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« DVD Journal: "Marie Antoinette" | Main | Blogging Note »

September 19, 2008

Annabella at 15

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A spin-off from my recent posting about Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" ...

Here's the website of Annabella Lwin, the onetime jailbait-sexpot singer for Bow Wow Wow. Here's the record jacket that made her notorious even in punk circles.

Be forewarned: Annabella was only 15 when that sexy photo was taken.

What ought to be made of the under-ageness question? Do we have no choice but to draw a line and condemn the image as evil? Despite the fact that it's funny and cute? Despite the fact that it has already attained minor-modern-icon semi-immortality? And despite the fact that the punk scene was teeming with lovably trampy 15 year old girls?

Bonus point:

  • The girl in "Mademoiselle O'Murphy," aka "Nude on a Sofa," was 14 at the time Boucher painted her. Kiddie cheesecake? Or a classic work of art? Shortly after the painting was completed Louis XV took the little charmer as a mistress. Read more here.

So what kind of misbehavior-slack do we need to cut the arts scene?



posted by Michael at September 19, 2008


I'm worn out with outrage, Michael.

I can remember, 50 years ago, when outrages of this sort occurred only a few times a year. What sort of emotional environment do we live in when a dozen such outrages go out over the web every hour?

The frequency and amplitude of outrage keeps getting cranked up to no apparent effect.

I don't care whether or not the arts scene gets cut any slack. The arts have become preposterously boring. Nothing is happening in the arts except for constant outrage and shrieking and pre-programmed transgression.

The kids grew up in this environment of constantly hyped outrages. They're just pretending to outrage us and we're just pretending to be outraged by them.

I think one of the reasons that Gov. Sarah Palin is so appealing is because she represents an end to this cycle. She's pretty, but she's proper. She loves babies instead of wanting to abort them. She loves good old boys and hunting and fishing.

The theme that you're trying to mine is just completely exhausted. I'll say it again. The cult of the individual is played out, tired and uninteresting. It isn't even remotely sexy any more.

What would be interesting now is a person who insists on maintaining their dignity, lives a life of inner peace and quiet, and will not sacrifice that for a moment in front of a TV camera or a microphone.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 19, 2008 3:28 PM

Nothing wrong with the BWW cover, nothing wrong with getting sexy thoughts about 14 year olds. There wouldn't be anything wrong with actually doing the deed with them either in a society that didn't have teenagehood to cause its STs to go apopleptic.

Post-pubescent girls are hot! They kinda look like...women! All those developed secondary sexual characteristics. And speaking as a perverted old het-coot, I love me some secondary sexual characteristics on my laaaaadies!

Secondary? Hah! Them's primary to me. Prime. Airy!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 19, 2008 6:02 PM

I wonder if the world ever has been anything other than a stage on which the drama of raging hormones gets played out -- up to a certain age that is.

We have our endless parade of lurid entertainment. Victorian London had 50,000 prostitutes thronging its streets. And when attempts have been made to seriously deny the hormones there have been outbreaks of hysteria like the Salem witches trials.

Beyond that certain age, varying from early 40's to late 60's, so different is the strength of animal spirits from one individual to another, the demon lust begins to loosen its grip and we achieve, finally, a degree of sanity.

All of the above is a kinda sorta answer to ST, not a rebuttal, just a resigned acceptance of the fix we're in, and always have been in.

Posted by: ricpic on September 19, 2008 9:28 PM

Goodness PatrickH... Mohammad would agree with every word you said just now. Yes sir, I bet you can't wait to live in the caliphate. You can have as many of those sexy nine year olds as you like then. A pure pubescent passel of perversion. Ummm... good!

Posted by: mudmarine on September 19, 2008 9:51 PM

Louis XV was only fifteen when he got married, to a woman of 22 at that.

My own preference, for what it's worth, would be to allow independent minor children who are over the age of puberty to make their own decisions in the matter of sexual behaviour - but as their parents can and do have a legitimate interest, they should be allowed to intervene until the child is eighteen.

I honestly don't think that this is a situation in which "evil" ought to be invoked (given the fact that the girl in question is clearly not a child). The reason that the Calvin Klein ads of 15 years or so ago were so disturbing was that they deliberately called on young people who looked like under-age (pre-pubescent) minors, and asked them sexually invasive questions.

One thing that can be said for the kings of France was that they were usually ready to help support their bastard offspring.


