Feminist Porn Week 2014: A Recap

This post is about: Film, Kyriarchy, Sexuality
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Photo courtesy KristyBoyce.com

It’s been five days since Kitty O’Possum and I returned from Toronto’s Feminist Porn Awards and the second Feminist Porn Conference, and I still don’t feel up to writing this recap. It was fantastic, eye-opening, scary, funny, heart-breaking… and yeah, sexy as hell. I got to meet people I’ve admired for years, made incredible new friends, and reconnected with some old ones. I watched my first porn shoot in-person (and accidentally turned up in the behind the scene footage), gave my first public presentation as a professional web developer, and hugged more people in a weekend than in my entire life prior. I also caught a cold.

It’s a lot to process. The cold doesn’t help.

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Monster Factory

This post is about: Kyriarchy, Sex and Gender
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A drawing of a man with a monstrous mask. Part of the mask is impaling his chest.


TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses two extreme examples of sexual assault and includes details of the crimes.

Ariel Castro is dead. After being sentenced to life and 1000 years beyond, he was allowed to hang himself in his cell after being denied examination by a psychologist who would almost certainly have recommended suicide watch.

It’s easy to hate men like Ariel Castro, and hate him we did. His crimes were so great that agreeing to the destruction of the house he committed them in was part of his plea bargain… and the companies that tore it down did so for free. So great we constructed a sentence that reads like something from Arabian Nights, and the internet howls now that he’s denied it to us. Everything about the man seemed custom-made for a prime-time crime drama.

Without mistake, Ariel Castro was a fundamentally broken human being. That’s not in debate. We are right to be outraged by the indescribably awful crimes he committed against Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, as well as Berry’s daughter (who will one day have to construct an understanding of her birth and childhood within that prison). We’re right to be enraged by his unrepentant arrogance in the courtroom, his blame of porn and the survivors themselves for his sins. If anyone has ever deserved hate it was Ariel Castro.

But if we, as spectators, are going to hate Castro, we must understand why and we must do so in context. I don’t think we are. As news spread of the man’s death, something about the angry words spilling across social media and news sites feels false to me. We’re using our hate to hide from something deeper.

Here’s what stood out to me most: On CNN’s site, a short piece on his suicide called him a “monster.”

What, then, are Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond? Remember them?

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Merry Sizzlepissmas and a Halogen Holiday

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Abstract art of an opossum, with the words "Merry Sizzlepissmas and a Halogen Holiday"

A Story of Sizzlepissmas

There are many stories of Sizzlepiss, the great albino opossum of long nights, cold blood, and false death. Sizzlepiss, all-mother, all-eater, blessed are thy teensy feet! Ea! Ea!

Here come this tale.

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The Mathematics of Human Loss

This post is about: Kyriarchy, Sex and Gender
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30 distorted images of a fairy, arranged randomly

Trigger Warning: This post sums up some of my thinking in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary murder-suicide. As such, it discusses the murder of women and children. In order to explain how stricter gun regulation can lessen tragedies like this, I go into detail about the number and kind of wounds inflicted while comparing the weapons the shooter used to weapons intended only for hunting, because it is a necessary discussion. Please understand it was as disturbing for me to research and write as it is for you to read about.

Playing in one tab of my browser, two women talk about the sex they just had in front of a live camera for CrashPadSeries.com. What was fun, what was challenging, why they “do porn.” Lots of laughter, giggling, smiles. Two healthy, happy human beings that enjoy what they do.

In another tab, I’m reading with increasing horror about a tragedy that is beyond comprehension. Someone has opened fire on an elementary school, and the number dead is expected to be in the dozens, with the majority painfully young children.

The video continues to play – I don’t think to stop it and, in hindsight, I believe their afterglow is keeping me together. One of the two women says “A lot of you know more sex workers than you probably think you do, because we aren’t always out — it’s a scary world out there for sex workers.”

And the juxtaposition hits like a drug. America is a nation that vilifies sex and glorifies guns. These two people are shamed for who they are and what they do despite hurting no-one, while others become millionaires selling increasingly deadly munitions. We invest tax dollars and legislation into prosecuting and imprisoning sex workers, while mental health care remains a stigmatized privilege few want to discuss and fewer can afford.

