Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thursday starts with a laugh...

In the mail this morning: a bank transfer statement from a company for whom I freelance occasionally, developing training courses. Mundane bread and butter stuff, nothing fanciful.

The company puts its own internal budgeting codes on statements, and for whatever reason this payment has been tagged as: SEX TUTOR.

If only...!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Men 'worried' about heavy internet porn use?

I haven't posted much here recently because I've been busy hunting and gathering words, and then training them to go in the right order on some pages.

However, this attracted my attention the other day: a BBC report 'Men 'worried' about heavy internet porn use'. Apparently 'A quarter of men aged 18-24 are worried about the amount of porn they are watching on the internet, new research suggests. Heavy users in the study were much more likely to report problems with their jobs, relationships and sex lives.' The research was conducted jointly by the BBC and the Portman Clinic for the report.

The issue of 'being worried' by the amount of porn they're consuming was based on self-reports of worrying about this, though the actual amount of porn these people watched was presumably variable.

The BBC quotes Jason Dean, a counsellor who runs a website for online sex addicts, as saying of his clients: "It used to be mainly middle-aged single guys but now I get more contact from women, teenagers and people in their 20s."

This report is interesting at a number of levels, mostly to do with questions the news report doesn't address (and the full study, incidentally, doesn't seem to have appeared on the Portman Clinic's website).

How and why, exactly, are people (okay, men) coming to use pornography at a level they consider worrying? I can imagine several dynamics at work. For example, the stress involved in everyday life and worrying about a job can make someone more withdrawn, less able to cope with others, more likely to use porn as a substitute for social interaction, and the visual stimulation becoming more 'real' than any actual relationship. But then I was brought up on a mixed diet of Frankfurt School philosophy and poststructuralist thought that would make that sound a reasonable explanation of what's going on.

A more pithy view, expressed by the late science fiction writer J G Ballard, might also be applicable: 'A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.' Well, possibly not so much extinction as a radical change in social relationships that make porn itself more intimate, more desirable, than sex-for-real?

Ballard also said (in his book The Atrocity Exhibition): "Sex is now a conceptual act, it's probably only in terms of the perversions that we can make contact with each other at all." And this, too, seems to me to speak to the situation. Porn as a common language? Porn as the shared set of social expectations by which people relate to each other?

I'm not quite sure how to read Ballard's comments but they seem somehow prescient and significant.Maybe that's just me, because I used similar ideas in a story collection that should (I hope) be out in the next week or two. And I'll run off now because I feel I should make notes on this theme for later recycling in a story... But any thoughts or responses are welcome!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Some erotic art links

In the wake of the 'Holly' thing (previous blog post) it struck Velvet that people might be interested in a bunch of fairly eclectic books on erotic art. The ones she particularly likes, all of which are below as links, are:

Erotic Fantasy Art. Published 2008. A variety of styles including painting and digital artwork with some 'how-to' information. Nothing very explicit, but many of the images are certainly suggestive and draw on a wide range of influences. There's a 'look inside' function on Amazon.

The Mammoth Book of Erotic Women in Photographs. From 2005: 480 pages and 78 photographers featured, including the well-renowned Eric Kroll and Emma Delves-Broughton (there's a collection of hers also listed below) along with half a dozen other extremely well known others. This is 'erotic' rather than 'kinky', as you'll see from the Amazon 'look inside' function.

The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photographs. Published 2010. It is mammoth (480 pages, 500 images from 70 photographers). The editor is crime columnist for the Guardian newspaper and Literary Director of London's Crime Scene Festival, though how much this affects the choice of pics is something I wouldn't want to judge...

The Worlds Greatest Erotic Photographs of Today. Published 2009. Sorry, I don't know a whole lot about this one but Velvet likes it...

Kinky Nature Dark Erotic Fashion Photography. Photography by Emma Delves-Broughton, with tasteful takes on various fetishes and fetish clothing styles. Published 2010. I remember this making quite a big splash when it was published. Oh, and 'dark erotic' can sometimes mean 'sexy horror'.

Artcore: v. 1 (Erotic Art). Includes paintings, digital art and comic/manga style images and is described in the blurb as 'depraved', 'deplorable' and 'delightful'. Vol 1 goes back to 2004 and there are several subsequent volumes if you like this one.

So there you go. Quite a few different takes on eroticism among this lot. Have fun!

Holly - A National Portrait Award finalist?

This has been all over the media yesterday and today: 'An eight-foot high portrait of a naked model handcuffed to a rock has been shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery's annual art prize ... Mr Smith, who said his artwork Holly was inspired by the Greek myth of Prometheus, called it "a message of composure in the face of adversity".' (Quoted from the BBC website report - and a closeup of the pic is also on the BBC site.)

