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Monday, January 16, 2006

GOD BLESS MATT BERNSTEIN SYCAMORE! ...A BOY WITH A MISSION!!

I may not agree with all of his opinions -- both political and sexual (tho, is there really a difference between politics and sex when you get down to it?!?!?) but the guy is a valuable thinker, writer and editor. I've yet to come across anything he has touched that doesn't make me stop, re-think and re-evaluate my own opinion on a wide range of things. In an age where many are more interested in whether or not Jennifer Aniston likes Brad Pitt's hair cut than the horrors our president and the far-right wingers are doing to our personal freedoms -- he is a godsend in my book!

He strides on the fringes and fearlessly puts forward some very different spins on concepts that society has dictated.

I am a liberal person. And, yeah, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU. However, I do temper my views quite a bit and do my best to look at things from all perspectives. I do not always succeed. But, hey -- I give it my best shot and my intentions are from my heart. I recently read Bernstein's collection of queer essays in THAT's REVOLTING. A fascinating read that I am already re-reading.

I am in the middle of reading a collection of essays he collected/edited back in 2000 in the book pictured below.

The industry of sex work is interesting to all of us. If you deny this, I would suspect you're not being honest with yourself.

Sex is a basic driver for human beings and the idea of someone making their living by use or sell of it is controversial and curious to all of us who have not. ...and, I think, even to those who have or do. There are all levels of working in or for the sex industry. The ranges are vast -- porn producers, porn stars, photographers, writers, hookers, hustlers, madams, pimps, retail merchants, retail workers, pharmacists and even the individual hired to clean the floor at the local strip club. This is not a little industry and I suspect that there are few people who do not, in one way or another, use some form of sex industry product at some point in his or her life.

No matter where you stand on it -- Good or bad -- the need for sex as a product has always been there and will remain there. It is quite human.

My personal view has always hinged on the fact that we each should have the right to do and use our own bodies as we want --- if we are adults and not hurting anyone other than ourselves. However, my concern -- particularly when it comes to "whores" (and I do not mean to use that in a derogatory way. I don't like words like "prostitute" "hooker" "hustler" or "call girl/boy" ---- like "fag" or "dyke" --- take it back. Own it.) anyway, my concern has always been that, for many, becoming a whore is not so much an option or a choice as it is a sad part of someone's reality. ...a reality, that like poverty, seems to be a dead end from which many can never escape. And the many inherent dangers associated with being a whore --- disease, brutality, drug additction and that list goes on and on is a concern to me.

However, the thought often strikes me is that if people REALLY cared there would be less of a need for runaways to turn to sex work. I mean, if society is unwilling to provide a safe, warm and positive haven for those who are tossed out of their homes or who must run from them --- then I am sure that many of these kids would opt for that. But, the sad/hard fact is -- in many cases, a foster home is more dangerous than the streets. It is a very sad situation when one thinks it through. And, as for escaping it --- our society isn't so "forgiving" or comfortable in allowing for second chances. In fact, increasingly --- the options for those who have little are dwindling with each passing day.

And, my other opinion is that half the problem is that most of the time it is illegal to sell sex. If it were legal I do think that many of the current risks would fade away. The same is true regarding the silly laws regarding marijuana. I would much rather my 16 year old smoke some pot than split a bottle of Jack Daniels. Sorry. I would. Having done both --- pot is the much tamer of the two. And, even in the case of the harder drugs -- I can't help but wonder if a certain form of legalization might not make it all safer. Instead of some crazed dude in a motel room creating drugs out of bug poison there could be sanitized places where chemical experts could be involved. Tho, I do question if that might be pushing the envelope too far. But, still, we're not doing much of a good job at stopping it. Why not try to make it safer?

Our society is at once obsessed with controlling everyone and equally disinterested in really helping anyone at the same time. Similar to the issue that so many are more concerned about what "might" be going on in the bedroom next door than what is happening in their own!

