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  • Susie Bright's Blog

    Here's a blog that gets me where I live...Much food for thought on a regular basis!

    -Susie Bright

  • In the debauched world of INDIEROTICA, the thin bra-strap of a line between the seductive and the obscene is torn, stripped, and ripped off so often that one can have difficulty differentiating between the exploitative and truly erotic. Here to help us connect the dots is the brilliant and sexy REBECCA, author of the clever blog, PORN PERSPECTIVES. "Examining the interplay between pornography, feminism, economics, and technology", it's possibly the smartest sex on the internet.

    -Jess, INDIEROTICA.com

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Getting it on and on and on....

What's up the the NY Times' obsession with old people sex?*

They seem to really want the public to know all about the mechanics of the elderly having sex. Between reports on safe sex classes in retirement homes and studies showing sexual activity continues into old age, we all know more than we ever wanted to about our grandparents' bedroom activities.

Thank heavens for Viagra , right?

*Don't get me wrong--I think it's great that we all have many decades of sexual activity in our future!

Child pornography has NOT been linked to molestation

Despite the New York Times' leading headline "Debate on Child Pornography's Link to Molesting," the article goes on to detail a study that did NOT prove a link. It didn't disprove the link, but it has not proven it. The distinction I'm trying to make is really important, because it's headlines like this which engrave ideas in people's minds that seem to never fade.

The study inciting the Times story is methodologically questionable and has not yet been peer-reviewed or published. Additionally, "the prison bureau in April ordered the paper withdrawn from a peer-reviewed academic journal where it had been accepted for publication, apparently concerned that the results might be misinterpreted."

The study was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons among convicted Internet offenders. Of this sample, 85 percent had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, including inappropriate touching and rape. This is a huge increase over previous studies, which have found that 30 to 40 percent of those convicted for child porn have molested children.

In terms of methodology, there are a number of questions about the sample. The list of abuse victims only came to light after treatment, during which convicts were encouraged to disclose all their victims as part of the theraputic treatment. At the time of sentencing for these people, it was believed only 26% of them had been "hands on" offenders. Additionally, another complication is that the study was conducted on a volunteer basis.

So the question here becomes, can we extrapolate findings based on a sample of people who: (1) have been caught and convicted, (2) are in treatment, and (3) volunteered to participate in the study.

It's an important question because the findings have huge ramifications--those who are arrested on charges of possession or distribution of child pornography generally receive lighter sentences and shorter parole periods than sexual abusers.

This study also has huge implications in our understanding of the power of porn to incite action. If this study could find a link between viewing child porn and acting out molestation, then, people might argue, why could not all porn have a similar effect?

This relationship between simply viewing images and being impelled to act has been debated and misunderstood for decades ("Porn is the theory, rape is the practice," and so on). Many people still believe in a link between porn and rape, which usually stems from a couple of 1970/80s studies which found a tenuous link. All the studies which found this link, however, used VIOLENT porn. Nonviolent porn was not implicated, but this was lost in the translation between the study's findings and public opinion. (Interestingly, nonsexual violent images also were found to produce a negative reaction. Yet somehow we're not crusading against violence in the media....)

Because the public is so eager to condemn porn, it is important that (1) the child porn study be methodologically sound, peer-reviewed, etc and also that (2) people understand the difference between child porn and consensual porn. The nuance between the child porn offender study and my porn at-large argument is contained in the fact that simply viewing child porn is in itself unethical and illegal (due to the fact that minors cannot give legal consent). So the link between one unethical/illegal act (viewing child porn) and another unethical/illegal act (molestation) is not such a huge leap. Whereas consensual porn is neither unethical nor illegal, so the link between this sort of porn and an illegal/unethical act such as rape is a very big leap. Thus, any finding that viewing child porn is linked to molestation cannot and should not be extrapolated to legal, consensual porn.

This is an important issue from a public safety standpoint, and as such should be rigorously reviewed by the scientific community. At the same time, responsible coverage in the media is vital. Sensationalism around this story could lead to a hysteria which would set us back 30 years. Would be quite a shame...

