A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Girls Next Door

The Girls Next Door is a reality television show that takes viewers behind the gates of the Playboy Mansion and into the lives of Holly, Bridget, and Kendra, the three girlfriends of the iconic Hugh Hefner. The show is sexy and sensual, taking the audience into the bedrooms and behind the scenes of nude photo shoots (with all “unmentionable parts” blurred out, of course); and yet the show is not the typical flesh-hawking reality tv. Far from it, actually. The show is actually quite, funny, and adorable.

The appeal and focus of the show is on the lives of Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. “Hef”—the girls’s nickname for the gracefully aging Hugh Hefner—is often seen on the show. He interacts with the girls, conducts business, and generally lives a life of leisure; but mostly the show centers on the personality of the girls as they live their lives and pursue the various things that interest them.

In short, even though the show is sexy, its appeal is not sex. Most of the show is not about sex. Most of the show is about beauty and personality. The girls are interesting and adorable. Holly is ambitious and holistic, taking initiative to spearhead various projects and photoshoots. She also makes no secret of the fact that she has a maternal instinct and wants to have a baby with Hef. Bridget has a master’s degree in communications and a deal with the Travel channel for a new tv series. Kendra is a carefree tomboy who loves to play sports and party.

The girls live a charmed life. Accordingly, they talk about how “blessed” they feel to “live such a special life.”

What makes the show unique and worthy of discussion at Theos Project is that The Girls Next Door subjectifies the sexuality of porn stars. The girls are not objectified as sex objects. They are not merely flesh for the consumption of the lustful; rather, their sexuality is linked to their subjectivity—they are first people. Their career is sexual—one might call it their “calling”—but there is no sense that their sexuality degrades them or holds them back from exploring their full potential as people and as human subjects.

Briefly, I think The Girls Next Door illustrates three mergers. These mergers represent things that have been traditionally separated and dichotomized.

First, there is a merger of porn with pop culture. We now live in a porn culture. It is part of the electronic evolution of humanity: porn is now quick and easy and not "dirty." One need only log on to the internet to find a world of whatever entices desire. This merger of porn with pop culture is perhaps not as integrated as places like Hong Kong or Japan, but still a reality. I remember hearing in the last year about a Japanese baseball player who recently came to the States to play in the MLB. He casually began publicly describing to reporters his extensive pornography collection. For all intents and purposes, it appears that it is not uncommon for reporters and ballplayers in Japan to discuss pornography and even to exchange dvds with reporters! Pornography is no longer a back-ally activity with an exclusively negative connotation.



The second merger is porn with art. Regardless of how one feels about the moral ramifications of pornography, the fact is that porn is now artistic and may even be "beautiful."

Third, porn has been integrated with authentic personal expression. Not only is porn generally considered an authentic form of personal expression for those who view it, but porn is now also a form of self-expression and perhaps even a “calling” for the porn star. This is similar to the merger of porn with art, but in this case, the suggestion is that being a porn star is a vehicle to achieving occupational fulfillment. Porn is not just a badge of shame for girls who are looking to make money—it’s not just an economic exchange—there really seems to be something deeper and self-authenticating.

I see all of the above mergers and integrations when I watch The Girls Next Door. The show is porn in pop-culture, an artistic production, and the girls of the show live a charmed and fulfilling life.

Traditionally, both those on the right and the left have vehemently opposed pornography. On the right, the religiously conservative, concerned with the morality of sexuality. On the left, those concerned with the degradation and exploitation of women.

Noam Chomsky expresses his objection.



Chomsky brings a black-and-white perspective: pornography is degrading to women, therefore pornography should be eliminated. “Women are degraded as vulgar sex objects,” says Chomsky, “That’s not what human beings are.” Chomsky finds this to be even beyond discussion, kind of an axiomatic given.

I certainly find a lot in Chomsky that I resonate with: degrading women—or anyone—is something that is worth fighting. I would certainly agree with Chomsky and others who oppose porn if pornography is embedded in a social context where those who produce the porn have very little (if any) other options and therefore reluctantly resign themselves to degradation and humiliation in order to survive. Such a system is sick.

What makes the 21st century discussion a bit unclear, however, is that pornography has merged with pop culture, art, and personal self-authentication. The girls from The Girls Next Door don’t have to shoot porn. They could walk away at any time, and at some time they probably will.

So, if the conditions for exploitation has been eliminated, is there still an objection to porn?



An argument might be made that human beings, by nature, are degraded by participating in pornography. That is, porn is degrading, even if it may feel self-authenticating to be a porn star and even if the porn star is unaware of the fact that they are being degraded. Similarly, those who participate in watching pornography degrade themselves, regardless of any personal satisfaction they receive. Pornography cheapens sexuality. Human beings were called to something “higher,” and pornography holds us back from something “more noble.” Such an argument, I think, might be difficult to prove. I think it would have to come from some sort of inner sense. This does not make the argument less potent, but perhaps such an argument really isn't an argument but rather an internal sense that sexuality is cheapened if it is made available for public consumption.

At this point, we are entering the murky waters of speculating on morality and nature. Pascal said that custom is our nature. What is “human nature”? Something we inherit, something intrinsic? Or is “nature” more closely related to the societal and cultural matrices within which we are embedded? Perhaps one of the great intellectual and cultural wars of our day is over human nature. How do we define ourselves as sexual beings? Is it based on something in our nature? Or are we defined sexually based largely on the cultural and society norms/morality that we are taught?

In any event, I find that The Girls Next Door provoke an important discussion of sexuality. It reflects many of the unique realities of sexuality in the 21st century.

78 comments:

daniel hutchinson said...

Hi Jon.

I don't understand why you perceive a change in the 21st century porn industry as a whole compared to before based on this single show.

As far as I know we are living in a world with more rape, sexual violence, human trafficking, paedophilia and homosexuality than ever before, and pornography is part of the mix.

Is this show nothing more than the PR?

When I think of what the kids I teach age 9 - 13 can see on their cellphones at the touch of a button, and when I consider how this growing obsession affects their self-gratification patterns and relation to the opposite sex, the 21st century is on a collision course with modifications in "acceptable" expressions of sexuality perhaps only a symptom of the general embrace of artificiality and superficiality represented by this media we call "porn".

daniel hutchinson said...

All I'm saying is to make the bold general statements you make, I think your argument should be based on more than a slick TV production.

Also, the "reality" of this mode of TV is highly questionable. Whould the girls have nay reason not to portray their lives in this way? Reading your account (and never having seen or heard of the show or Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends until now) leads one to believe these people have no problems.

Nobody has that reality. I would prefer a show that deals with reality not this fantasy world.

Maybe that is the key, why this porn is more like the artistic porn of the mannerists c.1600 eg: Alessandro Allori's Susanna and the elders

Raptor said...

I've watched the show before and I find myself agreeing with Daniel's assessment.

It is hard to discern what is "real" about these girls lives with the recent development of Holly and Kendra leaving and Hef replacing them with 19 yr old twins.

The show I would like to see is one where the girls are told that Hef's fortune has been lost through the recent economic crisis, and that it appears he will have to sell the magazine and the estate. We'll see what kind of relationship he has with the girls next door then.

Jason Hesiak said...

Erdmanian...i didn't know you had aspirations to be in Playgirl! :)

in all seriousness...would you post for Playgirl? would you find that fulfilling? why or why not (would you pose or find it fulfilling or not)? or what if you had a friend who suddenly decided he wanted to pose? what would you say to him? what would you think of his desire to do so? why would you feel that way?

or...what if it was just an aquanitence who you learned posed for playgirl or had big life aspirations in that direction (lets assume for the sake of ease that playgirl was as big a business as playboy)? do you think that would or might effect your chances of going from aquantence to close friend and trusted confidant?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel: As far as I know we are living in a world with more rape, sexual violence, human trafficking, paedophilia and homosexuality than ever before, and pornography is part of the mix.

How would one measure rape/sexual violence/etc.? The media tends to sensationalize these stories more than in the past, but I don't know that this means that sexual violence/degredation/exploitation actually occurred less in the past. Perhaps this is the case, Daniel.

I just want to make sure that we are in touch with some sort of truth on the issue before jumping to conclusion. I come from religious circles where everyone seemed to always see the worst in the world and talk about how we were becoming more and more depraved. I just don't want to be someone who always assumes the worst.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel/Raptor,

My point was not to base my observations on the show; on the contrary, I was using the show as a good illustration of where our culture/society currently stands in relation to pornography and sexuality. The various "mergers" I talked about in the post are reflected in culture, and I think that The Girls Next Door is very illustrative of these mergers.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: what if it was just an aquanitence who you learned posed for playgirl or had big life aspirations in that direction (lets assume for the sake of ease that playgirl was as big a business as playboy)? do you think that would or might effect your chances of going from aquantence to close friend and trusted confidant?

I don't know why it would. I can't ever see myself holding back from a person based on whether or not they posed for playboy/playgirl.

If a close friend of mine said that he/she was interested in posing, I would approach the issue like I would any other important decision in their lives: I would try to get a feel for what led them to the decision. I generally try not to dictate to my friends what "the best thing" is for their lives. My primary focus is usually on trying to ask questions that help them understand their own decision making process. Sometimes this involves second guessing them, but not always.

As to whether or not I would pose??? That kind of cracks me up! Are we talking about an issue of Playgirl that features the world's hottest nude theologians?!!??!

parodijski centr said...

If all there is in the world is the Market, then we are ALL sex workers, and the porn industry is simply reacting to the fact that they've gone entirely mainstream.

What's this bigot Hutchinson doing on your blawg?

Eve.........Interrupted said...