I continue to avoid telling my family I develop and manage websites for queer and feminist porn producers, despite it being the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Meanwhile, a close relative’s fierce love of guns and paranoia about legislation restricting them is inescapable in any conversation.

2012 is ending, and everything is broken and backwards.

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Jiz the Season

This post is about: Art, LGBTQ, Sexuality
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Abstract Painting of Jiz Lee

Did this portrait for friend and colleague Jiz Lee, genuinely one of the nicest people I am aware of. It benefits from a closer look — click to enlarge.

Jiz does a project called Karma Pervs, which is brilliant: You get amazing erotic art, and the money goes to non-profits like  Sex Worker Outreach Project. It’s a win-win.

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Copyright is not for You

This post is about: Art, Kyriarchy, Pop Culture
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Forgive me another “response to a Facebook hoax” post, but the recent “protect your profile by posting a copyright notice” nonsense gave me a reminder of just how poorly most Americans understand their own copyright laws.

It’s often assumed that, because I’m an artist that creates intellectual property, I support strict copyright enforcement. I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone claimed my work as their own and profited from it, and it would be great to have accessible legal recourse in a situation like that. I do not. Most artists — be they writers, musicians, performers, or visual artists — do not.

You see, in the United Stated you technically have copyright to your creation the moment is is created in a visual or audibly perceptible form (music and performance has to be noted down or recorded). It actually doesn’t matter if you put the little “c in a circle” on it or not, although it did prior to 1989.

That copyright? Utterly and entirely useless to you. It may as well not exist. You can’t sue for infringement of it. You can complain “Hey, that’s my copyrighted work you’ve stolen, you tosser!” and be absolutely correct. But legally you have no recourse whatsoever unless you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

That is not free.

It’s cheaper that it used to be, because you can now do it online for $35*. Sounds cheap? You have to do that for every piece. Think about that. Sure, per album, or novel, that’s nothing. But if I registered every work of art that was by rights mine, it would likely cost me a few thousand dollars each year – every drawing, painting, or bit of self-published writing. All for the privilege of paying even more money for lawyers and court fees should someone steal my work, in the most-likely vain hope that I’d be rewarded more money that it cost me to enforce my own copyright.

That’s right: At the end of the day you enforce your copyrights. It’s your job to take people to task for stepping on them. It’s kind of like if the law said “You own everything in your house, but if someone steals it you’re responsible for getting it back from them. First, pay us a fee before the stuff is stolen. Then, hire some thugs and go get your stuff. A judge will tell you how badly you’re allowed to beat them up.”

This is all very easy for large corporations and the already-well-off. It’s entirely worthless for people like me and, most likely, you. By the way, the people most likely to violate your copyright as a small-time artist? Those same large corporations and already-successful creators. If I had a nickle for every time I heard of fellow cartoonist ripped off by Hot Topic or Todd Goldman, I could buy myself lunch.

I’m not advocating for the complete abolition of copyright law; I’d rather like access to the same protections the big kids get to flaunt. But as it exists, it’s primarily a tool for people who are probably not you. People like the powers-that-be of Facebook. It’s laughably absurd to think that invoking copyright will protect your profile from them, when you already signed your rights away when you joined.

* As of November 27, 2012. Info retrieved at http://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html

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Dying of Your Shame

This post is about: Kyriarchy, Sex and Gender, Sexuality
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TRIGGER WARNING: This post and the video linked below discuss suicide, self-harm, sexual harassment and exploitation of a minor, and slut-shaming. There is also a photo of self-harm at the end of the video.

“Words fall in ruins — but no sound” - Swimming Horses, Siouxsie and the Banshees

“I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd….”

In September, the following video was posted to Youtube. It is hard, but please watch it if you can possibly bear to.

Amanda Todd died October 10th. She was 15.

The headlines have ignited a new round of discussions about “bullying,” “trolling,” and the dangers of the internet. Although anyone sane sees this as a terrible tragedy, there’s a disturbing thread running through even the most well-intentioned of arguments. There is inevitably some variation on this theme: “She made mistakes, but she was just a kid and didn’t deserve what came of it.”

