PRIVILEGE FTW

July 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today Modern Primate introduced their new column PrivilegeFTW, which attempts to answer the age-old question “trolling? or just stupid.”

The first entry focuses on a Sociological Images post titled “Sexual Objectification (Part 3): Daily Rituals to Stop.” It offers very helpful feminist advice, for example, “Stop letting men objectify you all the time!!!!” and “Your skirt is too short!!!!” Don Draper would be PLEASED. Per the article:

There is a lot going around the blogosphere these days about sexual objectification. But ladies, stop it. Stop being objectified by people who are objectifying you! According to a recent post on Sociological Images, there is a daily routine that you can stop doing, and magically you will be unobjectified- they even promise a future post on a daily routine you SHOULD do… such as donning your habit.

“What if I want to be sexy for the non-male gaze (i.e. I’m a lesbian)?” Too bad. “What if I want to be sexy for the MALE gazer?” Too bad. “What if I’m not a lady?” Then your sexual objectification is of no concern, apparently. Look ladies and feminine types and all those who want people to be sexually attracted to themselves (but don’t do it in a sexualizing way), the only reason you want to be sexy is because patriarchy. The pleasure you derive from being sexy/ed is PATRIARCHY’S TRICK! INSTEAD, you should want to live in a vacuum of being with no sexy time. Wait, vacuums are a TOOL OF PATRIARCHAL OPPRESSION TOO. For cleaning.

To read the author’s revised tips on, and I quote, “HOW NOT TO OBJECTIFY A PARTNER WHILE FINDING THEM SEXUALLY ATTRACTIVE AND APPROACHING THEM ABOUT THEIR SEXUAL ATTRACTIVITY (in 4 easy steps),” go to here!

I Have a New Favorite Thing

April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

is that an uncanny valley in your pocket or are you just a male real doll?

It’s about damn time they started making male real dolls! BEWARE of a little NSFW cock-action in one of the later pics, you’re welcome!

For those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful world of dishwasher safe sex objects, please review every show on TLC!

Purity Bear Rides Again

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

Cool sassy black bearfriend, bros! Also you hear that? By abstaining from THE PREMARITAL SEX,  young men are 3 times less likely to suffer from depression. They are however 230 times more likely to suffer from the heartbreak of foreveralone, which is usually fatal. The choice is yours, but the sin is forever!

Via TheDailyWhat via www.DayofPurity.org

First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game

August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Janet Murray, “From Game Story to Cyberdrama” (2004)

What’s with all these stories in video games? Are they more stories or more games? And what comes first, the story or the game? I say story comes first. Life is but a game. Game story? Increasingly so, because of postmodernism! The digital medium is both source of and palliative to our postmodern condition. Games especially, they’re zeitgeisty in the ways that novels were back when people read books. These days we’re moving away from linear narratives; our lizard brains crave hypertext. Cyberdrama! Which is a story predicated on and influenced by the medium itself. Ergodic literature, choose your own adventure. Tamagotchi. The Sims. Neither game nor story. But not not either, either. Collaborative improvisation, kind of a luderary Rube Goldberg machine. Replay story, many options. Redefining the boundaries of narrative through gameplay. Nothing new here! But still! Goodbye legacy media, hello user agency!

Espen Aarseth, “Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation” (2001, 2004)

What’s with all these stories in video games, you ask? And are they more stories or more games? Hold on let me guess. You’re….a…lit professor? And you study what now? Narrative, right. Which wouldn’t have anything to do with your eagerness to frame the discussion in terms of storytelling, now would it? After all, video games are emerging as a –if not the– dominant mode of contemporary cultural expression. It sure would be a boon for the literary humanities if it turns out you’re the best wo/men for the job. It’s a jungle out there, and what would all your freshly-minted PhDs do if they didn’t have some brave new world of cultural production to go colonize? I get it, I mean, I would get it, if the question “are games texts?” weren’t the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. Not because there aren’t some narrative elements in some video games, but because video games aren’t a genre ffs. They’re a (relatively) new material technology nestled within a much older behavioral category. You know, “games.” But literature departments don’t know what to do with games, so they’re run through the story-grinder, a handy machine for flattening unruly landscapes into a manageable stretch of asphalt, just like Shakespeare intended. Don’t get me wrong, I like literature just fine! And you guys do a nice job with it, golf claps all around. My point is that your particular paradigm is limited and limiting and as long as you’re asking questions generated by an outdated model, you’ll get answers that only give me more crap to wade through before I can actually start talking about the real issues, like simulation and embodiment and play. So cut it out, seriously.

