Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The American Delusion

I listen to NPR on the way to and from work every day. In case you were wondering, yes, I'm white. I also own a Navy pea coat. I can't help it. I was born this way.

While listening to NPR, I've watched my blood pressure slowly rise as I hear again and again that Obama's approval ratings are abismal, and they're even lower when it comes to the specific question about how he's handled the economy. Now, my problem with this has nothing to do with my personal feelings about Obama, although I suppose it does have something to do with my politics. I need to get that out of the way because everyone, on both sides, seems to be propaganda-spewing machines when it comes to this stuff, even if they don't realize it. Bring this up to one person, and they say, "Yeah, but the Republicans..." while the next guy will automatically respond with, "Yeah, but Nobama..."

For all intents and purposes of this post, everyone who talks about the parties is missing the point.

People talk about the economy like it's a governmental department. They ask why the government hasn't created jobs. They ask why the government hasn't increased incomes. They ask, they ask, they ask, and the answer is, "Because they can't." Oh, sure, the government can hire people, but they're just like every corporation in America: they can't hire EVERYBODY. And they can't make the economy do anything. They can pass legislation that they believe will influence the behavior of the economy, but they. Can't. MAKE. It. Do. Something.


And when I say that the government cannot fix the economy, what I DON'T mean is, "The government has no business telling me or corporations or anyone what to do with their money!" Those people are also missing the point. I feel like when people say they don't approve of Obama's efforts (or lack thereof) in regards to the economy, what they're really saying (almost certainly unknowingly) is, "Why hasn't he fixed it?" And. He. Can't.

When we all sit around going, "Why hasn't the government fixed the economy?", we're not taking responsibility for our part in the economy. The economy is us. We each have a different role, but some of us--some of us with jobs and businesses and stuff--need to stop waiting for this magical economic upturn and spend some damn money. Some of us--most certainly not all of us, but some of us--have a little extra money to spend and don't, and we do it under the guise of being responsible. We have no faith in the economy, so we must pinch our pennies. But every time a penny is pinched, that's one less opportunity for the economy to recover. What's the saying? You've got to spend money to make money? And lest anyone be confused, the people whom I believe should seriously spend the money are the small percentage at the top of the heap. C'mon, guys! No one NEEDS billions or even millions of dollars! Use that shit to create some damn jobs! It's okay to let your bank balance dip below even the $100,000 mark. I know. It. Sounds. NUTS. You fucking work HARD, man. But people having more money than they can even spend in a lifetime? That's just greed, plain and simple. And it may be your right to be greedy, but it's a dick move nonetheless. Plenty of people are out there working twice as hard making not even a fifth of what you have.

I have no idea why I'm writing this in second person, as if million- and billionaires are reading my blog. If so, "Hi guys!"

But I'm not even advocating for an increase in taxes on the rich here. I don't particularly care how the money gets back into the economy. In fact, taxes might make the least amount of impact because THE ECONOMY IS NOT A GOVERNMENTAL DEPARTMENT. You could pump a ton of money into the government and the economy might STILL suck. But. I do think that people have to overcome their natural inclinations to be dicks in order for this to work. Which I guess means I have no real feasible solution.

I just really want everyone to stop talking nonsense on NPR.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Being at Home

My husband and I love our couch.
Well, actually, I want to get a new
couch, so I guess I should say we love
what the couch does, anchoring us
in our house,
with our dog,
and our cat
And ourselves.
We watch entire seasons of Mad Men
and The Wire, and when he’s not home
I sleep on it.
Every once in a while he will come in
and say, “Want to meditate?”
We pull the cushions into position
so we can breathe easier.
I appreciate that he doesn’t do this often—
I never was regular with anything.
Sometimes he walks in the door
and sits down next to me,
and I can just tell that I need to
close my computer,
put it aside,
scoot over closer.

I used to wonder as I drove to the bar,
or the dance club,
or the coffee shop,
who these people were, the ones
with cars in the driveway
and lights on in the windows.

Now I know.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Solution for the Economic Crisis: International Do-Over Day!

While listening to NPR during this whole debt crisis situation, I thought, "So, basically, everyone in the world owes everyone else in the world money." Perhaps it's more complicated than that, but that's the gist. You'll have to forgive me--monetary concerns were never my strong suit.

