December 30, 2008

Meet Me At Arisia In January

If you are going to Arisia, the largest science fiction and fantasy convention in New England, meet me there! I will be on several panels. Here is all the information, including dates, times, and room locations at the hotel.


The Modern Burlesque Revival (Paul Revere A) Fri 9:00 PM


Book Signing (#2 Crow's Nest - 1B) Sat 11:00 AM

Beloved Ghosts vs. Evil Dead (I'm moderator) (William Dawes B) Sat 6:00 PM

Writing Sex Magic (William Dawes A) Sat 10:00 PM


Poly 175: Is This For Me? (William Dawes B) Sun 8:00 PM

Sexy or Sexist (BU Suite - Regency Club) Sun 9:00 PM

Posted on December 30, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 08, 2008

Horror Movies And "Torture Porn"

The Tie Between Sex And Violence
Horror Movies And "Torture Porn"
By Elizabeth Black

There is something cathartic about a good horror movie. The suspense and terror are often accompanied by scenes of either blatant or repressed sexuality. Nastassia Kinski's character in the remake of "Cat People" must suppress her sexual feelings or she will change into a panther. The movie "Scream" is famous for its "rules", one of which is that any character (especially teenaged and college-aged characters) that has exciting, pre-marital sex in a horror movie will die before the credits roll.

Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies human sexuality and love, said that there is a tie between fear and sexual arousal. The hormone dopamine comes into play when we are frightened. The emotions involved with fear are similar to the feelings involved in sexual arousal. Fisher says that, rather than roses and a nice dinner, it might be more exciting to take your date to a horror movie if you hope to get lucky that night. In an article for iVillage, Fisher said that "the novelty of a dangerous situation you'd see in a horror movie or after trying a slightly risky, adrenaline-fueled activity together can also feed dopamine levels and make him want to feel emotionally closer to you via sex." Some of the best horror movies, such as the Nastassia Kinski "Cat People", the original "The Haunting", and "The Legend Of Hell House", have strong sexual overtones along with the terror. We jump into our partner's arms at the thrilling scenes, elevating our sexual arousal.

The appeal of horror films is that we control our level of terror. We can always avert our eyes, leave the theatre, or turn off the TV. We can remind ourselves that it is only a movie. We know what we are seeing is not real, and we can enjoy the thrill of being scared, yet being in full control of our situation. Real life doesn't always allow that kind of control. Quite often in these films, the hero or heroine survive the terror in the end.

Over the past year or two, it has been difficult to find good horror movies. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that seemed so wrong with the newest crop of terror. Serial killers had become very popular, but they can become boring very quickly. These new horror movies weren't so much scary as gross and dehumanizing. The sexual aspects remained, but the violence was much more intense. There are only so many ways you can kill someone without going over the line into Grand Guignol. Granted, confusing sex with violence is nothing new in horror movies. "Re-animator" contains a famous scene of the decapitated head of a scientist performing cunnilingus on the female star, who is strapped naked to a table. That is oral rape, since the man is forcing himself on her against her will, plus she is tied to the table, unable to escape. The heroine of the cult classic "I Spit On Your Grave" is brutally raped for forty-five minutes in a voyeuristic, sexualized fashion. She gets her revenge by creatively killing off all of the men who had assaulted her. The movie is cathartic in that she takes control of her situation following her rape, and she exacts her revenge. The modern horror films don't seem to do that. Creatively torturing and then killing people, especially women, just to do it over and over again gets old fast.

Or so I had thought.

The media has been following these types of movies, and calls them "torture porn". Another term being bandied about but is not nearly as common is "gorno", a portmanteau of "gore" and "porno". New York Magazine ticked off a list of these movies – "The Devil's Rejects", "Saw", "Wolf Creek", "Hostel", and even "The Passion of the Christ". A screenwriter friend of the New York reporter thought that the trend might just be "a way of ratcheting up the stakes". The reporter also noted that there is a masochistic as well as sadistic component to the mayhem. The sexual overtones are there, but the focus is on terrorizing, torturing, and then killing the main characters, especially female characters. These movies feel hopeless.