While I respect the point of view Hutch has, I am leaning toward agreement with Jon, that this has been an ongoing thing, that the media is into pulicating it more now so than ever. We read passages in the Bible of Lot and his family, The Sodom and Gamorra issue, the adulterous woman thrown at Jesus feet, ready to be stoned. Sex and the misuse of it has always been around.
At the same time, I have enjoyed this show, because it does show a different, and I think somewhat accurate point of view into these girls lives. Their lives as they may know it, may be short lived, and yes they may sleep with Hef(which to me is just gross), but it is thier choice and maybe their sacrifice to have the other side of life that they want. the lap of luxury, the experiences, the chance that maybe they hadn't before. But it also portrays them as real people. Not some nasty, trampy, porno-crazed women. Unfortunately, for those who don't view sex a a common thing, we live in a society where sex sells. But sex is no longer the subject no one talks about anymore. It's no longer hush, hush. I'm not quite convinced it was ever meant to be, either.

daniel hutchinson said...

Jon, I respect your caution over assuming the worst. I think that you are correct to question the kind of orthodoxy that states the world is getting more and more depraved.

However, it is incontestable that new media has brought an influx of pornography. I teach music at a junior school, the kids are inundated with pornographic images, music, conversation, and they don't have to look for it because its so popular it just pops up on their internet enabled cell phones.

Kids are losing their innocence at a younger age then ever before. Child pornography is getting bigger than ever, faster than ever.

I think this can be compared to what happened in Europe with the invention of the printing press, all the pornography that was produced subsequently.

Ideas have consequences. You had a pervert like Marquis de Sade in the 19th century publishing his filth, now there are kids into sado-masochistic sex. You don't find that kind of sexual deviancy throughout history, only in societies with no respect for decency (Sodom and Gomorrah is an historical example already cited... but hardly the norm for human life).

Don't be surprised in a generation to come kids will be following this kind of example and expecting to have many girlfriends not to mention the expectation of a wealthy, extravagant, wasteful lifestyle which I read into the photos in your essay, and is equally destructive and unsustainable.

Materialism of all kinds is a lost cause.

daniel hutchinson said...

Eve......interrupted:

I respectfully subimt that what you see on TV is not an accurate reflection of these girls lives - but we shouldn't debate that because we are unlikely to know what is honestly true, and what is scripted.

Like Jon says in relation to Obama, it's all spin and image so vote for the best spin. I see that outlook here too. I'm not sure where that approach ultimately leads.

All I know is that I've always preferred eating crunchy fresh apples to eating toffee apples; with toffee apples, once you get past the toffee the apple is often dissapointingly soft.

Jason Hesiak said...

I don't know why it would. I can't ever see myself holding back from a person based on whether or not they posed for playboy/playgirl.

I think I would feel the same way. But then I would also wrestle with the question of whether this person (thinking of a dude in Playgirl) is or is not what a friend of mine would call a "cheeseball." Where everything isa show...the "bling bling" glasses, necklace, car, ect. I mean when you meet the dude it's probably obvious. The point is I can't see being good friends with that goofball. It would just be difficult, if not impossible, to relate to him. I've had many of the conversations with those folks before where I would ask a question in an attempt to probe a bit deeper into life, but...its just not there. So then so far in life I've found that I'm left to let him be him, and to be on my way.

Now that's to assume that that's the guy (or corresponding gal) would would pose in Playboy or Playgirl. Not always the case, I don't think. But even then I think the truth of the matter is reflected in my own life...a certain blindness that leads to a kind of pathetic search for the wind, if you will. Yes I've looked at Playboy before, and when I have I've been looking for "happiness", and no it has certainly not brought it to me. Its brought more of the destructive stuff that Daniel was mentioning. And like I mentioned, Hef and Holly (I think her name was) broke up. I think that, along with the fact that he just had someone else move in, is rather demonstrative of a deep truth, reflected in the lives of the actors as well as the audience of Playboy/Playgirl. He even SAID explicitly that he felt sad that she moved out, so he had someone else move in to help try and make himself feel better!

As to whether or not I would pose??? That kind of cracks me up! Are we talking about an issue of Playgirl that features the world's hottest nude theologians?!!??!

I suppose, lol. But what I was getting at...what would be the "point"? I don't think you would, actually, because I actually do think that folks who do that ARE "aspiring" to something through doing it...to "happiness"...or whatever or however you want to put it. And I think you know you aren't going to find it by doing that. Maybe I'm wrong though. Maybe you see Holly and whoever, along with Hef, as happy. Or shoot I dunno maybe you see happiness as impossible and a contrived illusion. I'm not sure. (?) Eitehr way posting for Playgirl wouldn't bring happiness, but if you said you would pose, the only actual reason I can think of (and correct me if I'm wrong) is as a provocative reactionary against culturally conservative Christianity.

Jason Hesiak said...

oh and one more thing, on a different note...you mentioned subjectification. a bit different from the whole "PR" thing...as soon as they are on camera, they are objects.

and regardless...how is subjectification any better than objectification?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Parody,

I think you make a good point about the marketplace. That's kind of where I see this convergence of pop-culture and porn. It also seems to have a lot to do with much of religion today, which just seems to be an attempt to "get the message" out via selling the packaged up product in the market place. If people object to selling sexuality on the grounds that one is cashing in on the sacred nature of sexuality, then why doesn't the same reasoning apply to the vast and lucrative religious marketplace? Don't religious teachers and preachers cash in on their "sacred" calling all the time?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel: Don't be surprised in a generation to come kids will be following this kind of example and expecting to have many girlfriends not to mention the expectation of a wealthy, extravagant, wasteful lifestyle which I read into the photos in your essay, and is equally destructive and unsustainable.

Materialism of all kinds is a lost cause.


Daniel, then given your assessment of our current situation and/or our potential future society, what do you think is the best response? I'm wondering specifically what you think of how one deals with children.

I grew up in a very sheltered environment, so when I first confronted soft-porn as a young adolescent browsing the magazine racks, it blew my mind. I was raised to basically think that anything sexual (unless done as a married person) was evil and immoral. But I don't think such is the case. Sexuality and sexual desire does not seem to me to be the issue.

Now, the kids of today will grow up with far more exposure than I did. So, what does that mean? Will it mean that children become ravenous sexual beasts? That seems a bit extreme, don't you think? Or does it simply mean that they can learn at an early age what sexuality is and begin understanding themselves and others as sexual beings?

But what do you think? I mean specifically in terms of how one reacts to a hyper-sexualized society. Does one hyper-moralize sexuality? That is, lay down the law? This is right and this wrong type of thing?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: I think I would feel the same way. But then I would also wrestle with the question of whether this person (thinking of a dude in Playgirl) is or is not what a friend of mine would call a "cheeseball."

A guy who poses for porn is only a cheeseball if he has a 70s porn mustache.

To your point, though: I'm not sure if there is a necessary connection between someone posing for porn and there being no substance in their lives. Perhaps all that means is that people of substance don't work out enough!

I also wonder if we are not unnecessarily allowing ourselves to fall into American stereotypes: if you have a good body you are supposed to be stupid (jock or cheerleader); and if you are intelligent, then you have to look like a 90 pound weakling. Are we sure that's the way it is supposed to work????

Jonathan Erdman said...

Also, back to me posing in Playgirl....still makes me lol!!!! But anyway.....I think that if I ever did that, it would not be for money but for the artistic value. I'm not interested in money or fame, but I think that nudity has an artistic value that is completely unique.

That's why I mentioned the merger of art and porn, b/c porn has changed. It's not just about taking pictures of naked people and slapping it together in a tasteless magazine. With the growth of technology, there is real artistic potential.

But I think I would have to hit the weights for a while before I would be ready for my debut!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

Can you expand your question/thought on subjectification and objectification. For example, are you saying that just because someone is being photographed they necessarily lose their subjectivity?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: Yes I've looked at Playboy before, and when I have I've been looking for "happiness", and no it has certainly not brought it to me. Its brought more of the destructive stuff that Daniel was mentioning.

I think the same can be said of virtually everything in our lives: if we put more spiritual investment into it than it can deliver, then we will feel empty. If someone turns to porn to fill an existential void, then it's only a temporary fix (usually). But the same is true of drinking tequila. Tequila is great if one's out to have a good time with friends, but when a person turns to drinking to deal with their issues, then drinking will only kind of help temporarily numb the pain.

Let's be honest, even going to church, reading the Bible, etc. can be merely a temporary fix for issues that are more deeply rooted. If one has to face something and chooses to run, then any activity will do: porn, drinking, church, or whatever.

But, of course, just because we can abuse porn/drinking/church doesn't mean it is wrong in and of itself.

Jason Hesiak said...

A guy who poses for porn is only a cheeseball if he has a 70s porn mustache.

aknowledgedly funny :) i acutally had one of those for a short while...not too sure what i was thinking...if anything at all, lol.

To your point, though: I'm not sure if there is a necessary connection between someone posing for porn and there being no substance in their lives.

That's why I said: Now that's to assume that that's the guy (or corresponding gal) would would pose in Playboy or Playgirl. Not always the case, I don't think. But even then I think the truth of the matter is reflected in my own life...a certain blindness that leads to a kind of pathetic search for the wind, if you will... I mean...its not hard to imagine a hot young gal who goes to Princeton and poses for Playboy...probably actually happens a lot.

Perhaps all that means is that people of substance don't work out enough!

Perhaps. But that would assume that anyone who is in shape (that's me) would pose for porn, as if posing for porn is the ideal to which we all strive. As if posing for porn meant for today what in Jesus' day it meant to become a Rabbi. For some this is the case, but this is precisely why I asked about the Ecclesiastical "striving after the wind" issue.

I also wonder if we are not unnecessarily allowing ourselves to fall into American stereotypes: if you have a good body you are supposed to be stupid (jock or cheerleader); and if you are intelligent, then you have to look like a 90 pound weakling. Are we sure that's the way it is supposed to work????

