In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Maintainting Kinship | Main | Fred and Bill »

August 13, 2008

Erotica Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* The Polish women's volleyball team is the clear winner of the Best Shorts award at the Beijing Olympics.

* Can anyone seriously dispute that women's beach volleyball is the greatest sport ever invented?

* Franz Kafka: owner of a considerable porn stash. I love the defensiveness expressed by the Kafka-worshipping set, don't you? Hey profs: Kafka was a dude. He liked looking at sexy pix. Chill.

* Erotica writer Mitzi Szereto is feelin' good about the publishing possibilities being opened up by Amazon's Kindle.

* What do porn stars do after they retire? (Hyper-NSFW.)

* MBlowhard Rewind: I mused about the topic of taboos. Short version: Perhaps we might consider violating and getting rid of them less and appreciating them and having fun with them more.

Incidentally, and despite the fact that there's little I dislike more than making my motivations explicit ... OK, I also so hate making general rather than specific cases that I'm sometimes tempted to make a general case against the making of general cases ... But no, I won't go there ...

Still, maybe the occasional wrestle with motivations and generalities can be useful ...

The reasons I do these erotica linkages are twofold. In the first place, of course, linking to sexy stuff is easy and fun, and it gives my mischievous side a chance to romp. Sexy linkage-ery may be cheap thrills -- but I have great respect and immense fondness for cheap thrills. The entertainment I often like best doesn't shy away from titillation and provocation; in it, sensual and imaginative arousal are prized. So why shouldn't I, in my tiny way, play in the same spirit?

In the second place, I like to think that I'm making a few points. Namely:

  • Eroticism is a substantial part of life.
  • Eroticism is an ever-more-prominent part of the spectacle that is popular culture.
  • Eroticism is a culture in its own right, much as, say, dance is, or as cooking-and-eating is.
  • Eroticism is, let's face it, one of the main reasons why many people are interested in the arts and the arts-life in the first place. Art seems like a sexy world, as well as a sexy thing to do, or to be caught up in, or just to visit.

It seems to me that being open about all this ... Seeing it as something of legitimate interest ... As something that might or might not be delivering experiences of pleasure ... And suggesting that looking at it all from a contemplative, humorous, yet appreciative point of view (perhaps this describes the "aesthetic" point of view?) ... might be both interesting and rewarding.

Works for me in any case. (And on a many-times-a-day basis!) If being involved in the arts -- and if following "culture" more generally -- didn't have a strong "sexy" component to it, I'd be flailing about in some other field entirely.

If you disagree, please let me know. Always fun to compare notes. But be prepared for the fact that I'm well-armed for debate. I've read much of the literature, and I've explored most of the debates pretty thoroughly. Even the uber-Tory philosopher Roger Scruton is at least partly on my side on this one -- he is the author of a very substantial book on what you might call the aesthetics of sex.

Hey world: Eroticism isn't a negligeable part of life, let alone of the arts. And it's an expansive culture in its own right, one that has generated an impressive body of philosophy, of literature, and of (god knows) visuals. If all this doesn't interest you, fine, if (by my lights) weird. But why pretend that it doesn't exist, let alone that an interest in it is flakey or laughable?

OK, now back to my usual superficial carrying-on ...



posted by Michael at August 13, 2008


It was fascinating listening to Delilah, and recognizing that she is a better person, more intelligent, wiser, and far, far more attractive as a woman and a human being than the ahems running those day cares. Why, she'd make somebody a great wife!

It's also of interest to me how utterly undamaged all of the women being interviewed seemed to be by their porn experiences. The only one who seemed at all ill at ease with his experiences was the guy.

And, damn, but haven't I developed an interest in the kind of BDSM thing going on at Never my thing before, but hola heyla, I've stumbled across a few sites recently via every man's porn surfing friend The Hun, and guess what? I like!

So now I've got a third kink to add to my other two. Which I will not be sharing here. Still, whatever happened to the "porn exploits women" crowd with this gen of women? Nothing dates a woman more than if she recycles that old Dworkin/Mackinnon stuff. "Porn exploits women"? I'm sneezing here. All the dust! Achoo!

Posted by: PatrickH on August 13, 2008 11:36 AM

The comments page for that Kafka article is a real hoot. Some of those people are incredibly defensive. Kafka as a "saint." Wow. What next?

Posted by: Lester Hunt on August 13, 2008 12:20 PM

I find most of the self-consciously erotic art to be rather dull. But maybe my tastes just run to the sophomoric.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on August 13, 2008 12:36 PM

What is interesting about the Eroticism as Taboo subject is that Eroticism is not taboo. You can talk about it. you can download it. Maybe you shouldn't talk about it at work, but that has more to do with Professionalism and Taste more than anything else.

However, as we have become more and more "tolerant", more and more things are becoming Taboo.

How free do you feel to talk about Muslim Terrorism?
Crime in the "inner city"?
Alimony, Child Support and Visitation Rights to a group of women?

Hell, check out (i.e. "Big Fat Deal"). It is a site that is, basically, trying to make it taboo to think anything less than positive about fat people. Including the idea that the majority of men (and women) are not attracted to fat girls (or girls to fat guys).

How free do you feel to say anything negative about gay people in Manhattan? I mean, anything?

Posted by: Usually Lurking on August 13, 2008 1:25 PM

Sex is not , obviously merely sex.or there wouldn't be so much song and dance about it in society.

but sometimes I think, instead of expressing ourself like our avian cousins, we tend to analyze and categorize and compartmentalize our thinking about sexuality and eroticism.

