jmatonak: (Default)
I just saw this week's Special Victims Unit. I found it disturbing, but probably not for the reason I was supposed to. For one thing, it was the monthly "Stabler snaps" episode. But, more importantly...

Possibly triggery, definitely disturbing, spoilery )
jmatonak: (Default)
Chaos gets a bad rap.

I may have posted this before. :)
jmatonak: (Default)
So I watched The Colbert Report tonight and somebody named Andrew Keen says I'm destroying civilization. His argument, as near as I can parse it, is that the rampant "theft" of "content" on the Internet is killing artists since they can't get anyone to pay for their work anymore.

This man is an idiot. He's never seen anyone make a living through a webcomic, for example. (One may raise the objection that only a precious few earn a decent living through artistic output- but that's always been true. Not that Mr. Keen will let the facts get in the way of his pining for a bygone age when, as an "intellectual", he would have been empowered to decide what was important.)

What he is really decrying is the loss of importance suffered by cultural gatekeepers. Since anyone can and does publish opinion pieces such as this one you're reading, no inferences can be drawn about the quality of an opinion piece based on where it is presented. Taken to its logical extreme, the 'net will destroy the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal- but this is not the same as destroying "culture."

To be a "professional", in the sense of Mr. Keen, is to have some degree or certification conferred on one by some sort of authority. Particularly in the case of art, I can't imagine anything less relevant. Works of art will still be produced and "culture" will thrive. What will be lost is the privileged position of men like Mr. Keen, who will no longer be able to dictate what "culture" is by virtue of controlling access to the public.

Awww. Poor thing.

Musicians won't starve. Writers won't starve. New payment schemes will evolve that will let audiences support creators, because audiences always need a new fix. In the worst case, society will return to the idea of patronage- wealthy individuals will support artists because those individuals will gain prestige through the art they patronize. There are many things about this possibility that I dislike, but no one who has ever been to an art museum can call patronage the death of culture.

No one who gives the matter a moment's thought, at any rate. I don't know about Andrew Keen.
jmatonak: (Default)
Gosh, I seem to have missed three days.

In which I discuss my lack of moral development. )

So I will maintain this project of frequent posting for three extra days.

Things have been getting away from me lately. I'm feeling all... diffuse.
jmatonak: (Default)
The phrase in the American language that confuses me most is probably "sex object."
It could be that there's really no point in worrying about this- "not treating women as sex objects" may be one of those ideas like "turn the other cheek" that exists as something to ponder or aspire to, but usually can't be made to work in the real world. I do worry about it. I wish I didn't.

To begin with: no one in this world exists solely to provoke certain feelings or reactions in me. In particular, any woman who points out that she wasn't put on this earth to be my eye candy is absolutely right. There is no question of this. Someone who points out that depicting women as sexual beings and nothing else is demeaning also has a point. I agree it's not appropriate to depict role-models or ideals for women in such a way that their sexuality is all that comes across. You probably shouldn't put the Statue of Liberty in a bikini. At the very least, that would need a hell of a context.

However. If I knew for a fact that henceforth no woman would ever be okay with me ogling her under any circumstances, I would be very sad. My sexuality is a big part of who I am. A big part of my sexuality involves... looking.

When you're meeting a new person for the first time and you discover you're interested in them in a sexual way, it's often very, very quick. Sometimes, and I'm tempted to say most times, this is about superficial surface details... what they look like, the timbre of a voice, a particular smile or turn of phrase. And "what they look like" can boil down to the color or shape of certain features. I've been told, and liked hearing, "You have pretty eyes."

I don't think there's anything wrong with any of that, and I was trying to be gender-neutral in the previous paragraph. Women can be attracted by superficial surface details. It's kind of a truism that men are- although that has the air of bullshit common to all things that "everybody knows." It's true; it's not the whole story.

I realize objectification is often discussed as a media phenomenon, whereas I am approaching it in personal terms. I've been told many times that I shouldn't treat women as sex objects, and that's what I'm trying to talk about here. The only thing I can say about media is that there are times when a sexualized depiction of women leads to a work that's a lot worse than it "should" have been. I don't need Buffy in a wet T-shirt every fight. (But some of the sex scenes in Buffy were really hot. So were some of the fight scenes. The distinction was not always sharp.)

When I see a girl at a party and get a sudden flash of what it might be like to take off her shirt, I see a picture in my mind. I know she's a person with her own hopes and dreams and fears and desires. I'm just... not explicitly considering any of them at that particular moment, except a small subset of the desires. If I'm lucky enough to actually make out at a party, I don't imagine that she's especially concerned with the details of my thoughts and dreams either. I hope she's into what we're doing, because otherwise what's the point, and I hope everyone is having a good time. But mostly, I'm thinking about what I'm doing, what she's doing, what we're doing.

