Sunday, March 18, 2012

All About Pleasure: The Politics of Arousal

Pornography.  You know it when you see it, right?  It's the stuff that's created to arouse you.  But is that the only entertainment that targets our natural instincts and vulnerabilities?  Today at Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog, in All About Pleasure: The Politics of Arousal, I discuss how literary and mainstream fiction also manipulate our emotions and our sexual desire, for often less than noble purposes, and why they get away with it.

It's a provocative topic, and I'd be curious what you think!


Emerald said...

I really liked your post, Donna. I was reminded of the book I read last year that I felt like tore my heart out because one of the protagonists died nine pages from the end. I felt especially betrayed (if you will) and irritated because I hadn't even felt the writing or story was very well done, notably exemplified in the seeming lack of a "plot," really, for much of the latter portion of the book. When the death happened, I really felt as though the book hadn't *needed* a conflict, then, because the "conflict" was attributed in retrospect by his death. I don't know if that makes sense, but it was like, "Don't worry about not finding this book interesting for a while or not understanding what the point is; when the character dies, then you'll look back and see all the poignancy in it." Grrr.

I really, really loved the last line of your post about self-proclaimed erotica authors simply stating more honestly what we do. I've actually thought this about sex work itself—as decried as it is for being "degrading," etc., all kinds of professions (it's seemed in my observation) "use" sex to stimulate, sell, or otherwise attract something. I have tended to find this more "degrading." For example, I find Hooters a stupid enterprise—if you want to look at female bodies, go to a strip club—where they're being honest about what the point of the establishment is. I have tended to find the mixing of sex with other professions more irritating because it's the actual profession/professionalism, in my view, that is supposed to be the focus in those instances. Mixing sex into it and/or allowing it to become the focus seems to me to degrade whatever the profession is and also taint the performance of the professional (in that said performance becomes less the focus when it is actually the point of whatever job is being done).

If we were just more comfortable proclaiming and recognizing the examination or partaking in sex for sex's sake, I feel these silly, distorting confusions wouldn't seem necessary.

Donna said...

Hey Em,

Wow, thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I agree with everything, especially the dishonesty of something like Hooters. As things are set up now, since "good" women are not allowed to have sexual desire except for their husbands in order to have a child, men have to "trick" women into sexual situations, either by taking advantage of their weak female minds or through economic necessity. Marriage is a respectable form, but sex work or even Hooters are other ways that women can be "used" by the supposed out-of-control lustful male because they have to make a living.

Just as any job women dominate loses its status (men used to fill the majority of secretarial jobs, and constituted the majority of therapists, no longer and the status of these jobs has fallen), anything where sex--which means female power--is involved is degraded. And yet, men degrade themselves by this, I truly believe. Unfortunately, I think few people can even IMAGINE a world where things are different.

Anyway, thank you so much for weighing in!

Emerald said...

Donna said,
"men have to 'trick' women into sexual situations, either by taking advantage of their weak female minds or through economic necessity

You just reminded me that this is something/what I so deplore about porn marketing or the tone some porn sites take. I don't take issue with porn in and of itself—what I find abominably ignorant and pathetic is this exact marketing strategy...the use of this tone as though women have to be fucking (no pun intended) manipulated into sex. As though they (we) might not want to have sex and are quite capable of discerning, pursuing, and choosing that.

Taking a deep breath. ;) Thanks again for the fabulous ERWA post—I appreciate not only the post itself but that it elicited this discussion! I have felt these things for some time but have not always (if ever?) articulated them. And in the case of what I stated above, I don't think I've ever articulated it as well as you just did in your comment. :)

Donna said...

That's why dialogue is cool, nourishing each other's ideas! And why saying, "oh, it's just sex, what's there to talk about?" has more serious ramifications than most people realize. I could go on and on, but I sense that there is a great fear about women's sexual subjectivity. If they are merely vessels of male lust, awakened only when men want them, then they are much easier to control. At the heart of this, however, is a truly sad insecurity on the part of the man. That he is unlovable and undesirable as a human being, and can only offer what's in his wallet. So we have another victim here, the humanity of men. I don't understand why most people don't see this either!