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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pornography and Erotica

Is There A Distinction Between Pornography and Erotica?

I’ve always been fascinated by sexual, sensual writing and wanted to play around with the form. It seemed the perfect antidote to writing my thesis. Thus, I would find myself in the morning waning on the influence of the social-constructivist concept of knowledge making on composition pedagogy, and in the evening, waxing effusively about kisses and cunts, powerful cocks rubbing nipples and then slipping into mouths willing to suck and suck and suck, a couple slow dancing in the buff with the blinds open just enough for a voyeur to catch an exciting glimpse, out-and-out public fucks, and curious onlookers more fascinated with a silk dress fluttering to the ground than the naked woman who has abandoned the dress.

I kept this sort of writing secret for quite a while, but finally unveiled a small piece (Kiss) at my writer’s group. Not my first piece of erotica, and not my best – sure to be followed by both worse and better, but it was the first piece I read aloud to others.

And then I shared What Happens When You Suck Peppermint From a Strange Man’s Mouth – the beginning line of which came tumbling out in an off-the-cuff exercise at my writing group. I began to feel more comfortable with this genre, less embarrassed that I spent my precious time on such an endeavor, and even began to confess to a few folks here and there, including office mates, that I was “writing erotica.”

But I couldn’t possibly say “I write pornography.”

I read one erotica poem at a very small, private reading and learned that such work can be wonderfully accepted, but not immediately after you read. No, at that point, your words are greeted with uncomfortable silence. Perhaps minds (and pussies and cocks) are squirming with reaction, and are secretly ashamed that they are aroused. Later though, when the readings are done and the small parlor group begins to wander to the dining room table for cookies, some cheese, a slice of pear, a glass of wine, someone takes you aside and with a blush, says, “I really loved that piece.” And you say thank you, and let them move quickly on, because, after all, it’s a bit embarrassing to be seen talking with you, the writer of erotica. Or perhaps it really is pornography. Either way, it’s taboo. But one seems more taboo than the other.

“Is there truly a distinction?” I asked myself and quickly and defensively responded, “Erotica is art and pornography is trash.”

Oh. But whose aesthetic values have determined what art is and what trash is? How do we define it? How do I define it? The art/trash dichotomy just doesn’t cut it.

Aware that I carried certain assumptions and judgments about both these words and the materials they supposedly define, I brainstormed a list of characteristics for each:

Erotica: desire, sensual, intimacy, relationships, shared power, tenderness, care, concern, rich, textured, layered, uplifting, artistic.

Pornography: desire, sexual, casual, violent, oppressive/submissive, exploitive, blunt, crude, unbalanced power, glorifies violence, forced sex, and objectifies women, degrading, depraved.

But sometimes I write “erotica” which is blunt and crude. Is it then pornography? Oh, I’ve weaved a web for myself, trapped in my own definitions. But I won’t stop writing what I write. It’s too much fun. Am I, therefore, depraved?

I check dictionary.com, which essentially defines both erotica and pornography in the same manner:

Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.

Yet the entry on pornography adds this extra bit of information:

Pornographic material is protected expression unless it is determined to be obscene. However, child pornography is illegal under federal and state laws prohibiting the depiction of minors in sexual acts.

And how is obscene defined?

1. Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty.
2. Inciting lustful feelings; lewd.
3. Repulsive; disgusting.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Author’s intent in part defines the genre, as does reader’s response. Both pornography and erotica are intended to arouse sexual desire (and I suspect authors have additional intents beyond this one – I do). But pornography seems to be smudged, dirty. It can drift into the obscene (but whose accepted standards of decency or modesty will apply – ever and always the issue – WHO is the judge?). And pornography can also drift into the illegal. I don’t see erotica defined specifically as obscene, and certainly, we don’t hear about kiddie erotica – only kiddie porn (bad/illegal). And authors of such texts make purposeful choices, have intentions for their work and the direction in which it goes.

But this list of characteristics and these definitions just further polarize the terms. Erotica represents “good” values, and pornography “bad” values. I am uncomfortable with this dichotomy.

Some writer’s of women’s erotica say the distinction between porn and erotica is about how relationships are portrayed – women want a piece which arouses their sexual desire, but depicts loving, intimate relationships (erotica), while men don’t care, they want a piece that depicts the sex (porn).

Some feminists rail against pornography because it glorifies sexual violence toward women, represents women as objects, and is exploitive. Thus, a pornographic piece not only has the intent to arouse desire, it intends to objectify a person and render them powerless. And its production exploits others. On some levels, I can get comfortable, I think, with this sort of definition – I can clearly say – this is not a good construct for our culture. But I cannot say that only pornography and not erotica does this.

