Friday round-up: heads up and screens down, boys! edition


It’s been an awful long time since we’ve had an old-fashioned round-up–I’ve been so busy with this, that, and the other thing that I haven’t been a good blog citoyenne lately now, have I?  Well, here’s a few things you can use to warm yourself up and keep your power dry:

  • Tenured Radical asks:  to boycott or not to boycott the American Historical Association annual meeting in San Diego in January?  (On the one hand:  I stand in solidarity with my GLBTQI sisters and brothers, of course!  On the other hand:  it’s finally in San Diego, not in frakkin’ Chicago or Washington flippin’ D.C. again.  Couldn’t we pick a better year in which to hold ourselves accountable for our values, friends?  It’s San Diego, in January!  Let’s boycott the 2014 conference in Fargo, m’kay?
  • Who can turn the world on with his smile, and/or his red boots and sparkly tights?  It’s GayProf, with his annual Halloween Costume extravaganza.  You’re not going to believe the number of 1970s-80s TV shows he crams into this year’s costume theme, Cloris Leachman.  (Yes, that’s right:  Cloris Leachman!  None of you under the age of 34 know who we’re talking about, do you?)
  • The Bittersweet Girl wonders:  can you hire someone else to clean your house and still be a good Marxist feminist?  I say yes–it’s either that or 1) quit my day job, or 2) hire a ranch hand, and I kind of like doing the outdoor chores myself.  So long as you pay decent money to an independent contractor, you’re helping out a small business owner, aren’t you?  (And remember:  David Sedaris used to clean apartments for a living before he became a Famous Writer and Performer.  Just because it’s work you don’t want to do doesn’t mean it’s not worthy or dignified work.)
  • Over at Roxie’s World, Moose has finally returned from her Southwestern sabbatical sojourn, and reports on something exceedingly strange:  pR0n being consumed (or what have you, substitute a better verb if you’ve got one) in public, on various handhelds and laptops and other wireless devices–something she calls Secondhand Smut, after an article alerting her to this important topic in The Washington Post.  Can I just say EEEEEEEEEEEWwwwwwwwwwww!  Roxie wants to know if this is something you’ve noticed.  Thank goodness I’m too incurious (or too clueless) to have noticed this myself!  But, a few years ago during an academic job interview witnessed by friends of mine at another university, one student in the audience had his laptop open and was surfing pR0n during the teaching demonstration part of the interview.  Super-duper extra classy, dude!  You write your mother e-mails on that laptop?

Boy howdy!  I don’t really know how to use this thing, but you never know that I won’t hit you, do you?  Aux armes, cityoennes!  Formez vos bataillons! 

0 thoughts on “Friday round-up: heads up and screens down, boys! edition

  1. I’ll echo your EEEEEEEEEEEWwwwwwwwwwww! and thank you for the link, Historiann. Hard to believe this kind of thing is going on, but we live in a crude, strange world.

    We’re awfully glad to have Moose back in the pack, though we’ll miss the pretty pics of those technicolor skies y’all have out there in the Great Big West. She thinks you should post more Western eye candy, along with your awesome gun-toting cowgirl pinups, of course!


  2. On secondhand smut: about 20 years ago, my mother brought me and two friends to the Cape for a long weekend. Driving on I93 on the way home, we looked over at the next car to a man DRIVING WITH A CENTERFOLD OPEN ON HIS STEERING WHEEL. My very quirky 14-year-old friend yelled, “ohmygoodness, look at that!” and then stared and pointed with one hand while she covered her mouth in (semi)mock horror with the other hand. The rest of us stared over in amazement and laughed. I’ve never seen a man look more sheepish and embarrassed than this unsuspecting businessman who suddenly found himself openly mocked by 3 teenage girls. We laughed about it for years afterward.


  3. Marshall McLuhan explained precisely why some people will view porn in public about 45 years ago. To be surprised and shocked by this is like being surprised and shocked that Benjamin Day’s New York Sun and James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald would do what they did with the Helen Jewett murder case in the 1830s. Or complain about the sex being played out in the nickelodeons in the early 1900s – better convene a National Censorship Board! Where’s Will Hays?

