Monday, July 30, 2007

Life's Like This

You have plans.
They change.
We change.
My friend B dies and I can't be at the memorial service.
B loved attention but his personally planned funeral is the Simple Alternative, no flowers, casket, mourners. Just a little service. A post mortem shock for those of us who know him and his fondess for centre stage.
I planned Part 3 of the Pornography Series. It hasn't been written yet.
I have a houseguest who is staying far too long but leaves this Tuesday. Today we entertained a disparate group to a midday "dinner" and she did most of the work.
The conversation soared and swooped and I was asked to read some of my short stories publicly. One particularly wonderful - and true - story told by a guest today involved a cross-dressing tough old cod fisherman. Tremendous Monty Python factor.
Since I had a dream about reading my stories aloud I am more than thrilled at the theatre possibility mentioned today. I've always wanted to read my work to an audience.
My article for the month of July didn't get written.
My shelter and food work is way behind.
I want to blame the over-extended guest but this would not be truthful.
It is my own disorganization and procrastination.
My own immaturity that cannot defer gratification.
We had some lovely days on the beach and I showed her my own stunning Newfoundland.
We played Scrabble every night by candlelight though I must admit to being pissed tonight when she got all her letters off twice and beat me soundly. Sometimes I feel I am three years old.
She is a very nice, intelligent, interesting woman but I struggle when people are around too much, I struggle with liking them. I realize my inner recluse needs a lot of attention and she doesn't get it when I have to host graciously.
I decided to build a small cabin way back on the hill on the property here. Somewhere to escape to and write no matter who inhabits the house.
I feel I'm on display in the main house. Newfoundlanders are very friendly, they love to pop in and see what's going on and think writing is a fairly silly pursuit and of no value when compared to boat-building or trench-digging. They wait for me to do something important like plant potatoes.
Blackflies are making a meal out of my head. I have lumps where I didn't think lumps were possible.
I have a gentleman caller who is a very alert and lively jean-clad eighty-five year old who makes bowls and incredible artifacts out of local trees. Exquisite work. He is full of stories and very courtly and gracious. I am enchanted. He moves like a man in his twenties and entertains me with lovely anecdotes. He also calls to hear my outgoing message on my telephone line when I'm not here. Sometimes ten times a day. He is unaware I installed call-display a week ago. He could be a stalker. But I think he is lonely and also thirsty for a paramour.
I also had an email from a very, very long-ago boyfriend who found me through my published work. He was very much in love with me at one point (egads over forty years ago) but, alas, not I with him, and this out-of-the-blue attempted re-ignition has piqued my curiosity meter.
R arrives here on August 11th and I find myself greatly amused that from an absolute dearth of a possiblity of a relationship over a month ago, there are now three.
Much like a dessert table at a buffet.
A veritable feast of choice. Or not.
But it is terrific to feel alive and savour the potential.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pornography Part 2

I do not write as an academic on pornography. I only write from my own experience and readings on the topic.

Field research has revealed that most acts of despicable vileness and inhumanity produce in its aftermath a record of the depravities committed. A pornography, if you will. I need only look at the Holocaust. There is a ritualism and rigidity to the meticulous record keeping so that the degradation can be relived again and again by the perpetrators. The victims are reduced to numbers; their very humanity has been eliminated. And in more recent times (and I believe it is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak)we only have to look at the horrors of Abu Ghraib with their violent sexual components.

The same with modern pornographers. For example, the slightest research on Hugh Hefner, pornographer extraordinaire, reveals that from a very early age, he became infatuated with photographs of naked women. He parlayed this into a billion dollar industry, filling his mansion with beautiful young women who were featured in his Playboy magazine and sundry spin–off media. Of course, what is revealed here is that Hugh is incapable of intimacy with a partner. As of this writing he is living with three women, all in their twenties. All assisting him, even in his eighties and with the self-admitted usage of Viagra, to continue his life fantasy of ever-willing and able women constantly at the ready to satisfy his every sexual whim.

