Archive for March, 2012

Attitude, the UK magazine by, for and about gay men, seems to have jumped the shark. Once this magazine had some good points, not least the brilliant columns by [redacted] in the 90s, which later featured in his books It’s A Queer World and Sex Terror. But now it is a glossy gay ‘lifestyle’ magazine from hell, and is all about pop stars, reality TV stars, and the best place to go on holiday this year.

This month’s 18th birthday edition sports a gay soldier on the cover, James Wharton, with his civilian partner. The text at the side reads:

‘Have you heard about the Iraq veteran who can fight for his country but can’t get married?’

I don’t really know where to begin! It simultaneously presents a patriotic awe of soldiers ‘who can fight for [their] country’, and also seems to completely undermine what they do, by suggesting the biggest problem in their lives is whether or not they can tie the knot.  Across the pond in America, the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has only recently been abandoned. And gay and bisexual and lesbian soldiers are celebrating their newfound freedoms. But ‘gay rights’ movements are always quick to identify the next struggle, the next source of oppression. When (and I am sure it is when and not if) same sex marriage is legalised, I am sure Attitude will come up with another image of inequality to put on their cover.

But it really is becoming a joke. And if I was a soldier, gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, who had just been ‘fighting for my country’, maybe seeing my friends die, I don’t think I’d find it very funny.

Best Sex Writing Blog Tour

Posted: March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

Earlier this year I wrote a review of  Best Sex Writing 2012, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Now the book is on a Blog Tour and I am delighted to be taking part.

You can buy the book from Amazon.com  and Amazon.co.uk

Here is a section of my review, followed by an extract from one of my favourite pieces in the book:

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The main problem I have with the overall tone and emphasis of Best Sex Writing is that it presents what I think is a false, dangerous dichotomy: sex/sex positive ideas = good v chastity/abstinence ‘anti-sex’ ideas =  bad.

This dichotomy is presented, too, in more than one place in the book, as a contrast between atheist and religious perspectives. The chapter for example called ‘atheists have better sex’ is infuriating in its smugness and its prejudice against religious people.  Ironically, as I have found with many atheists and sex-positive people in general, this determination that ‘sex is good and atheist sex is best’ is actually an ‘evangelical’ message, and ‘Best Sex Writing’ reads like a religious tract in places.

Also typical of sex positive narratives, Best Sex Writing positions women’s experience and femininity as more interesting and worthy of study than men and masculinity. Amanda Marcotte’s defence of the Slutwalks (feminist marches protesting against a Canadian policeman’s remarks about how women should not dress as sluts if they don’t want to get raped) is an example of this. As is Tracy Clark Flory’s admittedly interesting and humorous account of a workshop devised to unleash the female orgasm. In a piece about some nefarious goings on amongst politicians, Katherine Spillar literally pitches ‘good’ women campaigners against ‘bad’ men politicians and their advisors. As an active non-feminist I am not impressed by this bias in the book.

These criticisms of Best Sex Writing though, do not detract from the quality of some of the contributions. I particularly recommend some of the more personal stories in the book. Rachel Rabbit White, one of my favourite ‘sex writers’,  paints a wonderfully evocative portrait of Latina drag artistes and changing times. Marty Klein educates us about men and circumcision, and manages to be funny and sensitive at the same time. And, maybe a little surprisingly to me, Hugo Schwyzer’s honest account of his sexual experiences with men is touching and, I have to say, quite hot!

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From: I Want You To Want Me by Hugo Schwyzer:

I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula in the 1980s, home to the now-shuttered Fort Ord and a number of other military installations. Most of the guys I slept with when I was in high school were soldiers or sailors or airmen. On Friday night, a few weeks before my 18th birthday, an older man picked me up on a street corner. I think his name was James; he was a master sargeant. He was certainly one of the oldest guys I ever fucked during my teens, perhaps in his mid-forties.

