Out of the ash I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air. ~ Sylvia Plath

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Opening Up

Every part of the last twelve years has screamed at me to open up, and I just started listening. If you're interested in hearing about how it happened, keep reading - but be warned that it's long.
When I had my first boyfriend, at 16, I was head over heels. Tom (his name, as with all others that follow, has been changed) was of the mind that death would us part, and that was nice for a year or so, so I went along with it. About six months in I met Robbie - he was in the year below me at school and drove me crazy. I couldn't understand why I was so attracted to him when I was so sure that Tom and I were meant to be. I became friends with Robbie and kept our relationship at that level, but I wanted more. This didn't mean I didn't want Tom though. Toward the end of our year together, I went on holiday with my family and met Paul. Again I was driven wild with attraction and also with guilt. I had a sort of platonic holiday romance with Paul, and on the last night of the holiday we ran away from our parents and got drunk on alcopops the beach. The heady teenage haze and tension was high, and I fucked up. I kissed Paul. To a 17 year old virgin whose virgin boyfriend was pining away at home, this seemed like the worst sin I could have committed. Yet I kept committing it for two hours. It felt natural, and restraining myself didn't.
Of course, what I did was wrong because it had never been agreed upon with Tom (I didn't even know that such things could be agreed upon between couples), but what excuse can I make? I was immature and inexperienced. Anyway, I'm not here to make apologies, I'm here to tell a story.
My mother guessed what I had done, and she told me not to worry, that I was obviously just too young to handle the responsibilities of a relationship and that I was easily distracted. She said it kindly and I appreciated it, but it didn't feel quite right. Why couldn't I have my connection with Tom and still enjoy my brief one with Paul?
Soon after Tom and I parted ways, I started a relationship with Robbie. In fact, it was about a week after. Others in school started whispering about me and a well-meaning teacher gently told me that I should be careful how I behaved or I'd be perceived as a slut. I lost female friends because they started to see me as a threat. One of them indignantly asked me how I could get over Tom so quickly, but I hadn't. I wasn't over him, I just had feelings for Robbie too. I didn't understand this - I had no framework within which to reference it and nothing to compare it to because nothing I had ever seen in films, on television or in culture had ever implied that it was possible to have feelings toward two people at once.
One night Robbie and I were at a party and his friend Anna was flirting with us. Robbie joked that he would kiss her and I egged him on. After much goading he did it, and I watched with a sense of curiosity and a conscious lack of jealousy. Afterward he told me that he hadn't felt comfortable with it, so we didn't pursue the issue any further. Looking back, the teenage games that now seem so tame felt so raunchy.
A few years later, at 21, I met Tony through friends at UCD. He was in his first year and I was in my final year. We had an intense and passionate two months. During that time I met his best friend Allen. Allen made it clear that he wanted a threesome with us, but my 19 year old boyfriend was having none of it, much to my chagrin (imagine how excited I was about the idea of having BOTH of them at once!). We were spending all our time with the most incestuous group of friends, most of whom had slept with at least three others in the group. Mary-Anne was driving it all. She was a fabulous, flirtatious minx and was in a three-year relationship with Kevin, who was terrified of losing her to anyone else. I could see that Mary-Anne had no intention of leaving Kevin, she just wanted everyone else as well. Many nights we sat up late drinking in somebody's dingy student flat, and Mary-Anne or Allen would get suggestive. Once Mary-Anne came straight out and said she wanted everyone to have an orgy. All of these things made me so excited but I was far too paralysed to agree out loud.
After Tony told me he didn't want to be in a relationship anymore, I soon started sleeping with Allen. I didn't do it to hurt him or get back at him, as I'm sure he thought at the time, I did it because I wanted to fuck Allen and now I was allowed. But once again I was confused by how I could want this when I was still sad about Tony - I didn't know why, I just knew that I did. One night, six of us were sitting on his bed and things got hot. Nervous, giddy suggestions were made. Groping started. Items of clothing started to be removed as dares. Allen put my hand on his cock and at that point Kevin called "Not cool", and the scene ended. As far as I know, Allen and Mary-Anne later had a threesome with another friend we had. When the news got back to me I was delighted for them and green with envy that I hadn't been involved!
Things changed for a few years after that. I was raped. That stopped me dating for a long time. When I started again, it was only women for a while. Eventually I started seeing men again. Then I started to wonder whether there was a context in which I could date a man and a woman (separately) at the same time, without having to keep it a secret. So I took to OkCupid, and before long I did just that. Almost immediately afterward (in fact, I was on a date with the woman at the time), I met my next long-term partner - the most serious relationship I've had.
This was all within the same few weeks as when I found the kink scene. It hadn't been long since I had heard the word "polyamory" for the first time. I met people who were in open relationships for the first time. I was more than curious, but I was aware that it took some amount of work and communication and trust. It was a possibility at the beginning of our relationship, but unfortunately that relationship (wonderful and validating as it was in its own ways) wouldn't have been conducive to it. We had no idea what we were doing or how to communicate properly. Over the next year of traditional coupled bliss, I came to firmly believe that I was entirely monogamous - not something that I had ever believed before, but the nature of that relationship led me to no other conclusion.
It all ended painfully last winter, and there was a lot of healing time involved. When we came out the other side (not on speaking terms, but sometimes that's just how things go), I found myself feeling free of the limits I had erected around myself and my desires. I found myself comfortably dating multiple people at once, and being honest about it. Still in the back of my mind was the mantra: "What I'm really looking for in all of this is one monogamous partner who will be my whole world." (though I was less sure of it). Then one day, only a few weeks ago, I found myself on the brink of being able to have that thing that I thought I wanted. I had met someone who I thought I clicked with, and who wanted me as a monogamous girlfriend. And suddenly I realised I didn't want it anymore.
For the first time, I now have a number of wonderful connections and no one of them is any less important than the others, though they're all at different stages and have different aims. And they're all too lovely to give up for only one.
So this is me, open for business. About bloody time! If you have any advice for a newly-declared ethical slut, it's welcome. If you can tell me your tips for managing your time so as not to wear yourself out, those are welcome too. And if you really read this far, you deserve any time that I have to give you.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Legitimate Rape

