body as an arguement

sex scandals are time stamps
tenacious denials in constant motion
caught in the heart of our throats

we collect these daily reactions edited towards fortune
while retribution becomes a chimera as forthcoming
as justice or glacial landscaping or forgiveness

feelings are now citations of replicated intuition
ancient categories of visceral intimacy siding with self
sacrosanct representation     (a politic)

swelling to release multiple truths
charming double entendres entwined
bound to furious calculations of power and risk

the way white anger colludes with fear
a curious seduction of inductive logic
recast as an approximate commitment to devotion

embraced invasions
meat, text, and soul

transfixed politics

Our bones are built of spirals. – Joy Harjo

Nicole Eisenman, Untitled, 2012

I.

our wildest prophetic imagination
has led us here: a shattering of sex
uncomfortable
deep
looking

II.

calm & concentrated
I saw two waves lock
like elk horns
then embrace

III.

truth of feelings
as charm offensives
as wet feathers

IV.

divine signs
pushing forward

V.
smoothness is both a measure and a lack of roughness

hook & claw

Geh in der Verwandlung aus und ein.
[Be conversant with transformation.]
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonette an Orpheus

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

i believe in omens
and my own ability to shatter and reform
— ​Jill Khoury, excerpt from “Sixteen”

New Orleans, Oct 2016

oh righteous revelry
please indulge this faithful attempt to clarify

so many modern relationships still lean feudalistic
as nobles dance to blue note promises & scheme for eternal life

it rings visionary to trust what is mine was never yours to take
a redundant mythology now inadequate as waning winter light

temporarily, we sense an emerging surrender to the hushed hues of sexual panics
on a grand scale psychic interiors were smoothed flat like apathy or political truths

there was a collective ache for a state of respite from all this revolutionary suffering
as conviction loops into endless realities it is our sacred duty to carve out revelations

we are only possible when testimonies illuminate just beyond the sharp edges of darkness

Russian gossip

We ignore the narrator by only focusing on the frame.

Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, “The Promises Were So Sweet,” digital print on poly satin, 2010, Great Plains Art Museum Permanent Collection.
Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, “The Promises Were So Sweet,” digital print on poly satin, 2010, Great Plains Art Museum Permanent Collection.

The city moves, bends, and swallows.
An act of congress, a coming together.
He presented himself to me. I kissed, gently,
his upper thigh. Curated outfits, a collection of pants
and blouses, roll past me. Lunches bounce inside bags.
I keep writing to feel around the noise. Reinvested
memories, commitments, and occasional flashes of violence.
Internalized scandals are my own reputation to manage.

The train was crowded. No one could complain
about unwanted touching. I imagined her hand
moving slowly, without detection, up and between
my legs. Her fingers, warm and steady, found
their destination. Leaving behind permanent
invisible notes, secrets scrawled on the inside.
Messages shared as rumors as indisputable
associations like light shining through solid objects.

meat of my eyes

“…abstractions of bureaucracy and government and capital destroy real, actual, human bodies.” –Daniel Borzutzky

Point Reyes, CA Dec16
Point Reyes, CA Dec16

there was a request to have erotic mean more
to expand beyond the perverse
a subjective benediction

intimate corporeal wishes
like hope or joy

in that moment I was nothing
I was forever
beyond a body

my ideas are infinite
aren’t you

when you touched me
there
it reminded me of when I stopped asking questions
simply, repeatedly letting go

politics of fantasy

In a previous post, I coupled the early essays of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure as “academic stimulation with real-world sensations.” The chorus of voices throughout the remainder of the book continue on that path and give more support for using an erotic economic analysis. The production of porn is about selling pleasure, consuming (queer) desire, and fucking loving yourself.

Ingrid Ryberg in Every Time We Fuck, We Win pushes you to understand watching porn is witness to intimacy. It is telling that we have to learn to repress so much to fit into assumed historic preferences. Keiko Lane’s Imag(in)ing Possibilities spreads your psyche out with respect. Experiencing “fantasies made conscious” is a particular arousal of “embodied subjectivity.” That point of view, a corporeal validation, is useful. Porn can heal us if we experience it without shame or remorse. If you want to get the deepest and quickest purpose of this book, read Constance Penley’s A Feminist Teaching Pornography? She gives you the permission to study porn as film. We are the audience to a multi-dimensional experience from performer to director to public tastes.

Presentation matters: angles and agency. Lorelei Lee demonstrates that to the fullest. “Sexual desire and sexual identity are absolutely essential  to the freely defined self.” Feminist porn performs power which is why it deserves its current patriarchal reputation. Own that what you feel from seeing is pleasurable. This feminist entertainment project is political. That’s no-fucks-given explicit from the begging to the end The Feminist Porn Book.  As is Ariane Cruz’s call to “take up a politics of perversion, a disruptive shift in black feminist studies, to critically analyze the engagements of pleasure and power through pornography consumption, performance, and production.”

All anthologies straddle numerous opinions and I agree with Nina Hartley that “porn houses our sexual dreams, which are vitally important to our happiness.” The how – worker centered – is what makes feminist porn feminist. It is what mutual satisfaction looks like – good enough to share. Tristan Aormino knows both sides of the camera. I’ll watch sex that is “presented as joyful, fun, safe, mutual, and satisfying.” Sexual expressions of joy! Who would be against such imagery?