Which isn't to say that you should completely disregard the rest of my argument.

Seriously, once money gets up into the trillions (Hahaha, okay guys, you got me! that's not a real number!), I pretty much start to feel like we all moved to Monopolyland or something. All this shuffling of bits of information that represent money back and forth between computers. It's MIND BOGGLING! And just when I was starting to think that I was the only one on the whole planet who realized that money is this totally crazy made-up thing, This American Life did a whole episode on it. Scroll all the way to the bottom of that page and listen to it. It's fantastic.

So anyway, money is made up. And some people have waaaaaaaaay more of it than other people. Problem is, when one guy finally has all the money and refuses to share it with anybody, nobody can buy that guy's--or any guy's--products, and no one can pay their debts to anyone else, bringing us to an economic showdown wherein BARTERTOWN. TWO MAN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVE! Don't worry. I know what you're thinking. "This girl is about to go totally socialist on my ass!" Um, no. I'm going to propose something even more radical. You're going to think it's crazy, but I beg you to let it soak in for a minute before you decide that it's a stupid way to take care of economic problems. I know you have a lot of top quality choices when it comes to debt solutions.

What is this mind-blowing solution, you ask? I don't know why you would ask that since I put it in the title of this piece but: INTERNATIONAL DO-OVER DAY!

What would happen if we just erased all debts? Everyone's debts? So tomorrow I wake up with exactly the same amount of money that I have now, but I don't owe anyone anything--and no one owes me anything, either. Then we start from baseline. Perhaps there would be SOME debts allowed to carry over. My employer still owes me a paycheck, and I still owe the IRS. Maybe? Maybe not? I'm not an economist! All I know is that on a larger scale, if China owes Argentina (do they? I made that up as an example) a gagillion dollars and Argentina owes the United State a gagillion dollars, what you end up with is some kind of circular standoff. It's like when the mob offers to sell you protection and then breaks your legs if you don't buy the protection. In other words, the money is like the protection--a MADE UP THING! And if you don't want to be involved with made up things, then can't you just decide not to believe in them? No. The mob still comes for you anyway. Maybe this is more like the emperor's new clothes.

MY POINT IS that it's kind of ridiculous to keep letting money wield all of this power over us when WE'RE THE ONES WHO MADE UP THE FUCKING MONEY. Money is whatever we say it is. It's not some inherently autonomous, uncontrollable force like God or your mother. It's fucking MADE UP, YOU GUYS! I think I've made my point.

International Do-Over Day. Think about it. Make a Facebook invite or something. Viva la revolucion! And remember what Jesus said (according to the Presbyterians): "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." See? JESUS is all about International Do-Over Day!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is domination the name of the game?

I just read this line in a piece at the Good Men Project about how men are doing in what sounds like our “post-feminist” society:

Most sexual relationships (if not all) involve a power exchange, including some degree of domination and submission. How does this basic human need fit in with the discourses of gender “equality” that prevail today?

This is an oft repeated stock idea that you’ll hear a lot all over the place. Sex is about power. When I was 21 and thought I knew everything about everything (and was a somewhat insufferable little shit), I would’ve said the exact same thing. It sounds like such an intellectual way to discuss the down and dirty deed, especially since intellectual types never want to sound too hopeful or sweet. It just wouldn’t do for us to say anything equating sex with love. And I would never say that all sex is about love—anymore than I agree with the idea that “most sexual relationships (if not all) involve a power exchange”. Emphasis mine.

Why is this the prevailing narrative? I can tell you, I’ve had lots of sex that didn’t seem to be about power at all. Two willing participants getting together and doing something that is mutually beneficial doesn’t sound like a power struggle to me—it sounds like a good time. Even when two people get together and one says, “Hey, can you boss me around for a little while? That’s hot!” it’s not really about a power exchange because, well, one person asked for the illusion of a power game. When one person is willingly submitting to another’s respectful domination, it’s fake power exchange. The person on bottom is just as much in control of their sexual experience at that point as the person on top.

