column from author/activist
The Royal Treatment
This Just In: I Am Officially A Menace!
I have been traveling the country talking about sex, and staying at home writing about sex, routinely taking Jesse Helms' and Jerry Falwell's names in vain, for well over ten years. It's proof that much small-press sex writing is marginalized that I almost never stir up any controversy. (Or, well, maybe it's just my natural charm -- I have been compared to Debbie Reynolds, although that was years ago, and I must confess that I liked my ex-girlfriend's comparison of me better. She thought I was more reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But I was in my twenties then -- and anyway, I digress).
It's not that I want to be considered threatening, it's just that I know that most of the things I say and do are anathema to a certain sort of right-wing, sex-obsessed American. But in spite of my good intentions, I have finally come to the attention of familyconnect.com. I have been filtered, and I have been found wanting.
"Attn: carolqueen.com Administrator," the email, from one R. Robison, began. "You are receiving this email as a courtesy to inform you that your site has been reviewed and categorized by our staff for the purpose of providing flexible and accurate filtering solutions. Your email is being used only for the purpose of notifications that affect your website directly:
Web Address: carolqueen.com/
Well! What a compliment! To be courteously informed that I am harming America's families is a real treat. These nice folks are based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their sole reason for existing is to make sure people can't get to websites that would allow them to view, do, or read about the following objectionable things: Adult Material; Alcohol & Tobacco; Alternate Lifestyle (that is, "Sites that provide information on or cater to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other 'Alternative' lifestyles"); Audio & Video File Sharing (no Napster for you, buddy!); Chat/BBS/Instant Messaging; Criminal Activity (Harmful To Minors) (which "includes, but is not necessarily limited to, hate speech, wagering, illegal drug promotion, illegal weapons construction/modification/sales, suicide, and crime instructions"); Crude/Tasteless ("Sites containing tasteless humor, excretory functions, graphic medical, autopsy or accident photos and extreme forms of body modification [cutting, branding, piercing]. Also, sites that contain vulgar or obscene language or gestures"); Downloads ("Sites enabling the download of software, updates, patches and other computer-related components" -- so basically those families who depend on the computer skills of their teens to get virus updates are completely out of luck); Gambling Information; Job/Employment; Personal Website Communities ("Sites where web page space is offered for free, such as GeoCities, Tripod, AngelFire, and others"); Pornography, Recreational Nudity and Obscenity; Search Engines ("Sites that search or index any portion of the Internet"); Swimsuits / Lingerie ("or other highly revealing attire"); Web-based E-mail.
Forgive me if I am not as computer-savvy as the next guy, but isn't that, like the entire Internet?
I can wrap my mind around the motives of the person who does not wish her or his kid to get hold of pages containing "Pornography, Recreational Nudity and Obscenity" and, say, instructions for suicide and/or mayhem. All righty. But nuking Google and Hotmail? Not allowing your 14-year-old daughter to Instant Message someone must surely be today's equivalent of yanking her pink princess phone out of its socket. Mom, Dad, how could you?
Granted, the Internet is a gateway to the world, in all its splendor and squalor. It's like a magic window through which you can look right past the walls erected around Tulsa (and thousands of towns just like it, or smaller) and see amazing sights. You can hear every point of view, learn every fact of life (even the ones that don't turn out to be correct, and I don't just mean morally), access virtually every possibility. In my day I did this via books, magazines, and talking eagerly to everyone I met who'd ever been outside the borders of my little jerkwater town. I'd have loved the Internet.
And that, of course, is the problem. There are points of view even my halfway liberal parents would not have wanted me to hear, and conservative parents might well be frantic at the notion that their kids will be talking to (or visiting the websites of) people from nearly every walk of life. As the list of familyconnect.com's filtered site categories shows, it's not just queers, South Park, and naked people that these moms and dads find threatening -- it's pretty much everything post-Beaver Cleaver.
Including me! Here's my crime: "Pornography, Recreational Nudity and Obscenity: Sites containing bare breasts or genitalia in a photo, drawing, or other sexual depiction. Recreational nudity includes naturism, streaking, and other unclothed activities. Obscenity refers to sites containing vulgar words regarding sexual organs, sexual activity, or other sexual speech in a crude or blatant manner."
