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Free Cookies

Earlier this summer I was walking through Oakland on my way to catch the subway into San Francisco when I came across a young man on an inflatable couch asking me if I wanted a free cookie. His name is Scott and aside from just being a nice guy giving away treats he is also a musician. This is an interesting project and it’s cool to look through his videos and watch what people say when they’re talking about nothing in particular with a stranger sitting on an air sofa who has just offered them a cookie with no strings attached.

Normally you shouldn’t take cookies from strangers. I remember the lecture from kindgergarten. He seemed friendly enough so I took him up on the offer for a free cookie and he interviewed me for his website. I swear it’s all true! Check it out in this video where you can meet some other folks who also live in Oakland.

It was great to meet you, Cookie Man! I hope you and your couch have many great travels meeting people and listening to their stories. Thanks for the snack and listening to mine. Cheers!

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Beyond The Valley Of The Fucks

Long before I did porn, I watched it. Sometimes it was out of pure curiosity. My jaw dropped at images of stretched orifices. I watched in wonder at the full potential of the human body. There are those among us who can process complex mathematical processes in the blink of an eye, there are those among us who can pull a big rig with their teeth, there are those among us who can swim the English Channel and arrive on the shore in time for tea, there are those among us who can sexually consume everything in sight and be hungry for more. I am always humbled by our diversity. I honor our potential and insatiable appetite to continue going further.

In my porn collection I have pornographic clips from the dawn of motion pictures. I watch them repeatedly not for their erotic value but for their very serious contributions to understanding the culture of a time and place. I studied anthropology in my undergrad and I never kicked the habit. Vintage pornography is more than just the thrill of peeking into our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ secret stash of dirty thoughts. Old dirty films are artifacts and it is a devastating loss to our understanding of the times and the places of humanity that so much of what has been produced has been destroyed.

Porn is fantasy but we get the ideas somewhere. For the most part, porn is just reality on steroids. The advertising industry has relied on erotic tropes for far, far, far longer than any kind of commercial pornography has been available to the masses. When you have a lot of money you pay fine artists to hand paint your porno in oils and then put it in a million dollar frame but it’s always been the most cost-effective methods of producing porn that are trashy. Some of it is but you can paint trash with a brush and oils, too and it has been done on more than a few occasions throughout the course of history. The biggest complaint about porn is that everyone can see it. It is no longer a luxury item.

Porn has its own set of problematic politics but it’s very fucking honest about the politics belonging to everyone else. A chick blowing a ridiculous man with a stupendous mustache will drop a quick but scathing one-liner about a politician. The free speech isn’t just about showing people genitals. It’s also about the ability to criticize public leaders and putting a magnifying glass on cultural norms and then jizzing all over them. Porn isn’t populism so much as it’s, “here’s your fucking populism.” It’s a subtle like difference between fuck me shoes and fuck you shoes. Even before she did porn, no one was looking at the Ivory Soap girl and thinking about the relative cleaning merits that Ivory had to offer. Even if all you thought was, “what a pretty picture,” you were not thinking about soap and it’s already fairly pornographic that dewy virginal white girls are the utter symbol of clean.  Porn did not make that image dirty, it reminded you of why it was dirty all along.

One of my favorite adult flicks is The Erotic Adventures Of Zorro. Parody has always been a major device of pornography and I’ve been delighted by its current renaissance. On one hand, it’s just a kitschy excuse to fuck. On the other hand, it is a softcore film with some positively brilliant cinematography, a very fun script, actors with chemistry and comedic timing, a sense of self-awareness and humility, and an examination of politics, gender, and religion.

The Erotic Adventures Of Zorro does not forget the theme of government corruption and exploitation of the poor and directly parallels it to its own immediate context. The twist is that Zorro plans his attack by masquerading by day as a pansy-ass queer and then fighting for justice as Zorro by night. There are bad gay jokes aplenty the premise is a fascinating study of gender. In this story, it is masculinity that is closeted. Under his full name and with total understanding that his behavior would be reported back to  his father in Spain, Zorro immediately comes up with the plan to feign queerness and he steps into character immediately without any worry or fear about the implications to his reputation whatsoever. The man in the mask with the sword is a secret identity. Flirtation is his primary weapon in destabilizing the power structure.

