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February 25, 2009

More on Porn and Art

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I still have a bad cold, but I've now got a quarter of my brain back, and I've caught up with the comments on my "Is Porn the New Rock 'n' Roll?" posting. So I'm going to venture a few musings and responses ...


  • Let's at least admit that the "porn and art" topic can kick off a lively discussion.

  • The comparison of porn to drugs strikes me as a good one. On the other hand, it's not as though rock music hasn't had its drug side, in several senses. Clearly some people use rock as a drug, if only an anesthetic. Clearly a lot of people have used rock to enhance sex. Clearly rock can addle the brain. Clearly for many people rock is addictive ... But has any of that prevented the culture generally from deciding that rock is an art form?

  • Which opens up a topic I'm surprised we haven't made more of, which is: Part of the "art" thing isn't so much what the artwork is per se, let alone what its intention is. Part of it is the use we make of it. If a guy jerks off to Nabokov's "Ada," then he has used "Ada" as pornography. If a woman loves shall we say soothing her loneliness by watching Kevin Costner movies, then she's using mainstream Hollywood movies as pornography. Though these two particular people may be nothing but outliers, how about this: What if the culture generally decides to take "Ada" as porn? (Some critics have in fact deemed it porn.) Then it's porn, right? On the other hand, as soon as someone starts to take stuff that's routinely categorized as porn and considers it from an aesthetic point of view, interesting non-porny things can start to arise from the experience. You might wind up with, say, Bettie Page.

  • In other words, how an individual or a culture chooses to take a given work is a big factor in how that work is considered. Once upon a time no one took burlesque performances as art. Now some people do. The first time I went to a pro ballet performance, my first reaction was "Woohoo, it's porn for the high-class set!" Yet ballet is about as high-art as culture can be. And before you dismiss my reaction, let me cite the respected ex-ballerina and ballet writer Toni Bentley on my behalf. For her, ballet both is sex and is about sex. Balanchine was turning himself on. Audiences are getting high. The splayed thighs, the ecstatic expressions, and the hefty baskets are a big part of what that art form is selling. Hey, Toni Bentley has not only written beautifully about strippers, Balanchine, and ballet -- check out some of her freelance pieces here -- she's written a wonderful arty-porny memoir of erotic awakening. (Look closely and you'll see my real name mentioned in the Acknowledgments.) I'm being a little presumptuous, but I think it's fair to say that Toni would be disappointed if you didn't find her memoir damn arousing. Porn? Art? Does one really have to decide? As far as ballet goes: hoity-toity, exquisitely refined activity fit only for the cognoscenti? Or the best leg show in town?

  • One of the big cultural changes that digi-tech has promoted is a hitting-my-buttons ethos. You click around until you find something that really delivers, that really suits you. It's a common experience for everyone in websurfing. It's something most people have played with in Photoshop. (This filter? That filter? Higher contrast? Lower?) Apple's GarageBand is a great example. GarageBand is a tool for composing music. But you don't compose in GarageBand in the usual ways. You don't come up with something and then set out to realize it. Instead, you noodle around clicking on this given riff and that canned beat until you arrive at something you think is pretty groovy. That ain't composition in the usual sense. Instead, it's clicking on buttons in order to tickle your pleasure centers. Which, needless to say, is similar to how most people interact with online porn. So you might say that the porn experience (searching for fun ways to hit your own buttons) has shown the way for the rest of the culture. You might also say that, with digitification, all the arts are moving in a hit-my-buttons, indeed porn-ish direction. Is there some point in pretending that this isn't happening?

  • The idea that there's nothing, and can never be anything new, in porn where rock was something entirely new under the sun strikes me as nutty. For one thing, what's so "new" about rock? Rhythmic sexy dance music has been around, like, forever. Rock circa 1954 was just the then-current outbreak of it. I mean, it was new, but it was deeply not-new too. Besides, do you follow porn? I don't much either, but here's a little list of recent innovations and styles that even I'm aware of: gonzo, amateur, webcam, alt, user-generated. Kink.com has been widely recognized as startling in a variety of ways. So, sure, porn has been around forever, yet it keeps cropping up in new forms that speak to new situations and new circumstances. How is that different than music? Or from any other art form, really?

  • Another big innovation that digital tech has led to is women-making-porn (and women dabbling in porn) in their own terms. Madison Young runs her own show. The girls putting themselves on display at Beautiful Agony are girls you might run into in Starbuck's. The early webcam girls Ana Voog and Isabella were boho girls who -- once they got the tools -- chose to put themselves on X-rated (though often arty) display. And let's not overlook the fact that pro porn is now a field that an arty Williamsburg girl from Rutgers (Joanna Angel) might choose to go into. Not something that used to happen.

  • Practically speaking, one of the reasons porn (as in videos) used to be so uncreative was that it was soooooo viciously bottom-line. Degraded and often mob-run, in fact. A musician friend of mine back in the '80s supported himself for a couple of years doing scores for porn vids. He told me that he was excited going into it because he thought, "Cool, it's commercial, but it's under the radar, so maybe there'll be chances to have fun and be creative in scrappy ways. Maybe it'll be like comic books!" But in fact that turned out not to be the case. The money and schedules were so tight, and the bosses were such crude bastards, that all you could do was pump out garbage you despised as fast as you could make it. Now, though, with digi-tech anyone can make what they want, on whatever schedule they want, with whatever "creative" input they can summon up.

As for the "we MUST, SIMPLY MUST, discuss morals" crowd ... Sigh. A comparison. Let's say that a certain unnamed culture observer looks around and notices that contempo car design is a lively field. He says, "Hey, that's got me wondering about a couple of things. Will people ever see car design as art? And will people in 50 years look back at our era and decide that car design in 2009 was a major art event?" Fairly innocuous but reasonably provocative musings.

Now suppose that some people start showing up at this conversation saying, "We MUST, SIMPLY MUST, discuss drunk driving and only drunk driving. Why? Well, because whenever the topic of cars comes up, all other concerns MUST be set aside and drunk driving MUST be dealt with. People drink! People drive! People die! It's such an overwhelmingly important fact that nothing else concerning cars CAN EVER BE discussed. So where do YOU stand on drunk driving?"