Stuart Moulthrop, “From Work to Play: Molecular Culture in the Time of Deadly Games” (2001, 2004)

Look, the fact that we’re fighting about this at all is significant. Take the above debate between the ludologists, headed by Aarseth, and their personal lulzcow Janet Murray, which pits an interpretive model of reception (there is a text; the text means something; readers figure out what that something is) against a set of configurative practices (there is a gaming environment; players poach, discard, rearrange and interact with its contents). Within the academy, the former approach –which privileges story, text, linearity– is taken as a given, and configurative approaches are either ignored, cooly tolerated or outright condemned (ed. note: no comment). Yes there are clearly political and economic factors at play. But this is also about the incompatibility of ideological (read: generational) systems. The old school values narrative, the new school configuration. In the end, this isn’t just about video games, especially if and when you allow configurative practices to extend beyond the borders of whatever game world. Under this burgeoning configurative system, text becomes behavior and behavior becomes play — an infinite can of infinite worms that can only be described as rich with potential. What direction this potential goes, well that’s another story. But these are dark times. And something about what comes with great power.

What I learned from these fine scholars

Well ask and ye shall receive — interesting to read these selections after yesterday’s. I was mostly taken by Aarseth’s characterization of games as alternatives to storytelling, which was one of those serendipitous moments where I was already thinking about a thing that had something to do with the thing he was saying. Re: yesterday, this isn’t to say that gamespaces represent, or have the potential to support, entirely “new” worlds. As with all digital technologies, what we end up playing with isn’t stuff we find, but stuff we’ve made. And we make certain things in certain ways –as opposed to certain others– for all sorts of overdetermined, historically-dependent reasons.

Race, for example, though assumed not to exist online generally and certainly not in alternative gaming realities, is as present in whatever gamespace as it is irl. Born of real-world universalizations of whiteness, race –that is to say, racelessness (which doesn’t mean no-race, it means race made invisible)– is both literally and metaphorically coded into whatever virtual world. I’m thinking of Beth Kolko’s analysis of MUDs and MOOs, here, which positioned (and championed) themselves as inherently race/class/genderless but of course weren’t, because as long as humans are involved that’s just not possible. As Kolko explains, if a player wanted to embody a particular race or ethnicity, he or she would have to input an @race property, a decision which quite literally would flag the player as “Other.” But #duhwinning there can’t be an Other without a standard against which to measure itself; a Very Dyer Christmas version of raceless whiteness was therefore the default. A similar situation presents itself on the blogosplat, which, like the MUDs and MOOs of yore, automatically presumes “racelessness” — you’re considered invisible i.e. standard i.e. white until you claim a particular skin for yourself, thus undermining the claim that the internet is some sort of blank slate reprieve from real world issues. The internet is the real world, just squeezed through a smaller screen.

Obviously (actually not obviously at all), MUDs and MOOs aren’t “games” in the “traditional” sense, and neither is blogshit (maybe, although this blog sometimes feels like one big game slash joke slash playground). But the principle stands — virtual media is embedded in the real world and vice versa, whether we care to admit it or not. Consequently vidya games, no matter how imaginative or far removed from the real world, aren’t and can’t be exempt from the basic logical assumptions and realities of the world which produced them. That said, if games really are an alternative to traditional narrative, and if traditional narrative is the defining feature of Western cultural production, then games might provide an interesting window into larger problems, in my case the relationship between online utopian discourses and actual online practices. And now I watch TV.

Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”

August 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

Once again I find myself in the entirely …exhausting? weird? whatever, swear words… position of having to distill nearly 300 pages of serious business cultural theory into a digestible blog post designed for quick and easy frankensteining when I’m asked whatever I’ll be asked for the written portion of the breadth exam. In the case of Hard Core, this is a particularly difficult task — Williams is a badass and throughout her analysis braids pubic hairs of awesomeness into g-strings of success. For example she uses feminism to challenge anti-pornography feminists, arguing that the anti-pornography stance, however well-intentioned, reifies precisely the gender dynamics (naturally and necessarily and always-already victimized women subject to and subjected by naturally and necessarily and always-already sadistic rape-monsters aka all men in the history of ever) that the anti-porn crusaders purport to condemn (22). She also eviscerates Freud, basically by reminding people what the crazy bastard actually said– namely, that women are dickless horrors and no wonder men end up obsessing over women’s feet or underwear or whatever. Because somewhere in the recesses of their lizard brains they recall the fateful moment they saw mommy naked for the first time and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT DEATHLY HOLLOWS, clearly that’s not the correct sex organ, you know like the one I have, which unlike mommy’s murder hole recalls the wizened nose of a dust-caked marsupial which apparently can’t stop raping, ever, and why doesn’t mommy have one, perhaps it was suctioned off by our Dyson, this is simply too much for my lizard brain to process because what if my penis is next, I must find a way to reinstate the wholeness I once attributed to mommy thereby alleviating my own fear of patented cyclonic suction and/or vaginas lined with razor blades, oh I know, why don’t I pretend her stiletto heels are actually her penis, ah that feels so much better, now I can be a heterosexual. Which is as circular and self-replicating –not to mention blithely ahistorical– as it is offensive and lulzy (46; 54).