At the time, “nudie cuties” like Zorro were street legal so long as all of the sex was simulated. The blowjob scene in the field is real, however. It slipped by the censors with an act of very creative film making. The scene is predominantly shot from just behind a pair of horses that the characters had been riding who are watching the scene just in front of the camera perfectly framing the shot. Other shots come through a veil and other visual barriers that obscure the scene just enough to let you know that you’re a voyeur. There are also entire scenes dedicated entirely to political humor. In one scene, a guard runs into the shot announcing that Zorro has left a note but that he needs someone to read it to him because he cannot. In one scene, an obviously poor peasant-hyperbole picks up the note and reads it aloud only to have the guard denounce him as “ignorant,” rather than thank him.

One sex scene is introduced by immediately calling out just how ridiculous Zorro looks when he walks around naked in his mask and sock garters. This kind of good-natured self-deprecating humor has not been lost to the ages as screening The Rocki Whore Picture Show with Kitty Stryker reminded me. I like the broad notion of adult entertainment. Preservation of our erotic heritage is so very vital to understanding our cultural heritage. Porn is made by people who throw a saddle on the Id and go for the ride.

Long before I ever set a toe on camera I disagreed with the notion that pornographic images were the source of sexual violence because rape was with us before recorded images so something newer cannot be an origin. The efforts to eradicate pornography is that of a kitten’s pathetic brawl with its reflection in the mirror. In order to change our images, we have to work towards progress in our day-to-day lives. That’s where our fantasies begin. It is also why I want to see more diversity in the people picking up the camera. For the most part, we have so many images captured by white heterosexual men that we think the way they see the world is natural and the rest of us are different. Porn flicks just might give us the clearest picture we can get of the worlds we live in and at least we all know that there’s a happy ending.

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Dear Sex Worker Hater

Hello Sex Worker Hater,

So, we meet again. You’re a shape shifter and I feel like I see you everywhere I go. I’ve spotted you on police forms for recovered bodies which had two categories: human and non-human. Guess which category specifically listed prostitutes? I don’t have to tell you, hater, you already know where you think sex workers belong.  I’ve heard your testimony at rape trials when the plaintiff’s occupation and clothing were judged more harshly than the actions of their rapist. You laugh at strippers when they believe they have the right not to be exploited with stage fees and racist policies and you think it’s hilarious when there is evidence of a battering behind sparkling eye makeup and feathered eyelashes.

You spend a lot of time at bars and parties whispering into someone’s ear that a person who sells sex and takes precautions for the health and safety of everyone involved is bad, dirty person, forces you to wash your hands after contact. You’re not saying that you personally would go and cause violence against a sex worker but when it happens, well, the sex worker really should have seen it coming. In your mind violence, rape, and homicide are just the natural and obvious outcomes to be accepted by anyone who makes their living from sexual attraction. You sneak your way into activist movements and discount the opinions of whores because “they’re obviously stupid.”

You’re everywhere at once sex worker hater and I see you’ve been writing over at Cnet. Allow me to quote you:

The porn industry is undergoing considerable changes, especially with the huge proliferation of free online porn. Will the existence of PornWikiLeaks make some think twice about their chosen means of making money?

Or is the expectation now entirely reasonable that anything you do, anywhere, at any time could–at any moment–be revealed online for all the world to see, know, and, of course, judge? - on Cnet

Let’s clear a couple of things up, hater. First and foremost this information was obtained from private medical records. It isn’t a coincidence that one of the major ways that we protect our health and the health of our partners was sabotaged. It’s a clear message: you are not allowed to have both a non-traditional sex life and good health at the same time. This was an act of terrorism. According to your words, hater, we should just sit back and accept this as proper order of the world. We should just accept that mainstream medical care excludes us and degrades us and that if we develop a community model of care that people will do everything they can to shut it down. I guess we should have thought about that when we tried to pay our rent, have a relationship, be part of a family, or go on living our lives like anyone else. We should have just known that someone would eventually think that they were saving California from “Mexicans and gays trying to get married,” by illegally accessing our medical records and posting them on the internet with our real names and an incitement for harassment against us.

Whether or not our industry is conventional has nothing to do with what happened. For example, I think that it is unethical to set up sweatshops in developing nations to exploit the local labor force. If I hacked into the HMO database for a major corporation with factories in developing nations and published the names and private information of thousands upon thousands of low level employees who worked for that corporation at any point in time on the internet alongside calls for harassment against them I would be immediately denounced as a deranged criminal who must be stopped immediately and that would be absolutely, 100% accurate. No one w0uld be debating whether or not those employees should be ashamed of working in retail. No one would suggest that the reason why they dropped their surname or opted for nickname on their employee badge was because they were trying to hide from their occupation. No one would speak as though they should have known that sooner or later someone would inevitably hack into their medical records and post their badge name next to their full legal name alongside libelous language and calls for harassment against them. We would solely focus on the actions of the deranged criminal and discuss ways that we can prevent that kind of illegal and dangerous behavior from happening again.