Fair enough to respond to this crowd by saying, "Agreed that drunk driving is an important topic. But, seriously, it's been discussed and is being discussed in thousands of other forums. And is it really true that nothing else concerning cars can or should ever be discussed? Surely in the midst of it all there's room for one discussion about car design as art and about how the future may view our present moment in car design"?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at February 25, 2009




Comments

Instead, you noodle around clicking on this given riff and that canned beat until you arrive at something you think is pretty groovy. That ain't composition in the usual sense.

Uh, yes it is composition in the usual sense. Noodling around is what most composers and poets and writers do. Sure, there may be some vague conception behind it, but the actual work tends to come together after a lot of floundering about. Even a big, well put together book like Anna Karenina was just Tolstoy noodling around with the vague idea of writing a novel about adultery.

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 1:57 PM



I think you need to more rigourously define porn. If porn is everything anyone ever does to turn someone else on, then is the girl wearing a low cut top to work a pornographer? Is singing a sexy song pornography. As usual a too broad definition starts to lose all meaning.

I would say the best definition of porn is:

a) the explicit depiction of sex acts with the intent to arouse; and
b) the explicit depiction of sexual body parts like butts, breasts and genitals with the intent to arouse.

One can go on about all sorts of gray areas, but any definition that strays too far from this starts to lose coherence.

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 2:07 PM



Michael:

One of the things that you seem to sidestep is the issue of whether porn's purpose of getting people off conflicts with the purposes of art. I agree that there _are_ some gray areas.

As for the issue of drugs, Denis Dutton's essay on the conflicting views of Steven Pinker and Joseph Carroll on the arts seems very relevant. What exactly is the difference between the pleasure we get from the arts and the pleasure we get from drugs, or pornography?

Here is nice quote:

"Now let us imagine that some clever neurophysiologist invents a drug or technology that can give you the emotion of the Brahms movement directly, without having to sit through the music itself. This might involve taking a pill, or attaching little wired pads to your temples. The Hanslickian claim is that such a procedure is unintelligible. It makes no sense because the intense emotional tone of the Brahms 4th is not something in your brain externally caused by the music, and therefore extrinsic to the music. The emotion is known only in experiencing that very piece of music, in the minutes that you experience it."

http://www.denisdutton.com/carroll_review.htm

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 2:31 PM



BTW, Michael, when are we going to get your take on "game" literature?

I know I've been sounding like a broken record on this but I really do want to know your thoughts on books like The Game, The Mystery Method, and The Art of Seduction.

I also want your comprehensive recommendations for older seduction/sex/courtship books, whether manuals, memoirs, fictions or anything else. I will have to pick up the Bentley memoir sometime. I hear her ballet book is even better though.

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 2:36 PM



Michael, I'm not against art that has the potential to arouse, as I think I've said once or twice on my blog. You were asking about the new pornography, though - the porn that is new in that it is a)everywhere; b)accepted by nearly everyone below a certain age because it's everywhere; and c) often made by amateurs to post on the web.

I'm worried about this stuff, and not about ballet, Old Master pictures by Titian or Courbet or my beloved (and rather porny) Fragonard, because these new aspects of porn make it rather different from the stuff that people once encountered occasionally in Playboy, or in rented videos.

There's a generation of young men and women who are in danger - that's how I think of it - of having their whole sexuality shaped entirely by the porn experience, something that is very unlikely to happen with ballet, paintings, or even rock and roll. The artfulness and skill that goes into the new porn doesn't ease my worry about it.

Really, I'm sorry to bore you with my worries, but there you are. I can't simply dismiss them. Nor do I think it's true that there are thousands of discussions out there dissecting the dangers of porn. Most of the concern about porn focusses on the exploitation of the actresses, with the occasional nod to the men who become obsessed with porn. No one seems to be talking much about how porn is becoming a part of every young person's sex life, and what they may learn from it.

Posted by: aliasclio on February 25, 2009 3:09 PM



Alcohol and dope can both be used to get snackered, but alcohol (say, wine) can be used for other purposes: taste, complement to food, aid to conviviality. Dope's sole use is getting high. Maybe someone somewhere enjoys the "taste" of a good fat joint, but I doubt it.

Nabokov might conceivably be used for jack-off material, as might certain visual art pieces, but that's not the main, let alone the only, reason for reading Nabokov or looking at some sexy nymph frolicking in a Bouguereau (okay maybe it is the only reason to look at a Bouguereau nymph--he leaves me cold artistically).

Porn is to Nabokov as dope is to wine.

As for the question of whether to discuss porn's negative effects: one of the reasons it will probably never be accepted the way rock n roll was is precisely because of its negative effects: at least in terms of its tendency to isolate its consumers and build at least some distance between men and women. So it is relevant to discuss the negative effects (if such they be) in a discussion of whether porn will ever be accepted.

The analogy with drunk driving makes no real sense. The harm caused by porn, according to some of your interlocutors, isn't caused by inept (drunken) porn use. Porn is held (by those who raised the issue) to be harmful precisely when it is used as intended.

Me, I think porn will never be accepted because of what it's intended to be used for: to jerk off to. And jerking off is still considered something private. No one brags about jerking off, and I don't think they ever will. I'm not saying jerking off is bad (I remember a cartoon in Playboy or Penthouse way back in the seventies--two boys are talking solemnly, and one of them says, "I've heard that if you don't masturbate, you go insane." I can relate!), and lord knows the improved reputation of masturbation is one of the real social changes of the sexual revolution...but it's still considered a substitute for the real thing, and for guys at least, has nothing to do with "self-exploration" or "empowering of your body sense". Guys brag about the number of hot chicks they've rodgered, and how many times they can come while f*cking. No guy brags about how many times a day he can manually induce himself to orgasm.

At least, none of the guys I know.