Modern tragedies do not affect the release of these films. Despite the shootings as Virginia Tech, Lionsgate released "Hostel: Part II" on June 8. This movie is about the torture killing of college students. Women are the main targets in torture porn. According to The Guardian, the most famous scene in the original "Hostel" was of "a man taking a blowtorch to a woman's face, her eyeball coming out and dangling from the socket. Later, another character snips it off with some scissors."

While the violence in these movies is obvious, also obvious is the sexual torture, especially of women. An article in The Guardian noted that "it's the violence against women that's most troubling, because it is here that sex and extreme violence collide." Nubile young women are shown in various stages of undress, and they are tortured, sometimes sexually, and then killed. According to New York Magazine, Carol Clover described differences between torture porn and older slasher films in her book "Men, Women, and Chain Saws". Clover said that "many hack-’em-ups are empowering; the “final girl” always slays the monster." Sally in the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" gets away in the end. Adrienne Barbeau's Stevie Wayne escapes the ghosts of lepers trying to kill her in "The Fog". Jamie Lee Curtis slays villain Michael Myers in "Halloween" and its first sequel. Nothing of the sort happens in modern torture porn. Nicole remains trapped and cowering in "Rest Stop" after the audience watched her be physically and psychologically tortured for over two hours. She also ends up dressed only in her bra and torn jeans in the end, while covered with her own blood. Even the French have gotten into the act. We watch the hero and heroine of "Ils" ("Them") attempt in vain to survive their home invasion only to die in the end. The identity of their killers is an especially grisly twist that I won't identify in case readers plan to see the movie or the American version, "The Strangers", starring Liv Tyler. These movies also have the cache of supposedly being based on a true story. The "final girls" in "Wolf Creek" and "The Devil’s Rejects" also die grisly deaths after hours of torture.

The movie "Captivity" started getting negative press before the film released, which only gave it more attention. Nicole Sperling reported in The Hollywood Reporter that, "[i]n the wake of a public outcry against Los Angeles billboards and New York taxicab tops advertising the upcoming movie "Captivity" with images of the abduction, torture and death of a young woman, After Dark Films said it will take down the offending ads by 2 p.m. today." After Dark and Lionsgate received scads of phone calls complaining about the "gratuitous depiction" of the film's star, played by Elisha Cuthbert, being tortured and killed. The billboard ads were described as follows: "Abduction " shows Cuthbert with a gloved hand over her face; "Confinement" features the actress behind a chain-link fence with a bloody finger poking through; "Torture" depicts Cuthbert's face, covered in white gauze, with tubes shoved up her nose; and "Termination" shows her with her head thrown back, seemingly dead." Cuthbert is a very attractive young woman who was recently voted the 10th sexiest woman in the world by young male readers of FHM magazine. The expression on her face in the "Termination" ad was frighteningly close to an expression of sexual orgasm, although she was clearly supposed to be dead in the ad. The "Termination" ad had also emphasized Cuthbert's breasts, as if to sexualize her after death.

Josh Whedon, creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly", has written against the "torture porn" trend. He wrote a letter to the Motion Picture Association of America in protest of graphic promotional material of the movie "Captivity". He wrote: "The advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre." He also wrote that the ad campaign “is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it’s an assault … this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It’s like being mugged.” Jill Soloway, one of the writers of the hit series "Six Feet Under", described the ads as the most repulsive, horrifying, woman-hating, human-hating thing I have ever seen in public” and didn’t just represent “horror, this wasn’t just misogyny … It was a grody combo platter of the two, the torture almost a punishment for the sexiness. It had come from such a despicable inhuman hatred place that it somehow managed to recall Abu Ghraib, the Holocaust, porn and snuff films all at once.” The ads were taken down after much protest.