I begin to wonder…

If in my piece of sexually-arousing writing, I make the authorial decision to tip the balance of power, is that piece pornography, instead of erotica? What if I want to write a piece which pulls readers in because it arouses sexual desire, but that is merely the hook – what I, the writer, really want to look at (and have the reader look at) are gender relationships and the expression of sex as power. Now, is it porn or is it erotica? Is it neither? It is it social commentary? It is a good for society, or an ill? Is it obscene? Depraved?

What about a story which may be offensive to some, in that it depicts a violent sex act between consenting adults, or rape as a fantasy – implying consent? If a character/writer/reader consents to be objectified, if a character says,”hit me baby, hit me,” or “rape me baby, rape me” – is this porn now instead of erotica? (Some feminists would say yes.) Do the characters in these stories represent victims, or independent persons, pursuing that which they enjoy, and what concern is it of ours if they like being struck during sex, or made to do what we perceive as humiliating acts of depravity – they are getting off on it right – they choose it, want it (or at least, the authors have scripted that these characters choose it, want it). Of course, then we must look at why they choose it, and why the authors choose it for them. Do these characters represent individuals who have internalized hatred, oppression, abuse? Have these choices been imposed on them? Or is it possible that the writer purposely puts this together so we will look at and question these choices and what drives them? Can either pornography or erotica move past sexual arousal and description and critique our society, our relationships? What about when the writer merely wants to describe and arouse through depravity? Is that porn, or is it erotica? Or something else? And what does it say about us, that at some deep, dark level, we are aroused by such stories?

Take a look at this(http://ifuckedanncoulterintheasshard.blogspot.com/). Is this porn? Is it erotica? Is it political commentary? Is it degradation? Is it social commentary?

Are these distinctions between pornography and erotica derived from class lines? Erotica is highbrow, upper class. Pornography is lowbrow, lower class. And all the associations and assumptions we attribute to these two stratums are attached to either erotica or pornography.

Porn is the girl who grew up on the wrong side of town, whose father raped her
and whose mother kicked her out of the house as a result. Porn drinks and
drugs herself into oblivion and then, broke and beaten down, believing only in
the negative and basest parts of herself, finds a job working at the Seven Seas
Tavern on 2nd and Port, where she dances on a small, raised, dirty stage in the
middle of the rough tables and chairs, her eyes looking down because she can no
longer look up. Wearing an old, dirty thong, and a short, tight T-shirt
torn from her neckline to navel, she humps and grinds in time to whatever music
is playing. Drunken men call out to her, “grind it cunt, grind it,” or
“I’ll grind you, bitch.” And she dances, endlessly, as they move around
her, on their way to and from the bar, reaching with their calloused, grimy
hands to pinch her nipples far past the point of pleasure, pull her labium, and
poke their fingers into her ass. She doesn’t stop them, nor flinch, but
now and again a fleeting look of pain crosses her face and she momentarily
wonders, and then mutely accepts, that this, all of this, is what she deserves.
And when she thinks that, she tries to smile, and look seductively into the eyes
of any of the men that call out to her or feel her up. But they won’t look
her in the eyes, though they will, on her occasional break, follow her to the
back alley and take turns fucking her.

But that’s not porn, that’s social commentary. Or is it?

I return to the idea of authorial intent. My intentions when writing porn or erotica are varied: I often intend to describe a sexual act as richly, fully, sensuously as I can, simply for the aesthetic experience. I sometimes use crude words, to either shock my audience, or call into question the “taboo” nature of these words, or lessen their negative power through casual and repeated use. Sometimes I try to critique a relationship as it is played out in sexual and sensual acts on the page. Sometimes I just want to arouse the reader because it’s fun and there is something inherently sexy and powerful (in a benevolent sort of way) about making someone hot and bothered.

I can no longer justify a distinction between porn and erotica for myself – though I can distinguish between texts which arouse sexual desire in what I deem as a positive, healthy way and texts which don’t, between texts which describe and critique the darker side of human sexuality and texts which exploit the darker side. But I do not find the labels of pornography and erotica very useful. Their lines are too blurred for me.

What do you think?

Links to explore:




Thursday, February 23, 2006


I've been tagged by Freya and Blue Bolt (gangin' up on me, eh?)

How can I resist?