I find that a societal response to sex works best when you leave people alone to explore their sexuality and let it flow back into society as a reaffirmation.

Aint happennin' anywhere in the world.

Which is why we have built a neurois of commercialism around it , and constructed the adage "sex sells".

Posted by: Ramesh on August 13, 2008 3:02 PM

I always had a hard soft spot for the Poles.

Posted by: Scott on August 13, 2008 3:07 PM

You don't have to make excuses for linking this stuff, Michael. You're just a dirty old man. Like the rest of us.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 13, 2008 3:20 PM

Patrick, it's the pornogrification of society that's responsible for little girls running around in skank clothes, and teenage girls wearing T-shirts that say things like "Do I make you look fat?", and the boob jobs and waxing and all the rest of it that men and women now put themselves through.

But as porn becomes more ubiquitous, it's breeding more of a reaction, especially among younger women who don't particularly identify with feminism but hate the demands and expectations porn breeds, and young men who become "addicted" to the stuff and find to their shock that only porn turns them on.

I'm not especially hostile to erotic imagery, but none of this is a good thing, as I think even Michael would agree. It would be better if some aspects of human sexuality remained in the realm of "taboo". For one thing, the bored and the jaded wouldn't have to work so hard to find new thrills.

I don't think there's anything unnatural about being aroused by sexy pictures. I do think there's something unnatural about an entire society composed of people with their hands in their pants, eyes glazed over as they stare at images on a screen.


Posted by: alias clio on August 13, 2008 3:50 PM

I freely admit to being pretty hung up about sex, and seem to prefer it that way.

So for someone like me, I have to concur with Usually Lurking. What is so taboo about eroticism? We're saturated in it. In fact, I am generally annoyed with this whole Freudian reductionism we're in that seems to think sex is the *most* important motivator for human behaivior.

It isn't for me, and I can't be alone. Not that I begrudge anyone their own predilections with all the standard caveats, but I can't help but think a little more prudery is in order. Wouldn't that, perhaps, bring back the frisson of excitement that taboos mundane by today's standards used to enjoy?

Posted by: karlub on August 13, 2008 4:23 PM

I'll bet Kafka had a thing for Polish women. After all, they were just next door.

I see Kafka as too timid for the hard stuff. Bet he was more the worshipful submissive type.

Posted by: ricpic on August 13, 2008 4:25 PM

Kafka a porn addict? I mean, wouldn't you just assume that?

Posted by: intellectual pariah on August 13, 2008 5:44 PM

Clio, don't you read my blog? Girls stopped dressing slutty at least 3 years ago. The sales data show it. Anecdotally, you never see low-rise jeans matched with midriff-baring shirts anymore -- just the opposite: tops that end at least halfway down the buttocks. Thongs sales are plummeting while boy shorts sales are skyrocketing. Indeed, that slutty look was only "in" for 5 years tops. A blip.

Really, what percentage of girls wear a shirt that says "Do I make you look fat?" Being available for purchase doesn't mean being popular. In all the hours I've logged with bratty teenagers over the past 3 1/2 years, from tutoring to dance clubs, I've never once seen a shirt like that. Add to that all the teenagers I've seen on YouTube.

The fraction of people who watch porn has held pretty steady since the '80s. Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler have all seen their circulation plummet since their peak in the early/mid 1970s. All of the lad mags in the UK have tanked in the past several years; that trend is dead. Maxim is holding steady in the US, but it's not porny like it's British counterpart. Just pictures of "hot girls." Hell, they even canned Stuff Magazine in the US despite decent sales, perhaps because they saw the writing on the wall and wanted to get out before it was too late.

Posted by: agnostic on August 13, 2008 7:53 PM

I did say, Agnostic, that there was a movement afoot among young girls to turn away from outrageously provocative clothing. I'm pleased to hear that it's progressed further than I had realised.

"The fraction of people who watch porn has held pretty steady since the '80s. " --That strikes me as a preposterous statement. Aside from the fact that your stats don't appear to include internet porn at all, do you not think that the decline in printed smut is perhaps the result of the rise in online smut? Really, Agnostic, this carelessness is not worthy of you.

Posted by: alias clio on August 13, 2008 10:23 PM

Patrick, it's the pornogrification of society that's responsible for little girls running around in skank clothes, and teenage girls wearing T-shirts that say things like "Do I make you look fat?"

Pornography or Parents? I remember Frontline on PBS did a whole special on this county in Georgia where a bunch of 14-15 year old girls had STDs from sleeping with a bunch of guys, some of them in actual orgies.

My mother had to change the channel when she saw it because it was making her sick. Well, I got curious and started reading the comments that some people were leaving on the Frontline forum. Well, at least one girl claimed to be from the same school and said that it was not some "whoring" epidemic, but just a bunch of whores.

As evidence, she said, simply look at all the girls who don't do any of that stuff who go to the same school.

Porn provides a template for some wild people to follow, if they want to.

Posted by: Usually Lurking on August 13, 2008 10:34 PM

Clio, as always you make me think. Sometimes I wish you would make me think less, perhaps, oh, 25% less, but I have advil if my head hurts too much. I'm not certain that your point above has been answered square, and I'm not sure that I can do so myself.

Instead, I will ask a question of you: you are a fairly conservative Catholic, and I would guess that if you were to articulate your opposition to porn (even if it is just to the "pornogrification" of society), I assume you would do so in terms derived from your Catholicism rather than from feminism, in particular from the Dworkin/MacKinnon wing I so disdain.

