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January 1st, 2008

04:06 am: Rare that I do a meme
My family is hard-core academic middle-class (one of my great grand fathers was a coal miner, some of my great uncles were railway men, but my grand parents were a professor, a nurse/research technician, a chemical engineer, and a high school math teacher). My patrilineal line is ridiculous: professor, professor, highly respected painter, director of the US census, military officer and part of the military government of New Orleans, somewhere back there I'm descended from the reputed author of the supposed novel that Joseph Smith is sometimes claimed to have cribbed the Book of Mormon from. My family wasn't rich when I was growing up (we got much richer when my mom started working full time when I was 12 or so) but we were far from poor (even if we did dumpster dive for food occasionally, it was out of a hippy anti-wastefulness ideology, not poverty).

class privilege meme-ageCollapse )

March 17th, 2007

04:02 am: In which I break a many month silence merely to rec a site
In case anyone who has me friended doesn't have kleenstar friended...

Eat Poo You Cat the web site.

No, seriously.

Current Mood: quixoticquixotic

January 6th, 2006

03:35 am: Fetish theory of sexuality, reprint
This is a post I wrote on Alas back in April of 2003. I post it here because a discussion about radical feminist analysis of BDSM practice and desire that I just entered on Alas made me think of it, and I discovered the google cache was its only remaining home.

Since Amp has brought up my fetish theory of sexuality, I thought I would try to explain a bit more clearly (or at least extensively) what my theory consists of. I view sexual orientation as being very far from a binary opposition between straight and gay, or even a gay-bi-straight continuum. For me, sexual orientation is a gross simplification of the specific sexualities of individuals. I think that at an innate level people have raw sexual energy (in varying amounts) which they channel, focus and control by restricting and specifying the scope of situations in which and types of people with whom they will express that energy. I have no idea what governs how people do this restricting, although I think that very few people do it consciously and most do it very early in life. I have no idea how much of that focusing happens by nature and how much by nurture, but I am doubtful that the part that has to do with whether you like the same sex or the opposite sex happens in a completely different way than all the rest anyone's sexuality. I consider all of the ways in which people channel and focus their sexual energy, so that it doesn't spill out into all of their relations with other people, so that it is restricted to a limit set of circumstances, to be a fetish.

In response to Amp's post, Amy expressed disbelief at the idea that attraction to things people aren't born with (say shoes) could be lumped with attraction to genitalia. Kip pointed out that there are plenty of fetish focuses that are bodily traits, so it can't really be reduced to body vs non-body. Kip's clarification fits very much with my thinking. In terms of things that most people think of as fetishes, feet are also something that almost all of us are born with and only a few of us become sexually interested in. Genitalia are something that almost all of us are born with and many of us become sexually interested in. Some of us become interested in one type of genitalia, some of us become interested in another type of genitalia, some of us become actively interested in (simplifying slightly) both types of genitalia, and some of us don't become particularly sexually interested in genitalia as a focus of attraction.

I also think that there are people who are attracted to one sex or the other without being attracted particularly to genitalia per se. There are people who are strongly attracted to a particular set of gender characteristics, for example only being attracted to short, willowy women with long hair who tend to wear skirts and like cooking. Such a person is obviously a gynophile, whether or not they are particularly sexually aroused specifically by female genitalia (obviously, if they are specifically squicked by female genitalia, this is likely to prevent them from being a gynophile, and will severely restrict their ability to find a satisfactory sexual partner).

I think that bisexuality is not (within this theory) a single thing. Instead, it is a combination two different sorts of sexualities. I think that some people who would be described as bisexual don't require that their partner have either sort of genitalia (the "just don't care" camp who would be capable of being sexually aroused by someone who had been neutered or was born intersexed) while others are specifically attracted to both sorts of genitalia (the "like both" camp who might not be aroused at all by someone with genitalia that didn't meet their preferences). Bisexuals can also have either different fetishes for different sexes, or can have the same fetishes for both sexes.

Fetishes are often talked about as being things required for sexual arousal, but I think that many people are not exclusive in their fetishes. Instead, they have a large number of things which are a plus, but which are not required for arousal. I think that for some bisexual people either sex is a plus and for other bisexual people neither sex is a plus, and other things govern their arousal. Likewise, I think that, for some, squicks may be as important as fetishes in describing their sexuality. I think that some people's sexuality is as much defined by who they would NEVER have sex with as it is by who they would like to have sex with.

The fact that sex is generally fairly focused on genitalia muddles the issue of attraction. I think that one can prefer strongly genitally focused sex without being attracted to any particular sort of genitalia, or even particularly attracted to genitalia at all.