This is half right; Todd did not deserve any of what happened to her. But let me be blunt: Amanda Todd does not need defending. She made no mistake. Not when she lifted her shirt to a webcam, and not when she “hooked up” with a boy she thought liked her. She did nothing wrong. Stop acting like her defense attorney. Amanda Todd is not on trial.

But someone is. Because while Amanda Todd’s death occurred by her own hand, she was in essence murdered by degrees, as slowly and surely as if she’d been poisoned. Her stalker, her harassers, the girl who violently assaulted her — let’s call them what they are and not soften it with cheap words like “bully” or “troll” — all gave Amanda Todd their dose in their own turn. But we all made it possible. We each tipped in our own little vial of poison, and Amanda Todd drank deep.

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How I Learned To Start Worrying and Hate Facebook

This post is about: Pop Culture, Tech
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It was a hoax so skillfully crafted, several of my brightest, best friends fell for it.

The premise was simple: A warning that because of the latest privacy fluke, all your Facebook “Private Messages” from before 2009 (or in many cases 2010) are now publicly visible. It wasn’t true, but the claim was a stroke of genius so well done that many people still insist it happened to them.

First of all, Facebook is so bad about privacy failures, ever-shifting settings, and unannounced changes that something so ludicrous was actually plausible to us. And because of Facebook’s recent change to the “Timeline,” public messages from that early era are much easier to see than they once were. But this was the masterstroke: Prior to 2010, your Facebook friends were by-and-large your real-life friends. Not your boss. Not your parents. Your friends.

Hell, remember when only college students could join? Now, think of all the things you talked about with them, and didn’t care if your other college friends saw it. You were young, and it was a small sphere. Then Facebook opened up the world, and we were slow to adapt. Those of you that  joined then were new to how it all worked. And hey, it wasn’t like someone would Google your name as part of the hiring process, right?

We got older. We got stalkers. Companies began demanding Facebook passwords and logins when you applied for work. Kids were suspended from school because of what their principal read on their wall over the weekend. We got frightened. We got smarter. But we also forgot. The years buried all the things we’d said, but they were still there, under the dirt. The Timeline shoveled them all out.

I’d been thinking a lot about Facebook already, because of it’s impact on my own life. I’ve come to the conclusion my life is actually worse off because of the existence of Facebook.

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Hail October

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“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
-Ray Bradbury, The October Country

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This post is about: Kyriarchy, Sex and Gender
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A sketch of a politician with a black, messy speech bubbleMissouri Congressman Todd Akin says he “misspoke” when he stated that:

 ”It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that’s really rare.”


“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

No he didn’t. That implies he meant to say one thing, but worded it in such a way that his meaning was unclear and easily misinterpreted. What he said was clear and concise, with no alternative interpretations. That’s different from saying something he wishes he hadn’t.

This is a common error among public figures, especially among social conservatives. They think words and ideas are separate. As a result, when people are upset by things they say, they think it’s the words that are the problem. Take back the words, and it’s all good, right?

But words have meaning. They are the tip of the iceberg of ideas. You can just chisel them off; more will float up to break the surface. Your words simply tell us what you are thinking, and that’s what we’re angry about. In this case, we are angry a grown man — let alone an elected official — believes in pseudoscience that exonerates rapists.
So do not ask Todd Akin to apologize for what he said. He already has, and it is meaningless. I’m sure he is sorry for letting his misogynistic distrust of women slip out on camera. But I highly doubt he has reevaluated his position in the hours since public outcry began to send the GOP Severe-and-Cauterize Team his way.
Instead, hold Todd Akin accountable for his repugnant beliefs, and continue to do so until he apologizes for having once held them and takes action to indicate he holds them no more.
Today the Romney-Ryan camp is condemning Akin’s words. And yet Paul Ryan has co-sponsered legislation that would make aborting a pregnancy that resulted from rape illegal. Maybe he wouldn’t argue it is impossible for a rape survivor to become pregnant, but his actions are equally as vile.
They believe it’s just about the language, and when the public outcry fades in the wake of a fast, false apology, they will be quieter but no less dangerous.
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