I believe the Dworkin et al attacks on porn were massively counterproductive, and indeed solidified male opposition to feminist attacks on male sexuality in general, and on porn in particular (this opposition often being unstated, but very much real). Do you think that the feminist assault on porn, esp. by its hardest-core wing, was negative in consequence? I know that I simply stopped listening to women when they made anti-porn statements because they couched those statements in the language of feminism, you know: objectification, subjugation of women, blah blah blah fishcakes.

None of that language, and those who use it, has any credibility with me at all...and, I suspect, with most men. If opposition to porn is to have any effect, do you think it needs to be articulated in post-feminist language? Just a vaporous unformed question, so please treat it that way if you respond.

I'm convinced that there is something badly wrong--anti-sexual, anti-body, anti-human, puritanical--visible in the aesthetics of the most commonplace American porn, and it bothers me a great deal that that aesthetic is so ubiquitous and seemingly stable.

So while I will defend to the death my right to my smut, I must confess there's a part of me that shudders at some of the most mainstream porn's idea of what "sexy" is.

Blah blah. I'll shut up now and head to bed. Sorry about wandering.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 13, 2008 11:12 PM

Parents wouldn't permit some of these liberties, I suspect, if it weren't their own exposure to pornography and the general decline in public standards of decency that is itself both cause and symptom of the porn epidemic.

I know that's probably overstating the case, but at the same time I'm convinced that porn has had a tremendous impact on the acceptability of all kinds of practises that were once considered beyond the pale. It seems to have made anal sex more acceptable to heterosexuals, a major shift in sexual habits that could have serious health consequences. (It's bad for the recipient for all kinds of reasons besides possible HIV transmission.) And if nothing else, it's responsible for that phenomenon that so distresses Peter, the disappearance of the "GNP" in women under a certain age.

Posted by: alias clio on August 13, 2008 11:47 PM

PatrickH -- It might be that some of these people are doing some of the work that will be remembered from our era. Abby Winters, I Shot Myself, -- interesting stuff: sexy (of course), but also conceptually clever and daring, and (what the heck) offering moments of surprising beauty. That stuff is almost alarmingly hot, don't you find? And I say that as someone with no prior interest in BDSM at all. There's a bunch of talent and skill on display there.

Lester -- The way some people turn their heroes into non-people is pretty funny, isn't it? I wonder what's behind that.

Todd -- Nothing wrong with finding non-self-conscious stuff sexier than self-conscious stuff, is there?

Usually Lurking, Ramesh, Karlub -- It's funny how non-taboo sex has become in some senses, isn't it? I mean, it's so out there these days. Meanwhile some other topics (race, IQ, immigration, etc) have become taboo. But there's a side of eroticism that seems to have become more taboo even as the brute facts about it have become less taboo: the poetry of it, the meaning of it, the way it can shimmy right up to art and religion, the way it can be very beautiful and moving -- the way it can at least feel like it means something. Hard to talk about that in public (or demand it of entertainment and art) without sounding pretty corny. Which prompts a question: Given that the genie isn't going to go back in the bottle, how to re-find the poetry of sex in a world where "sex" in a more limited sense is already everywhere? In the old world, sex was kept under at least a few wrappers, and protected there. It was, among other things, a way of keeping certain pressures off it. Now that those wrappers are long gone, how to locate (and enter into) the tenderness of it all?

Charlton -- I think I was born a dirty old man, with the extra twist that I like yakking (and "philosophizing") about it. Probably helps explain my fondness for French movies.

Ricpic, IP -- Funny.

Agnostic -- "The fraction of people who watch porn has held pretty steady since the '80s." You have got to be kidding, no?

A. Clio -- I think porn is the new avant-garde in many ways, don't you? Setting styles, being cutting-edge, paving the way, etc. I'm not prone to fret too much over whether this is a good or a bad thing -- I'm more of a "well, what have we here?" kinda guy. But there it certainly is.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 14, 2008 12:37 AM

Here's what bothers me: Anything you might find at The sophisticated, thinking person's take on erotica = creepy, to me. Also Anais Nin. Porn is better when it's not trying to be literary.

I am old-school about sex. I think it should be dirty and taboo! I think every woman should buy high heels just for the bedroom. People should explore the joys of role-playing. Sex should be for grown-ups. Kids in middle school shouldn't give blowjobs just because someone asked for one.

I think women are hard-wired to want to surrender. Feminism screwed them up.

Now let's here about ParickH's new fetish!

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 14, 2008 1:15 AM

I'm not kidding -- you can look it up in the GSS (General Social Survey). They ask a question, "Have you seen an X-rated movie in the past year?" The percent of men who said Yes went down from 1973 to 1980, I guess as porn theaters stopped being hip. It then increases until about 1986, probably reflecting VHS porn, and then fluctuates around a stable value all the way until the latest survey in 2006.

So it's barely budged in 20 years, and the availability of internet porn does not show up at all in the graph -- no spike in the '90s or after.

The stable value is 35%. Maybe some are lying, but if porn is supposedly becoming more acceptable, the percent should be steadily rising as people gradually stop worrying about admitting it. Even if you think only half of porn-watchers are honest, that still means 30% of adult American men don't watch video porn. It sounds strange, but it's no less perverse than guys who work on cars rather than pick up girls.