    McLuhan, in short: All media are extensions of the self. In this sense, they are narcissistic tools designed to conflate boundaries of the self and other. They create – as Joshua Meyrowitz explains in “No Sense of Place” – transgressive spaces that encourage new patterns of behavior and new arenas for identity. The difference between, say, a guy watching porn on an airplane and the little girl dressed like Brittany Spears and singing “If You Seek Amy” to her shocked parents (remember Tipper Gore and Prince’s “Dear Nicky”?) is one of degree, not category.

    Once upon a time middle-class American boys had to hide the National Geographics from their parents!


  4. PorJ, I’m not up on McLuhan (except that I have heard that the medium is the message). Could you explain in near-monosyllabic English? Is the gist that public porners want everyone to know they’re looking at it?


  5. re: housecleaners – absolutely (to being feminist and hiring them!). Historiann is spot on about supporting entrepreneurs – though some cleaning services are corporations, many are independent business owners. I think as long as we are clear about the fact that house cleaning is valued and valuable work like every other service we hire (accountant to plumber), that they are treated with respect due all professionals, and paid reasonable wages, then it’s all to the good. The women that clean my house are awesome – they’re local moms, wanting to make some money now that their kids are older, and to top it off, they make & use their own eco-friendly housecleaning products, which ROCK. (So I don’t have to be concerned about the cleaners’ health, inhaling and touching all those toxic chemicals all day. Plus my house smells like rosemary and lemon for days.)


  6. PorJ: so you’re saying that feminist outrage over the public viewing of porn is ridiculous because Marshall McLuhan had something vaguely delphic to say about this 45 years ago?

    That’s an interesting approach for commenting on a feminist blog. See, most of us here think that women are people too, and one of the problems with public space in general is that it’s men’s interests and not women’s interests that control it. You’re free to take a different point of view, of course, but I’m not going to waste time here debating it with you.


  7. Re: McLuhan. Whether the porners want anyone to know or not is immaterial and doesn’t matter. The reality of the media is such that this obliviousness became inevitable as soon as these devices came into existence (not monosyllabic – sorry). To complain about people watching porn on the subway once the iPhone makes it practical is to miss the point of the media in general. In historical terms: its “overdetermined.” There is no agency involved; the cat’s out of the bag.

    We invent and apply technologies for narcissistic, humanistic reasons and then (here’s McLuhan) we intentionally place the technology outside of ourselves and complain about them or try to censor or control them. But they are extensions of ourselves. McLuhan likened this self-imposed ignorance about the meaning of the media to sleep walking; others have called it mystification.

    Think of it this way. Let’s say I offered to put a small box in your house. This box wouldn’t take up much space or cost much money to operate. It would keep you company whenever you needed it; it would amuse you, entertain you, make new friends for you, and might possibly teach and educate you. It has the power to literally take you around the world whenever you want to, and bring all the news to you instantaneously. But it would also make you feel terrible about yourself; it would tell you that you were fat, unattractive, smell bad and it would demand that you spend money you don’t have (go into debt) for objects promising to solve problems you don’t actually have. Perhaps most perniciously, it would alter your identity significantly; by offering social clues that differ from your owned lived experience, this box would influence everything about who you are – from the clothes you wear, the words you speak (and the way you speak them), to the way you relate to your family and life partner.

    Would you take that deal?

    That’s television.


  8. So you’re saying that people have no right not to watch porn in public? Again–what an interesting idea to air on a feminist blog.

    Please see the updates to my comment above. You’ve been warned.


  9. PorJ: I think getting the feel of a community and engaging in dialogue, rather than posting argumentative comments all of the time, is a feminist value. You seem to want to argue with me all of the time rather than discuss. This blog is not a place for pissing contests, and I’ve found that commenters who jump into comment threads and bigfoot their opinions tend to drive away other commenters.

    Please see the rules for commenting here. I reserve the right to ensure that this is a safe space for all. Accusing me of “censorship” suggests that I don’t have the right to control my space, who’s invited into it, who I converse with, etc. This is a sensitive topic for a lot of feminist bloggers, who have all been set upon and harrassed by other bloggers and commenters.

    Besides, I am not the government, so I can’t engage in “censorship.” I don’t owe anyone time or space on my blog.


  10. re secondhand smut: Sometimes being visually impaired rocks. I can’t see what other people are looking at on their laptops!

    re media in general: I got rid of my tv a year ago.

    re housekeepers: I respect anyone who can do that work well (because I’m terrible at it!) and, when I can afford to do so, will gladly, gratefully, and without guilt pay someone well for the service.


