Remind Me Of The Porn Episode

Today I am unemployed. It is true. Last night at midnight, I stopped working for that crazy ragtag bunch of Christian subversives who have been paying me for the last 2 years to drink coffee with pretty girls and occaisionally visit Ukraine and bring back a lot of vodka. Flavoured vodka. On Monday I return to gainful employment with The Man but until then I intend to lounge around in my pyjamas, drink a lot of beer and eat nothing but cold pizza. I am going to make the most out of unemployment. Can you go on the dole for a day?

I sometimes read The Jolly Blogger and he made a really good point this week that I’ve been thinking about.

The more I think about me, what I want and what I need, the more miserable I get.

There is something deep in that, I think. You unravel that sentence and you get close to Christian spirituality or something that sounds very holy and so I don’t really like talking about it.

While we’re at it, maybe I should get my good linkage out of the way. Thom Yorke of Radiohead has written a series of bedtime stories for children. Enjoy. For the Christians out there, who blog Christianese at everyone, check out the 10 Rules To Know You Are Wrong (theologically speaking, since we all know Christians are wrong. Idiots. Believing a bunch of fairy tales with no relevance for today). Speaking of idiotic Christianity, Chick Tracts are a particularly horrible expression of Christianity but someone has gone to a lot of trouble to film one(!), as a parody. I don’t quite know what to make of it.

Where He Asks For Help
This week has been a bad one for losing things. I lost the sole rights to distribute bushes which illumimate through LED technology when the Presbyterian Church sent all their merchandise contracts to a sweatshop in Malaysia and I also lost my wife’s digital camera. In an amusement arcade. In a dingy Sligo resort town. If any of you picked up a pretty top of the range Olympus beside Time Crisis 3 on Tuesday, it would be great if you gave it back. It had photos of me destroying an Apple Mac with a sledgehammer on it which was going to be a great post, but that is lost now.

There are technorati amongst you and I would ask you to have sympathy on my tacky-religious-merchandise-&-digital-camera-less existence and help me as I try to set up XBox Media Centre on my old XBox. XBMC is a hack that turns your XBox into a media server, so we can access our huge stores of music anywhere in our Cardboard Mansion. I had this all ready to go and then I moved house and I lost the disks. Is there anyone out there who cares to help me set it up again?

They Were Praying To The gods Of The Lesser Things
Admitting the genius of Woody Allen’s aphorism (“Don’t knock masturbation. Its sex with someone I love”), sex is meant to be with another person (I won’t even push this argument into the uniquely Christian territory of marriage). XXXChurch.com is a Christian ministry which I support because they do brilliant, relevant, grace-driven work in the gutter of the pornography industry, where most Christians wouldn’t be found dead. They go to these huge porn conventions and strike up relationships with anyone they can; directors (read this exposé on a famous soft-core porn director), distributors, performers or fans. In preparation for this year’s big event they ordered 10,000 New Testaments to hand out for free. All was going well until the publishers discovered that X3Church.com wanted to put “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” on the front cover. This is a categorically true statement but it gave the publishers (who perhaps haven’t been reading the New Testament recently) the heebiegeebies and they refused to publish the books. Thankfully, Eugene Peterson came good (as ever) and made his translation, The Message, available to them. They asked supporters to buy copies and with each one we bought, they could buy 12 to give out for free. So here I am, proudly bearing my new Bible, which I probably won’t be taking to Presbytery meetings for the first year, at least.



Jesus Hearts Porn Stars, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Speaking of combating porn, a few weeks ago I read Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and I meant to draw your attention to it. It is a superb book on every level that you should track down cheap on Amazon or borrow from your nearest Zoomtard. I know you view feminist tracts as a notch above Christian literature and a good bit below Japanese electronics manuals in the readability stakes but Levy is a skilled writer. She gets you turning those pages as she has trimmed her argument as expertly as a Brazilian wax, leaving nothing superflous hanging around. The book is about how modern young women, who were raised by their mothers who fought for equal rights, have embraced raunch culture and behave in ways that are eerily reminiscent of the subservience previous generations fought against. These women don’t have the excuse of a mysoginistic society coercing them into demeaning and destructive lifestyles but instead embrace it as their expression of liberation.