Guys use porn to do something they don't want to admit to doing. That reluctance will always stain (sorry!) the reputation and acceptability of porn.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 25, 2009 3:45 PM



Thursday drank the high-octane stuff this morning!

Thursday 1.: You're skipping two words in my description: "given" and "canned." In GarageBand, you aren't noodling around with what's on your mind, or with your own doodles, you're noodling around with what the GarageBand engineers thought fit to include in the program. It's a pick-an-item-on-a-menu kind of approach to music-creation.

Thursday 2: I tend to be a muddy-the-waters kind of guy where the topic's concerned, but, yeah, that seems like a good definition of porn. Does that disqualify it as art, though? I mean, you might well say that the intent and purpose of an action movie is to stimulate excitement. Does that mean an action movie can't be considered as art?

Thursday 3: I think there are many gray areas! And, though I love Dutton and wish "The Art Instinct" were given out to all freshmen, I'm often more interested in how people take things and what they make of them than he is. Here's a fun mind-game. Imagine a 30 second clip. Shows hardcore sex. Yet it's selling a Chevrolet. It's an ad, in other words. Does it qualify as porn? I mean, it does show hardcore sex, and it's clearly meant to arouse. On the other hand, the clip's main purpose is to sell you a Chevrolet. If we're judging by main intent and purpose, it isn't porn. Yet there are all those genitals thrusting away at each other ...

Thursday 4: Appreciate your interest! But, since I've only read 1.5 Game books so far, I don't have much to say. Going thru the Neil Straus, the biggest surprise for me was how really geeky the people and scene are. I mean, it comes across like an elf-quest or D&D role-playing game. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised but I was. I'm mainly into it to learn, though. What a weird and interesting development. More eager to hear your reflections about it than to volunteer my own -- you're much more advanced and tuned-in than I am. And you're right, I should really put together a list of trad-art stuff that's semi-relevant, thanks for the shove.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 25, 2009 5:14 PM



Clio -- Fragonard is pretty porny, isn't he? Frivolity ... Tickling ... Arousal ... Naughtiness ... Fun!

Oh, I understand that many people find porn upsetting or worrying. I fret about it sometimes myself. It's a very weird development, that this previously semi-repressed mostly-underground thing should suddenly be present so openly and bountifully.

"There's a generation of young men and women who are in danger - that's how I think of it - of having their whole sexuality shaped entirely by the porn experience ..."

I think you're a little late with that worry! I suspect it's already happened, don't you?

One of the striking things at Roissy's is the number of guys who aren't comfortable with the idea that a real woman (or any real woman they might consent to have dealings with) might not also be a porn fantasy. Seems to me that in the old days 16 year old guys might spend a few days getting used to the fact that their first g.f. didn't look quite as flawless as the centerfolds they'd sneaked looks at alone. But then you adapted, you learned that real girls have their virutes and that fantasy and reality are two different (if sorta related) things. And by the age of 17 you saw getting over that hurdle as part of turning into a real man. Many of the kids at Roissy's clearly haven't done this yet, and seem determined never to do it.

I'm less clear on how the early-and-frequent porn-exposure thing has hit young women's brains. Pole dancing? Lip-locking with other girls? General hyper-aggressive shameless acting-out as a necessary part of being a succcessful girl? A general feeling that it's part of their job as a young woman to be as porn-princessy as possible?

In any case, both sexes seem to expect the other sex to be as glossy and dynamic as a media representation, and neither one seems to have any idea what it is to actually experience sex as an interaction with another human being, not just a you're-so-hot/I'm-so-hot shared jerkoff session. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But sex didn't used to end there.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 25, 2009 5:28 PM



PatrickH -- But wine's a perfect example for me! Wine has zero intellectual content. It's all about pleasure. With luck, wine tastes good, and it gets you high. And many people are perfectly OK with the idea that someone who creates wine is (among other things) an artist, or at least a craftsperson who might be an artist.

Porn (or erotica, or whatever) ... With luck, it appeals to the senses and imagination (ie., it tastes good) and it delivers arousal (it gets you high). The people behind Abby Winters create a very different product than the people behind Kink.com. So why don't we view them in much the same way we view wine-makers?

Incidentally, I'm not being (look out, Moira) mischievous here, I mean this quite sincerely. It's nice to enjoy a zingy thrill, just as it's nice to enjoy a nice wine, both the flavor and the buzz. Why aren't we as appreciative of the first as we are of the second?

As for the social danger ... Can anyone really argue that porn is as big a danger as alcohol, let alone (my example from the posting) cars? After all, your life is far more likely to be mangled by a car crash than by anyone's porn stash.

Incidentally, I don't understand the emphasis some people lay (heehee) on jerking off. Clearly porn is often used that way, but clearly wine is often used just to get drunk. That doesn't mean wine can't be great, and that wine-making isn't an artform. In any case, is it really so unusual for people to surf thru images of pretty women or sexy situations, enjoy the pleasant buzz, appreciate the twists and angles and hooks in the work, fondle the girls and the scenarios imaginatively (is there a personality here? etc), and then surf off? Do all American men grab it and beat it the minute they spot a sexy image? Sheesh, we really are a nation of people with no self-control at all ....

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 25, 2009 5:40 PM



OT - Michael, sorry to hear about your cold. I made a change in my diet about six months ago which seems to be giving me greater resistance to colds than I had in the past. It's very simple. I take 4 grams of fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids) daily. That's 4 one thousand milligrams tablets a day. Very easy. Aside from all its other health benefits omega 3 seems to increase resistance to colds. At least in my case.
We now return you to your regular scheduled programming. :^D

Posted by: ricpic on February 25, 2009 5:43 PM



Michael:

Actually, the one book I am most interested in getting your thoughts on is Robert Greene's The Art of Seduction. It's much more old school, with lots of literary and historical references. It seems very much like a Michael Blowhard kind of book and it does much to wean you away from the hyperactive, videogame aspects of "game." Those aspects though really only apply to cold approaches, especially in bars and clubs, where you have to fight it out with a thousand distractions and really wow her over in a very short period of time. Talking to girls at parties, conferences, work related get togethers is a lot more relaxed.