"Torture porn" may be a fad that is likely to fade. Hopefully, horror movies that rely on plot and character development and atmosphere to scare the public will surge in popularity once again. Movie-goers deserve good, seasoned horror flicks like "The Ring", "The Changeling", and "The Devil's Backbone" rather than a smorgasboard of bloody entrails and hacked body parts. Sex has a place in horror movies such as "The Vampire Lovers". Horror movie fans may once again enjoy their popcorn with a good move that will genuinely scare and entice them, not make them feel dehumanized and violated.


"'Captivity' Audience Rebels as 'Torture Porn' Arouses MPAA Fury," by Claude Brodesser-Akner. In The Zone. March 29, 2007.

"Annals Of Ill-conceived Outdoor Movie Advertising: The 'Captivity' Billboards", by , Defamer: The L. A. Gossip Rag, March 19, 2007.

"Stop Killing Elisha On That Billboard, Thanks", by Stacy Parker, The Huffington Post, March 20, 2007.

"After Virginia Tech, Testing Limits Of Movie Violence," by Michael Cieply, The New York Times, April 30, 2007.

"For Your Entertainment", by Kira Cochrane, The Guardian, May 1, 2007.,,2069198,00.html

"Torture Porn Again", FourFour Blog, November 1, 2006.

"Horror Movies 101: The Moral Majority Massacre (Part 2 of 4): The Slasher Film", by Lonnie Martin, Great Society,

"Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn: Why has America gone nuts for blood, guts, and sadism?" By David Edelstein, New York Magazine,

"Hollywood's Insatiable Appetite for Torture Porn
Frightening, sex-soaked flicks are becoming downright offensive," by Mary O'Regan , The Utne Reader, April 19, 2007

"I don't think sex or violence is harmful in movies," By Mike Goodridge, This Is London: Evening Standard, April 12, 2007.'t+think+sex+or+violence+is+harmful+in+movies/

"3 Kinds Of Sex All Men Crave", by Nora Zevelansky
Love & Lust, Sex Articles, iVillage,,426380_672386-3,00.html

"Justin's Guide To Why People Die In Horror Movies", by Justin, Mutant Reviewers, December 6, 2003.

"Scream", by Xamot, Everything Too, July 7, 2000.

Posted on September 8, 2008 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 10, 2005

Cool! I Made MSGOP!!!

First Wonkette, then Protein Wisdom, now MSGOP! MSGOP linked to my post asking for slogans in light of those stupid Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts. The winner gets a box of X-rated chocolates. There sure are a lot of people who want X-rated chocolates.

This is so cool. My hit count is going through the roof.

Posted on November 10, 2005 at 06:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

October 21, 2005

I'm Linked At The Washington Post

Well, this is cool. I just posted about a Washington Post article about how Japanese wives are tired of playing servant to their retired husbands. I include links to six other posts I've made about Japanese women and marriage. The Post included on its second page of the article a window linking to bloggers who are talking about the article, and I'm at the top of the list. The Post links to my main blog page, and not the post itself, but it's easy enough to scroll down and find it.

Heh. I made the Washington Post.

Posted on October 21, 2005 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 08, 2005

Camille Paglia Is Jealous of Blogs

I can't resist. Panda Amanda (I can't resist saying that, either.) posted about Camille Paglia's latest stroke-her-dick-fest with Salon. Paglia's on another book tour. Amanda doesn't know that Paglia has taken credit for creating the first blog. I don't think so!!!

Here's the scoop. I wrote this on my blog in October, 2003, the last time Salon dusted off Paglia to allow her to rant:

After a thankfully long absence from the public eye, Salon recently dusted off Camille Paglia for a pathetic boast-fest. [via Atrios, who refused to even read it. I should have followed his lead.] Paglia tried to take credit for injecting the word "weasel" into the arguments about the Bush administration's PR campaign for the Iraq war when she referred to Dems using that word.

A "bunch of weasels," you called them at the time--

Yes, and that word "weasel" went out from that interview and caught fire. The New York Post used it by that weekend, and from there it was seized by the right wing, as in the bestselling "Deck of Weasels" playing cards. It's a great example of the power of Salon: We put "weasel" back into the American vocabulary!