So, as I read this collection of thoughts and observations from the people who do the whoring I am finding that it opens a whole box of new questions for me to digest. ...and not all of them are in support or agreement with Matt Bernstien Sycamore's views or the views of the sex workers in this book. But, some are. And some of my thoughts/opinions seem to be stuck on a fence that causes me to question how many of my opinions/thoughts are really mine or those ingrained in me by our society.

I love the challenge of my ideas and ideologies. I love to think.

All of this noted and expressed -- I could never be a whore.

However, I would be lying if I didn't confess that I've thought of it. That I've had fantasies of it. And, that I've had fantasies of hiring one. And, just several months back I almost took a job managing a porn store. ...something which I would have done had the person interviewing me not been such a letch. However, a few days later I realized that to work in a porn store would be to accept the fact that it is a highly sexualized environment and if I can't deal with a person of "authority" hitting on me then I shouldn't take a job of that sort anyway. And, I am not ashamed to say that I support the sex industry. I watch porn. And, I would much rather watch the X-rated version of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS than the R-rated one released in the US/UK. I enjoy erotica.

I like sex. I do prefer it with love. In fact, once you've had it with pure love, for me at least, it taints the pleasure of sex without love. Especially when the love is like a magic ride in the sky. I think I've only experience that once and it was just recently. Breathtaking, scary, wonderful and heartbreaking all at once. But, I digress...

Interesting stuff -- these things that Mr. Sycamore makes me think about.

"...what gives my work resonance is its emotional authenticity. What is wonderful about sex work is its dual reality as both a bona fide healing art and legitimate artistic expression. Sex workers should take pride in the important work they do and the essential service they provide..."
Nina Hartley, from TRICKS AND TREATS: SEX WORKERS WRITE ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS

"...This anthology takes sex work as a given, a vantage point from which to view tricks, the sex industry, and society as a whole. This is not the pathologized, sensationalized, or glamorized version of sex work that we usually see perpetuated by outsiders in the media. This is sex workers taking charge of the scrutiny"
Matt Bernstien Sycamore, editor of TRICKS AND TREATS

And, it must be noted that he isn't misleading here. Some of the views shared in the book are quite negative in nature. Not all feel the same as Ms. Hartley (a porn star of some note!) ...read it.

Off this topic I had a really nice day.

Hung out with Christopher who is an incredibly talented artist with incredibly good taste in music. We laid on his bed and listened to some great stuff -- including a lot more of Devendra Banhart's recordings. Am looking forward to turning him on to Antony & The Johsons and a few other recording artists with whom he is unfamiliar! We had dinner at The Cove in the Castro --- nice and cheap which is crucial for both of us at the moment!

I tried to see TRANSAMERICA early this afternoon, but got lost as I walked to The Bridge cinema. Ugh! Not sure how I managed to get lost. I was on the phone as I was walking -- I will blame it on that. But, how will I ever get to see one of Peaches Christ's midnight shows if I can't even find my way back to her cinema!?!?!? If no interviews come up by 3pm tomorrow I will probably try to "find" it again! LOL! I sold some CD's this morning after a pointless phone interview (30 minutes only to discover that the office was not accessible via public transit!)

...and, why is that movie only playing on one screen in San Francisco!?!?? What is up with that? BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and HOSTLE have about 20 screens each!?!?! Oi!

OK, once again I am too lazy to proof what I just wrote. Hope it all makes sense without too many mistakes! Like Kate Bush once requested of her mistakes, please be kind to mine!

6 Comments:

Blogger ing said...

Sounds like a good book, Matty. I've been reading the new David Foster Wallace, which begins with an essay/report about Wallace's experience at the porn awards. The thing that struck me, really, was this little aside about a policeman/regular guy/porn fan. This guy said that the whole reason he watches porn is this: every once in a blue moon one of the actors, who generally makes these kind of faky-sounding & rythmic noises while keeping this detached & distant expression on thier face or else some kind of "I'm so nasty" lip-curl thing, forgets who and where and for how much and their real facial expression, for maybe a few seconds, washes across their contenance and it's really shocking and beautiful (according to the interviewee). I was touched by that account, though I haven't puzzled out why.

