Pop Culture, Porn Stars and the Mis-Guided Revolution: A Window into the Rebellion of Postmodern Young Women

Written by 

History has been the witness to a handful of rare, exceptional and fearless women who risked joan of arceverything in order to step outside the conventions of their time and break through the glass ceilings that confined and defined their roles as women in culture. Whether it be the 15th century trailblazer, Joan of Arc, who defied all gender conventions in order to lead the French army to several victories over the English during the sainta teressaHundred Years War; or the 16th century Carmelite nun, Saint Teresa of Avila, who pursued her calling as a mystic, writer and reformer of the Catholic Church even amidst the tumultuous backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition; or the feminist writer, Betty Freidan, who in the 1950s spoke up against the increasing discontent women were feeling in their confined roles as mothers and housewives, thereby catalyzing the second wave feminist movement. These are just a few of the rare heroines of our history: women with exceptional courage, character, dignity and fortitude who spoke their truth and acted fearlessly in service of a cause much greater than themselves.

And six centuries after Joan of Arc was burned alive at the stake at the age of nineteen for standing up for her cause, and only sixty years after Freidan wrote her groundbreaking book, The Femininefem msticque Mystique, igniting one of the greatest revolutions in Western culture, we find ourselves at an interesting, and somewhat confusing, juncture in women’s history. The young women of my generation now live in what is often deemed a “post-feminist” world, where freedom of access and unprecedented options are increasingly at our fingertips, and without much work on our part. We have also grown up in a media-saturated postmodern consumer culture where nearly all spiritual depth has been stripped away in favor of superficial and easy to swallow sound bites, and where the role and importance of the individual consumer—including all our personal desires for freedom and fulfillment—have been raised to an all new alter of the sacred. Within this climate, where words like morality, duty, higher purpose and obligation have become largely outdated relics of the past, the young women of my generation find themselves birthing a whole new image of what it means to be an empowered, rebellious and fearless female at the beginning of the 21st century, and she is truly unlike anything we’ve seen in recorded history.

There is perhaps no young woman who embodies the many diverse and often contradictory values of postmodern female empowerment more potently and starkly than the 22-year-old porn-star, actress, model and rising starlet, Sasha Grey.

sasha 1

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of Sasha Grey, let me suggest that you soon will. I first came across Sasha a little over six months ago, while doing research for an article I was writing about the effects of hardcore pornography on teen viewers. As soon as one enters into the underground world of adult films, it is nearly impossible not to stumble upon Sasha Grey, as she has become a fast rising star with an increasingly wide fan base ever since she entered the pornography industry at the tender age of eighteen. Before turning 21, Sasha was already being called the next Jenna Jameson and had received several major AVN awards, including best female performer of the year, best three-way sex scene and best oral sex scene. In 2009, Rolling Stones magazine wrote a feature article on Sasha and distinguished with the honor of being “The Dirtiest Girl in the World,” because of her willingness to do things on screen that would make most of us (and even most pornstars) cringe, including licking toilet seats, drinking her own urine and asking male co-stars to punch her in the stomach.

Sasha is also sasha regular movieone of the first professional pornstars to have successfully transitioned from the adult film business into mainstream film, most notably starring a lead role in Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh’s, The Girlfriend Experience. She was also cast for the seventh season of the HBO series, Entourage and is set to appear in three more upcoming movies. Aside from her successful acting career, Sasha is also a sought after model by mainstream magazines and fashion designers such as American Apparel, and has appeared in music videos by the Smashing Pumpkins and The Roots. As a staunch business woman and lover of music, she has also began her own industrial music collaboration called aTelecine and has long-term goals of becoming a producer of both adult and mainstream films.

Sasha is definitely no ordinary pornstar. At 22 years old, she is one of the most successful and neitzschewealthy women in the United States, and she is still in the infancy of her career. She is also no porno bimbo, nor an innocent young victim of the malevolent pornography industry; rather, Sasha is well-known for her sharp intelligence, her love of her job and her deep passion for art and existential philosophy. Deemed as a truly pioneering “postmodern pornstar”, Sasha continues to blur the lines between adult film and mainstream media. As she says in a recent interview, “People like to categorize and put me in boxes, but I try not to see any lines between what I do. I just see a giant canvas that is my art and is my business.”

Sasha is bold, intelligent, beautiful and determined, and seems genuinely unconcerned with the controversy and criticism that surrounds her public image. And despite the cold, distant and often disembodied sasha 2energy that Sasha exudes, I must admit that when I first came across her work I was deeply captivated by her presence. I found myself spending countless hours watching her archived interviews as well as some of her more questionable and controversial adult films. Sasha stirred a mixture of intense and confusing emotion within me and I often found myself vacillating between flagrant disgust and idolizing admiration. There was something about Sasha that spoke to something very deep within me. She was in fact a blatantly stark and unapologetic reflection of the very voice of rebellion that I knew so well within myself, even though I had no desire to be a pornstar. More generally, she was the extreme and honest expression of an archetype that has become increasingly pervasive within my generation as a whole.

Academy award-winning director Steven Soderbergh, who worked with Sasha on the set of The Girlfriend Experience, was quoted saying that, “Sasha is truly fearless.”

Indeed, Sasha’s name often coincides with the word fearless in many of the articles written about her (at least the positive ones). Sasha has increasingly become the embodiment of a new “fearless joan of arc 3female” archetype that is arising with force in my generation. She definitely looks quite different from any archetype of the fearless female heroine that we have seen in the past. Although she sasha fuck youdoes give the finger to all social and moral convention, saying fuck you to the man (and in this case literally fucking the man…well, in fact fucking groups of fifteen men at a time), while doing whatever she damn well wants to do despite the social consequences, the major difference between Sasha and say Joan of Arc, Saint Teresa of Avila or Betty Friedan (aside from the obvious), is that her rebellion seems to serve no higher purpose than herself. Despite some of the quoted aspirations that Sasha gives for her work, such as her desire to empower women by freeing them from all sexual repression and inhibition, as well as her noble attempt to “let women know that it is ok to act out their sexual fantasies and to be sluts,” there is still no drive behind her rebellion and her uninhibited freedom of expression that really serves anything other than her own personal freedom and self-aggrandizement. I don’t wish to paint Sasha as morally reprehensible, because I actually appreciate her blunt transparency. Rather, I simply find Sasha an intriguing example of the wider impulse of rebellion that seems to be pervasive in my generation and embodied in cultural trends like Girls Gone Wild and Hookup culture, as well as exhibited to differing degrees in some of the major female icons of my generation, such as Lady Gaga, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and Kaci Battaglia.

sasha buttcheeks

Sasha Grey represents the extreme embodiment of our postmodern impulse to create ever-increasing freedom of self-expression for all. But like many in my generation, her rebellion lacks any real direction, depth or cohesive purpose. Sasha exemplifies our often misguided postmodern tendency to create rebellion simply for rebellion’s sake, a trend that tends to implode in on itself because it is unconsciously embedded in the value free-for-all and consumerism of our postmodern landscape, and therefore often lacks any real vision beyond the immediate—and often impulsive—desires and interests of the self. When asked in a recent interview whether Sasha considered herself to be a feminist, she responded by saying:

“Every woman is a feminist in her own right, whether you’re anti-porn or pro-porn or somewhere in-between. Feminism has become such a generalized, watered-down viewpoint that someone can say, ‘I’m a feminist because I believe in sexually empowering women.’ That is my view on feminism. Someone else might say ‘Having sex is just wrong no matter what.’ Both sides might call themselves feminist…. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions. You don’t have to subscribe to my opinion and I don’t have to subscribe to yours, and that’s that.”