Four Things That Make Me Smile
Dogs running on the beach with their tongues lolling out and a gleam in their eyes
My children laughing
New born babies
My dining room table crowded with good friends and family (and good food)

Four Ways to Win My Heart
Have those sexy, crinkly lines fanning out from your eyes
Read funny stories or erotica aloud to me
Treat your parents with kindness and respect
Engage in thoughtful and intelligent discussion

Four Things That Turn Me Off
Ignorance in those who have the brains to be informed (willful stupidity)

Four Things In Which I Believe
A mother's love
The frailty of humans
The resiliency of humans

Four Things I fear
Losing the use of my hands
Losing my sight
Being so poor I can only afford cat food when I'm old

Four Things I Do Every Day
Read and Write
Think of my children
Talk to my sister

Four Things I Want To Do/Have
Do: Make wild and passionate love in the back of a limousine
Publish some of my poetry in a small press before the year is out
Have: A small, 3-bedroom home with a small backyard
A four-footed companion

Four Things I Want To See Right Now
My father
A full moon shining through my bedroom window
The Mediterraneanan Sea
Allison's village and the kangaroos

Four People To Do The Four
Jack K.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sex and Presidents

Over at http://vanillebitch.blogspot.com/2006/02/bush-dont-know-jack.html, I saw a no-doubt doctored photo of a Baptist church marquee, sporting the suggestion that if someone would just give Bush a blow job, we could have him easily impeached. Yes, far easier to impeach a president on his sexual peccadilloes; heavens forbid we investigate his alleged constitutional transgressions or the subterfuge employed to take us to war.

But, that combined with the recent comments on the Do Me List (regarding who will do and not do Republicans), lead me to recall a wonderful piece I read a while back about fucking presidents. Follow the link and enjoy. http://www.cleansheets.com/exotica/garvey_10.27.04.shtml

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Do Me List (Who Can Do You? Who Can’t?)

Arctic terns traverse a regular and lengthy migratory path each year, traveling from the Arctic to the Antarctic. However, arctic terns typically do not travel a direct route on their journey; they tend to wander off on numerous side “flights.”

Bird is currently engaged in a necessary and important flight (preparation for and defense of her masters’ thesis) and thus must abandon blogging activities until this crucial flight pattern is completed. Until she returns to her relatively regular migratory path, she leaves all who come calling with this “do me list,” compiled by the most brilliant female minds of her time (consequently, there may be contradictory items on the list). Bird invites all (male and female of all sexual persuasions) to join in and contribute to this list.

Disclaimer: Bird neither agrees nor disagrees with any of the items on this list, nor with any items added via comments. No monitoring of these comments will occur. Objectionable comments will not be filtered. Anonymous responses are encouraged for those too inhibited to reveal themselves. Read and respond at your own risk. No apologies are made for objectionable content or for the assault on anyone’s aesthetic or sexual/sensual values.

The List

Harrison Ford can never, ever do me, no matter what he says, no matter what he does.

Clint Eastwood as the Pale Rider can, but Dirty Harry can’t touch me, nor Eastwood the director; and Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby with the Steve Erkel pants doesn’t stand a chance.

Matthew McCaughney can’t do me, but I might let him warm me up for someone else and then he can watch.

Probe can do me in a New York second. And I look forward to what he could probably teach me at such a young age.

George Clooney can do me once and then one more time.

Matthew McCaughney can do me as long as he keeps his mouth shut. No talking allowed, groaning maybe.

Tom Cruise can’t do with or without his mouth open.

Mark Harmon can do me as soon as I stop giggling.

I may never stop giggling, so Mark Harmon just better do me now. But only if he lets me call him “Jethro.”

Derek Jeeter can do me and I’ll even have his babies too!

Benito Santiago can get to all the bases with me anytime he wants. And I’ll do him on his knees; I’ll do him anyway he wants. Benito has that look – he knows a thing or two, been around the block. Oh Benito, teach me, baby, teach me.

Heath Ledger as Pat Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You can do me – if I can get over the age difference. Heath Ledger as Ennis Delmar can do me, and I’ll even let him do me the way he does Jack Twist.

Jack Twist – oh, how I wish could do me, but you wouldn’t anyways, would you? But Jake Gyllenhaal might. Oh Jake, cast your eyes on me babe.

Yeah, Johnny Cash can do me in Jackson, or maybe even in Folsum, except June would be pissed and she’s too fine a person to cross.

Bad boy Mick Jagger can start me up anytime. Ohh baby!

Au contraire! Once upon a time Mick Jagger could do me, no questions asked, no negotiations – anytime, anywhere. And I would have done him on command and in the public square. Alas, since viewing his flappy, old lady-winged excuses for triceps at the Super Bowl…ok, it’s Mick, after all and he can still do me and I’ll do him but only in the dark.

Jimmy Smitts can do me. And though I’ll giggle and blush and want to close my eyes, I won’t.

If I was younger, and Sophie Loren were younger, I’d do her in a hot second.