Posted by: alias clio on September 19, 2008 11:21 PM

Isn't that just a modern take on Manet's Le Dejeuner Sur L'herbe?

Posted by: Jourdan on September 20, 2008 1:29 AM

mudmarine, you are retarded at more levels than the mental if you can't tell the difference between a nine year old girl and a fourteen year old. Take a look at the Bow Wow Wow cover and you see a young woman, not a child.

And please learn how to read. Or maybe you don't understand the meaning of "secondary sexual characteristics" and "post-pubescent".

Retard. Closet perv no doubt. But most of all, and least forgivably at this blog, you can't f*cking read.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 20, 2008 2:01 AM

Haha... retard, me. Why thanks for the compliment. Such an improvement over the usual, you know.

Sure, Whatever you say PatrickH. So you're thinking it's all linerar... that nine and fourteen makes all the difference to a fifty year old. Nah... I'd say you're all wet. Mostly from your masturbatory fantasies about child sex but also from your perceptions of morality.

I did look at the Bow Wow Wow cover... studied it intently and oh so carefully for any sign of relevant content beyond hedonistic narcissim... from the subject, from the photographer, from the viewer who might be titillated by early growth in a young woman. But alack... I saw nothing but a lack of self control, a lack of communal embarrassment and a sure desire to appeal to the most base of human nature.

I'm done... you do as you please Patrick... a value you obviously place above all others.

Posted by: mudmarine on September 20, 2008 2:34 AM

My first thought when I see that cover is "20 is the new 30". I'm going to make t-shirts.

And btw, that's nothing -- Playboy once shot a 15 y.o. in a nude spread, way back in those dark days of... 1958. A few others back then were 16 or 17. Miss America winners used to be quite young. The culture has shifted its ideal of beauty toward increasing older females:

Read here

Objective measures of sluttiness have gone up, and then back down again, since that girl was photographed. So, the broader social impact of sexualizing teenage girls appears to be -- zero.

The only good argument I could think of is that by flooding the culture with such images, you're forcing lots of guys to recognize how mediocre their over-25 girlfriends and wives are, and that could lead to a breakdown in marriage. But again, divorce, illegitimacy, etc. have gone up as sexualization of teens has vanished. (I don't claim an inverse cause -- only that they're not related, as above).

Art may or may not reflect society, but it doesn't change society. (Thank god.)

Anyway, those 15 year-old girls in the punk scene are still probably pretty cool. There's a narrow cohort born between 1960 and 1964, too late to be Boomers and too early to be Gen X-ers. As such, they were blessed to avoid contagion by the dopiness of the two most laughable generations of the 20th Century.

Steve Sailer and Alias Clio are almost surely in there, and you can tell.

Posted by: agnostic on September 20, 2008 5:16 AM

Sigh. Mudmarine, I'm no defender of child-sex. I don't even really defend young adolescent sex. But in the case of the album cover, and the painting, we really can't tell how old the girls are until we're told. No one is going to look at either of them and say, "oh dear, she looks too young to be posing in such a provocative way!"


Posted by: alias clio on September 20, 2008 7:42 AM

To paraphrase Deng Xioping , the founder of the modern American state,

It's glorious to do young things.

Posted by: Ramesh on September 20, 2008 9:02 AM

I used to share your philosophy, Michael. It's called "living off the fat of the land." In a fat, rich society, it is possible to just go through the motions, and let somebody else do the dirty, ugly work.

This creates a "clean hands" obsession among those who embrace this philosophy. You can see this obsession with clean hands in the food manias, environmental hysterias, hatred of oil and gas, etc.

Shocking the rubes seems to go hand in hand with these obsessions. Intensely puritanical on the one hand, the clean hands crowd devotes its time to shocking the rubes out of their supposed complancency. Every generation of kids seems convinced that their moms and dads never got laid, attended orgies or humiliated themselves in public.

Living off the fat of the land, as it is practiced in NYC and San Francisco (where I am very familiar with the phenomenon) always leads to an obsession with sexual display, breaking imagined boundaries and getting laid. Since the dirt and grind of a hard job is the province of the rubes, the hipsters have to find something to fill up their time. They screw one another to relieve the boredom.

For those who have children, the question of "... lovably trampy 15 year old girls" doesn't seem so abstract. I don't have any objection to another man's daughter filling this role, but I made sure that my daughters didn't. The primary role of a father is to make sure that his daughter gets to the age of at least 18 without getting pregnant, having obtained a minimal education.