I find racism, homophobia and misogyny close counterparts to pornography, maybe even going so far as to saying they are flipsides to the same coin - the Negro, the gay man or woman, the female, are thus defined by their perpetrators. Their humanity, intellectual capacity, their very souls are completely denied and made invisible to justify the position of the discriminator.

From a sign on the doors of factories looking for help in New York in the middle of the nineteenth century “ No Jews or Irish need apply”.

Even poverty is condemned in some parts of the world, as if is self-causated. Then oppression becomes possible as being poor and dirty are so interconnected in people’s mind. Which brings me to the word 'dirty' itself.

In my time, in Canada, those from Pakistan are labeled ‘dirty Pakis' by many. This has been considered a generally acceptable condemnation. I have been invited for meals into Pakistani homes here and am astonished at the level of cleanliness practiced at mealtimes, down to washing the hands in between courses. Thus the perjorative 'dirty' has no place in reality.

I am reminded that this is how Nazi Germany started, the condemnation of the Jews as somehow despoiled, ‘dirty’. The same with the Irish under eight hundred years of oppression. The lands stolen and the inhabitants condemned to poverty through landlord avarice. Then subsequently classified as ‘dirty’ and thus ‘undeserving’ of education or justice.

When I was growing up in Ireland, a girl who had gotten pregnant, no matter if it were rape, incest or the local priest, was labeled ‘dirty’. She was despoiled, unfit, and until very recently, her innocent child was called a ‘dirty bastard’ and by the arcane laws of the land was deemed unfit to inherit.

Thus a girl/woman acting in a pornographic film or featuring in photos is condemned as ‘dirty’. Her intellect and spirit erased under the label. What is she after all but a ‘dirty’ whore, unworthy of respect? She can be subjugated in any way we see fit. Being dirty, she enjoys it, as being dirty she is closer to living an animal’s existence anyway.

The reality of womanhood is sanitized for male porn consumption. In pornography menstruation is eliminated, as are childbirth and contraceptives, stretch marks and caesarian scars. The ideal woman emanating from the ranks of the soft-focus pictures is free of all such earthly markings. The porn-addicted man is protected from the reality of her bodily functions. She lives and breathes to service him. He will never be contaminated by her reality. Unlike his wife/partner, she is capable of multiple orgasms with minimal effort on his part and will fall to her knees at his slightest whim.

“He then sat naked on his couch and called me over and said to me ‘just worship it, baby, just worship it.’”

An actual quote from a young woman I know who ran laughing from the hotel room of a Toronto Blue Jays player (and the only explanation I can come up with for his behaviour is too much porn – whether live or virtual).

And in Part 3 I will write of the experience of women I know who have lived as ‘puppets of porn’.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pornography Part 1.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and knew I’d have to post it on my blog as the more out there publications for which I write would not be interested in it.

I write from a range of personal reflections, personal observations, lovers who enjoyed it and from hearing the thoughts of women who had to participate in pornographic productions.

The dictionary definition of pornography is above and here is one of the definitions of obscene:

ob·scene (ŏb-sēn', əb-)
1. Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty.
2. Inciting lustful feelings; lewd.
3. Repulsive; disgusting: "The way he writes about the disease that killed her is simply obscene" (Michael Korda).
4. So large in amount as to be objectionable or outrageous: "local merchants in nearby stores get hammered by stratospheric rents and obscene taxes" (Joe Queenan).

I find that the words pornography and obscenity are not limited to sexuality only but can be applied to other horrific acts and places (the obscenity of the incarcerations in Gitmo, the pornography of the Holocaust or the Irish Famine, for example).Because it is all about abasement and debasement, isn’t it.

Let me say at the outset I am no prude, I have watched pornographic films and though I would like to say I was completely revolted and repelled by what I saw that would not be the truth. I was stimulated, but not in a pleasant way, not in any way that would be akin to being in the arms of a loved partner. It was more in a shameful way; there was a primitive urgency to it, a desire that had nothing to do with another but with my own selfish satisfaction. I felt debased as a sentient human being.

About four years ago, I had a two-year relationship with a man who was very handsome, very Irish. He had more marriages and relationships under his belt than I could count.