The internet is abuzz with debate surrounding American politician Todd Akin's recent comments about "legitimate rape".  In support of his viewpoint that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, including where the pregnancy is a result of rape, Akin claimed that in cases of "legitimate rape", the female body "has ways of shutting that whole thing down".  He suggests that our bodies magically attack sperm that comes from rape in a way that they don't do with sperm that comes from a consensual encounter.  As if this lunacy wasn't enough to undermine his already ridiculous argument, the term "legitimate" applied to some rapes isolates others as "illegitimate" or, in other words, not really rape.

This is a huge insult to the millions of people who have been raped and have struggled to accept what happened to them as actually being rape.  Digging himself in even deeper, Akin went on to offer a weak apology, claiming that by "legitimate" he meant "forcible rape".  Newsflash, old man: all rapes are forcible.  Whether or not physical force was exerted, rape is by its nature a forcible act.  When a person is intimidated into allowing themselves to be fucked against their will without fighting back, this is rape.  If a husband fucks his wife against her wishes, this is rape.  If you fuck a person who is unconscious, this is rape.

Five years ago, when I was raped, I froze.  I let it happen.  It started with him pestering and pushing when I had repeatedly said no.  He got demanding and scary, he stopped me from leaving the room, and it got to the point where I wasn't sure whether I had a choice anymore.  I decided that it would be easier to go along with it than to continue arguing, and to get it over with so that I could get out of there.  I lay on my back, looked at the wall and waited for him to finish.  It was rape at that stage.  It was rape before it got violent.  Before he held me down by my throat and forced his balls into my mouth it was rape, because I had made it clear that I didn't want it.  Before he bit me, hit me, spat in my eyes, choked me, forced his cock into my ass without any lube, it was rape before any of that.  Five hours in, when I was black and blue and covered in all kinds of bodily fluids, it was still rape.

