So Older Audiences Have Sex and Like Romps. This Warrants a 1,200 Word Story?

New York Times: “Since [Heading South] opened July 7, theaters have been packed with women about the same age as the ones on the screen. Some bought tickets in groups for a kind of middle-aged girls’ night out. Interviews indicated the movie has hit home with this audience because it affirms the sexual reality of women of a certain age, that even as they pass the prime of their desirability to men, libidos smolder. More than a few said they came seeking a hot night out.”

Maybe I’m Daft, But In What Way is This Plotline “Smart”?

“Smart Girls Need Smart Porn”: “But the plot is one I would enjoy in a book. A human baby, Zuma, is abducted from Earth and taken to the other side of the galaxy to be raised as a slave. At age 25, her owner forces her into the arena as a sexual gladiator, where she finds her true calling and begins her rise to champion. In these contests, it’s make love not war, and the winner is the one who brings the other to orgasm first.”

PETA Will Be All Over This One

Scripps Howard: “Upon being seen, Trenta said, ‘It’s my dog,’ and, ‘What’s the problem?’ The male dog ran and hid behind the deputies, according to a report released Tuesday.”

Questions for Class:

1. To what extent is Trenta’s statement true? Is there in fact no problem here? Or does Trenta’s statement represent a cavalier attitude about ethical responsibility? Consider the people throughout history who have uttered two sentences similar to “It’s my dog. What’s the problem?” and discuss their moral capacity at length.

2. Does a pet, by way of being owned, waive his right to consensual relations? What if the situation had been reversed and Trenta had been the one getting pounded by his Argentine Dogo puppy? If the puppy had been capable of speech and uttered, “It’s my human. What’s the problem?” would you react with similar strains of horror?

3. Why did reporter Gabriel Margasak use the phrases “mixed-breed dog” and “a Mexican citizen working as a laborer” in the first four paragraphs? Is there a racist element to this allegedly objective story?

4. Humane Society spokeswoman Roberta Synal notes that the dog will “get lots of love and training.” Is there anything in the story to suggest that Trenta did not give him “lots of love and training?” Is his indiscretion, in fact, a form of “love and training” or the product of a troubled mind?

5. Will Trenta be allowed to own a pet again? Or will he be placed on a list of pet offenders kept in the Martin County Sheriff’s Office?

Bringing New Meaning to “Working the Room”

Eric Splitznagel: “When I went on a nationwide bookstore tour last May (to promote my memoir, Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter), it seemed that everybody with even a casual interest in adult films showed up for my readings. Some of them were crazy. Not just a little eccentric, mind you. Clinically insane. In San Francisco, a man handed me a business card with a picture of himself having sex with his girlfriend. (‘That’s me!’ He screamed, pointing at the photo.) In Chicago, a strange fellow asked if I’d ever written a porno about fruit before taking a banana out of his pants and eating it in front of me.”

To Porn or Not to Porn, That is the Question

A pal of mine attends a sex writers reading and a burlesque show, lives to tell the tale and invents an impromptu game on the spot: “I started playing a game with myself during the opening of the burlesque show, where I’d ask in my best inner announcer voice, if what was going on on the stage was Porn or anti-Porn. If you find it exciting (oops, almost wrote ‘arousing’ but my inner prude balked at that word) the answer is ‘porn’ and if its not, its ‘anti-porn.'”

Once the Lawyers Sort This All Out, the Sky’s the Limit

The Guardian: “But Campion’s recent New York crime thriller, In the Cut, incurred the wrath of US censors for the inclusion of what appeared to be an explicit (and narratively pivotal) blowjob. Campion protested that the scene was not hard-core (which is defined as ‘real’ rather than ‘simulated’ sex) because the phallus in question was a prosthetic; as Campion told me, she would never ask an actress to perform oral sex. Not so the makers of the Anglo-French film, Intimacy, in which Kerry Fox gets famously close to Mark Rylance in a manner which boldly straddles the divide between fact and fiction, reminding us of John Waters’s prophetic predictions about name actors breaking the last taboo.” (via Reverse Cowgirl)

Christopher Hitchens — Cocksucking Conspiracy Theorist?

Vanity Fair: “Stay with me. I’ve been doing the hard thinking for you. The three-letter “job,” with its can-do implications, also makes the term especially American. Perhaps forgotten as the London of Jack the Ripper receded into the past, the idea of an oral swiftie was re-exported to Europe and far beyond by a massive arrival of American soldiers. For these hearty guys, as many a French and English and German and Italian madam has testified, the blowjob was the beau ideal. It was a good and simple idea in itself. It was valued—not always correctly—as an insurance against the pox. And—this is my speculation—it put the occupied and the allied populations in their place.”

