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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth.  -  George Santayana

It seemed to Sarah that Conclaves were getting closer and closer together, but she knew that was just an illusion of age; as one grows older it’s inevitable that the years seem to fly by more and more quickly.  All she had to do to remind herself that they were still as far apart as they had always been was to remember contemporary events:  when the last conclave was held the humans were plunging headlong into the madness of their First World War, and the time before that they were congratulating themselves on having got rid of that would-be Caesar from Corsica, unaware that he was about to stage a comeback.  And the time before that…Sarah sighed as she realized that she couldn’t remember.  Though the Elders had far longer lives than the humans they so closely resembled, their brains were no better; a humanoid brain can only hold so much information, and Elders above eight hundred or so began to find that older memories which hadn’t been accessed in a while were often quietly and unceremoniously dumped in order to make room for newer ones.  Of course, that only applied to healthy brains; the very old often went the opposite way, losing the ability to form new memories entirely and existing only in a twilight rooted in the experiences of centuries past.

Still, she wasn’t that old yet, and might never get there; medicines developed by human doctors worked just as well on their Elder cousins, and they were making great strides in the treatment of senile dementia.  By the next Conclave they’d probably have it licked. And Sarah was aging well; a human making a quick appraisal might’ve taken her for 40, and one who took the time to look at her hands and count her grey hairs would’ve called her a young-looking fifty.  Either one would have laughed at someone who told them she had been born at least one human generation before William the Conqueror.  Of course, not all of them aged so well; Aaron, for example, was almost four hundred years younger than she was, yet looked older than she did.  That was because his paternal grandmother had been human; his father aged more quickly still, and had passed away several Conclaves ago.  But what the halfbloods lacked in longevity, they made up for in virility; Aaron had at least seven siblings that Sarah knew of, and had himself sired three besides her daughter Deborah.  By contrast, her own brother Jacob had but one son to his credit, and she had never heard of any pure Elder, male or female, with more than three (and even that many was such a rarity it was occasion for the largest kind of celebration outside of the Conclaves).

Virility wasn’t the only reason halfbloods had no trouble finding partners, though; there was also that incredible human passion that no pureblood could match.  Sarah had often thought that perhaps all humanoids had only one measure of passion, which had to last the Elders for over a millennium but could be spent by humans in mere decades.  When Aaron had first seen her upon arriving at the meeting-place this morning, it was as though they had only parted as lovers three years ago rather than nearly three hundred; she had not been kissed so thoroughly since before his human kin had harnessed the power of steam, and though she knew his insistence that she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known was a sweet lie intended to get her back into bed, it was more than convincing enough to win her consent.Mercury 7  Enoch had moved out to go over to America after becoming fascinated with their Space Program, and Deborah had been encouraging her to take a new lover for a few years now; wouldn’t she be confused if her father moved back in again, at least for a little while?  Sarah knew that was unlikely, though; Aaron seemed to be making the most of his remaining years, and rarely lived with his women any more.

She decided that after the Conclave, she’d go to visit her own father, whom she hadn’t seen since Deborah’s coming of age; he had never really liked Conclaves, and after the last one had declared them a “waste of time”, resolving never to go to one again.  It appeared he was as good as his word, because he would surely have sought her out if he was at this one.  But Sarah knew the real reason he wasn’t there:  he was a genealogist, and recognized better than most how their people were dwindling.  Every Conclave had smaller attendance than the one before, and every time the attendees were older.  While the ranks of the Younger Race burgeoned, the Elders couldn’t even replace themselves, and increasing numbers of halfbloods were choosing to live among and mate with humans, their bloodlines lost to the Elders forever.  In time, they would cease to exist as a separate race entirely, and they would be remembered only in human legends.  Though most of the Elders never thought about it, their wisest had understood and discussed it since soon after their short-lived kin had begun to build cities.  Since humans could never hope to see the future themselves, they strove all the harder to create things which would outlast them.  Since they could not live long enough to grow tired of life, they never lost their zeal for living.  And since they reproduced and came of age so much more quickly than their longer-lived kin, they had changed the face of the Earth more in the ten Elder generations since they had invented writing than the Elders had managed in all the eons before.  As in so many legends, the younger sibling had received a blessing that had allowed him to usurp the birthright of the elder; no power of Sarah’s people could possibly compare to the humans’ precious gift of mortality.

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As you plan your child’s Halloween costume, you must consider the district’s Zero Tolerance Policy.