I didn't fight back at the beginning.  I didn't fight until it got really violent.  Because of that, it took 2 years to realise that what had happened to me was rape.  I thought it was just something that I had let happen, something that was my fault.  Everyone knows that rape survivors blame themselves, but no one can see it in their own situation.  Todd Akin's comments serve to reinforce those feelings of self-blame in survivors, suggesting that their rape was not a "legitimate" rape.  This will regress thousands to a sphere of guilt and shame where recovery is not possible.  I now live a happy life, I have a wonderful relationship with an amazing partner, I pole dance, I'm sex-positive, I go to kink events, I have kinky sex, hell I fucking love sex.  None of that would have been possible had I not acknowledged what happened to me for what it was and stopped carrying the blame.  This is why these comments are so damaging to so many.  Many aren't as lucky as I am to be able to see them for what they are: an attack on women.

By the time I acknowledged what had happened to me, the DNA and the bruises and (most of) the other injuries were long gone.  It will never be worth my while reporting it.  Many survivors face this same sad truth.  According to the Rape Crisis Network (England & Wales):
Only 15% of serious sexual offences against people 16 and over are reported to the police and of the rape offences that are reported, fewer than 6% result in an offender being convicted of this offence. 
There are many reasons for this, one of the most important being that victims don't see what has happened to them as rape.  This is why Akin's comments are so damaging.  They reinforce the culture of victim-blaming that permeates our society (to say nothing of equally dangerous myths such as "She was raped because of what she was wearing" - I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt).

Barrack Obama's excellent response to the comments clearly stated his position and reassured us that he is on our side:
Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me.
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, founder of the charity V-Day, activist and lobbyist, wrote a beautiful and horrifying open letter to Todd Akin.  She ends with a question that Akin would do well to consider:
Why don't you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The problem with current porn

This week, I've read a lot online about Cindy Gallop, the innovative and ambitious founder of MakeLoveNotPorn. Like me, Cindy enjoys watching sex, but has found the porn that currently exists to be lacking and dangerous in its insistence upon providing a generation of young people with unrealistic expectations about sex, their own bodies and their partners' bodies.

She seeks to find an alternative, and claims that "Real World Sex" offers just this. The site is currently on an invitation-only basis, but promises to be excellent. Cindy's other site is aimed at teenagers and exposes some of the myths that porn sells to us and the areas in which it fails to accurately represent reality. The site itself is inexplicably designed in girly pinks and purples, seemingly excluding the boys who so badly need to read it, but its aims are more than laudable.

Cindy Gallop's vision inspired me to seek out a plausible alternative to the singular, plastic view of sexuality presented in mainstream porn. A friend suggested Kink.com, a group of BDSM porn sites that venture to offer plenty of alternatives to the wham-bam-vanilla sex presented in the mainstream, and that allegedly does so without exploiting the women involved in making its films (a criticism often quite rightly directed at production companies in the industry).

Upon coming to the front page of Kink.com, I was disappointed to find link after link aimed at straight males (in fact, just one type of straight males). Whether the women on these sites are depicted as submissive, dominant or otherwise, they are always the passive object of the male gaze. The taglines range from "Beautiful girls bound, fucked and humiliated in public" to "Brutal dommes use, abuse and fuck pussyboys". This binary "See subby girls get fucked / See scary dommes fuck you up" plays solely to male fantasy, objectifying and completely ignoring the needs of the women who are just tools in the enaction of male desire.

Down the very end of the page, Kink.com claims to cater to the gay community. By gay, of course, I mean gay male, since that appears to be all the word signifies. There is no acknowledgement of the fact that many women are gay. In fact, very little genuine lesbian porn exists. I exclude here the "lesbian domination" link on Kink.com, since I exclude girl-on-girl-for-straight-men from the definition "lesbian".