The only other instances I can think of when power is at play during sex aren’t so pretty. They’re either situations in which the couple is at odds in other aspects of their relationship and each is using sex as a tool or a weapon, or they’re rape. “Maybe if I give him sex, he’ll like me.” “Maybe if I give her my love, she’ll give me her sex.” See what I just did there? I quoted the story before we get to the conclusion that all sex is about power. We’re taught to believe that men want the sex and are engaged in an elaborate ruse or, worse, all-out battle to get it. But, again, is that true? Like, is it inherently true, or is it just what we’ve been taught and therefore what we act out on the regular?

This idea that sex is inherently about power supports all sorts of unhealthy sexual attitudes. It scares women into trying to control men with sex. It gives men the impression that they have to be dishonest or forceful in order to get what they want. But, again, that isn’t inherently true. That’s just the traditional narrative. Why don’t we ever say that sex is about fun and connecting with another person? It doesn’t have to be about love for the long haul—it doesn’t even have to be about love for the night. But it can be a mutually pleasurable experience, and I just don’t get how that’s about power.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Golden Age of Never Was, Part II

Recently I had a conversation with my father about whether or not gay people should be given the right to marry. We discuss this topic often. It's laughable, really. It's not as if either of us has changed our minds yet. I supposed maybe he finally budged a little when he admitted gay people are probably born that way.

During the course of the conversation, he mentioned that kids were better off being raised in two-parent households made up of a mother and a father. This then spiraled to the point wherein I said, "I love it when people point to some magical time when all families were made up of a mommy and a daddy and things were perfect and everyone was happy." That time, of course, never existed. My father claimed that it did because that's what his childhood was like. Well, so was mine. I certainly wouldn't claim that my experience is representative of all experience or even average experience. I wouldn't even claim that it's the only valid or right way to be raised. It sure did beat having abusive, neglectful parents or being raised by wolves (although sometimes I claim that I was for all the proper household care and maintenance my parents taught me).

I was thinking about all of this today after reading a thing at the New York Times (which I would link to, but they've cut me off for the rest of the month) about the decline of editing at publishing houses. Books, it would seem, are being published containing horrendous numbers of typos. The writer of this piece seems to think it wouldn't be such a problem if modern writers were better spellers and spellcheck hadn't ruined everyone's life. Reading the comments cracked me up. The pearl clutching! Over typos! I mean, I cringe when I see a typo on a website when I've done the copy. But life goes on and stuff. I certainly do not think WE ARE ALL GOING ON A SLOW RIDE INTO HELL when I spot a typo.

However, as internet commenters are wont to do, everyone freaked out. Some people were extremely pro bad spelling (or, you know, pro the fluidity of language and all that stuff). Others were militantly anti stupid people. It was the anti crowd that really got me going. Commenters harkened back to some ideal era in which 12-year-olds wrote spotless essays on the importance of being earnest. A time when all people everywhere could fucking SPELL, goddammit, and also never jaywalked. And all had awesome jobs with pensions and were set up in one of those "fat guy/hot wife" situations. ALL OF THEM.

The other day my mother said something about their being more sociopaths in the world today than ever before. My father and I started shaking our head slowly from side to side at the exact same moment and said, "No." I guess we agree on something. I said I would assume that the percentage of the population that is sociopathic is roughly the same over time. So, too, the percentage of bad spellers. There's something really satisfying about screaming, "We're all gonna DIE!" in a crowded theater. I just never understand how anyone thinks it's at all helpful to say that we used to have everything right but we don't anymore. It has only just now dawned on me that this phenomenon is just like the story of Adam and Eve: life was perfect, then people started up with their people-y ways, we got fucked, and now we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. I'm totally about to listen to "Woodstock" on YouTube. Funny. One of the comments on the YouTube video is, "Groovy! I miss those days...easy living and no worries!!" IT ALL COMES FULL CIRCLE.

I've never had much patience for people who are still pining away over some long lost love more than a year after they and that person parted ways. Seriously. No. Patience. It's one thing to say even after a long period of time that it's somewhat sad that it ended. But to pine away--to believe that the person who is gone was the only person who will ever be so perfect in the entire universe--makes me want to hit whomever is selling that schlock right in the face. It's just not honest. It may feel like the truth, but people who think this way are unwilling to actually look at the world straight and see it for what it really is: a very mixed-up place. It feels safe to believe that perfection existed at some point in the past because if that's true, perfection is both possible and possibly attainable. We can just follow our steps backwards, do now what we did then to make that magical time reappear.

