Bryn Mawr Prof Discusses Queer Asian-American Sexuality

A few dozen students attended Nguyen Tan Hoang’s lecture and multimedia presentation exploring the intersection of visual culture and queer male Asian American identity on Wednesday evening. His films all explore what he called “my own sense of perverse identification with pop cultural texts which I invest with my own queer and of color desires.”

SAO, SQU, Colors, PersuAsian, and the Film and Media and Gender and Sexuality Studies departments came together to bring Hoang, currently a professor at Bryn Mawr, to campus.

Hoang was born in Saigon in the early 1970s and left with his family when he was seven as one of the “boat people.” He grew up in Silicon Valley, which has the second largest population of Vietnamese Americans, and majored in Art and Art History as an undergraduate. “The connection between critical studies and art practice has always been important to me,” he explained.

The bulk of the presentation consisted of Hoang’s experimental videos, many of which were made while he was in art school at UC Irvine. “Like most artists who work in the experimental form, I do most of the stuff myself,” he said. “I don’t have a crew or anything like that… I work with my friends. It comes out of sense of close community… that’s important for me.”

Hoang described himself as “very committed to filling in the absence of sexy images of Asian men… very quickly my work shifted to exploring how queers and people of color negotiate their relationship with dominant culture… [as] critical spectators and consumers, a dynamic and vibrant public.” He wants to contest both “the imagery that already exists but also the absence of stuff I want to look at.”

The first film shown was “Forever Bottom!” made in 1999, which was inspired by “my exposure to the work of Richard Phong, who wrote “Looking for my Penis” about gay Asian men in North American video porn… due to the way we are gendered in the west, invariably we are positioned as the passive bottom… [I wanted to] present a critique [of that idea] that doesn’t reinforce heteronormative standards of what masculinity is or can be.”

“Forever Bottom!” shows an Asian male happily bottoming—in bed, in the shower, in the car, on the roof—for four minutes, and when it wrapped, Hoang joked that making the film had been “much better than writing a 300-page dissertation on gay male bottoming.”

Next was K.I.P., which projects “The Best of Kip Noll,” a white porn star from the late 1970s, over the face of a porn viewer. The image quality was grainy, and Hoang explained that “VHS tapes become distressed and break down very easily… I was interested in the material residue of previous viewers, kind of like a community of viewers of this artifact.”

The film also needs to be understood as a document from a man who “came out in the late 1980s… so I was socialized in terms of the AIDS epidemic, and watching pre-condom porn from the 70s… has this mythological status of all these orgies that I missed out on, so that’s another part of my investment in these porn videos.” Hoang continued, “I see porn as constituting an important gay historical archive… [but] film museums are not going to be restoring the best of Kip Noll anytime soon, so it’s important for me to revisit this work and recirculate it.”

Hoang also showed a clip from “the first video I ever made… it’s kind of embarrassing,” “Seven Steps to Sticky Heaven,” which is about Asian men interested in dating other Asian men, sometimes referred to as “sticky rice” in the gay community. “This comes out of the idea… that Asian men don’t find one another attractive based on the normative beauty standards of the gay male.”

“Maybe Never (But I’m Counting the Days)” was Hoang’s MFA thesis short, and it “plays off of that drinking game… it’s important to see Asian bodies having sex, talking about sex on the screen.”

Another video explored the image of Dalena, “a blonde-haired blue-eyed white woman from Muncie, IN who happens to be a huge Vietnamese-American pop star… she claims not to understand a word she sings.” Hoang originally saw her as “once again, a white person appropriating our cultural production,” but “the more i looked into her, the more I became a fan… I wanted to ask, what are the investments of the Vietnamese community in her work and her performance, and what does that say about our culture?”

The last video, “Pirates!” re-imagines Hoang’s history as a boat person as a proto-queer story, juxtaposing images of “boat people” with images of pirate-themed gay porn. “I remember very little of the trip, but one image stays with me… after being rescued by this German ship… there was a German sailor, he gave me a piece of chicken and flexed his muscle for me, to say ‘Eat this, it will make you strong’… so that is something that has remained with me, and I wanted to tell this story as a boy’s fantasies about sailors and pirates… a way to make sense of this narrative that I did not have a full grasp on.”

After screening all the films, Hoang stayed to talk with students about the new media landscape for queer film in the age of the Internet. He said that there is “still very little work that addresses Asian-American queer men” and worried that “queer film is now becoming corporatized… there’s no place for experimental work,” but stated that he wanted to think more about the Internet’s possibilities in the future.


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51 comments

  1. 0
    Argos says:

    Read:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?pageno=49&fk_files=37149

    I didn't say impulses and morality are the same thing absolutely. Not all impulses, no, especially not the older ones. But morality evolved through natural selection, natural selection is an inherently amoral process, and I am led to think that the more consensus there is on a moral principal, the more biologically driven it is.

    Which means that morality by consensus is not inherently ok. And I just want you to defend it more, lest I end up seeing too much of Wolf Larsen in you.

