Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sex, Politics and Other Dirty Words

By J.T. Benjamin (Guest Blogger)

I want to thank Lisabet Sarai (may her virus scans always come up clean) and the rest of the good people at Oh Get A Grip for the chance to be a guest blogger here at their fine website. I’m more than happy to wax rhapsodic about even the most esoteric or boring subject, (I could give you a thousand words on the Greek debt crisis faster than you can say, “No! You don’t have to! Really! Thanks anyway!”), but the subject of freedom is especially near and dear to my heart, both as an American and as a purveyor, consumer, and connoisseur of pornography and of sex in general.

First, I must state that for the purposes of this blog post I make no distinction between the words “pornography” and “erotica.” The former term is typically used to describe tasteless, gratuitous, offensive, and often excessively graphic sexually oriented materials, while the latter term is reserved for such materials (e.g. those on this blog), that are considered more refined or artistically relevant. However, both terms are highly subjective, which can only be expected when the subject is human sexuality. As the saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks.” One person’s charming, harmless little turn-on is another’s disgusting, kinky perversion.

However, it can’t be denied that not everyone feels this way. Certain elements of society will happily brand any expression of human sexuality with the “pornography” label, regardless of how tasteful such an expression might be. Millions blew a collective gasket when Janet Jackson had her little “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl a few years ago, ferChrissakes. I feel safe in assuming somebody, somewhere is offended by the nature of this blog post and of this website, so I likewise feel safe in painting “porn” and “erotica” with the same brush, at least for the next thousand words or so.

Having safely gotten that out of the way…

The definition of the word “freedom” is, like that of “pornography,” highly subjective. Ironically, the same elements of society that label any sex-oriented media as “porn” feel free to bend and twist and manipulate the word “freedom” like a child contorts Silly Putty. Thus, politicians and pundits can claim on the one hand that, for example, health care reform is a type of slavery, impinging upon one’s personal freedom to be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, and then claim, on the other hand, that depriving Neil and Gary of the freedom to join themselves in holy matrimony is a perfectly legitimate exercise of state power. One almost admires the Jedi-like skill with which these knuckleheads mangle logic, decency, and common sense. One of my conservative friends once actually told me, with straight face and sincere heart, that since his particular brand of homophobia is based in his interpretation of Scripture, my calling him on his anti-gay bigotry violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. Seriously.

Wait a minute,” you might be saying right now. “J.T., we’re just talking about a few dirty stories. What’s with all the politics?”

Ah, my friend, to quote the Immortal Bard, there’s the rub. One might think, hope or fervently pray that some light, tasteful erotica might avoid the ugly, mud-slinging realm of politics, but when it comes to the subject of freedom, I freely quote another immortal bard, (namely George Gershwin) when I say, “It ain’t necessarily so.” Wilhelm Reich, German pioneer in the field of psychiatry, argued that shame, especially sexual shame, is one of a repressive state’s most effective tools in keeping its citizens in subjugation. More recently, Gore Vidal, in his 1979 essay of the same name, said simply, “Sex is politics.” “The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions.”

Freedom isn’t an object to be acquired and then prominently placed on a coffee table for everyone to see. Freedom is the object of a struggle; it’s the prize in a tug-of-war between what an individual wants to do and what those who oppose him or her, (society, the state, the church, the neighbors, etc.), will let him or her do. This is true regardless of whether we’re discussing the freedom to vote, the freedom to own property, the freedom to worship, the freedom of due process and equal protection of the law, and, yes, the freedom for one to get one’s jollies any way he or she pleases.

In Texas, one can still be prosecuted for selling sex toys. In Alabama, anyone transporting any sexually-oriented materials across state lines commits a felony. As late as 1992, one could be prosecuted in the U.S. for performing oral sex, and until 1978, every state in the Union allowed an accused rapist to get off scot-free if he happened to be married to his victim.

Anyone studying the history of freedom of the press and of expression studies the right of sexual freedom, and of the right to create and disseminate and enjoy pornography. The legendary First Amendment court battles were fought over works such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill. Margaret Sanger went to jail because she advocated easy access to birth control, and it wasn’t until Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 that the highest court in the land decreed that a woman had the right to autonomy over her own body.

