Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Towards a Sex-Positive Utopia

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tom Beard,

    When my father died, my partner and I cleared out the basement including my father's old Playboy and Penthouse magazines ... Yes I have fond teenage memories of those magazines :).

    What was fascinating was how much gravity and hair existed back then. Those women were just as, if not more, beautiful. Just very different from the modern versions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    f you're NOT interested in sex, that doesn't mean you're somehow broken or a frigid God-bothering prude or must have been sexually abused. Seriously. I've been through a couple of quite lengthy periods where fucking wasn't really on my to-do list. And that's OK.

    Absolutely this.
    I am a very sensual life-loving being - except in this one area. Asexuality isnt - as far we know to date- caused by anything. It's just the the way a certain small percentage of rats/rams/baboons/humans are.* As is the case with a much larger percentage of humans -not to mention many many other species - who/which are homosexual.

    I have a feeling - no more than that- that your heterosexual vanilla couple are very much a minority among Homo sap. sap...

    *Only animals so far studied for the phenomenon

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Gee,

    I think you've confused 'law' with 'society' here

    No, I was careful. I really meant people can do whatever they want within the law, which leaves an enormously wide number of possibilities. That doesn't mean they will do it. They may never try hard enough, or be lucky enough (or unlucky enough, in the case of the various Darwin award fetishes that people have). Or they may be pressured by society to not do things. Emma's utopia only removes the last barrier, but presumably only to the limit of the law. Which means that it will open up some people to things that they wouldn't do if social pressure was a barrier, and enable them to be open about it if they so desire.

    The extent to which this would change people's lives is equal to the extent to which that barrier represses them now. There are vast swathes of people who would be unaffected, either because they are not repressed, or they have already overcome it and do as they like or they would still be repressed even if that barrier were removed. The remainder would have their lives improved.

    It's a start. It's not my Utopia, though. I have other barriers in mind, ones that affected me and my peer group. Not really sure how they'd change, but hey, Utopia is all about fantasizing, isn't it? I'm allowed to wear a Hef hat in mine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Damn, my bonobo comment got eaten…essentially it was:

    **It certainly is amongst bonobo! But then, bonobo – unlike their chimpanzee relatives- use sex/sexual pleasure to heal animosities in their societies. Or just to comfort one another. It -in all it's awesome variety-is not just for procreative or dominance purposes.

    I would make a modest bet that asexuality will never be found amongst bonobo!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    My Utopia would be very simple: people would be kind to each other. Even if it looked like they were being unkind to each other, in a sexual sense. You know.) And I believe that's covered by Emma's Utopian Vision.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Emma's Utopian Vision

    bandname

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    This would also be mine.

    There are times when we enjoy sharping our personhood against someone hard and unyielding, maybe someone mean or self-involved, we want to learn something about limits and ourselves. How much we can take. Who we are. Who we are not.

    You can have connection without empathy and kindness but it is not advisable on a regular basis.

    (I don't think BDSM excludes empathy and kindness by the way).

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to kowhai montgomery,

    I don't think BDSM excludes empathy and kindness by the way

    I think it's essential.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery,

    Just been watching the beautiful and powerful Alexa Wilson dance naked in a the middle of a circle of people. Performing variously with an axe, a sword and a tutti, she invited the audience/participants to write on her body and respond in various ways. This type of performance contained so much meaning, exchange, politics, sex, intellect and emotion.

    Sex positivity is one thing but the whole rest of the web that we live in is still there so I don't think that sex positivity alone would bring about utopia, not that I think that is what Emma is saying,

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to kowhai montgomery,

    Sex positivity is one thing but the whole rest of the web that we live in is still there so I don't think that sex positivity alone would bring about utopia, not that I think that is what Emma is saying

    Oh hell yeah, though I do think it has broader effects than people might initially think. There is so much other. But this was, perhaps, about combatting the idea that third-wave lipstick cleavage sparkle-pony feminism doesn't have a goal beyond giggling and showing people our tits.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    giggling and showing people our tits

    not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to kowhai montgomery,

    This type of performance contained so much meaning, exchange, politics, sex, intellect and emotion.

    Does it ever. Alexa is highly original and in my opinion, she is doing her best work right now. She takes advantage of everything that the stage has over passive entertainment, bringing interactivity, cognitive challenge, dialogue, and in your face passion to her work.