The vast majority of those trampy 15 year old girls on the punk scene aren't going to get rich and famous. What happens to them? Punk isn't much to hang your identity on once you're over 20 years old.

I think that, in the absence of rearing children, you impute a whole range of motivations that just aren't the truth to those who find the behavior of this young woman questionable. To a certain extent, you get a kick out of thinking that she's causing moral outrage. I had a responsibility as a father to make sure that it wasn't my daughters who were playing out this stupidity. That doesn't mean that I am a prude, and I'd be more than willing to bet that my sex life has been more abundant and wild than just about anybody on this site.

I think this is one of the ways in which the traditional role of the artist is approaching obsolescence. The act is old. There aren't any rubes to outrage. The pretense of outrage continues simply because the hipsters are addicted and they don't know anything else to do. As I said, the arts are currently bankrupt. Nothing there.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 20, 2008 9:21 AM

You are indeed a committed utter retard. You are not merely a moron, you are practicing member of the church of moronicism. You are a moronicist.

My guess is you're the twerp who called himself "me" and wasted my time a few weeks back. Go away, child. You're too young emotionally for this place and too stupid to talk to.

And do do do learn how to read. It's fun!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 20, 2008 10:02 AM

Ding ding ding. Enough with the mutual insults, children. Boring. Let's get back to yakking about "underage" sex.

ST -- I don't disagree with much of what you write, at least in my grumpier hours. I'm the blogger who links to that Tory Roger Scruton probably more than any other blogger does, after all.

All that said, there's always the question of pleasure -- entertainment, sex, food, drink, travel. (Hey, interesting that even arch-Tory Scruton writes about sex, drink, and art.) Even tough, salt-'o-the-earth people have a few hours in the evenings and on the weekend free. They listen to the radio, watch DVDs, spend a little time preparing a nice meal, maybe even indulge in a little romance.

So it's fun and maybe even worthwhile to move beyond the "is this right or wrong?" thing and discuss all this.

And, more broadly, we're inhabiting, whether we like it or not, a sexual-material cornucopia-world. Provocative material is all over the place, and comes at us whether we want it to or not. The web opens up possibilities for peeping and (so I hear) connecting unlike anything that's ever been seen before.

I mean, there it is, nothing you or I can do about it.

So, beyond the question of whether or not this new found state is a good or bad thing, it's interesting to observe, muse about, maybe even taste-test. What's it like? How does it affect life? How does life (and how does culture) seem to be changing, if at all?

Like I say, it's good or it's bad (a perfectly fine discussion to have in its own right), but also there it is -- and what's that like? That's a good discussion to have too.

Food, sex, art, travel ... They're all (at least potentially) nice. They can all enrich life. Almost no one avoids them.

And it's interesting as well that culture-things can backfire undermine quality of life as well. (Hence my postings about architecture, fattie Americans, weight loss, websex, diet, etc.) When do they flip from positives to negatives? Personally and societally?

All good discussions, no? And, as you like to point out, there's nothing realistically you or I can do to change any of this. So why not have a beer and yak about what we run into and what it's like and what it makes us feel, imagine, and think?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 20, 2008 12:14 PM

You're correct Clio... 'we' wouldn't have known if not told. But those involved knew. Does that make a difference? I did go a little overboard in my denunciation I suppose, but really, couldn't the same be said of the composer of that cover.

No Patrick, we haven't spoken before. And likely won't again. Your comment just rubbed me the wrong way is all. What you see as a healthy and life affirming embracing of our sexuality I see as yet another splinter in the cudgel that is destroying much that is good in this world.

Posted by: mudmarine on September 20, 2008 12:16 PM

mudmarine, I accept Michael's admonishment, and withdraw my imputations that you are this individual I accused you of being. I was rubbed various ways by your comment, none of which matter. My apologies to Michael and an olive branch to you, mudmarine.

ST made a point at the end of his rather moderate second comment. I think it indicates more understanding of how unworthy today's "outrages" are of any reaction but boredom:

I think this is one of the ways in which the traditional role of the artist is approaching obsolescence. The act is old. There aren't any [more ]rubes to outrage. The pretense of outrage continues simply because the hipsters are addicted and they don't know anything else to do. As I said, the arts are currently bankrupt. Nothing there.