To my mind, attempting to divide out and elevate as the all important preference the sex/binary gender/genitalia component from all the other components of attraction, desire and arousal is not the most productive way to think about sexual attraction, particularly since it combines several different aspects into one in ways that I think can be more confusing than less. Are people who are strongly genitally focused in their attraction more like each other in the nature of their sexuality than people who are body shape focused or emotional bond focused or social role focused, or are the members of each of those groups really divided first and foremost into those who like the same sex and those who like the opposite sex, with the particular nature and focus of that attraction only a secondary division within the two blocks? I think that viewing sexual attraction as a matter of a set of positive and negative factors in which partner sex is one characteristic among many allows for a much more nuanced and productive understanding of sexuality than the het-bi-gay continuum.

On the old nature-nurture question, I am not really sure that declaring sexuality to be entirely composed of fetish really provides any guidance. I think that many people experience some aspects of their sexuality as being unchanging and other aspects as being more malleable, but I am not confident that everyone experiences the same aspects as being malleable or unchanging, nor am I confident that unchanging equals nature and malleable equals nurture. Some feel they can determine where their sexual preferences came from, while others know only when they started (and this holds true for both the classical fetishes and sexual orientation). What I am confident of is that sexuality is far too rich, complicated and culture bound to be usefully described as having a simple genetic control. On the other hand, the question of why heterosexuality is a far more common set of fetishes than homosexuality remains an open question, and could conceivably have a genetic answer.

Of course, I am not sure that my concept of sexuality as an amalgam of fetishes really leads to Amp's:
Thinking of it this way makes it particularly bizarre to hear right-wing types calling for anti-gay laws in marriage, child rearing, or whatever. "Your desire to have sex with people of the opposite genitals is just a damn fetish, straight people! Get over it!"

Amp seems to view some of the classical fetishes (BDSM etc.) with disapproval, so I'm not sure why he thinks that declaring homosexuality (and heterosexuality) fetishes automatically means that neither one can be disapproved of, nor that approving of one means you have to approve of the other. I am sure that there are plenty of people who think that heterosexuals who get off on being tied up in ropes shouldn't be allowed to adopt children.

I suppose that the fetish theory of sexuality does have the aspect of dethroning heterosexuality, which might make it seem to weaken heterosexist positions. On the other hand, by making sexuality into a complex and contested construction, it actually allows those who morally favor heterosexuality to feel justified in working to prevent those conditions which they fear might lead to the formation of sexual fetishes that don't fit within heterosexuality.

If one views (as I guess most people do) fetishes as a sickness, then one could decide that the fetish theory of sexuality privileges vanilla bisexuality of the "just don't care" variety as the right and moral sexuality, if one believes that fetishization of sexuality is a bad thing (perhaps on the basis that fetishization is tied to the objectification of one's partners and a transformation of sex from a mutual sharing of pleasure between two people into a ritual act intended to placate some personal demon). However, to my mind any sexuality beyond a purely and constantly masturbatory one must necessarily involve both squicks (since turn offs are necessary to ensure that arousal never occurs under most circumstances) and positive fetishization (since turn ons are required to focus ones sexuality off of the simple, direct pleasure of arousal and orgasm). So even vanilla bisexuality still involves fetishization.

Admittedly, defining a term so broadly that it encompasses an entire field (sexuality=fetish) is generally a poor idea, since it actually ends up defining nothing and generally hampers discourse. In this case, however, I think it is fruitful specifically because it hampers a certain type of discourse in which the sexuality we don't like is treated as an aberration from the natural and correct development of the sexuality we do like. This does not mean that you can't object to a particular sexuality, it just attacks the idea of a natural sexuality which does not need to be questioned and thought through.

September 26th, 2005

03:26 am: Viewing Pegasus while also half way through first season
This contains spoilers for BSG, both first season (Episodes 1.5, 1.6, and 1.8 in particular) and the latest episode (2.10). Those on my friends list who have yet to see any of it should just pretend this post doesn't exist. I'll be lending you my Season 1 DVD just as soon as we finish watching it. Yes, it is a good show.

spoilage ensuesCollapse )

February 16th, 2005

07:41 pm: Totally inexplicable if you haven't been following Alas
This is a summary of my interpretation of what happened on a certain open thread on Alas. It is mostly focused on what Amp, as moderator did, and how this played off of various other dynamics, and created others. I have just reread a large chunk of the thread, but by no means all. I am certainly missing dynamics that I couldn't see from my perspective, and I am leaving out most of the actual interesting discussion in the thread to focus instead on how events transpired that gave a clear show of gross misuse of power dynamics, but was perhaps only a bad misreading compounded by ugly historical dynamics. Also, I realized that this was a completely insane thing to be doing just before the end, so the last 48 posts are completely absent from this summary.