    She draws quite a bit of her inspiration from Freda Stark, one of NZ greatest footsoldiers for Emma's utopia.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Emma Hart,

    sparkle-pony feminism

    I for one am all for sparkle-pony-ness! In my utopia people have plenty of fun and silliness along with the equality and being kind to each other.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Heh, you don't get much of that at an Alexa performance. Something about the edged weapons she is frequently wielding draw people's minds back to pointed messages. She loves to tear at the boundaries of performance. I remember one show spilling outdoors because there were too many people for the room, and she took her dance to the middle of the street. Part of it involved nudity, right at the moment that a bunch of drunk bogans pulled into the service station across the street. Initially there were predictable hoots and whistles, but something about the dance she was doing commanded respect and even the bogans fell into a respectful silence when they saw that a large crowd was appreciating an artwork unfolding.

    It's confronting at a whole different level for me, being her brother, but the point is well made, the nudity rapidly changes from something embarrassing to a simple appreciation that the movements she is making are best seen "Starkers", and that the recurring theme of intersubjective exploitation is firmly embedded.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Also, Tom Cruise. In the 80s, anyway.

    Not a good example. He always made certain he appeared taller than he actually was.

    There are some cultures where the dominant group was short and hence shorter men were desirable.

    But the problem is that as you improve diet and hence health, height tends to increase - so height is actually a reasonable indicator of health. That means there is an advantage in choosing a taller mate since they are likelier to be healthier.

    The same is also true for curves. Having some body fat is a good indicator that you've not suffered malnutrition and hence you are likelier to be healthier. That does not extend to the current obesity range but some fat is in most cultures and at most times been the favoured body shape.

    But the killer physical feature is symmetry. In all the studies done symmetry is far and away the most powerful physical attractant. It is almost certainly associated with identifying good genetic makeup since human development involves a lot of points during development where cells have to be balanced and symmetrical so an external left right symmetry is an good indication that everything inside is pretty good as well.

    Of course all of the above is fraught with evolutionary behavioral logic. Basically we can make educated guesses about how we evolved and why some things are important but they will always be guesses since we can't really do the experiments.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery, in reply to BenWilson,

    I am really a big fan. Proud that she is ours and in awe of what she does.

    Still thinking a lot about exploitation as a result.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Perhaps "the power to orchestrate the giving up of power is the ultimate display of mastery"?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    Perhaps "the power to orchestrate the giving up of power is the ultimate display of mastery"?

    Honestly, there's so much wrong in Roiphe's argument that I don't really know where to start - perhaps with the idea that someone's sexual tastes re: top/bottom reflect their power position in other aspects of their lives? Because that's kind of bullshit. If that were true, then getting a promotion or leaving work to raise kids would change your sexual desires.

    Or maybe with: where's the proof that women are more interested in submissive sex than they were? The media's still getting their heads around women being interested in sex at all. The fact that they've noticed one terrible book doesn't mean women's behaviour has actually changed in any way.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But the problem is that as you improve diet and hence health, height tends to increase – so height is actually a reasonable indicator of health. That means there is an advantage in choosing a taller mate since they are likelier to be healthier.

    One factor that's absolutely culturally mediated is skin tone. For centuries, pale skin was considered attractive because to have a tan was to be marked as an outdoors worker. As the availability and practice of leisure changed in the 20th century, a tan began to be perceived as a mark of economic success,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    the idea that someone's sexual tastes re: top/bottom reflect their power position in other aspects of their lives? Because that's kind of bullshit.

    Not saying I agree, but isn't that routinely trotted out to explain masochistic CEOs/politicians?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    how does the quote play out at an individual level?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    Not saying I agree, but isn't that routinely trotted out to explain masochistic CEOs/politicians?

    Yes it is. Also, I hear poor people are lazy.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    how does the quote play out at an individual level?

    I talked about power dynamics in my first BDSM column. On an individual level? It varies from one individual to another. The only one I can really speak for is me. And that's a bit personal.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Roger, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Not saying I agree, but isn't that routinely trotted out to explain masochistic CEOs/politicians?

    Yes it is. Also, I hear poor people are lazy.

    A bit harsh, I think, Emma. It does take a certain personality type to put yourself out there to become a politician, and it is not to big a stretch to suspect that this 'type' might align to other proclivities? A basis for some research perhaps?

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Roger,

    A basis for some research perhaps?

    There is research, Roger. I'm about to run out the door and it'll take me a wee while to find it again, but there is a BUNCH of 'find me a cause' research about BDSM, and all of it says "Um, nope, it's not that." I know a bunch of Doms. I know a bunch of subs. If I gave you a list of their occupations, I doubt you could work out which list was which.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

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