So far, I would imagine no one is finding any of this more than mildly objectionable, and maybe not even that The problem, I think, starts with this: I can predict certain superficial features that are likely to attract me more than others. Red hair. Breasts that look a certain way. A voice that's high but not too high. The particulars of my kinks aren't really relevant here. I bring them up because I have them, I know I have them, and I'm more interested in a girl if she plays into them.

(I can be, and have been, attracted to women I never would have predicted "on paper." I have developed complicated feelings, including romantic ones, for a woman I've never seen but only exchanged very personal e-mails with. Even so, I really like girls with red hair. The exceptions don't negate the general trends.)

If I somehow met a woman who pushed all of my little superficial-feature buttons in a three-minute conversation yelled out over bad techno music, I would probably be really smitten. My long-term reactions would depend more on who she really is, but the initial spark of interest... wouldn't, really. I think that's me objectifying her. At least, when I get into conversations about that, the idea of objectification tends to come up.

The thing is, I've seen women drag boys they just met into corners and make out with them. I've seen them pretty clearly be the instigators. They must be going on superficial qualities, too, which is fine. But... if the problem is about the impact of male behavior and how that reinforces sexism in society... if it turns out this discussion is really about patriarchy and social roles and phallocentrism... then I don't know how to bring my personal conduct into harmony with the way I'd like the world to be. I'd prefer not to be complicit with an oppressive social system, but chastity is not an option. (For me.)

I believe I can desire and have sex with a woman, and view her as my equal. I'm kind of counting on it. But... it's not always about holding hands. That sex with a woman I respect may involve someone being handcuffed to something. Eschewing particular sexual practices won't really help. Sex can always get weird, no matter how "vanilla" the particular encounter might seem to those who weren't in it.

I can't say that my respect for my sexual partners will shine unequivocally through my every thought, word and deed. I can and do say that I don't go to bed with people I look down on, and I don't lose respect for someone because she has sex. (How can you lose respect for someone because they had sex with you? And yet, it seems to happen.)

I can want a sexual relationship with a person I'm not interested in knowing in other ways.
I can look at a picture of a woman and fantasize without really considering her in other contexts.
I can very much want to perform certain carnal acts with a woman.
A woman is not an object, she's a person.

I don't feel there's a contradiction between the first three statements and the last one. Some other people, male and female, seem to.

Of course, and this is not unlikely, there might be something important going on here that I just don't get.

I'd love comments, especially comments that disagree with me.

I don't screen comments, as a rule, but I will on this post. If you have a comment but prefer it not be made public, let me know.
jmatonak: (Default)
What with it being this time of year, I've been thinking about boy-girl stuff a lot lately. I may post a giant thing about that soon. But I kind of went off on a tangent in my head a few hours ago.

I think I believe that reason applies to everything. I'm not sure it actually does, and I don't think most people believe that it does. Let me clarify- no, let me go on at some length.

Back in those days people still believed in arguments... )
jmatonak: (Default)
I have trouble getting my head around the idea that institutions are more important than individuals. Partly that's because I believe (with no really good justification) in some form of life after death... but only for people. (Maybe for animals and plants, but not for organizations- the IRS has no soul, is what I'm getting at here.)

The "common-sense" view is that large institutions (like, say, Harvard) live longer than people, because the founders of Harvard have been dead for a long time, but Harvard is still with us. A lot of the respect we give to institutions comes from this idea that they live longer than the people who, at any given time, make them up.

I may be a nut, but I just can't make myself believe that. Organizations and institutions are things of this world, which are temporary. Even something that will last for billions of years is temporary. A person is forever. That's why, if I have to choose, I would much rather do violence to an institution (like the law or a social convention) than to a person.
jmatonak: (Default)
Okay. I sat through what seemed like decades of Save the cheerleader, save the world... blipverts. And I like the show itself. But if I hear Are you on the list? enough times, I'm going to have to campaign hard for the cancellation of Heroes. And possibly burn down the sets. :P


Occasionally, I find myself asking the following question.

Are the rules of Monopoly true?

At first, and maybe for always, this question is just dumb. The adjective and the noun just don't match up. It's like asking if happiness is green. On the other hand, I know a lot of uses of the word true. Scientific truth, historical truth, and mathematical truth are all different. (One can interpret Wittgenstein's "The world is the totality of facts, not of things" as an effort to bridge these differences. If I were still in college, I would.)

I think that if I could come up with a way to answer the question instead of discarding it as ill-formed, I might really learn something.


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January 2012

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