But I will never, ever do Jennifer Aniston, despite her buff biceps and triceps and the strong, clean line of her jaw.

Pierce Brosnan is sexy and handsome, yet lacks a certain intangible, indescribable quality – so he can’t do me.

But Rene Russo can do me all night long and on any staircase.

Clark Gable can do me, even with the mustache. Cary Grant as John Robie the Cat can do me. Ah hell, Cary Grant can do me as Cary Grant. In fact, I’ll even beg.

Bono can do me with his sunglasses on.

Brad Pitt can’t touch me, call me, drive down my street, nor whisper my name, but he can dream.

I might let Will Smith do me, but I fear I might laugh too much at his ears.

Oh, be still my beating heart, Esai Morales can do me, and do me, and do me. Oh! Oh! Oh! Do me now, Esai! Do me now!

Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire better keep their skinny shanks away from me, but Dean Martin can do me, as long as he sings before and after.

Fred Astaire can dance his way into my heart and then Gene Kelly with his fabulous thighs can do me like he is singing in the rain.

Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, and maybe from the Bodyguard can do me, but after that, he’d better not even call.

William Jefferson Clinton can do me and he can smoke a cigar after. I’ll have one too.

Bob Dole and his damn Viagra best stay away from me.

Oh yeah, honey, John Edwards can do me backstage behind any Opportunity Rocks event.

Anthony Hopkins can do me, but he will have to wait his turn.....sometime after Christopher Plummer, adieu, adieu, adieu.

John Wayne can do me. He’ll be charming in a rich-rancher, quite-cowboy kind-of-way and know exactly how fast and how slow to go and when. And he won’t talk too much either.

Toby Siegler on the West Wing (played by Richard Schiff) can do me too – because he’s quirky, intelligent, witty, and plays a mean game of basketball even though he’s short. Besides, he has a nicely trimmed beard.

Anthony Hopkins could have done me 10 years ago. But Christopher Plummer still can.

Denzel Washington is too arrogant, Sydney Poitier too elegant (oh, but a girl can dream), Jaime Foxx too insecure, but Wesley Snipes can do me and do me and do me and he can video tape it too.

Jet Li can do me, and he can do me before anyone else. And he can do me again and again. And he can spend the night too.

Bruce Lee and Jason Lee can do me and I want to trace the fine arch of their eyebrows over and over again before I do them (individually, of course).

Jon Stewart can do me because even though he has such a smart wit, he is sweet and adorable and has the cutest dimple.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Millions In Federal Funds Handed To Anti-Gay Groups


I am enraged and rendered incoherent - incapable of articulating in a reasoned, rationale manner my absolute disdain, despair and fucking-pissed-offness at this recent Bush bullshit.

We have money to spend on this?

So for now, I will go to my corner, calm myself. And perhaps later return and post some semblance of an intelligent post on this issue.

How many more days must we put up with this idiot?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

United States Condemns Cartoons Depicting Prophet Mohammed

United States Condemns Cartoons Depicting Prophet Mohammed

“State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper says, ‘These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.’" http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7002239615

I am surprised to find that I take issue with the above statement from our State Department. I, the bleeding-heart, overly tolerant, member of the so-called academically elite, latte-sipping liberal from the Bay Area, take issue with our State Department’s tisk-tisk-tisking to the Europeans and acquiescence to the rigid, fundamentalist response by reactionaries (who happen to be Muslim – a nod to the satirical aspect of PC).
I’ve been watching this Danish cartoon story unfold and reading till I am blurry-eyed the ongoing debate in the press and between bloggers about the fundamental differences between West and East, Christianity and Islam, and the reasons for the Muslim world’s anger, frustration, etc.

I’ve been trying to understand, to step outside myself and view this situation with the Danish cartoons and the Muslim/Islamic reaction from a different perspective – a sympathetic perspective – a walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes perspective. Because I have wanted not to defend the violent response, but claim that this response is not representative of the Muslim world as a whole. And that at the core, there is ample reason for righteous indignation.

When I look at the cartoons, I try to substitute Muslim for black, or Chinese, or gay. But I have a hard time coming up with equivalent cartoon scenarios (perhaps because my Western mind just doesn’t see these cartoons as offensive, repulsive, as the Muslim mind does (for drawings which, in my mind, definitely cross over into the blatantly offensive category see: http://thestudyofrevenge.blogspot.com/

How would I feel if something I hold dear and sacred were profaned in a public forum? How would I feel if a belief I held strongly was mocked, disabused, challenged not in an intellectual, rational, reasoned argument, but through what I considered manipulation? Through propaganda disguised as reasoned debate?