I had decided earlier on that I would not be with him in the carnal sense. He had slept with some of my friends and bragged openly at a party he was like Georges Simenon, the author, he had lost track of the women he had bedded. I was turned off rather than turned on by this and told him so and he accepted this.

So through these two years, we shared our writings and he divulged some highly personal details about himself. He would often cook for me and I for him and we would have long walks and talks and read to each other.

He told me he was addicted to pornography, something of which he had never spoken to anyone in his life before. This man could have any live woman he wanted but he viewed pornography twice a week. Porn where women were chained and debased, where women were silent and forced to look as if they were enjoying themselves.

It had started when his older sister would tease him by lifting her skirts and showing him her underwear when he was twelve. He would head for the stash of his older brother’s Playboy magazines hidden under the mattress and masturbate to the images. Much like many pubescent boys I would imagine. With him, though, the image of his sister combined with the magazine created a fetish. If he was seeing someone he was having intercourse with, he would always buy her underwear (she’d be charmed, of course) and he would gradually ask her to pose in the manner in which his sister had in order to maximize the intensity of his experience.

I asked him the obvious.

“Is it your sister you’re making love to then?”

He looked at me shamefaced, defiant.

“Of course”.

And the penny dropped with me. He was never ‘with’ any woman he had married or partnered. In the most intimate of moments, he was with the pornographic image of his teenage sister. A now sixty-year old woman. Of course, he had never experienced the actuality of it. So he was in complete fantasy. He was incapable of seeing, hearing, feeling, communicating, sharing with anyone. Or of being in sexual reality.

When we decided not to see each other in the dating sense anymore, we were having dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. As I hadn’t slept with him, I didn’t have the usual emotional/sensual/intimate withdrawal most women suffer under such circumstances. He had met someone that had triggered his libido and wanted to see her intimately (that lasted two months until he was on to the next). He took my hands across the table (we had rarely touched physically) and said to me with tears in his eyes:

“I’ve never been more intimate with a woman than I have with you”.

I was a little surprised but I believed him, he had never bared his soul to anyone as he had with me. He recognized it but he was incapable of moving beyond the entrapment of the pornographization of any woman he slept with.

And this is what porn does, it removes the reality of the sexual experience, it demeans both the protagonist and the victim, the watcher and the participant. It becomes a meaningless act when it should be the highest of human experiences. And he is just one example.

And further field studies in Part 2.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Words can fail me

I was away for the weekend, drove over four hours to be overnight with my niece and her child for Canada Day. She lives in a small town and the day was celebrated with races, one of which was a dory race. All these lovely dories raced each other to the cheers of the onlookers. Everyone knew everyone else. Service in an old restaurant was almost non-existent. But the tables knew other tables and the view was so breathtaking that words fail me to describe it. I'll try.

Across the bay, which is filled with small islands called "The Turtles" there is a cloud of fog masking part of the hill and floating above this fog is an old white clapboard church, its round windows sparkling in the sunshine.

We waited and waited for service and it eventually comes, without apology. It is the pace of the place. My Toronto mind wants to say something about lost marketing opportunitues (on this festival day they had run out of everything apart from fresh bread and bologna). But I don't. I gaze out at the view and I eat the bologna (which I never normally touch)as I am hungry and I am grateful for it and for these magnificent surroundings and the friendliness of the tables in the restaurant. And I struggle with my verbal inadequacy for this incredible vista.

I get back here later tonight and walk the dog along the shore and words fail me again. The bay is silver, the puffy clouds bunched up on the horizon are a pale grey and leaking through them is a shade of lemony pink I've never seen before and it slowly swirls into the bay and tints all around me in this gentle glow.
And I feel blessed to be a solitary witness to this sight.

Yet I long to share it. And I try not to think of the number of sleeps left before R gets here and can share some of this with me. I really want to live in the moment and not while away life thinking of what could be, of the possibilities. And I marvel that we can talk for hours and hours on the phone and that he wants to spend one of our days just making sandcastles and moats on the beach. It is almost too good to be true and I want to put brakes on my excited anticipation of it all. I am scared. Words fail me again. Why?

(Picture is one of a dory I took last summer, thanks Nick)