The percent of *women* saying Yes looks very cyclical, like the tide -- it's not a necessity for them but a fashion statement, and thus subject to fashion cycles: "I'm hip b/c I watch porn." The percent of women saying Yes has been declining since 1996, and aside from a brief increase from 1993 to 1996 (grungers), it had been declining since 1987.

So that's what I meant -- I already thought of the video market taking over the print market. Print porn is dead, video porn is stagnant. It only looks thriving because a minority of loser males has terabytes of porn, garages full of DVDs, etc. If you just ask "what percent of men watch this stuff," it's not "ubiquitous" and has not been increasing.

Since 2000, they started asking if you've used the internet in the past 30 days to look at sexually explicit material -- about 21% of guys have. If anything, the percent has gone down from 2000 to 2004 (the last they asked).

This has become an article of faith, though: "the mainstreaming of porn." It's probably worth writing up for a GNXP post just for the debunking record, though.

Posted by: agnostic on August 14, 2008 1:32 AM

"It seems to have made anal sex more acceptable to heterosexuals, a major shift in sexual habits that could have serious health consequences."

I wonder if this is true. I know that the ubiquity of anal sex in porn that I see on the internet has seriously declined from a few years ago. I remember being surprised that so many people wanted to see it then, but maybe it was never really practiced that much and was over-represented in porn. Anyway, I'm glad if it's on the way out. Mr Vanilla here.

Does anyone remember the scene in Crumb where he talks about being turned on by Bugs Bunny? There's a guy who's not afraid of anything.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on August 14, 2008 2:05 AM

GSS is all very interesting until you check out the NAP catagory of how many interviewers skipped it over. Why was it skipped over?

Also the numeric loading by age is also interesting when compared to the actual ratios of the population pyramid.

Finally of course there's the elephant in the room, the question itself. If in 2006 someone asked me if I had viewed an X-rated movie, I would have stated no. Had I viewed pornographic pics and clips on the net? Yup. Watched an honest to God X-rated movie with, say, Asia Carrera? Nope. Porn in movie form is sooooooo passe and not to mention expensive. It's overcoat man territory. Why pay for what you can get for free in thousands of 10 minute intervals with only a click saying "Are you over 18?"

Mark Twain's quote about "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics." holds true there. If you got a conclusion, then you can back it up with numbers if you hand-wave and chest-beat enough.

I expect a response of "OMG YOU ARE STOOPID AND DON'T KNOW MATH" from certain parties. Maybe it might be phrased entertainingly this time. One can hope.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on August 14, 2008 5:25 AM

I think we're fighting the eternal battle between the hipsters and the squares again in this post.

Everybody likes erotica. The problem is... everybody thinks it's something different. Many people think that sophisticated bantering while still clothed, a la Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, is quite erotic. Others think that hanging the genitals out for all to see is erotic. From my point of view, the most erotic part of my life was the type of sex that leads to having babies.

Taking pride in what one views as erotic seems remarkably lame to me. We seem to be endowed almost at birth with our proclivities. The naughty girl is continuing to play out a game she started playing with daddy when she was still an infant. Most of the people in porn are battle scarred survivors of sexual abuse and incest. Gay men, more often than not, are eternally fighting their way out from under a smothering mommy. In other words, there is no part of our life that is quite as programmatic as our sex lives.

I think that it's a mistake to think that we are in intellectual territory here. We were still in diapers when our sexual obsessions were formed.

I keep repeating myself, Michael... the battle between the hipsters and the squares is over. So many have defected to the world of the childless hipsters that that world is now just another world of lockstep conformity, complete with a laundry list of rules and regulations. See Stuff White People Like.

One of the first rules of Stuff White People Like is: sex is just for fun. Anybody who takes it seriously is suspect. Anybody who thinks it's about having children and cementing a marriage is probably a Republican... and most likely a closet Nazi.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 14, 2008 7:07 AM

OK, I wrote it up and posted it at GNXP.


Posted by: agnostic on August 14, 2008 7:15 AM

Of course I think that the Dworkin-MacKinnon faction went too far in their condemnation of porn as an element of violence towards women. I think D-M may have been correct in suggesting that porn has unfortunate effects on men of unstable temperament, but I agree that the majority of men are capable of viewing the stuff without becoming violent, or rapists. I'd add, though, that this faction of feminists was always a small group, and that they achieved a high public profile by their habit of making outrageous public statements which undoubtedly injured their cause. MacKinnon, in particular, got much publicity in Canada because (I think) she taught here for a time, at Queen's I believe.

As for the rest of your question: yes, it's true that my critical attitude towards porn and the - ahem - jerk-off culture it encourages is more Catholic than feminist in inspiration. Not altogether, though. You see, I don't necessarily think that Catholicism, even of the orthodox kind, is inimical to feminism.

I've said elsewhere that I began to turn away from feminism when feminist critics started in on painters, decreeing that Degas was nothing better than a peeping Tom and that the whole Western art tradition was corrupt. "This has gone far enough", I muttered to myself. When I noticed that some feminists appeared to object to the idea that visual cues, like beauty, had any role in human sexuality at all, I thought it was ridiculous. It's like arguing that the flavour of food shouldn't have any part in our enjoyment of eating.


Posted by: alias clio on August 14, 2008 9:02 AM


My great-grandmother, sufferagette and devoted laity to the mother church would thank you for that statement. Oh, how the voices of Dorothy Day and her like have disappeared!

Heh. Great-grandmother managed the one task of converting the sole Hawaiian atheist to the mother church on his death-bed. Oh, if she were alive today, she might work the same on me.