  11. Although I’m not against *all* porn, I’m certainly against viewing it in a public place. No one should be subjected to sexually explicit materials without their informed consent.

    PorJ, I definitely have to agree with Historiann about this being her space subject to her rules. I sent her a link last night that might have fit into today’s round-up if it interested her, but she didn’t use it. I’m not going to complain about censorship. I don’t have any right to expect her to take my needs into account or otherwise give my views validation.


  12. Thanks for the shout out, HistoriAnn!

    For a long time I have noticed that airport book shops sell magazines like Playboy. It always made me wonder if people actually tried to read them on board a flight. Who would want to sit next to that guy?

    That seems like small potatoes to video porn (Though I am not opposed to porn in general (but am concerned about the working conditions of the actors)).


  13. GayProf, the airplane scenario is interesting, and as someone in the Internet service business, I have been aware of trends toward ‘censorship’ by the airlines in their wifi services. Unfortunately, those filters wind up blocking access to political content about gays and lesbians too.

    It seems like the libraries have been struggling with this longer than just about anyone else. Sadly, I haven’t set foot in one since the Internet became a viable way to do research. I think people might go there mostly to hook-up now or because they are homeless and want to stay warm. That’s based on comments overhead around town.

    I volunteered to help maintain a small computer lab for a private high school in Boulder some years ago. It was an interesting experience with filtering technology. Smart users can beat almost anything, and the only way to truly lock things down also means locking out all content that is encrypted (like bank logins etc which people shouldn’t be doing on a shared computer anyway). Of course, you’ve got to physically lock down the computers too to keep the porn off them, or you’ll find loading it by CDs or USB thumbsticks.

    At any rate the filters in the high school lab I encountered were an abject failure. I watched as one girl pulled up a whole web page about “fisting” (diagrams only) while the filters were active. I was only volunteering to take care of the computers and not the kids so I had no idea how to respond. I did let the administration know their filters were pretty broken (and could be disabled completely by smartest kids). The filters also wound up blocking things like breast cancer that some students wanted to research and which seemed unreasonable. In the end, I recruited the “hackers” to be my assistant admins and help with security. That strategy worked for a while.

    I suspect we’ll be dealing with this for a long time to come. Also, speaking of high school classes, my last round-up mentioned this nice science blog about a teacher who was disciplined and forced to apologize for using an article called The Gay Animal Kingdom as supplemental material in a high school class.

    Finally, I share your concerns about the working conditions of the actors. I also feel that the industry as a whole tends to promote unsafe sex. At least, the more mainstream porn I’ve seen does. I believe there are STD screenings, but it’s a real problem that condoms interfere with the visual action (which is mostly what people are after) and with the demands of the consumer driving the market, that’s what we get.


  14. Well I have a friend who produces porn as part of her business. I support her right to do that. I think it’s rather sophisticated for what it is.

    So, it’s not necessarily about what I do with my free time. It’s also about what some women choose to do for a living.

    There is an unfortunate tendency to condemn all porn as being a basis for objectification and inherently evil. I disagree with that. But I do respect the rights of people who hold that belief.

    I’ve posted before that I consider myself a feminist. I’m not overly nuanced in my views, but if I have to clarify the label then I’m a “sex-positive feminist”. The women I know all enjoy sex and I support their right to do so with the lovers of their choice regardless of gender. If making porn turns them on, and they are doing it with some degree of consciousness about the process, I have no arguments with it.


  15. Boycott the AHA because it takes place at the Hyatt Manchester and Manchester is anti gay, anti union and right wing crazy. My son runs the boycott for the union, Unite Here, for close to a year with full cooperation with the LBGT coalition.

    It’s a shame and disgrace that the AHA did not move to a different venue. As an academic I cannot believe that the AHA will get that low.


  16. GayProf: good reminder that the technology is just a newer and perhaps more invasive iteration of what’s been available in airport magazine stands for years already. I too have always wondered, “who does that on an airplane?” I guess I really wonder about what men who watch pR0n in public (so that others can’t help but see what they’re watching) are thinking. It seems like such an aggressive assertion about their rights in public that supercede anyone else’s rights NOT to be subjected to those ideas and images.

    Beyond that obnoxiousness, what do they think that consuming pR0n in public says about them: that they’re sophisticated people? That they’d make great boyfriends or husbands? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s all tacky and degrading, and way, way TMI to share with hundreds of strangers.


