[iDC] netporn midlife crisis?

kjacobs kjacobs at cityu.edu.hk
Tue Nov 13 07:59:28 UTC 2007

Brad Borevitz: I can't keep up with the speed of your analysis, but I do want to add one more thing about the male habit (gay and straight) to represent oneself on sex sites by means of a cock image. Just as I was getting down about this seemingly mechanical male habit, I receivved the essay by Peter Lehman in the Summer 07 issue of Cinema Journal. In "You and Voyeurweb: Illustrating the Shifting Representation of the Penis on the Internet with User-generated Content," Lehman argues that adult sites with user-generated content have contributed to more meaningful representations of the penis. His article give us a clue about how to appreciate these diversified cock images and certainly made me a feel more positive. He talks about a shift in normative or regulated presentations of the penis, like the flaccid penis hanging down in front of the scrotum in the history of cinema and photography, or the erect penis in the history of pornography. He talks about the psychological damage of feeling excluded from representation, which has been less dealt with for men then for women in our culture. It is through this essay that I had to learn about the "grower" or the penis that show little or no visible shaft before erection.

>and that the rather self-conscious construction of his masculinity is marked particularly 
> by the vulnerability of his virile member to the gaze. 

Both women and men, and transgendered individuals, can expose their genitals or stare at the other’s genitals, in such a way that it causes a feeling of loss and discomfort rather than arousal. Sex users and anti-porn crusaders alike evoke these mechanisms of objectification as crucial to pornographic representation, and the latter see them as harmful. 

The cock images to me not at all harmful, but are indeed just an account of sexual overexposure and exhaustion within the nets--acceleration, overcompensation for missed out opportunities, and breakdown. As you sketch is so well:

“Our bodies become spaces for the habits of others. This is how we work. This is how we love. This is how the machine goes and how it breaks. This is how we break …in melding our sexual beings with the computer in a sort of cyborgian orgy, we accept the entailments of this melancholic structure. rare is the desiring machine which comes to rest. we take our places within the endless circuits of scopic desire.”

But i still dont think that pulling out is the answer, but just ageing and re-examining the drive and the exhausted body. Looking at it again and commemorating in conjunction with the gaze of others, which can be seen as an increasingly more pathetic stance. I would like to refer to the writings of Edmund White and Jean Genet, as they knew how to make words and tales out of their prowling habits. And remember: Genet had a severe case of writer's block and had to take 8 sleeping pills every night.    

----- Original Message -----
From: Brad Borevitz <brad at onetwothree.net>
Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:55 am
Subject: Re: [iDC] netporn midlife crisis?
To: actor at jordancrandall.com, "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>