I reveal too much family history when in my cups.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on August 14, 2008 9:29 AM

S. Wolf -- Let's hear it for high heels in the bedroom. I confess though that I like Nerve, though I can understand finding it all too deadpan and semi-sorta ironic-or-not. But I wouldn't mind it if they let their actual feelings show a little bit ...

Agnostic -- Tks for the studies. I think though that you might consider adding people's impressions and experiences to your idea of "evidence." Back in 1980, for instance, it was rare (or rare-ish) for a (say) 15 year old girl to have seen any porn at all. It was relatively hard to get hold of, after all. These days I'd bet that nearly all 15 year old girls have seen at least some internet porn, whether or not they do so regularly, or in the past month. It's out there, easily snaggable, and all their friends have checked it out. That's a huge cultural shift, and similar changes are all over the culture. Cosmo has always been a sexy mag for working class gals. Some cover headlines from the 1970s, supposedly a racey, out-there decade: "Warren Beatty has been wronged." "Your Love Horoscope." "Are you a good lover? This quiz will tell." Some headlines from a recent 2008 issue: "21 Naughty Sex Tips: Tonight, treat him to some boundary-pushing sex that good girls only dream of." "Your va-jay-jay. Fascinating new facts about your lovely lady parts." "Sex he has alone: where and when. How often (yikes!). His shocking go-to fantasy." Anyone who has lived through these decades would have to be blind not to notice a lot of such changes in the culture.

Tod -- Has the anal porn era passed? I wonder what we're on to these days ...

Spike -- The whole idea of sitting down and watching a trad-style porn-movie seems awfully old-school these days, doesn't it? Haven't done any such thing myself in a couple of years, I think. Surfing around on the web checking a few things out, though? ... Yeah, I've spent a little time doing that.

ST -- Hipster vs. square? I think that may be a bit more your theme than mine. I'm more struck by the way many Americans simply don't know that sex can be experienced aesthetically, and that there exists an actual culture of sex -- a literature, a body of philosophy and psychology, not just "a lotta sexy stuff" but some different canons of significant work ... It's like looking at Americans' eating habits. Jesus, most of them gobble and guzzle and barely pay attention at all, or only pay attention in order to buy Diet Coke rather than typical Coke. Food can be fun and rewarding in other ways. So can sex, and erotic culture-material. It doesn't have to be so literal, so insistent, and to hit the obvious notes over and over again. It can be poetic, amusing, touching, even moving.

A. Clio -- "It's like arguing that the flavour of food shouldn't have any part in our enjoyment of eating." Nice one!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 14, 2008 9:40 AM

SW: Also Anais Nin.

Lots of Delta of Venus was booooring, sure. But the scene where the old woman orally initiated the beautiful young boy she caught ogling her was oh so hot. "The old woman was gluttonous but patient." Hoooo...

Pace ST, I think the attitude today is not that "sex is just for fun", but that it can be that way. I remember growing up hearing bizarrely categorical phrases like "Sex without love is nothing". Nothing? Really? It may not be the pinnacle of sexual experience, but...nothing? Really? Some of the hottest, most memorable sex I've had has been without a teensy-weensy bit of love attached to it. To say nothing of how hot sex can be with someone you don't even like. Anger sex? Contempt sex? Hammering the cold, snooty b*tch, the one who looked down her nose at you when you first met, so hard into the bed that the gravitational constant of the universe changes? Fun times, people. Fun times!

And a tangential follow-on to Clio's point about the attack on beauty: remember the crazed, ugly Canadian(!) proto-lesbian who slashed the Rokeby Venus back in the day? She claimed she didn't want men looking at a naked woman like that. But she didn't slash the men, did she? A lot of the feminist hatred of sexual beauty is directed right at...the woman who has the gender-betraying bad ethics to not join her feminist sisterhood in that core feminist practice of how to lack prettiness.

Anti-porn feminists don't care about female porn stars, even when they whinge on about how exploited they are. They hate and fear them as traitors to their gender. They probably hate them more than they hate men.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2008 10:20 AM

"I'm more struck by the way many Americans simply don't know that sex can be experienced aesthetically, and that there exists an actual culture of sex -- a literature, a body of philosophy and psychology, not just "a lotta sexy stuff" but some different canons of significant work ... "

Who does not know this? This is just vanity on your part, Michael. Every religion concerns itself with precisely the issues you've set forward. The world beyond Manhattan is not a barren desert. Please, Michael, rid yourself of this vain belief. It's nonsense.

What you are stating is the difference in aesthetic point of view between the wealthy, who primarily view sex as play, and the poor, who primarily view sex as part of the struggle for survival. I've experienced both, and I find sex as part of the struggle for survival far superior in every aesthetic measure.

I visited the girlie clubs in Cebu while I was in the Philippines. Those clubs featured a lineup of a dozen or more extraordinarily gorgeous young Filipinas. These girls are working the clubs for a variety of reasons. Some are drug and alcohol addicts. Others are surprisingly goal oriented. They are using their hard earned money to get an RN, and they are hoping that one of their white American customers actually falls in love with them and carts them off to America. And, it does happen!

These girls are trained by their families and their religion to be incredibly romantic, sexy and pleasing. I find their yearning to make something out of their lives through the pragmatic application of a romantic tradition far more erotic than the idle theatrical playing of rich American kids in Manhattan.

In the same way, some of the most remarkable meals I've ever eaten were prepared in the back yard over a charcoal fire in a little village out in the styx in the Philippines. And, I've certainly enjoyed eating in the most posh restaurants in Manhattan.