That's kind of what I was just asking with the whole rabbi/ideal thing. I'm going with "no." I think Ron Jeremy is the exception to the rule of who poses for porn, lol, but I don't think there really are any such rules to who lacks substance in their lives...or to who is on a quest to catch the wind.

That's why I mentioned the merger of art and porn, b/c porn has changed. It's not just about taking pictures of naked people and slapping it together in a tasteless magazine. With the growth of technology, there is real artistic potential.

I think maybe this was one thing in the Rennaissance when there was still a Ground. When are was allowed to be art, but also allowed to iconically point to something. But now that the common perception is that art is to be "realistic"...I'm trying to think of a situation where nudity was not or could not be obscene...the only istances now I can think of are when there is violence involved...like in a WB Yeates poem that I can't remember right now. Most photography with nudity that is "natural", like in an old shed or where the beautiful curves of a woman mingle with the curves of a tree or of rolling hills or something...that's all American Romanticism...boooh...I don't think it succeeds in getting past the spectacular barrier between subject and object (thus I would still see it as obscene). I could see someone like Andrei Tarkovsky pulling it off, where the context of breking that barrier is already set. He kinda does so in the film Andrei Rublev, acutally. But its fragments of nudity, too.

Jason Hesiak said...

Can you expand your question/thought on subjectification and objectification. For example, are you saying that just because someone is being photographed they necessarily lose their subjectivity?

Sure. No I'm not saying they loose their subjetivity, but I am saying that once there is a camera and a "picture", then there is an "object", and the "object" is whatever is in the "picture". The objection emerges with the projection, if you will :)

Let's be honest, even going to church, reading the Bible, etc. can be merely a temporary fix for issues that are more deeply rooted. If one has to face something and chooses to run, then any activity will do: porn, drinking, church, or whatever....But, of course, just because we can abuse porn/drinking/church doesn't mean it is wrong in and of itself.

True...in general. But I think porn is different because it is inextricably linked to fertility worship, ect. in the Bible. Yes, the context is different, ect. But I think they are still linked. Wine, though, has lots of other links, along withh Dionysius.

Regardless, just because porn is not "inherently wrong" (whatever that even means) and church is not necessarily not a running from deeply seeded issues does not mean that its a good idea to go to porn for happiness and a bad idea to go to a decent church for...God.

Jonathan Erdman said...

In general, I would disagree. I don't think I would recommend going to church to look for God....but that's another discussion!

Jason, here's a question for you. Let's say that a person does NOT go to porn for "happiness." That is, they recognize that porn is not something that is going to fill any deep internal emptiness. Would you have a problem with someone using porn for sexual satisfaction?

In other words, what if someone recognized that porn is not going to resolve any serious spiritual issues, but they appreciate porn for its artistic/sensual beauty. Would you have a problem with that? With kind of a limited use of porn?

Incidentally, I tend to think that it is ill-advised to approach God strictly as the plug to fill up the emotional/psychological/spiritual holes in our lives. The whole "are you empty? God can fill you up!!!" religious shtick has cheapened our appreciation of God....me thinks....

daniel hutchinson said...

Alessandro Allori's Susanna and the elders -

What do you think Jon?

Some of these kids can't sleep at night because of the stuff they are into on their phones, and the irony is that for all the "exposure" they are less capable of friendship with the opposite sex, more akward, and more focused on the physical side of relationship than the possibility of appropriate companionship.

Jon, how would you factor other data into your perspective re. the artistic value of contemporary porn? How about the high divorce rate, abortion rate, teenage pregnancy - these are not merely variations on life of neutral significance, but destructive situations of hurt, pain and confusion.

If porn had artistic value, in my opinion, it would reflect on the misery of society and not have a "beauty" integer.

Its just a sham, there is no truth in this "art" and as I see it, art without truth is more of the same advertising, publicity material, etc.

daniel hutchinson said...

Maybe I'm wrong. Looking at the girl's faces in the photos I see a hidden sadness. Maybe it is art after all. A veneer of respectability and made-up beauty with all the dissapointment and tension under the surface. Maybe it says more about contemporary society than any other art expression. Maybe "reality" TV (what a misnomer) is the first new art form of the 21st century.

But it's still pathetic.

Jason Hesiak said...

Jason, here's a question for you. Let's say that a person does NOT go to porn for "happiness." That is, they recognize that porn is not something that is going to fill any deep internal emptiness. Would you have a problem with someone using porn for sexual satisfaction?

This is actually Ron Jeremy's argument in favor of porn. If presented with the scenario, I would have a hard time believing that that's what was actually happening. But I am and would be well aware that I could be wrong about that. I just don't know.

In other words, what if someone recognized that porn is not going to resolve any serious spiritual issues, but they appreciate porn for its artistic/sensual beauty. Would you have a problem with that? With kind of a limited use of porn?

Well first of all I think there's a difference between this and using porn for sexual satisfaction...well...sort of and sort of not. They could be the same but they are also different. Anyway, using it "for sexual satisfaction" is different from "appreciating it for artistic/sensual beauty." And regardless - what about the subject/object thing we were discussing? Does the separation of subject and object not bring about obscenity?

Incidentally, I tend to think that it is ill-advised to approach God strictly as the plug to fill up the emotional/psychological/spiritual holes in our lives. The whole "are you empty? God can fill you up!!!" religious shtick has cheapened our appreciation of God....me thinks....

OK. But that wasn't what I was referring to, for one thing. For another, that still doesn't mean that porn is a good idea. Holly and "Hef" are still broken up, we all know that "Hef" is not in any real lasting satisfying relationship. I guarantee you that won't happen with the 19 year old twins. Do you disagree there? And my guess - although possibly wrong - is that Holly is probably not in a lasing satisfying relationship, either. But neither am I, so I'm not one to talk. I'm just saying...regarding porn...is all...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

Why can a relationship not be "satisfying" if it is not "long term"? Not all of my current group of friends will be with me till the end, but that doesn't mean that the relationship is any less satisfying than if they, say, took a vow to commit our whole lives to being friends together.

parody center said...

I think you make a good point about the marketplace. That's kind of where I see this convergence of pop-culture and porn.

It's hardly my point actually, the socialists linked up on my blawg have been talking about it quite awhile, especially Shaviro (see esp. his brilliant article on the GRace Jones video, Corporate Cannibal)

and then there's this frequent trope in Black American culture on MTV, the pimp and the whore, sort of illustrating the point concretely

but there's something else, the double bind aspect *cf Bateson's double bind communication
Power always speaks in double binds, as if it were possible to simultaneously be a whore and a decent housewife. The colors and the design in the Hugh Heffner reality shtick belong in the detergent commercial genre, they suggest domestic bliss and homeliness, but the fact that through this prostitution is being promoted suggests a kind of a double bind... and isn't it true that Satan speaks in divine language???

Jonathan Erdman said...

Damiel: Jon, how would you factor other data into your perspective re. the artistic value of contemporary porn? How about the high divorce rate, abortion rate, teenage pregnancy - these are not merely variations on life of neutral significance, but destructive situations of hurt, pain and confusion.

Well, I don't know that I would blame all of society's sexual woes on pornography. And even if there was a link between these things and porn, it would illustrate to me the danger of abusing pornography, not that pornography itself is responsible. For example, it isn't the fault of alcohol that someone gets drunk.

If we place too much blame on alcohol for drunkeness or on porn for sexual addiction, then I'm just wondering if we risk eliminating personal responsibility.

What do you think?

In general, if someone sees no artistic beauty in porn, then that is probably where the conversation ends. "Beauty" and "art" are very subjective terms, of course.

The same thing is true of drinking. People who don't like the taste of alcohol and who have seen its abuses will be more likely to just dismiss all drinking as "wrong/evil/immoral," I suppose......and such an approach is understandable.

Jason Hesiak said...

interesting thoughts from Dejan on the "double bind" and power.

Why can a relationship not be "satisfying" if it is not "long term"? Not all of my current group of friends will be with me till the end, but that doesn't mean that the relationship is any less satisfying than if they, say, took a vow to commit our whole lives to being friends together.

I would be willing to bet like 300 dollars that - at the very least- PART of why Holly and "Hef" broke up is because he wouldn't marry her, or at least that he wouldn't committ long term. And I'm not a betting man. I mean...I miss my friends from LA terribly. Our relationships were "satisfying", but we know we would still do pretty much anything for each other. Being apart from them NOW is NOT "satisfying."

By the same token, I guarantee you that if a relationship consists of sex and porn only (I said "only", so take the example for what its worth, as a kind of thought experiment, going to an extremme - although all of Hef's "relationships" pretty much fit that bill nicely), then it: a) won't last, and b) isn't as "satisfying" as a relationship with...other elements as well.

And on top of that...back to Dejan's power stuff...yeah...porn IS about power...which in itself makes it suspect.

In general, if someone sees no artistic beauty in porn, then that is probably where the conversation ends. "Beauty" and "art" are very subjective terms, of course.

Uuuhhh...so...what about the subject/object thing? To review what I said about that previously...

I think maybe this was one thing in the Rennaissance when there was still a Ground. When arT was allowed to be art, but also allowed to iconically point to something. But now that the common perception is that art is to be "realistic"...I'm trying to think of a situation where nudity was not or could not be obscene...the only iNstances now I can think of are when there is violence involved...like in a WB Yeates poem that I can't remember right now. [or the film Devils Advocate] Most photography with nudity that is "natural", like in an old shed or where the beautiful curves of a woman mingle with the curves of a tree or of rolling hills or something...that's all American Romanticism...boooh...I don't think it succeeds in getting past the spectacular barrier between subject and object (thus I would still see it as obscene). I could see someone like Andrei Tarkovsky pulling it off, where the context of breking that barrier is already set. He kinda does so in the film Andrei Rublev, acutally. But its fragments of nudity, too.