Like most haters, you’re getting defensive about the fact that people are calling you out for victim blaming. The opening and closing of an essay is prime real estate in a piece of a writing. It’s what people notice first and what they walk away with at the end.  This essay contained 538 words. The opening and closing  (103 words) constitute just under 1/5 (just about 20%) of the total essay length and both are dedicated to questioning whether or not porn performers should feel shame about what they do for a living rather than what actually happened or any form of compelling analysis. The reason that people are receiving this as victim blaming is because you opened your essay by saying, “For some reason, I am reminded of Eric Schmidt’s dictum. You know, the one that went something like: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.'” It communicates quite a bit about your priorities that you opened and closed your writing with a sentiment of judgement and shame.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a sex worker hater forever. You can choose to write something new, interesting, relevant, and original about what happened in this situation. You can choose to listen to this criticism and reframe your argument. You can choose to acknowledge that some of the people affected by the PornWiki might possibly be reading your column. You might even choose to apologize. At the very least you can acknowledge that you didn’t add anything to the argument by climbing up onto a moral high horse and wagging your finger at the whores down below to remind them that they shouldn’t expect the same kind of privacy that any other public figure expects. Don’t worry, including sex workers and talking about them ethically and honestly won’t turn you into one. It won’t even make you an ally. It just makes you less of a hating asshole. Anywhere you choose to go from there is up to you.

Sincerely,

“A pornographic whore and Hooker” who is mad as hell and won’t take it any more

Photo by Courtney Trouble

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Musings on Twitter

“The internet has changed everything!” -Everyone about everything.

As humans, our emotional responses to the world around us develop long before we have any mastery of language. It’s no surprise that when humans experience the extremes of emotion there is usually a corresponding decrease articulation. We laugh, we cry, we use violence, we do a silly dance but we have all had a moment where words fail us. Emotionality, no matter how extreme or illogical, is not evidence of a lack of a logical cause and effect process but rather a sudden inability to convey that. When we’re with someone face-to-face we can see that. We can put down the sudden need for words and just join in on inarticulate communication with a hug, a high five, a kiss, or return fire because we can see clearly before our very eyes that although emotion is has taken the center stage it wasn’t purely arbitrary. This is known as compassion.

Technology, on the hand, relies on clear articulation with a tiny margin of error as anyone who has stared at a programming language on a desperate hunt for the single character mistake that has rendered the entire attempt useless. Computers are not as far removed from humanity as we might think because its system of organization is modeled after our own brains. Unlike the human computer, the brain possesses the unparalleled ability to fill in a gap of knowledge with other pre-existing data. We do this automatically unless there is no pre-existing data to explain what has happened in which case we experience frustration.

Humans have never had the ability to communicate with other human beings the way that we do today. For the overwhelming majority of humanity we’ve actually been pretty limited. The first individuals to ever inscribe a thought in a language of some kind on parchment or stone undoubtedly run into troubles for their efforts. There were too few people who could even begin to understand it and the actual scribbles that one could use were incredibly limited. Technology is fantastic but there is a learning curve for its adaptation. In the past, humans had a very long time in between technological innovations. Today it feels nearly impossible to keep up with every single one of them and not everyone is using the same type of technology with the same level of comprehension but we are all using it simultaneously.

Twitter has made so many parts of my life infinitely easier. I have access to a constant river of information and as an information junkie I LOVE this. I love getting news reports from all over the world. I love seeing who is retweeting the same link. I love being constantly inundated with all of this data because it forces me to put my brain to work. I’m a nerd and I am infinitely fascinated by information systems and Twitter is a fantastic way to analyze a veritable universe of systems. We can track the passage of ideas in a way never before possible.