James was huge- everywhere. When he took off his clothes in the dimly lit Fremont Boulevard motel room, I was turned on and terrified at the same time, and by the same thing. I looked at his cock and his muscles and his tattoos and thought to myself, He could rape me if he wanted. He could kill me with his bare hands. And then he started to take off my clothes, and my fear evaporated.

This giant of  a man whispered sweet, sexy words as he pulled off my shirt, shoes and jeans. I’d never been undressed by a lover before; I stood submissive, passive, open-mouthed. I shifted my weight to help him slide off my clothes, but made no other move. I listened.

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and if you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to read the book!

‘The entire gay male community seems at times to be colluding against the possibility of independent thinking. The gay rights movement, too often, is focused on theatrics rather than on discourse; we want to be entertained and flattered, not criticised’. – John Weir

I was delighted to have a book review published today, at Sociological Imagination website. I sent it to my Dad (a sign I must be proud) and he responded with a lecture about the origins of the site’s name, coming as it does from the title of a book by renowned (long dead) sociologist, C Wright Mills.   ‘The Sociological Imagination’ reminds us that when we conduct social research, and produce social theory, it is not a totally dry, intellectual affair. It involves our imaginations and our hearts.

My review is of a book by Dr Mark McCormack  (@_MarkMcCormack on twitter) about declining homophobia amongst young people. But, due to events that have been mentioned a lot surrounding my recent ‘outing’ by Paul Burston and Julie Bindel, he felt justified in demanding my review be taken down from the site.

Thankfully, and to the credit of the editors, it wasn’t. The editors instead left an editorial note explaining (using only my detractors’ perspectives but dems the breaks) the context of me and my article.

The only people who commented under my piece were Mark McCormack the author of the book I reviewed, Grant Peterson (who posted under the name ‘UCLAScholar’), the husband of Eric Anderson whose work McCormack advocates, me and Matt Lodder  (@mattlodder). But most of my comments, and Matt’s one comment were not published.

So here is Matt’s comment in case any of you get as far as to read below the line!:

“I find astonishing that no-one is willing to engage with the careful, nuanced, referenced, footnoted, informed work Elly does on gender, sexuality and sexual politics. Instead, those who are the targets of her careful criticism resort to invective and insult, which leads her to lash out in response. It’s woeful, and depressing, that people are happy to cry foul rather than actually talk about the interesting and important issues laid out in this article and elsewhere.

If you read her blogs, and her body of work, it is abundantly clear that Elly is not homophobic or hateful in any way whatsoever. It is easy to categorise her as such by cherry-picking her (admittedly provocative) comments – her use of the term “gay” as a term of critique is (very loudly and repeatedly) informed by her pinning her ideas in the work of Mark Simpson’s book “Anti-Gay”, which is not a homophobic work (all the writers in it are gay, including Paul Burston himself), but one which critiques the identity politics of contemporary gay culture. The term “wanker”, as explained in the blog post to which Mr McCormack refers, is a reference to another blogpost by a feminist writer.

As for harrassment – Elly has been called all the names under the sun by high-powered journalists at the Guardian, the New Statesman, and others. People have contacted ex-business partners of hers, and “outed” her. All because she dared argue with them about the substance of their public, high-profile, powerfuilly platformed views with which she has a reasoned and reasonable dispute.

It’s all too easy to call her a troll. If she is substantively, academically wrong, UCALAScholar and Dr McCormack, let’s hear why. Despite all these accusations, let’s hear some reasonable, intelligent responses.

Is Elly rude? Sure. But she’s only rue to those who are rude to her first, or in whose work (particularly, say, Julie Bindel) she sees hateful, indefensible rhetoric.”

You can read an unedited version of my review here  

UPDATE: My review was taken down from the site in the end, due to the pressure from the academics involved – the author of the book and his colleagues.

I am utterly honoured to have been interviewed by the inimitable Madame Arcati this week. Not unlike me, she is a bit of a trouble-maker, a character and a lover of the literary arts. Arcati asked me about my recent ‘outing’ by Paul Burston and Julie Bindel, a voodoo spell they arranged for me, and my interest in homosexuals, especially my fascination with a certain Metrodaddy.