Jason Hesiak said...

btw...what IS pornography? or at least...what are we taking pornography to be in this conversation?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

I'm not sure I'm really with you anymore....meaning, I don't understand what you're driving at....I'm not trying to defend the history of Hugh Hefner's relationships. All I was saying is that just because a relationship doesn't last forever does not mean it is not an upbuilding, loving relationship that is of the agape variety. Whether Hefner is a man with agape love is not really something I can comment intelligently on.

Also, I'm still not quite with you on the subject/object discussion. Personally, I tend to see a danger in objectifying people. In sex, if someone becomes a sex object, then their personal subjectivity tends to get left behind, which I think is a negative thing. What I'm saying, though, is that today's porn seems to have the capacity of expressing one's subjectivity, hence, it is not completely about objectifying the person as a sex object.

Eve.........Interrupted said...

I have a few things to say regarding the porn vs. art. First, we as men and women degrade ourselves to the point of what most people perceive to be porn. But only a person with a true understanding of what art is can say that some porn is art. When I see a woman that is very attractive lying nude in a seductive, provacative pose, my senses are arroused. But it is not because I am degrading her in my mind as some sexual object. My senses are hightened and I see her for the beautiful woman that she is, confident and provocatively sensual. Given the chance to be in her shoes, I would love nothing more than to pose myself. Not because I am empty and looking for happiness, but becasue I found it in myself, my body, my sexuality. I would love just be artistic with my own being. An extension of what I feel on the inside.

Some tend to forget that sex is a beautiful thing. People over use it and abuse it and make it a degrading thing...it doesn't have to be.

Honestly, the fact that these three woman can live in the same house together for as long as they did, knowing that Holly was the special one, amazes me. I do agree though that Hef is looking for instant gratification. But not all people view the idea of several partners like that. I for one do not. I think that experiencing more than one lover is very satisfying.

But, hey, I am eve, interrupted! What do I know? ;)

parodijski centr said...

And on top of that...back to Dejan's power stuff...yeah...porn IS about power...which in itself makes it suspect.

Hesiak the thing is what Erdman here brilliantly brought to the surface - Erdman's always been good with porn issues, because he went to the XXX cinema a lot in his youth - is that this isn't a sexy kind of sex anymore, it's not really about sucking fucking or cumming, it's more about the politics of power; these girls form a kind of a family, and this seems to design their subjectivity as well, and all this sick power play is presented with a kind of a frozen, chilling smile, perfectly pastel-colored and marketing-friendly, but devoid of feeling, when you get down to it it's a form of prostitution and slavery for the women, because Heffner is after all an old fuck and a paedophile who owns a harem. Or maybe it's not, at best it's a not very healthy psychological game, an unequal relationship between Daddy and the good girl. This is not sex as hedonism, as carnal pleasure, this is a kind of a S&M, and I think that's because the primary matrix of relationships on the Market is the pimp and the whore, while we are being pummeled by the media into economizing our sexual relationships.

Melody said...

Jon,
I'm commenting somewhat late to the discussion so I'm just going to kind of give an overview to my thoughts

As far as the show goes...I just see it as white-washing porn.

It's got pretty colors and smiling faces, so it can't be bad. Nothing's bad if people are happy while they do it.

And as for showing the girl's personalities...isn't it just demonstrating that no one is so smart, so nice, so interesting that we can't turn them into objects for our own gratification?

You talk about porn being artistic...and I agree that it can be, but what is it's primary purpose?

I see a difference between a nude photograph/drawing/statue and porn. One celebrates the human form and the other is designed to cause lust over it. The lines are blurry, I'm aware. Someone could surely lust over the former and others might not give a second glance to the latter, which is why many Christians have equal disapproval for both.

But...the purpose Jon, how can you see it as ok to intentionally provoke lust when the bible specifically speaks against it? Or do I misread 1 John's admonition against lust? Did Jesus treat it lightly when he suggested gouging out one's eye to avoid it in Matthew 5:27-29?

In the end it seems to me that you're willing to call sin something else as long as it is artfully done instead of crudely filmed in someone's basement.

I don't understand.

Jason Hesiak said...

perfectly pastel-colored and marketing-friendly, but devoid of feeling, when you get down to it it's a form of prostitution and slavery for the women...

I agree. And speaking of prostitution, this is partially btw why I asked what we mean in this conversation by "pornography" - rooted in Gk. for, basically I think, "writing about prostitutes."

Anyway - I agree with everything you said, Dejan (said like only you can, btw :), I think. And so in that light I'm just trying to figure out why (you) Erdman seem(s) to be...affirming...the situation.

When I see a woman that is very attractive lying nude in a seductive, provacative pose, my senses are arroused. But it is not because I am degrading her in my mind as some sexual object. My senses are hightened and I see her for the beautiful woman that she is, confident and provocatively sensual. Given the chance to be in her shoes, I would love nothing more than to pose myself. Not because I am empty and looking for happiness, but becasue I found it in myself, my body, my sexuality. I would love just be artistic with my own being. An extension of what I feel on the inside.

Erdmanian - on the subject/object thing...in my next comment to Miss Eve...see below (and I will also address your comment directly after that).

I can see where you're coming from, but is she "lying there" in a photo-graph, or in person? You said, "but because I found it in myself...". If she's "there", and "there is" nothing about the artifact (the photograph, presumably) that successfully breaks that inside/outside and/or subject/object relationship between you and yourself by the very "graphic" nature of the "photograph", then you aren't dealing with a simply present kind of reality of "finding it within myself," but instead you are dealing with an object that is outside of you, as the subject of the camera or your gaze, or as an notated object in cartesian space.

But then even still further...if we enter Baudrillardian territory (and this is more for the Erdmanian)...and we live in a time after we have built a map of the whole territory and on top of that gotten tired of it and thrown it away and left it to rot in the desert and forgotten about it...only for it to have left traces of itself in our consciousness...then even if we ARE talking about a nude woman "in person" as opposed to in a photo-GRAPH, we are then still dealing with an "object" that is "out there", whether sexual or not.

Also, I'm still not quite with you on the subject/object discussion. Personally, I tend to see a danger in objectifying people. In sex, if someone becomes a sex object, then their personal subjectivity tends to get left behind, which I think is a negative thing. What I'm saying, though, is that today's porn seems to have the capacity of expressing one's subjectivity, hence, it is not completely about objectifying the person as a sex object.

First of all, see above, as I had mentioned. Secondly, the reason I asked previously if it was any better to be subjectified than objectified is becasue of the power issues involved in sexualization. Part of that has to do with Dejan's comment(s). Lord Hefner, king of his castle with his sexual surfs, is the prevailing wages up in this joint. And part of that is also that power issues are always involved in the spectral gaze.

And more particular to what I was talking about with the camera:

http://www.amazon.com/Technology-as-Symptom-Dream-Romanyshyn/dp/0415007879/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1224643427&sr=8-1

"In this volume, Romanyshyn looks at a our propensity as culture to look at life from a very monucular linear perspective. He borrows many analogies from art and this is helpful in understanding his ideas. Basically, this book deals with our alienation from our bodies, nature and what makes us basically human. He claims much of this evolved out of Cartesian dualism and ties it in to the development of perspective in painting and the rise of technology."

Also - Amanda - I would be more impressed with the three gal's living together for so long in that situation if I did not agree with Dejan's observations, again: all this sick power play is presented with a kind of a frozen, chilling smile, perfectly pastel-colored and marketing-friendly, but devoid of feeling...

Which btw reminds me - if The Girl Next Dor IS "art" (and in the broad sense in which I think of "art" it obviously is), and if it is also, all this sick power play [that] is presented with a kind of a frozen, chilling smile, perfectly pastel-colored and marketing-friendly, but devoid of feeling..., then I agree with Daniel that it is pathetic art.

In sex, if someone becomes a sex object, then their personal subjectivity tends to get left behind, which I think is a negative thing. What I'm saying, though, is that today's porn seems to have the capacity of expressing one's subjectivity, hence, it is not completely about objectifying the person as a sex object.

And what I'm saying is that these observations of yours don't really add up to me...to affirming either The Girl Next Door or pornography.

Partially because of Dejan's observations about its being pastel colored and devoid of feeling. If that's true - and from my observations it is - then its not even real sincere "subjectivity", in the sense in which I think you mean "subjectivity."

But further, if Dejan's observations are true, then the very contrived pastel "subjectivity" of The Girl Next Door is actually more of the surf/slave/prostitute "subjection" to...whatever names you want to give to the various powers that are subjecting them.

And further, to my point about the relation between subject and object (Technology as Symptom and Dream link/book as a good example) - the very fact that they NEED to be "subjectified" - in the sense in which I think you actually MEAN "subjectified" (like, in a positive light, as opposed to being purely sex objects) - means that they aren't out of the whole "subjectifying" (in the negative lord/surf sense) realtionship to "objectification." Kind of like how you can't really speak Greek to an Englishman, but you are still, at least to some degree, speaking English (OR if you are speaking Greek AS an Englishman).

And lol after that little book there I think that's all I have to say.

Jason Hesiak said...

oh and since Melody brought up that whole Bible thing...Erdmanian...if you are affirming the value of porn, so long as it subjectifies the woman...what do you see as the "sexual immorality" to which Paul was referring. Or more to the point, what would such "sexual immorality" be today?

and...done...for now :)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dejan,

I don't really see the show as "frozen, chilling smiles." I actually see it as more of a throw-back show; a kind-of contemporary version of the surreal 50s household, where everyone is happy all of the time.

In contrast to what you suggest, I do think this is a sexy kind of sex, because the show itself is not about sex. It's about girls who are fun and charming and sexy. The show is about the personality of the girls, not their sex appeal. To suggest otherwise, I think, is to read the show as being intentionally deceitful. As Melody suggests, "white-washed porn." On the surface, the girls seem nice and lovable, but deep down they are wretched, ugly, and their self-esteem is shot.