And, in perhaps my favorite section, she discusses the history and present ubiquity of the “money shot,” wherein the penis-haver gets down on one knee and professes his affinity and respect for the bright-eyed young lady he’s chosen to tenderly bed. lol jk when he cums on her face. According to Williams, the “hydraulics of ejaculation” (94) may indeed mark the woman as less-than, but it also performs a fetishistic function, framing the act itself as revelatory and worthy of further study (as opposed to knee-jerk condemnation). It is, as she argues, man unable and/or unwilling to take woman into account. It is man so focused on man that the visibility of woman is obscured quite literally by the shadow of teh phallus. Thus the money shot, politically problematized as it may be, makes visible an entire system of relations –Foucaultian power at its most bare– in which women are something to be obscured (117).

In other words there is lots to say and lots to admire about this book. As usual, though, I have to think about where and in which ways I can connect Williams’ argument to my other selections. Foucault’s articulation of the “implementation of perversions” –so easily applicable to the history of pornography– is a recurring theme, and can be likened to Cohen’s claim that “deviance” is both brought about and subsequently condemned by the same spider-webbed social and political forces i.e. power. There’s lots of stuff about no-homo penis-play a la Eve Sedgwick (81), as well as connections to the panopticon generally and Mary Douglas’ positing of a symbiotic, chicken-and-egg relationship between social norm and social aberration (35). As with most of these selections, Williams will be a supporting character if she’s featured at all (we’re talking written exam question), but this is one of those books I’m happy to have read due to I am now smarter for having stuck with it. I’ll take that as a win, NOW LET’S WATCH WIPEOUT.

“Race, Ethnicity and Film” and “Postfeminism and Popular Culture”

July 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Kato knows, and likes you just the way you are.

Robyn Wiegman, “Race, Ethnicity and Film”

Per Robyn Wiegman, the study of race and ethnicity doesn’t constitute a proper field within film studies, at least not compared to, say, feminist film theory which is its own Thing. That said, race and ethnicity are very important in the history of film. But hold the phone y’all because race is not exactly the same as ethnicity, though historically there’s been some crossover. “Race” –what we now describe as race– reduces surfaces to some universal(-izing) essence and creates/maintains hierarchies based on similar. “Ethnicity” indicates specific cultural difference (language, geographical origin) between groups of people. The concept of race is tied up with the concept of stereotypes. Stereotypes are bad. They contribute to role segregation (the good ones all go to whitey) and role stratification (non-white actors are relegated to the margins, reinforcing their status as “Other” in relation to the central, unmarked white). Even the technical aspects of filmmaking reinforce racialized/racist ideologies, for example by equating universalized POV with the white protagonist(s), or shooting a city street scene in which only white bodies are visible (165). Viewers of the film get sucked into the “segregationist logic” as well. Except they can engage in resistant/counter-hegemonic readings. So it’s like give and take, due to postmodernism. Thank goodness identity isn’t a real thing, maybe (contrast with hooks for maximum lulz). Also Richard Dyer wrote an essay about being white. And there’s this other book that’s good. Just some food for thought, the end.

Angela McRobbie, “Postfeminism and Popular Culture”