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 5:46 PM



In GarageBand, you aren't noodling around with what's on your mind, or with your own doodles, you're noodling around with what the GarageBand engineers thought fit to include in the program. It's a pick-an-item-on-a-menu kind of approach to music-creation.

Oh, OK. Kinda like sampling in hip hop.

Posted by: Thursday on February 25, 2009 5:54 PM



Michael,

You seem quite determined to mine this "sex is play" vein, and you've repeatedly stated that you think that average Joes are missing something by not understanding sex as an aesthetic and entertainment format.

I'd argue that you are the one missing out. You are childless. You've missed entirely the life and death drama of sexuality. I've embraced both the play and the life and death sides at various points in my life, and my opinion is that the play side is empty and boring without the life and death issues.

It strikes me as a bit arrogant for a person who's completely missed out on the life and death drama of sexuality to be so sure of himself. The part about sexuality linking me to my children and to my wives... that's been the spiritual and sexual center of my life. In my opinion, this is essential to the spiritual and sexual development of a human.

I've got an odd feeling that you are the one missing out. I have no idea why any person who deprive himself of this part of life, although I've heard plenty of explanations... none of them the least bit convincing.

You and your wife are having a lot of fun together. It's obvious that you are in love, and becoming only more in love as you age together. Myrna and I had the same thing going. We just became more in love every day we spent together. Embracing sex for fun, and using porn as an add-on within this type of relationship is a wonderful thing.

Let me tell you that, in the absence of Myrna, sex for fun and porn as an add-on are completely worthless. When Myrna was here, I thought (just as you now seem to) that I'd discovered some universal truths about the aesthetics and wonders of sex. Now that she's gone, I'm bitterly aware that I just had a tremendous, spiritual partner who was also a whale of a lot of fun.

Personally, I think you're way off base here. First, I think you're the one who's missed out on the most dramatic, enjoyable and meaningful part of sexuality... having children. Second, I think you're mistaking being in a great relationship, with erotic play as an add-on, to what happens to people when they embrace porn as their primary form of sexual gratification.

I don't buy youre insistence that this is "moral" talk. Once again, this is about "cost." You are just dead wrong in ascribing discussion about cost to morality. People who embrace porn as their primary form of sexual expression... well, there will be hell to pay.

In short, I'll say again (and apologize in advance for the inevitable offense) that your childlessness has obviously led to a lack of development in some crucial areas. This is the problem for a society in which so many people embrace childlessness. They are missing out on some very essential information and maturation.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 25, 2009 5:56 PM



Porn that appeals to men doesn't affect women the same way. Raw sexuality, even expressions of lust are often distasteful to women, due to cultural conditioning or biology. Visual depictions of people "doing it" especially the kind that focus on genitals is as abrasive as some guy on the bus rubbing his crotch across your ass. The majority of women are going to get defensive which is why most guys above a certain IQ realize that showing his date porn isn't going to get him laid.

The only way most porn can be considered art is in the sense of how effective it is at getting a man erect because it isn't conducive to getting an actual woman to respond to a man. Since you've limited your audience, I don't see how your topic "porn and art" can be up for serious consideration. I can't believe you're still hammering away at this (and banging our heads on the headboard in the process.) OUCH!

Posted by: shiva on February 25, 2009 8:14 PM



MB:
Wine is devoid of intellectualism?
I guess I'm the only guy who is *really* into soil pH and genetic lines of grape varietals.

Back to the main subject:
In the interests of fiction *ahem* I've plunged deep into the abyss that is the modern porn DIY culture, and I didn't like what I saw there, stirring the atrophied cockles of my moral compass.

If I may, Michael, suggest that you are focusing on that which bubbles to the top, the shiny, the empowering, the wankable which aspires to some sort of aesthetic sublime (or just a funky good time).

No, for one such as myself, who have walked through the valley of the *chans and seen things which would make the most hardened Roissy poster vomit a bit in their mouth at mankind's penchant for higher and higher levels of amoral stimulation, I can deeply sympathize with those who critique it.

Let me put it this way. In Junior High, there was no internet, it was all old school dog-eared Hustler mags in the mouth-breathing fat kid's backpack. By the time I was a high school Senior, it had exploded, and I was getting stuff that put Hustler to shame off the Usenet.

It's an ever lower and lower bar. I mean, Beautiful Agony, all that stuff, it's absinthe that guys in penthouses sip and sigh over, while nowadays in the streets below you got vast herds of maladaptive young geeks mainlining lolicon manga ripped from seedy message boards, and frat boys chugging from 40oz. bottles of Bangbus off of a torrents listing.

I can't say that we can stuff the genie in the dirty raincoat back into it's bottle. Once it's out, it's out. All I can say is that it makes for great, vivid (if highly depressing) fiction.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on February 25, 2009 8:16 PM



Michael,

Sorry to pile it on, but...

Why in the world would a 60 year old man give a fuck about whether something is the "new rock and roll?"

Hell, I'm a musician and I don't care about that. As a nearly 60 year old man, my priorities are elsewhere. Wondering about the cultural impact of rock and roll is something for 20 year olds to do... not me. Wondering about whether porn is the new rock and roll is for kids.

When I think of that childless society in Manhattan and San Francisco, and a bunch of other places, this is precisely the problem. This eternal adolescence stuff is not interesting, and it's a waste of time for 60 year old people. I've got to disagree with you. A society full of 60 year old adolescents doesn't strike me as interesting and charming. It's kind of a disgusting pain in the ass.

Some of the kids in my classes go out in the parking lot during lunch to throw back a shot and smoke a joint. I don't know what I think about them doing that, but I sure as hell know better. Is this moralism? No, it's all about understanding cost. I did stupid shit like that when I was a kid. Somewhere along the line, I realized that that kind of behavior was better kept private. It doesn't help me to function. Other adults don't want to see me doing that shit.