Sasha’s statement may sound fair enough on the surface, but what it fails to acknowledge is that in a world where all opinions are made relative and ultimately unchallengable, and where empowerment sasha cameracan mean whatever we want it to mean, very little if any traction is left for generating deeper personal or cultural transformation in the world at large because it fragments and scatters us all into isolated islands-unto-ourselves. In a somewhat paradoxical twist, the very rebellion my generation often seeks to enact by refusing to put any limits on our “personal freedom of expression”, actually has the reverse effect of dismantling the deeper possibilities for a real revolution in culture and consciousness that we could potentially ignite if we were able to channel our energy and righteousness into a cause and collective purpose much greater than ourselves. It seems that this is the exciting challenge and opportunity that now awaits us as young women: to find a collective purpose that would allow us to continue the work of our historical female heroines and make positive use of the very freedom that they fought so hard to gain for us.

What this collective higher purpose will look like is for us to create together, but it will require that we do it togethnarcissism epidemicer. That means that we have to widen the scope of our vision and see ourselves as more than separate individuals and personal islands-unto-ourselves. The world is in deep crisis, and it will only be by bringing our unique individual gifts into the wider folds of collective consciousness and shared purpose that our species will ever have a chance of making it through. This is no easy task, because even for those of us young women who aren’t aspiring pornstars, we are all still the products of our culture, and we are all deeply impacted by the pervasive cultural values of individualism and self-interest that dominate our postmodern climate. In her recently published book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2009), American psychologist Jean M. Twengenarcissist shared the fascinating results of her meta-analysis of over 37,000 college students across North America and revealed that extreme narcissistic traits had in fact almost doubled in prevalence among youth from 1982 to 2006. Perhaps more surprising still was that the largest share of this increase was among young women. It therefore seems that one place we might do well to start channeling our awesome rebellious energy is into breaking through the very confines of narcissism and self-interest that still hold powerful reigns on our own consciousness, and which often stifle the higher potentials of our development as young women.

Our revolution may then start by having the courage to challenge the false ideas of empowerment and fearlessness that have so often been sold to us by postmodern consumer culture, and begin to realize that, although not “wrong”, uninhibited self-expression (sexual or otherwise) will never ultimately take us where we want to go, nor will it support the deeper possibilities for real freedom that we trose_parksruly yearn for. In order to inspire a real revolution in culture, we will have to mature out of our more adolescent forms of rebellion, which will mean putting some containment on our free self-expression, not to repress it, but so as to create some space to check in with our own motivations, and to channel that energy into a more cohesive and collective purpose that can lead us all to deeper and more meaningful change in the world at large. As we embark on this journey, we do well to look to each other for support, as well as drawing guidance from the wisdom of our female elders. And let us always find renewed strength, courage and inspiration by looking to and honoring the lineage of awesomely righteous female heroines from our past.

Related items

Join the Discussion

Commenting Policy

Beams and Struts employs commenting guidelines that we expect all readers to bear in mind when commenting at the site. Please take a moment to read them before posting - Beams and Struts Commenting Policy

45 comments

  • Comment Link SarahO Friday, 24 December 2010 22:27 posted by SarahO

    Great piece Vanessa. I have also been intrigued by what I have seen of Sacha Grey, and can relate to feeling a mixture things, repulsion and attraction, envy even. Thanks so much for contextualizing what she is doing in this way. I hope we can generate a rich discussion around these very important issues...

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Saturday, 25 December 2010 20:26 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Nice dive down the rabbit hole!

    I am thinking about something I heard Zak Stein say in an interview at Integral Experts -- about the post-industrial marketplace for spiritual energy ... and how it relates to the marketing of fetishes of all kinds - including the fetishistic objectification of female sexual energy.

    What makes Sasha postmodern, I suppose, is that she is both "inside" and "outside" that objectification, like a postmodern guru, mindfully mis-handling devotion.

    Thanks for your insights.

  • Comment Link TwistedMystic Sunday, 26 December 2010 16:06 posted by TwistedMystic

    Brilliant article. So grateful for the insightful & deft navigation through this complicated issue. You nailed it, Vanessa.

  • Comment Link Rich Munn Sunday, 26 December 2010 22:30 posted by Rich Munn

    I very much enjoy the cultural context you give to porn, and more widely to self-expression and giving a larger view than deconstructive post-modernism.

    For some time I've been interested in facial expressions and body language. Watching porn films, interviews of porn stars or erotic dancers it's interesting to see a facade of enjoyment that sometimes needs to be put up by those selling sexuality, which is nothing new.

    Using a sophisticated understanding of facial expressions or body language it's interesting to see how emotions of sadness or anger can underlie this facade (when it's present) and would sometimes challenge the post-modern stance of having an unchallengeable opinion.

    One example is of porn-star Bree Olsen, who's been interviewed as having "lost her virginity" at 12 to a man in his mid/late 20's (legally, rape) from across the road, as saying "Oh, I love my job" and simultaneously giving a lop-sided shoulder shrug, which Paul Ekman has equated with often being valid in raising doubts about someone's honesty. Other experiences I've had whereby seeing an erotic dancer look down with a sadness expression after a dance, or another woman masking anger through sexual display etc. Most men have a vested interest in not seeing these subtle cues because it would (hopefully) lessen (or pop) the state of arousal and be the end of participation (porn's attraction often being state-dependent on arousal).

    I'd be interested to see that kind of sensitivity to interpersonal interactions, or observations of others, being brought into play to challenge the post-modern Holy Grail of "you can't challenge my truth!"

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Monday, 27 December 2010 00:59 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great points Bonnitta and Rich (and thanks for the encouraging remarks Sarah and Stuart)

    I totally agree with your point, Bonnitta, about the post-industrial marketing and fetishizing of spiritual and sexual energy. It is a big issue and not one easily navigated through. A lot of what gets sold under empowerment for women in regards to sexuality (even spiritual sexuality) is still consumerism packaged in ideologies of liberation and free-expression. I haven't seen a lot of evolution on these discourses, but I'm hopeful that it will start.

    Of course I always recommend Ariel Levy's book for this as well: "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture." I think it is a 2006 publication, but she really does a great analysis of the raunch culture phenomenon from a young women's perspective and also the difficulty of challenging the whole paradigm.

    I'd love to hear more of Zak's points on this as well! Do you have a reference to that?

    And Rich, I love your nuances around body language and facial expressions. I think you are right on in being attuned to this and I appreciate your willingness to look at it so directly as a man, even if it does ruin your porn watching experience :) ha!

  • Comment Link Rich Munn Monday, 27 December 2010 11:55 posted by Rich Munn

    Other expressions present are disgust (sadness, anger and disgust being universal expressions, not culture bound) or a general muscular tension which creates a blank mask of the face, in other words the suppression of expression on the face in an attempt to hide the less 'presentable' feelings (the hiding it itself being revealing of the nature of those suppressed feelings).

    A useful adjunct to this inquiry is looking at male desire and questioning what "male sexual empowerment" really is . . .

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Monday, 27 December 2010 18:51 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Check out my good buddy Chris' insights and critique on my piece... well, worth consideration...

