Pornography, Women, and Honesty

Stacia Kane in a thoughtful post about the book Porn for Women from the “Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative,” asks:

Isn’t it time we move past this shit? Past the idea that what women really want is hugs’n’chocolate, because sex is just something we do for him? Past the idea that men only do nice things in order to get sex? Can’t we agree now that women are adults, and diverse, and so are men, and that to put out a book this simple-minded and ridiculous and call it “porn for women” is shameful, and sexist, and just plain not fucking funny?

You can read the whole post here, and you really should, and no, it’s not about “that kind” of porn, though it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that pornography, or pornos graphos originally referred to the graphos, the writing (and images) used by prostitutes to establish their services and prices for customers.

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Freedom, Sex, and Censorship, as Reported by the Internet

Several news stories and blog posts worth noting, discussing topics that bear discussion and offer the potential of deeply  interesting further developments.

And so, with no further ado, here’s the Tuesday round-up.

An NPR report about a current lawsuit challenging the Patriot Act as unconstitutional:

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that pits an individual’s right of free speech and association against a federal law aimed at combating terrorism. At issue is part of the Patriot Act that makes it a crime for an American citizen to engage in peaceful, lawful activity on behalf of any group designated as a terrorist organization.

Sassymonkey Reads brings us an examination of “Common Sense” ratings of YA books on the Barnes & Noble Website:

I was prepared to be really ranty about Common Sense Media. I was prepared to dislike them and everything that they stood for. When I saw the ratings on BN.com last night I was angry. After going to their website I really don’t have an issue with what they are doing. I may not agree with their age-appropriateness on a lot of items (I was a free-range reader as a kid) but they are giving kids their voice as well as the adults and I appreciate that. They are anti-censorship. They aren’t against any of the books, but they are trying to provide ways for families to discuss the issues in the books rather than for them to simply not read them. I can see Common Sense Media being a good tool for parents and educators. I have to give them kudos for their efforts.

But (there’s always a but) I have issues with the way that their service has been implemented on BN.com. The focus is entirely negative. It lists only what the book has in it that is potentially “wrong.” There is no context for any of those potential issues. There are no merits to any of the books like how they deal with those issues.  I think it completely derails what Common Sense Media set out to do.

The Political Carnival discusses a new bill being awaiting the governor’s approval in Utah. Masquerading as a measure against illegal abortions, the bill’s actual content should make anyone with even potential access to a uterus absolutely ill with outrage:

In addition to criminalizing an intentional attempt to induce a miscarriage or abortion, the bill also creates a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by “reckless” behavior.

Using the legal standard of “reckless behavior” all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn’t intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution.

“This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder,” says Missy Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah. Bird says there are no exemptions in the bill for victims of domestic violence or for those who are substance abusers. The standard is so broad, Bird says, “there nothing in the bill to exempt a woman for not wearing her seatbelt who got into a car accident.”

Finally, because after all that you might be wondering where on earth this kind of stuff gets started, Jon Stewart deconstructs how those memes get started, and the cognitive disconnect required to spread the some of the racist, sexist, anti-progressive, unconstitutional, and anti-American sentiments that cloak themselves in modern American conservatism .

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Gollum: Schizophrenia or Multiple Personality Disorder?

…Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

More here and here.

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Learn from Man’s Best Friend

canine fair play

Canids compensate for size and status, to play fair

Scientific American brings us The Ethical Dog, an interesting and thought-provoking article about the social behaviors and ordered customs of canids. We’ve admired and lived side-by-side with these remarkable animals for thousands of years.

These behaviors, including altruism, tolerance, forgiveness, reciprocity and fairness, are readily evident in the egalitarian way wolves and coyotes play with one another. Canids (animals in the dog family) follow a strict code of conduct when they play, which teaches pups the rules of social engagement that allow their societies to succeed.

The authors of the article point out that human beings could learn a thing or two about playing fair from our four-legged companions.

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Sucking the Quileute Dry

To millions of “Twilight” fans, the Quileute are Indians whose (fictional) ancient treaty transforms young males of the tribe into vampire-fighting wolves. To the nearly 700 remaining Quileute Indians, “Twilight” is the reason they are suddenly drawing extraordinary attention from the outside—while they themselves remain largely excluded from the vampire series’ vast commercial empire.

Op Ed piece from the New York Times.

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The Semicolon: The Most Feared Punctuation On Earth

Everything you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask, explained simply, clearly, and precisely right here by The Oatmeal.

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Virus Fossil Bed

Good Ideas Come in All Sizes

Scientists spent thirteen years mapping and sequencing the human genome. The Human Genome Project, though completed in 2003, was only the barest beginning of what we have yet to learn about ourselves, our own DNA, where we’ve come from, and where we’ve yet to go.

Hereditary predispositions to disease and illness—cancer, for example—may well be regulated or even eradicated in another generation or two.

Also, think of the billions of dollars to be made if we can only learn to manipulate the DNA of parents to guarantee children of unusual brilliance, custom eye-color chosen off a ring of those little color-sample chips, and perfect pitch.

Scientists are reconstructing million-year-old viruses from the remnant DNA scraps found in the human genome, according to this article in the New York Times:

Scientists who hunt for these viruses think of themselves as paleontologists searching for fossils. Just as animals get buried in rock, these viruses become trapped in the genomes of their hosts. While their free-living relatives continue to evolve, fossil viruses are effectively frozen in time.

Now, while reconstructing viruses that changed the course of human evolution may sound rather alarming, we’re told that the search for these virus fossils, and their eventual reconstitution, has a great deal of information to impart about the course that human evolution has taken:

Fossil viruses are also illuminating human evolution. Scientists estimate that 8.3 percent of the human genome can be traced back to retrovirus infections. To put that in perspective, that’s seven times more DNA than is found in all the 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome.

So not to worry. This is gentle pursuit of science for its own sake. It’s not as if they’re cloning dinosaurs. Or building flesh-eating battle robots.

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Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse 5 POW

In December of 1944 Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow POWs were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), beneath Dresden. The following February Vonnegut survived the allied bombing of Dresden and wrote a following letter in May of 1945 to his family from a repatriation camp. The letter is astonishing reading.

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Moff’s Law

Inevitably, in an online discussion (especially a discussion about -isms in art) involving more than three people, some ignoramus will say something very like: Jeez, it was just a movie. STFU and enjoy it, okay?

How to respond the next time someone accuses you of overthinking a text or a film? Please allow me to direct your attention to the newly-coined Moff’s Law.

First of all, when we analyze art, when we look for deeper meaning in it, we are enjoying it for what it is. Because that is one of the things about art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, or avant-garde: Some sort of thought went into its making — even if the thought was, “I’m going to do this as thoughtlessly as possible”! — and as a result, some sort of thought can be gotten from its reception. That is why, among other things, artists (including, for instance, James Cameron) really like to talk about their work.

Because I don’t know about you. But at least once a week, someone demands to know why I insist on thinking about things so much.

And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.

The discussion giving rise to this matter-of-fact observation that it’s actually both unreasonable and intellectually hostile to demand that everyone turn off their brains when they approach a book, movie, or other form of art, originated in the comments thread following  Annalee Newitz’ review of Avatar on  io9

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Art in the Oddest Places

Cupcakes, by their very nature a fleeting and clearly-delineated moment of sweetness, capturing the essence of games.

A mouthful of art:

How many games do you recognize? How many have you played?

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