I really don't give a fuck about rock and roll any more. I stopped giving a fuck about rock and roll over 3 decades ago. It's of no consequence to me. Why in the world do you continue to give a fuck about rock and roll? Why does it strike you as having any importance?

Porn is a vice, best kept private. I'm old enough to know how people can destroy themselves by crossing that barrier. The kids are going to do it because they are young and stupid. I know better.

Why does this subject interest you? As a 60 year old man, I'd think your interests and priorities would lie elsewhere. And this has nothing to do with whether you use porn. If you do, isn't that better kept private? Not to satisfy some sort of moral imperative, but just for the sake of social dignity. What adult wants to know about the masturbation habits of other adults? I sure as hell don't... and that doesn't mean that I fail to feel compassion for adults who masturbate.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 25, 2009 8:34 PM



Does this qualify as porn...?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L'Origine_du_monde

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on February 25, 2009 10:03 PM



Charlton: for Peter, sure it's porn. For the rest of us? Well, that is one damn funny title for that painting...Courbet was quite the cutup, wasn't he?

Michael, I'm not going to pursue my argument with you (I was comparing porn to dope, not wine, precisely because, like dope, it's not meant to be enjoyed in many ways. But never mind). Instead let me join Thursday in recommending Robert Greene's Art of Seduction.

It's very well written, looks at seduction as a game both sexes can play, and even goes so far as to recommend that you be attracted to the person you want to seduce! Sounds like common sense, but so many of the young Gamesters seem curiously lacking in any genuine attraction to their targets--maybe they're notch-collecting. I like your comparison of the Game community to geeky Dungeons & Dragons types: nerds trying to systematize pickup (roll a 20-sided die, if you make your Approach check, open with your Magic Cube spell, er, I mean routine!)

Why it's almost as if they're more interested in impressing one another than actually scoring with women. And now that I think of it, what do guys into role-playing games call themselves?

Why, Gamers. They call themselves Gamers. And what is pickup but the role-playing game par excellence? And unlike D & D, there are even girls around!

MIchael, bad cold or not, you're onto something here. Hmmmm...

Posted by: PatrickH on February 25, 2009 10:43 PM



Shouting Thomas:

to continue your style of arguing, why in the fuck do you care about the childlessness of the Western world at nearly 60?

why in the fuck care about anything? why in the fuck have blogs or internet or discussion about anything at all? let's just have blogs that discuss what our children and grandchildren did all day long and what Obama's doing or not doing and whether we should send troops to Iraq or Afghanistan...wait, we already have those.

A discussion about rock-and-roll and porn as art has just as much merit as a discussion about Van Gogh or ballet as art.

Posted by: Chuck on February 26, 2009 12:02 AM



like a first love, men fondly remember their first porn exposure in technicolor detail.
for some: the joy of sex.
for others: a glimpse up their high school english teacher's skirt.

nerds trying to systematize pickup

makeup is pickup systematization for women.

Why it's almost as if they're more interested in impressing one another than actually scoring with women.

nah, impressing the crew with tales of conquest is taken as a welcome side effect of the exquisite pleasure obtained from sex. this peripheral ego strut is mostly relegated to the younger set still in thrall with the novelty of it all.
note: exegesis on the manner in which a successful seduction unfolds != braggadocio.

Why, Gamers. They call themselves Gamers.

shorthand is always subject to the abuse of sneering haters.
for this reason, i prefer the term "seducer".
or in my more florid moments: practitioner of the crimson arts.

And unlike D & D, there are even girls around!

that makes all the difference.
course, the same could be said of just about any activity that has girls around.

Posted by: roissy on February 26, 2009 12:05 AM



Roissy:

Why not Venusian artist? ;)

Posted by: Thursday on February 26, 2009 12:35 AM



Actually the preferred terms seem to be PUA or pick up artist.

Posted by: Thursday on February 26, 2009 12:38 AM



Ricpic -- Thanks for the tip. I've been wondering if I should be taking omega-3 fish oils, now you've got me convinced.

ST -- No offence taken, I'm sure that having kids is a major thing to experience. Not sure how my not having done so is relevant to my culture-observations, though. BTW, I'm not arguing that "sex IS play and ONLY play." I'm talking about the extent to which sex is play. It's one of the instincts, appetites and senses that we've teased into something more delightful, the way that we've teased hunger and taste into really fabulous cuisines, or our vulnerability to visual pleasure into painting and fabrics, or our love of information and gossip into stories and literature. Clearly the "feeding ourselves" and "survival" part of "eating" are important. But just as clearly we do a lot of eating for pleasure. Same with sex. Even a prolific daddy with ten kids will probably fuck 2000 times in his lifetime. That's 1990 bouts of sex that were done more for pleasure than with anything more practical in mind. Worth talking about, no?

Shiva -- I think you might be surprised by how many young women are fairly comfortable with porn these days. And I guess you aren't familiar with the considerable literature that exists about "porn and art"? I'm just making a modest contribution to it.

Charlton -- That's a classic, tks.

PatrickH, Thursday -- I guess I should be check out the Robert Greene, tks. I remember that his "Rules of Power" hit some people hard too. Have you tried that one?

Chuck -- Eh, it's all taking note of the passing spectacle.

Roissy -- One of these days you'll let your readers in on how you chose your handle. Speaking of which ... Toni Bentley's memoir is something you might find worth a read and a posting. Short, dirty, smart, pretentious, hot ... What's not to like?


Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 26, 2009 12:53 AM



Regarding Robert Greene, some go-getter friends of mine got heavily into his book The 48 Laws of Power and were nice enough to call me one evening and inform me I was habitually breaking all 48 of them. Having previously read the book and decided it was conformist drivel for the Willie Loman set, this was and remains one of my proudest moments.

Anyway, back to the smut.

Posted by: Brian on February 26, 2009 5:21 AM



Part of the "art" thing isn't so much what the artwork is per se, let alone what its intention is. Part of it is the use we make of it.