The Greek myth of Prometheus refers, as Wikipedia will tell you, to the person who 'stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day'. The same or similar myths, actually, appear in a wide range of cultures but in the contemporary era, it might equally refer to the problems with nuclear energy, and the punishment might be considered appropriate for those who make stupid decisions about where to site nuclear power plants and how not to build sufficient safety features into them. But that's by the way.

The interesting things about the picture are that (a) it harks back to very Victorian, if not earlier, styles; and (b) Holly, the Promethus-inspired figure, is female. And I'm not sure how to read these points. Artists, of course, have never been shy of the idea of depicting nude and restrained women though I haven't seen a lot of it in mainstream art in the last few years.

Of the more recent works you might think of Tamara de Lempicka, whose work often included nude or semi-nude women in a range of styles, including art deco and cubist - and a few pictures included the more overt use of restraints, in paintings such as Andromeda (1927-8). Andromeda, again in Greek mythology, was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the kingdom Ethiopia. Cassiopeia boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus. To cut a long story short, Poseidon sent a sea monster to ravage the coast of their country until Andromeda was sacrificed. She was chained naked to a rock on the coast to await her fate, but was discovered by Perseus who killed the monster and married the fair maiden. And this was a creative theme in the history of art, with rather fetching paintings by Edward Poynter and Paul Gustave Dore (both done in 1869) among many others.

(Incidentally there's a pic I thought was by De Lempicka of a nude standing woman with arms chained above her head and a cityscape behind her, viewed through a window or balcony and done in an art deco style with a few cubist elements - but it's not on the official website and I can't find it anywhere else. I first saw it a decade or so ago so my memory may be wrong, and if you have any suggestions I'd be grateful.)

I could blather on about the role of naked women in art, especially in submissive, 'damsel in distress' or otherwise rather louche poses, but there's no point because the theme has been covered extensively by Janine Ashbless with a post on naiads, another post on naiads and one about mermaids, and Billierosie's blogs on Ingres and on the Pre-Raphaelites among many others.

I guess by way of a conclusion, what I'll say is that the decision to paint a contemporary work like Holly in a style that harks back to the Victorians does speak to some of the more voyeuristic tendencies of that era, so it will get the work noticed - but at the same time the mythology is there to support an interpretation of a person bound by circumstances beyond their control and trying to compose themselves in the face of adversity. It's just the Prometheus thing I don't get, because the reference that stuck me was Andromeda. In which case, where do we look in this day and age for Perseus?

Finally, Velvet recently came across Caged Angel's website recently for reasons too boring and technical to explain. But if you're into contemporary erotic art have a look at the 'adults only' gallery there...

Monday, 4 April 2011

Of frogs and glue

I recently had cause to read the Wikipedia entry on sexual fetishism. As a definition, sexual fetishism is the condition of becoming aroused by particular physical objects or situations. I did note the article has warning labels all over it about being of disputed neutrality, and presumably there are judgements to be made there about what one might call the normal and conventional range of objects and situations that could cause arousal, and about the intensity of response and resultant behaviour. But I'll let that pass. Wikipedia notes that 'Many people embrace their fetish rather than attempting treatment to rid themselves of it' and on the whole I'd suggest that's probably a more positive outcome than anything a psychiatrist might attempt to 'treat' a fetish.

The terminology of fetish, of course, does throw one back to the older use of the term, which implies an object in which something sacred or supernatural resides, or perhaps which can be used to call up some sacred or supernatural part of oneself. But that's by the way.

There was one throwaway remark in the article that caught my attention:

The existential approach to mental disorders developed in the 1940s and influenced a view that fetishes had complex personal meanings beyond the general categories of psychoanalytical treatment. For instance, the Austrian neurologist and logotherapist Viktor Frankl once noted the case of a man with a sexual fetish involving, simultaneously, both frogs and glue.

Hmm... Well, real life can throw up situations wilder than any author might imagine, I guess. I'm not sure if I'd ever want to write a story that included such a fetish, though on past form even saying that is likely to mean some situation arises in which it becomes important that I do. I feel I want to know more, but also that I might not like what I find...

For the truly interested (or the truly perverse) the case is briefly mentioned in Frankl's book On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders (2004) - in footnote 9 on page xxiii, which refers you another footnote and that in turn to an audiotape of one of his lectures. I guess I might not get to find out more details anytime soon... unless anyone out there would care to enlighten me?