason Bitner, editors
I can tell you this for certain: it’s not like any other dirty magazine you’ve seen.
Dirty Found is the same thing, but… well, dirty. The letters, the photos, the drawings, the to-do lists, the email printouts… all of them have to do with sex. The photos found tucked into used books show people proudly displaying their naked or half-naked bodies. The drawings found on the street depict naked people, explicit sex, bizarre erotic scenarios. The journal found in the trash pile gives meticulously explicit details about the journal writer’s wildly kinky sex life — and the extreme sex fantasies that even she’s scared of.
So like I said, this is definitely not your grandfather’s porno mag. It’s much more personal than that, more intimate. Dirty Found is like a secret spy camera in a motel room, like being a fly on the wall in dozens of bedrooms at once. It’s a peek through a keyhole at the dirty freaky things people do but never tell anyone about; it’s the naughty, nasty, voyeuristic thrill of seeing things you aren’t supposed to see.
At the same time, it’s unbelievably sweet and touching. The photos especially: the people in them look so pleased with themselves, so proud of their bare asses or their sexy underwear or just their cocks and cunts. And it’s so ferociously personal. Seeing these pictures and reading these notes, you almost feel like you’re the one they were meant for. It’s as if you’re the naughty secret lover these folks were thinking of when they scribbled their fantasies in a notebook, like you’re the giggling, dirty-minded boyfriend or girlfriend who snapped the picture when they took off their clothes and spread their legs for the camera.
My personal favorite is the journal. Several pages of this one journal are reproduced in Dirty Found, the journal of a writer/performance artist/dirty dirty girl that someone found in some New York trash. The journal describes this woman’s kinky sexual adventures with her lover and her fantasies about him, adventures and fantasies that would put many a smut writer to shame. She writes about ordered to dress up like a slut and display her ass, being ordered to lick his asshole and beg to get fucked. She writes about pissing on her lover, and getting pissed on by him, and fucking him with an enema nozzle before she delivers the enema. She writes about the freaky shit fantasies they talk about while they’re fucking, and the even more freaky shit fantasies that she thinks about when she masturbates. (She draws, too, so some of these stories come with illustrations.)
But this is a journal, not a smutty novel… so not everything in it goes right. For instance: She describes a moment where her lover began to beat her bare ass with a belt; but he hit her too high, it was unpleasant and un-erotic, and she made him stop. Now, in a smutty story, this could be jarring, the sort of thing that jolts you out of the fantasy and back into the yucky real world. But here, the real world is the whole point, and the mis-strokes and awkward bits just make the image even more real, more immediate — and therefore, a whole lot more hot. I love what a shameless pervert this woman is, how intense she is about her dirtiness and how much she enjoys it. And I like her style — her journal is unpolished but quite well-written, probably the best-written thing in the whole magazine.
What I want to talk about now is not the people who run the “Girls Gone Wild” empire, but the “Girls Gone Wild” videos themselves — and the women who perform in the videos.
And more specifically, I want to talk about what’s being said about the women in the videos.
And I have much the same problem with both. I think there’s more than a whiff of patronization, and elitism even, in both attitudes.
Will they regret it later? Maybe. Some of them almost certainly will. But you know, a lot of us have done things in our youths that we now regret and can’t take back. (My entire first relationship leaps to mind.) Making dumb choices that you regret is part of being young. It’s the flip side of risk-taking and adventure.
Which brings me to my second point: the “they’re squandering their feminist heritage” argument.
This is the one that really bugs me. It’s as if sexual liberation is only for those of us with the right sex-positive feminist credentials — not for yahoo sorority girls who want to pull their shirts up on camera. Like they don’t deserve to have sexual choices, because they’ll make the wrong ones.
Can we please treat them like adults, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do what they do because they want to do it?
Can we please at least try to remember that other people like different sexual things from what we like… and not jump to the conclusion that if someone is doing something sexual that we wouldn’t enjoy, therefore they don’t enjoy it either, and therefore they’re only doing it out of manipulation, desperation, coercion, drunkenness, low self-esteem, cultural brainwashing, etc.?
This review originally ran in Adult Friend Finder magazine, where I’ve been writing for about a year and a half now. I’ve done a lot of good work for them, but this is one of my favorites. It uses a dirty book review as a jumping-off point to think about the anatomy of a dirty story, and how porn fiction works — or doesn’t. Enjoy!