But as long as we're betting on the past, we're not creating a future that might actually really be different. At the very least we're wasting a whole lot of time being dicks on the internet.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Golden Age of Never Was

Gray morning. It was a gray morning,
the painted dotted lines beating steadily
against the edge of the car window. So many
gray mornings lined up like the lines down the
center of the road, seemingly straight
and leading somewhere out of sight.
Maybe endless? Clean. Alone, glass and steel--
blue-sounding songs for driving, sleek
like sterile luxury car ads that speak
of sexless women built like money.
This was how I liked it, gliding along
on concrete, surrounded by neon facades.
Alone. I still love alone. Perfectly hungry for
nothing. It's a myth I wrote about myself when
I was a dripping dog wandering the desert,
my ribs pressing into my flesh as the sun
turned the whole world washed out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Bodies, Our Boobs

It's Fat Tuesday, and somewhere a woman is probably showing a bunch of strangers her boobs in exchange for beads. You go, girl!

Meanwhile, here at the ranch, there's something that's been coming up a lot lately that I would like to now discuss. I just got done reading this at Jezebel. It's about how everyone is so worried about how thin Megan Fox is! But also, she makes a living being thin and hot! What's a girl to do!

Society believes that it owns women's bodies. I cannot tell you how many times I've been standing in line at the grocery store and noticed a magazine that said, "Tori Something-or-other is TOO THIN! But also, LOOK AT BRITNEY'S FAT ASS!" Have I talked about that before? I feel like I've talked about that before. The message is two-fold. One, women have about a five pound range in which we will find their bodies acceptable. Two, we (meaning everybody) get to discuss women's bodies publicly because what we think of their bodies is very important. More important, oftentimes, than what we think of their work or their character.

The other day I was telling my boyfriend the reasons I used to hate having big boobs. One of them was that people felt like they could just tell me I had big boobs. All. The. Time. I could never figure out why this was a thing we needed to talk about. Believe me--if a girl has big boobs, she knows. Next subject! When a man's body is commented on in the course of the conversation, it's usually somewhat functional. "You're slim, dude, and I was at this store the other day that had clothes that would look great on slim dudes." Not only is it typically functional, but it's also much more rare. For every time my boyfriend has to hear about his slimness, I've probably had to listen to comments about my body from friends and family members 30 times over. Why do we all feel it is so okay to tell a woman what is up with her body?

The message is that women's bodies don't belong to themselves--they belong to the group.

Women comment on women's bodies, too. Let's get that out of the way right now. This is a societally conditioned thing. It's something we all fall into. And believe me, there is nothing wrong with the occasional, "You look nice," or, "Have you done something different with your hair?" But when someone has to listen to five people in one day make a joke or comment about her boobs, it's time to look at what's really going on. When a woman is both praised for, paid for and shown concern over the state of her body, it's time to question why we're talking about these things.

And this isn't about attacking what anyone is attracted to, either. Let's get that out of the way as well. I'm not saying you can't be attracted to a woman. I'm asking why is that a news flash? I'm asking why we have to discuss women's bodies in what I think are inappropriate situations? You want to tell me you like my boobs when we're in bed together (honey, sweetie, fiance, love of my life only)? Have at it. Knock yourself out. You want to talk to me about my boobs at all during a conversation about Linguistics class? Fuck off. You want to comment about my figure while we're at work? Who do you think you are?

You are part of the society that says, "I own you. I get to express my pleasure/concern over the state of your body whether or not you've asked for my opinion on this subject because my opinion on this subject is inherently important. Because you are a woman, and, therefore, just a body."

My tattoo says, "I am not a body. I have a body. I am a soul." I got that tattoo when I felt like I'd successfully recovered from anorexia and bulemia. I got it to celebrate the fact that I'd taken my body back from all the people who felt like it was okay to tell me what they thought of my body. Make no mistake. It was me who chose to listen. But, "I have a body." That means this body--it's all mine.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

They didn't know I was there.

