Monday, March 23, 2009

Death To Guilty Pleasures

I started this blog almost three months ago in order to share my passions with others.

When I was growing up, I was always the kid with the monster mask, the scary magazine, or the bone in a jar that I prayed was human. I had a knack for finding weirdness, and weirdness had a knack for finding me.

What I didn't count on when setting out to write about my obsessions was interacting with so many good-hearted, decent people.

But, you know, I've always found people into weird stuff to be the nicest people I know. They're the most broad-minded, they're the most accepting, and they're the most interesting.

They're "nice" because they're not buttoned up. They're not repressing their true selves (not completely, anyway), and they're not going to judge you based on your passions. These folks have exposed themselves to the extremes of art, so their hearts and minds have opened wider as a result.

It's the people who steer clear of this stuff, and want YOU to steer clear of it, that you should worry about.

It's the hypocrites who preach one thing and do another that bother me. They're the people I don't want my children around (if I had any).

The horrific and the sexual in art and literature provide a healthy outlet for the stresses of living.

They're akin to a safety valve that, when loosened, releases the pressure life creates.

We live in a world where we are often judged by our tastes, sexual choices, or eccentricities. I'm not sure what is being judged, but the process seems like a terribly flawed one. How can one gauge a man or woman's personal integrity based on the above criteria? Only an idiot would make a judgment about your honesty or ability to work hard based on the movies you love or the people you like to have sex with.

Yet it happens all the time.

When I was quite a bit younger, I worked at a production company where my personal film preferences branded me as a weirdo. As a result, I was not taken seriously when I pushed for better work. Eventually, I got what I wanted, but that was because the decision maker was replaced. I remember having a discussion with said replaced boss about I Spit On Your Grave because the film was being duplicated for VHS in one of the company's dubbing suites.

As Camille Keaton was being raped on a rock on a monitor in front of us, my boss said to me: "What's this crap?" I answered: "It's actually quite an interesting film." He rolled his eyes and looked at me thrice: "Maybe for someone like you it is."

I think this is how the concept of Guilty Pleasures was born. It is a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for films you are supposed to feel guilty about liking. By stating that your fondness is a guilty pleasure, you communicate your awareness that the film is unacceptable. By doing this, you assure others that you are still pretty much like them, if occasionally offbeat.

It's a weird form of conformity.

And another wonderful bi-product of religion.

I've never felt guilt about loving a movie or a book. Why should I?

Even though I grew up in a country where admitting you liked porn was like admitting to the nation that you were a pervert, I did so, anyway.

There is merit in everything.

As a teenager, I used to freak friends out when I'd discuss the best and biggest Euro porn publishers by name. If someone was trying to remember the name of a magazine they'd seen, I would ask: "Who's the publisher?" They'd look at like I was some kind of nutcase. "What do you mean Who's the publisher?"

I'd say: "Is it Rodox Trading? Seventeen? Silwa? Magma? VTO Teresa Orlowski? Dino? Private?"

I've always been interested in the business side of pornography and I'm a keen reader of any available literature on the companies.

I researched Peter and Jens Theander, the founders of Denmark's Rodox Trading (Color Climax), the biggest porno empire in the world for some time.

I read enthusiastically about the pioneering days of Berth Milton Sr., the creator of Private, a company that has made a successful transition to new technologies. Many haven't.

I found out everything I could about Teresa Orlowlsi (Foxy Lady), the first female publisher of pornography, and her husband/photographer Hans Moser. I even interviewed them for a Japanese fanzine.

And I marveled at the accomplishments of Beate Uhse, the porn baroness who, with her son Uli, struggled hard to build an empire of high end sex boutiques in many European airports.

These folks had nothing to be ashamed of.

I didn't either.

I save my guilt for honest failings.

I am committed to sharing a broad spectrum of PULP interests with anybody who's interested.

Some will appeal to many.

Some will appeal to a few.