For Better or Worse
by Greta Christina
Taboo: Forbidden Fantasies for Couples
edited by Violet Blue
Cleis Press, $14.95
But while all erotica anthologies are uneven, some are more uneven than others. Some hit a consistently high note, ranging from damn good to fucking great; others wobble about in the range from mediocre to pretty decent. And some, like Taboo, are all over the damn map, with stories that send you flying… and stories that make you wonder why even the writer cared.
And there’s a huge variety in the quality of those stories. Taboo is so interestingly uneven that you could almost use it in a writing class, an object lesson in what makes porn fiction work — and what doesn’t.
Which leads me to Lesson 2: A porn story should be… well, a story. At the risk of sounding pretentious, it should have a narrative arc: it doesn’t have to have a lot of non-sexual plot, or indeed any, but the characters should be in one place at the beginning of the story, someplace else at the end of it. You can get away with a series of disjointed sexual images in video porn, since it’s such a visual medium; but unless it’s written by an exceptionally good experimental writer, a porn story has to unfold, with some suspense about where things are going. This isn’t just a literary nicety — it makes the porn hotter, making it easier to identify with the characters, and giving it a sexual tension right along with the dramatic tension.
And of course, any good narrative has to have conflict. This may be the lesson Taboo was in the greatest need of. Far too many of its stories gloss right over the hard parts: couples venture into three-ways with never a blink of jealousy or insecurity, and try freaky new fetishes with pure eagerness and no hint of anxiety or doubt.
Okay. All this babbling about the anatomy of a porn story is all very well and good. But it’s not helping you decide whether to buy the damn book or not. What’s my final verdict? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
P.S. You can buy Taboo at Powell’s.
Want to hear more? Come hear me read it in person! The Inside Story Time reading series is having an evening devoted to the topic of Bottoms, which they’re describing as “a literary exploration of the theme of sexual submission.” I’ll be reading from my erotic novella Bending (excerpted oh-so-briefly above), which was published in Susie Bright’s three-novella collection Three Kinds of Asking For It. Other readers at the event include Carol Queen, Stephen Elliott, and players to be named later.
The “Bottoms” reading will be on Thursday, August 17, from 7 to 9 pm, at the Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street in the Hayes Valley district of San Francisco. $3-$10 sliding scale. If you can’t come, you can read a more extensive excerpt from the novella on my Website. Plus, of course, you can buy the book at Powell’s.
And if you can make it to the reading, please say hi afterwards — I’d love to meet my blog readers. Hope to see you there!
Ever since I wrote the “Transcendental Skeptic” piece on this blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about the skeptic/spiritual believer question. Questions, I should say. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the question of how agnostics/atheists/skeptics and religious/spiritual believers can get along — and why, sometimes, we really can’t.
I have friends — extremely dear and close friends — who have religious or spiritual beliefs, in some cases strongly held ones. And this is not a problem, either for me or (as far as I know) for them. I don’t feel superior to these folks, and I don’t pity them. I don’t happen to agree with them — but so what? I don’t agree with a lot of people about a lot of things. I don’t even agree with myself all the time. Not agreeing with someone doesn’t mean I can’t connect with them.
In a few cases I even think they’re flat-out mistaken — but again, so what? I’m sure people in my life think I’m flat-out mistaken, about this topic or any number of others. And I’m sure that, in some cases, they’re right. I would be shocked beyond measure to find that I wasn’t mistaken about anything. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter that much. It doesn’t feel like an insurmountable barrier, or even like much of a barrier at all.
And yet, I don’t think it is. Not to me, anyway. Not always.
And why is it that sometimes the difference really is insurmountable?
There’s something else, though. Something both less utilitarian and more fundamental, something that does have to do with values and motivations.
Here’s what it is. I think there’s a profound difference between having a religious or spiritual faith that you hold despite there not being substantial evidence supporting it — and having a religious or spiritual faith that you hold despite the existence of substantial evidence that actually contradicts it.
And the former is something I can strongly identify with — while the latter is something that I just can’t.
But in life, you do that all the time. You have to. In life, you have to make decisions based on insufficient evidence, or even no evidence at all except your gut feeling. Big decisions, even. Especially if you’re going to have any kind of interesting and fulfilling life. You have to take risks and chances; you have to make leaps of faith.