Well, in theory we’re tracking ideas and to lesser or greater extremes we’re junkies for them. Let’s call ideas ‘heroin’ for this example. Pure heroin is often described as unadulterated bliss by users and pure heroin does very little acute damage to the body.  There is always a risk of overdose and managing your right dose is a tricky thing because your dose changes in relation to your relative use. When I first logged onto the world wide web with a baud modem it took forever for even a single picture to load but that was exciting. Today I get frustrated if it takes longer than a few seconds for an entire video to play on my computer. The biggest problem that heroin users face is not the presence of the heroin, per se, but the presence of all the shit that gets put into it. No one really has access to pure heroin, they’re using what we call “black tar” or at best “brown sugar.” It isn’t the heroin itself that destroys veins and creates painful abscesses and track marks; it’s the needle itself scarring the tissue mixed with the huge number of caustic additives. Heroin in a slightly different form is known as morphine or Vicodin or any other opiate/opioid and it has very legitimate medical uses.

In other words, Twitter would be utterly fantastic if it weren’t for the fact that not one single person is every really accessing pure ideas on Twitter. Most of the time we are creating and receiving “black tar ideas.” We put in all kinds of additives that create major problems and distractions. We’re trying to reduce something bigger than language itself into only 140 characters and we have problems as a result but these problems for the most part do not outweigh our need.

Twitter is portable and immediate. It’s a soap box to share anything with an unlimited number of people. It’s an indelible tool for activism and revolution. It’s a message in a bottle that can double as an intellectual Molotov cocktail. Hacktivism and digital activism are now firmly embedded as a legitimate way to get something done.  Despite the fact that we may complain about individual brands of social media, we do know one thing: it works.

In the days before the technology, we only saw celebrities when they were consciously producing media for us. Instant technology and social media platforms have pulled the rug out of the notion that you are in any real control of your image whatsoever even with the very best public relations team that money can buy. People feel entitledto images of celebrities in private spaces (if they wanted privacy they never should have tried to chase their dreams and become successful, right?) and the more images there are the greater that entitlement becomes. We say things to public figures that we would never say to someone we considered to be another human being on this planet.

To clarify, I’m not opening a charity for rich celebrities any time soon. I’m just pointing out that human beings all have the expectation of being received as human beings and when we aren’t it makes us feel anxious (to say the least). Some people are marginalized literally to their graves. Other people are marginalized by the fact that they can’t escape the flashbulbs or the person in the corner recording them. Mainstream celebrities are paranoid about that kind of thing and for good reason. A lot of the strange tics we see in “celebrities gone crazy” are desperate attempts to return to some kind of sanity where worrying that the cashier at the coffee shop is going to run to the tabloids to tell them all about the fact that you used a credit card for a $3 purchase as if that indicates that you were a deliberate asshole rather than someone who needed coffee before they got to the ATM. We use constant surveillance as a way to torture people because it works.

Celebrity is an invented concept and one that does not come with a handbook as all-around awesome intellectual and humorist Stephen Fry discovered in 2009 on Twitter during what was deemed “Frygate.” Here are some of the screen caps of what happened:

This is hardly a call for someone’s death and it’s just another person on Twitter sharing their opinion like the rest of us. Rather than being received by Stephen Fry (in public persona mode) it was heard by Stephen Fry, the person. Like any other person he had the capacity to feel hurt by a statement that was clearly not intended to cause a breakdown in another person. It anything, @brumplum probably forgot that he was addressing his comment to a person rather than a public persona and moreover he probably did not expect to be heard or noticed. Well, he was.

Screen capture of Stephen Fry’s reply

Stephen Fry has his own personal context and life. He has spoken openly about his mental health struggles. Stress alone is enough to derail you from your own brand of logical thinking and his health has the potential to exaggerate that. He took a minor criticism as evidence that no one liked him tweeting and that he should abandon the attempt. Thing of it is, a lot of people LOVE his tweets and anyone who created enough harm to him that he might discontinue entertaining people in this fashion and it was received by his followers as a declaration of war without any real prompting or request.

Whenever we make shit up and think it’s real, the shit will hit the fan and it did. Stephen Fry, understandably, felt hurt. He used the communication device at his fingertips to express that pain which always seems perfectly rational at the time. In his pain, he forgot just how many people really listen to every single thing that he says and that at the end of the day people really do like him and don’t want to see him experience that pain. Forgetting that the person who made the initial criticism was also another human being with feelings, the hordes decided to defend Stephen Fry viciously. This is what is known as blowing things out of proportion and the maelstrom that just one tweet created is a fascinating innovation of our times.

