Giving porn a good name

She comes firstI hold the opinion that pornography reflects who we think we are.

There is an abundance of pornography on the internet, and much of is available for free. Most of it, in my opinion, is deeply offensive. It portrays men thinking only of themselves. The book in the accompanying photo speaks on that theme.

I suspect that pornography provides an accurate statement about the dominant male point of view. We would do well to notice this situation.

I recently watched a lesbian scene that featured Nina Hartley, a long-time veteran of the industry. The scene was, in my opinion, charming, as she is. Scenes that feature men are rarely, if ever, charming in my opinion. I think there is a lesson in that.

Ian Kerner offers a radical new philosophy for pleasuring women in She Comes First—an essential guidebook to oral sex from the author of Be Honest—You’re Not That Into Him Either. The New York Times praises Kerner’s “cool sense of humor and an obsessive desire to inform,” as he “encourages men through an act that many find mystifying.”—Amazon

I have also viewed Nina in a scene in which she provides a tutorial on pleasuring a woman by hand. She presents it in a way that I find charming. It is a fine adjunct to the book you see in the photo.

I think that, as a society, we rebuke pornography, yet we also embrace it. The hypocrisy of this is informative. Hypocrisy is the greatest burden we bear today, in my opinion.

hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

We live in a state of denial and pretense. We are constantly at war. We are addicted to putting people in prison. We live by a double standard based on gender, skin color, and where people were born.

I suggest looking at pornography to add to our understanding of our self-image. Pornography, done well, is informative, even charming. Nina Hartley shows us that.

Jackson Katz offers this observation in his book The Macho Paradox:

There is no getting around the fact that violent boys and men are products of our culture, and as such are influenced by ideas about manhood that teach individual males what is expected of them—in and out of relationships with women.

I am suggesting that pornography is a valuable reflecting mirror of male attitudes. To deny that is to reject a profound learning opportunity.

Your thoughts?

The power of creativity

Ashley Bowman

Ashley Bowman is a partner with Claire Hancock in the Artifact Dance Project.

This post is a testament to the power of creativity.

My wife and I attended a performance presented by Artifact Dance Project last weekend. We have attended many of their performances, and they are always excellent. This one was no exception.

I’m not a Scott Fitzgerald fan, but I haven’t read any fiction since I had to read The Old Man and the Sea and The Pit and the Pendulum in high school. My dislike of both changed my life. We attended this event because of our love of the dance company.

In this post I emphasize the power of the performers and crew to impress an audience in a way that benefits the audience by instilling both joy and confidence. We live in an age, I believe, in which joy and confidence should be our very highest priorities. And they are not.

We saw it at Tucson’s Rogue Theatre. It is a small venue so everyone gets a good seat.

Many elements stood out for me.The most compelling is the power of creativity, and of teamwork, to influence mood and point of view. We need such positive influences, and in a very earnest way.

Cynthia Meier composed the music for the show. Artifact arranged the choreography and danced it brilliantly. Derek Granger played the saxophone, and with great style and finesse.

I enjoyed the use of shadow. Actors slipped out of sight, reminiscent of how life works.

One of the aspects of the show that attracts my wonder is that the behind-the-scenes people outnumber the on-stage cast.

We do well to remind ourselves of the wonder of team work, creativity, talent and joy. I think we can, collectively, save the world. But we must talk about it more. I’ll meet you at a coffee shop if you like.

Deep thanks to Ashley and Claire for their courage, commitment, and willingness to inspire for our collective good.

On seeking God

angelI read Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda, when I was a teenager. I re-read it many times. I considered it my owner’s manual for life.

He gives advice for our search for an encounter with God. As I understand it, we are first to choose a form for God’s presentation. It can be an array of lights.

It can be as a male figure, perhaps played by Kirk Douglas or Errol Flynn, or it can be in the image of Divine Mother, my own preference. I have not cast that part, but Cher is high on the list of candidates.

Yogananda told us that we are immersed in a dream state. I can relate to that. All of our institutions demand us to fit into their dream, and we try to do that as a survival mechanism at the expense of our own dream. We go to war in a dream state. Why else would we kill people?

I think we provide a service when we share the image we use to represent divinity to ourselves. Any thoughts you care to share?

On understanding our crisis

img005Men want to be in charge, but they do not want to expose themselves to risk.

We are taught in school, and on the job, and by the rules of society to disable our curiosity and sense of wonder. The same discipline is available in church as I remember, but I have not been in one for a long time. Things might have improved.

We are taught by every source of authority to “tone it down.” And we obey.

We pay an enormous price for that alleged safety.

I like to browse Tumblr for photos of women displaying their charms. I marvel at their sense of freedom and their joy. Men limit such displays of gusto to flattering professional athletes at public events by shouting and waving.