  17. KoshemBos writes, “As an academic I cannot believe that the AHA will get that low.”

    (Insert punchline here!)

    Actually, I think you make a great point: there was tremendous fanfare over abandoning Cincinnati back in the mid-90s as an AHA planned destination, after that city passed a pro gay discrimination ordinance, so this isn’t the first time the AHA has confronted these issues. I think the issue is more complex this time, in that it has to do with political objections with a hotel owner and not with an entire city.


  18. I’m a sex-positive feminist and anti-porn. All this “I don’t hate ALL porn” and “I too object to the working conditions” are, IMO, just backhanded attempts to defend porn without running afoul of site guidelines.

    In fact, the unsafe working conditions are part and parcel of the degradation of porn, so pretending you can have safe working conditions and porn is sisyphean in its intent.


  19. Emma I agree mostly with your second paragraph. I mentioned that it is the consumers are driving the market. Those consumers are the men who, by and large, enjoy the objectification of women for their gratification at times.

    I don’t think that reality is going to change on a meaningful timescale because I see it at least partially rooted in evolutionary biology. I think what has to change is the more common understanding of what it means to objectify a person and when it is OK and when it isn’t. I think the cure for bad porn isn’t a ban on porn, but better porn. I imagine we disagree on my assertion that objectification isn’t always evil, but that’s OK.

    I really don’t have an agenda to push here beyond that which I posted on the recent womens’ party blog regarding my favorite Rilke quote. I am not trying to skirt any guidelines but apologize if I have stepped over them. It’s been a couple weeks since I read them (before I first posted) and I’ll go revisit it now.

    I really value open discussion on these issues and that’s my only agenda. As I said, my stance as a feminist is a pretty simple one in this regard. If porn all disappears tomorrow, I won’t be crying about it or rushing to produce it myself. If my friend comes to me and asks again for hosting, I’ll give it to her for free because she’s a friend and I appreciate what she does (not from a gratification standpoint but from a philosophical one).

    I am very glad that some pornography is protected as a part of our rights to free speech no matter how much others hate it. Not all speech is acceptable in a free society, and not all porn is either. The vast majority of porn probably isn’t worth protecting on that basis, but who wants to wade in and sort it all out? I prefer to support people who make better porn. I don’t have all the answers, I just don’t like overly simple ones.

    P.S. The vast majority of my free time has been spent lately reading and writing tl;dr comments like this one 😉


  20. Emma,

    On the other hand, porn for gay men has often been a source of validation for desires that were rejected/scorned/eradicated in mainstream media (Comparably, we can also think of the research on lesbians of the fifties who also discuss lesbian-pulp-fiction novels (a type of porn) in the same way).

    Disagree with me? Great!

    Trying to start a war on HistoriAnn’s site, though, seems less than cool.


  21. I don’t *think* Emma was trying to start a war–just commenting on the reassurances that pR0n was OK with some of you. Sometimes, it can sound like those old reassurances that “I’m a feminist, but I really like men!”

    For the record, my agenda as an anti-pR0n person is mostly about the exploitation of labor, esp. women’s labor. I don’t know anything about the exploitation of men involved in gay pR0n, although I would think that there would be similar themes. Is gay pR0n less exploitative because it’s gay? Or do most pR0n producers make both gay and straight movies, and employ some of the same cast members in each kind of movie?

    (If I recall correctly, you disagreed with me last spring over the pR0n posts I wrote back then.) Then again, so did most of my readers, or so it seemed!


  22. And, although I really don’t have any use for pR0n and think it’s exploitative, people can do whatever in the privacy of their own homes. When I posted the link to Roxie’s post on this, the EEEEEWwwwwww was mostly about the fact that people are viewing it in public. (Although it’s still pretty EEEWWWwwww IMHO in private, so long as I don’t need to see or know about it, then that’s OK.)


  23. I don’t *think* Emma was trying to start a war–just commenting on the reassurances that pR0n was OK with some of you. Sometimes, it can sound like those old reassurances that “I’m a feminist, but I really like men!”

    Yes, that’s what I was commenting on. That dynamic exactly. Thank you for the explanation and benefit of the doubt towards me.

    No, I wasn’t trying to start a war. But, it is odd to me that people don’t see their own uncalled for or out of place defenses of pROn as the opening shot in any wars that come after.