There may be something to you and Melody's suggestion, of course. The 1950s cultural vision of a picturesque society where everyone was happy in their place was eventually exposed as a sham.

Jason Hesiak said...

MISTAKE...

First of all, see above, as I had mentioned. Secondly, the reason I asked previously if it was any better to be subjectified than objectified is becasue of the power issues involved in sexualization.

was supposed to be

First of all, see above, as I had mentioned. Secondly, the reason I asked previously if it was any better to be subjectified than objectified is becasue of the power issues involved in subjectification.

Jason Hesiak said...

I don't really see the show as "frozen, chilling smiles." I actually see it as more of a throw-back show; a kind-of contemporary version of the surreal 50s household, where everyone is happy all of the time.

What's the difference?

(you seem to suggest the question later in your comment...There may be something to you and Melody's suggestion, of course. The 1950s cultural vision of a picturesque society where everyone was happy in their place was eventually exposed as a sham.)

and btw that it is (partially) a "throw-back show" makes it all the more about inextricably about objects (in/of the distant, pin-pointable, past).

Jason Hesiak said...

which btw is why i don't like ecclecticism (especially in architecture)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

I'm not sure offhand which 1 John passage you are referring to.

Regarding the passages in the Sermon on the Mount, I tend to interpret them as a polemic against those who wish to live under law. Jesus begins the Sermon by saying that he has not come to abolish the law to fulfill it. Once the law has been filled, then I think we are set free from law (Galatians 5).

That's just a brief response to the specific passages you mentioned.

As for Christianity's relationship to sexuality in general, there seems to have been a general suspicion toward anything involving sexual pleasure. I'm not sure that such an approach is all that great. There seems to be a Platonic feeling here: anything that is earthy/bodily/material is under suspicion.

For me, the primary concern of "the flesh" is that it tends to consume us to the point of making us addicts to pleasure and self-gratification at the cost of loving others.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

Dejan's initial point was that if the girls from The Girls Next Door are prostitutes, then so are all of the rest of us who participate in a similar market economy. But, as I said, I don't see the Girls Next Door as "frozen, chilling smiles," so I'm not sure I'm prepared to agree with Dejan quite yet.

Jason Hesiak said...

For me, the primary concern of "the flesh" is that it tends to consume us to the point of making us addicts to pleasure and self-gratification at the cost of loving others.

i like that. well said.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

Some people actually were happy in the 50s, and their joy was authentic. The problem with 1950s culture is that it tried (much like religion today is still doing) to make a one-size-fits-all person: woman will be happy if she stays at home and cooks/cleans, man will be happy if he works and wears a skinny black tie every day, and kids will be happy if they listen to Father. While the template doesn't work for everyone, it does work for some. For some people, 50s culture is great, for others it was hell.

Jason Hesiak said...

Dejan's initial point was that if the girls from The Girls Next Door are prostitutes, then so are all of the rest of us who participate in a similar market economy.

actually his initial point was that its about a kind of politics of power, presented in a cold pastel kinda way. which THEN (the "then" was unstated, and possibly assumed by me?) "when you get down to it" "is a form of prostitution."

but anyway...the prostitution...although i could see dejan saying we are all prostitutes (and I think i would at least see his point, if he were to say that)...in that situation seemed to be limited to the show's specific contextual set of particularly structured relationships.

Jason Hesiak said...

Some people actually were happy in the 50s, and their joy was authentic. The problem with 1950s culture is that it tried (much like religion today is still doing) to make a one-size-fits-all person: woman will be happy if she stays at home and cooks/cleans, man will be happy if he works and wears a skinny black tie every day, and kids will be happy if they listen to Father. While the template doesn't work for everyone, it does work for some. For some people, 50s culture is great, for others it was hell.

Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly. So, for some people, the more personalized/subjectivizing pornography is OK as a means of sexual satisfaction, whereas for others it is hell. And whether the porn is one or the other is probably not dependent on the porn, either, but on the person.
??

Jason Hesiak said...

btw hopefully dejan will clarify for us what he meant...?

daniel hutchinson said...

a) This show is pornographic. It takes the viewer "into the harem".

b) There is lots of literature dealing with this topic, even in the Bible: Esther, Solomon, Abraham, etc.

c) Reality TV is a new art form with its own codes. Its frothy, but enjoyable for many people. Its narrative form seems to follow the old detective novels.

d) A reality TV show about prostitutes and an old pimp appeals to people.

e) In the context of the reality TV art form, what is the truth in this art? (Art must express some truth, to be art).

BTW, the other 21st century literary art form is the blog. This is one of the compelling blogs around.

Well, I don't know that I would blame all of society's sexual woes on pornography.

Jon, I don't see pornography (and I appreciating Jason's Greek definition) as "causing" problems, but to my mind it does exacerbate existing problems we have with our sexual desire. Call me what you like, I'm a married man and sex is an important part of my relationship with my wife, but not the focus of our lives. I reject all forms of pornographic images, music, literature, TV, as unhealthy objects of contemplation. Others may enjoy it and even find it intellectually stimulating.

To be honest, pornographic music is for me the worst (lyrical content about "pimps and whores" as in MTV), but then I'm a musician so I have an appreciation for music qua music without the pornographic lyrical content that others enjoy for the titillation.

Remember this line...."the lust of the eyes, pride of life, and lust of the flesh"... It pops up in my mind as a little warning not to get to into this stuff.

daniel hutchinson said...

Had a chance to check out the painting by Allori yet?

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/thing?id=3479249

Two old men chasing a beautiful young woman. Would it make a storyline for popular TV show?

Melody said...

Jon,

I'm not sure offhand which 1 John passage you are referring to.

Offhand I think it's the second chapter. Doesn't mention sexual lust specifically, but lust definitely comes up.

Once the law has been filled, then I think we are set free from law (Galatians 5).

I know. Maybe I shouldn't even bring up the Bible since we're never going to agree on what it says?

As far as the whole whitewashing thing...I'm not saying that those people live terrible lives underneath or that they're doomed to sadness because of the porn. They might be. I hear stories.

But the only people I know who were in the industry are lovely and it hasn't made them terrible or evil. I don't think. They even had a good solid marriage, until her husband became an alcoholic. But there were other factors.

All I'm saying is that it's a why to divert our attention from what it is. Objectifying women. "Look, look! She has a personality! All better! It's ok to objectify someone if they have a personality too!"

The problem isn't that it makes people ugly underneath (and after all - under your theory why shouldn't people be ugly? We're free to do whatever!), the problem is what porn is. And what it is doesn't change just because it's beautifully rendered or has a witty tv show.

Jason Hesiak said...

That Allori painting of the two old guys and the young woman...which I had seen before...it looks to me as if its supposed to be comedic. Which reminds me...if I'm going to take "The Girl Next Door" seriously as "art", then the only way I can really come to terms with it is to render it as comedy. And it actually kinda does make me chuckle.

Jason Hesiak said...

btw...notice the cartoonified ELLIPSE into which is inscribed the words "the girls next door" in the video provided at the end of the post...

...a note on the "realism" i had mentioned and its link to the spectacular subject/object barrier...

http://www.erasofelegance.com/history/baroquescience.html

(this website is a very short read)
the basic idea of the website is lots of talk about the new scientific developments of the "baroque era." do notice the elliptical jewelry box or whatever that thing is at the top left of the screen of that website. "Meanwhile, Johannes Kepler engaged in the study of astronomy and developed the laws of planetary motion in 1609. Kepler, a nearly blind though brilliant German mathematician, derived these laws, in part, by studying the observations of the keen-sighted Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. The laws are stated as follows: (1) "The orbit of a planet about a star is an ellipse with the star at one focus..."

and anyone who has studied baroque art knows that the ellipse was a major motif. an extension and deepening of the realism started by Giotto and furthered by the invention of perspective in Florence in 1404.

you may recognize the following as St. Peters:

http://www.interzone.com/~cheung/World/Ita/Baroque/StPeters5.jpg

its an oval, meant to approximate an ellipse...rather than the ancient domes and arches and what-not, meant to APPROXIMATE the heavens. the ancient motifs didn't have anything to do with ellipses b/c they weren't interested in realistically copying the heavens. "reality TV." PAH!

daniel hutchinson said...

Jason, you are an intuitive thinker. Another Baroque motif, the misshapen pearl, also seems relevant here. I'm gonna check out those links.

Your reference to Baudrillard earlier was timely, care to expand a little more?

My view of subjectification/objectification, is that the one (objectification) is an oppressive action and the other (subjectification) a repressive action.

Repression is controlling, oppression is pressing down. There is a small difference.

Insofar as they are both enacted upon a subject, they amount to the same thing, a denial of the agency and freedom of the other.

I think it is interesting to look at the story of Esther again, as the woman emerging from a subjectified position to stand before the king, putting her life at risk by asserting herself in this way.

If there was reality TV then, it would have been an unscripted moment when she confronted Ahaseurus and Haman at the third banquet!

daniel hutchinson said...

you may recognize the following as St. Peters:

http://www.interzone.com/~cheung/World/Ita/Baroque/StPeters5.jpg

its an oval, meant to approximate an ellipse...rather than the ancient domes and arches and what-not, meant to APPROXIMATE the heavens. the ancient motifs didn't have anything to do with ellipses b/c they weren't interested in realistically copying the heavens. "reality TV." PAH!


Thanks Jason! That's incredible. I forgot your were an architect. I concur re. the eclecticism point you made before, but would like to discuss this further with you because post-modern form seems to me to be about pastiche and collage, unlike organic or coherent motivic modernist theories of form. (My reference is music, so I wonder if this resonates in architecture).

Montage / pastiche / collage form unlike eclecticism would unfold within formal boundaries and I'm keen to discover those.