This is a selection of Madame’s questions and my responses:

Q: He [Paul Burston] described you as a troll and an anonymous blogger who was ghastly about ‘feministas’ such as Suzanne Moore. A troll in my dictionary is someone who is repeatedly abusive and threatening on the internet – is that you QRG? Has it come to this? And what’s wrong with Suzanne? She has great shoes, loves a glass at night and has a big heart, doncha think?

I was born out of the womb of feminism, back in 1970. And ever since then I have been told it is the only way to look at men, women, and gender relations. It took me forty years, but I finally realised it’s not the only dogma in town. And Suzanne Moore once said in the Guardianthat she is a feminist because ‘men do horrible, horrible things’. Which I think is a bit mean to men. I’m not a troll (whatever that is). I am just someone who annoys the media establishment. And takes some pleasure in that.

Q: But you do mention [redacted] a lot on Twitter – and he’s blocked you from his website and Twitter account. Are you trolling the poor mite? Are you trying to push your way back into his affections? You can tell Madame (where to go…).

My subconscious may be trying to get back into [redacted] affections, but consciously no. I have found his work on metrosexuality – men’s ‘desire to be desired’ – to be the most exciting theory I’ve read in years. And I do go on about [redacted] quite a lot it’s true. I also helped him publish his 2011 book Metrosexy , so I have my uses.


Q: Are you quietishly riotous?

Yes, and sometimes not so quiet.

Q: Are you a cunt-cocker or a cunt-cunter or a cunt-cocker-cunter or a cockless-cuntless cunter? Just asking.

I’m a proud cocksucker.

Q: Now I know you’re a conceptual sexual sit-down activist of some sort with an interest in the work of Michel Foucault – you’ve even written a novel that has Foucault’s name in the title. Now, I get confused. Plainly you’re fascinated by queers yet you fall out with a lot of male queers. What’s the story?

My novella is called Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls, and it is about what might have happened if Michel Foucault had had a daughter. Sometimes I think in a previous life I might have been an old-school homosexual, like the marvellous Kenneth Williams or Charles Hawtrey. Much of my interest in homos is identification. But I’m a girl so they (apparently) don’t identify with me. And this can cause resentment on my part.

Q: Do you have a cat?

A cat? No, I’m not a lesbian.

Q: Would you say there is a male queer conspiracy in the media as distinct from a male cock-cunting media conspiracy to turn the world into one big stereotype? (Personally I’ve always felt outside all groups and associations – but I love the word queer)

I think the gay men of the London media set (and their equivalents like Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan in America) are feeling very insecure at the moment, bless them. Because the fact is people don’t care as much as they used to about who has sex with whom, and how. We actually live in quite open-minded times, and this is not very good for gay men’s sense of being special and specially oppressed. I love the word queer too but that is too subversive for many. And Suzanne Moore actually wrote to me once saying that ‘queer bollox’ (sic) belonged in the 90s where it came from.

Q: Do you like flowers? Which are your favourite?

I’m a big fan of pansies.

You can read the full interview here!



‘Romance is analogue, and so very last century’ – Mark Simpson

Pharmacology is set in San Francisco in the mid-1990s. It seems like a long time ago. I have never been to that American West Coast city, but now I’ve read Christopher Herz’s second novel, I feel like I know it well. He takes the reader, holding the hand of his lead character Sarah Striker, through the steep streets, dockside coffee shops, pavement bars and downtown nightlife, eyes wide open, amazed at what we see.

There is a wonderful ‘cameo’ in the early part of the book, an appearance from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the American beat poet. Sarah asks him for some advice, and he replies:

‘Surround yourself with talented people who other people don’t realise are so talented, and do whatever you can to get it out. Never believe what anyone tells you because those who have time to critique have little time to create’.