Well, That and a Sizable Paycheck, One Presumes

This guy (NSFW) claims he can help you take better dirty pictures. Among some of his tips: “Seem complicated? Not at all. You just have to concentrate on a few things… talk to her, remind her to look at the camera, tell her often that she looks GREAT, (yes, that old cliché of a photographer saying. ‘yes, yes, baby… great, great, show it to me…beautiful’, works!. Say it!). Keep moving side to side, closer and closer…That’s it!'” (via D)

Lamarck Would Be Ashamed, But the Matter Must Be Settled

Over at Michelle’s, some interesting questions have been raised: Is sex better than writing? Is writing better than masturbation? And, seeing as how writing and masturbation serve practically the same purpose, why is one valued over the other?

This is a grand philosophical question. The beginnings of an elaborate taxonomy finally putting variants of sex in line with variants of writing! The ultimate crossover, or existential mash-up! If one must style a list, I would argue that the order of things goes something like this:

1. Sex
2. Writing
3. Masturbation
4. Reading
5. Blogging

What are your thoughts, dear readers?

Chime in at Michelle’s or here, whatever your pleasure.

David Lazarus: A Journalist Who Can’t Rise from the Dead

Ethical Question: Aren’t you really setting yourself up for disaster when you email naked photos of yourself to “a variety of online correspondents?”

The whole idea that this “Gene” character is complaining after he was foolish enough to send off photos to random strangers strikes me as naive and a bit self-serving. Further, if a person attending a sex party doesn’t already know that the San Francisco sex community is a small and tight-knit group (and, by damn, they should know) and that they should be highly circumspect, do they really have the right to complain? Here’s the question: what happened at the disrupted party and why didn’t the reporter push “Gene” for an answer?

The interesting thing about David Lazarus’s “The Internet is Evil” article is that we don’t hear the other side of the story. Why didn’t Lazarus try and get in touch with “Reality Check” or other members of the Yahoo group? Surely, “Gene,” if he had any brains at all, would have had records or emails from the disabled site. Oh yeah. His story angle was the “victimized” Gene and the evils of the Internet, as pronounced from Ray Everett-Church’s high horse. Never mind that Lazarus’s article still presents us with the possibility that “Gene” could have tipped off campus police about the party and that Lazarus doesn’t even bother to get a firm “No, I didn’t call the police” from “Gene” to make his case more airtight. Nor do we have any idea about how “Gene”‘s reactions to his accusations could have provoked the fury of his cybersmearers. Did he egg them on? I’ve seen a lot of flame wars over the years, and, in most cases, it takes two to tango.

The other thing that makes this story suspect: If Gene was told implicitly by Yahoo! that he needed a subpoena, why didn’t Gene figure out that maybe he just might need an attorney to file a civil suit and hammer Yahoo! with discovery? Perhaps because Gene either lacks the funds, can’t find an attorney to take his case, or implictly knows that there’s a bit of bullshit to his story.

Sure, cybersmears are certainly a threat and I don’t mean to suggest that “Gene” is without innocence. But “Gene”‘s case is a poor example, and Lazarus’s findings here are so full of holes, lack of specifics and unanswered questions that I simply cannot buy his premise.

Books Subject to Governmental Approval

The Book Standard reports that the House of Representatives have added a clause to the Children’s Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2005 in which books which offer “any visual depiction of simulated or sexually explicit conduct” or are “produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce” must, as with pornography, report every performer portrayed in a visual depiction. In other words, if a photograph appears in a book depicting anything considered “sexually explicit” (a term that isn’t even defined by H.R. 4472, which suggests that this could apply to an innocuous image of two men kissing), the government wants to track your participation.

Of course, such a Stalinistic tactic does not, in fact, run directly counter to the First Amendment, but this does raise serious questions about whether certain performers might be audited or “investigated” simply because their work is considered “sexually explicit” by the U.S. government. Consider an author like William T. Vollmann, who regularly features provactive photographs by Ken Miller in his work, in an effort to chronicle the poor and the prostitutes. Will future editions of The Royal Family now have to be eviscerated of these photos?

Yeah, Man, But It’s a Dry Heat!