I don’t have cable tv (yet) but I am aware of shows about porn producers or fly on the wall documentaries about strippers or even things like Celebrity Love Island and I always knew there was something wrong in that. It was an inchoate distress that was fed by the Playboy stationary being sold to teenaged girls and the increasing pornification of music videos and the fact that in my final year of my computer science degree, lots of the girls (a majority of the tiny female minority in my class) made a big deal about watching porn in the lab. Levy diagnoses the problem I had no hope of describing. We all know that feminism is a dirty word, a lot like Christian, that we would be wary of using as a label to describe ourselves lest we be mocked, scorned and sidelined for our old fashioned naivety. But there is an increasing sub-culture within the lives of modern women that is accelerating into the mainstream that holds hyper-sexualisation as empowerment. The Playboy bunny is a symbol of liberation. Maybe its because feminism has been so successful (!) that equality with men is no longer what they are aiming for. Uniformity with men (or a certain stereotype of man) is the goal.

So Levy takes us on a journey along some of the roads these female chauvinist pigs travel. From the seedy exhibitionism of Girls Gone Wild to college educated professionals who look up to strippers as the paragon of femininity to the Boi sub-culture where mutiliation is a shortcut to cool, what she exposes is not a liberation movement but a commodification project. None of the women she interviews or spends time with realise their behaviour is geared either directly or indirectly to the male consumption of female sexuality in the form of porn. These victims of ParisHiltonia may admit, as many of them often do, that their sex lifes are dull, empty and depressing but none of them seem to see this as a motivation to change their behaviour. Why? Because the culture they inhabit has told them that sex is a product for sale. Consumption of the product, as with all other products on offer in the marketplace, can easily slip into being about quantity and not quality.

In a world where sex is always on our mind, we think very rarely about it. From the Girls Gone Wild videos, to the Playboy-cool factor, to the stripping, every aspect of the lifestyles Levy investigates is centred around porn. Porn is the packaging of sex for sale. It has historically been the packaging of women (involving the natural diminishing of their “selfhood” to “sexhood”) by men for men, for profit and pleasure. Throughout the whole book Levy maintains an admirable revulsion at the habits of the women she talks to and the forces that attack them but a charity and concern for the women themselves. At the end of the book she makes some great concluding comments about the dangers of embracing porn as an educational tool, as an avenue to new pleasure, or as a roadmap to liberation. Porn exposes you to every sexual act imaginable and many that are beyond even that. But as much porn as you ingest, you still end up with a limited knowledge of your own sexuality. Watching a video or reading a magazine doesn’t tell you how sex is. It doesn’t show you how it feels. It teaches you nothing about your own sexuality. It teaches you only what you like watching or reading. The women she met were all deeply unhappy sexually. But it should come as no surprise because as Levy puts it (itallics are hers):

The idea that sex can be reduced to fixed components as it is in pornography- blow job, doggie style, money shot, girl-on-girl — is adolescent: first base, second base, all the way. It is ironic that we think of this as adult entertainment. I don’t see why we should regard porn as a way to enjoy “sexuality in all of its explicitness” any more than we consider looking at a chart of the food pyramid to be a feast.

I know this isn’t going to surprise you, but I think the Christian ideas about sexuality are the fullest and most satisfying in existence. Christianity, stripped away of all the religious-fungi that grows on it and obscures it, exalts sex and takes it very seriously while also never losing sight of the fact that it is here for our thrilled enjoyment. There is a whole book in the Bible about it. But I know it also doesn’t surprise you when I say (from experience) that the sham of porn is as tempting to Christians as to everyone else. Its amazingly unfashionable to decry porn and to deny that it is just harmless fun but I really think that myth needs busting. Levy advises anyone who thinks that porn is just a way to spice up sex to look into the porn stars themselves. Take Jenna Jameson, the most famous and well rewarded porn star in history as an example and read her biography. It is marked by violent sexual abuse, the use of sex as a weapon and finally the use of her body as tool. Why anyone would want “to make love like her” after reading her book? Even the use of the quaint phrase “make love” seems like an ironic joke in the context.

It is rare that people buy into porn culture as wholeheartedly as the female chauvinist pigs, but most all of us have made the mistake of gorging on porn and then suffering the hunger, as if we had eaten a poster of the food pyramid in the hope of the nutrition it depicts. I hope Levy’s book kickstarts women and men, feminists, back into gear and ready to oppose the portrayal of women as sex objects. I hope XXXChurch.com’s work serves as a shelter for the women and men who get hooked on porn to the detriment of their spiritual and relational life.

Set My Course To Run Right Into Style
Zoomtard has gone through a major overhaul today. I hope you like the new theme. A word of explanation: substitious is the opposite of superstitious. I am Thomas to your Peter. I am the disciple who was too slow to believe the incredible. See what I’m saying? Geddit?

Your Correspondent, impressed like a flower in a flower press

2 Responses to “Remind Me Of The Porn Episode”

  1. Steven says:

    Very good post with very informative and useful links

  2. jm says:

    Loved the thoughts on pornography. Reminded me of Frederick Buechner’s beautiful comment – “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.”