    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/237-the-bird-of-grey

  • Comment Link Chela Davison Monday, 27 December 2010 19:31 posted by Chela Davison

    I love the discussion that is beginning here and of course I love this piece Vanessa.
    What I connected with in particular is this need to challenge our views on empowerment and fearlessness and how difficult this actually is to do, especially for our generation, being so inside it and all. I would like to see more discussion and pieces flushing out what this future may look like as we collectively challenge and evolve. The need to do this together, to invent this together feels like a very appropriate and even obvious response to a very dissociated and individualistic culture. But what does that look like? What you've written here sure feels like a call in such a direction.

    I appreciate your insights about Sasha's work being only for herself and would like to add that when reading her comments on feminism, felt a tone of exonerating oneself from the responsibility of having ones work be for something greater than oneself. That by everyone's view being equal and 'all women are feminists in their own right', there is no demand that she defend her work in terms of what it offers the world and even a view that she shouldn't have to.
    I have noticed within our generation a slight 'upturned nose' towards 'feminism', a dissociation from our lineage, as if to say "thanks for the bra burning ladies, but I'll take it from here and show you what empowered women really looks like."
    I think your point about turning to our elders and the women who have boldly carved history to bring us to where we are today needs to be underlined. There is an arrogance to our generation, having all that we have in terms of freedom and opportunity and perhaps a tendency to ignore or forget where we've come from and how new this all is and that perhaps we're not as evolved, powerful and free as we think we are.
    Thanks V. You're doing work that matters, I appreciate it.

  • Comment Link Bruce Kunkel Monday, 27 December 2010 22:23 posted by Bruce Kunkel

    Fascinating perspective and analysis of the challenges and opportunities for the young women of your generation. This opened me to some of the ground issues that feminism of today must negotiate. Thanks for this!

  • Comment Link Luke Fullagar Monday, 27 December 2010 22:42 posted by Luke Fullagar

    Cheers Vanessa! A great Xmas gift! ;-D

    I also like feel some sympathy with the queries you're raising Richard. All that talk of the buried dissonance in affect and justification is right on point with the questions I raised on Chris' article"

    "Have you ever seen Grey interviewed? It's painful stuff. That having been said, I'm not certain we're overstating her philosophical credentials. I'm not sure that she is pushing the pomo libertarian envelope as much as the media culture that pretends to sustain her while covertly failing her affirms a space for her banal adolescent sexual rebellion to overstate its purpose. Sure, she *sometimes* namechecks existentialists, but every time I've seen it happen, it has been with the kind of non-committal affect I used to take to my high-school friends when I'd discovered the meaning of life in an REM song. From reading some of her personal history, I have a strong suspicion she's a runaway motivated by a whole range of buried wounds and that circumstance is a lot more proximate in cause than a considered pomo libertarian position. The culture which affords her some kind of quasi-moral voice may well be an aberration, but I have strong doubts that Grey herself is aware of her philosophical debt".

    Like Bruce said, "this opened me to some of the ground issues that feminism of today must negotiate". Now, that's a battlefield only the brave might survive!

    Cheers,

    L.

  • Comment Link Elizabeth Debold Tuesday, 28 December 2010 00:25 posted by Elizabeth Debold

    Really great post, Vanessa. And as Chris notes in his fine post in response, moving beyond materialistic, sensational individualism to a new ethos is an enormous task that calls into question our deepest understanding of who we are and the assumptions,or core values,that we live by--or as you say, no longer believing we are islands unto ourselves.

    Grey reminds me of the young woman who was trying to sell her virginity to the highest bidder online. A similar blend of a postmodern insistence on sexual freedom with a modernist exploitation for monetary gain--but the ironic twist in both is that it is self-exploitation. Oh--I guess that's the empowerment part...

  • Comment Link Christina Sestan Tuesday, 28 December 2010 18:00 posted by Christina Sestan

    As Borat would say "wah wah wee wah!" Though I'm not sure he would track much beyond the titillating pics of Sasha!

    What a fantastic article. A comprehensive exploration with a clearly identify 'flaw' in the ointment of the so-called empowerment rebellion I'm constantly being exposed to courtesy of the two teenage girls in our home (shockingly misogynistic music lyrics, sexually suggestive pics on FB, shirts cut down to there, skirts cut up to there - gosh, they're all so empowered). What passes as substance in their world makes all the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I can feel myself bracing for might be yet to come. Yet despite the massive amounts of energy I witness them pouring into this thing called "being a cool girl" (language hasn't changed much since my day), the one thing I have seen increase over the last few years is their anxiety and dare I speculate - their sense of confusion about their worth.

    Telling them you wrote an article, might be enough to get them to look at it. They think you're the cat's pajamas!
    Well done V!
    xoxo

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Tuesday, 28 December 2010 20:52 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great discussion happening! Truly insightful...

    I wanted to include a note about one other thing that has come up as a small thread in the comments so far, but even more so in the comments I've been getting from friends on email about my article. Particularly, my older female friends are reminding me that this struggle I've articulated also applies to them (not just a problem for us younger ladies :)

    It is an important point to speak to because my generation (Gen Y), as well as Gen X are the products of our parents and the baby boomer rebellion of the 60s.

    In fact, a lot of the discourse around "free sexuality" that we hear today is very reminiscent of the 60s, often just dressed up in new glitzy commercialized form, and perhaps harboring deeper narcissism in certain ways (likely partly due to some of the reasons that Chris points out in his critique).

    It is also partly due to what Jean Twenge (author of the Narcissism Epidemic), argues is the failure of the self-esteem education and parenting movement that was instituted by our boomer parents. So it's definitely a cross-generational issue!

    My favorite short commentary on the failure of the self-esteem movement comes from the hilarious late George Carlin. Check it out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALf2HZsGtGQ

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 30 December 2010 02:03 posted by TJ Dawe

    Carlin directs brilliantly insightful criticism at the self-esteem movement in that piece. What a mind the man had...

    Something about Sasha Grey I find particularly interesting is the inroads she's made into the mainstream - which you mention in the article. But this is a truly unusual development. Who else has made that transition?

    -Traci Lords, who's had a career of B-movies and guest spots on TV shows, and never went back to porn, saying "I hate the phrase 'former porn queen.' That part of my life was a long time ago. Think of something else to call me... I'm successful in spite of my past, not because of it."

    -Ron Jeremy's had a few cameos in such movies as Orgazmo, and The Boondock Saints, and if you haven't seen or heard of either of those movies, you're not alone

    -Ariel Levy describes the mainstreaming of porn in her book, citing Jenna Jameson's autobiography becoming a bestseller, but she's done porn, porn and nothing but porn

    For Sasha Grey to not only play a lead role for an oscar winning director, and guest star as herself on an HBO show - but to also proudly continue her career in porn - this is unprecedented.

  • Comment Link dan.mckinnon Thursday, 30 December 2010 14:27 posted by dan.mckinnon

    As always wonderful work, Vanessa, your very fresh integral perspective and yellow-meme feminist voice sound clear across all the channels of being human. Ironically, Ms. SG's PO-MO naked version of a feminist impulse that thrusts itself toward unbridled ego-casting ends up being a regressive, perhaps even repressive, and flaccid PRE-MO shout that lacks the bandwidth needed to make a "just-noticeable difference" or to engage the levels of being needed to change our needy world. Nevertheless, her "feminist" voice does work as a stimulating "looking glass self" for the rest of us to look into and maybe begin to "nakedly"stand up and be seen, ourselves. Hey, that's what this "screen-ager" culture is all about.