And how do I feel when my beliefs are mocked, challenged, satirized?

(I grow annoyed, angry. Hurt. Upset. Sometimes I plain get pissed off!)

On a regular basis I hear, read and see things that are anathema to me: homophobic and racist jokes that insult those who most dear to me. Religious beliefs and statements that completely undermine my own world view – that hold some of my dearest friends to be wicked, evil, sick, unclean because they are gay and lesbian. Snide comments that insult my political beliefs and mock my thinking. Racist remarks that make my stomach turn because my daughter is bi-racial.

I read a variety of different news sources every week – and sometimes I am affronted by political cartoons and op/ed pieces that essentially accuse people like me of being unpatriotic, that claim our questioning of the war is immoral and treasonous. I am outraged, insulted by this line of thinking.

So I am no stranger to the phenomenon of encountering beliefs and thoughts of others that run so contrary to my own deeply held belief system that they send me reeling, send me howling, send me out into the night with fist upraised.

But I speak metaphorically. I don’t howl, or rage, or shake my fist. And I don’t attack. I don’t set fires. I don’t threaten bodily harm to people whose thoughts and opinions cut me to the core, that seem ignorant, foreign, incredulous to me. I don’t shout out: Death to the Homophobes! Death to the Racists! Death to the Neo-Cons!

I keep all this in mind as I read the ongoing news about the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons. And I try to remember that Europe is different than the U.S., in ways both good and bad. Europe has struggled with rampant anti-Semitism for centuries) and has struggled to assimilate or integrate the Muslim/Islam immigrant population (and that does have something to do with the reprinting of the Danish cartoons and the reaction to them.

I sympathize. I understand that it is deeply upsetting to have the sacred figure of your religion depicted in ways which you see as blasphemous.
But this violence, this mindless, reckless violence – I can’t understand it.

Dare I make a sweeping generalization? Many of us hold freedom of expression equal to sacred beliefs.

I am disappointed in the U.S. government and the U.S. press. Only two presses in the U.S. have thus far reprinted the cartoons - how can we have an open, rational discussion of the intent and meaning of these cartoons if the general public is not allowed to view them? Keep in mind that not everyone is reading the news online – we do not have open access to the Internet (and that’s a discussion for a separate post).

Cooper’s statement about the cartoons parallels the Bush’s administration’s attitude toward public debate and freedom of the press in this country and that attitude is: stifle public debate and the press as much as possible. On the important issues we are confronted with today (the war, its meaning, its worth, privacy and civil rights), we are told that we have freedom “of the press and expression” and can have a meaningful debate. But every time the Bush administration is challenged, it claims the debate is in some way unacceptable.

The Danish cartoons saga began last September as an exercise in free speech. We see now part of the results of that exercise: violence, death threats, and the U.S. backing away from free and open discourse.

Links for the cartoons:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Whither goest the moderate Muslim voice?

Summoned to bogsblog by a Tinkerbell bitch and a growling canine, I promised to hunt down some links on the moderate Muslim voice and here they are – though I have not vetted these links, done a close reading, or analyzed these texts – I leave that to you:

This article may help explain why the moderate Muslim voice is relatively mute : http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1228&prog=zru
My first question after a very cursory read of the above is: Does the Bush administration WANT that moderate voice to be unheard – does it want to alienate it? Was that a goal from the outset of the Iraqi war/conflict/misbegotten escapade (no bias on my end, right?).

The Christian Science Monitor offers up this report on a “moderate” voice, but following the links…I’m not so sure…

And here is a quote from a Reuters article this morning::

“Moderate Muslim groups as well as Western leaders condemned the weekend violence and calls to arms and urged calm.
‘With growing concern, we are witnessing the escalation in disturbing tensions,’ the prime ministers of Turkey and Spain said in the International Herald Tribune.
‘We shall all be the losers if we fail to immediately defuse this situation, which can only leave a trail of mistrust and misunderstanding between both sides in its wake,’ Tayyip Erdogan and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in the joint article, adding: "let the voice of reason be heard."

Again, I haven’t vetted the info and can’t speak to just how moderate these fellows truly are.

And finally, for now, here is moderate Muslim voice just recently lost – can we assume that someone, via the Muslim College he founded, step up and become a voice which rises above the discord and violence?


And now, this Bird must resume her migratory flight pattern.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Fortune Cookie

Regards to Frog, from whose site I, in a blurry-eyed, drooling state induced from damnable MA thesis writing, indirectly, ziggy-zaggily stumbled into this:

Your Fortune Is
Stand on toilet, get high on pot.
The Wacky Fortune Cookie Generator