I think the old man would be honoured to find himself in the pages of this book, partly because it is full of poetry itself.  Sarah, the young woman from Kansas who is trying to make a go of life in the big city, is a passionate music fan. So some of that poetry comes in the form of lyrics. NWA, Public Enemy, and other hip hop bands of the 90s provide the background music to Sarah’s  fanzine project, an aptly-named publication called ‘luddite’. For a major theme of Pharmacology is the onset of the digital age, and how the forward march of internet technologies has changed life forever.

The rest of the poetry is all Herz’s. His talent for description and evoking an atmosphere kept me gripped throughout the book. There is an intricate plot – and I am not giving too much away by telling you it involves vampires, sadomasochism, pharmaceutical companies and bicycle delivery couriers – but it’s the language that makes the book special.

Sarah Striker’s narration is compelling, funny, dry and poignant. I trusted her implicitly, and believed what she had to tell me. And every so often she’d come out with a pearl of wisdom that left me nodding my head, with a sad sigh, in agreement:

‘Only a few stick with you down the entire way because on that path, there are so many missteps and falls that cause deep wounds and lasting scars, most people shy away when the pain starts. It’s the ones who walk with you through it all that allow you to understand love. You have to learn that by being left’.

I share Herz’s misgivings about the increasingly detached, electronic world we live in (though I note he is pretty nifty at using the internet as a writer, including in the form of a Sarah Striker twitter account).  And I agree with Mark Simpson who seemed to echo Herz’s views, when he said that ‘romance is analogue and so very last century’. But Sarah Striker reminds me that no matter how old-fashioned and seemingly behind the 21st century times they may be, the things we make with paper and pens, and blood, sweat and tears, things like words and novels and poems and fanzines, will always be here in some shape or form. For they are part of what being human is all about.

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BUY PHARMOCOLOGY BY CHRISTOPHER HERZ AT:

Amazon dot com  OR Amazon.co.uk

I first heard about Police Dog Hogan when one of the band members, Tim Dowling wrote a quite self-depreciating piece in the Guardian about how he’d taken up the banjo, and was doing some gigs with a bluegrass band. He is one of few writers in the Graun whose prose I enjoy reading, but whilst the story stayed with me, the name of the band didn’t.

Then when I saw him mention the band on twitter recently I gave them a listen and I think they’re great! As one of his bandmates said:

The bluegrass sound is one of my favourites anyway,  and I love Gillian Welch, the Handsome Family, Micah P Hinson, The Be Good Tanyas and their old country influences such as Hank Williams. But the thing about Bluegrass is as it is so pared down it has to be done well – all the mistakes show up. And Police dog Hogan do it well! Their last video was great too:

Police Dog Hogan’s website: http://www.policedoghogan.com/

On twitter @Policedoghogan

Tim Dowling (on banjo) @IAmTimDowling 

A slightly worrying note from anna racoon’s blog:

http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/wordpress-com-and-comments/#comment-55815

‘Apparently the problem can be traced back to a troll who had been posting comments using the e-mail address and avatar of Matt Cutts. Matt who? For the uninitiated, Matt Cutts is the CEO of Google, and when you are the CEO of Google being annoyed by a troll and you decide to stamp your foot, it can be a pretty heavy handed stamp indeed.

Software engineers were dispatched to the dimly lit cellar to come up with a solution. Back in 2007, Gravatar (which is where you went to get those dinky pictures that link to your e-mail address and pop up when you comment) and WordPress conducted a trendy civil partnership. Gravatar customers were automatically awarded wordpress accounts. By Thursday afternoon, the software engineers had flicked a switch which stopped anyone using, oh, lets say for instance, Matt Cutts e-mail address along with his avatar to leave unhelpful comments on the web. They had also stopped the flow of witty comments and helpful information from individuals across the world who wished to comment anonymously, or under a temporary name on political blogs. A small price to pay when the Boss is upset.’

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I am considering ‘upgrading’ my wordpress so I get access to wordpress.org which does not censor comments in this way. This means I need some cash!

SO BUY MY BOOKS!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unethical-Sluts-ebook/dp/B005ZU10HW

This is an email I received on March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.