Something sinister...

Sometimes I get this feeling like something is out to get me. I look, and...there's nothing there.

You're Hot, Dammit

This episode of "Ask a Fat Girl" by Tasha Fierce (btw, that's a PDF in that link) is all kinds of right on. When one girls asks how she convinces herself that the person having sex with her doesn't find her disgusting, Tasha replies:

I immediately assume that whoever is having sex with me finds me attractive and I concentrate on feeling good.

It's like I used to tell my friends: "It's not like he thought you looked super skinny in your clothes and then got you home only to find some magical flap of fat he never knew about fell out when you took your clothes off."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The male equivolent of the fantasy slumber party:

Is it just me, or were people into weirder stuff back in the day?

And how come I can only picture this in grainy sepia tones?

Birds do it. Bees do it. But you don't want to be birds and bees, do you?

This morning, I stumbled across this piece at Jezebel discussing the seeming lack of female sex addicts.

Oh, boy. Where do I begin?

I don't really know where all the female sex addicts are. I went to a couple of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings about five years ago (don't judge, and no, I don't want your phone number), and the room was pretty much half-and-half at those meetings. There seemed to be plenty of female sex addicts in Dallas, Texas, at least compared to the number of male sex addicts. I will say, several of them were more comfortable calling themselves "love addicts" as opposed to "sex addicts", which was something I could never understand. "Love addict" sounds like someone who is willing to be treated like shit as long as they get to be in a relationship. "Sex addict" sounds like someone who gets laid. A lot. Which would you rather be?

That's exactly what I wanted to talk about from this Jezebel piece. Female sex addiction, when it does occur, is framed as a desperate desire to be intimate with another person gone awry. It's a good impulse--it's just all out of whack. Meanwhile, male sex addiction is framed as the objectification of women and desire to fool around...on steroids. When you walk into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, they don't tell you that male alcoholism is any different than female alcoholism. We're all alcoholics for basically the same physiological reasons. Welcome. They'll point out that people often have a harder time accepting that a woman is an alcoholic because it's just so unfathomable that a lady would do those things! But once you're there, you're just one big club, all the same under the skin. When women and men start to talk about their sex addictions, we all just automatically place them in two different categories: women with low self-esteem who really! just want to be INTIMATE!, and men who are just livin' the dream and got caught by their wives.

I'm now going to lower the boom. The odds are much, much greater that a woman who is suffering from "sex addiction" (if such a thing exists) doesn't want anything to do with intimacy. The same could be said of the male "sex addict". We refuse to see women as just wanting to get laid. It's like a gnome or a unicorn--it's just not possible! They must have daddy issues! They must be looking for love in all the wrong places (and too many faces)! A line in this piece that Jezebel quotes from the Times of London says that sex addicted ladies don't understand boundaries, and that must be the culprit. They just don't understand how normal people act! That's why they're sex addicts! This is completely reverse from the truth. No addict of any stripe understands good boundaries. Lady "sex addiction" isn't just a case of, "Oopsie! Bad boundaries! Sorry. My daddy didn't love me enough." If sex addiction is real, it will come from the same place in both men and women. It will be physiologically precipitated. It will stem from a biochemical urge that becomes extremely difficult if not impossible for the addict to control without help.

But the more that I read this piece at Time, the more it became clear to me that so much of what we think of sex addiction is wrapped up in what we think about sex. Alocholism isn't purely defined by the number of drinks you have on a regular basis. It's defined by the consequences of those drinks. Whether or not a person should get sober is defined by how willing they are to suffer those consequences. I've said that if someone is okay with losing friends and effing up their job for the sake of the drink, they should go forth and drink it up. Anyone associated with them should feel free to walk away or be supportive as they see fit and as they determine is best for them. The Time piece seems all too eager to make sex addiction purely about the numbers--TIGER WOODS HAD AFFAIRS WITH 12 WOMEN! 12! WOMEN! Sure, he suffered consequences, but the consequences of sexual behavior are not the focus of this piece. The behavior is. At some point it is mentioned that sex addiction has been defined as having seven or more orgasms in a week. I just call that lucky. What if you're having those seven orgasms with your spouse? Are you a sex addict? That question is posed in the piece but never answered, and there are more subtle clues throughout that illustrate that our real problem with sex addiction is our real problem with sex.