Sorry, Camille, but Scrappleface coined "axis of weasels" two weeks before your long-winded interview was published. His spoof site is so effective that plenty of people, including some in the media, really thought that Donald Rumsfeld had referred to France and Germany as the "Axis of Weasels." He put "weasel" back into the American vocabulary, not you. You're taking credit for another person's genius.

She also takes credit for being the first blog!

Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren't this dreary meta-commentary, where there's a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats. I took hits at media excesses, but I directly commented on major issues and personalities in politics and pop culture.

Ha ha! She's envious of blogs, and she steals from them, and now that they don't quote her or link to her, she blasts them.

A year and a half later, Paglia wants some publicity, so Salon drags her out and dusts her off again. She has no business spouting about the blogosphere that ignores her. It's jealousy, pure and simple. She indicates as such in her latest diatribe at Salon:

The blogs, for example, are becoming so self-referential. If people want to be better writers, they can't just read the blogs! You've got to look at something that's outside this rushing world of evanescent words. Nowhere in blog pages does anyone pay attention to the individual word -- things are moving too fast. Someone like Emily Dickinson was working with the dictionary and looking at the etymology of the word, so that you have all this tremendous stuff going on within a single word!

She's envious of blogs. They don't link to her, and she's been out of the news for years. She says she created the first blog. Bollocks!!!!

And of course I was always in competition with the other big-name columnists -- who would shamelessly rob from me. You know, it's like I would be in Salon on Thursday, and something from it would show up in Maureen Dowd's weekend column, and so on.

The key phrase here is "who would shamelessly rob from me." She's so self-centered to view herself as a media icon. She isn't one. She's a has-been who has been dusted off - again - by Salon. She hasn't been interviewed by Salon in a year and a half. So much for being the "in" columnist. Har har!!! She last surfaced on Salon in 2003. I hope it's another year and a half or more before she resurfaces.

Posted on April 8, 2005 at 04:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

August 25, 2004


There's a new women's sex magazine coming out of the U. K. - Scarlet. [via Antigone at XX.]

Here's a blurb from the press release:

Attitudes towards female sexuality have changed massively in recent years. Ann Summers sold over a million vibrators last year, and Black Lace has sold over three million erotic books. Fifteen per cent of internet porn users are women. And no-one can doubt the impact of Sex and the City. It's obvious that women love sex just as much as men do - so Scarlet is there to help them satisfy their urges.

I think this sounds like fun. Editor Emily Dubberley and I have exchanged e-mails, since Scarlet wants to hear from readers interested in publishing their own works. I've been trying my hand at supernatural romance, which is one of the hottest genres out there now. If you want to know a bit more about Scarlet, go to the main web site.

Posted on August 25, 2004 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feminist Issues, Feminist Men, and Female Representation

Update: Inspired by Barry's post, A Wicked Muse asked the question, "can men be feminists?" I know they can. Some excellent examples are Michael Kimmel, Michael Flood, and Gerry Orkin. These men tend to call themselves "pro-feminist men." Their work and writings include helping men become aware of and accountable for the privilege they have in modern society. Their work also relates to societal attitudes about masculinity and how those attitudes harm men and boys. Quite of bit of their work is related to violence against women, especially in making men accountable for the violence they commit. If readers are interested in reading articles written by pro-feminist men, I highly recommend visiting XY Online. Here are three good articles on this very subject:

Three Principles for Men, by Michael Flood

Tools For White Guys Who Are Working For Social Change ... And Other People Socialized In A Society Based On Domination, by Chris Crass, who "outlines practical strategies for minimising everyday domination."

Can Men Be Feminists? by Michael Flood.


Barry Deutsch from "Alas, A Blog" recently appeared as a guest on Air America Radio's "The Majority Report." He debated the female-male wage gap with libertarian blogger Megan McArdle of "Jane Galt." I cannot listen to the archive because my Mac software won't support the link Barry provided. I'll try to futz with the thing later and see if I can kick-start it.