The very first and excellent example of the formal pastiche structure I'm talking about I've identified in Ezra Pound's Cantos.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

What makes you think that we will never agree on what the Bible says?

Jason Hesiak said...

I concur re. the eclecticism point you made before, but would like to discuss this further with you because post-modern form seems to me to be about pastiche and collage, unlike organic or coherent motivic modernist theories of form. (My reference is music, so I wonder if this resonates in architecture).

Montage / pastiche / collage form unlike eclecticism would unfold within formal boundaries and I'm keen to discover those.

The very first and excellent example of the formal pastiche structure I'm talking about I've identified in Ezra Pound's Cantos.


daniel lol i admittedly have NO IDEA what "pastiche" is. its as if i remember hearing the word in a former life, but...uuhh...

that said...i've never been a fan of collage. bricolage, on the other hand...i think, at least...has more going for it in the direction of some sort of coherency in a work. and btw speaking of montage, bergson is part of why i say that about bricolage. but anyway, i don't AT ALL equate montage with collage. but maybe you can enlighten me on how i am thinking of a rather limited definition or idea of "collage"?

and now when i get home i will have to break out my ezra pound :)

as for formal boundaries...your remark there makes me think that you must be a fairly accomplished musician? do brag, please :)

and btw what you mentioned about the relation between montage and ecclecticism in the modern and postmodern history of music very much does "resonate" in architecural history, as well :) question - john cage, in this context?

parody center said...

Jason, Erdman,

I was talking about the high-gloss design of the show, affectively speaking this is cold; it has the appearance of 1950s homeyness but not that same feeling. In fact it appears a bit psychotic; you probably know how psychotics, suffering from derealization, act as if it were the most normal and commonplae experience. It looks quite normal on the surface, but you sense something is off-key. I get the same sense from Heffner's harem.

And yes Erdman I meant that whoever participates in the market economy is a whore, working for pimps. It's everywhere: artists have to sell their work, psychologists have to choose CBT instead of psychoanalysis, Christians have to market themselves as you observed et cetera

So in this way pornography no longer has any kind of a subversive or alternative profile, it is strictly de rigeur, the daily way of doing business.

Hutchinson I get a strong signal that you're seriously into Christian bigotry and I DON'T LIKE THAT AT ALL.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm going to try to summarize things. Let's start with Jason.

Jason: "Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly. So, for some people, the more personalized/subjectivizing pornography is OK as a means of sexual satisfaction, whereas for others it is hell. And whether the porn is one or the other is probably not dependent on the porn, either, but on the person."

I think that's kind of where I'm at, at this point in the conversation.

I disagree with Daniel, albeit slightly. I don't think art need always be about truth. Art can simply express beauty. But if art expresses beauty, then I think beauty is its own truth. So, the point: I think we can appreciate art as beauty.

The Question: Is porn not art, by definition? Is porn NOT beautiful, by definition? But this question is what influenced my post because I see in contemporary porn a merger of art/beauty with porn, and I think it complicates the discussion.

In the past the discussion was a bit more simple: porn was exclusively and explicitly an appeal to addiction and "the flesh." It was a flesh fest: naked bodies, sex, and cheap production. But the contemporary world merges porn with beauty/art. This happens in movies. (Recall our discussion of Basic Instinct where we discussed the relationship between art and porn in film.) There is a lot of money spent to make sex scenes beautiful or to make them fit within the film in a way that draws out the truths the film is conveying. Hence, in contemporary film there is both aesthetic beauty and also sex/nudity that fits within a substantive narrative. It doesn't always happen that way....some might argue that it is rare....however, it does happen on occasion, and the greater point is that films now have the capabilities of merging porn with art.

Next Question: How do we handle porn if it is now beautiful?

Daniel/Melody seem to be emphatic on saying that it doesn't matter: porn should always be rejected.

Daniel says, "I reject all forms of pornographic images, music, literature, TV, as unhealthy objects of contemplation."

Melody says that "the problem isn't that it makes people ugly underneath (and after all - under your theory why shouldn't people be ugly? We're free to do whatever!), the problem is what porn is. And what it is doesn't change just because it's beautifully rendered or has a witty tv show."

But I am confused. What is the "is" that you (Melody) mention? (You left us hanging!) What is porn that makes it incapable of being appreciated, if it merges with art/beauty? For Melody, if porn is "beautifully rendered," what it "is" doesn't change, and hence it cannot (or should not) be appreciated.

Daniel is a bit more clear to me: "it [porn] does exacerbate existing problems we have with our sexual desire." In other words, being beautiful wouldn't matter b/c porn entices our desire, hence it should not be appreciated.

In a sense, I can appreciate this thought b/c if one can only feel desire and jerk off (pardon the crassness) when watching porn and cannot appreciate the beauty, then any artistic appreciation seems improbable/impossible. Hence, I can understanding keeping clear of porn.

However, what I think might be a mistake is to label all extra-marital sexual desire as ipso facto immoral. I think this is an over-reaction and from my experience it does two things: (1) it tends to make people lust even more and in an "unhealthy" way because prohibiting something usually makes us want it all the more. (2) We create a religious culture where people get married just to have sex and feel sexual.

The Scriptures themselves present a very pluralistic approach to sexual expression. All of the figures mentioned by Daniel (Esther, Solomon, and Abraham) engaged in sexual relationships that would be considered grossly immoral by today's pop-Christian standards. Esther probably had premarital sex w/ the king (i.e., the "test" for marriage was probably not a nice dinner at Applebees followed by a cutsy Hugh Grant movie. "12 Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. 14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name." Esther chap. 2)

Also, Solomon had more than one sexual partner. Abraham took on wives (plural) concubines (with whom he had other children, (1 Chron 1:32). These and many other biblical examples seem to suggest that sexual expression should not be a matter of applying so-called "absolute truths" or standards to all people; instead, it seems to me that the more important thing is to honestly discuss the ramifications of sexuality in its diverse forms of expression, recognizing that we are incredibly diverse people.

Melody said...

Jon,

What makes you think that we will never agree on what the Bible says?

Because any time I say anything about the Bible you’re going to say “Galations 5! Romans 6!” and we don’t agree on what those chapter are saying. I don’t even understand what you think those chapters are saying. Maybe one day I’ll rent a seminary student to explain it to me, but for the time being it’s enough to know that we draw wildly different conclusions.

I suppose we agree on some things, but I couldn’t tell you what they are.

Melody said...

I'm not ignoring your next comment, I just need to not take time to answer it right now. I'll get back to you.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

Fair point. I recall we had an in-depth discussion on my Law-Freedom-Spirit-Flesh post, where I presented a summary of my interpretation of Galatians. We didn't come to much that resembled a mutual understanding, as I can see from reviewing the comments.

But in brief, I see the NT as ushering in a new way of thinking that is above and beyond legalistic thinking. In fact, more and more, I think that the NT didn't finish its own work in this regard, but kind of set us out on the right track.

Jason Hesiak said...

"Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly. So, for some people, the more personalized/subjectivizing pornography is OK as a means of sexual satisfaction, whereas for others it is hell. And whether the porn is one or the other is probably not dependent on the porn, either, but on the person."...I think that's kind of where I'm at, at this point in the conversation.

Gotcha. And I can certainly see your point, and maybe almost be in agreement.

Only difference with me is, rather than "Its OK", I'm at, "I don't know." Where I differ, I think, is that I just don't understand why there would be such a differenc between the more "subjectivized" pornography and the other stuff. You haven't really addressed that, yet. It strikes me as a bit Ralph Waldo Emerson-y. Ooh aah flowers and landscapes and individuality...and such dissublimity is the basis of reality.

Also I think the new "merger" of art and porn is market driven.

And I think I can actually jive with the stuff about Abraham and Solomon and Esther and whomever else. Except I'm not sure about the extra-marital sex...all of those relationships were either involving or centered around marriage. There were a bunch of concubines in the OT, but...I'm not sure what I think of that, though.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

By "subjectivity," I am referring (mostly) to personal narrative. In this sense, becoming objectified as a sex object (or even as an architect) means that you are a reduced to a functional object. "Who the hell cares about Jason? He's an architect who does good work. What more do we need to know." Such an approach to Jason, reduces him to an object, a cog in the wheel of the market place. Does anyone care about Jason? About his unique narrative? About the process of his life and the ways in which he makes decisions and defines himself?

Sure, it gets a bit vague--this talk of "subjectivity"--kind of oolala, as you say. But I think you get the picture. If a porn star's identity consists in her flesh, then she is objectified. If her personal narrative becomes important, then she is moving away from objectification, in some sense, anyway.

As you can see, this converges with Dejan's point that we are most fundamentally defined by our relationship to the market. Heidegger fretted about this, which is perhaps one reason why he chose to build his little shack in the Black Forrest and turned down a prestigious appointment as the chair of the phil. dept. in Berlin.....of course, it is ironic as all hell that the dude was a NAZI for a time. Tragic, really.

daniel hutchinson said...

Jon, subjectification is what happens when a person becomes the subject of another. As in a king's subjects... so it fits this Girl's Next Door scenario in the sense that polygamous relationships are generally the preserve of kings and other wealthy men (but these days, pimps qualify - and for the past while some have been fabulously wealthy. Its an interesting factor in the African-American middle class certainly).

IN terms of subjectification, subjectivity is allowed, but contained in a strict, repressive relationship. Its not a kind of free subjectivity, by no means; in fact, the opposite, a harnessing of subjectivity.

Going to Esher. She challenged King Ahaseurus and stepped outside of the limits imposed on her as Queen, outside her subjectification. Vashti had earlier done the same and been kicked out, but Esther's actions found favour.