Toward the end of the Time piece, the author describes a sex addict he's interviewing.

When I was with Melinkovich, I sometimes felt he was a normal guy who didn't quite know how to deal with the many women who find him attractive. Other times, like when he got a lascivious look in his eyes while reading a text from a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, he seemed like a guy with a debilitating illness.

Let's look at that. First it's, "Poor dude is just overwhelmed by women throwing themselves at him!" Uh, okay. Then, when the man makes a "lascivious" face, he's got a debilitating illness? So it's fine to be the unwitting victim of others sexual advances, but the minute you start to like it, you're a sick person. Many might not approve of that man's behavior, but that's a moral issue, not an issue of an illness. We'd love to frame it as an illness, wouldn't we? To show that "normal" people would never act that way? To distance ourselves from desire? To show the line between being in control and out of it? I've never been encouraged to see myself as the unwitting victim of all that vodka that just threw itself at me. You cannot have it both ways, and this bit of copy just sounds like the struggle between our moral problems with sex and our ideas about what is and what is not appropriate behavior. The language used in this piece is problematic.

There were many people in those meetings I went to who seemed genuinely troubled by their own behaviors and appetites. They'd lost things they cared about. They felt like maybe there were better uses for their time than internet pornography. They were addicts. I don't doubt that our sexual appetites, just like our appetites for virtually anything else that creates physical pleasure to the point that it takes us into our bodies and out of our minds, can get out of control to the degree that they actually cause us pain. But if we're going to talk about sex addiction, we have to talk about that pain. That pain that is being caused by the action, not just the action itself.

When we're talking purely about the action, all we're talking about is sex.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Melodrama

They told me just to be
still, quiet. Release and relax.
Breathe in these qualities,
these states of ease, and simply
They said that is was being cured.
I did it, and now all I want
in life is to die.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being Boring

Everyone has heard the saying, "Only boring people get bored!" It's a phrase used by manipulative mothers to make their children shut up. It's boisterously propelled from the mouths of type A people by the energy of their insecurities. In case you hadn't picked up on it, I hate this phrase.

I was thinking about this phrase today after reading this week's Savage Love column. A man wrote in to complain about his boring life with his boring wife and their boring kids. That phrase--"Only boring people get bored!"--popped into my head immediately. While driving home from work (a place I find inexorably boring) hours later, I found this phrase rattling around in my head. I spend about 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday, bored. I try to get excited about whatever it is I'm doing. When that doesn't work (as it will never work when I'm having to deal with Excel spreadsheets), I try to find interesting things to read on the internet. When that fails (did y'all know there's a ton of worthless crap floating around on the internet?), bored.

I read in a book once that man has been struggling with boredom since the beginning of time. I've been known to argue that the only reason we've made life so goddamn complicated is because of boredom. Often, when I'm driving on a highway, I will contemplate the complexity of the system of the roads, all those cars converging onto the same stretch for a moment before they diverge. I contemplate other complexities that feeds--the complexity of our economic system, which is built on the idea that each person is a cog in a greater machine. Think about the levels of organization that requires! And truth be told, I can see no reason for creating complex systems other than to combat boredom. There isn't any overarching goal for any of this. If you asked people why they thought society needed to be more complicated in these ways, they would say, "To make the world a better place." But while our world has gotten progressively more complicated, we've made little progress toward anything resembling a "better place". People love to talk about the past as if it were vastly different from the present in some substantive way, but the truth is that all we've bought ourselves with this complication is more time on this earth for a few extra people. I'm not really sure this is a worthwhile goal in and of itself. You're going to have to do better, progress, before I'll believe in your inherent value.

And, it struck me, a higher standard of living for a greater number of people--which creates even greater levels of boredom.

