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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

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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There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  –  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

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