The United States was formed in an act of rebellion. The British were the masters of obedience and conformity. We have forgotten, I believe, the lesson in that, our learning experience.

There are areas of culture and life where I would enjoy more innovation and curiosity. I offer this short list:

  • Opening our imagination to expanded definitions of decency and morality. Why are boobs considered evil?
  • Why does skin color matter to so many people, and what can we do to influence their thinking?
  • Why do we eat meat? And beyond that, why do we obsess on doing that?
  • Why do we give so much authority to employers? They are ordinary mortals like us.
  • What moves us to consider being a servant a demotion?

I welcome your comments.


Learning about pornography

By Melissa Hardiman

By Melissa Hardiman

I recently learned another definition of the word civilian. It is a person who is not employed in the pornography business. Many people in that business prefer to not date or marry civilians.

I learned this viewing videos posted on YouTube that consist of interviews with people who act in porn videos. Civilians are known for being jealous and possessive, many of them said. The actors distinguished between sex and intimacy, and stated that there is no need to be jealous about sex.

The women answered questions I have had in mind for a long time. They say they have orgasms while filming their scenes. There is so much pretense in porn videos that it is impossible to know from the viewer’s perspective.

Our attitude toward sex in general and pornography in particular reveals things to us about our boundaries. What do we judge, what do we reject, and what provokes our sense of guilt? Those are questions worth asking, in my opinion.

Sex is now addressed in TED Talks, or at least, in TED X talks. Consider Jane Langton’s TED X talk on masturbation, for example. I highly recommend watching it. It is about boundaries, negligence, and fear. In what other venue is such a subject addressed in front of an audience?

At the center of it is my willingness to be vulnerable.—Jane Langton

My old friends have views on boundaries that are different from mine, and I am occasionally scolded by them for those differences. Studying differences, and the effects of them, is a useful activity, in my opinion.

When they are curious the world opens up.—Jane Langton

When I was a kid we were taught superstitions about masturbation. It might make us blind, or cause hair to grow on the palm of our favored hand. Talk about boundaries. We are only a little better off fifty years later.

Men are still timid. Our future is in the hands of women. If you are a guy, and you have another perspective, please share it with me. Not likely, but I can dream.


In defense of pleasure

Nude signI just finished Mark Haskell Smith’s wonderful book Naked At Lunch.

The subtitle is “A reluctant nudist’s adventures in the clothing-optional world.”

In it he examines our cultural values relating to nudity. He addresses our deep seated resistance to experiencing pleasure, much of it expressed as fear and suspicion about the human body. In the book he examines very thoroughly the origins of our fears about nudity, and he analyzes the debates that circle around this subject.

The book is 298 pages long and is, in my opinion, quite intense. It is well researched, and his writing never failed to entertain me. I like the sass and edge he brings to the subject.

I was raised in a family that was suspicious of pleasure and knew very little about it. My dad substituted alcohol in place of genuine fun. I tried to devise my own appreciation of pleasure, but it was a clumsy effort.

So, essentially, if some random dude, like a park ranger, finds your breasts erotic in some way, then it’s your responsibility to cover them.—Mark Smith

Pornography teaches us about our shared views about pleasure. Pleasure is deemed wrong, off-limits, and being wrong is touted as a way to enhance the experience. Porn informs us about our collective culture that is suspicious of pleasure.

I think guilt is a common view of the nature of pleasure. Mr. Smith defines a Puritan as anyone who is fearful that somewhere someone is happy.

Mr. Smith sets a standard for us in regard to examining our fundamental values. If we brought the same degree of intensity, wit, and humor to our exploration of all of our values and judgments I think we would do our society and our individual selves a tremendous service.










On charity

angelI was walking into a restaurant today to buy a sandwich for my lunch.

A very tiny woman approached me before I entered the store and asked for money to buy food. She assured me she was not homeless, and told me there was no food in her cupboard. I did not ask how many people lived with her.

I gave her twenty dollars. She acted as if she was going to break into tears, I assume because that was a more generous gift than she expected. She expressed a number of versions of God Bless You. I was grateful for that.

I often give money to the people on the median strips who hold cardboard signs. They always express gratitude, and they invoke a divine blessing on me. I can use all of those I can get.

We spent the 4th of July in Huntington Beach, California. I saw a figure lying on a bench on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway from the million dollar condo where our party was going on. I decided to cross the road in an effort to learn more about the mysterious figure. The person turned out to be a woman. She presented herself well. We talked for a while. I gave her twenty dollars. It was not enough to solve her large problems, but at least she encountered a person concerned about her.

desperation: a strong feeling of sadness, fear, and loss of hope

I have never lacked for a meal, or a safe place to sleep, or for warmth and the comforts that go with it. The desperation of both ladies spoke to me, as does the desperation of folks holding cardboard signs. Perhaps all desperation speaks to me. I think it does.

Any thoughts you would like to share?