The cover of the album was a commercial product calculated to outrage, not titillate. The girl involved was interested in fame, not in getting gangbanged sur l'herbe. Capitalism is what fuels all of this sexualization, from the teens in Playboy you mentioned, to the changing tastes agnostic referred to, to the BWW cover, to her website, to all the other websites out there.

Freud said that artists wanted fame, money and the love of beautiful women. Women artists didn't matter, I guess, but I'd update the master to say that artists want status, money and the love of those around them. They, artists, have "hacked" art, together with their corporate sponsors, using its media and its tropes (Manet! Nudity!) to make money, fame and love.

Which brings me to ST and to a lesser degree agnostic. ST is right: the game is old, the outrage is pro forma (and part of the marketing strategy), everything is this empty nothing of poses, including outraged poses, none of it has changed anything fundamental about people, our natures, our needs. The art is pretend, the outrage is pretend, the big empty Kabuki dance of modern "culture" is pretend. There's no there there, hence the frenzy.

But it's already worn out. We can peep all we want at things we've "never seen before", but of course we have seen them.

So perhaps some honesty is required in responding to real reaction to the BWW cover? Nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. No arousal, no disgust, no titillation, no outrage. I've seen it, and so much like it, that in reality, I was as unmoved by that cover as I was by anything else from the "outrageous" hipster scene ST derides.

I was more ticked by your comment, mudmarine, than I've ever been at any art, music, photography, film, hipster this or that, boho this or that. The scene is dead, dead, dead. Ultimately, stuff like the BWW cover are nothing to worry about, because they're nothing to feel about or think about. Your comment honked me off because it was from a person, it connected to me, and produced in me actual human emotion. The BWW cover? Nothing at all. Nothing.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 20, 2008 2:14 PM

Olive branch accepted and concurrently offered, Patrick.

The three of you, Michael, ST and yourself speak well and with varied opinion to the current world of arts, artistry and the lack of same in some hipster quarters. We have each of us seen it, sure, and it is now just image without real substance or meaning.

And really, it isn't so much how we feel about it that bothers me. It is the youngsters who are caught up in thinking that such shenanigans are meaningful that causes me distress. Which of course is nonsensical on my part.

I'm old fashioned in the sense that I still view this country as community, the old style community, where we look out for each other and each others children as well. So when I observe exploitation, as in that BWW cover, of those too young to make responsible decisions, well, frankly, it brings out my protection instincts and I get a little riled.

So, another time, Patrick.

Posted by: mudmarine on September 20, 2008 7:31 PM

Jeez, you people are depressing. I've always found this album cover playful and fun. Bow Wow Wow was part of the New Romantics scene (which I mentioned in the Sofia Coppola thread), they borrowed a few aesthetics from the original Romantics, hence the allusion to Manet and the decadence of a lakeside picnic with a naked woman, and they played with it. From what I've read, it was a really fun scene and the music from it is almost universally giddy and infectious. It should be noted that Bow Wow Wow was the creating of Malcolm McLaren, the notorious promoter behind the Sex Pistols. Knowing a bit about him, the idea behind the cover was more commercial and crass than anything else.

As for the art scene being dead, I'd say that was mere projection. You may feel dead inside, but for me and many others, there is much beautiful, ingenious, clever, playful, profound art out there. I'm flabbergasted at someone's creativity a few times a week, on average, and it's never a reaction outrage.

Posted by: JV on September 20, 2008 8:48 PM

If you truly want to be scandalous in depiction of youth nowadays, show them smoking instead of fucking. Really, it's the one thing that can disgust anyone. I mean teenage lesbian makeouts are okay, casual cigarettes are verboten.

Makes me proud to smoke.

Also the assertion that art does not change society is so completely absurd that it beggars the mind. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are mentally bombarded with the fruits of others creative endeavors, from listening to the latest hits on the radio, or watching a new commercial on TV, or just looking at the things in which we decorate our house with.

We'd go mad with boredom without it. Hell, it goes back as long as mankind had the tongue and pharynx to make enough words to tell a story around the cook-fire and enough dexterity to paint bison on the walls of caves.

The fact is, most of mankind lives by emotional appeals. Emotional appeals are the stock and trade of art. It is not one artist or artistic movement which shifts the world, that itself is absurd, except in the butterfly flapping its wings sort of sense, but to say that the zeitgeist is solely a product, a mirror of society, instead of a work in constant progress moved from without *and* within is also absurd.