  24. A male friend of mine who likes porn but is bothered by the exploitation has found what he thinks is a way of enjoying his “free time” without exploiting anyone. His answer? Virtual porn! There are no women involved. The female figures are computer simulations, and it works like computer games (i.e. you pick your “pornstars” and press buttons on your keyboard or game controller to make them do whatever you want to see — I think the “player” even participates).

    My reaction to it is still EEEWWWwwww even though no real people are being exploited. It still objectifies women. In fact, the “women” here really are objects, not photographs or live video, and so it seems just another way of reinforcing a sense of male power. We shouldn’t objectify real women? Oh, okay, well. . . let’s just get rid of women altogether! And it would elicit just as much EEEWWWwwww (from me at least) as any other form of porn if I were forced to “consume” it secondhand in public.


  25. Sometimes, it can sound like those old reassurances that “I’m a feminist, but I really like men!”

    Well put. I think at some level I knew the disclaimer might get me into trouble, though my intent wasn’t to start it either. For some, just those 4 letters (whether porn or pr0n) create an offensive visual image and I understand that (the latter calls to mind its own set of disturbing Internet memes to the degree that words sometimes have pictorial associations in memory).

    Europe is so different in many ways from us and the standards of what might be seen in public are a big contrast. I like European and Australian sexual values more than U.S. values.

    It also occurred to me earlier that the original “axis of evil” back in the day are the three most perverted cultures I know of today (as judged by the porn the produce and consume). For a long time I’d considered it mainly a tie between Japan and Germany. As I was thinking about this blog and the larger issues of cultural values, the relationship of those two countries suddenly dawned on me. Then I looked at the third Axis power and immediately realized they probably take spot #3 on that list (not, honestly, that I’ve taken any time to survey the world of porn – some of it I’ve seen only because women called my attention to it).

    So how’s this for analysis to make up for nearly 300 words? I think all three of those countries were essentially autocracies that employed prostitutes (and if memory serves correctly porn too) to service/encourage the men fighting their wars of aggression. Is it any wonder today that the most aggressive military cultures still have the most offensive porn (by some standards anyway)? And I’d probably put the U.S. at #4 on that list, BTW, but I’d have to watch some Italian porn to really test this theory (and don’t plan to).


  26. And not to continue the “war”, but just FYI, when someone says “I don’t dislike all pROn” what I hear is “I don’t dislike it every time a woman (or man in gay porn) is subordinated, objectified, and/or abused for my personal pleasure.”

    And what I hear when you say something is my “problem”, for sure. But a certain obliviousness to the dynamic being created by one’s affirmation of pROn certainly affects the conversations that can be had.


  27. Sorry, prostitutes really means “sex slaves” in the context of WWII Axis powers who provided women to their soldiers.

    What is *really* bizarre to me is that my grandfather’s generation grew up on a kind of proto-porn that sexualized the Nazis whom they’d defeated in the 50s. I imagine that was likely based in part on such fantasies of sex slaves.


  28. Glad to read the clarifications.

    It seems to me that there is a difference between commenting along the lines of “Based on my feminism and intellectual position, I don’t see a means for porn to ever be reconciled with the exploitation and subjugation it involves” (more along the lines the later clarifications) verses “I am totally and morally certain that I am right about porn and those who disagree with me really shouldn’t be allowed to comment on this blog because they clearly aren’t feminist.”

    As HistoriAnn points out, she and I do have slightly different takes on these issues. It doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it politely or openly.


  29. Emma, you reacted to something I started and I don’t fault you for it. It was an unnecessary qualification on my post and I’ll try to avoid it (and be more concise generally). I’m truly sorry it became a problem for you and I understand the resentment.


  30. When I was in Japan (as a schoolgirl, about 15 years ago) it was very common to see pornographic manga on the subway. People also commonly use the library computers here for porn if they can get around the filters, and I hear an awful lot of stories from people who have coworkers who look at porn at work.

    I think the “some people will look at porn wherever it is feasible and don’t feel it is a private activity” is probably right – not all of those people are trying to make you look a their porn, they just seem to somehow think it’s invisible.


  31. Susan–no plans to be at AHA this year, although I’d love to go to San Diego in January! But, like GayProf: I’m doing the correct thing not out of principle, but because I had no plans to go there this year anyway!

    I only go to AHA if I’m interviewing for a job or if I’m on a hiring committee. And sadly, my department isn’t going to be hiring anybody for several years.


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