Now, are you really having to sell CDs? I'm starting to worry, Matty. You're going back for that second interview, yes? Andjust to get by, you know you could do a whole host of things -- you're so knowledgable about movies and books and music. Yeah?

1:05 AM  
Blogger ginab said...

I'm curious about the "Trick and Treat" book because I have, yep, been mistaken for a whore, treated as such by so many, awful times, that I'd like to know just what the real ones do do to make me stand out, impression wise, in such a way. Plus I'm feeling bad today because I have the gd flu. And I have meetings up the poop shoot.

Anyway, there's a zillion reasons I am alone and none become me.

7:25 AM  
Blogger matty said...

ing -- I like the way that sounds, too. I will have to check this book out in the near future. It is always interesting when something stirs a reaction and you can't quite figure out why. I love those little moments of discovery.

You know, you're not the first person to suggest I put my love/interests to work for me. But, I fear I can be very limited in my scope for myself/potential because I can't think of how I can turn that toward making a living. ??? LOL! But, I am fine. Just broke. Money is only money. That is a lesson I've learned the hard way this last couple of years. It always finds its way back to you. And, I am blessed with great friends who keep me up! So, the CD/DVD selling is really just to supply me with the money I need for my addictions --- cinema, Diet Coke and a bit of food. Oh, and some beauty products.

Gina -- Oh, feel better! You know sometimes the body demands we let it rest! Take care. I'm alone, too. I am not sure why so you might be a few steps ahead of me on the evolutionary ladder of self-awareness. Tho, I suspect you're being a bit hard on yourself!!! And, I too have been mistaken for a whore. But, I found all three times to be amusing! But, I am a bit odd.

8:21 AM  
Blogger laurenbove said...

awesome book. i've got to get it!

I like sex. I do prefer it with love. In fact, once you've had it with pure love, for me at least, it taints the pleasure of sex without love. Especially when the love is like a magic ride in the sky. I think I've only experience that once and it was just recently.

I agree with the above completely.

Regarding your political/moral philosophy...we're very similar. I think about the sex industry the same way I think about the marijuana question. If both were legal, they'd be safer, the gov't could tax them and get us out of the friggin' deficit AND it would make a lot of "crimials" just good old citizens again.

my two cents.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Chris Capp said...

Matt,

Thanks for stopping by my place in blogland. I responded there to your post but wanted to reciprocate the visit.

About runaway kids and sex: A couple of months ago I wrote an article about a new mentoring program for foster care youth in LA. One of the women running the agency -- a transgender woman, as a matter of fact -- has been working with foster youth for many years, particularly sexual minority youth. She was quite strong in her view that running away almost always leads to tragedy. She encouraged young people in trouble to seek help near home, be it at a school, community agency, or LGBT center. She seemed, to my uninformed ear, to be a little harsh. But she was the one speaking from year's of experience. It really made an impression on me.

There is such false piety in our country that we could never have a genuine debate about a legalized sex trade. But if people can make money selling cigarettes ...

11:02 AM  
Blogger matty said...

Lauren -- Amen!

Chris -- Is there a way I can see the article? Would love to! I come from a very bad childhood, but I do suspect it was better than if I had runaway. Tho, I know some people would rather be abused by strangers than their parents. I can understand that.

So many perils involved, but I do think that sometimes kids have no other options. Particularly in the south where it can be so hard to be gay. I've known more than a few people who were "disowned" at 14 or 15 because they came out to their parents or were found "out" --- those kids have no choice. And, back then in Texas I was unaware of anywhere they could go that would promise to be any safer than the streets. However, this was well over a decade ago. Maybe things have gotten better. Like to hope that they have.

And, I do agree --- the discussion of legalization of sex trade is probably never going to happen in the US. Of course, we do have Nevada. ???

11:26 AM  

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