It started off innocently enough. At least as innocently as any guilty pleasure does. And it wasn’t something I did everyday. Like I said, it was a guilty pleasure, and one that seemed relatively harmless at first. I mean, everybody watches porn, right?
It wasn’t like that when I was growing up. Back in the pre-internet dark ages, porn was one of those things which are not spoken of, the purview of shady businesses with painted windows and sweaty, unsavory men in trenchcoats. Sure, lots of people watched it — and read Playboy and Penthouse and Hustler and Juggs and the million other mags behind paper covers at your local newsstand. But it wasn’t til the internet exploded all over the world that porn really came into the mainstream. And hey, for what it’s worth, I’m not here to judge people who do watch it. I know lots of healthy, well-adjusted people who like, on occasion, to watch people they don’t know have sex while someone films it. If that’s you, awesome. Go on with your bad self.
But, it turns out, it’s not for me. Continue reading
[Serious trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault. You don’t need to read it. The important bits will be requoted in what follows.]
I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.
But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.
I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.
Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.
[For the record, I still don’t want people to know, I still don’t want those things to have happened, those things did still happen, and I’m still sorry. Like then, I am still terrified of hitting ‘publish’ when I get to the end of this, because even though I don’t think of myself as a good person, I still prefer that other people do.]
Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men took that watershed moment to reflect on rape culture and their place and participation in it, either personally or politically. Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men are taking the opportunity now. But some are. Continue reading
I also know that that probably didn’t happen. But whatever its authenticity, the image of the emperor playing the fiddle while Rome burned endures. In common usage, it means ‘to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.’ Like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
But it’s not rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s more like the band playing on as the ship upended and sank. It’s making art in the face of ongoing or oncoming catastrophe.
Half the people I know have some kind of creative pursuit as a way of making meaning in their lives. From what social media tells me, most of them are having problems working. It makes sense. Why bother making things when the whole world is going to shit? Is that really the best use of your time? What even is the best use of your time? Which fire should you be helping to put out? Or should you lay stores in and plan for the aftermath, look out for you and yours?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. Telling truth I have the opposite problem. I get up everyday and work on my novel, however I’m feeling, whether I want to or not. I can’t even imagine stopping, even though I think there’s a solid and growing chance that it’s pointless, at least in terms of getting it published and out into the reading world. Who even reads anymore, right? Who has time, what with Rome burning all around us?
There’s people who say making art’s more important than ever, times like these. Whether you’re offering distraction or insight or just putting our anxious and angst-ridden zeitgeist to words or images or music, what matters is the human spirit striving to make beauty and sense from a world sorely lacking in both.
That may be. But it’s not why I show up to work in the morning. I do it because it feeds me. Because it gives my life meaning and shape. Because I’ve known my whole life this is what I was meant for, whether I chose it or it chose me.
Because without it, I don’t know how I’d go on.
I read a lot of great books, is the short answer.
So, a few days ago writer K Tempest Bradford published this article, in which she challenged readers to stop reading white, straight, cisgendered male authors for one year. Sadly (and predictably), certain corners of the internet exploded in rage at the notion (she has assembled a lovely collection of rage-tweets here, if you enjoy that sort of thing). I won’t reprise their objections, which savvy interneteers will likely be able to intuit themselves, nor pass judgement on any validity those objections may or may not have. But it so happens that I recently spent the better part of a year doing something very similar to Ms Bradford’s challenge. From roughly November 2013 until late last year, I read only books by women(*), many of them women of color, others not cisgendered (two of the new favorite writers whose work I discovered are married).
I did so for my own reasons, both personal and (for lack of a better term) professional. On a personal level it was simply the realization that the vast majority of the books on my overstuffed shelves were by men. I fought it for a long time, that realization. I mean, these were great books, each easily defensible on the merits. I have, if I may say, damned fine taste in literature, and reading material in general. Ask any of my friends. I’ve been an obsessive reader since kindergarten, the kind of person who never goes anywhere without a book and hasn’t since he could carry one. But looked at en masse, the unconscious bias in my collection was (and is) painfully clear (in my defense, I actually am a cisgendered white male).
When I was younger, the notion of placing any kind of limitation on my reading material for a whole year would have seemed preposterous. Now comfortably ensconced in middle age, it didn’t seem like that big a deal. It wasn’t like I was going to run out of good books to read, and while it might mean holding off on some things in my to-be-read stack, it’s hardly without precedent for a book to be in that stack for years before I get around to reading it. Really all I had to do was rearrange the order, though of course I used it as an excuse to go book-shopping, which is one of my favorite things to do.
The timing that November seemed propitious. I’d started writing Continue reading