a cultural studies blog
In the 'proper' literary world critics are hated and artists simultaneously try to suck up to them while complaining that they just don't understand. Readers tend to think that the job of a critic is to tell them what is good stuff and should be checked out, and what is boring sh!t to be avoided. Well known critics like Mark Kermode have a lot of influence on audiences. I picked Mark Kermode deliberately because he writes and talks not about high falutin' literature but about popular films. He likes and recommends what I call '24 carat crap' movies: films which are great fun and have few pretensions. Kermode doesn't do this in a simplistic: "It's got lots of blood and gore, go for it," way. He talks about why the film works, about what role the editor has in filming, about what it is about a succesful film director's style that is good and bad.
There are few opportunities for the erotica writers of hot hot stories to get a good quote from a critic which can be used to promote a story. More than this, though, the lack of a critical framework in which writing can be encouraged - writers can get feedback and develop our craft, is one of the reasons for the success of the Literotica website. This site encourages reader feedback better than others; good writers highly prize the opportunity to hear from thoughtful readers in order to reflect on and develop our craft. Literotica offers opportunities to ask questions of other writers, to find editing support as well as to have comments on published stories from readers.
I run this blog to provide another part of that critical framework.
For readers, this is a place where you can come to have good stories recommended to you. Plus, like Sidney, I am a humanist and view 'poetry', or in my case erotic writing, as being capable of moving people to ethical behaviour.
That sounds very dull and restrictive. But the art of poetry/erotic writing and of criticism is not so crude as just telling people how to behave properly. One of the premises of my blog reviews is to encourage people - especially young people - to think critically. Think about everything around you. Think about the Disney Princess movies, what influence did they have on you? Think about a story you're reading, what influence is it having on you. Think about adverts which use air-brushed slim female figures with elongated limbs - are they really beautiful? or just posed in a way which makes you take them as a standard for beauty. Think about what people tell you is the right way to behave. Is it normal for men to hassle women for a date, and women to pretend they are above such dirty stuff? Or do women indicate subtly to men that we are interested, then the men have to guess and make a tentative move - hoping all the time that we won't slap them in the face. Or could women just ask men we like out to the cinema, as well as men asking us to go for a meal if we like each other. And, of course, you should always think about using a condom.
|Available from Ebay.|
The reason I review erotica goes well beyond it being an opportunity to encourage condom use, though.
|From Duke Press|
When we aim for equality, many people think of this as sameness. If only we could all be the same, we would not have sexism. However if we are all the same, if there is no difference between two sexes, there will be no desire. Think about a life in which you never feel desire for someone-else. Dynamism, movement, energy would disappear. There would be no exchange, as there would be nothing to exchange, we would all have the same thing. Equality has to be about diversity as well as equal opportunity, or life will be very boring.
Let's think about sexuality in a broader sense, not as two (or more) people having a bit of humpy dumpy. Let's think about families and what anthropologists call 'kinship'. Kinship is made up of your blood relations, your marital relations and most importantly, your political relations. Political in this sense is not the party you vote for in the elections, it's those who align on your side in any struggle, whom you can count on to put their power in with your power, who are likely to call on you if they are in need of support. Many of us will say that our friends mean more to us than our blood family - they are our 'true' family. In reality our social networks are made up of an array of people from work, birth/adoptive family, chosen friends, acquaintances we met perhaps on the school run or at a place of religious worship or out in the local pub. We work hard to build and maintain these networks, not just buying a drink for someone but making sure we accept a drink in return when it's proper to do so, sending a card, 'liking' posts on Facebook, getting together for festivities with certain people - often in spite of considerable tension and irritation.
Let's think about this as our 'kinship' network. Many of our friendships are light and casual - we would not dream of having intimate physical relations with these sets of people. Still, sexuality is the driving force which makes this sociable world go round. That doesn't mean 'sex', although a set of sexual relationships will have a powerful effect on who is placed where in our kinship network. A couple with young children are likely to socialise with other similar families, if they separate they are likely to start spending time with other single parents.
Society is made up of 'kinship' and family relationships, a broad interlinked network of networks of friends and allies. These networks are woven with strands from the sexual economy. It's the dynamic of desire which drives us to be human sociable selves. Learning how to manage desire in sexuality with skill and flair is crucial to succeeding as a socially able human being.
|Steampunk edition of|
Frankenstein, available very
cheaply for some reason,
- Does it help normalise condom usage?
- What kind of sexual dream is being spun here? Is it a story which makes sex a part of normal, everyday life rather than treat sex as something high octane which happens between amazingly amazing people unlikely to be found in a real world? Is it a story which allows the reader to think and explore not just the story but your own life in a critical way? (Utopian or dystopian high octane fantasy stories can be very good at doing this.)
- What does the story tell me about the world we are living in. Why are (rather unrealistic) incest stories so popular? (Not got round to answering that one yet!) Why do 'Burn The Bitch' stories about adultery attract bizarre comments which don't seem to realise that the story has been made up? (Unfortunately the answer to that one seems kinda obvious, but it might not be if we go deeper into it.)