Actually, my site was not charged with obscenity, although under this definition it might well have been -- I am a little on the blatant side sometimes. Interestingly, this definition is not the legal definition of obscenity used in the US legal system -- these people have pretty much rolled their own. Nor have I been accused of "recreational" nudity, which really sounds like fun! I guess I have been too serious in my nudity to meet this criterion. Granted, frequently I have been paid for being nude, and I suppose that makes my nudity professional.
Speaking of nudity, there isn't any on the site. And since that's how pornography is defined by these friendly censors, there isn't any porn there either. I'm sure you could find some following my links -- why, that would lead you right to Libido and Spectator, I bet! -- but the pictures of me on carolqueen.com are practically chaste, compared to most images out there which depict me nekkid, porking someone while wearing a strap-on, or performing other similarly blatant acts. One website pic shows me (fully clothed, I swear) in front of a pile of books. The other one is the charming, retro-look Laurel Sharp photo from the cover of Exhibitionism for the Shy. Hey, that picture is up at amazon.com too. I wonder if familyconnect.com got in touch with them? (Probably.) Now here's the thing about the Laurel Sharp photo. I'm wearing a sheer dress. But you have to look with a magnifying glass to see the contours of my body underneath it. In many ways, it's more modest than what J-Lo wears to the supermarket. Exhibitionism, you see, can be subtle.
But not to these family values people. Nothing is at all subtle to them, which is why I've finally landed on the radar. And lord knows we don't want me answering the sex questions of America's impressionable youth -- they might get the idea their bodies were their own business (and not their church's or their mom's and dad's), that sex is supposed to be about pleasure (and not making more families, whose values are supposed to match the values of the Tulsa, Oklahoma fundamentalist-on-the-street). Yeah, you don't want the kids to see too much, ask too many questions, get the dangerous idea that the world out there is full of options. I eventually figured that out, and look what happened to me.
If that's what it means to be a menace to family values, I couldn't be more flattered.
And In Fundamentalist Feminist News...
Some of the gals down at Woman Against Just About Everything have come up with an exciting new activist idea. And it may even save you hundreds of dollars! I'm sure you're curious and want to hear more.
See, stamping out prostitution isn't going very well. They stamp and stamp, and people just keep turning tricks. So they've borrowed a card from the One Day At A Time deck and declared the weekend of October 5 a "Day Without Prostitution." (Yes, I realize a weekend is more than one day, but that's just the tip of the logic iceberg here.)
I told Anthony, my Spectator editor, about this, and he was enthusiastic. "Yeah! Maybe they'll give it away for free!"
Well, good luck, Anthony, and if anyone were that well-connected, it'd have to be you. But I think the Woman Against Just About Everything folks were hoping that there would be NO hanky-panky whatsoever on that day. They even want to prohibit phone sex. No lapdancing. No "buying or selling anyone." (That is such a pet peeve of mine. We sell our time. Not ourselves.) Anyway, I think this is a problematic strategy.
First, of course, it disrespects the work of prostitution. I would like to see the world observe a day without certain professions -- anti-sex demagogues come immediately to mind as one group which might do with a little vacation -- but the fact is, people do what they do, and everybody's got to make a living.
Which leads me to my second criticism. Do I hear these folks offering a day of their own pay to help the idled prostitutes make ends meet? Are they going to volunteer to bring dinner over and feed everybody down at the brothel? Of course they're not. They want, ultimately, to take one day's bread out of the mouths of whores and their families, and they are not willing to take responsibility for the effect that will have on the prostitutes' lives. Why the hell do they think the majority of whores turned out in the first place? Money, honey. We don't call it sex work for nothing.
Finally, the proponents of this idea hope that one day without prostitution will cause enormous social change -- and I worry about that. Look at Lysistrata, who got all the women to boycott sex for a day and changed history. Who knows how crucial paid sex is to the social equilibrium? Goddess knows there has never in the history of the world been a day without prostitution, so what might the effects be of creating one? I worry that all the stress and pent-up aggression, all the loneliness and isolation, that acts of prostitution temporarily divert into pleasure and connection will suddenly have no outlet. What would happen then? It might be the beginning of the end of the world!
No, it's a bad, bad idea. I have a better one. Visit a prostitute on No Prostitution Day! Help undo the damage that might be done. Better yet, book a double! Pay two prostitutes instead of one! C'mon, you know a double is twice as much fun.
And irritating prudes twice as much is even better. While you're at it, log on to my website and see if you can make out my nipples through the sheer cloth on my photo. Was that fun? Well then, look for my pussy!