I was immensely disappointed with the lack of options offered to me by a site that claims to cater to a sexuality like mine. Like Cindy Gallop, I like to watch sex and am by no means anti-porn. Let's leave that kind of thing to Andrea Dworkin's followers. What I am against, is a situation in which the only porn that exists provides unrealistic representations of sex or caters solely to one gender.

Anna Span has attempted to provide an alternative in the past, with little success - her films use the same old camera angles, body types, positions and representations of female sexual orientation found in most mainstream porn.  Her description of the only lesbian scene in one of her films is as follows:
Crystal Lei and her mate Emma B play the sluttiest blondes on the estate, attempting and failing to drag a guy back to their council flat for sex, and settling for experimentally lezzing it up.
The suggestion that lesbianism is a second-rate consolation prize in the wake of the failure to find a man to fuck is enormously insulting.  Lets hope that Cindy Gallop's project will do better.  Her insistence that "We are not porn" is a good start.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Other Woman

I've heard it on the radio more times than I can bear and have to say something about Paloma Faith's skin crawling, insulting song Picking Up The Pieces.  How many different types of people can it possible to stereotype, offend and belittle at the same time?

The Other Woman

This cardboard cutout has been lying around for years to be picked up and dressed in whatever revealing dress and scarlet lipstick works for the person talking about her.  What the fuck is an "other woman" anyway?  I've never had any involvement with someone who was in a relationship with someone else, but had I done so, I certainly wouldn't have seen myself as an Other.  Neither would I assume the arrogance to view anyone else as Other, since to each of us we ourselves are the absolute and our own experience is central to our individual worlds.  The Other Woman's (perhaps often misguided) experience is undermined by the concept.  This is to say nothing of the implicit negation of secondary partners in polyamorous relationships.  Why, indeed, do we never hear of The Other Man, a terrifying seductor who steals the wives and girfriends of passive, downtrodden men as if those women had no will of their own?  Could this absence have something to do with the unwillingness of our phallocentric society to apportion the same levels of blame to male figures as it does to female ones?

The Man

What a way to excuse his behaviour!  Had the woman in the song been unfaithful to her partner, I suspect the lyrics would have been less "I'm the one by your side" and more "Fuck you, you ho, don't want you back".  This awful song places all of the responsibility for the infidelity with The Other Woman, the temptress who apparently stole him away against his will, completely pardoning his own indiscretion since, as a man, he cannot be held responsible for following what his penis tells him to do!  It's insulting to men to suggest that they're too stupid and easily led to be able to control themselves.

The Narrator

Come on, get a grip!  Grow some self respect and ditch the guy!  Wipe away the tears and snot, put the photograph back behind the TV where it belongs and get the hell out of there in search of a better life and relationship where you'll be valued as you deserve.  The implication here that a woman should stand by her man regardless of his behaviour regresses us to a 1950s attitude that has kept millions of wives in unhappy marriages and would be best abandoned.

Aside from all this, the melody (and Faith's voice) drags like nails on chalkboard.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Dangerous Images; Distorted Reality

My last post caused me to think about simulations of reality in further depth, and what they may mean for our bodies and sexualities. The world of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is one in which the boundaries of reality have become blurred by the bombardment of culture with various types of media representation. The limits of acceptability in television and film are constantly expanding, and we as a society have gradually become desensitised to images that are portrayed both in ‘real’ and in ‘fictional’ media, (I mentioned this in relation to 50 Shades of Grey – surely I can’t be the only person who was desensitised to those mind-numbingly tame sex scenes?) This is now occurring to the point where it has in many instances become impossible to distinguish between representation and reality.

In many contemporary media forms, fantasy intermingles with reality in ways that prompt us to question the validity of the term “reality”. Cinema, literature, music and art are all commodities and each represents an aspect of the human psyche, sexuality or body open for consumption. This necessitates a consideration of these elements as consumer products within a postmodern culture. The difficulty arises in attempting to discern whether the commodification of objects, situations and individuals is facilitated by this culture, or whether these symptoms in fact provide the basis for postmodernity.

