Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Towards a Sex-Positive Utopia

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  • 3410,

    It strikes me that the best move towards a sex-positive utopia would be a thorough, honest, and explicit sex-ed book for children, but it would therefore probably be R18.

    Have to be a website then, I guess.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie, in reply to John Armstrong,

    Hoping for genders displaying their own fantasies more than majorly attempting another's.

    We are talking Utopia here...

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to John Armstrong,

    In a sex-positive utopia, would the content of pornography be any different?

    What do you consider to be the "content of pornography" now? Does the image in your head include any same-sex material? If not, why not? Any laughter or playfulness? Brightly-lit stuff? Tattoos? Affection?

    It's not hard to find right now. Try starting here. (Link is SFW, links from the link go to porn. Can't put it clearer than that.) There's more here.

    Porn is already, in my opinion and experience, miles ahead of mainstream film and television and advertising/fashion, in depicting a wide range of body types and sexual tastes.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The energy in that crowd was incredible. All singing along ... they'd hold off on a line, we'd sing, they'd laugh, the crowd was euphoric.

    Yeah, but you'd sing, right? You weren't screaming so hard you couldn't actually hear any of the music.

    Which was clearly very annoying for the Beatles.

    Otoh, Johnny Devlin, in 1950s New Zealand:

    Devlin’s first performance at Auckland’s Jive Centre electrified the fans. Young women and girls screamed hysterically as he sang and moved across the stage, all hip-wriggling, groin-grinding Presley style. ‘I guess I shook my leg or something and they screamed. Then I shook it again, and they screamed again.’

    Hits like ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ came in 1958, when Devlin toured the country to sell-out audiences. At the end of a Christchurch show he drove off in a pink Cadillac. Next to him was Cabinet minister Mabel Howard, decked out in furs. Shrieking girls and women queued outside venues for a look at their idol, but most wanted something of him. He threw bits of his clothes into the audience, and his agents stitched his shirts so that fans could rip them from his back.

    It might not be to your taste, but it's been happening for at least six decades. I imagine doing it's a lot like being high.

    Have I found the sole place where you get judgey? ;-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It might not be to your taste, but it's been happening for at least six decades. I imagine doing it's a lot like being high.

    Have I found the sole place where you get judgey? ;-)

    Tongue in cheek? And more of Simon Cowell than the girls themselves?

    And yeah, a lot like being high. At 13. As a deliberate marketing exercise.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to John Armstrong,

    John, I'd just like to add something here, if I may. As a feminist of long time standing, imbued with the feminism of the 8o's where all pornography was bad and exploitative, and frankly bad taste, I had no time for porn. When I met Emma, I was still to be convinced otherwise. And then, she introduced me to the concept that not all porn was the same - she did that by writing the post that she's directed you to. And I began exploring. And what I found I considered lovely. Just sublime. It seems that there is erotic material to suit all tastes. I had no idea. Emma made me a convert. Some porn I still find distasteful - mainly the mainstream stuff. But that's not made for me. I have become much less judgemental about it - sure, there is still porn being made that, I believe, exploits women. This issue is complex, and I think still being debated. But the point is that porn exists that is not like that. And so I declare that not all porn is bad. A big difference from where I was just a couple of years ago.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Porn is already, in my opinion and experience, miles ahead of mainstream film and television and advertising/fashion, in depicting a wide range of body types and sexual tastes.

    Oh god, don't. I made the mistake on Saturday night of proposing that Caitlin Moran might not be completely right about everything in the whole world.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Emma Hart,

    What do you consider to be the "content of pornography" now? Does the image in your head include any same-sex material? If not, why not? Any laughter or playfulness? Brightly-lit stuff? Tattoos? Affection?

    Yes, my image includes all of that. But it also includes stuff that seems to contain no laughter, no playfullness, and no affection. I think it's fair to suggest that that kind of content seems to make up a fair proportion of the total.

    I feel that I need to say that I am not (to the best of my knowledge) trolling here, and I'm certainly no prude. My question is grounded in, shall we say, a longstanding and uncomfortable relationship with pornography that I am still trying to understand. It's in that context that I'd value your thoughts.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I made the mistake on Saturday night of proposing that Caitlin Moran might not be completely right about everything in the whole world.

    Do you need a hug, darling?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Tongue in cheek? And more of Simon Cowell than the girls themselves?

    And yeah, a lot like being high. At 13. As a deliberate marketing exercise.

    No, it's something you're uncomfortable with.

    Simon Cowell was five years old when girls screamed themselves silly at the Beatles in 1964.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I made the mistake on Saturday night of proposing that Caitlin Moran might not be completely right about everything in the whole world.

    Do you need a hug, darling?

    I beat a diplomatic retreat when I realised what I'd done. Was outnumbered.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Thanks Jackie. I understand all that and completely agree. I also acknowledge that for me the main issue isn't the pornography itself but the shame and the dishonesty that sometimes accompany it, which is of course what Emma is writing about. But if the answer is to just get over it and enjoy pornography, does that make the 'mainstream' content that we are talking about okay too?

    Hence my question; do we only get the sublime porn in utopia?

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to John Armstrong,

    Okay, I'm cooking. I want to come back and address John's question when I can give it the time it deserves.