I daresay, though, that the acolyte of such a position has a fine mathematical proposition to disabuse me of such muddlebrained flights of fancy. One perhaps that involves taking calipers to the breasts of girls, or the logarithmic rise of freak dancing.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on September 20, 2008 8:51 PM

Aren't all you all guys throwing the babe out with the (dirty) bathwater? why is it such a big deal to do /see pictures of nude/seminude girls well past their puberty? biologically, they would be with child a couple of years if they were animals.

If your objections and all the blow hot/ blow cold excrescences of words above only from the frictions caused between cultural permissions and biological realities, I beseech you repressed fucks to shut up and masturbate away your rage...or something.

A thing of beauty is a thing of beauty no matter what its age. you can't make an ugly fifteen year old pose in a nude photo and make me see it....for the sexual in it , anyway. SO I think the sexual and the beautiful, are unto themselves in art. ageproofed or not.

Posted by: Ramesh on September 20, 2008 11:22 PM

It's perfectly apparent that trying to make it a deep cultural belief that there's something wrong and in fact unspeakably perverted and horrible for men to be attracted to clearly post pubescent girls under the age of 18, is virtually entirely a feminist creation. It's due to feminist pressure that the age of consent was raised from the early teenage years to as late as 18 in many US states, but only since the 1970s, i.e. since feminists have held sway. Before then it was generally between 14 and 16, (as it is now in most of Europe), though occassionally as low as 12 with parental consent.

So much for "what's natural" -- particularly since with better nutrition, the age of menarche and ability to bear children has been going down rather than up.

One can make arguments about what is best, but it is something no less than disgusting for feminists to utterly demonize men who are sexually interested in girls under 18.

I'll grant you that if men in their thrities or forties and up are exclusively interested in young teen girls, that does suggest real problems with their maturity and arrested social development.

As well men who are sexually obsessed with pre menarche pre teen girls really are pedophiles.

But thinking that Annabele Lwin at 15 with those breasts and that body is hot is the mark of a pedophile?

Give me and all of us a freaking break. If so then all honest men are pedophile and the rest are too -- they're just lying. Yes I'm sure.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 21, 2008 12:44 AM

Well, I've got a daughter on the cusp of teenage and if I ever catch a guy looking at her the way I've looked at some 15 year olds they better run. Not defensible but there it is.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on September 21, 2008 2:40 AM

Nope, no math arguments this time -- just facts. I've provided them, and you've ignored them.

Next time, build a case that art changes society. And you know what I mean -- not that we have new things to appreciate, but that, say, some art movement *caused* some measurable social or political change.

Posted by: agnostic on September 21, 2008 4:35 AM

I'm tired of being a cranky old fart, so I'm turning over a new leaf.

The girl is cute. There's no harm in playing around. The world will survive. The reference to the classic painting is noted.

I make my living as an artist, so I obviously don't think that the arts are dead. I make my living as a commercial artist... and it is in that commercial sector that the arts are thriving.

You don't have to be a rebellious bum to make a living as an artist. You can find a good job, make a good living and have some fun. Multimedia makes this possible. You've got to learn to program and how to handle difficult software programs, but what the hell...

I've mostly resigned from the hipster art world. It's a waste of time for me. I'm glad that so many others focus their time and energy on that crap. Less competition for me in the commercial art world.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 21, 2008 9:10 AM

Agnostic, your religious fervor for academic studies is almost endearing. Anyway, I'll give you an example of art changing culture. Hip hop.

Posted by: JV on September 21, 2008 11:21 AM

Spike: Makes me proud to smoke.

Veering OT here, but: As you should be. And ya know, I hate smoking - I hate the smell, I hate the debris, I hate the stale stench of tobacco smoke-infused clothes and furniture. The smell of tobacco is indelibly for me the scent of poverty and failure. But more than all the stink and ugly associations of tobacco smoke, I hate the bullying, anti-smoking bureaucrats who are so mean and worthless they can't think of anything better to do with their lives than torment adults enjoying a legal pleasure in the privacy of their or their friends' homes, or in a private establishment. (And much as I prefer a smoke-free bar or restaurant, there are some joints that are meant to be smoke-filled.)

Ramesh: Aren't all you all guys throwing the babe out with the (dirty) bathwater? why is it such a big deal to do /see pictures of nude/seminude girls well past their puberty? biologically, they would be with child a couple of years if they were animals.