Now, the other examples: Solomon's and Abraham's multiple wives are reflected on in the Bible as transgressive. The law of Moses stated that a King of Israel should have one wife (leaders in the new testament were also required to be a "husband of but one wife"), and Abraham was impatient for the son of promise and begat Ismael with his concubine (God forgave Abraham without much fuss but there were serious consequences).

By contrast, Esther was a Jewess in captivity, the norms of the Babylonians cannot be expected to be Godly but are nonetheless recorded somehow rather neutrally in the Bible.

Anyway, I think it's good to bring these examples into the conversation. I do agree that it helps to contextualise what's going on in the show, maybe not to get freaked out by the surface details of the harem. I'm not going to live like that as a Christian, but Hugh Hefner never claims to be a Christian so I won't judge him by Christian standards.

I'll be honest, I've fantasised about what it would be like to have many wives at the same time. To be honest, it's a scary thought. Faced with a simple choice, I don't think I'd go for it the sexual benefits notwithstanding. I love my wife.

So Jon, I think the show does have something to say about sexuality today, and you may be onto something, but would still like to see how you combine your insights into the show with other social data - i.e. go beyond the spectacle.

Your summary of our points was ok but I disagree with this: that you see porn as fulfilling sexual desire when and where it leads to a sexual act. I think at least since Freud we understand that sexual desire can be sublimated in various ways in a nature/culture paradigm, and porn addiction even if just for looking at beautiful girls as a pastime is wrong, a waste of desire.

This ties in with your point a while ago about Paul's injunction in 1 Cor. 7 that the time is short and it's good to stay single.

I'd say if you are staying single to look at porn, it is still distracting from the focus on Jesus, and so as Paul says "rather get married".

Maybe what Jesus said about looking at a woman "with lust in your heart" being equal to adultery is also pertinent at this juncture, in fact it's surprising that this wasn't referred to yet (although gouging out your eyes indeed was).

In closing, I've always considered adultery to be a sin not because of the sexual act itself in an intrinsic way, but because it distracts time and energy from what God wants us to focus on at that specific point in time - adultery is a temptation away from what we should rather be directing our desire towards.

That's why premarital romance is wrong, regardless of the sex act, even those Hugh Grant movies can be a stumbling block!

The point is we are all looking for opportunities for spiritual growth. Anything that gets in the way should be chucked out. For you Jon at the moment this means avoiding mainstream, commercial Christianity, and I understand that. But don't advocate what's far more obviously the wrong path in the same breath. Porn is also to be avoided, surely. You've set the bar higher, and now you've got to jump it.

Jason Hesiak said...

By "subjectivity," I am referring (mostly) to personal narrative. In this sense, becoming objectified as a sex object (or even as an architect) means that you are a reduced to a functional object. "Who the hell cares about Jason? He's an architect who does good work. What more do we need to know." Such an approach to Jason, reduces him to an object, a cog in the wheel of the market place. Does anyone care about Jason? About his unique narrative? About the process of his life and the ways in which he makes decisions and defines himself?

Well I guess part of what I'm saying, then, is that I just don't see The Girls Next Door as really doing that successfully. I see other "over-ruling" forces at play, which have been, if not discussed, at least mentioned on numerous occasions in this thread. And the lack of success there, btw, is part of why I pinpointed the whole ellipse thing.

Now, obviously Hef cared about Holly to some degree; otherwise he would not have been sad when he left. But...if he really cared he would marry her. Which lead me to...

I'm not sure I'm really with you anymore....meaning, I don't understand what you're driving at....I'm not trying to defend the history of Hugh Hefner's relationships. All I was saying is that just because a relationship doesn't last forever does not mean it is not an upbuilding, loving relationship that is of the agape variety. Whether Hefner is a man with agape love is not really something I can comment intelligently on.

Now I'm not really trying to judge the history of Hefner's relationships eiteher, or rather I guess its mor accurate to say I'm not trying to judge whether or not he is "really" a loving dude. I'm saying it appears as though agape love is not the ground upon which his relationships stand, based simply on his history. And speaking of culture - it appears as though he is tilling a different ground, and the history of his relationships is only one of the fruits grown from that same soil. And I think the cartoonish ellipse is from that same soil, too, as well as the appearance of a contrived "subjectivity" that leaves you not REALLY knowing those gals. I feel that the sense in which it leaves you "knowing" them is the same sense in which Dejan described the presentation of the relationships of the show.

Its like the wheel of the machine used to do the tilling breaks each time around as it hits the surface of the ground. The soil is too dirty, too deep, to hidden, too much work to get to. And not everyone even believes in the presence of soil under the grass anyway. And then some folks believe that there is soil but some folks believe the soil is inescapably "dirty", whereas some believe that it is rich and nutritious - its just too much to deal with. Might as well just film the machine limping round and round (in an elliptical pattern, of course, because that's what we can see happening above the ground).

I guess my basic point is, I'm just not buying it. I'm not mowin what they're growin. I'm not buying what they're selling.

And now that I think of it...I guess this conversation could head in the same direction as the Obama conversation. What else is there besides "spin"? Well I guess, in that context, I would put it like this: I'd say Obama is a good actor, in that he makes me believe, whereas I just can't put my faith in Hefner and his gals. For one thing, their history has already proven that I shouldn't, and for another, their "act" just doesn't ring true to me the way a good piece of art does. It rings like a bell that's out of tune and has a really ugly sound and makes you want to get up and leave the room.

Now - not to be crass but to be clear - if they were to take their clothes off (I'm not talking about Hef) - then I would probably (not always but more likely than not) be glued to the TV by compulsion, but that doesn't have so much to do with the sound of the bell as with ME. Well, actually I think it would have a little to do with "the sound of the bell." The woman's beauty would be a part of that. But Playboy still likes to add a lot of other crazyness to the "picture" that makes the "sound of the bell" about a lot more than just "the beauty of the woman", as I'm sure Dejan would so gleefully enjoy pointing out.

Jason Hesiak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Hesiak said...

oh and btw you've mentioned the merger of porn, art and subjectivity a number of times. i don't see the current merger to which you refer as being really any different from the nature of art at any other time. porn was always art, as far as i'm concerned. i guess this new "subjectivity" to which you refer is new, but I think i may have mentioned that i think that's just market driven.

and plus, like i mentioned in my last comment, said "subjectivity" rings hollow to me. and i thought of another way to say that. i have of course never met andrei rublev, but through tarkovsky's film, which btw doesn't even have rublev in it for long stretches, i feel i know rublev quite well. i have of course never met two of my favorite architects, lou kahn and le corbusier, but their work itself is so highly effective at what i think you are referring to as this "subjectivity" that i have met the both of them in dreams. i would actually think of both of these dead architects as friends of mine! i've never met holly or kendra or whoever else, and i don't expect to, but i can tell you that if i ever come to think of any of them as friends of mine, it won't be through that show (although the mirage of the show would like me to think otherwise)! i know my friends better than that.

Jason Hesiak said...

from Dejan:
http://parodycentrum.wordpress.com/

The Ciccone-Richie divorce brings up another issue: why do we vicariouisly enjoy the marriages and divorces of mega-celebrities? Well, one, becasue they fulfill our desire for the sexual freedom their money can buy. Being middle class, none of us cna really afford it. Two, because in our hypermediated condition, sex is now a question of image exchange; witness the popularity of camming, chats and virtual dating. With the border between public and private collapsed, we no longer experience Madonna's bedroom as something foreign. That's just one of the ways the media is fooling us into believing that the rich are our neighbors.

Jason Hesiak said...

oops. that was from:

http://parodycentrum.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/the-divorce/

Jason Hesiak said...

also, by saying obama is a good actor, i meant that he is much better than "the girls next door."

Jason Hesiak said...

Also...on Abraham and Solomon and Esther and extra-marital marriage...I can see your point Erdmanian in principle...but I don't really see how that would work practically in my life. Plus...and this is slightly different...but when I went to Africa where having multiple wives is semi-common...women don't seem to be regarded with that high of a level of respect.

Jonathan Erdman said...

More regarding sexual plurality in the OT.....

Abraham, Solomon, and polygamy

Daniel.....per your comments above....I'm not sure that you really addressed my point: Abraham had concubines. Not Hagar. Not Sarah. I linked above to 1 Chron 1:32, a genealogy that mentions Abraham's concubine and the children he fathered with her. This is nowhere condemned in Scripture. In fact, the opposite seems implied: Genesis 24:1 says that God blessed Abraham "in every way." Compare chapter 25:

"1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Asshurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

7 Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi."

To my knowledge, there is no condemnation of Abraham's polygamy. On the contrary, Abraham's fertility with his concubine seems to be a mark of blessing.

Solomon's problem seems to be that his wives "turned his heart" away from Yahweh. I don't see any indication that King David's polygamy was condemned. Rather, the concern is always with the practical/pragmatic outcome of the relationships/marriage. Both David and Solomon also had concubines.....a non-marital sexual relationship.

Esther

Chap. 1 states: 2 Then the king's personal attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.

In other words, Esther was brought into the king's harem. This was not a Miss America beauty pageant, where the contestants paraded on the stage and/or demonstrated their intelligence and desire to make the world a better place. The plan was to search the land for the most gorgeous young women, take them into the king's harem, and then give them beauty treatments for an extensive period of time. Once they were all prettied up, they would "go to" the king, meaning that he would sleep with them....or do whatever he wanted to do. Since the young women were already members of his harem, after the king "evaluated" them, the young women would either remain in the harem as the king's concubines or else become queen (a position obviously reserved for only one woman).

Here is some commentary from F.W. Bush, a commentary from the Word Biblical Commentary series, a conservative-leaning (often evangelical-sympathetic) commentary.