In other words, what the artist intended really doesn't matter? Well then you really share a view that is in common with the most extreme puritans in that the merit of a work is really dependent on the response of the viewer. So a prissy miss which gazes upon Michelangelo's David thinking it porn and a Homo thinking it a paean to boy love are both right in their interpretation of the work. The artists view of the matter is not really important.

In Tolkien's preface to the Lord of the Rings, he specifically sets out to state that his work has no hidden meaning: It was simply meant to be a good story. Of course the literary types took no notice since they knew better and propounded all sorts of hair-brained interpretations of his work. Their bullshit carried more weighting that his actual intent. Or let more put this more succinctly: Their opinions of his work were based on fantasy. There was no connection with reality.

Your approach to art is what a deconstructionists approach to literature is. The only meaning words have is the meaning we assign to them in our interpretation of the "text", in this instance the "text" being the work considered. I imagine that this sort of theoretical view justifies the whole business of art criticism, there is no right or wrong view, just the response that the work elicits. I suppose you're entitled to the view. But its a dangerous view since it as just as likely to be abused by the puritans as it is by the libertines. When the prissy party governs we get fig leaves over delicate bits, when the libertines govern we get bukkake, all under the pretext of high artistic sensibilities.

Of course what this view does is denigrates both artist and artistic expression, since by and large they are irrelevant to the goodness or badness of the work, be that moral or in the execution of the piece. The value of the work is solely dependent on the response it evokes. Of course the jaundiced eye of the critic is beyond criticism. Us plebs who disagree with their view are of course unrefined, boring and lacking in cultural sensibilities. Quite literally, if a pile of shit evokes an artistic response in a critic, it is by this definition, art. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to talk about "art" since we are talking about two different things. You, your response. Me, the work. We are talking

Practically speaking, one of the reasons porn (as in videos) used to be so uncreative was that it was soooooo viciously bottom-line

Or have you thought about it another way? Could bottom line production techniques be eminently suited to porn? I mean who cares about the plot, costume and drama? Just show me the fucking. All that other stuff detracts from the bump and grind. Would Beautiful Agony be made any better with different lighting or a musical score? It's meant to be rough, dirty,animalistic and real as possible. The cheap hotel room aesthetic is the stylistically the most appropriate for the "product". Indeed the product becomes more desired the more it conforms to our fantasies and the more real it appears. If your fantasy is banging the chubby girl next door. A porn movie with a fatty actress is going to be your closest substitute. I think the variety of porn that is out there is not a reflection of artistic interpretation of sex rather the result of commercial reward in providing fantasy material to satisfy the variety of human sexual fetishes.


Posted by: slumlord on February 26, 2009 6:31 AM



Michael,

I don't think of my sex life as the number of orgasms I experienced.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 26, 2009 7:27 AM



Roissy shorthands some sneering hateful abuse:

shorthand is always subject to the abuse of sneering haters.

Sure. Whatever that even means.

You know, I'm so sick of your misquotes and misreadings and juvenile little fits, I'm going to find that execrable "poem" you wrote as an ode to Chachi Lounge or the ChiChaChiChi Bar and Watering Spot and post some of it here. It was just so well written! It scanned so scansionally! You know, like the kind of poems you see at work, inviting you to the office Halloween party:

It's Halloween again
So make sure to bring all your friends
And come on down to room thirty eight
Where you will find some cookies great
And Dracula and Frankenstein too
But if you're naughty we'll jump at you and go BOO!

It was that bad. So how about it? Wanna get your poetic chops displayed here? If you don't, then don't bloody well waste my time by shrinking everything I say to fit into one of your little estrogen-mediated bullsh*t displays.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 26, 2009 9:52 AM



Chuck,

I like rock and roll. In fact, I play in a rock and roll band.

It's a fun way to spend a night. I enjoy hearing a rock band sometimes. I like some rock songs.

That's it. I'm not looking for any cultural values there, nor am I looking for guidance on how to live my life. The Rolling Stones are a nice form of entertainment. That's it. There isn't anything more. I don't find anything there to model my life on.

Is that clearer?

If I'm looking for cultural values or meaning, I look to work, or my marriage, or my church or my family. This is, I think, what we do when we are adults. Looking for cultural values or meaning in rock and roll is for dumb kids.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 26, 2009 12:28 PM



Thanks PartickH, you just made my afternoon.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on February 26, 2009 2:25 PM



Michael, you may be interested in the hipster-porn phenomenon that is Sasha Grey. Soon to be starring in a mainstrean, non-porn flick directed by Steven Soderberg, she is a one person self-branding machine that pretty much typifies the porn/rock 'n roll/art thing you've been valiantly trying to engage in here.

ST, I'm actually with you on the cultural values thing. I know some adults in their 40s now who are still finding the next big album that can speak to them. At this point, while I still love finding new music, it's purely for entertainment and if lucky, some spiritual stirrings. Looking for identity in pop-culture past the age of 25 is unseemly.

Slumlord, couldn't disagree with you more on artists' intentions. If you talk to artists, in any medium, I think you'll find that they accept and even embrace the fact that once their art is available to the public, it isn't theirs anymore in the sense that they can't and don't want to control how it's interpreted. That's why you'll find writers and artists extremely reluctant to discuss what a particular piece is "about" for fear of codifying it for others. For me and many, many others, the ebb and flow between artist and public is half the fun of art.

Posted by: JV on February 26, 2009 3:04 PM



Ballet was certainly seen as pornographic in the 19th century, ballet dancers were notorious as basically high-class escorts for the aristocracy. See Balzac.

But I tend to think of the issue as how much sublimation of basic human drives, how much additional *artfulness* is added to basic urges, to make up the art form. That's not a matter of technical craft alone, but of everything that makes up the pleasure of art -- wit, surprise, technique, exuberance, delaying gratification in order to heighten it, etc. It's the difference between great gourmet food and cramming your face with donuts. THe original gourmands of the 19th century actually were notorious gluttons, but they didn't *just* want to stuff their faces.