> jordan's 6 scenes are certainly suggestive; i'm curious though, what exactly
>  they are meant to suggest about netporn and it's putative crisis.
>  are these set pieces offered to imply that the structures of 
> reception, or
>  of the production of, pornography, its digital transmission, and its
>  circulation on the net -- between the laboriously constructed facades 
> of the
>  pseudonymous personas of that domain -- are just a version of the same
>  structures which govern the sexual life of your average homo on the prowl?
>  if that were the case, it would be a similar proposition to my own posting,
>  in that there is an explicit extrapolation from a specifically homoerotic
>  context to a more general case; and in principal i'm in favor of such 
> claims
>  -- if for no other reason than the perverse inversion that they perform.
>  but, of course, there is a politics of such assertions.
>  in the case of these 6 scenes though, i am caught on some aspects of 
> their
>  specificity which i think might be interesting to make more explicit. 
> what
>  does the writing reveal about the narrator in pieces (assuming that 
> they are
>  meant to construct a singular protagonist -- certainly six different
>  narrators are possible)?
>  does it go without saying that N is a man? and that the rather
>  self-conscious construction of his masculinity is marked particularly 
> by the
>  vulnerability of his virile member to the gaze. we cannot but recall 
> the
>  complaint of some feminists (how many waves ago) that pornographic exposure
>  as objectification constitutes a kind of violence of the gaze which is
>  attendant on other more palpable violences which the body of the 
> woman is
>  liable to suffer. later waves have of course reconstructed these 
> claims to
>  allow room for the pleasures of being looked at; still, it seems worth
>  recalling when trying to understand what is happening in these scenes 
> where
>  the construction of masculinity becomes scopic - and perhaps leaves other,
>  more active strategies of masculinity behind. because the question for
>  masculinity becomes how to protect its prestige, so invested in the
>  activities of a phallic drive. that is, might the gaping maw of 
> vision have
>  teeth with which to sever that which the scion of man most esteems, 
> from the
>  place in which he expects (the other) to find it?
>  this is a game of hide and seek, but this man takes out insurance on 
> his
>  member so that its membership is guaranteed in perpetuity. he does 
> not give
>  it up. he does not even risk it. he indicates both its presence and its
>  potency by indirection: he turns his back (which he will not proffer
>  either); he clothes it, enfolds it, or substitutes an armor of muscularity
>  for it. these strategies of fetishistic substitution partake of that 
> logic
>  which reassures the man of of the presence of exactly that which he fears
>  may be absent. 
>  the false and affected nonchalance of exposure, the feigned 
> indifference to
>  it, is paired with the insistent preoccupation with the potential for
>  tumescence. the penis is never simply flaccid it is only ever on the 
> verge
>  of demonstrating its power. in the one case where it is fully 
> revealed, the
>  nakedness of the body is conveyed again by its substitute. the lump of
>  clothes at the man's feet is the sign of flaccid exposure; meanwhile, 
> the
>  presumptively erect penis is the center of the other's slavish labors 
> --
>  decidedly not the object of his gaze, for this would mean that the 
> other has
>  pleasure at the man's expense. instead the man receives his services 
> while
>  basking in the reflected power of his position -- standing as the other
>  kneels. 
>  the pretense of exposure masks its ultimate refusal. the construction 
> of
>  this masculinity gives not itself to view, but rather exposes the
>  constructed mask of phallic impenetrability. this is a noh play, not 
> a strip
>  tease and what we see is tengu's mask (see
>  <).
>  a second indirection is to the mask of the drag queen -- who is 
> herself a
>  substitute woman. for after this wave (of feminism, or even after the
>  previous) only the most crude misogyny can come to the fore unmasked. 
> here
>  it is only latent as the exclusion of woman from the scene and the portrayal
>  of femininity as a kind of grotesquerie. the drag queen is not only self
>  conscious about the construction of her femininity, she does not 
> disavow her
>  interest in its construction. she also courts the attention of the gaze,
>  thus becoming twice castrated: once in her tucking of the penis (the 
> panty
>  and tape enabled opposite of the fetishistic and advantageous 
> arrangement of
>  genitalia into his designer skivvies), and again by the eye for the becoming
>  object (of the male gaze). her inattention to attention -- the giving 
> in to