2:12 commentary:
It is striking that the idiom “to go to,” is used four times in vv 12–14 (12a, 13a, 14a, 14c), the detailed description of the manner in which each of the young women vied for the queenship. Given this frequency, the idiom may well be used with a double entendre. The passage is loaded with sensual implications, and this Hebrew idiom is a frequently used OT euphemism for sexual intercourse, used either of a man (e.g., Gen 16:2; 29:21, 23; 2 Sam 16:21, 22; Ruth 4:13; see esp. the Comment on Ruth 4:13) or a woman (e.g., 2 Sam 11:4) (p. 365)

Comment on v. 2:17:
“and the king loved Esther more than all the women.” The use of the word “loved,” here is doubtless intended to contrast with the king’s “taking pleasure” in the other women (v 14), and so goes “a stage beyond liking” (Fox, 37). Nevertheless, it expresses neither the deep emotional bonds nor the romantic feelings that are usually associated with the English term. Indeed, given the criteria on which the king’s choice of the woman to replace Vashti is based, namely, her beauty and her ability to please the king sexually (see the Comment on vv 12–14 above), it is doubtless true that Ahasuerus’ feelings for Esther “could hardly amount to more than pride of possession plus sexual arousal” (Fox, 38). (p. 366)

Bush summarizes the harem-to-queen experience of Esther:
In the first subsection of episode 3, vv 12–14, the narrator gives a brief description of what happened with each of the young women who were candidates for the queenship. In so doing he continues his satirical depiction of the king and his court, for the account is loaded with sensual implications. Unmistakably, there are two criteria by which the king will decide which of the young women will please him and so take Vashti’s place as queen: (1) her beauty and (2) her ability to please him sexually. The first is not only explicitly stated but also emphasized by the repetition of the “giving of cosmetics” motif in all three episodes (see leitmotif C in Form/Structure/Setting), a motif that reaches a crescendo here in the satirical hyperbole of the year-long “beauty treatment” (see above). The second criterion is more implicit, but nonetheless transparent. After “entering to” the king in the evening, each young woman would return to the harem in the morning, but now to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of the concubines, not be summoned again unless the king “took pleasure in her” and she was “summoned by name” (v 14). Clearly, the grounds on which the king took pleasure in her do not need to be stated. “With exquisite reserve the story is fully told—yet devoid of sensual details” (LaSor, Handbook 1:62). Indeed, the story is told with reserve, and indeed, it is devoid of sensual details, but it is nonetheless charged with sensuality. This extends to the choice of vocabulary. In such a context the sexually charged idiom “to go to,” used four times, constitutes a double entendre (see Comment). Fox observes, “The patient dwelling on the details of the harem, the preparation of the beauties, their visit to the king and their subsequent return to the seraglio where their life will be devoted to preparing and hoping for a new invitation—all this is scarcely justified by the demands of plot alone.” But it is not “sensuality primarily for its own sake” (Fox, 36). On the contrary, it derisively depicts the sensual and sexual excess of the story’s world by caricaturing the carnal self-indulgence of its ruler. The only criteria he and his courtiers have for the woman who will be queen are her beauty (enhanced with a year-long treatment with cosmetics) and her sexual prowess (see further in the Theme and Purpose section of the Introduction to Esther). Contrast the criterion, thrice set forth by Herodotus (1.135; 3.84; 7.61), that the king could only marry a woman from one of the seven noble families of Persia (which surely implies that the choice was in actuality dictated by the demands of politics and the balance of power, as both history and common sense attest). (p. 368)

Bush, F. W. (2002). Vol. 9: Word Biblical Commentary : Ruth, Esther. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

A few of my own comments:
(1) The Esther story does not shy away from what we would today call "pre-marital" or "extra-marital" intercourse.
(2) Esther is still presented as a woman of integrity. Yes it is correct (see Daniel's comments above) that Esther was favored by God and is still seen as noble, even if she didn't take a "true love waits" pledge and/or wear a promise ring.
(3) The Esther story is one of many demonstrations in the Scripture (particularly the OT) of diversity in sexual expression/practice.

Quick Summary
This does not mean to me that sexually-speaking "everything is permissible," per se. The fact that David had concubines doesn't imply to me that I should also have concubines. But what it does mean, to me, is that sexuality is much more pragmatic and far less about finding moral absolutes. The current conservative Christian response to the sexual "looseness" of society/culture may serve as a corrective of sorts, but it is hard to say that such responses are "biblical." To be truly "biblical" with one's sexual ethics is to recognize a diversity/plurality of approaches to sex and sensuality. The apostle Paul is rather negative toward sex: get married if you absolutely can't control your desire for sex, otherwise, devote yourself to kingdom work (1 Cor. 7). Paul was hyped to get the Gospel out, that was his gift and passion. But looking at Scripture as a whole reveals that not everyone takes the same approach to sexuality.

Jason, you asked about the practical implications for your life. I think that what I take away from studying the diverse sexual perspectives of Scripture is that one simply needs to use good judgment. I don't approach sexuality with an "anything goes" attitude, but neither do I think it is wise to have "absolute moral standards." Such standards are noticeably absent from the biblical narrative, taken as a whole.

Sexuality seems more about understanding how our sexuality affects ourselves and others in the complex matrix of relationships. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 13 is the best place to start: how might agape love play itself out in any given scenario.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel,

Sorry if my tone was a bit harsh in my response regarding Abraham.....I also think I was not clear.....I merely wanted to convey that my initial comment on Abraham was not in regard to his relationship with Hagar. Abraham had another concubine named Keturah.

Also, thanks for your stimulating thoughts on rising above. I certainly don't mean to say that one just goes with the flow of whatever is culturally en vogue. On the other hand, most of the Christian circles I have been involved with seem to become quite prideful in going against the flow. I'm not sure that's quite the right approach either.

daniel hutchinson said...

Hi Jon,

I always find your posts to be measured and never get the sense that you are being harsh. I appreciate that we can discuss these issues passionately, even off the cuff, and not get offended.

Yes, it is interesting to consider that Abraham's concubine could be part of his promise from God. I don't see why not considering the culture of the day. Abraham treated Hagar poorly it seems to me, but Keturah who came after Isaac was born, seems to have been treated fairly.

What I find to be good about your readings of the Bible is that you are down to earth without ruling out the miraculous, the supernatural. There is a sense in which you avoid extremism - even in your last comment you confirm this, when you talk of going with or against the flow.

Now, I'm naturally inclined towards extremism in my temperement, but I'm also wondering is there any alternative to going either with the flow, or against it?

Aah, yes, it's called treading water.

Well, as you say in your about me, you are "in a holding pattern". You've changed those lines about beautiful snowflakes. I respect your candour.

Have a fun in Germany! Are you going to Berlin? Would you care to meet some friends of mine who have recently moved there to start a church?

Jason Hesiak said...

dr. erdman is a pimp taking a woman to germany for 10 days :)

uummm...yeah ok...moving on...

its seems to me actually that part of the idea of having a bunch of kids from concubines being considered a blessing partially belongs to what it means to live in ancient days. now that humans have not only occupied the entire globe but done so simultaneously, it would just be considered irresponsible.

as for esther's king...i see an interesting difference between he and "hef." it seems as though "hef" has married no one at least partially because of the absence of limits. whereas the king of babylon sought all the most beautiful women within his kingdom, and then chose one to be his queen, "hef" sees no limits to his "kingdom." where marriage may can serve as a kind of de-finition to a relationship, hef has no need to go there, and then may the next set of twins move in, thanks :)

daniel hutchinson said...

Sorry Jon, that should have been "have fun", or "have a fun time".... not "have a fun"???!!!

Anyway you get the message. "Have a jol" as we would say in South Africa.

Jason, let you and I continue this conversation while Jon is away, concerning postmodern form. I looked up bricolage. What a fantastic word. Did you look up pastiche?

These words actually mean pretty much the same thing, using diverse materials in a creation.

John Cage doesn't follow this formal approach, although in other ways his music is very experimental it is formally rather traditional, a piece of Cage's will be united around an idea, like the famous 4:33 uses silence. Or the works based on the I Ching, or works for prepared piano or tape - all these display a kind of formal unity.

By contrast, a good example of a divergent formal approach that combines different (re)sources is the music of Charles Ives. He would famously quote different segments of pre-existing music in the middle of a piece, or feature "accidental counterpoint" when two seperate tunes encounter one another at the same time.

The reason I am interested in developing a better idea of the bricolage/pastiche/montage/ approach to form is because I have encountered music composed over the last fifty years that is very similiar in material but the primary difference is in the form: the more conservative music has a unified, organic, economical approach, while the more radical use of the same musical material would combine it in juxtaposition with other ideas in an uneconomical, even fragmentary manner.

Ironically, this approach while I see it as postmodern was succesfully explored by a great Baroque composer Monteverdi in his operas, that combined many different musical traditions together to make a new kind of musical drama representation, consciously also reconstructing what was perceived as ancient Greek methods.

In general the Baroque period in its excessive attitude bears some similarities to the postmodern sensibility.

Generally speaking, there is not much writing on the kind of form we are talking about (bricolage), one of the only references to this idea I've come across so far is a an article on "reconstructivist art". Check it out:

http://kitoba.com/pedia/Reconstructivist+Art.html

It also mentions the sense in which I used collage. Of course the are so many words to describe the same thing. The article references quite a lot of pop culture including the movie The Princess Bride and the Natasha Bedingfield song These Words.

The author, Christopher Sunami, is also a Christian, link to his main page from the site for more of his writing.

Closing, here's a favourite quote from Charles Ives:

"Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair."

daniel hutchinson said...

In the words of Sunami from the beginning of the article:

...to reawaken a sense of the Real in a world where everything has been demonstrated to be an illusion...

A reconstructivist artwork is a post-deconstructionist artwork, in which the disassembled elements of art and meaning have been reassembled in new and better ways.

Jason Hesiak said...

daniel - i checked out all that stuff and looked up pastiche, too...yea it does look like pastiche is quite similar to bricolage...and i'll have to get back to you...have to go to work...