The increasing trend of people saving Halloween links for the last three days before the holiday results in my not having any until the Links column after Halloween.  It’ll be just as bad next year, but the year after that Halloween’s on a Monday so that should be better.  Ah, well.  This week’s top contributor was Lenore Skenazy, with the first video and everything above it; the second video is from Franklin Harris, and the links between the two were provided by Cop Block (“protect”), Popehat (“clowns” and “chili”), Tauriq Moosa (“layout”), Kevin Wilson (“investors”), David Ley (“plastic”), Michael Whiteacre (“show”), Radley Balko (“sequel”), Molly Crabapple (“seizure”), Clarissa (“accidentally”), and Molli Desi (“together”).

From the Archives

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Lady fairest ever seen
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on the marriage-bed,
Whispering to his soul, he said,
“Though a bridegroom never pressed
Dearer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay:
Even this shall pass away.”
  -  Theodore Tilton, “The King’s Ring

Every year on the Day of the Dead I write about why the holiday exists, why it is necessary, and why ruining the quality of life in an attempt to increase its quantity is both foolish and ultimately futile.  To those who have only started reading me this year, or who have only read a few selected pieces over a longer time, this might seem a strange topic for a harlot; one might expect death to be the farthest pole from my topic, except perhaps for mentioning it as an extreme manifestation of whore stigma or when paying my respects on December 17th.  But in truth, it’s both predictable and appropriate on a personal, professional and philosophical level.

zombie and harlotFrom a personal standpoint, I would probably have written often on this topic even had I never become a card-carrying prostitute; I was a strange, wild, moody  Wednesday Addams of a child, born on Halloween night and fascinated with horror lore and imagery.  Autumn was both my native season and the one in which I felt most comfortable, and I struggled with depression for over twenty years until at long last sex work helped me to get a handle on itMy favorite books, stories and even songs  mostly tend to involve death or other melancholy elements, and just look at the stories I’ve published on this blog and in my book (or just the cover of the damned thing, for goddess’ sake!)  So if you’ve read more than a handful of my (burnt) offerings and were still surprised that I sometimes think and write about death, you just haven’t been paying attention.

Professionally speaking, I must point out that whores often deal with the dark side of human nature.  Fear and sex are inextricably intertwined, and men who have rape fantasies or other “bad” urges may seek out sex workers to help them explore these in a safe and non-judgmental space; others, unfortunately, may seek out unwilling sex workers for the same reason, and the only “safety” they seek is their own relative safety from legal consequences.  Dominatrices and some fetish workers specialize in dealing with the darker aspects of human sexuality, and in criminalized, semi-criminalized and quasi-criminalized systems virtually all sex workers (especially those who work the street) are at a much greater risk of violence or even death than their domesticated amateur sisters.  And nobody who is afraid of death, or who views it as an unpleasant subject improper for polite company, could do the work I do now; take a look at a few items in any of my TW3 columns and I think you’ll see what I mean.

It is no accident that sex workers are among the most dedicated worshippers of the Mexican death-goddess, Santa Muerte, and that many of the myths surrounding pagan whore-goddesses (who were sometimes war-goddesses as well) involved violence and death; even long before criminalization of sex work was the norm, it was recognized that sex itself comes from the same hidden parts of the human psyche as those less-pleasant things.  Sex originates from the deepest wellsprings of life, but so does death; the latter is no less a biological process than the former.  Sex brings new life into the world, but death sustains that life; every one of us (yes, even vegans) continues his existence at the expense of the other lives we consume every single day in order to keep our internal fires burning and repair our damaged or worn-out tissues with materials stolen from the dead.  Not even plants are innocent of this colossal carnage; since some substances (such as phosphorus) are comparatively scarce, all life would soon grind to a halt were the constant supply of corpses to be choked off.  Nor is sex itself all moonlight and love songs; in many species it’s a brutal, coercive affair, and even among humans it can never be purged of its bestial and terrifying aspects, no matter how much feminists and other puritans insist that it can.  Sex and death are our constant reminders that for all our pretensions we are still animals; no wonder those uncomfortable with that fact try to disguise and sanitize both of them, to hide them from the children and speak about them in whispers, to bind them in legal codes and bury them under layers of ritual.  But no matter how deeply we bury our sexualities they reassert themselves, and no matter how diligently we try to delay death, it will come when it will come.  Both are impossible to ignore and impossible to prevent, and human society would be a lot better off if we learned to accept both as indisputable facts of material existence. 