One of the comments on that Savage Love column said something to the effect that all people are boring, and if you don't want to be bored, you should give up your cushy job and go be a single parent supporting five kids by working two jobs. I thought this to be perhaps one of the most brilliant comments on the whole column. The letter had been about sexual boredom to a large extent, and most of the comments got down in the trenches with the "men do that/women do this" arguments as usual. This comment got to the real heart of the matter, though, without even mentioning sex or anything sexy. When people say, "Only boring people get bored!", they're completely missing the mark. The implication is that if you were an interesting person, you'd feel constantly stimulated. You'd be interested in any and everything. You'd be able to find the awesome in the mundane, and if you couldn't, you'd get up and do something. But this completely ignores the way the world works and the way that humans operate. Everyone gets bored, and the only people who don't are those type As who fill their lives with so much activity to avoid that aching feeling of not being good enough or the people who are still struggling to make life even livable. To be human is to find yourself lying on your couch, staring at the wall, wondering when you're going to die because you've run out of shit to do or the energy with which to do it. Once all of our basic needs are covered, we run out of hard work to do, and then we start to look around for other kinds of stimulation. Once we've exhausted those (our wives, our credit cards, our kids), we start looking for still others. Boredom, man. That shit is life.

If only boring people get bored, then we're all fucking boring. In fact, this thing you just read? It's pretty fucking boring. But at least it kept me from being bored, if only for a little while.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Even Better Than the Real Thing

We've been hearing for decades--nay, eons--about the evils of pornography from the religious right. They've told us that pornography is evil, that it erodes the sacred bonds between one man and one woman. Many feminists don't much care for the porn, either. They say it degrades women and encourages violence.

And now we're being told by yet another group about the dangers of pornography, and that group who like porn?

Now, one wouldn't usually think that a man who watches a lot of pornography would find himself in bed with the religious right and Gloria Steinem. The good news is, though, that once he finds himself in that bed, he won't be able to seal the deal anyway. Why? Because we're in the middle of an epidemic. The availability of porn on the internet has basically made it impossible for the modern male to do anything but jack off to pictures of women with surgically enhanced waist-to-hip ratios that are never found in nature, and all this jacking off has in turn made it impossible for men to want to have sex with real women.

Oh, and we're supposed to feel sorry for these men because the big bad pornography grabbed them by the balls and is refusing to let go.

I don't want to talk about whether or not porn is evil, though. I want to talk about the article by Davy Rothbart at New York Magazine. Specifically, I want to talk about why men still don't ever feel the need to take responsibility for their sexual issues. According to this piece, it's porn's fault (and therefore the fault of the women found in the porn)! It's their girlfriend's/wive's fault! As usual, all sexual evils are the fault of the women. Men would love to control themselves, you see, but all these sexy womens! They will not let thems!

I can break down my problem with this piece by simply dissecting this little bit at the end:

Men, oversaturated by porn, secretly hunger for the variety that porn offers. Women, noticing a decline in their partners’ libidos, try to reenact the kinds of scenes that men watch on their computer screens. Men, as a result, get really freaked out. They don’t want their real women and their fantasy women to inhabit the same body.

Essentially, the men we're talking about here would rather watch porn than have sex with their real-life partners. This is causing a huge problem, as one might imagine, both for the men themselves and the women who want to eff them. But when the women try to act like porn stars, the men freak out! What we see in the language used here is the tired old saw about Madonnas and whores. "There are women men want to marry and women men want to eff, and they are not the same women!" I remember hearing this in college. Talk about a no-win situation. That statement above, though, pretty much lays the blame for this conundrum on the women. Girlfriends and wives should not act sexy--it spooks their men. Men won't be able to get turned on by anything other than strange, unattainable women who wear crazy outfits and let you stick it in their poopers! So deal, ladies. Deal, but don't try to compete. And certainly don't try to operate anywhere outside of the cultural framework for relationships that says that good women are loving, understanding, and not sexual while men are dogs and only want to have sex with strangers.

Sex is a feelings thing. Whether those feelings are loving or lusting or a little of both, it's always about feelings. Feelings are volatile things. We don't want to mess with them sometimes. We cast women as the seat of emotions and then throw them to the hounds. Let them pay for our inability to be constant and disciplined. Let them pay for our feelings. All of us, even women, blame women for all the evils of not feeling as we should. Can't control yourself? You must be having a feeling, and we all know who is associated with feelings.