  • Comment Link Juma Wood Sunday, 02 January 2011 01:01 posted by Juma Wood

    As has been mentioned, a compelling contribution Vanessa.
    My question is a little different and is for the readers of this article. We are try here at Beams to capture a certain marriage between form and content. A work in progress to be sure, but a college try all the same.
    I wonder if the provocative pictures in this piece support it's content or undermine it.
    I'm interested in the bodily response, if you will, rather than a strictly intellectual analysis, though that is welcome as well.
    As a red-blooded male, I certainly noticed a few bodily responses that don't need detailed explanation, but also sensed there was an excess that in some way detracted from content.
    Not sure if says something about me, or if this was intended. Curious how others experienced this.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Sunday, 02 January 2011 02:15 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Juma, I'm glad you brought that up.
    I had that comment from a few other people as well, and I think it is an important question to look at.

    It is interesting for me as a woman, because I spent so much time researching Sasha Grey and being immersed in the porn culture that I actually found these images to be quite "tame" compared to what I was watching. I think that also says something about how desensitized one gets the more they spend time watching this stuff, which is interesting.

    It also reminds me of when I first started watching Sasha's porn videos. The first one I watched, I literally cried for an hour afterwards. It was a very visceral response and I felt nauseous for a few days. Then, over time, I just found they didn't bother me as much, at least on a visceral and emotional level. I literally watched myself loose sensitivity, which is quite interesting...

    I think it is important to bring up and to question whether posting these kinds of images actually in some ways hold up the very paradigm I'm attempting to dismantle. At the same time, I also find the images an interesting mirror to look into for myself as a young woman... so I find it hard to go one way or the other...

  • Comment Link R. Michael Fisher Monday, 03 January 2011 20:01 posted by R. Michael Fisher

    Thanks Vanessa for the invite to comment, as an integral theorist/researcher and as your father.

    "[W]e are all still the products of our culture, and we are all deeply impacted by the pervasive cultural values of individualism and self-interest that dominate our postmodern climate," writes Vanessa Fisher. Indeed, and yet we are also the consumers of "the products," as postmodern cultural theorists remind us. We are active and passive, subjective and objective, individual and collective (holonic) 'agents.' In the prostitution industry (holon), once merely a 'normal' "profession" historically, now in a hypermediated-industry, and a celebrity culture crafting (flatland) "success" without any need of a lot of ethical reflection, discernment or substantive critique--how can we adopt an integral attitude that is really useful to unveiling something 'new' and transformative about this industry? Maybe, we can't. Maybe, all we can do is translate, and re-translate, until the "culture" falls itself and becomes so disintegrated as to allow some radically 'new' evolution beyond it? I doubt this is a rational process (for the most part).

    In this article, among other things, Vanessa bravely takes on a methodology of conscious consumption of "pornography" industry products/services in a double performance herself-- of questionably both supporting and critiquing this industry. There's no way not to "be" of it if you live in a body and want to investigate (research) a topic like this. Being female herself adds a lot more to problematics of "objectivity." In a culture context, the observer-participant (researcher) is swimming in the same water and pathologies we study. I appreciate her risking to swim where most 'angels fear to tread.' At what cost, I wonder? And who will care about that cost? How will Vanessa be able to talk about that part? Will Beams & Struts be a truly supportive vehicle for researchers/
    writers in integral world to be so authentic? The discussion comments are a good sign.

    'Sasha' (as semiotic) is "a performance" as much like any woman in this society of commodification (with all inherent sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, etc.). As a researcher of this industry, 'Vanessa' is a performance (as much as a "being" in performance). Sasha is a symptom arising, Vanessa another--mirroring each other, and each of us, who consume sexcess pills, even with our multiple perspectives.

    I think this postmodern reframing (and post-postmodern wit(h)nessing) is core to the methodological challenge a critical integralist must endure to do a good job of their inquiry and to come up with a "truthing" analysis that offers something 'new' and transformative. It gets really difficult when you take on a subject like "Sasha" and the system it represents and re-presents to us as food/mana--or simply "eye candy," "beauty,"--"sexccess."

    "Difficult" is a euphemism. If I were to add anything, off the top, to Vanessa's comments and others on this article, is that we best not ignore what we are talking about when we use "postmodern" and "culture" together. My own research for over 2 decades shows that "culture of fear" (by any other name) is the one of the most substantive, verified, and powerful labels and dynamics of our postmodern era. I raise this for a lot of reasons: a) it is often missing from integralist discourses, b) Vanessa uses "fearless" and "fearlessness" a lot in the article re: 'Sasha,' and c) because I think ethical discernment with all matters in the postmodern world can be addressed along this line of inquiry, which I have posited as the "fearlessness line" of development and evolution (see my new book and blogsite).

    In other words, the popularized use of "fearless" for all kinds of commodities in the West from the 1990s onward, is a semiotic symptom of just its opposite, I argue. People are scared shitless, and are often acting "fearless" as a counter-phobic reaction formation. I won't go into my work here. Vanessa has told me herself that 'Sasha' is not trying to be "fearless" and she doesn't even have a theory of what that means, nor does the media of popular culture who attaches that label to anything extreme these days ('Sasha' included). My own work offers a critical integral theory of discernment of "no fear," "bravery" (bravado), "fear-less," "fearlessness," and "fearless" as evolving fear management systems. 'Sasha' like 'Vanessa' are performing fear management systems, with the topic being "prostitution" in its postmodern (post-feminist) forms. But fear is still there and being managed. The way it is managed is what counts, and what counts in terms of discerning ethical quality (hierarchically). My quick take is that 'Sasha' is more performing 'bravado' (twisted bravery) than anything else. That's nothing new if you are a born and raised in this hyper-mediated culture of fear.

    [my book: "The World's Fearlessness Teachings: A Critical Integral Approach to Fear Management/Education for the 21st Century" (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2010); my blogsite on this book: http://fearlessnessteaching.blogspot.com)

  • Comment Link Carol Horton Monday, 03 January 2011 22:06 posted by Carol Horton

    I found this post so thought-provoking that I wanted to blog about it myself. You can find it my reflections at Think Body Electric (bit.ly/fRTzp9). Brilliant post; thanks for the inspiration.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Tuesday, 04 January 2011 00:55 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Thanks for your sincere and thoughtful reflections, pops... Important stuff. Yes, I too feel I'm often swimming in a sea of contradictions in researching and writing about this stuff. As a woman, I find I'm always both critical and in some way participating in the shadows of these issues. One can't get away from it. I enjoy taking the risks and going into the shadows. I find I'm a better researcher when I go there myself and really dig deep... the trick is to not get lost there.

    Carol, so cool that you were inspired to blog on this. I couldn't access your link though... can you re-post it?

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Tuesday, 04 January 2011 01:40 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Oh, I just found your blog, Carol

    http://thinkbodyelectric.blogspot.com/

    Very cool!!

  • Comment Link Rochelle Tuesday, 04 January 2011 20:09 posted by Rochelle

    Interesting article, Vanessa - really appreciate your aikido mind of going with the energy Sasha puts out, then redirecting it to the spot it's not touching.