I sometimes listen to Air America Radio, when I can get the signal to stay on without blitzing out after five or ten minutes. I have very poor reception out here in the coastal boonies. Most often, I listen to "The Randi Rhodes Show." I like her a lot. Barry and Megan appeared on Janeane Garofolo's show - "The Majority Report." Barry had received some criticism about his appearance on the show; namely, that a show about feminism should have had a female feminist rather than a male feminist appear speaking on the behalf of the feminist point of view. Barry had also belatedly noticed that the regular bloggers featured on "The Majority Report" were men. He also noticed that "The Majority Report's" blog wars segment included only two women bloggers out of eight. He and Megan were the first segment.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. I know that there are plenty of people who will disagree with what I am about to say. I have no problem with that. It's my opinion. It's also an opinion that I suspect other feminist women have held as well, so at least I don't feel completely alone.

I have noticed with a little touch of irony that the most popular feminist blog out there happens to be run by a man - namely, Barry. I certainly don't have his traffic or his number of comments. I don't know how many feminist blogs run by women do. I haven't aimed for that sort of thing. I wish I had more time to devote to my blog but I have been very busy with off-blog writings and other endeavors, especially lately. I've noticed my interest waning in the blogosphere since I returned from Mysterium last month. I have no desire to shut down my blog but I don't have the interest in it that I used to have. Maybe it's just a writer's block. I've been extraordinarily busy off-blog. I'm working on several articles and I'm slated to speak at two conferences. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep the hit count high. I don't want to take time away from my other projects to devote what I feel will be necessary to my blog, at least for the time being.

I'm glad that Barry had the opportunity to speak on "The Majority Report." He definitely deserves it. That said, I wish the feminist point of view had been expressed by a feminist woman instead of a feminist man. If more feminist women were in a position to air their views in an atmosphere that didn't resemble the center circus ring of right-wing radio, I might feel differently. The feminist point of view is not out there much in radio, and when it is, it tends to be up for ridicule or condemnation. I've turned down requests to be a guest on various shows because sometimes I get the feeling speakers are being set up. I also don't like the idea of competing with barking heads. I know none of that would have been the case with "The Majority Report."

There's a novelty appeal hearing positive feminist views come from a feminist man. Because of that, I feel that more people may be likely to listen. A feminist man airing views most often heard from a woman catches them off guard. On the other hand, they also may wonder why a man is speaking in support of women's rights and tune him out. The feminist men's community is very sensitive to the idea of men speaking on behalf of feminism, especially in place of women, because feminist men are aware that they do not want to step on feminist women's voices. They are aware of the priviledge that being (most often) white, middle class, and male has accorded them. They know that they don't have to work as hard as women to make sure their views are heard or to be taken seriously. Being aware of the privilege of being white, middle class, and male is something that alert feminist men grapple with every day. Feminist women have been silenced, marginalized, ignored, and ridiculed for too long. The lack of feminist (or at the very least, progressive) female representation in the media is especially notable in the blogosphere, since women bloggers have in many respects been rendered invisible. That includes the vast number of feminist women bloggers. It isn't very often that one sees an an opportunity for feminists to express their views in a supportive atmosphere such as "The Majority Report." While Barry is an excellent blogger, I personally would have preferred such a spot to go to a feminist woman. While I value the input of feminist men, feminist women have been doing most of the hard work of the feminist movement. I think the chance to speak out about the work they have done and continue to do should belong to them as well.