    One thing I will say, and from John's reply, this isn't directed at him. I am not prepared to have The Porn Argument with anyone who is not prepared to look at those links I posted. I only have so much time and energy and I'm not starting from first principles again.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    So long as the unfairnesses and inequalities and oppression disappear, I don't have any real picture of what ideal would be. Most utopias involve things getting better for a lot of people, but worse for some people. I do have to wonder if maximizing sexual happiness is any more possible through social change than maximizing general happiness is. Humans don't really seem to have an unlimited capacity, and past the basic provisions of life's comforts, have a weird ability to become less happy the more they get. But we should certainly make the attempt - how else would we ever know for sure?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Cheers Emma. I'm also going to be away from the computer for a few hours, but I'll certainly look in later. Enjoy tea..

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Call me old fashioned, but I still find that's true, all other things being equal. The key word is "more", however. I'm not dissing sex without love, but there's a helluva lot more to sex than just physicality and love adds spice (as do some other things). So why did your mother say that this notion justified waiting for love before dispensing with your virginity?

    Oh she was far too evil.. er ... I mean clever, to simply say don't have sex or even suggest directly that I shouldn't have sex, apart from the obvious don't make babies by accident thing. She just pointed out that it would be more fun if I had developed a relationship first. So while my mates were getting shagged I was talking and becoming friends first. I did get shagged, just a lot less frequently :(.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    "All other things being equal" is a pretty bloody big caveat though, isn't it? And doesn't it basically make that statement both impossible to disagree with and basically meaningless?

    Not meaningless ... just mean.

    Note remember my mum was smart and experienced and I was still a pretty geeky introverted and somewhat shy teenager. In retrospect it was a brilliant approach to slowing me down.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Bart's mother was right, but she left a lot out, and delaying sex in order to wait for love wasn't a logical conclusion. In my view the "wait for love" argument hails from a time when sex carried a high risk of pregnancy.

    Ok I should clear up any idea that my mother wanted me to have no sex until I found my perfect partner. Far from it. She thought I should have sex and told me enough that I would probably be half decent at it (note this is an enormously embarrassing conversation to have with your mother).

    What she didn't take into account was my natural shyness and quite how much I believed her. How was she to know I would actually pay attention to that bit?!

    This didn't result in me being celibate until marriage. But it slowed me down.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    In a sex-positive utopia, would the content of pornography be any different?

    What do you consider to be the “content of pornography” now?

    In a sex positive utopia I suspect pornography would not exist as we know it. Instead it would surely just be on the self help section or maybe the home crafts section. Probably a bit more interesting though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to John Armstrong,

    Hence my question; do we only get the sublime porn in utopia?

    Right, here we go.

    We only get the sublimely produced porn. All we care about is that all participants are participating freely, in safe conditions. There are no questions of content once consent issues are settled.

    And... I think I have to mention where I'm coming from on this, which is as a female sub. I freely enjoy sexual activities that some other people find 'problematic', or happily describe as impossible to consent to. I look like I'm suffering because I am suffering. When I'm in pain I look like I'm in pain. Sometimes I cry. And it's all absolutely okay, because I have freely consented. In writing, even. There really is no way to say that depiction of those activities isn't completely okay without saying those activities aren't okay. And nobody gets to do that. In this Utopia, nobody would even consider it. Nobody says "but women don't enjoy that", because no matter what it is, there's a woman somewhere who enjoys it.

    Also, most pornography would be independently made by individuals in their own homes. Just like it is now.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4379 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The best birth control in the world is for men. But yes, it's not available yet.

    There's a bit of work before it's available, by the looks of things - not as the result of any conspiracy, but because serious technical problems need to be sorted by clinical trials. It might be a while.

    I'm entirely confident that within this century we'll have vaccines for every sexually transmitted disease. Vaccines are amazing (as anyone who follows me would know), but they're only really coming into their own at the moment; knowledge has improved vastly but there's still a lot of trial and error and cost involved.

    HIV is of course the most significant and serious, but the rest put a real dampener on sexual practices, even within committed relationships between people who know each other well. It's anyone's guess what will happen after they're out of the picture.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2137 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Simon Cowell was five years old when girls screamed themselves silly at the Beatles in 1964

    no stranger to shagging since.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I sort of know what you're on about, Bart, although I'm not quite so fast to blame my mother for me not getting teen sex at all. Even in Utopia there are going to be dorks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Personally I blame the Catholic church for not getting any teen sex. .

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Does the image in your head include any same-sex material? If not, why not? Any laughter or playfulness? Brightly-lit stuff? Tattoos? Affection?

    I see that you've already covered some aspects of this, but I'll add my piece anyway. A lot of good sex involves laughter, playfulness and affection, and when those qualities come through in porn it can be glorious. But even outside of BDSM, a lot of good sex is not giggly and playful: it can be intense, urgent, fierce and yes, rough. And in my sex-positive utopia, a fair amount of porn would still be like that, because in porn as in life, it can be goddamn hot.

    So I wouldn't want to see a change in the overall gamut of the content, but I would perhaps like to see a change in the balance and presentation of it. It's relatively easy now to choose one's own corner of the porniverse, and perhaps avoid the bits with which one is less comfortable, but at least on the most accessible sites it's hard to avoid some aspects of mainstream porn that I don't like. For instance, in an explicitly kinky context slapping, choking and certain forms of humiliation might be clearly conceptualised as a fantasy, and this sort of porn seems at least as popular among women as it is with men. But similar acts in mainstream porn are often presented as male revenge fantasies, and it's hard to avoid the nasty taste of misogyny, even if the performers themselves are not being coerced or exploited.

    Overall, though, I think that a world in which all porn was cheerful and spiritually fulfilling and lovey-dovey would get dull very quick. It's good to remove the stigma and shame from sex, but I wouldn't like to totally eliminate the idea that sex is dirty. Because it is. Very, very dirty and very, very good.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

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