    Regarding Rich's comments about interpreting facial expressions and physical gestures. . . seems like the place where that gets tricky is knowing what the expression is about. Perhaps some experts have codified certain gestures and expressions (Paul Ekman, for eg) to mean this or that. In the example of a woman seeming sad, it might be that she's thinking of the guy who didn't phone her back that's making her feel sad, whereas because we see her in a porn video, we think it's to do with that situation. She might be having a gas pain, and grimace because of that, and we see it and think it's disgust at elements of the situation we can see. And if we ask her about her inner life when we are not a member of her inner circle,(such as an interviewer isn't likely a member of her inner circle) i think we'd be a bit naive to think that she'd always give the most truthful answer to someone who she doesn't have a trusting, intimate relationship with.

  • Comment Link Sarah Nicholson Wednesday, 05 January 2011 05:02 posted by Sarah Nicholson

    Great stuff Vanessa. I think you are spot on in your critique here.

    "In a somewhat paradoxical twist, the very rebellion my generation often seeks to enact by refusing to put any limits on our “personal freedom of expression”, actually has the reverse effect of dismantling the deeper possibilities for a real revolution in culture and consciousness that we could potentially ignite if we were able to channel our energy and righteousness into a cause and collective purpose much greater than ourselves. It seems that this is the exciting challenge and opportunity that now awaits us as young women: to find a collective purpose that would allow us to continue the work of our historical female heroines and make positive use of the very freedom that they fought so hard to gain for us."

    While I agree with you about finding "collective purpose", I wonder if part of the rectification of the problem at here is moving from a focus on individualism (where we are alone, fractured and wounded) to a focus on individuation (where we find the wholeness of our self in our self but also interpersonally)? And further I wonder if individuation isn't actually necessary before one can genuinely and healthily be part of a collective purpose?

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:00 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Sarah,

    I agree. I think healthy individuation is essential, and is distinct from a fractured individualism. Autonomy is a big thing for women!

    I think that these two things can co-exist in tandem, and that ultimately the higher collective purpose would support a greater individuation of each individual's gift.

    In the article I say that we have to bring our unique individual gifts into the greater folds of collective consciousness. I think when our collective purpose is healthy, it enhances our unique individual gift and visa versa.

    It is individualism that isn't connected to the collective or the social that I'm concerned about in our current culture. You can see it in Sasha as this blatant disinterest in her social/cultural/political impact on the wider whole. There is no real higher context than the self: no one else can tell me what to do and I have no one to respond to outside myself... relativism at its worst...

  • Comment Link John Wagnon Wednesday, 05 January 2011 14:47 posted by John Wagnon

    Well done article, using Sasha as an exemplar of the larger weakness of postmodern culture. The difficult question, to me, is what to do about it. To be clear, not what to do about porn, but what to do about these weaknesses in postmodern culture that we integrally inspired folk believe we see. I think its not at all clear.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Wednesday, 05 January 2011 20:51 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Thanks, John. I appreciate your question and it harks back to the questions Chela brought up earlier in the thread...

    Let me say this: I'm working on it!! :)
    I definitely don't have solid definite answers yet but I have many musings... I will be writing on that more as I continue to do articles for this site. I want to take it slowly, because as Chris alluded to in his insights on my piece, and as Bonnitta Roy points out in her separate article for this site, we have to be careful not just to "jump" to the next level, or assume we can just discard all of postmodernism... it is very complicated territory and I don't want to be naive about what it is we are really facing and what it will take to really bring about a post-postmodern perspective and embodied way of being.

    I have done other writing on beauty, and I've begun pointing to higher forms of radiance as an attractor for young women out of the mess of postmodern consumerism and rampant shallow self-focus... this is really where a lot of my interest lies.

    I also think trying to fight the pornified culture we are in is largely a waste of time, I'd rather attract young women with a higher vision... This is the work I will be fleshing out more as I write, so thanks for bringing it up...

    My critiques are definitely more clear at this point than the final answer, but I am working on that deeper attractor...

  • Comment Link dori koll Friday, 07 January 2011 22:19 posted by dori koll

    Great article Vanessa! I am in awe of your insight. I sensed your brilliance when I met you at the Next Step Integral E&E Conference! Can't wait to read more..
    xo
    Dori

  • Comment Link Matt Friday, 07 January 2011 23:22 posted by Matt

    "I first came across Sasha a little over six months ago..." Juvenile I know... But made me laugh. I think I "beat" Vanessa by a few years. Anyway...

    Interesting post. Porn is both an easy target and a symptom. I'd accuse the author of what she's accusing Sasha Grey of... Mainly not bringing any depth or courage to this exploration. So Sasha Grey isn't Joan of Arc... Um, okay. Porn is both exploitative and a form of spiritual expression... Um, okay. Her generation hasn't done shit... Um, okay. So what next?

    If there's any call to action here or new knowledge being generated I must be missing it.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Saturday, 08 January 2011 01:17 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Matt,

    Hmmm... I'm not totally sure how to respond to your comments as I sort of feel your reading is a bit superficial of my intent, but let me see what I can do...

    1) I'm not surprised you came across Sasha Grey before me, most guys have :)

    2)I'm not moralizing against Sasha Grey for not being Joan of Arc, but rather attempting to show a generational and archetypal timeline of different women throughout history, particularly those who have been seen to push boundaries and gender conventions of their time. I'm not accusing Sasha of not being Joan of Arc, I'm attempting to show how drastically the roles of women have changed over time and what a "fearless female" looks like at different moments in history. The characterizations are always limited, but I think they offer a useful generalization for cultural critique.

    3)I never said porn was a form of spiritual expression, so I"m not sure where you read that. I sort of feel you missed the whole analysis here which was my interest in what Grey represents as a symptom in postmodern culture and issues of moral relativism...

    4)The call to action is to move beyond mere postmodern assertions of "free choice" and consumerism that have taken hold in my generation (although are also a part of the wider culture and certainly other generations are not immune to narcissism and individualism) What is next is part of what I'm exploring, and I first believe that one has to understand the water they swim in before anything new can be generated. I'm working on the latter though, so I appreciate you calling it forward.

    Lastly, I don't think my generation has done "shit." Again, I feel this is a massive oversimplification of my argument. There are young women doing some amazing things in the world (which I would like to feature at other times in my writing for this site). I'm focusing on a particular shadow element of our postmodern culture and the problems with certain ideas of "women's empowerment" that Sasha Grey embodies to an extreme. I'm also critiquing the rampant narcissism that is part of our North American landscape, which is something we all need to be conscious of...

    The call to action is to start seeing ourselves as connected to a wider collective, rather than as isolated islands unto ourselves. That is a big step and one that I will speak to more and with more detail in my upcoming posts.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Saturday, 08 January 2011 01:31 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Also, thank you Dori! :)

  • Comment Link Matt Saturday, 08 January 2011 15:18 posted by Matt

    Vanessa,

    Thanks for writing back personally and suffering my priapic sense of humor with grace.

    I have to confess that I skimmed this the first go around and didn't give it the attention it deserved in order to make a useful comment. In fact, I tried to delete my comment after posting it but couldn't find a way to make that happen, but since there are a billion guys named "Matt" walking around on the planet I won't worry about my rep ;-)

    On further review It's a really good post full of great questions and solid writing.

    Additional thoughts... In response to your response.

    I think my initial reaction to it came from habit. Writer's, bloggers, TV journalists, and politicians all use porn as some kind of stepping stone for personal gain... i.e. viewership, readership, and even votes and yet never seem conscious of the irony in using the work of said porn stars as example or to rail against. (How many blogs would die on the vine if not for their naked content?) Common example of this, the local TV channel is running promos for sweeps about porn addiction and salaciously peppering the promo with shots of half naked women. I admit I took this in similar vein. I know you're making a serious point here and asking good question, but there are images of Sasha liberally pasted about and her energy, her fearlessness, is infused in this post.