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Halloween 2014


Happy Halloween, Dear Readers, and Blessed Be!

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Prostitution is the elephant in the American parlor; though most men and a sizable fraction of women see it standing there, they refuse to talk honestly about it lest they upset their half-blind old Auntie who either can’t see it or has mistaken it for a large and rather oddly-shaped sideboard or ottoman.   –  “Elephant in the ParlorLilith by John Collier (c 1892)

As long-time readers know, October is my favorite month.  Part of it is because of the weather and the shortening of the days, but a lot of it is because it ends in my favorite holiday, Halloween.  I try to do as many horror-themed columns as possible in October, but it isn’t always easy; in 2011 I only managed five of them, and that’s including the one for Halloween itself and this month’s fictional interlude, “Pearls Before Swine” (which is, BTB, one of my personal favorites).  The other three were “Moondance” (on sex, death and October weather), “Frightful Films” (a love-letter to horror movies), and “Mass Hysteria” (in which I compare “sex trafficking” hysteria to the War of the Worlds radio play scare).

Photo courtesy of Royce Williams (http://www.alaska.net/~royce/spam/)Semi-coincidentally, the day before the latter column I published “The Country of the Blind“, which uses a metaphor drawn from a different H.G. Wells story; this must’ve been a good month for that sort of thing, because “With Folded Hands” was also inspired by a classic science fiction tale.  And as I explained last month, the “one year ago today” feature provided plenty of inspiration, too; “A Serpent’s Tooth” and “Bad Fantasy, Good Reality” were inspired by the columns of a year before (though they dealt with new articles), and “Slap on the Wrist“, “The Crumbling Dam” and “Wine, Women and Song” were direct sequels to their precursors.  This month’s harlotography, “Su Xiaoxiao“, had little resemblance to the previous year’s harlotography despite appearing on the same day, and this month’s  updates and Q & A columns were likewise scheduled on the anniversaries of similar columns, but of course featured new material.

penny-farthing crashBy this point, columns based on individual news stories had become the rule rather than the exception; “We Told You So“, “Marching Up Their Own Arses“, “Wholesale Hypocrisy“, “An Ounce of Prevention“, “The Punitive Mindset” and “Elephant in the Parlor” all fall into that category.  So do “The Enlightenment Police“, “May I Add…” and “Scrambled Eggs“, but these all deal with “welcome to our world” topics, those in which non-sex work subjects are discussed with similar rhetoric.

female vampireAs usual, a few columns don’t easily fit into any grouping for discussion.  “The Pigeons Come Home” discusses a complaint asking the APA to revoke Melissa Farley’s membership for gross ethical violations; “None of Your Business” recounts Jimmy Swaggart’s difficulties with whores (on the anniversary of the second time he was caught with his hand in the crumpet tin); “Under a Rock” asks why so many people are in denial about the existence of neofeminism; “Stranger Than Fiction” tells a strange story about stranger people from my university days; and “A Visit to Soapland” recounts my husband’s visit to a Japanese bathhouse.  The latter is my most-read column of all time, by a comfortable margin; as you can imagine, my husband will never let me live down the fact that the most popular essay on this blog was written by him instead of me.  Hill House

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on October 12th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Black CatAs befits a girl who was born on Halloween night, I’m a big fan of horror films, horror stories, horror TV shows, horror comics, horror poems and just about anything macabre and creepy.  I’ve written about horror fiction on my blog more than a few times, especially (though by no means exclusively) in October, which is my favorite month in part because it’s Halloween season.  But this is not merely a deviation from my usual topic; in fact, as I explained in “Eros and Phobos”, fear and sex are inextricably intertwined:

…the trappings of BDSM would be equally at home in a gothic horror setting, the rape fantasy is as popular as ever and the lurid fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists can be found in mainstream news outlets every day, forced up from the collective unconscious by the pressure of the return to Victorian levels of prudery.  Nor does one always have to look outward to find the connection; I’m sure many of my readers have realized that the things that sexually excite them most are often related to things that frighten them.  For example, some of you may recall my mentioning that I have a phobia of being trapped (including in traffic jams), and I think even the veriest psychological amateur could recognize that I have a tremendous aversion to authority.  Yet at the same time, I’m turned on by bondage and themes of dominance and submission

I hardly think it’s necessary to point out that when an individual tries to suppress sexual desires, they usually pop out somewhere else; the same thing is true of society as a whole.  The neo-Victorians who now dominate our culture are so afraid of sex they’re trying to completely neuter and domesticate it:

They imagine that engaging in sex for the “wrong” reasons, or without the benediction of elaborate rituals of consent, or with people separated from one another by more than a very few years of age, is terribly harmful.  They believe that merely taking pictures of the taboo act creates a kind of Gorgonic icon which drives its viewers mad, and that the mere existence of such images harms women and children who are not even in close proximity to it.  And they fervently assert that it is so incredibly dangerous to the sacred “innocence” of “children” (a term which refers not to true children, but to a ritual category which actually includes some adults), for strangers to even imagine sexual contact with them causes such tremendous harm that those who indulge in these Forbidden Thoughts deserve penalties greater than those for violent assault, followed by lifelong social ostracism

But this only results in the suppressed desires popping out somewhere else.  As I explained in “Eros and Phobos”, horror fiction is one of those points of eruption; it’s a “safe” way to way to deal with feelings that one is afraid to admit to, a way to separate the taboo “dirty”, “bad”, violent or otherwise forbidden aspects of sex from wedding-cake images of romantic love and Utopian talk of mutual pleasure and “enthusiastic consent”.  The more rigid the social demands for 100% clear, legally-provable consent, the more rape fantasies we should expect to see.  The more society insists that the only acceptable sex is between age-peers, the more Lolita imagery will appear.  The more loudly “thought leaders” insist that love and mutual pleasure are the only acceptable reasons for sex, the more attention will be paid to whores.  And the more fixated conformists are on marriage and monogamy, the higher the number of clients the harlots strolling down the streets of their imaginations must have.

Given the draconian sexual regime our increasingly-repressive culture has imposed by use of both violence and shame, we should expect to see a great deal of horror fiction in which very young girls are abducted, raped, enslaved as prostitutes and forced to see exorbitant numbers of men.  And so we do; the lurid, sensationalized tragedy porn narratives that make up the body of “sex trafficking” mythology are nothing more than Gothic horror tales that opportunists pretend are real.  But do the members of the general public actually believe these stories, or are they just outlets for psychosexual tension accepted with the same mixture of credulity and doubt with which our ancestors greeted the spooky tales told around campfires?  It has been pointed out that if anyone actually believed that one in five young women on campuses were raped, nobody would ever send their daughters to coed universities; similarly, if anyone actually accepted the claim that “Young ladies are being grabbed off bus stops and forced into prostitution”, we’d be seeing a constant parade of abductees’ pictures on the news and demands for armed guards at bus stops.  Perhaps one of the reasons for the popularity of such folklore is that on some level people know it isn’t real (even if they consciously deny it); just as the old tales shared certain motifs and were repeated in a ritualized fashion that branded them as fabulous, so do these modern legends.  Perhaps the “sex trafficking” hysteria is at its heart nothing more than a succession of horror plays, sequels to (or remakes of) those in the very popular “Satanic Panic” series of the 1980s and ‘90s, and like them serving as “safe” outlets for anxieties caused by the onerous puritanism of modern Anglo-American culture.  “Safe”, that is, for the audience; in this horror drama the actors, unlike those in Hammer films or Grand Guignol theater, are both involuntary and unpaid.  And as long as this panic goes on they will be forced, like the imaginary sex slaves of the narrative, to play out the scripts drawn from their captors’ twisted psyches at the cost of their own freedom, happiness and lives.

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It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror.  The air itself is filled with monsters.   -  Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) in Bride of Frankenstein

another vintage Halloween cardLast year I celebrated the Halloween season with a collection of horror-themed links, both to columns on my blog and to articles off of it.  If you missed that one, you definitely ought to take a look at it; this is just an update, rounding up things I’ve featured since last October 28th.  First and foremost, of course, are last year’s columns for the holiday itself, “Halloween 2013” and “The Dance of Death“.  Despite its name, “Buried But Not Dead” isn’t really on the subject, but “Total Perspective Vortex” and “Cleansing Fire” are (at least a bit).  And I think “The Pit” definitely qualifies.  Last October’s harlotography was on the serial killer Aileen Wuornos (certainly an appropriate seasonal topic), and I featured either scary or creepy-fun videos in Links #171, #172, #173#174#176#183#206 and #212.  Earlier this year on May Eve I shared some less-known horror books, poems and videos; also, my own stories “The Other Side“, “Invasion” and this month’s “The Company of Strangers” are all solidly in the horror genre.  Finally, here’s a list of creepy, spooky, horror or monster-related links from the past year:

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