So the fact that some people have decided that Yes there is a God of some sort, or Yes there is an immortal soul of some sort, or Yes there is some sort of metaphysical energy permeating the physical world, despite not having solid evidence to support that hunch… that’s something I can identify with. I don’t agree with them about that particular hunch, but the fact that they’re making major life decisions based on a hunch isn’t alien to me.
But hanging on to a religious or spiritual belief despite actual compelling evidence that contradicts it — that’s profoundly different.
And this is just baffling to me. I mean, even if you do believe in a God who created the universe, wouldn’t that make you respect and revere that universe more, and want to understand exactly what it is and how it works, as clearly as you could? Wouldn’t you think that God knew what He/She was doing — and when faced with hard evidence of how His/Her creation works, wouldn’t your religious humility and awe force you to revise your view of the world to better reflect His/Hers?
Faith that’s unsupported one way or the other by reality is one thing. Faith that flat-out denies reality is something else entirely. And it’s that kind of faith that reflects an approach to life that I find fundamentally and insurmountably different from mine.
It’s not that I can’t identify with it at all. The tendency to ignore reality when it contradicts your beliefs is probably a universal human trait, and it’s certainly something I’ve done more than once in my life, and will almost certainly do again.
But it’s not the foundation of my belief system. And I don’t think I’m right to do it. In fact, when I am doing it, I almost always feel a squirming in my belly, and an awkward foot-shuffling in my head, that tell me I’m being a jerk. And most of the time, after a certain amount of wrestling between my conscience and my opinionated stubbornness, I eventually let go of my old belief, and either revise it or abandon it to let the new evidence in.
Which brings me back around to my first point — namely, the fact that I care more about how people act than how they think. See, the reality-deniers don’t just think like close-minded assholes. They act like close-minded assholes. The kind of faith — religious or otherwise — that denies reality is what makes the Catholic Church deal with its child-molesting clergy crisis by drumming out gay priests… when the evidence shows that most child molesters are straight, and that gay people overwhelmingly do not molest children. It’s the kind of faith that makes people oppose sex education in schools because they believe it’ll make kids have sex earlier… when the evidence shows the exact opposite. (You knew I’d get sex in here somehow, didn’t you?) It’s the kind of faith that makes the Bush administration pursue a military/foreign policy that runs counter to the evidence and counsel provided by their own military and intelligence advisors, and continue to pursue it in the face of overwhelming evidence that it’s not working… because that evidence contradicts their own unshakable belief in their own righteousness.
And that is the insurmountable obstacle, the fundamental difference in values. To some extent, we all live in bubbles, the solipsistic bubbles of our own consciousness and experience. We all frame our observations and experiences with our beliefs and values. We all give more weight to facts that support our opinions, and less weight to facts that contradict it. But when someone consistently responds to solid real-world evidence that contradicts their beliefs by denying the evidence and clinging harder to their belief — and when they firmly believe that this is the right and moral thing to do — that represents a way of looking at the universe and your place in it that I simply can’t be tolerant of. And I don’t think I should be.
But that’s not a difference of spiritual versus skeptical. There are true-believer reality-deniers in the secular world, and flexible, open-minded people in the spiritual one. So when I find myself getting enraged at radical religious extremists — around the world and of every stripe, Christian and Muslim and Jewish and New Age and everything — who are trying to hammer a huge, messy world into a tiny square hole, I remind myself that this isn’t religious intolerance. It’s not the religion I’m intolerant of. It’s the rejection of reality — scientific, political, or simply human.
(AP) — The White House and Congress, caught unaware by Fidel Castro’s illness, prepared Wednesday for a possible showdown in Cuba as lawmakers drafted legislation that would pay millions of dollars to dissidents who fight for democratic change.
The handover was a surprise to the White House and Congress, one senator said.
“The president’s comment was that everybody was caught by surprise, and we’ll have to wait and see” what U.S. action is necessary, said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who discussed the developments with President Bush on Tuesday.
I don’t even want to talk about this legislation. I just want to say this: The Bush administration didn’t know that Fidel Castro was 79 years old, and therefore likely to get seriously ill? They weren’t prepared for this possibility, and were caught by surprise when it happened? They didn’t have a plan — even a cockamamie one — for what to do in the event that Castro got sick or died?
We are so completely fucked. I don’t even want to think about it.