That was a larger question that was often left out of the frame. We hear and see enough of the anti-porn position. It was a nice reprieve from that way of thinking. The Feminist Porn Book repeatedly and gently reminds you to consume critically and honor consent always. Sexual expressions are exchanged as erotic capital and culturally produced whether we agree with it or not. That’s why having more porn that thinks and fucks like me is where I’ll be putting my hard-earned feminist dollars.

 

politics of expression

Sex! It’s a provocative subject that has been analyzed for centuries and often reflects more about the author’s tastes, deviance, and experience than any scandalous title may suggest. The subjectivity inherent in this undertaking creates a scene where perversity and contradiction thrive. This quest to distill ourselves – how we come to understand our sexual identities and how we perform those norms (which can result in panics) – has coupled sexuality with body politics for as long as flawed history books have been written.

The what you want and all those sticky enshrouded and repressed reasons why you want are complicated. It’s biological and it isn’t. It’s fixed and it’s dynamic. You could focus on visibility, accessibility, the mechanics, or anything from economics (think about all those ways we feel pleasure from consuming) to culture and still not completely satisfy your curiosities. And we aren’t even covering the erotic. A lush landscape that could lead you to play with the tension of what can be imagined to the exploitation of deeply held desires.

There’s something about all the ways we talk about sex that attracts the most attention. Sexual testimonies that have been passed down, a legacy we measure ourselves against, as the origins of our understanding about sex and sexuality – yours, mine, our neighbors. These narratives are situated in specific cultural, racial, historical, gendered rituals of age, geographical locations, and within very real systems of power. It’s the dominant stories, the ones that are replicated to the point where they are assumed to be truth, that get mythologized. Our destiny is to then decide to perform or reject.

This metaphysical project of measuring perceived reality in proportion to these mythologies, is what The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality attempts to unravel.” And it is this link between sex and self that sits at the root of how sex is regulated in our culture, more than any individual rule or whim of cultural fashion.” A contemporary ritual of self-worth we must all fulfill.

The interviews that thread The Sex Myth chapters are specific histories woven around a frame that is supported by a strong economic influence. “To be sexually ‘free’ is not just a question of doing as you please but a public display of self: an identity that is contemporary, cultured, and financially secure.” This is all within what Hills calls an “attention economy” – any form of recognition is a form of validation. The Sex Myth also pulls apart performance from judgement and normalized expectations.

The chapters on masculinity challenged me for personal reasons and so did the one dedicated to femininity (narrowly constructed around “learning heterosexuality”). I saw my angsty former self expressed in the confessions that got to the root of religion’s control over your autonomy and self-worth. I’m still learning how to undo that damage.

I learned just how extensive the heterosexual agenda is for all of us.

“The primary account of heterosexuality in these films [G-rated] is one of heteroromantic love and its exceptional, magical, transformative power,” the researchers wrote – Martin, Karin, and Emily Kazyak. “Hetero-romantic love and heterosexiness in children’s G-rated films.” Gender & Society 23 (June 2009), 315-36.

I was reminded of just how far beyond those prescriptive expectations I have wandered.

In the end, The Sex Myth is a tale centered on the “tension between control and freedom,” and the price we pay in that constantly fluctuating exchange rate. I appreciated the implicit action to destroy the instinct to question the body first and the system that defines us second. “The Sex Myth is palpable not only in the what we cannot do without fear of stigma or harm, but in what we feel we must do in order to avoid feelings of shame and inadequacy.” It’s critical to deconstruct our feelings about sex and their potential connection to how we embody shame and inadequacy.

My hope is that the conversations started in The Sex Myth agitate and provoke its audience into questioning their own stories and assumptions about what is normal or “true.” Another hope is that we destroy the myth that sexuality is a determined process bound by binary thinking. That’s one way to bridge this gap between our fantasies for more – more freedom, more pleasure, less repression – and envision a reality where our politics and how we express ourselves is ours to tell.

the politics of penetration

I’m seven essays deep into The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. There are new terms to embrace like “pink films” (Japanese softcore porn) and breathless realizations around phrases like “the key to mutual confidence–risk.” The essays couple academic stimulation with real-world sensations. As the infamous Betsy Dodson so aptly notes, “all forms of sex were [are] an exchange of power, whether it was [is] conscious or unconscious.”

erotic visions
erotic visions

The politics around (re)production, representation, and the permeable moral high ground of porn – “feminist” or not – are chapters of a story that pivot on domination and release. Who’s on top and who is really getting what they asked for? What lies beneath most of the antiporn rhetoric (which is intimately coupled with conservative ideas about the purpose of sex; hint: it’s not pleasure) are “sexual panics” around fluid concepts of decency, normalcy, and obscenity. All of these convictions, and more, build towards a formula that reflects standardized shots designed to maximize profit.

I like Susie Bright’s pithy assessment “porn arouses to distraction” to describe what porn actually does.

In the essay “Emotional Truths and Thrilling Slide Shows,” Smith & Attwood theorize “in making arguments for free speech, its proponents often cede the ground that some forms of pornography are indeed awful, damaging, and to be abhorred, thereby confirming the basic analysis that there is something intrinsically problematic about both the cultural forms of sexual representation and those who seek them out.” This sounds similar to the soundtrack around abortion rights and reproductive freedom in general. This ceded ground leaves the usual suspects, non-wealthy, gender non-conforming, and non-white, maintaining the space of deviance. That is until there is a reason to play with that resistance.

A sexy choice to make, if you can access it.