    I know you're not moralizing against Sasha Grey, but you are using her to make a point and maybe that's what takes Sasha into the sublime... She's the embodiment of the prostitute archetype who's central question to the world is, "How does one determine one's own self worth?" Which is the question I think your generation is asking of itself. Is it to be internal or external validation? Sasha seems to walk the line of being both internally validated, a myth I think by the way, and has tons of external validation. Healthy human beings want and need both and struggle with both. It's part of the maturation process.

    Your use of the term archetype I took to mean both psychological and spiritual... "Sasha stirred a mixture of intense and confusing emotion within me and I often found myself vacillating between flagrant disgust and idolizing admiration. There was something about Sasha that spoke to something very deep within me." Sounds like a spiritual response and rightly so.

    Thomas Moore points out that when viewing porn it is a spiritual response in many ways, “Gazing erotically at the human body, we are contemplating the mystery of our own nature as well as the mystery of our passionate longing toward union in absolute terms” “It is though the sexual gaze answers 
the most fundamental of questions: 
Who am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do?” Something we once explored in church till the crazies drove a stake between sex and spirituality. You talk about the exploitative and consumeristic nature of porn and of narcissism... But this I think is the true shadow of porn and speaks to the deep longing we have as humans. What ultimately is the cure for narcissism? A deep and grounded sense of self love. A sense of self to the point where we are no longer lost looking in a stagnant pond but rather can lift our gaze to the greater world around us.

    I'm an adjunct professor who teaches both undergrad and grad classes and this "lifting of the gaze" I think is the task of your generation. The measures of success have changed... Fortune and fame ain't what they used to be and yet they still are the number one determinant of success in the US and so you're going to have to contend with that as you change the system. Just flip through Tumblr, the fact that Tumblr even exists, and become amazed at how many women post self shot naked pics in between their writing. In this age of disintermediation everyone is both the producer and consumer of content. Maybe that's another of Sasha's teachings. How to be a better prostitute and not loose sight of our true worth.

    I feel for your generation.

    And yet you guys are amazing...

    This is what I wrote recently about your generation... "Dear Millennials, I have a not so secret crush on you. You're everything my generation was not - fun, cooperative, multicultural, savvy, vibrant, and hopeful. You've elected a president and are now going to change this world for the better. Other than a lousy taste in music, a gullibility when it comes to trusting systems, and a tendency to give up too easily I think you're perfect! Peace out, Generation X!"

    The thing that I see really challenging your generation? You seem desperate for heroes. I worry that you'll fall into the Jungian Trap... For once a hero is chosen two other archetypes must also rise - The Victim and The Villain. Your clarion call here has both in shadow... A Villain (Narcissism and Consumerism) and Victim (the Future). The other thing I worry about, which is also connected to Sasha and porn, is the loss of love and romance. I asked Sasha once if she'd ever been in love and I think I touched a nerve. I was responding to something she wrote on FB and the hate she had received back that was outstanding (there are a lot of men and women out there who hate her vehemently) and I simply asked them to walk a mile in her pumps. Wondered out loud if they thought she was in love with the men and women she had sex with and if she wasn't what that must be like for her. She responded, maybe defensively, that she had been in love before. It's also interesting to note that she has started to move away from porn as a primary source of revenue. Her story is still being unfolding. As are all of ours.

    The one thing about the time we live in now is that it's undefinable and highly volatile. Women, men, and relationships are evolving faster than we can write. What is normal? What is mainstream? Warren Ellis makes a good point in his book, "A Crooked Little Vein" (a book I recommend btw) that if more people download eel porn than watch the NBC Nightly News... Which is more mainstream?

    Your generation maybe narcissistic but you care about the planet and ask good questions. It's a start.

    Thanks again for writing.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Saturday, 08 January 2011 20:22 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Matt,

    I had to laugh cause I think we've all been there; that is, making flippant comments in the blogsphere that we wish we could take back later :) No worries, I've dealt with a lot of criticism in my writing career so I'm getting more graceful at handling it :) Also, we here at Beams and Struts are dedicated to bringing out the highest forms of online engagement to encourage growth and honest critique in a way that is generative, so that is always my goal in responding.

    Thanks for taking the time to offer a more in-depth response and critique...

    You said: "I think my initial reaction to it came from habit. Writer's, bloggers, TV journalists, and politicians all use porn as some kind of stepping stone for personal gain... i.e. viewership, readership, and even votes and yet never seem conscious of the irony in using the work of said porn stars as example or to rail against."

    Now that is a critique that I can receive! This actually came up in the comments thread already... this was my initial response.

    ME: "It is interesting for me as a woman, because I spent so much time researching Sasha Grey and being immersed in the porn culture that I actually found these images to be quite "tame" compared to what I was watching. I think that also says something about how desensitized one gets the more they spend time watching this stuff, which is interesting.

    It also reminds me of when I first started watching Sasha's porn videos. The first one I watched, I literally cried for an hour afterwards. It was a very visceral response and I felt nauseous for a few days. Then, over time, I just found they didn't bother me as much, at least on a visceral and emotional level. I literally watched myself loose sensitivity, which is quite interesting...

    I think it is important to bring up and to question whether posting these kinds of images actually in some ways hold up the very paradigm I'm attempting to dismantle. At the same time, I also find the images an interesting mirror to look into for myself as a young woman... so I find it hard to go one way or the other..."

    Those are some of my initial thoughts on it. I can definitely see your argument, but I also think there is another side, and that it is also good to be confronted with the images as visual representation, but I agree that it should ALWAYS be conscious. In some ways, I'm always going to be participating in the unconscious shadows of our culture. Even writing about Sasha Grey in some ways just gives her more press, which serves her and what she represents in certain ways. At the same time, I'm offering a deeper look and asking people to look at the images and what she represents with more depth... So it is "in and out of the matrix," we might say...

    I appreciate your other perspectives on this as well, feel free to stay engaged with the dialogue here at Beams and Struts, your perspectives are welcomed by us young folks :)

  • Comment Link Matt Saturday, 08 January 2011 21:55 posted by Matt

    I was making an argument? I was critical? Dang, my writing sounds so much funnier in my own mind but if I made you laugh twice then my work here is done :-)

    Clearly something more is going on with porn than just bodies in motion... As Thomas Moore alludes to. I think porn is the stagnant pond the narcissism becomes trapped within. We've lost touch with nature (within and without), our bodies, our sexuality, our spirit, and our soul and are desperately searching for ways to heal in a consumeristic world... But that's old news.

    What I'd be curious about is hearing more of your own personal journey through these difficult times.

    I'll keep reading your work.

  • Comment Link Marilyn Hamilton Sunday, 09 January 2011 01:10 posted by Marilyn Hamilton

    Heh Vanessa
    Great article -- thanks for the revelations quite outside my normal zone of engagement :-) (oh unless you include our visit to the Women's Art Exhibit 2 years ago at Vancouver Art Gallery).

