Writing about sex (depictions as well as explanations) is another of those double highest/lowest things. On the one hand it is a sign of privilege and skill and on the other hand it is considered subhuman, vulgar, simple as stick figures drawn on a wall. High grade porn is expensive, a sign of membership in an elect initiated group and to some degree it is dangerous, a protection for those who value the satanic vibe.
Try this idea, which I haven’t seen before. It comes from the study of Alzheimers which is generally understood as the failure of brain neurons in the whole organ, but has now been separated into two kinds: the standard slowing and finally stopping of the basic functions of being human, like behavior, memory, and place — but now a newly spotted dementia of only the pre-frontal lobe behind the forehead. The latter means bad judgment, failure of empathy, erratic decisions, and generally what is called “loss of executive function.” Now we see it everywhere.
This latter kind of senility has become the dominant force in our political lives. No longer do we have measured and balanced decisions that express concern for our citizens. The whole purpose of the executive branch — to keep order and effectiveness in government functions — is ignored in favor of using the work force to enrich the president. as though he were king. I see a kind of willful stupidity, a pretense or inability to “get it.”
I’ll back off from that rant and return to the issue of pornography, which plays with the concepts of privacy, secrecy, privilege, and danger. First I need to distinguish between two kinds of “ignorance” as bad behavior is called around here. (People don’t say “bad” about a criminal but rather that he or she is “ignorant.”)
I’m seeing two kinds of “ignorant,” the kind that comes from being unable to perceive (i.e. stupid as in making burglary your income) or a kind of willful not-knowing, which to some is a way of assuring virtue. (“I know nothing about bad things because I avoid them all.”) Thus a “virgin” is considered better than a call girl, because the former knows nothing about sex. Sex is stupidly defined as everything sexual when it’s clear that some sex is very good indeed, so the never-experienced person has been missing out so far. Little is said about the person who has legitimate reason — indeed, every good reason, like love and marriage — to act sexually but can’t enjoy it, or even feel it. Or is limited by absence of empathy. Narcissism is death to sharing.
For the last century or more we have had a class of people who find empathy preferable to reality. I speak of therapists and anthropologists who profess to need to know all about everything in the name of wisdom but are forbidden by ethics to act on what they know — to secretly shove the client over on the couch and give up words in order to act out. We would mock an anthropologist who shucked his clothes and . . . well, imagine for yourself.
But these folks define themselves as so dangerous and elite that they must write only in Latin to keep their ideas secret. This is a pornography. The most dangerous thing a person can know is oneself. This is the source of the ignorance that comes from being careful not to know. But there is a class of people who want the privilege to know the forbidden, like the exact appearance and dimensions of someone’s penis. This information is irrelevant to the sharing of human experience. It is low pornography.
Secrecy is a guard against such people, a proportion of whom would use their knowledge to control or ridicule, which is itself a form of control. The conflation of knowing, sex, and control are ironically illustrated in the “third rail” of the attempt to displace Trump. “Collusion” (a soft-core word for treason); criminality in both meanings of violating written guidelines and destroying standards of conduct; and sexual dallying are all dockets in this case, but the electric one is sex.
It’s Trump’s misfortune that no aspect of public culture has changed so radically as our understanding and behaving about sex. The purely reproductive aspect has been so technologized that current experiments are petri-dish chimeras, where human ova are attached to chicken eggs. We can reach into a gestating genome and edit to suit ourselves. Meanwhile the linking of reproduction to culture has been destroyed by the loss of the concept of “family,” sex-based bonding and empathy at the base of human cooperation. Trump doesn’t understand family, the same way that he doesn’t understand wealth, mistaking presentation for the actual.
Instead of valuing the wise and grounded woman, often dark, he buys himself awkward clichés — the tall surgically altered desperately penniless woman, slavishly pleasing in public. Presentation. The question is why ordinary people are so stupid about all this. Surely all the books, videos, internet access have given them useful insights. The iconoclastic have even been translating all the Latin pronouncements into plain English. The therapists’ careful schemata and systems are reduced to twenty questions. Careful inquiry about coherent ecologically grounded systems that fit their ecology has been abandoned in favor of making tribes learn to eat beans and Spam so we can sell them can-openers. Soon orgasm will be replaced by farting.
So, clarity. There are two kinds of ignorance, illustrated in the context of sex. One is just not knowing about it, which public media is quickly making unlikely. The other comes from using “not-knowing” internally to the individual, taught to them in childhood by convincing them that knowledge of the matter is a sign of wickedness that will be punished. What works for sex also works for violence. We start wars, kill children, and throw mothers into anguish, because we pretend we don’t know. We pretend we don’t understand impeachment or Manhattan millionaire real estate scams. But we do.
Knowledge is an obligation. Once one knows, action is imperative. When certain action is feared, not-knowing (secrecy) becomes an imperative strategy. Much of our dithering over Trump is simply not knowing the basic assumptions and strategies of our own government. Likewise, much of the demonizing of porn comes from simply not knowing the reality, how various and startling it can be, as well as redundant and predictable. But like democracy, without it we no longer exist.