If your objections and all the blow hot/ blow cold excrescences of words above only from the frictions caused between cultural permissions and biological realities, I beseech you repressed fucks to shut up and masturbate away your rage...or something.

Can't say I've noticed anybody around here denying that 15-year old girls are sexually mature and alluring. Can't say I've ever met a man who'd say, "Gosh, no, lovely blooming 15-year old girls don't turn my crank in any way; only perverts would notice those creatures". (See ST, supra, on the perennial delusion that only one's generation, or one's clique, knows anything about "biological realities".) Rather, the question, as mudmarine appears to be trying to articulate, is "how much responsibility do adults have to the sexually mature but often emotionally immature and vulnerable young?" Naturally, the father of daughters is going to come to different conclusions about these matters than people whose interests in the young ladies diverge from his own, and is unlikely to consider "if they were animals, they'd be doing X", as a good standard for choosing, er, courses of action. (And that is most certainly not a function of Dad not understanding perfectly well that there is no "if" about this, and that we are, uh, animals.) Todd's dual and conflicting reaction - that he both enjoys the allure of a lovely luscious young thing, and wants to kill any man who looks at his own young daughter that way - is also perfectly natural, and indicates to all but the most thickheaded of eternal teenagers that there is a (perfectly normal and predictable) ambiguity here, that isn't going to go away, no matter how much the eternal teenagers twitter and splutter about "repressed fucks".

Mudmarine, Todd Fletcher - It is obvious, from the fact that you don't consider your dicks the sole or final "interested parties" in these matters, that you're fucked-up prudes who understand nothing about biology, sex, or pleasure, are the grossest of philistines in matters aesthetic, and that you have dedicated yourselves to spoiling everybody else's fun. Tsk.

Posted by: Moira Breen on September 21, 2008 2:14 PM

Todd Fletcher --

Well, I've got a daughter on the cusp of teenage and if I ever catch a guy looking at her the way I've looked at some 15 year olds they better run.

No, ain't gonna work and many guys, particularly in their twenties are gonna do a lot of looking and sniffing. Maybe not in front of you but she really doesn't spend much of her day in front of you, does she?

Your job of course is to teach her well and give her lots of daddy non sexual love, which I imagine you do. Oh and birth control in case, while hoping she'll wait.

Which, these conditions being met, she probably will. Or will except for a time or two. While flirting madly, esp. with somewhat older boys when she gets half a chance.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 21, 2008 3:12 PM

It spontaneously occurs to me that if Shouting Thomas would stop presupposing that everything has been designed to outrage him, then he could stop going on and on about how un-outraged he is.

Posted by: Brian on September 21, 2008 3:54 PM

Actually knowing my daughter perhaps I should pity those future young guys, she's smart as a whip and not particular scrupulous about getting what she wants. Maybe the ability to wrap guys around their fingers is the protection nature gives young girls, though they aren't all equally adept at using it.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on September 21, 2008 3:58 PM

JV -- no academic studies are needed, just pointers to facts, and an argument based on those facts. Most people are too stupid, lazy, or credulous of popular rumors to do that, though -- like you.

You say hip hop changed "culture" -- I said I wanted an argument that art changed society. Obviously the arts, as part of what we call culture, affect culture.

Point: hip-hop glorified violence and promiscuity, but violent crime and promiscuity fell exactly when gangsta rap started to become popular -- around 1992. Also, you can't argue that hip-hop affected society, just in the other way -- that by exposing people to how degenerate you become when your life revolves around killing and hoes, people start to shy away from those activities.

Violent crime and promiscuity were already decelerating by the mid-late 1980s, so they were bound to tumble starting around 1992 whether gangsta rap had come along or not.

Arguing with morons gets awfully tiresome.

Posted by: agnostic on September 21, 2008 6:45 PM

Right on, Spike. William Gibson's last 2 novels have been about art's emotional appeal and the attempts by crass business interests to commercialize same. And during the punk era, no one was better at it than Malcolm McLaren, who was firmly at the center of art, fashion and music in late 70s London. Read "England's Dreaming".

Fun factoid about the style of the punk era: McLaren's partner, Vivianne Westwood, the genesis of the safety pin/faux bondage look of punk, was the designer of the gown that Carrie Bradshaw was to wear in the Sex and the City movie!