Here’s the upshot. Social freedom, economic freedom, political freedom, they all pale in comparison with personal freedom; the freedom of the individual to enjoy his or her own personal autonomy. It’s the freedom to be whomever he or she is, to enjoy his or her own unique form of pleasure, to close his or her bedroom door and do whatever (or whomever) consenting adults choose to do. It’s the freedom to get one’s rocks off any and every way possible so long as nobody else is harmed. (That is, unless that someone else WANTS to be harmed). It’s the freedom to say to those in opposition, “Mind your own fucking business” and slam the door with authority.

I can understand the desire to avoid controversy. I can understand the impulse to say, “a few dirty stories here and there are no big deal.” I beg to differ.

The ultimate measure of freedom, on the part of society, of the individual, of whomever, is the measure of how much or how little one is willing to tolerate the idea that someone else is entitled to have fun any way he or she pleases. Anyone who pays the concept of freedom more than lip service has to say, “I don’t get what turns you on, but I don’t have to. It’s your own affair and none of mine.”

Anyone who enjoys the posts on this blog is an advocate. Anyone who indulges in sexually oriented materials of any kind is an advocate. Anyone who says, “Hey, let’s give it a try. We’re consenting adults” is an advocate. An advocate for personal autonomy. An advocate for liberty. An advocate for freedom of expression.

An advocate for Freedom.

The next time you visit this blog, the next time you check out YouPorn or XVideos, the next time you visit your local sex shop, don’t do so with a sense of shame or disgust. Shrug your shoulders, stand tall and say with a clear conscience, “I’m getting my kicks however I damn well want. Because I believe in freedom!”

Long live porn!

Long live sex!

Long live…freedom!

Thank you. Good night, and good luck.

Bio: J.T. Benjamin lives in Colorado. He likes reading, writing, and talking about all kinds of different things, from history to science to law to religion to philosophy to sports. He says he's a "generalist" as opposed to a "specialist", and attributes this to an overall fascination with the entire world. Others blame a short attention span.

J.T. is especially interested in sex. "I write about sex because I like to read about sex," he proclaims. He also likes to talk about sex, philosophize about sex, and argue about sex, not to mention have sex as much as possible. This is all well and good, but it's very awkward and embarrassing for his loved ones when he brings up the topic at church socials.

Until recently, J.T wrote a regular column for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, the much-lamented "All Worked Up". He still maintains his blog, "All Worked Up And Then Some" located at http://jtbenjamin.blogspot.com/. He's argumentative, arrogant, stubborn, and downright obnoxious at times, but he means well and all in all, he's an okay fellow and a pretty good writer. He has four terrific children and a beautiful, long-suffering, incredibly patient, Lovely Wife whom he implicitly and foolishly trusts to write his bios for him.


6 comments:

  1. Ah, J.T.!

    Thank you for a wonderfully lucid as well as entertaining post. I do so miss your ERWA columns!

    I never really thought of myself as a freedom fighter, but heck, you're right!

    Oh Get A Grip is striking a blow for personal freedom and against societal repression.

    What d'ya know!

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  2. J.T. - I've missed your columns. What a joy to read your thoughts again.

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  3. J.T., your posts are always a pleasure to read.

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  4. Wonderful post, J.T.

    I think what disturbs me most about people who invest so much energy and time into 'keeping the world safe" from people like us, is that it is ultimately such an effective distraction from dealing with the world's very real problems.

    The reality is that most of the people I have met who are strong advocates of personal freedom when it comes to sexuality are also very conscious of the part they play in their societies. They tend to also be very aware of how their choices may affect those around them.

    There are *real* threats to social order out there. They run banking and media multinationals. They outsource wars. They interfere with the social and political fabric of their own and other countries for the sake of their own profits. They impose their paradigms on millions of unconsenting 'others'. And hardly anyone finds them offensive at all.

    I'm not so worried about having my personal freedoms curtailed as I am about being used as a convenient distraction so people don't notice the truly sinister stuff.

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