The play life of rich kids in Manhattan bores me. It leads invariably to sadism and brutality. There are a lot of things I like about Manhattan. But the erotic life of the hipsters there leaves me utterly cold. The romantic ideal of finding meaning and salvation through a mate and children is far more erotic than all the dangling genitals in all the off-Broadway plays in Manhattan.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 14, 2008 10:26 AM


You asked "In the old world, sex was kept under at least a few wrappers, and protected there. It was, among other things, a way of keeping certain pressures off it. Now that those wrappers are long gone, how to locate (and enter into) the tenderness of it all?"

That is really well-put.

First, I would challenge your assumption that we can't put this incorrect Freudian sexual genie back in the bottle. Not tomorrow, of course. But these things ebb and flow. We are not slaves to alleged 'progress'.

Second, I suspect it is nearly impossible for our society to locate and enter into the tenderness of it all *without* putting that genie firmly back into its bottle. And I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is precisely that tenderness which is sadly wanting.

Of course, with stubborn effort erotica will still exist which is not enslaved to our "jerk-off" culture. Which is great. It will be as marginalized as Kafka's porn was in its day, though. And if we continue on our current track, 100 years from now people may be similarly embarrassed should a stash of it be discovered in the possession of a public figure.

Can you imagine? "Foucault's secret stash of poetic straight porn shocks his disciples!"

Posted by: karlub on August 14, 2008 10:52 AM

Yes, fine, but what about PatrickH's secret new fetish??

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 14, 2008 2:08 PM

My darling Soeur Lupine, my new fetish is far from secret...just check out and you'll see what's making my temperature rise: BDSM, something that has never produced even the modicum of a reaction from me before.

It is my old 2 fetishes that I have not, and will not share, not even with such a beguiling importunatrix as your wolfish self. Oh no, not even you can draw such a description from my lips...

Although, just to give a little pushback here, my darling...they could both be fulfilled by a woman like, oh, you...

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2008 4:23 PM

PatrickH, is that really you? The man who said that he never felt anything but rancid lust for women over 35, or whatever it was?

Michael, perhaps you ought to re-name this site as 'SexualHealingdotcom". Though someone else has probably claimed the name already.


Posted by: alias clio on August 14, 2008 5:10 PM

Michael -- the impressions suffer from a one-sided bias, though, don't they? There's the opposite trend of Promise Rings, Christian rock, etc. All huge trends, possibly huger than Cosmo. I'm sure that the culture is becoming more diverse -- that the variance is increasing -- but it's not clear that the average or median is moving in the "va-jay-jay" direction.

Posted by: agnostic on August 14, 2008 6:27 PM

Ah, Clio, what are fetishes about but "rancid lust"? Women over the age of 35 are one of my major lust/fetish objects--given certain facts about my sexual history, an understandable result of a certain, ah, learning curve I experienced while young and open to, ah, experience, so to speak. So that's one of my secrets. I dig older women!

The other not even you--I think you work for CSIS!--could extract from this admantine, obdurate, unyielding, um, well, uh, guy.

La Lupine seeks to ensnare me with her wiles, while you, O Muse of History, know that the past holds the answers to everything. I shall be more guarded when I speak in a venue where I know you're watching.

(33%) Mysteriously,

P.S. And "Sexual Healing" is my favourite Marvin Gaye song. I wonder how it would work as a seduction tool. Fairly late in the game, I should think. I wonder if Roissy ever plays it. I doubt it, somehow. Too obvious. The kind of thing the Jack Nicholson character in As Good As It Gets would use.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2008 6:50 PM

Clio, sexualhealing is already taken in every form. BUT! How about this, Michael B, ! It's available, you can go get it for $12.

Agnostic, with all due respect, has anyone ever told you that the barrage of stats and verbiage is a real turn-off?

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 14, 2008 6:50 PM

Oh, and Clio, I can't help hoping you bear something of a resemblance to the Clio in Vermeer's . It seems fitting. My poet friend Vivian resembles Euterpe somewhat (no crown of stars). Our dearest Wolf looks rather like Melpomene, don't you think? Not that she is in any way tragic. But there is something in that black mane and stern direct gaze that reminds me of the Muse of Tragedy.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2008 6:54 PM

What, are you forgetting "Let's Get it On?!?"

"If the spirit moves you, let me groove you, let your love come down! Oh get it on, come on baby!"

I'm in the mood just from typing those lyrics! Watch someone come and ruin it with statistics.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 14, 2008 7:55 PM

Sister Wolf -- my aim is to set the record straight, not to turn on the elderly. Carry on.

Posted by: agnostic on August 14, 2008 8:40 PM

Sister Wolf -- my aim is to set the record straight, not to turn on the elderly.

Or the young, I would add.

Posted by: kt on August 14, 2008 9:20 PM

Hahahaha! I know your aim, sweetheart, don't worry.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 14, 2008 9:45 PM

Soeur Louve and La Louve, not Lupine. Jesus, Patrick, try to get the French right if you're going to use it. Lordy, I half expect Dennis Moore to come scoop me up in his saddle and give me a thrashing!

kt, kt, kt. That's really good. Really, really good.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2008 10:51 PM

PatrickH -- Some of the best sex I had back in my single days was with gals I didn't have much else going on with. We had a nice -- well, a lot better than nice -- sexual rapport and little else. It reminded me of the way you sometimes read about dance partners who sizzle together onstage but who otherwise don't hang out together, or maybe even like each other. Yet that magic thing really does happen. Weird. Isn't good sex usually assumed to presuppose at least some kind of personal affection, or at least feeling? But in this bunch of cases no. Interesting, at least to me.