Novalis posted a bunch of standard psuedo-feminist arguments (of the sort where we can get to equality by just deciding we are all equal) and was being solidly and steadily argued down by a number of extremely knowledgeable and skillful feminists. There was some confusion between Novalis, who seemed of generally reasonably good-will (if willfully naive), and Nomen, who seemed more of a jerk (making "Well, if this is what feminists are like, then I don't want to be one," arguments, questioning Heart's intelligence, and such like). Novalis, steadily losing his argument, got his back up. Alsis expressed her disgust with him in abusive terms (post 119). Robert took this as an opportunity to outrageously insult Alsis (post 121), even though he hadn't been involved. Amp (I think) cross posted with Robert, with a generic request that things be kept civil (post 122). radfem and Molly commented on the misogynist content in Robert's attack and explained why they (and by implication presumably Alsis) had had enough of Novalis (posts 123-127). Alsis told Robert to fuck off (post 129).

This is the point at which Amp blundered badly (as he now agrees, and for which he has apologized, and as a result of which blunder he has expressed an active willingness to rethink much of how he handles things here).

Having misread/overlooked/skimmed the abusive post from Robert, but agreeing with Robert that Alsis had unloaded rather harshly on Novalis, and feeling that Novalis was getting his back up in large part because he was being dog-piled (trying to argue with half a dozen extremely skilled and knowledgeable writers, none of whom are particularly interested in cutting you any slack, is extremely difficult...), Amp stepped in and refused to censure Robert, and chided Alsis for being overly abusive of Novalis, arguing that Novalis could be read charitably as being of decent will, and that it took a very uncharitable reading to see him as of overtly bad will (post 130). Alsis objected (post 131), and Amp defended his interpretation of the situation, including a defense of Robert that completely ignored the fact that Robert had been blatantly abusive and insulting (post 132). Because Amp had missed that fact, Amp's interpretation was completely wrong, and incredibly insulting to Alsis and to anyone else who didn't realize that Amp had been skimming, and had completely misunderstood the situation.

Amp was attacked (quite understandably) for this unfair response to Alsis, but the discussion drifted to Amp defending Novalis, not Robert's attack on Alsis (e.g. post 142 from Molly). Amp continues to defend his position re: Novalis, and makes a comment about being Molly and Alsis being "determined to take offense" (thereby being effectively condescending and sexist, and solidly violating his own rule of reading others with reasonable charity, but clearly foreshadowing the interaction with funnie, and definitely flashing back to the Ms boards) (post 149). Q Grrl calls him on this (post 155 and 156).

Amp shuts up. And he stays shut up for a long while (except to ask if littleviolet is lucky, someone he does remember from the Ms. boards). Sheena asks why on earth he popped back in to ask that, and Amp explains why he has shut up (post 240), which is that basically he is not seeing what others are seeing, so he is backing off to think through why he isn't seeing it (plus he is seeing Ms board dynamics in play, and he doesn't like them).

Amp reappears in post 252 to explain that delays in posting are not caused by malevolence on his part, and to chide Molly for taking the worst possible interpretation of the situation.

Amp then steps in to argue with Robert over Robert's argument against all peaceful movements of radical change (post 257).

He steps in again to attack Robert's claim that Christina Hoff Sommers is a feminist (post 287 and 304).

In post 306, he posts to disagree with littleviolet over the character of Alas, pointing out that his purpose for it is to be an [Amp's politics] friendly site for people who disagree and agree with him to argue, and that people with hateful beliefs are permitted to be here, so long as they are willing to argue respectfully.

After argument by various people, Amp reappears in post 331 to ask littleviolet what she sees as being the benefit there would be from Alas not existing as a place for such debate and conversation to take place.

There is further discussion, and in post 341 Amp tells Robert to butt out, as he is not contributing to the discussion. In 343 he calls Robert on one of his more blatantly abusive posts.

In post 360, Amp explains the civility rules. His post is extremely ironic to anyone who actually did follow the Robert-Alsis exchange, as it is clear that he let Robert violate the rules, while censuring Alsis for a similar but lesser violation.

There is a lot else in there, but that is what I have pulled out of it at the moment. I was skimming at the time, so much of this was relatively new to me (I reread and caught Amp's blunder a day or two ago).

January 10th, 2005

11:46 pm: First post ever!
So anyone who doesn't usually follow Vincent's blog who is interested in some very interesting discussion of roleplaying games should check out (all titles mine):
Ennead style games
Mechanics, gaming and narrative
Meg-Vince-Em co-GMing mechanics
FitM, FatE, and other terms you don't understand, how to explain Forge derived Gaming theory to non-Forge folks

Current Mood: indescribable
Current Music: Okay, Buffy the Musical
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