Do Women Have a Sexuality?

Very interesting article in the latest New York magazine--The Science of Gaydar. A particular passage caught my interest. I'm pasting the entire thing below because it's really worth reading:

In many other studies, though, lesbians have appeared less unique than gay men, leading some people to wonder if their sexual orientation is innate. Michael Bailey—who, as a heterosexual researcher, is a minority in this field—even doubts the existence of female sexual orientation, if by orientation we mean a fundamental drive that defies our conscious choices. He bases this provocative gambit on a sexual-arousal study he and his students conducted. When shown pornographic videos, men have an undeniable response either to gay or straight images but not both, according to sensitive gauges attached to their genitals—it’s that binary. Female sexual response is more democratic, opaque, and unpredictable: Arousal itself is harder to track, and there is evidence that it defies easy categorization. “I don’t yet understand female partner choices very well, and neither does anyone else,” Bailey wrote me in an e-mail. “What I do think it’s time to do is admit that female sexuality looks in some ways very different from male sexuality, and that there is no clear analog in women of men’s directed sexual-arousal pattern, which I think is their sexual orientation. I am not sure that women don’t have a sexual orientation, but it is certainly unclear that they do.”

He contends that what they have instead is sexual preference—they might prefer sex with women, but something in their brains can still sizzle at the thought of men. Many feminist scholars agree with this assessment, and consider sexuality more of a fluid than an either-or proposition, but some don’t. “I think women do have orientations, but they don’t circumscribe the range of desires that women can experience to the same degree as men,” says Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, who is writing a book on the subject. “For women, there’s more wiggle room. You can think of orientation as defining a range of possible responses, and for women, it’s much broader.”

Bailey stops short of saying that lesbianism is a myth (although he has notoriously declared that true male bisexuality doesn’t exist and dismissed many transgender people as peculiar sexual fetishists, drawing lasting enmity from gay and trans groups). But it may be less hard-wired. And it appears to have separate triggers and correlates that haven’t been identified yet. In studies of twins, there is a lower correlation of sexual orientation between female siblings than male siblings, for instance. “We’re at a place,” agrees Diamond, “where everyone agrees that whatever is going on is quite distinct between the sexes.”

Fascinating, right? Most would agree that women's and men's sexuality is different (I'm including gay/lesbian sexuality, and recognize this discussion is confined to a binary for ease of analysis). Whether this difference is biological or social is difficult to determine--the fact that Bailey is basing his conclusions on a study which tested arousal (which can be both socially and biologically determined) doesn't do much to settle the matter.

The social influences are a given. I would argue that biology definitely influences sexuality as well. Since that which makes biological men different from biological women, by definition is sex (both organs and role in sexual behavior and reproduction), it makes sense that the two sexes would have some deeply-rooted difference built into their sexuality. The determination of the form or extent of that difference, however, is nearly impossible.

The Lisa Diamond comment in the second paragraph above comes closest to capturing the distinction between male and female sexuality--women do have orientations, but their orientation does not necessarily confine their desires (at least not to the same degree it does men).

This discussion falls in line with the reason pornography has historically not appealed to women. It has traditionally been created around a very rigid and direct concept of sexuality. The way it's shot, the action captured, the appearance of actors, and so on, all were built upon a very male definition of sexuality. "Women's Porn" has not tended to be very good either, because all it is (generally) is a slight variation on male-oriented porn. Different looking actors, different angles, etc. The foundation is still fundamentally generally incongruent with female sexuality. (Yes, I know I'm essentializing here--there are obviously exceptions on both the people and porn front--but I'm ok with making general statements to make my point clear.)

So what's the answer? Innovation! Creativity! Injecting FUN into portrayals of sex! A few directors are getting it, but there is a dire need for creative people to experiment outside the bounds of what's been getting created for the past 40 years.

Visual aid: Tinto Brass with model