By that standard, porn is much closer to the donut end of the spectrum, fitting with a general cultural dumbing down. The rawness and explicitness encourages a simpleminded focus on satiating lust straightforwardly, just like pure fat and sugar tends to give culinary pleasure without real complexity or artfulness. On the other hand, the great freeing up of sexual norms allows *other* art forms to be more sexually explicit and to more directly address this side of life. So you get a book like Ada, which is both sexually arousing (ummm, I did as MB says during my early adolecense with this book) and a great work of art. That doesn't make it porn, though, it just makes it a great novel that is sexually explicit.

I think MB has gradually defined down his definition of art until it is anything that is both culturally interesting in some way and also gives pleasure. He has such a horror of elitism he's gradually moved away from making any quality distinctions.

Alcohol and dope can both be used to get snackered, but alcohol (say, wine) can be used for other purposes: taste, complement to food, aid to conviviality. Dope's sole use is getting high. Maybe someone somewhere enjoys the "taste" of a good fat joint, but I doubt it.

I will step up to defend pot here. There's a great deal of sophistication possible in appreciating the effects of the drug. The variance in psychoactive effects alone has a lot of interest, and yes there is difference in tastes. It probably does fall short of wine in the range of subtlety and interest possible (flavor-wise wine is incredible), there's a crudeness to it, but some of that has to do with the fact that it's, you know, illegal and that discourages sophisticated development.

Posted by: MQ on February 26, 2009 3:39 PM



ph reading = acidic:
Sure. Whatever that even means.

it's pretty clear. game is glib shorthand for the strategies, tactics, and concepts of seducing a woman into bed. convenient shorthand (and acronyms), by its very nature of stripping away explanatory information, leaves the concepts embodied therein open to snide attacks based on nothing more than the cutesiness of the word used.
to avoid such flank attacks from the resentful and humorless on high-brow blogs such as Mblowhards, i advocate minimizing usage of acronyms and substituting more conventional words for the modern parlance of the urbandictionary crowd.

You know, I'm so sick of your misquotes and misreadings and juvenile little fits,

spot the irony.

I'm going to find that execrable "poem" you wrote as an ode to Chachi Lounge or the ChiChaChiChi Bar and Watering Spot and post some of it here.

allow me!

Dear beloved Chi Cha
this ode is for you
if your lounge was music
it would be a Bachian fugue
many a lady whore
have i lured
to the glow of your blood red boudoir
appletini-stained sofas
hookah smoke swirled above us
drinks that hurt my bank account
greasy doorman checks us out
through it all you stayed my place
where i took my ladywhores for dates
staff smiled knowingly at my whore parade
and ran bets which dates i laid
Chi Cha you set the mood right
pussy opened up in your amber light
i gave you much in drink money
and you paid me back in liquored honeys

but then you went and fucked it up
you thought you weren’t douche enough
so you had people wait in a line
when clearly no one was inside
this policy is cheese
when it’s in NYC
but here in DC
it’ll kill your revenue stream
and so i’ve noticed lately
not many patrons i see
here’s a suggestion from me
toss the pseudo-Victorian love seats
and add a Wii.

still gives me goosebumps.

It was just so well written! It scanned so scansionally!

thanks, stalker!

It was that bad. So how about it? Wanna get your poetic chops displayed here?

would you like all my exes' numbers while you're at it? you could really dig up some juicy dirt, true or not, that way.

If you don't, then don't bloody well waste my time by shrinking everything I say to fit into one of your little estrogen-mediated bullsh*t displays.

projection - it's what's for dinner!

fletch:
Thanks PartickH, you just made my afternoon.

i bet he did, loverboy.

mq:
I think MB has gradually defined down his definition of art until it is anything that is both culturally interesting in some way and also gives pleasure.

that's the problem with attempting to shoehorn porn into the rarified world of art. the more culturally interesting porn becomes, the less pleasure it gives.
at least, the sort of pleasure for which porn is intended to arouse.

Posted by: roissy on February 26, 2009 7:24 PM



JV: Slumlord, couldn't disagree with you more on artists' intentions. If you talk to artists, in any medium, I think you'll find that they accept and even embrace the fact that once their art is available to the public, it isn't theirs anymore in the sense that they can't and don't want to control how it's interpreted.

Ahem a bit of a paradox going on here, an artist who creates a work without meaning has his intention met when people do not give it one. His work is intentionally intentionless. The critic who insists that his work has meaning has betrayed the intention of the artist.

Posted by: slumlord on February 26, 2009 9:15 PM



"Ahem a bit of a paradox going on here, an artist who creates a work without meaning has his intention met when people do not give it one."

Nice dodge, but I'm referring to any piece of art.

Posted by: JV on February 27, 2009 12:06 AM



The point about how there are all sorts of new opportunities in making music for porn is a great example of the unintended and completely unexpected benefits of new techonologies and cultural changes. I never would have thought about that, and there are probably thousands of other niches like that which didn't even exist a few years ago.

Wandering off on a tangent, I know, but as a musician that really got me thinking.

Posted by: Martin Regnen on February 27, 2009 3:55 AM



PatrickH:

Oooo, Roissy fancies that he too has a stalker now! Let's start a club, you and me, the IDASSA (Internet Drama Addicts Supposed Stalker Association, and yes, the id and the ass are completely intentional)

Members of the club need to fulfill certain criterion:

1. They must be annoyed by an internet personality who attempts to pointlessly create drama where ever they post. Said personality usually has a Diogenes complex which is completely unearned.

2. They must be accused of hounding said personality and stalking them, as said personality cannot conceive that someone could dislike them enough to comment on it unless they are consumed day and night with envy and spite.

3. Reaction to being poked now and again by their supposed stalker is an increasing level of bitchy cattiness.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on February 27, 2009 8:51 AM



We have a winner for SWPL quote of the year!

Michael,

I don't think of my sex life as the number of orgasms I experienced.

Posted by: blue annymous on February 27, 2009 11:21 AM



still gives me goosebumps.