Bill Paxton went nuts when The View host Joy Behar asked fellow Big Love actor Chloe Sevigny about the infamous Brown Bunny BJ. An “insider” objects: “‘The View’ is a a show that is broadcast to housewives all over Middle America. [Oral sex] isn’t the kind of thing you talk about.”

If we’ve learned anything from covering the book beat, it’s that Middle America sure as hell needs to know about oral sex. Now more than ever. In fact, while we’re at it, why don’t we see Mike Ditka asking football players about cunnilingus? Just to level the playing field and all.

As for the reports of Paxton “exploding off-camera,” let us be the first to say that somebody at the New York Daily News has a sense of humor.

Caitlain Flanagan Declares War on Cocksucking

Caitlin Flanagan jumps the shark. No really. This book review has to be read to be believed. Everything from teenage oral sex to Ms. Flangan herself tittering at the prospect of mass fellatio (which, interestingly enough, Flanagan equates to “the province of prostitutes,” leaving us to wonder if Flanagan has somehow existed this long without experiencing the joys of oral sex) to an amateurish investigative effort by Flangan to confirm the mass fellatio. (Yes, really.)

I haven’t read an essay this unintentionally hilarious in a long time. That sentences such as “Somehow these girls have developed the indifferent attitude toward performing oral sex that one would associate with bitter, long-married women or streetwalkers” would be seriously considered in a 21st century magazine of ideas (the essay originally appeared The Atlantic) is astonishing to me. Maybe I just ain’t vanilla, but oral sex is hardly BDSM or felching or bukkake, nor does engaging in it immediately turn you into a jezebel or a gigolo. And by what standard do jejune yentas such as Flanagan determine what’s normal and what’s incorrigible? The magical gremlin permanently affixed to Flanagan’s skull who decides what’s right and what’s wrong after a drunken round of darts?

The kind of willing denial that Flanagan expresses here in lieu of trying to understand the issue (teenagers are becoming more promiscuous, like it or not) and in trying to parse whether the novel in question (Paul Ruditis’ Rainbow Party) answers this societal development is beyond preposterous. It’s dangerous. It promulgates a kind of fashionable bllindness in which it’s perfectly acceptable to remain horrified without trying to understand why one is having an emotional reaction. It imputes a mentality whereby one can never step outside of one’s hermetic paradigm and the results or effects of an sociological development are not just unexamined, but are immediately demonized as “evil.” Never mind that there’s likely some constructive value in trying to figure out why these “forbidden” impulses appeal to certain people, particularly when one is in charge of setting the boundaries. But in taking the myopic road out, Flanagan is no different from a paranoid Caucasian who immediately assumes that an African-American saying hello is out to carjack her.

That Flanagan’s essays have been embraced by the New Yorker and the Atlantic, while fostering such an anti-thinking approach, is a telling indicator that the world of letters isn’t ready for a serious discussion of these issues. It isn’t ready to accept the fact that, yes, teenagers have oral sex. More all the time. It isn’t ready to start answering questions. What does this mean? Is this necessarily bad? How did this develop and will we see teenagers start to embrace more violent and hardcore fantasies? And are these in turn bad? Is any of this a reaction to the way in which sex is so undiscussed in American society, particularly in the classroom? Was Jocelyn Elders ahead of her time?

The continued publication of Caitlin Flanagan’s essays is a disgrace to any magazine interested in raising these questions (or less provocative ones). Thank goodness that at least one of the Holy Trinity (Harper’s) has had the good sense not to publish such a flagrantly anti-intellectual writer.

For a more thoughtful take on a similar subject, see Naomi Wolf’s essay on how porn affects sexual conduct.

(via Jenny D)

Cultural Boredom = Codeword for Vanilla?

I only post this because Elizabeth Crane is a bad influence.

A few years from now, when the midcareer profile writers sum up the artistic achievements of Drew Barrymore and Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, there is little doubt in my mind that this incident will sum up in one fell swoop the collected insignificance of their respective cultural contributions. I don’t object to having sex in public restrooms (and, truth be told, I’ve had sex in far more dangerous places). I actually approve of this part of the tale. But when an individual is presented La Boheme and reduced to boredom in a world of limitless possibilities, call it a hunch, but I’m guessing that person probably isn’t going to be a lot of fun in the sack.

Bringing New Meaning to the Term “Coffee Date”

WebMD: “Her study shows that the caffeinated females didn’t just skitter around their cages aimlessly. Instead, they specifically sought a male sex partner and weren’t particularly interested in socializing with another female rat. The caffeinated females seemed motivated to seek sex, not to burn extra energy from the caffeine, the researchers write.”