All I wanted to hear was that this man recognized his part in this whole problem. He kind of does...right at the end. He unplugs for a week and, ta-dah--he gets it on with a real flesh-and-blood lady! But everything leading up to that moment is whiney, poor me bullshit. Three pages worth of a different dudes saying, "I want to watch a woman get it on with farm animals, but I don't want that woman to be my girlfirend! Feel sorry for ME!"

And you know what? I kind of do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Behind the Times

The reason I chose to call this space Behind the Times was initially because I never seem to be up on the latest internet meme. Most blogs are about posting the most recent viral videos or commenting on the latest lol cat. I had trouble even crafting that sentence because, let's face it, lol cats are so 2 years ago, and I don't know the term for those things where there's a picture of a wolf in the middle and copy that reads "Killer Wolf Says: Kill 'em all!!!!" or some shit. Seriously. I'm not good at the internet.

I've been trying to think of something to write for a blog that's maintained by a friend of a friend. It's the typical bloggy format, providing commentary on the news of the day. It's feminist-leaning. To really fit the format, I'd have to pounce on a news item and come up with an opinion in the moment to share with the world. Whenever we're sharing opinions, we're trying to change the world. And while thinking about why I ultimately am not really cut out for this kind of thing--this sharing my opinion on a news item that happened five minutes ago in an effort to change the world--I realized a different interpretation of Behind the Times.

I prefer to take the long view. I prefer to sit on something, ruminate, put it through some logic tests, and challenge my own presuppositions. When the shooting happened in Arizona, items from friends blaming Sarah Palin began immediately appearing in my newsfeed before anyone knew anything. When emotions are running high, reason is running low, and while I completely advocate for the having of emotions, I'm not sure I want to put myself in a position where I have an automatic response to everything because of certain biases and emotional responses. My emotions do not need to be reasoned. My responses to things, however, most definitely do.

Yesterday a friend and I were discussing a proposed ban on pit bulls in Texas. A mother was pushing for the legislation after her son was mauled to death by pit bulls. I'm a little biased in the opposite direction, knowing more than one person who has a pit bull. The ones I know are amongst the sweetest dogs I've met. I think what this mother is doing is typical. Her child has been killed, and someone must pay. Someone did pay--she sued the owners of the pit bulls and won. But she, in her grief, has taken up the crusade to make sure this never happens to anyone else's child. As I told my friend, she's coming from a place of emotion, not reason. The problem is not the pit bulls. To some degree this kind of thing just happens--animals, no matter how domesticated, are still animals, and they're unpredictable. Life is life. Some things cannot be 100% prevented. And the owners are generally a huge part of the problem. Any breed can be trained or treated in such a way that they become aggressive. Pit bulls are desirable to people who like their dogs this way, but that doesn't mean a ban on pit bulls is going to even make a dent in the problem. But my main point is that the mother is blinded by her sadness and desperate to fix a problem that is unfixable--namely, the death of her child.

When I pointed this out to my friend, she said that it takes a certain level of apathy to be reasonable. I think apathy is a strong word for it, but I like what she was getting at. It takes a certain ability to separate oneself from one's emotions just enough to check in and weigh everything. Look at the situation with a wider lens. Look at the philosophical underpinnings of whatever it is you're advocating and make sure they line up with your values. I don't like to make public commentary on things that just happened five minutes ago because I don't know what my opinion is on whatever that is yet. I can make a public statement of my feelings--sad, happy, angry, disgusted, excited--but my opinion is another matter. It's best to arrive at my opinion through an evolution involving discussions and reflection.

And ultimately, I'm not sure that many situations warrant my opinion. In most situations, there are no sides. In a tragedy, all sides deserve sympathy because we're all human, and we all deserve sympathy. None of us know what we're doing. None of us have figured out the formula for preventing tragedies yet. Some of us may have ideas, but most of our ideas are created by deeply seated biases that we might not even know we have. Yes, we all have to pick sides sometimes. But I'm extremely turned on to the idea of trying something new--turning the other cheek. Not getting riled up. Not trying to make someone pay for the sadness that is inherent in this world. Crying instead of talking. Being instead of fixing. Praying instead of preaching.

My jury is still out on a good number of things, but maybe there's a good lol cat that could help me figure them out.