Already, I'm getting some indication of the topics that score high in the interest department and the topics that score low.

That's fine.

I'll endeavor, however, not to be ratings-driven.

We've seen ample evidence of where populism can take us.

Writer James Purdy, who died last week, divided critics and provoked controversy with fierce, original works such as Cabot Wright Begins and Eustace Chisholm and the Works.

Reviewing Cabot Wright for the New York Times, critic Orville Prescott slapped Purdy for the book's "obsessive concentration on perverted and criminal sexual activities".

Susan Sontag likened the book to Voltaire's Candide.

But Mr. Purdy had the last word, and evidently did not entertain guilt when embracing his pleasures:

"When you're writing," he said, "you're so occupied by the story and the characters that you have no interest in what people may think."


  1. I have learnt to overcome any 'guilt' over material leaning toward the 'extreme' over time; I keep coming back to it over and again, so I have learned to embrace it.

    The main reason is that I find resisting what you love and what endures a waste of far too much precious time and energy. In sheer practical terms (aside from any moral considerations, which are too comlicated to waste precious time arguing), it is now just easier to accept who I am.

    I feel a twinge of- not 'guilt' as much as the nagging question 'could I not be watching something more challenging than "Lassie" movies, or Fred Astaire musicals'? There are times when I am watching "Finding Nemo" for the tenth time, I think to myself, could I not be watching something more 'risky'? And yet I love a lot of the Pixar and Disney stuff, and let's face it, you can't spend all your time watching the extreme. Occasionally, as much as I love the grindhouse classics, and have come to love blood and gore, we all need a rest from it. "CJ7", for example, was a wonderful release for me from this self imposed expectation I have of myself to pursue the hard core- and yet I do feel that I am 'letting the side down' when I let the 'child' in me have the remote control.

    But this is not the same thing as 'guilt'.

    All your points are interesting. As a cop, I pretty much saw it all- not just on the screen. I saw all kinds of horror; and as repulsed as I was by most of it- especially the degradation, humiliation and defiling of women and children to satiate prescient needs and urges- there was a part of me that wondered whether I was imposing not only the 'laws of the land', but my own moral judgement on others.

    This is a key issue, I think; in "Manhattan Murder Mystery", in response to some of these horrors as recounted by Diane Keaton, Woody Allen said in a moment of admirable liberal egalitarianism, 'it's a melting pot'. He quite astutely observed that it is all- no matter how horrific- a matter of choice, and the so called 'good' and 'bad' are all a part of the melange we have chosen to be a part of known as 'society'.

    The biggie, of course, is child molestation; this pursuit is not, never has been and never will be my choice, and I pretty much side with prevailing community standards on this one.

    And yet, how can I be the person I am without at least acknowledging it is a response to an inherent 'urge' in others, for whatever reason (and every reason is different, mark me), that manifests in the choices they make?

    I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge, and contemplate, the psychological complexities of the practice before I let the hammer fall. Remember, most of these individuals do not think they are doing wrong, just as I do not think I am wrong for fucking my 'of age and consenting' fiance.

    In ancient Rome, the prevailing standard leant toward condoning the practice of what we now call 'Paedophilia'.

    I would not be true to myself if I was not pestered by the notion that anything- no matter how 'bad'- is a choice based on an urge, imperative or agenda. And I try to understand this in every aspect.

    And yet, who am I to say this one is 'wrong', and that one not? Thankfully, 'It aint me, babe...'

    Then again, if you speak to victims and families of this foul practice (and I have), there is no question that child molestation is an abberant, largely predatory, completely selfish and (to me) abhorrent practice.

    I think in the final analysis, it boils down to a sober understanding and a grasp of all aspects of such 'phenomena', and all such choices, rather than judgement.

    Personally, I am repulsed by cannibals who meet on the internet to indulge in mutually agreeable pursuits of interest; but that is MY value system. Provided there is mutual consent, how can I possibly judge the practice because it is not to my taste?