Frederic Jameson’s description of postmodern culture in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, makes a good starting point in portraying that culture. Jameson describes postmodernism as inextricably linked with capitalism and consumerism. He discusses a number of examples of exponents of this society, claiming that they “in fact turn centrally around commodification”. In the present day, culture hinges upon branding and the latest inventions, to the degree that art and literature themselves have become consumer products.

Postmodernism has often been characterised as the culture of the image, extending particularly to televisual representation. David Cronenberg’s 1983 film Videodrome is an example of an indepth exploration of the control that television wields over its viewers. In the film, the screen exerts control not only over its viewers’ minds but also over their bodies, making it impossible for them (and indeed the viewer of the film itself) to differentiate between reality and simulation. Television is represented as a medium that literally kills its viewers with their blood spattered all over the screen, and the sexual arousal (or at least, the morbid curiosity) generated by ‘snuff’ TV in the film represents our collective tendency to be drawn to that which destructs our bodies.

Once again, I’ll refer to Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations. Baudrillard pre-emptively examines the phenomenon of reality television. With reference to a television show that aired in 1971, possibly the earliest instance of reality television, he discusses television itself as a simulation of reality. For him, the fascination of society with this kind of ‘reality’ television lies in “a kind of thrill of the real, or an aesthetics of the hyperreal”. The simulation of reality shown on screen becomes more real than the real itself; becomes a model toward which reality may aspire, much like the Barbie doll body shapes peddled by beauty magazines and the fashion industry. In fact, according to Baudrillard, “it bears no relation to reality whatever”, television is a simulation which bears no relation to reality, and the image is therefore its own original. 

The phenomenon of the celebrity reinforces the ease with which an individual can become a media representation. The lives of Kate Moss, Tom Cruise or, quite topically at the moment, Kirsten Stewart, are conducted in the eye of the media and television, and a metaphorical film crew follows them at all times. Though these celebrities play roles in film, they are undeniably involved in the drama of their own lives, and therefore the boundaries are blurred between the ‘real’ people and the simulations or characters that they portray. This blurring is especially true and further enhanced in the case of Kirsten Stewart by her on-screen relationship with her off-screen ex-partner Robert Pattison in the Twilight films. It is, however, undoubtable that a media representation of an individual does not accurately mirror that individual.

I want to focus specifically on two elements of cinema and television. Media violence and pornography are two aspects of the screen that generate a great deal of debate in both conservative and liberal spheres. Levels of violence in the media increase constantly in contemporary times. This is true both of ‘fictional’ media (film, television, literature) and of ‘real’ media (news reports that show in much greater detail than was possible before the advent of television the violence that occurs on both micro and macro scales around the world). However, we no longer see the violence in many cases – think of audience members fainting or running out of the cinema during the original release of Carrie or The Exorcist, each of which would today receive a ‘15’ rating at worst at the censor’s office.

Not so terrifying in 2012
It seems logical and reasonable to suggest that the greatest factor causing the appearance of violence on screen is the demand for that violence. This ‘wound culture’ sees us as fascinated with dismembered bodies as the snuff viewers in Videodrome. This attraction explains a huge amount of why screen violence, the image of violence, has become a commodity. Hence the question is born: is screen violence a product born out of capitalism? In Bret Easton Ellis’ novel Glamorama the protagonist finds a doctored photograph of himself stabbing another character to death, his expression asking the camera “Do you like this? Are you pleased?” This exposure of the expanding limits of acceptability and growing desensitisation in entertainment returns to one of Ellis’ aims in his earlier novel American Psycho, a book strewn with both extreme violence and pornographic description, pushing the limits of the graphic and imaginative, describing enormously specific acts. Ellis uses a torture scene in Glamorama to remind the reader that although the image of violence has achieved the status of consumer product, the reality of it bears no relation to that representation.