Posted by: Brutus on September 21, 2008 6:51 PM

OK, agnostic, I see where we misunderstand each other. When you say art hasn't changed "society," you mean mostly the numbers game (violence levels, etc.), whereas I meant things like fashion, speech, entertainment, etc. Of course hip hop arose from what was already happening around certain people, but it also changed the way millions of people dress and speak. In fact, it's had a very large impact, for better or worse, on the English language; large enough, I'd argue, that is has changed "society" by your definition.

Anyway, it's a bit disappointing that you resort to name-calling in response to my playful taunt. You statistics nerds are so unoriginal.

Posted by: JV on September 21, 2008 11:48 PM


Wait for it, maybe he'll call you a weed smoking drug addict too!


You want numbers? Contrast how people dressed circa 1961 versus how people dressed circa 1971.

You're so willfully obtuse you'd probably demand that I show numbers showing the decline of fedora hats and gray flannel jackets versus the rise of denim and tie dye t-shirts (it ain't real unless there's numbers written down somewhere!)

Of course you can probably dig up some numbers to disprove me, but as your sloppy style presupposes, you'll use one or two freaking datasets and ignore anything that contradicts it.

You bash the New York Times, but your statistical style is so remarkably similar, as to boggle the mind. Find a conclusion, then find ways to make the data fit it, be it cherry picking, exclusion, or definitional games (the last one in this case, please note that you didn't define societal change until people started slamming you on it). At least in the case of the New York Times, they have a coterie of whiter people nodding and feeling superior to buy their papers. You have some anonymous strangers you tell on the web about your purported adventures in dance floor frottage between "data" dumps.

Arguing with morons is dull, I agree, but arguing with the sublimely self-deluded is as fun as a cat playing with a mouse that thinks its a dog.

Jesus, I'm reading too many Shouting Thomas posts.


The key is to really be infuriating is to smoke with style and to hark back to a long lost age. My preferred method is via pipe, and so many people say the smell reminds them of their grandfathers. People need reminders of the things lost to the past to show the lack of such touchstones for the future in the name of mindless modernity.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on September 22, 2008 8:30 AM

JV, you're right about how hip-hop has changed society. We live in a world where our ruling classes feel obliged to mimic the behaviours of our lowest classes (hip hop is of course itself a parody of those behaviours, but the point stands).

This vulgarization of society is as important as it feminization. We're living in a world where images and examples of genuine masculinity are hard to come by. Hip-hop, and everything about it, is to genuine masculinity as a transsexual is to genuine femininity. The Rawness' point about ghetto thugs being feminized males is bang on. Porno chickishness, all bloated and siliconed, and hip-hop, all steroided and blinged out--yuck yuck yuck to both--are almost certainly the things someone from 100 years ago would be most appalled by if they stepped out of a time machine into today's America.

Oh, and agnostic calls everybody names these days. Brrrr. Careful, JV, he might jump up and punch you in your kneecap!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 22, 2008 10:35 AM

Moira --

Since I haven't directly spoken to you before in comments let me say that I admire both your writing panache, and your general good sense. That's not to say I'm amazed if I ever disagree with you, but I certainly take what you say seriously, and look forward to your orations.

Your essential point above, stripped of it's poetry, is that while it may be and you're will to say it IS natural for men to be attracted to teens who are also pubescent, it's also natural for fathers and families, and by extention society, to wish to shelter them from predation by significantly older men, and hense that setting an age of consent above the age of natual male attraction is not some crime against nature either.

So far I can see your point. I would still argue that 18 as opposed to 16 or 15 is wrong and deluded as Europe appreciates for example, and hence an unfair trap for the unlucky, and a matter properly delt with by families in it's ambiguities, but let's leave that aside.

The big problem Moira is that it's become a commonplace in the media, including it's flagships of social taste, wisdom and standards such as the NY Times, to refer to men who have, or only wanted to have, sexual relations with "under age" teenagers as pedophiles. Full up sex perverts. People who society may rightfully regard as probably incurable and deserving of life long Megan's law regisitration. Complete social outcasts.

Note that this is applied to men who have been caught foldling sixteen or seventeen year old girls!!! -- just as though they were 9 year olds instead.

I realize that some may become suspious that I'm making too big a deal of this and that therefore it must hit home personally for me. Well it doesn't. At all.

I just hate the kind of witch hunting and social hysteria that's over extended and absurdly applied, as is regularly the case in this area. (Note the social attitude to true pedophiles going after true children such as 9 or 10 year olds etc. is fully merited. A lot of real luring of reluctant young teenagers by considerably older men also squicks me out, even if that isn't really pedophelia. It can be predatory behavior.)