>  sleep which reveals her entire body to be the figure of the flaccid 
> -- is
>  what reminds the man to maintain his vigilance in regard to his image
>  production: be not that other thing!
>  the man is an emblem of paranoia: he is always on guard because he 
> might be
>  watched. and so he is always watching himself. he is his own panoptic
>  peepshow; and this is the difference between him and the other in whom
>  exposure grants visual pleasure. the structure of his exposure is
>  conditioned by a discipline of the body and by the muscular 
> construction of
>  it as a fortress of impermeability. but it is a fortress that has a face
>  which still must be given over, this much, and only this much, is a
>  concession to a feminist critique, and it is also a peculiar and particular
>  retrenchment of masculinity within the contemporary circuits of vision.
>  Brad Borevitz
>  http://onetwothree.net
>  On 11/10/07 2:40 AM, "Jordan Crandall" <jcrandall at ucsd.edu> wrote:
>  > 
>  > 6 scenes
>  > 
>  > 
>  > 
>  > 1. Bar
>  > 
>  > I am standing at the doorway of a bar, in a strange city. A flight 
> delay
>  > has caused me to miss my connection, and I am stuck here for one 
> night. I
>  > am excited by the unique pleasure that this affords: that of being 
> a
>  > complete stranger, in a city that I have never before visited. To 
> be the
>  > mystery person, the screen upon which fantasies are projected. I step
>  > through the doorway of the bar with a swagger, then pause to scan the
>  > room. As if a stage actor in a solo scene, I do not meet the gaze of
>  > anyone in particular. By not looking, I invite others to look. Due 
> to the
>  > fact that am alone, I invent a form of distributed companionship -- 
> a
>  > timeless consort who is everyone and no one, everywhere and 
> nowhere. A
>  > Knowingness that is above and beyond the here-and-now. This is not
>  > intended to be read as arrogance, but rather, a potent combination 
> of
>  > presence and absence, availability and disinterest. Anything less would
>  > dissolve the screen. Slowly and with confidence, I walk to the bar, 
> while
>  > absorbing the scene, mapping the space. I sip my drink and then almost
>  > spill it, due to the startling appearance of an enormous, 
> lascivious drag
>  > queen, who now looms above me. She points a long, red-painted nail 
> at me
>  > and gives me the Call. With a parting of heavily painted lips and a
>  > commanding, heavily-lashed stare, she intones: You! I offer some
>  > resistance, then succumb. I am whisked away into a back room. I am
>  > instructed in the new rules of the game, along with four other 
> recruits. I
>  > am now a Contestant. The drag queen stumbles out into the bar on shaky
>  > heels, arms aflail. A breathless introduction ensues. The Contest has
>  > begun. The bar crowd, which has now become an audience, applauds wildly.
>  > One by one, each of us enters onto the rickety, makeshift stage 
> clad only
>  > in our underwear, as the drag queen, now wielding a bucket, hurls 
> water at
>  > us. We then work the crowd and solicit applause. To win this game, 
> one is
>  > expected to manage some degree of erection. If no degree of 
> hardness is
>  > possible, the wet underwear simply clings to the contours of the 
> groin and
>  > produces a small, unappealing mound. In this case, one must attempt 
> to
>  > fool the eye, in the grand tradition of the dancer, the courtesan, 
> the
>  > magician. What is sexuality if not a conjuring trick? Desire 
> requires a
>  > labyrinth. I know the moves from watching others, and I make these 
> moves
>  > work for me. I become someone I¹m not. Yet perhaps I become more of 
> the
>  > person that I really am? The answer depends upon who, ultimately, I 
> am
>  > acting for, and the stakes that have been thereby raised. Stripped 
> nearly
>  > naked, a stranger in a strange town, with no social profile to uphold,
>  > there is nothing much to lose. Yet there is certainly an amorphous 
> judge
>  > for whom I act. The audience is simply one dimension of it, the 
> drag queen
>  > its obscene face.
>  > 
>  > 2. Sauna
>  > 
>  > I am in the sauna at the gym, relaxing after a workout. A man sits 
> across
>  > from me. He stares at my crotch for as long as appropriate, given the
>  > protocols of sauna life, then looks away. A few beats later, his gaze
>  > returns, sweeping across my body, circling around my midsection, resting
>  > upon on the bulge cast by my penis. I am not erect, yet I feel the
>  > stimulation of his gaze. I do not return his look, and so he must operate
>  > surreptitiously. Yet I am aware of his gaze; I do not block it. He 
> senses
>  > this, and it affords him a certain level of permission. The dance
>  > continues. The atmosphere heats up. He subtly lifts his towel to 
> show his
>  > hardness. He expects me to reciprocate, but I do not. Failing to 