Mary Harron's 2000 film adaptaption was actually very tame in comparison to Ellis' novel
This recalls the oft-repeated feminist argument that the images propagated by porn bear no relation to actual sexual acts. Porn represents a transition from fantasy to act, and necessitates that fantasy is an integral part of the act, rather than being just the cause of that act. It has long been clear that sex, like violence, is a product that sells well. Postmodernism could be described as a liberal trend that tends toward the expression of that which is perceived to be ‘lower’ culture. Baudrillard mentions that “the whole newsreel of “the present” gives the sinister impression of kitsch, retro and porno all at the same time.” It has also been pointed out that “many socialists have felt that pornography was an aspect of capitalist pollution and profiteering.” (Feminists Against Censorship) The propensity of this “socialist” viewpoint is to perceive pornography as a consumer product. In relation to both Glamorama and American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis reiterates this stance, saying
I'm interested in how pornography affects a reader. It's such a consumer item. It does what it's supposed to do. Like toothpaste or coffee or clothing. It's cold you, you wanna stay warm, you put on a sweater. You're tired, you need to wake up, you have a cup of coffee. You want to be aroused and climax, you purchase pornography. Since it's such a consumer good and because the book is so full of consumer goods, why not throw in some porn amidst all the clothes and all that useless hipness.
The arts and sciences have become the justification, or the ‘packaging’, for pornographic imagery. This prostitution of literature, film and other culture reinforces the commodity status of the writer and the artist in postmodern society.

The problematic likening of sexual behaviour to violence is evident in much contemporary media. Kathy Acker, a writer, academic and ex-stripper whose political feminist punk novels have been viewed explosively by fans and critics alike, attempts to liberate female desire by having many of her protagonists fuck almost every character they encounter. Despite her efforts to assert their independence, however, many of them repeatedly find themselves in difficult or dangerous situations as a result of their sexual behaviour. This punishment of female desire is visible still in numerous aspects of contemporary culture, even in the language that we all use on a daily basis. The repetitive pornographic narrative found in the many of Acker’s novels serves to normalise female sexual desire to the reader, helping us to view it as something unextraordinary, however it is resubordinated by the concept that the expression of that desire leads to danger.

Kathy Acker
Acker’s protagonists regularly don different costumes in order to simulate whatever persona they wish. Baudrillard’s Simulations describes the process by which in the postmodern world the image in many cases precedes the original. The original is referred to as the ‘real’, and the image as the ‘hyperreal’, which has become more real than the real itself. This can be rationalised in terms of a signifier that can exist without there ever having been a signified. In several instances the signifier suffices and negates the need for the signified. Baudrillard explains that it is not necessary for a truth to precede a simulation; a simulation can create a truth. This is very true of the porn industry, where relations between ‘actors’ do not provide a realistic representation of relations between genuine people. Often pornographic imagery is highly edited and altered in order to create the image of physical ‘perfection’ mentioned above, and hardcore porn also often utilises such devices as simulated orgasms. It is also true of the celebrities whose media ideal of beauty and perfection was not recognised as a universal truth before the existence of their collective image, but the simulation created by the image causes that ideal to become a truth.

Jenna Jameson: Is this real?
If something is simulated or replicated, it becomes impossible to tell the difference between the simulation and reality. When wondering whether the simulation is less or more real than the original, it is important to realise that in cases such as those outlined above the simulation is the original. From this point of view, reality itself can be construed as a simulation. Baudrillard points out “The vertigo of a flawless world.” The image of perfection, created by media and simulation, is dizzying and dangerous. It is possible to argue, on the other hand, that truth and reality are no longer important in the postmodern world. For postmodernism, there is no totalising reality by which to affirm any absolute truth.

Though many artists, writers and film makers would seem to oppose consumerism, it is clear that most of these are heavily influenced by being a product of and producing work from within that culture. The greatest reason behind the rising levels of violence and sexual imagery in contemporary media, particularly screen media, is the public demand for those images. Violence and sexuality have become commodities, as can be seen in the instance of pornography as a packaged product. It is important to realise however, that the images of violence and sex often bears no relation to the realities of those things. These simulations were born without the existence of an original, and it is no longer always possible to distinguish between the simulated and the real.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fear of the Simulacrum

I wrote this a few months ago and came across it today.  The fun little episode made me smile.