ST -- "What you are stating is the difference in aesthetic point of view between the wealthy, who primarily view sex as play, and the poor, who primarily view sex as part of the struggle for survival. I've experienced both, and I find sex as part of the struggle for survival far superior in every aesthetic measure." Sadly, though, you and I aren't poor, let alone struggling for survival. "Who does not know this? [re the existence of a body of sexual culture]?" Really? Your typical American has read De Sade, explored Shunga art, and watches Jean Rollin movies?

Karlub -- I look forward to that discovery of Foucault's straight porn! And won't that mess with a lot of people's brains?

Agnostic -- No idea what the median is, let alone who a "median" person might be. But 1) today's Cosmo fan is enjoying a much raunchier read than 1972's Cosmo fan, and 2) Isn't it to be expected that pushiness (in this case of a hitting-sexual-buttons nature) would create its own reaction?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 15, 2008 12:52 AM

PatrickH, I was alluding in my "rancid" post to the fact that not long ago you swore up and down that old ladies over 35 might provoke you to lust but never to falling in love or even a crush, because we are all so ugly and have such unpleasant personalities. Now here you are, headoverheals crushed out on Sister Wolf.

Most amusing.

Meanwhile, I doubt that I bear any resemblance to Vermeer's Clio. A pity, but there it is. If you came by my blog more often, you might actually know what I look like, since I do post (and remove) photos from time to time.


Posted by: alias clio on August 15, 2008 7:24 AM

Oh, you do post photos? Cool. I shall be by, anon. Besides, you've got a great blog.

As for Sister Wolf, she is hardly typical in the pulchritudinousnessness department, is she? And how could I not develop a crush on a woman whose first words to (about) me were that I am a "humourless hothead" and have a "dangerously unbalanced psyche"? I dunno about other guys, but when a woman talks trash at me like that, I've just got to win her love.

Something about the lure of the challenge, I think.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 15, 2008 11:30 AM

And oh wow but if sex as part of the struggle for survival is superior in every respect to sex as play, then I guess that means that the (I hope) tiny percentage of the sex that ST has experienced in his life, i.e., the sex that led to children, has been the only kind of sex worth having.

Man, what about the rest of the time?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 15, 2008 11:36 AM

Not to mention time spent enjoying performers, imagining affairs with cute co-workers, enjoying the daily spectacle on the sidewalk, reading gossip about stars, mildly and unseriously semi-flirting with people ... Most people spend loads of of the day fondling vaguely erotic thoughts, situations, and feelings, whether or not they're fans of deliberate explicitly erotic artwork or not ...

I can't see limiting the "eroticism" thing to just actual fucking, can you? How literal-minded would that be? And isn't part the annoying thing about Americans and eroticism how literal-minded we tend to be?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 15, 2008 11:50 AM

Eroticism becomes play in a civilization that deserves the name, in other words, has moved beyond survival as the only goal in life. We're wealthy, dammit! We've got leisure time, dolgarnit! We're the wealthiest, freest people ever! Why oh why, if we can take, say, food, and bring it from mouth-stuffing survival mode into the realm of social art, can't we do the same with sex? Social arts are badly undervalued in American society--conversation, hosting, dancing, anyone think they're as highly developed as they could be?--and we should, I believe, be working consciously to become more knowledgable practitioners of these neglected arts. Including Ars Amatoria, the art of love.

Michael, one of my favourite sentences ever was written by a nun to her students at a tony Catholic girls' boarding school in Calif. in the fifties. It was the first sentence in a handbook of etiquette (think Emily Post) called The Book of Courtesy. I think this sentence blows the hell out of most philosophy of aesthetics, and is deeply and truly feminist to boot:

You may not think that living with others is an art, but it is the finest and most difficult of arts.

Those words went off in my head like a nukuler explosion when I read them. Consider their relevance to discussion of lit-fic, for example.

But I'm exercised here about how they apply to sex/eroticism. Sex is one of the arts by which we live with one another, isn't it? It is inherently a social art. Like courtesy, conversation, dance, all of which it resembles in its requirements of attention to the other, willingness to improvise (and to compromise!), in its inherent relatedness with beings we cannot control, and who are in the deepest sense, our equals.

All of which is simply to say that sex (and eroticism) broadly deserves the same passion, committment, study and practice (yes! those too!) as any art. After all, sex is a social art that requires living with others in order even to happen. And that means that it is one of the finest and most difficult of arts.

Sounds to me like it's worth talking, writing and thinking about, isn't it? And doing, doing, doing. Let's not forget that!

Sorry about the length. But Americans are philistines about the social arts. They have a lot to learn from Europeans about their practice. And why not practice? They can be fun, after all. Can't they?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 15, 2008 12:35 PM

I'll (as the kids say) co-sign all that! And wish I were able to put it half so well myself.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 15, 2008 12:48 PM

My dearest darling Clio my love my muse:


I went to your blog, and found it worthy of being re-favourited (it was de-favourited during one of your hiatuses), where it now resides snuggled close up to La Wolf and Les Blowhards in my bookmarks folder, and in my heart.