> rouse me,
>  > he offers a question: Can I touch you? I am momentarily stunned by 
> his
>  > eruption into speech, and by his directness. Cruising is generally 
> a
>  > nonverbal endeavor; when it does involve dialogue it is indirect, 
> at least
>  > at first. I respond in the negative. At this point there are few avenues
>  > left to him. Quietly, he studies his options. He looks at me, looks 
> down
>  > at my groin, looks at me again, then quietly asks: Can you show me? 
> At the
>  > onset of this question, I feel a jolt of sexual excitement. So 
> direct, so
>  > genuine. So powerful in its simplicity. The basic question that every
>  > child wants asked, summoned by every plea of Look at me! I briefly
>  > consider lifting my towel and offering myself to his gaze. Yet had 
> I
>  > succumbed, the question would have lost all its power and 
> resonance. I
>  > preferred to hold onto it. I held onto the query of Show Me, 
> keeping it
>  > under wraps, heated, sweating, in an ambiguous state of arousal, 
> like the
>  > concealed region of my body to which it referred.
>  > 
>  > 3. Nightclub
>  > 
>  > The VIP room, tucked in the back of a large nightclub. People 
> coming and
>  > going, making deals, hanging out. A very tall and narrow space with 
> spot
>  > lighting that, due to the heat and cigarette smoke, generates a milky
>  > haze. I am standing in this room, shirtless. A club promoter, who I 
> had
>  > only just met that evening, pulls my pants down, lowers himself to 
> his
>  > knees, and takes me into his mouth. He works on me with quiet
>  > determination. My skin, slick with oil and sweat, shines under the
>  > spotlights. I spread my arms straight out to my sides in a gesture 
> of
>  > surrender, or of heroic conquest -- though with my pants bunched at 
> my
>  > feet, I hardly look like a champion. Yet somehow I do seem 
> privileged: the
>  > chosen one, anointed. The promoter kneels before me in a position of
>  > subservience, and this offers me the feeling of dominance. Yet, at 
> the
>  > same time, I am the one who is vulnerable, weakened though the public
>  > display of my nakedness and hardness. Strength and weakness, 
> private and
>  > public, back and forth: the promoter works on me with the 
> regularity of a
>  > machine. Five minutes? One hour? Awash in the moment, time and 
> space are
>  > warped. The volume of the room expands. The pleasure spreads 
> through my
>  > body and into the social space around me; or rather, it comes from 
> the
>  > outside in, circulating through me and back out into the social
>  > environment. If identity is social, coming from the outside, then perhaps
>  > pleasure is too. Is that why masturbation is never enough? One always
>  > wants a stage. Sometimes it is onset through the simplest means: a 
> lens, a
>  > text message, a glance. Desire requires an architecture, whether 
> real or
>  > imaginary. Secret spaces, performative arenas, labyrinths. Ways of
>  > looking, ways of attracting, ways of belonging. The nightclub is 
> one such
>  > construct. One might go there for the possibility of sex, but after 
> a
>  > time, the sexual act itself becomes pointless. It is public-ized,
>  > promoted, distributed throughout the connective space that the
>  > architecture creates. And this is ultimately why we sign on.
>  > 
>  > 4. Hotel
>  > 
>  > My hotel room is perched at the intersection of two freeways, and, 
> with
>  > the window open to let in the hot summer air, I can hear the comforting
>  > hum of traffic. I have just gotten out of the shower and am 
> starting at
>  > myself in the mirror, deciding whether or not to shave. I hear a 
> knock on
>  > the door: it must be room service. With a towel around my waist, I 
> open
>  > the door for the waiter, who wheels in my breakfast cart. He nervously
>  > fusses with the plates and flatware. I sign the check and thank 
> him. He
>  > opens the door to exit the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice
>  > that he is closing the door very slowly, in order that he can watch 
> my
>  > reflection in the hallway mirror. Momentarily, I glimpse the raw 
> desire in
>  > his eye. Does his desire arise because of, or in spite of, the limits
>  > placed upon it -- by the social contract, and by his employer? 
> Still in my
>  > towel, I take my breakfast plate from the cart and walk over to the 
> chair.
>  > As I approach the seat, I realize that my towel has loosened. I am 
> holding
>  > the plate with both hands and so I do not catch the towel. Rather, 
> with
>  > confidence, I let it fall. Standing, plate in hand, I feel the gaze 
> of the
>  > waiter upon me. I keep my back toward the door so as to bask in the
>  > familiar glow of this look. Like the warm sunshine beaming in from 
> the
>  > window, cast against my skin, It affords me a blanket of comfort. 
> Yet at