Travelling on the train with a huge, purple, bloody lip is an experience that gives an insight into the fears and revulsions of the average person. It doesn't matter that the injury was accquired by accident while drunk (by whacking my lower lip against my tooth with the neck of a Heineken bottle), what matters is that I appear an otherwise 'respectable' woman, with well-groomed hair, careful makeup, a pencil skirt and smart jacket, and an ugly facial wound.

As I settle into my seat on the train, I notice the younger woman opposite me glancing at me furtively and repeatedly with an expression of fear mixed with pity.  At first I ignore it, but then I realise that she has seen the size and colour of my lip and is horrified. My mouth curls into a smile, as I realise that the obvious conclusion she has jumped to is that some brute of a husband or boyfriend has done this to me. (Incidentally, it was his Heineken bottle.)

An older gent plants himself on the seat next to the young woman, adjacent to me. He nods at her by way of a greeting, turns to do the same toward me, and his mouth falls open with a frown. I smile widely at him, exposing the bloody tear of skin just inside my swollen lip.

The reactions of these strangers to my appearance interests me, and as look out the window and giggle, I realise that I am a simulacrum. Here I risk reverting to the academic snobbery that I practiced so well during the year of my Masters, so I urge you to read Jean Baudrillard's Simulations, if only to be dazzled by his slick, sexy style of writing.  This was the man who wrote of the theory behind a threesome with identical twins.  Baudrillard, the rock star of critical theorists.

The young woman and the kindly gent have imprinted onto me the image, the simulation of a character that does not exist, so I decide to play that character. In doing so, I cause the simulation to become more real than the real. This calls into question the meaning of the real, since I am now the most real version of this character, a false image with no predecessor.

The fears of others are imprinted onto me, as, horrified, they see my simulation and are afraid of me. They do not fear that I might hurt them, but rather how I or the entity that hurt me might make them feel. In this way their fears are transferred from the supposed aggressor onto the passive image that respresents it. Similarly, I am reminded of a six-year-old relative who cried at the sight of a woman in a Burkha. She knew that the woman couldn't hurt her, but the woman's image became a representation simulating an oppression that frightened the child, though she was too young to understand what it meant.

Playing my unreal character is fascinating, juxtaposing my sly grin with the dirty, purple mess on its edge and learning from others' responses, but before long the train pulls into my station, and it's time to get off, myself again.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Our bodies: commodities

The news-reading public of Ireland is, understandably, up in arms after the sentence handed down to businessman Anthony Lyons yesterday after he was found guilty of the violent sexual assault of a woman in Dublin.  Lyons rugby-tackled the woman to the ground before assaulting her as she walked home one night in the inner city.  Yesterday, he was sentenced to just six years in prison, five and a half of which are to be suspended.  He was also ordered to pay his victim €75,000 in compensation.

I'm sure you'll join me in saying what the fuck??  We know that Ireland's judiciary system leaves a lot to be desired, but it's now even possible for apparently sex offenders who can afford it to "buy" their way out of prison time.  This young woman is now saddled with a huge chunk of filthy, disgusting money that it's unlikely she'll want to touch, while her attacker is free to return to his life in six months' time.  This sentence implies that even now in 2012 control over a woman's body is a commodity to be bought and sold, and that a person who can afford it is free to subject it to whatever violence they please.

A friend commented on Facebook
I wonder is there also a mechanism for victims to reject any offered money and if so was this done?  I imagine any appeal of the sentence would be entirely contingent on not taking a penny from him.
While this is a nice idea, it's unlikely the Irish courts would ever allow it.  In their eyes, the most important thing is not the wellbeing of victims of crime, it's having their own words upheld, and victims and perpetrators alike are just subjects to be commanded.

Welcome to the 16th Century.