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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Planet Porn: An Alien Looks at the Ethics of Our Most Enduring Renderings

from 'A Report to the Galactic Overlords on the Terran Cultural Practice of Depicting Sexuality'

Ever since homo sapiens sprouted opposable thumbs some two million earth-years ago, and thereby became able to use fine-motor tools and mix rudimentary pigments, they have been tireless in their attempts to make representations of their sexual organs and their quaintly varied methods of congress of said organs.

Image pixilated for discretion 
Some of the earliest daubs smeared on the walls of their burrows reveal crude, primal attempts to render and represent what they might easily notice if they simply looked down at themselves. Early stages of what we might recognise as ‘developed civilisations’ saw a refinement of the aesthetics of this practice, evident in an increasing sophistication in the skills and materials of rendering; however this only served to encourage the practice further. Even everyday dining and storage vessels in the early civilisations known as ‘Greece’ and ‘Rome’ were often festooned with figures bearing (quite without regard to the realities of physics or biomechanics) swollen, truncheon-like phalloi and mammary glands the size of our landing craft. Such artful exaggerations were not intended as lampoon, but evidently intended to further increase the pleasure quotient of the shaved, thumb-bearing apes that viewed them.

Objects in the mirror may be larger than they appear
The helpful introduction of bodily shame by new cultural influences from certain desert tribes did nothing to suppress this apparently ingrained compulsion in the species to artificially represent 3 biological subjects and actions on 2-d surfaces. On the contrary, what had by now become referred to as ‘pornography’ gained psychodynamic energy from its very  suppression, and sophisticated practitioners successfully blurred its identification (and moral censure) by conflating it with suggestive artistic nudes. Thus, when a male member of the urban bourgeoisie was bested at cribbage or business, for example, he could lift his gaze to his study wall, there to find in a rendering of an ample-prowed washer-woman, say, or a clutch of cream-skinned shepherd youths, confirmation that his functional masculinity was intact.

This is 'art'

At their current stage of development, having mastered the rendering capabilities of the electron and photon, the planetary electronic library known as their ‘internet’ now groans under the specific gravity of pornographic mass. At our last estimation there were only three remaining ‘websites’ that did not depict some manner of sexual content. Judging from the traffic and uptake, no member of the species (of any age) able to afford ready access to the ‘internet’ has not, at some point, sought to view such fleshy illusions. Some simply cannot refrain from doing so. If any were to deny this, they would probably be trying to save face in what remains of moral censure from their fellow viewers and a God they no longer believe in.

History suggests they will find a way

It is all very difficult to make sense of, especially within the limits of this report. However, more worrying than the futility of gazing at 2-d illusions to compensate for what their urges compel them to do in 3-d actuality, is the overlooked fact that (thanks the verisimilitude of the new medium) pornography now requires other humans to offer themselves as objectified images—bared, splayed, often in a rictus of face-contortion—for their entire world to gaze upon at their leisure. To turn themselves into objects, in short. Worse, these hapless beings allow their objectified selves to be packaged and traded as commodities for internet advertising revenue for complete strangers.

Soylent Green is people

One is left to wonder at the empathic disconnect in this otherwise compassionate species, that they have become so bewildered by the real-seeming quality of their own rendering technology, they lack the awareness that the internet image they gaze upon had its origin with some young girl, or boy, in a warehouse in an undesirable suburb of Los Angeles, in front of a camera, having what was probably one of the worst days of their lives.

The mechanics of commodification

Further study is required. Please forward hi-speed internet apparatus to enable research.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Shadow Knows: The Ethics of 'Outing' the Powerful

“Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow”

–TS Eliot, ‘The Hollow Men’


Ashly Madison-esque affairs...

Brothels and escorts...

Walkers and Beards...

Being in the closet...

Whatever shiny myth characterizes the dominant cultural force in a society will always have a dark side. And so it is with dominant hetero-normative sexuality.

Carl Jung said that in the course of trimming our identity to fit our prevailing social norms, we fashion a kind of shiny shop-front-window identity he called a ‘persona’, which we use to ‘fit in’ and get on in society. Think of the ‘you’ on Facebook. Or your latest CV.

But this comes at a cost. In fashioning that identity, we ‘enshadow’ those compulsions and behaviours which our social norms have deemed unacceptable. And so a shadow self is formed, and grows under the weight of its own unexpressed inertia. The shadow’s very suppression makes it gather strength, and it finds ways (usually indirect) of asserting itself.

For example—and NOT naming any names here—let’s say you are in public life and have decided that the best way to ‘get on’ and have a successful career is to go the whole hetero-normative happy-family route. However, there will be desires and compulsions that you have that do not fit this picture, like, say, a powerful, innate, sexual orientation toward your own sex. So you closet it; you ‘enshadow’ it. But it doesn’t go away; it can’t. In fact, it makes you disengaged from the kids, abusive (verbally or otherwise) toward you partner, and aggressively power-seeking in your field.

Worse, you only feel truly yourself a few times a month when you can discharge this energy in highly secretive little sexual binges among others with just as much to lose as you. Which is fun.…for a while, but ultimately merely serves to drive home the lie you’ve made yourself live. You feel…hollow much of the time. Lying becomes second-nature, so you become more disconnected from any metric that would discern Truth. Your whole raison d’etre becomes control, which is to say, power.

The first casualty of this inner war, as with all wars, is truth. Not capital-T truth—the truth of your actual experience—what you know to be truly what you think and feel.

They say we don’t trust our public leaders anymore. I wonder why. You know who I trust? Senator Penny Wong. And I trust her precisely because she’s not been prepared to play this game. It means she’ll never be PM, but who cares? She’s very obviously happy in the life she lives. The Australian media has decided (in some sort of gentleman’s agreement) not to talk about leaders who are firmly closeted, many of whom are notoriously, egregiously, lying to our faces, and overall, that discretion is a good thing for many reasons . But we should question the trustworthiness of people who vaunt themselves into positions of power over us, especially when they can’t be straight with us (forgive the pun) even about who they are.

Like many people, I’m torn about the ethics of enforced ‘outing’. People should be free to choose the life they want, even if it’s a fiction. The problem comes when power is involved, because in a democracy, power needs to be accountable. And how can it be, if the truth of the identity of the powerful skulks in its own shadow?

Answers on a postcard please? Or twitter @saunitarians