    Life boils down to, in it's essence, those who are eaten, and those who do the eating; who are we to judge it when it is made manifest in actual practice?

    I too appreciate a mind that asks these questions. I personally would not want to hang out with a cannibal or a pedaphile, because these are not my interests. But to judge such people outright is problematic, and should be approached with due care and diligence. Remember, pedaphilia can, legally, be a matter of only a day or two.

    A child as defined by law can boil down to a matter of hours- even minutes.

    Who can make life and death decisions on hours, minutes, seconds, fractions, integers, or anything? Not this little black duck, buddy; 'no way Jose'...

    Choices. It all comes down to choices. My personal choice is to stand for the rights of the poor, the opressed, and the frail. But this is only my choice. There might well be those who read and comment on this site who don't give a shit about others.

    Do I have the right to 'judge' them on this basis? No. But we might well find some common ground in other areas.

    To label is to negate.

    To dismiss someone outright without getting to know them, in all their glorious complexity, it fraught with danger.

    I think paedophilia is largely the exploitation of those with minds not yet formed enough to exert their own sovereignty; and according to my own belief system, I always have, and always will, champion the rights of those who are exploited on the basis of their age, ignorance, their mental state...whatever.

    In the same breath, I like to think I stand for the same rights of entire nations similarly exploited because they are essentially 'children' in sovereign terms.

    Any kind of oppression- political, emotional, social, etc- bothers me.

    And resistance excites me.

    But this is still my own personal opinion, my value system, which inevitably informs my choices. And when one drifts beyond personal choice into the complicated arena of collective choice, and the exertion of ones own standards and practices on others, one must do so with appropriate caution.

    Just as I used to take very seriously depriving another person of their liberty by locking them in a jail cell when I was a cop, so too do I think very carefully before I crucify someone for their choices.

    One day, someone might crucify me for mine. And I would hope for the same degree of care and introspection if or when they do so, as I exert in my own estimation of others.

    I can hear the rumblings of a biblical quotation here, but I will resist.

    I will simply close with this.

    'Libertie. Egalitie. Fraternitie...'

  2. People like what they like. A person's right to dislike what you enjoy, and voice that opinion, is just as strong as your right to rail against the Jonas Brothers.

    It works both ways, dude. Just because some folks don't enjoy rape and slasher films, doesn't mean they're otherwise suspect. Personally, I can't stand the MARLEY AND ME crap, but I'll defend a studio's right to make it, as long as it makes some people happy.

    BTW, I LOVE James Purdy and have since I first read THE NEPHEW at 19. Just reread MOURNERS BELOW and found so much I had missed the first time around.

  3. That sound you hear is my applause, Phantom. EXCELLENT post, and I couldn't agree more with you. Well-played, sir!

  4. Keep on skewering the disingenuous and ignoble twats of the world and for fuck's sake pander to no one!

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  6. mandingo -- there is no issue with your letting the child in you have free reign. I have written here ad nauseum about non-genre, non-extreme stuff I love like 'Fly Away Home', 'Obekna Skola', and Miyazaki's classics. It's only when you combine two extremes into one film that you run into trouble with some people. Certainly not everybody.

    Child molestation is definitely a pursuit I'm a foreigner to. Those damned with the urge walk a dark road.

    Thanks for your closing triage.


    Anonymous -- yes, many don't enjoy what I enjoy.

    The folks I will always find suspect are those who insist on banning what I like on the grounds that it is "corrupting". It is arrogant to assume that their pleasures aren't corrupting.

    I have read enough Purdy books to feel that his passing is a considerable loss.


    Tenebrous Kate -- I hear your applause and I thank you, Kate. It's so cosy having a lady in the clubhouse. Stick around, please!


    d -- I'll do my best, even if my best is sometimes such a bad best.

  7. jervaise brooke hamsterJune 24, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION", what a hideous time in history to have been born into.