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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

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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From what you’ve told me you don’t need an ambulance…You could try a warm bath but if you collapse, become unconscious [or] unresponsive…it’s 999.  –  Heidi Nicholls

I’m very disappointed at the tardiness of Halloween spirit the last few years; there’s only one more Links column before the big day, yet I’ve seen virtually no seasonal links and only one seasonal video (the first one below, contributed by Aspasia).  I had to go looking for the second one myself, though I’m quite pleased with it.  Everything above the first video is from Rick Horowitz, and the links between the videos from Brooke Magnanti (“colon”), ManCrack (“Dick”),  Clarissa (“hammer”), Jesse Walker (“clowns”), Molli Desi (“medicine”), Saladin Ahmed (“authoritarian”), Radley Balko (“prohibition” & “bicycle”), and Mistress Matisse (“plug”).

From the Archives

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Usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives.  –  “Politicizing the Personal

lipstick on a pigIt’s often easier to write about something than to think of something to write about, which is one of the reasons this blog is so structured; since I publish a new column every single day, it’s important that I do everything I can to keep the mental bearings lubricated.  Though in September of 2011 I was still a long way from the weekly format I use now, there were a number of recurring monthly features such as the Q & A and  Miscellanea columns; I usually featured an “update” column as well, but since I had already used the title “September Updates” back in 2010 I went with “They Speak for Themselves” this time.  That was my first indicator that I would have to change my way of doing things soon; most of the month-names had already been used and the rest would be gone by the end of the year.Ahmed Hasnain  I don’t recall if I was already thinking of switching to weekly updates by this point, but I certainly was by December; in fact, I’m not really sure why I waited until February to start “That Was the Week That Was” instead of just doing it from the first week of January.  Such are the mysteries of the human mind.

Nailiya 1913Besides the monthly features, holidays  and other special occasions (such as Banned Books Week) were always good for me; in addition, my two-month-old “One Year Ago Today” feature was a big help in coming up with column topics.  For example, this month’s harlotography, “Lulu White“, was a sequel to the previous year’s “Storyville”;  “Tyranny By Consensus” followed an earlier column about AHF, “Inappropriate Women” followed my very first hooker song column, “More Terminology” is a direct sequel to its one-year predecessor,  “Hiding from the Light” is a commentary on its, and “Nasty Words” is an elaboration on one of the points made in the column a year before it.  And though “Profound Mental Disabilities” was based on a then-current news story it fell exactly a year after my first column on BDSM.  But inspiration didn’t always have to wait a year; “The Ouled Nail“, about a Berber tribe in which prostitution is normal, inspired both “The Girls from Tarzana” and “Dance of the Seasons“.

Feminism women as childrenThen, as now, news stories often provided a launching point for commentary; “She Should Know Better“, “The Other Foot” and “Surplus Women” fall into that category, as do “Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century” (the beginning of the anti-college-sex crusade), “The Mote and the Beam” (the beginning of the anti-Backpage crusade), and “Size Matters” (the beginning of Phoenix’s anti-whore crusade).  Other columns featured several stories I saw as linked by a single topic; “Wise Investment“, “Uncommon Sense” and “Dominating the News” fall into that category.  And though my very first guest column appeared this month, a two-parter by veteran activist Norma Jean Almodovar, it would be another year and a half before such columns  became a regular feature.

As usual, there were a few that don’t quite fit easily into groups.  “A Thousand Words” makes a point with two pictures, “To Spite Their Faces” criticizes neofeminist attacks on an economist, “Politicizing the Personal” debunks the feminist maxim that “the personal is political”, and “Don’t Take My Word For It” shares a couple of other ladies’ views on male sex workers for women.The Arlington and Mahogany Hall

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Mabon 2014

Blessed Mabon
In my way of thinking, it’s never too early for the arrival of autumn.  Blessed Be!  If you’d like to see your art featured here for Halloween, Yule or Candlemas, please contact me as soon as possible!

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Lammas 2014

Lammas 2014 by Man Crack
For my fifth year of blogging, I’m starting a new tradition; every sabbat I’ll feature a piece of seasonal art by one of my readers.  This one is by Man Crack; if you like to commission something from her you can email me and I’ll forward it to her.  The next such occasion is the autumnal equinox, September 23rd; this year; if you’d like the job, send me a sample of your work within the next three weeks.  If you prefer a future sabbat (Halloweeen, Yule, etc) you needn’t wait; just let me know your preference.

Blessed Be!

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