    Anyway what struck me with all the relativism was the seeming (complete?) lack of verticality in Sasha's POV. You and others are noting Sasha's stuckness at post-modern and (perhaps?) her business sense(?) at modern -- but I grok a creepy sense of unsustainable conflation of all values into self-expression with such disdain for values systems that can enable self-management (eg. connected to belonging, passion, purpose, priorities, people, planet) that I might despair of evolutionary possibilities. Or maybe this is what a caterpillar looks like when it consumes itself into a blob of gooo before the imaginal buds emerge a butterfly??? let's hope :-)
    Love
    Auntie M

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Monday, 10 January 2011 11:36 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Hi everyone. Appreciating the discussion. Trying to absorb all this -- bringing to mind the tendency for people to fall into the "growth to goodness" fallacy; an implicit sense that Sasha (as exemplified in the media) cannot be a post postmodern situation because she doesn't represent some kind of "improvement" of the situation. Thinking about how new cultural periods emerge (from premodern to modern to postmodern, to ...) and thinking that because the new forms are always built on the old forms, that the process is one of both hyper-trophy of certain elements, and hypo-trophy of other elements, and this seems to be what is happening. If I think of that process as a kind of “stretching out” the fabric of culture, then it creates spaces for new forms (memes, identities, collectives, personas, media, technology) to emerge and exploit those spaces. History is riddled with contradictions as to what situations drive the next recognizable shift, and if we think about evolution, well it has taught us, over and over again, that the future forms do not evolve from the higher forms – we did not evolve from the spectacular fishes of the pre-Cambrian Era, but from the lowly worms after the great Cambrian extinctions. We are forced to look forward with a sense of curiosity in the mystery, with “eyes wide open” as it were, in the fashion of Vanessa’s exploration of Sasha, culture, and the deep contradictory feeling that arise. Disgust and attraction all at once?! Why should that be either a surprise, or a rarity? It is, actually, closer to the “real” than any other. “Beauty”, Rilke famously said, “is terror we can barely endure.” Let’s face it. The post postmodern world will not be “pretty, only”, it will most certainly also be “pretty ugly,” – and the best of us will see the beauty in the terror – the real ways people struggle out of history, through “good” choices and “bad”, to make a world, the future of which is already speeding at them at a remarkable pace. We can hardly catch our breath! Let’s face it. The key to sexual liberation is the same key to sexual oppression – and it is the SAME energy that is celebrated in loving ritual that is rigidified in porn and fetishized in our forever-longing bodies. What is the nature of desire? How does it deepen, how does it grow. Why is desire, in fact, desirable? I’m not saying I would like to be Sasha. The challenges she faces, are way WAY beyond what I could imagine waking up to on a daily basis, let alone “wanting it that way.” I like the way she is “kind a in your face,” but I wish she could handle herself more gracefully, with an eerie sense of maturity that would dig even deeper, instead of the lovey-dovey milk-white girl she actually cannot hide. I imagine when Joan of Arc entered a room, there was a presence that dug deeper than getting a boner over someone half your age, and when she burned at the stake, in spiritual “ecstasy” (code for orgasm) – history leaped into the future. Time will tell. I would guess that the post postmodern world will have porn stars who are girls, getting younger all the time, once international porn rings put smart phones into the hands of nine year olds to keep them placated for the day. The fact that this will also put power into their hands, not because they have an IQ over 80, or can strategize themselves or manipulate the media, but because of the strange, loopy-way media and culture can create situations that have a kind of “no-one-in-charge” momentum of its own—the kind of situations that can arrange for a “pretty girl” from Alaska, who fetishizes rifles, make a disastrous run for vice-president of the most powerful country on earth, quit her job and join FB, eventually to be “responsible” for the bullet that shattered, that other girl's head.

    (Vanessa, the perspective I've taken here, seems to play nicely with your interest in Zengotita's book "Mediated" -- hopefully you can interweave it in response - )

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Tuesday, 11 January 2011 02:09 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Bonnitta,

    Thanks for offering your great textures and nuance of insight here... Yes, I couldn't agree more that our emergence into a "post-postmodern era" will be anything but clean and beautiful. It is more accurate--as you allude to--that we will have to redefine what we call "beautiful" if we are to make any progress... There are just as many limited glass ceilings of interpretation on our aesthetic definitions as there are on our moral and scientific ones.

    I do find Sasha a multi-faceted reflection of contradictions: A compelling beauty, a cold stare, a stark and embarassing mirror, a collective scream, and a flash in the pan of postmodern celebrity infatuation...

    Thanks for bringing up De Zengotita. Yes, I"m about half way through his book "Mediated" and loving it. It is such a great description of the postmodern experience in a world of hyper-mediated reality and endless options of choice.

    I've found myself increasingly dismantled reading the book (in a good way). He is brilliant at describing the way our postmodern mediated reality leads to this ever-increasing self-consciousness and self-reflexivity, as well as this kind of hyper-performativity of self that takes over even our most intimate experiences.

    I was thinking of this in relation to Sasha, but even more broadly in relation to porn in general. Porn culture is a great representation of how even the most intimate act (sex), where we are most often in touch with our primordial "realness", has become yet another increasingly hyper-mediated performance. Its pervasiveness on the internet, and its infiltration into mainstream culture has turned sex into a whole new entity.

    De Zengotita talks about this as the way in which increasing mediation leads to an increasing loss of touch with the real. The more something is mediated, the more it becomes a performance, and the more we become desensitized to the actual thing being mediated... Hence why hardcore porn eventually looses its enticement if you watch it enough. Watching hardcore porn only leads to desensitization and a desire for more and more extremes in some attempt to make contact with a sense of immediacy and intensity of experience (perhaps an example of our longing for contact with the real).

    There are now whole porn sites dedicated to rape, to violent sex in all forms, to any form and type of fetish you can imagine, all available at the click of a button and with no central authority or police force to regulate it. The internet porn industry is beyond state control. But every transgression, no matter how extreme, is eventually incorporated into what De Zengotita calls "The Blob" until it looses its edge, and we have to search out the next extreme to once again attempt to make contact with the real... We keep going for further extremes, and yet contact with the real continues to allude us... porn is actually a great example of just what De Zengotita is talking about, although, that is just my reading...

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 11 January 2011 11:27 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    The situation reminds me of what Latour calls "hybrid actors" or actants. You can't interview "Sasha Grey" because "she" is not there, "she" is a mediated amalgamation of human and non-human.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Wednesday, 12 January 2011 19:31 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    I just wanted to qualify one statement on my last comment, which is that I may have generalized too much in saying that all porn watching turns to extremes of desensitization. Although more and more research is showing this is the case for many people (and it was certainly true in my own experience), it may not necessarily be true for all people who watch porn occasionally. That said, I still think we are all affected by the way that sex has become mediated through pornography, which has led to many of the consequences of numbness, hyper-performance and narcissism that De Zengotita points out in his book.

    To watch a great free documentary film that discusses these topics, including the loss of state regulation and control of internet porn, as well as the rise of porn addiction and its effects on adolescent sexual development, check out this link:

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/porndemic/

    It's really a great film.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Wednesday, 12 January 2011 19:33 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Also, Bonnitta, do you have a reference for Latour. I haven't read that and it sounds interesting!

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Thursday, 13 January 2011 12:42 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Latour's introduction to Actor-Network Theory is in "Reassembling the Social" -- but to truly understand his nuance, one should read both "We Have Never Been Modern" and "Pandora's Hope"...

    Latour writes with a kind of facetious french narrative humor that you might love-- or consider a distraction.

    A really good alternative is to read the new book by Graham Harmon "Prince of Networks" -- he wonderfully covers all of Latour's philosophical development, and then orients the reader to what might be next.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Friday, 14 January 2011 00:32 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Thanks!