>  > the same time it dispossesses me. Centeredness and dispersal, life 
> and
>  > death, as part of the same circuit. I sense the struggle is which 
> he is
>  > engaged -- how long can he remain, peering through a gap in the door,
>  > before he is discovered, whether by me, another hotel guest, or his 
> boss?
>  > Embodying the struggle, he monitors himself. A space of tension has 
> opened
>  > up, a gap that only assumes its potency through the impending 
> threat of
>  > its closure, and of its subject's exposure. Perhaps his body takes 
> shape,
>  > as mine does, through the contouring properties of this space. It informs
>  > him, gives form to him. Like the billowing curtains, shaped by the 
> morning
>  > breeze -- arising only because of the wind channel established by 
> the open
>  > window and the cracked door. Self-consciously, I stand there, and slowly
>  > begin to eat from my plate. The clacking of my fork beats time like 
> a
>  > metronome, as the erotic energy -- always compositional, rhythmic --
>  > circulates through the room with the hot summer air.
>  > 
>  > 5. Studio
>  > 
>  > I am in my underwear, reclining in a makeshift bed, leaning back against
>  > the wall. My left knee is slightly raised, my legs provocatively spread
>  > apart. The position has been determined so as to accentuate the 
> fill of my
>  > briefs, my penis and testicles falling to the right, with attention 
> given
>  > to the contours they thereby produce. In actuality, I can only see 
> my
>  > position from my own vantage point. Yet I know from experience what 
> will
>  > look best, and in this sense I can see myself from the outside. My 
> body is
>  > positioned with attention to line. My muscles are flexed, though only
>  > slightly, so as not to appear too rigid or eager. The ideal: an attitude
>  > of utmost confidence and ease, of fully inhabiting my sexual power, 
> though
>  > in an open way, so that others can share in it too. Not a barricaded
>  > sexuality, but a playful, circuitous one. My pose in place, my gaze
>  > connects with the artists in the room, all of whom are now 
> beginning to
>  > draw me. Their eyes move between me and their sketch pads, repeatedly,
>  > back and forth. They project their fantasies on me. I feel them, I 
> can see
>  > these fantasies in their gazes, and this affects me, arouses me. I 
> meet
>  > their gazes, lingering on each of them. The attention is 
> reciprocated. It
>  > volleys between us. We meet within this ambiguous space of arousal.
>  > Drawings take shape there. I have a role in these drawings; I help
>  > structure the erotic circuit through which they are produced. Yet I 
> make
>  > no claims on them. I simply want to be fully present in the process
>  > itself. To completely inhabit the generating network. Not to 
> reinforce my
>  > body (or self), but rather, in a sense, to displace it -- to 
> generate an
>  > excess that always exceeds it. Ultimately it is this space of invention
>  > that interests me, rather than the drawings that result. They do not
>  > reveal so much as conceal.
>  > 
>  > 6. Subway
>  > 
>  > I am riding the subway one night. It is very late, after the clubs 
> have
>  > closed but before the sun has started to rise. A few people sit 
> quietly in
>  > the jostling car. All of us, quite obviously, have indulged quite a 
> bit in
>  > drinking, dancing, or simply prowling the streets. Once dominating 
> the
>  > night, shaping it to our pleasures, we now surrender to it dutifully,
>  > sitting docile in the subway car. We simply want to get to bed. One 
> of the
>  > passengers is a drag queen. Her makeup is a bit smudged, and her hair
>  > askew, but otherwise she is impeccably dressed. Now spent, she struggles
>  > to maintain her composure. At times, sleep claims her, and her head 
> falls
>  > to the side. Then, as her head begins to sink too low, she catches 
> herself
>  > and abruptly sits bolt upright, adjusting her wig and smoothing her 
> dress.
>  > This struggle plays out for several minutes. Down. Up. Down. Up. Soft.
>  > Erect. We¹ve all been there, I think. But never have I seen this struggle
>  > carried out with such determination. In the liminal space between night
>  > and morning, between masculine and feminine, she struggles to 
> maintain the
>  > performance. Never has the struggle to perform the feminine -- or the
>  > masculine, for that matter -- been more clearly manifest. In this sleepy
>  > hour, when one would otherwise think the act was over, the labor of
>  > performing one's identity increases. The struggle never ends. There 
> is no
>  > audience, but there is always the potential one -- the chance that 
> at any
>  > time a glimpse might be taken of us. Should this happen, we want to 
> be
>  > ready. Rehearsed.
>  > 
>  > 
>  > Jordan Crandall
>  > 
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