At a certain point –McRobbie designates 1990 as the watershed moment– it was decided (passive voice very much intended) that feminism did all it needed to do. We won you guys! Girl power! We can do anything boys can do, just with more style and cuter shoes hee hee! Consequently the term itself become –at least in the popular media/imaginary–redundant at best, and at worst something to be actively repudiated (“I mean I believe in equal rights for everyone,” quoth the wide-eyed female college student to her 36 year-old creeper English Lit TA just before he lunges forward and honks her on the ass. “But it’s not like I’m a feminist.”) Far from mourning the mouldering corpse of feminism, McRobbie takes the zombie route and argues that such repudiation actually speaks to its continuing presence and influence — for one thing it wouldn’t make people so mad if it wasn’t simultaneously recognized as a powerful force (same thing as the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference). Plus the same discourse out of which the anti-feminist position emerges often –and simultaneously!– smugly touts female empowerment. So it goes with semi-ironic/deliberately sexist ads which both flout and undermine the charge of sexism. “We dare you to call us sexist,” the ads seem to say, and then show us even more tits because that’s what empowerment is all about. Women doing what they want, when they want! And if they happen to be in their underwear while they’re doing it, even better! Because it’s a free country! Who are you to tell me what to do with my vagina! Oh and what, you have a problem with my “Slutty and Proud” t-shirt? Would it be better if I was home cooking dinner for my husband? Pregnant? In an ankle-length knee skirt like some mousey-haired Sister Wife? I don’t know about you, but I’m a modern woman. I own my sexuality, flaunt it if ya got it etc etc (260).

According to McRobbie, such post-feminist rhetoric can be traced to the ubiquitous yet often invisible (or more accurately, taken for granted) freedoms associated with (usually white) (usually straight) middle class privilege. Under this rubric, young women are free not just to do what they want when they want for whatever reasons, they’re also free not to have to think about where their freedoms came from, nor to whom these same freedoms are denied. Ironically, then, (certain) women are able to reject feminism because they have benefited so thoroughly from feminism (hence McRobbie’s claim that post-feminism implies active feminism). And yet at the same moment that feminist ideologies are invoked, they’re repudiated as relics of a bygone era, a so-called “double-entanglement” which is both progressive and regressive — yet denies itself both (256). And then after a two-paragraph summary of Bridget Jones’ Diary, the essay sort of just stops.

The History of Sexuality – An Introduction

July 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Oh, Michel. Oh memories! It feels like only yesterday I was reading this book as an insufferable undergraduate, scribbling the word “penis” in the margins and underlining every other sentence, to prove to anyone who might be watching that I was Reading Critically. How times have…not changed. Still, my afternoon with Foucault was quite pleasant, despite the occasional tl;dr moments. Because seriously dude, we got it the first three times. So let’s see. The basic focus of this volume is to challenge the so-called “repressive hypothesis,” that is, the assumption/lamentation that we are just sooo sexually repressed you guys and have been since forever. Foucault just isn’t buying it; as he argues, all Victorians –allegedly the prudest of the prudes and our sexual forbearers– ever did was talk about sex, in that they never shut up about not talking about sex, and in the attempt to really seriously make sure no one was even thinking about talking about sex, demanded that everybody confess every single sexthought ever, to purify their filthy minds. Of course, and also hilariously, the impulse to confess only made things worse, since confession meant repentance and repentance meant there was something to repent, that is, something to pathologize, which only gave the perverts new ideas. In other words, DON’T THINK ABOUT ELEPHANTS YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T THINK ABOUT ELEPHANTS IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT ELEPHANTS YOU’RE IN BIG TROUBLE MISTER, boom elephant problem solved.

So no, Foucault insists, contrary to popular opinion the Victorian era was not characterized by repression of sex (said to be the byproduct of capitalism, because what isn’t a product of capitalism LOL). Instead it was characterized by the production of sexuality (119) — in women (deemed hysterical, dangerous, out of control, a threat to Hearth and Home), in children (who waste all their precious seed in mittens and/or the ripped-out eyesockets of their sisters’ favorite teddy bear, in direct defiance of Heavenly Father who’s like, gross, and also stop wasting it), in perverts (better watch out, you could be NEXT), in society (birthrates and population control and demographics, oh my) (97; 103-105; the whole damn book). In every case, sex, at least, the discourse surrounding sex, was a vehicle for POWER (i.e. that which puts the “status” in “status quo”) and in that sense functioned as a sort of social control (“bio-power”), first for the Bourgeoisie to go forth and cause even more damage and then for the unwashed baby-pooping masses (141-149).

Um let’s see exams. Per Mary Douglas, sex = DIRT, that which threatens to upset the (presumedly) natural order. So we cordon off that which is “dirty,” language we use even now to describe any and all sex we’re not personally having. Again, “purity” exists only in relation to that which is impure, meaning that the existence of sex –well, sex as pathos– helps reinforce the normative borders. Perverts on one side, normal people on the other. The alleged normal people subsequently enclose the alleged perverts in a metaphorical (and sometimes literal) zoo, which is then open for metaphorical (and sometimes literal) business. All the non-perverts can finally breathe a sigh of relief (the threat! it’s finally contained) then proceed to beat off behind the Dell’s Lemonade pushcart by the women’s bathrooms, as they are wont to do.

Michel Foucault, everybody!

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