Thanks,

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/markcoker
Blog: http://blog.smashwords.com

The last week or so has not been brilliant for QRG Towers. There is a chance you may have read some pretty nasty things about me online. At one point I considered the possibility that I might have to shut up shop altogether. So I am very relieved and delighted to announce that…

QRG LIVES!

http://www.krank.ie/?p=8534

As I said in the Krank post above (@Krank_IE On twitter):

‘Life is for learning’ sang Joni Mitchell, back in the depths of the 20th century. And the internet age has been one big learning curve for me. This week I have learned a hell of a lot. Some of the insights I’ve gained I think have a wider relevance. The simplest one is this: never be afraid to say what you think!’

Here is some evidence of my continued existence in the form of recent online articles of mine:

Rape Culture and Other Feminist Myths (re-posted at Arts and Opinion):
http://www.artsandopinion.com/2012_v11_n1/quietriotgirl.htm

A Partial Defence of Narcissism (at The Good Men Project): http://goodmenproject.com/mental-illness-2/a-partial-defense-of-narcissism/

The anthology I edit, Games Perverts Play, has a new books section. The PDF of the latest edition: DIRT is available there to download (FREE!): http://gamespervertsplay.wordpress.com/books/

 

Onwards and sideways, as Mae West may or may not have said!

Tweet from Callum TH calling M Simpson an ‘uncle Tom’.

I was slightly shocked to see the above tweet very recently, accusing Mark Simpson, author of Anti Gay of being a gay ‘uncle Tom’.  I was partly surprised, because AG was published a long time ago, back in 1996. Whilst Simpson did get a lot of stick at the time, and some wonderful monikers such as ‘the gay Anti Christ’, all that is in the past. Even Simpson himself rarely mentions that book anymore.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin  is the title of an 1852 novel (and I thought 1996 was a long time ago!) by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is famously an anti-slavery tract, and has been cited as influential in the achievements of the abolition movement. I have not read the book, but all the literary criticism of it I’ve seen is quick to emphasise how complex the narrative and its politics are. ‘Uncle Tom’ is a black slave who does not resist the power of his masters, but he is not judged or mocked for this by the author. None of the characters are simplistic.

Since then, identity politics seem to have become particularly crass, and the term ‘Uncle Tom’ is used simply to mean a ‘traitor’ to your own. So Simpson is a gay ‘uncle Tom’ who has let down his gay brethren. I, too, have been called an Uncle Tom in relation to feminism. This thread at the Feministe blog shows just how much I have been cast as a turncoat in relation to the ‘sisterhood’ (click on image to enlarge):

Apart from it being used to put down anyone who does not toe the politically correct line, I find the Uncle Tom phrase particularly grim from the perspective of its relation to racial politics and black people’s civil rights. There are lots of examples of especially white middle class gay men I find, comparing their ‘plight’ to that of black people. And finding themselves to be more worthy victims! Patrick StrudwickPeter Tatchell  are all guilty of this ‘oppression olympics’ I think:

Even Camille Paglia, who is supposed to have quite a sophisticated and irreverent approach to identity and politics, has fallen into the lazy and mean Uncle Tom habit. She said this of Foucault a few years ago:

‘When I pointed out in Arion that Foucault, for all his blathering about “power,” never managed to address Adolph Hitler or the Nazi occupation of France, I received a congratulatory letter from David H. Hirsch (a literature professor at Brown), who sent me copies of riveting chapters from his then-forthcoming book, “The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism After Auschwitz” (1991). As Hirsch wrote me about French behavior during the occupation, “Collaboration was not the exception but the rule.” I agree with Hirsch that the leading poststructuralists were cunning hypocrites whose  tortured syntax and encrustations of jargon concealed the moral culpability of their and their parents’ generations in Nazi France.’

Well Foucault is dead. He can’t stand up for himself against such accusations. Foucault’s Daughter can. He was a child during the occupation and had no responsibility for it, or for bringing it to a close. His work on ‘power’ continues to this day to be useful to people opposing oppressive regimes. He has nothing to be ashamed of.