Despite the frequent "where are all the women bloggers" debates, Barry noticed that only two women bloggers were part of "The Majority Report's" blog wars segments. He didn't notice it right away, either. It took a second look. During the last women bloggers firestorm in June, during which I and Ms. Lauren at Feministe were viciously attacked by right-wing bloggers, I had commented that this debate resurfaces approximately every three months. Well, it's three months later now. This time there certainly isn't the venom that came with that last hideous firestorm. It's a point that needs to be stressed, though. Women bloggers comprise half of the blogosphere. They need more fair representation, and Air America Radio is in a prime position to do that. I'm sure that there will be more feminist discussions in the future. I have contact information myself for "The Majority Report." I had decided against contacting the show in the Spring because it turned out that the issue I wanted to pitch to the show wasn't one that should have been aired publicly at the time. Pitching another show in the near future isn't out of the question.

I've always been very impressed with Air America Radio. My opinion of it has not changed at all. I hope that the producers of "The Majority Report" have taken Barry's e-mails about the lack of female bloggers into consideration. I have a feeling they might. I wish the lack of women bloggers on the show had been noticed earlier though. It just seems to me that, as usual, women are invisible. This time around, though, the feeling is a bit different. I have faith.

Posted on August 25, 2004 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 13, 2004

The Ethics of Releasing Photographs

In addition to an interesting post about whether or not a severed head remains conscious for a few moments (my readers know I love that kind of thing), J. at Mac-a-ro-nies wonders, "Did Pictures Cause A Beheading?" Actually, another blogger (Rick Heller) is the one who wondered it first. J. was thinking along the same lines.

Heller wrote:

An American has been beheaded by Al Qaeda, supposedly to avenge American prisoner abuses.

I've been uncomfortable about the release of pictures of American abuse. Avenging humiliation is a basic part of the culture in that part of the world. If those pictures create an emotional response in Americans, you can imagine how the people who identify with the person in the dog collar are feeling.

Arguably, Al Qaeda wants to kill Americans, and doesn't need an excuse to do so. But I feel the Army was right to try to put a lid of the pictures, even as it should investigate what caused the abuse to take place.

J. understands that point of view, but she points out that "if the images from Abu Ghraib had been suppressed, not just terrorists would have been deprived of that information. Everyone would have been. Without knowing how badly some American military personnel are behaving in Iraq, it would be more difficult to make a decision about American forces staying or withdrawing. People deserve the information the images convey."

I've had my own concern with any release of raped and tortured female prisoners of war because there is a sick and perverted torture-porno culture out there that would exploit those photographs. The snuff film crowd would really get off on it. However, I also believe that it is vitally important that the photos and all information about all of the prisoners as well as the murder of Nick Berg be released in a timely and succinct manner. Anything would be better than that "those women don't look hurt" garbage that came from some Senators.

Note to J.: I saw "Kill Bill Vol. 1." You didn't miss much. I hear that Tarantino himself provides the voice for the The Bride's trainer, the marshal arts master in "Kill Bill Vol. 2." Talk about Monster Ego...

Posted on May 13, 2004 at 09:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (91)

May 09, 2004

Blogger Promo - Barry Deutch's "Hereville"

Go to right now, and check out Barry Deutch's new comic, Hereville. No one else can get away with saying that God is "just being silly," and make it so painfully obvious. If you have been living in a cave all this time and have no idea who Barry is, go to Alas, a Blog and bare your throat, appropriately.

Posted on May 9, 2004 at 08:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2004

"One Good Thing" Makes Chicago Tribune

We're going out shortly to see The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the King, so I won't be back until April, but I wanted to get this out before we left. The Chicago Tribune wrote a wonderful article about Leigh Ann Wilson's blog, One Good Thing. I am quoted in the article, and so is Christine Cupaiuolo from Ms. Musings. In my opinion, Leigh Ann's blog is one of those political blogs written by a woman that doesn't fit the stereotypical definition of a "real" political blog. She does not exclusively cover that very narrow range of Bush & Co. topics that a very small group of predominately male bloggers and media pundits have decided constitutes political discussion. Her rather unusual profession and raising a family lend themselves to amusing observations about the politics of daily life. (If you don't know what she does for a living, I ain't telling you. Heh heh. Go to her blog and find out.) Leigh Ann's blog can definitely help political debaters think far outside the box.

Posted on March 28, 2004 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)