  • Comment Link Matt Saturday, 15 January 2011 06:25 posted by Matt

    Thank you.

    Gave a talk a few years ago right after a state employee was caught stealing government property (a lap top that was full of porn.) The local press was relentless and he was so embarrassed about it he killed himself under a bridge with a firearm. I pointed out in my talk that we have know way of knowing what him, or anybody else, is actually turned on by when looking at porn. In fact, you could have a collection of the actual images and videos that someone chose to view and it wouldn't tell you much about what turned them on and certainly not their orgasmic trigger. Was it the clothes, the hair, the look, the sound, the contortions of the bodies, the particular scenario? We have no real way of knowing and I'd posit that we ourselves don't always know what is compelling when viewing porn. Porn if anything is accidental Rorschach.

    I then asked the audience to raise their hands if their first exposure to a naked body was porn or the real thing (even if it was accidentally a family member or sleep over) and for those above the age of thirty the contrast was remarkable. Almost 100% of first exposure for men was porn related and less than 15% for women. Below the age of thirty it was just as remarkable. Almost 100% for both men and women is porn. It's anecdotal, but first exposure nowadays is pixilated.

    I agree with Vanessa that porn is having a huge impact that is dangerous and damaging to people, especially on young men and women (a population I work with everyday and see the impacts firsthand - Number 2 drug on college campus? Viagra. Number 1? Antidepressants).

    I worry though about moralizing or vilifying porn. Turning into a Warren Commission or Judith Reisman's unsubstantiated "erototoxins" because I think it only fuels the fire and doesn't address the deeper lying issues.

    Like Vanessa I'm conflicted... Sometimes I imagine that if Jesus or Buddha were alive today they'd be pornographers because what better medium to corrupt to a message of love? Porn could be dangerous if it were revolutionary instead of symptomatic. Porn in some respects might be the last freedom we have. What else is free from state and corporate control? (Yes I know, tons of porn is made by corporations but tons isn't.) So I try to imagine messages of love, care, and kindness "hidden" into porn. Makes me smile. How cool would it be if Sasha became an Emergent Christian or Buddhist and decided to use porn to spread the teachings. Awesome.

    Action is important to me as both a teacher and counselor.

    My personal fight against porn:

    1. I've embraced the feminine within. I'm single. I have needs... But I'm aware that those needs are for more than just physical release. I need love, care, and beauty. So I do my best to bring in flowers, have a lot of green plants, spend time in nature, and self massage (no, not that kind). All as way of separating out the needs that I might attempt to fill with porn.

    2. Be clear and clean (emotionally) when I do masturbate.
    To understand what the motivation is... Is it tension release? Excitement? Habit? Self-care? Frustration? Just to check in with myself and find out what's going on and to check in afterwards.

    3. Enjoy my own fantasy life and use my imagination in a way that porn then pales in comparison. Part of how I think porn sneaks in is that we become creatively lazy.

    4. Be a conscious consumer when viewing porn. All porn flows from the same source in someways and so it's hard to distinguish "blood diamonds" from Canadian in porn terms. Any viewing of porn has a negative impact on women and men. Period. It's like eating veal, you know it's not a good thing to be doing, so do it sparingly, if at all, and choose places that have some sort of sexual ethics in place. I like, "I Feel Myself" and "I Shot Myself" as both seem like "whole food" porn (if there is such a thing.)

    5. Encourage good role models to speak up and out. It's amazing to me how we all know the stories of failed marriages and relationships but we never hear of the good ones. It's like each divorce contaminates two other marriages, but good relationships sit in silence. There are tons of people out there who have great relationships full of amazing sex and I say it's okay to brag a little. I myself was deeply fortunate to have had a 14 year marriage and while not perfect, it's since ended, I'm not shy talking about what sex in a deeply committed, loving, courageous relationship was like. It's the best sex you're ever gonna have in life. Interior deep body heart connected orgasms are something to talk about. It's something to want and look forward to. It's one of the great joys of monogamy. Nobody talks. Porn has filled a void because we don't know about anything else. No true elders can point out its myth; no kid has a better source of information. It's not like the internet was invented and porn magically appeared. Each generation grows sexually in a foreground created by their parents. The porn that you see today, and the porn culture in general, was made by 40 somethings. My generation. You watch a John Water's film and you get a sense of how fucked up we were. Think about a sequel to the Breakfast Club being about their individual and collective relationships with porn. (As a point of forgiveness, we grew up in the sexual foreground of a our parents.) I work to be open and share my experience... Of how I know "fuck buddies" to be a myth. How Sasha Grey is a myth. And the awareness that if you're a 20/30 something mom you're now creating the foreground for your kids... That is a responsibility.

    I know I've said this previously but porn is a symptom. It speaks to our own troubling issues around sexuality. The only way to defeat it, in my opinion, is to pry away the veil that we are as erotically sophisticated as we like to think we are. Admit that Sasha Grey is a fantasy, a mirror of our narcissism, proof positive that we aren't nearly as comfortable receiving deep blowies or giving them as we may think and even if we are that that comfortability maybe masking other anxieties we have around deeper intimacy.

    In other words... We need to grow up.

  • Comment Link David Saturday, 15 January 2011 07:12 posted by David

    Great

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Sunday, 16 January 2011 07:23 posted by Bergen Vermette

    I think Matt makes a lot of good points:

    "Porn if anything is accidental Rorschach."

    "[sex is] one of the great joys of monogamy. Nobody talks. Porn has filled a void because we don't know about anything else. No true elders can point out its myth; no kid has a better source of information."

    "but porn is a symptom. It speaks to our own troubling issues around sexuality. The only way to defeat it, in my opinion, is to pry away the veil that we are as erotically sophisticated as we like to think we are. Admit that Sasha Grey is a fantasy, a mirror of our narcissism,proof positive that we aren't nearly as comfortable receiving deep blowies or giving them as we may think and even if we are that that comfortability maybe masking other anxieties we have around deeper intimacy."

    This last point especially jumped out at me. Thinking about it more, I'm not sure which came first the porn or intimacy issues. They seem self-perpetuating.

    I know for myself and speaking with male friends, porn has a negative sapping effect on relationships. Guys head to the computer screen for the habitual ritual of tying one off, instead of putting the energy into intimacy with their partner. Overtime, there's actually less desire to be with your real partner because the effort involved seems hardly worth it when you can get your fix online.

    In the past I've had partners look to be intimate with me but turned down their advances as I was satisfied through earlier 'interactions' with porn. How lame is that? (and I know I'm not alone)

    I hesitate to blame porn outright, as I think it's more a catalyst than a cause. You mentioned narcissism and immaturity in your comment as well, Matt, and I think these are very real qualities of the post-modern experience which are amplified (or feed on) the availability of porn. In other words, porn's not the problem, our hyper-individualism is. What else could account for the absurd obsession with self-love when there are millions of potential partners to flourish in relationship with. The avoidance of relationship, in preference to individual desires, seems at the heart of the issue.

  • Comment Link dwsw Monday, 28 February 2011 19:24 posted by dwsw

    Sasha Grey- Come on- I don't care what somebody does for a living or to get off but this article should'nt sanitize here "acting" She doesnt just have sex on film my God she's done 30 guys annaly at once where she licks their feet and they stick their feet in her face and slap her around-

Login to post comments

Search Beams

Newest Discussions