Granted, we’re talking rats here. But the connection is certainly worth exploring in humans. (via Quiddity)

Friday Night Perversions

In lieu of content (we wrote a 3,000 word post in which we were entirely honest and candid about ourselves in a way that we aren’t normally here and lost it today, so we’re a bit bummed because it was a very good post), here are some WTF and certainly NSFW links for your perusal:

The Most Dangerous Idea

There’s been a lot of ballyhoo over this list. Many major minds, most of them apparently Caucasian and male, have been consulted for their “most dangerous ideas.” Presumably the whole exercise will facilitate great intellectual discussion, limitless coffers poured into research and development, and several Slashdot threads that will carry on well into 2012.

Of course, nobody bothered to consult me. And while I am quite Caucasian and quite male, I’m not a scientist and I’ve yet to publish a book. Let’s the face the facts: I’m just some half-baked literary blogger and I still, with great guilt, heat up a frozen chimichanga from time to time.

However, let us postulate a parallel universe (those who have watched a few episodes of Sliders will understand) where Jared Diamond is working a day job and blogging like a maniac and I, on the other hand, am a nonfiction author beloved and adored by millions for meticulously researched yet highly pessimistic fat books. Let us further suggest that “The World Question Center” (a name which sounds suspiciously close to “Customer Service Center”) deigned to ask me about my “most dangerous idea.”

It really needs to be said. So here goes:

Penises in mainstream film.

Western society has reached a point where premarital sex is the norm. We have penises in locker rooms. We have them in boudoirs (or what sometimes passes for boudoirs in cramped apartments inhabited by multiple homo sapiens). In the presence of a lady, men will sooner divest themselves of their boxers rather than their black socks. What exactly does that say? Well, speaking as someone who enjoys being naked (particularly with other people) and who is quite guilty of the black socks crime (there are reasons; please don’t ask), I submit to scholars and casual anthropologists of all stripes that your typical Western male has a closet hankering to let it hang loose. For let us be clear on this: micturating in the open air is a fantastic sensation.

In other words, the penis has reached a point where it is more prominent in our everyday culture than the films which allegedly reflect this culture. And if films are intended as a verisimilitudinous medium (again don’t laugh), Hollywood endings notwithstanding, we must address the reality of the penis. It exists. It is seen. And it is not a harmful organ. Contrary to contemporary forms of homophobic paralogia, it will not corrupt a male heterosexual’s mind. (Proof positive: I have lived in San Francisco for eleven years and, while I have become slightly more perverse, I have no sexual or romantic interest in men — all this despite the fact that I am more likely to see an accidental penis in this town on any given day.) A penis will harm nobody really. Yes, it is capable of penetrating orifices or being tainted with genital warts. But if we’re talking about your garden variety one-eyed snake here, on what level is it pernicious?

Let us consider the double standard, which has frankly gone on far enough. So it’s perfectly okay for women to disrobe completely in an R-rated film, stopping just short of the full open labial shot frequently found and fawned over in hardcore porn. It is perfectly okay for the camera to dwell upon a slow-motion shot of jiggling breasts. Where however are the penises? Sure, there’s the odd Ewan McGregor or Harvey Keitel determined to get their John Thomases displayed in nearly every movie they appear in. But a real “actor” would never sully his reputation by exposing nothing more than his ass and bare chest.

If the idea here is that testicles and a cock represent a sensitive area and thus should not be displayed, then obviously the men who offer this bullshit excuse have clearly overlooked the sensitivity of the female mammary gland (in particular, the nip).

I submit to the American public that there are far more disturbing things to witness than naked people (violence, for starters) and, in particular, penises. In fact, the human body, as has been noted on more than one occasion by sundry dabblers and scriveners, is quite beautiful. And the idea that this beauty can’t sit squarely within R-rated territory like its mammary and outside labial counterparts is a crime against gender equality. And it’s really not much fun to boot.

Bad Sex Award Longlist

The Bad Sex Award longlist has been announced. And it looks like John Updike, ever the fey pervert, has finally made it into the mix. About damn time, if you ask me. I love Updike to death, but I cannot read any of his novels without that inevitable WTF moment, where an introspective sexual description comes out of left field. (Immediate example that comes to mind: early moment in The Witches of Eastwick where character is preparing salad and suddenly starts comparing cherry tomatoes to testicles without any particular impetus.)