Well, yes, I'm sure it does. You probably give yourself goosebumps in general. It's dreck, of course, absolutely horrifically bad. You are utterly talentless as a poet, an embarrassment of incompetence.

But...it's Lent, and in the spirit of the time, I shall work on attentuating the contemptuous and dismissive side of my character. Instead, I offer you my compassion and my best wishes.

I love you, Roissy. Sort of. May you eventually, with God's help, develop a sense of humour about yourself. It makes getting older a lot more fun.

Yours with a suitable level of respect,
Patrick

P.S. I am puzzled, though, how a guy who comes here, reads a comment of mine, decides it's about him, gets his amour-propre all wounded, reflexes out a thoughtless, poorly written spasm in response, how this guy ends up claiming it's somehow proper English to call me a stalker.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 27, 2009 12:32 PM



MQ,

Spoken like a true connoisseur. I stand corrected. I withdraw my use of dope as a comparison, and substitute, say, Esctasy or speed, which have no purpose apart from getting high, and little or no possibility of being controlled and enjoyed in the measured way of the truly appreciative.

Which you clearly are in regard to that fine fine herb.

Sigh. Makes me regret squandering my ability to do the stuff because of far too many years of over-the-top abuse.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 27, 2009 12:37 PM



Spike, I'm still too busy laughing and cringing at the following to set up the club. So go ahead. Meanwhile, Holy Jesus, read this:

Dear beloved Chi Cha
this ode is for you
if your lounge was music
it would be a Bachian fugue

Where do you begin with cr*p like that? It doesn't scan, it doesn't even rhyme, and for chrissakes, what the fuh does he mean by comparing a lounge to the music of a Bachian fugue? Are the chairs arranged in three voices? What is he even talking about here?

Goosebumps indeed.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 27, 2009 12:47 PM



Damn! I forgot my vow to be compassionate!

Forgive me, Lord, though Thou didst test me mightily with that "Ode". Thou mightest want to ix-nay on the oetry-pay if Thou wishest me to laugh no more in derision and contempt. 'Kay?

Your still-laughing servant (damn!),
Patrick

P.S. Pardon my curse words too, Lord. F*ck! This Lent sh*t is hard!

Posted by: PatrickH on February 27, 2009 12:52 PM



Away from my bed of pain for a few hours ...

Brian -- That does sound like something to be proud of!

Slumlord -- "In other words, what the artist intended really doesn't matter?" Not at all. But many other things can also matter, including how people take the work. As for Beautiful Agony, I suspect you aren't getting it. (Talk about "intentions"!) The lighting and decor are far better, or at least more "tasteful," in those clips than they are in most porn vids. Plus the pacing and action, so to speak, are entirely up to the people in the vids. That's quite a contrast to what's put onscreen by the usual porn-creators.

ST -- "I don't think of my sex life as the number of orgasms I experienced." Me neither. Why do you feel you need to state this?

JV -- Nice points about artists and their intentions. And I definitely should have included Sasha Gray among my candidates for arty, or at least different, porno people.

MQ -- "I think MB has gradually defined down his definition of art until it is anything that is both culturally interesting in some way and also gives pleasure. He has such a horror of elitism he's gradually moved away from making any quality distinctions." Not quite right, and certainly not where "elitism" goes. Remember that my topic isn't "Is porn art?" It's "Will some of today's porn be seen and taken as art by people 50 years from now?" I'm not trying to nail down definitions, let alone quality judgements. I'm taking a little note of how the definitions and quality judgements process sometimes plays out.


Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 27, 2009 4:05 PM



ph:
"still gives me goosebumps."

Well, yes, I'm sure it does.

like the himalayas.

It's dreck, of course, absolutely horrifically bad.

funny, i don't remember claiming to be a poet.

You are utterly talentless as a poet, an embarrassment of incompetence.

i knew i should've change "bachian fugue" to "sexxxytime interlude". step aside robert frost!

I love you, Roissy.

get away from me you lazy-eyed psycho.

Sort of.

tease.

May you eventually, with God's help, develop a sense of humour about yourself. It makes getting older a lot more fun.

getting old is a horror.
but watching you hyperventilate is fun.

Yours with a suitable level of respect,
Patrick

balls to the wall, patrick. no quarter. let your hate flag fly.
jesus would approve.

P.S. I am puzzled, though, how a guy who comes here, reads a comment of mine, decides it's about him,

nothing in my initial response to you indicated that i thought it was about me. i simply pointed out the flaws in your thinking on game and its practitioners, much like i might inform someone who believed in leprechauns of the precariousness of his position. if anyone has personalized this exchange, it's you. so very womanly.

gets his amour-propre all wounded,

when a teacher corrects a student's term paper, is she wounded by the errors she finds?

reflexes out a thoughtless, poorly written spasm in response, how this guy ends up claiming it's somehow proper English to call me a stalker.

that stupendously brilliant chi cha poem is buried deep in the roissy archives. must've taken you a long time to find it and dig it up.

back to the subject of the post:
artsy-fied visual porn is the male equivalent of jane austen porn for women. just enough for a tingle and a blush.

Posted by: roissy on February 27, 2009 5:41 PM



" I withdraw my use of dope as a comparison, and substitute, say, Esctasy or speed, which have no purpose apart from getting high,"

Not to get too far off topic, but Ecstacy absolutely has purposes than just getting high. Same with mushrooms, acid, mescaline, or any other psychedelic for that matter. However, I agree that those qualities are not usually the reason they are used.

Posted by: JV on February 28, 2009 12:05 PM



Roissy, you idiot! I read your abortion many months ago when it was posted. It's utter badness made me laugh out loud at the time, and I remember thinking, "Man, this guy has a rep as a good writer?"

It was you who dug it up out of your archives and posted it here.

Anyway, you do have the capacity to amuse with some of your writing, and in gratitude for your more successful efforts and in the spirit of Lenten compassion which has returned to me, I resolve not to hurt your feelings any more.

All the best,
Patrick

Posted by: PatrickH on February 28, 2009 1:42 PM






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