Ultimately, Stephen Fry decided to stay on Twitter for the very same reasons that he kept writing, that he kept speaking, that he kept telling us what was funny. To say that he is a weak person is so ridiculous it’s laughable. We have clearly objective and factual evidence that indicates that he’s the kind of guy who gets hurt sometimes and then keeps on going. Emerging from the sadness that sometimes catches up with us all, he realized that things had gotten quite out of hand and used his Twitter consciously to try to set things back in place. Public figures do have to use Twitter differently because of the insane fixation that people develop on media sanctioned celebrities. Although we claim that we want to know the real person inside the celebrity shell we are not prepared to the consequences of that knowledge.

As a whole, we are rarely prepared to acknowledge the humanity of the people around us or our own personal power.

I write this because I’m re-thinking the way that I use Twitter. I say this because I’ve accidentally hurt people by saying something as simple as “what the fuck?” because I thought I was conveying a mixture of confusion and frustration and they thought that it was a hostile attack. I say, “what the fuck?” roughly 1 million times a day. I say it to inanimate objects, I say it to the media, I say it to friends in a good natured way all the time but on Twitter that phrase is mostly useless. I absolutely have the right to say “what the fuck?” as many times as I want on Twitter but what is it actually getting me? I know that I rarely, if ever, use “what the fuck?” in anger. I feel angry when I have an idea of what is going on I use “what the fuck?” when I don’t. It doesn’t matter how well I know what I mean. It matters how well the people around me know.

I’m still acclimating to my technology. Sometimes I’m not even sure I can ever acclimate to any of it. I do know that it is my goal to mean what I say and sometimes that just doesn’t happen on Twitter even though I think it’s a goddamn amazing tool that I’m grateful to have in my life. Sometimes I lack humility before the things that we have created. I’ve had times on Twitter where I was at the center of a maelstrom of misinterpretation and the only thing that saved me was my relatively low Twitter account. As more of you add me to your Twitter feeds the more conscious I become of the fact that one misfired comment can get out of control in just a few hours. I’m learning slowly how to be distinguish between self-censorship and self-awareness. The punishment should fit the crime and the message should fit the medium.

I’m still going to fuck it up from time to time and I’m counting on you to let me know when. I do put all of my available resources into hearing what it is you’re trying to tell me. Like any other human I sometimes find that all of my available resources have been directed elsewhere like my fucking coffee bean grinder that wouldn’t grind my coffee beans leaving me without coffee at all. Learn from my mistakes: coffee first, twitter later.

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Movement Intersectionality: Homotopia Pansy Project

Paul Harfleet; Istanbul; Seen Mag

“Protecting the rights of minority groups, wherever they may be, is a shared responsibility for all. Prejudice and discrimination are destructive to societies and individuals – tolerance may be more challenging, but it is ultimately more rewarding.”

“LGBT visibility and our right to live without attack or abuse are an integral part of the seamless garment of human rights and is one that all of our partners are committed to achieving, especially in times of uncertainty and insecurity.

“In a country like Turkey, where prominent politicians find it acceptable to call homosexuality an offence and immoral on the TV and radio, and where many LGBT people still don’t feel able to come out or be accepted this project is an important and a timely reminder of why such work is vital.”

Find out more about the Pansy Project


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An Ode to the Slap

I don’t know what it is about the slap that turns me on so much. Maybe it’s the pretension that goes on behind it. There is always a judgment being cast with a slap. It’s insulting, it stings, but it doesn’t always come from the same place that a punch does. A slap is a wordless way to say, “I’m in control and you are not.” I think that’s the closest root to any slap. Here’s a collection of cinema slaps for you to enjoy.

For those of you wondering, you shouldn’t have to think twice. Of course I love slapping as much as I love the occasional well-timed slap.

 

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I am Pro-Choice

I read a new story that made my stomach turn. A man by the name of Kermit Gosnell  operated a clinic called the Women’s Medical Society in an impoverished region of Philadelphia. It was at his clinic that the horrors of illegal and unregulated abortion can be seen. The brief AP news report is sickening enough; reading the case presentment and grand jury report are much more detailed and grizzly and I did read both, page after disgusting page.

This not a story about the horrors of abortion.

This is a story about how in one of the richest countries in the world we turn our backs on the poor. This is a story about what happens when people do not have access to safe affordable healthcare. This is what happens when violations can go ignored, where people can slip through a system designed to protect them.

This is a very graphic post and may be triggering to some people. It is the epitome of horror. There is no other word to describe what happened.

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