You said you might have a photo of yourself there for me to see what you look like. And indeed, my dearest deary dear, there is in fact a photo. It is VANISHINGLY SMALL. But you have provided, helpfully in intention I am sure, a view full size option. However, the photo remains SO FRACKING NANOSCOPIC IN ITS DIMEN-FRACKING-SIONS that it is possible only to see an admittedly attractive pic of a face that looks about TWELVE YEARS OLD. When blown up, it looks like the MASSIVELY PIXILATED HEAD OF A VERY PRETTY TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL.

Now, I love my twelve year old girls as much as any Internet pervert. But I still don't know what you look like. You are clearly attractive, pensive, as I suspected you would be given your tendency to turn questions over and over in your mind, and intelligent.

ALL THIS I CAN SEE. But I still don't know what you look like.

So you have teased me, drawn me in, and then laughingly, or probably sighingly, tossed me aside.


Now I know you work for CSIS.

Spook. Tease. Mole. Witch. Double-agent. Tease. Operative. Tease,

These are the words with which I will now forever associate you.

I await an explanation for your actions.


P.S. And to pile Pelion upon Ossa, you're enjoying my crush on the Sister, aren't you? You're laughing at me over it! Well, I, I, I, have nothing to say to you. It's like, like, payback or something!

Bah, women. They're like selective elephants. They never forget YOUR mistakes.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 15, 2008 12:53 PM

Patrick, you are an officer and a gentleman. I will share you with Clio if I must, but I would never raise my sword to her. I respect her too much for that.

ps Americans are proud of being philistines. It makes them feel superior to the French, who are all kind of gay.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 15, 2008 3:57 PM


My dear man, there's no need to become hysterical about it. I told you that "I post (and remove) photos from time to time." I had 2 different photos up on the evolution post (at different times) for about a total of 48 hours altogether. There isn't a photo now because photo time is over for a few weeks. Deepest apologies for misleading you.

If you are really curious to see a photo, send an email to my blogmail address, and I'll email one back. I often send photos to people who write to me. If you do not wish to reveal your true name, Sir, you can always use one of those pseudo addresses for which most email accounts provide an option.

And yes, I'm enjoying your crush on Sister very much.

Posted by: alias clio on August 15, 2008 4:23 PM

I'm Irish. We specialize in hysteria. Email request for photo coming your way. Oh, my real true name will be part of it.

No photo from my side though. I've avoided cameras for years. They steal my soul, and I'm tired of having to go get it back all the time.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 15, 2008 10:28 PM

But not nearly as much as I am, Clio. To be desired by a man who compares me to Melpomene is ecstasy itself. Especially at my rancid age!

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 15, 2008 10:46 PM

Okaaaay. I get it now. Typical guy, there with his Y chromosome, his male hormone overload, scratching his you-know-whats, pickin' his nose, giving his unsolicited opinions about everything in the world, droning on and on and on, thinking he's like scoring points and gaining respect...and the whole time, failing miserably to understand that the girls are playing him. Double-dutch playing him for a, a...guy.

Well, that's over! I'm on to you two now. I get it! At last, the miasma of my masculine social retardation lifts to reveal...two women mocking me! Working together like pros! Like you've done this before!

Oh, wow, uh, I've been gamed by masters of the art. You two have been tag-teaming me this whole time, trading off, spelling one another, no doubt doing girly high-fives and sharing some giggles, and all the while watching one another take turns making the poor little boy go hop, skip and jump. Whenever. You. Want.

At last, the disturbing truth has finally wafted up from the dank and musty basement of my brain. At last, I see. And I can say only:

Lord, take me now.

I still want you, Sister. That will never change. But now I know you will never want me...except as a kind of gently-poked-at pinata. And Clio...I somehow expected you to rise above all this. Just because I'm wearing a MOCK ME GO AHEAD MOCK ME MOCK ME I'M COMPLETELY MOCKABLE sign, doesn't mean you have to, does it?

Sigh. I can't help myself. I still love you both. I just don't know if I can trust you anymore.


Posted by: PatrickH on August 16, 2008 9:28 AM

PatrickH: It's also of interest to me how utterly undamaged all of the women being interviewed seemed to be by their porn experiences.

What else would one expect to see in porn-industry publicity material?

They act "undamaged"? Well, they would be expected to, and they are actresses.

To begin with, those who appear are the "success stories", not the ones who went insane, committed suicide, or became drug-addicted prostitutes.

Those who appear are not going to talk about incurring permanent physical damage from extreme sexual acts (anal fisting, say), or from STDs they contracted, nor about nightmares, self-loathing, alienation from family, or loss of genuine sexual feeling, nor about being cheated and manipulated by producers and directors.

I don't say that such things do happen, only that one will never hear about them in porn-industry products.

It seems rather naive to take this or any other porn industry self-portrayal at face value.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on August 16, 2008 1:54 PM

Point taken, Rich. But still, the guy did seem to have doubts, didn't he?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 16, 2008 8:08 PM

Dead thread, but I don't think most Kafka fans think of him as a saint. The consensus seems to have been that, like a lot of talented people, he was an extreme neurotic with some kind of major sexual or emotional dysfunction. I suspect that the biographers had some kind of problem of their own which made them want to pretty up Kafka's image, which seems terribly silly to me and, I would guess, to most Kafka buffs.

He also wasn't exactly immersed in German culture. Like most Czech Germans (and Jews), he was immersed in German-language culture, but not in any way a German patriot. (Rilke, who was somewhat Jewish, refused to affiliate either with Austria or Germany).

Posted by: John Emerson on August 17, 2008 11:21 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?