The current labeling and hysteria though is pretty much cateorical and without nuance and applied to any actual or attempted sexual contact at all with any "under age" girl regardless of how she feels about it (variously below 18 or under the local age of consent, depending on the law involved). It's not just illegal, it's treated as an horrific sex crime. It's life changing or destroying for some men. That isn't just ok.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 23, 2008 12:27 AM

FWIW, according to Scientific American, Merlot sales declined noticeably after Paul Giammatti's character in "Sideways" dissed merlot.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 23, 2008 4:20 AM

Spike: The key is to really be infuriating is to smoke with style and to hark back to a long lost age. My preferred method is via pipe, and so many people say the smell reminds them of their grandfathers. People need reminders of the things lost to the past to show the lack of such touchstones for the future in the name of mindless modernity.

You should get a fedora to go along with that pipe. Fedoras are key. We can date the handbasket being routed to hell not from the '60s, not from the Beats, not from feminism or the heyday of the Frankfurt School, but from the time men stopped wearing fedoras. (Just as the end of the dollar was sealed when the manly, straight-up greenback started being ponced up with all those extra colors, as if it were some sort effete Euro-pimp currency. I notice these things. They matter.)

I'm sometimes tempted to take up smoking, asthma and all. The cigarette in hand can be an excellent tool of nuance and punctuation in conversation. And I have these really long finger bones that have been wasted on one so devoid of musical talent - the least I can do is put them to work wielding an articulate cig. (Doubtless this works best if one resembles Dietrich or Bacall. But one must work with what one has.) Not that I'd stink up my own house doing this. I'll go light up in a Whole Foods or something.

You have some anonymous strangers you tell on the web about your purported adventures in dance floor frottage between "data" dumps.

Snork. I confess I've never gotten through one of ol' Ag's comments without thinking, "Dude, that never happened."

PatrickH: This vulgarization of society is as important as it feminization. We're living in a world where images and examples of genuine masculinity are hard to come by. Hip-hop, and everything about it, is to genuine masculinity as a transsexual is to genuine femininity.

That's a very astute point about the effeminate thuggery. The vulgarization and the feminization are the same phenomenon, or perhaps the two are locked in a feedback loop. The swagger, the boasting, the flash are all so alien to ideals of masculinity I was raised to admire. I'm not much of a movie-goer or a consumer of current popular culture - does that old image exist at all, in any form? The old image being, for example, the persona that Gregory Peck projected. (I've just watched several old Peck films lately, so it's fresh in my mind.) Peck to me portrayed the Classic American Male - no muss, no fuss, did what needed to be done, a gentleman, the glass of decency and the mold of courage, all steak and no swagger (if you'll allow me to mangle a metaphor), all go and no show, completely devoid of effeminate posturing and braggadocio. (The wonderful character of Kyuzo in Seven Samurai is of this type.) That style is still around, embodied in flesh and blood men I know, but as an image, a model?

(So I got to thinking - Gregory Peck, fedoras, smoking...there must be a clip of Peck on youtube, in a fedora, smoking, no? Well, I didn't quite find all those items exactly, but here's Peck, in what may be my fave Peck -Twelve O'Clock High- in an Army Air Force trench, smoking for a few frames, anyway. Close enough.)

dougjnn: First, thank you for the lovely compliment. I don't think we disagree much here. I believe you get to the heart of the matter with your comment about "a matter properly dealt with by families in its ambiguities". Legalistic abuses and absurdities arise when social coherence breaks down and there are no universally understood and shared standards of sexual behavior. The fellow getting horsewhipped by papa knew he had it coming and why; the man facing charges today may be in a state of utter bewilderment about his situation. I'll expand later if I find the time. Right now I'm overcome with the urge to hop in my car, drive to Washington, and bitch-slap Ben Bernanke.

Posted by: Moira Breen on September 23, 2008 7:54 PM

I've always picture Spike wearing a fedora. Seems to fit somehow.

Spike? Do tell.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 24, 2008 10:46 AM

Patrick and Moira:

I have about three fedoras, a couple Panamas and a Greek fisherman's cap. I don't go out without a hat or a sports jacket, but I confess to wearing jeans and t-shirts often enough. Never shorts or sandals. Any male over the age of 12 who's not from Bermuda who wears those as normal clothes has no taste.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on September 24, 2008 8:05 PM

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