  2. 0
    Vy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Do you have counterarguments, or do you not think it is worth your time? (I'm assuming that's what the brevity of your message and the ad hominem is implying.)

    Biologically driven impulses and biologically driven morality are two different things. Natural selection may make you want to kill people, but that doesn't mean everyone thinks this is a moral thing to do.

  3. 0
    Argos says:

    I think the idea that what most people believe is moral = moral is so idiotic that I failed to see that you actually agreed with that.

    Issue cleared up.

    Yes, of course moral beliefs are based in biology. Biology is, however, inherently amoral. Not immoral. Amoral. Which is why having biologically driven morality isn't enough. You need to recognize when natural selection is making an asshole out of you and find some way to combat it. That wouldn't be possible, only we've evolved this nicely complex brain that is capable of providing commentary on itself…a "strange-loop". Very subversive.

  4. 0
    Vy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Argos, I don't know how to answer your question. Do you take issue with "what most people believe is moral = truly moral"? Or with "moral beliefs are based in biology"?

    Or with my sort of incomprehensible thing I said about the Nazis? I was half-asleep when I wrote that.

  5. 0
    Argos says:

    Agreed. Sex work can be fantastic if you aren't forced into it and your clients have absurdly hilarious fetishes. I totally wouldn't mind making a few bucks on the side whacking someone with a rubber chicken dipped in marmalade while they jack off, so long as they provide the marmalade.

    Incidentally, does anyone here enjoy that?

    Vy, what the hell are you talking about? I feel like I need to argue with you, but I can't even decipher your last paragraph for its ambiguity.

    Anyway, I'm falling back on my triune brain model to explain everything philosophy. My base r-complex instincts are at war with my rationalizing neocortex, while my limbic system occasionally chirps up that sharing cookies and giving hugs is a good idea.

    One day someone is going to inform me that the triune model is woefully outdated and I will cry for a week.

    I need to read neuro books written after 1979.

  6. 0
    S says:

    Actually not all sex workers are forced into their jobs by economics. Treating all sex workers as economic victims is problematic. Many people choose sex work as a profession they enjoy and are scorned as a result, often in very violent ways. I'm sure Swattie Abroad could explain this more eloquently and at greater depth than I can.

  7. 0
    Vy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Swattie Abroad: I didn't think of it that way. I suppose you could argue that sex workers are victims of sexophobia. (I was trying to point out the illogic in AD's analogy of homophobia = sexophobia because they both have victims.) I still don't think this fixes the analogy, though. The victims are vastly different–sex workers are often forced to work in their jobs by circumstance, and dislike it. They could choose to do otherwise if not trapped by economics. Homosexuals could not choose otherwise, often enjoy their sexuality, and only want the freedom to do so.

    So although fighting for sex-worker rights is something worthwhile, I don't think their oppression is caused by sexophobia. Interesting though.

    @Chris: Basically, the argument is that biology is the underpinning of an "innate" moral system, though when biology goes wrong, morals also go wrong.
    (See http://discovermagazine.com/2007/may/the-discover-interview-marc-hauser/?searchterm=morals)
    From there one makes the leap that what most people have in common biologically is what is correct. (There are various utilitarian arguments for this.) There is no one person that explicitly decides what is correct–everyone decides. It's rule by biological majority, argument from popularity. Now you could see a scenario where everyone was deluded into thinking something was moral when it was not (see: Nazi Germany), but this never happens to the entire world. An outsider is always able to tell when a foreign culture has allowed its rules to interfere with basic human instincts about ethics.

    This is where I personally attempt to get my ethics, but it's difficult and often muddled by culture.

  8. 0
    Swattie Abroad says:

    Vy, I don't really follow your logic but I have to point out that 'erotic entertainers' (whatever you mean by that) are murdered for their work all the time. Sex workers as a group – being widely viewed as disposable and lacking entirely in legal protection for their basic human rights – are many times more likely than other occupational groups/the general population to be the victims of rape, violence and murder.

    To everybody else: this conversation is very interesting and important and all, but in 86 comments, no one has said anything about…queer Asian-American sexuality. Just saying.

  9. 0
    kate says:

    Doesn't use of the Bible as a moral code also involve some element of "picking and choosing"? picking which rules are ones that should be followed and which ones shouldn't? picking whether the old testament's guidelines should be considered relevant or not? etc

  10. 0
    Argos says:

    Actually, I did say I oppose relativism.

    My moral code is not parsimonious, but I apply it objectively. I don't call that picking and choosing, I was just saying that I don't like clear-cut moral philosophies because they feel too absolute, which I don't like. I'm very into grayness with respect to morality.

    I guess I have some basic general stuff…'be kind', 'don't murder', etc. I can be a self-righteous bastard about those if the mood strikes me. Where does that stuff come from? Early socializing, altruistic instinct, stuff like that.

    I had bibles chucked at me a lot as a kid, and I tried to read them, but I couldn't get past the bit with the golden-calf worshipers being forced to drink their idol before I was so disgusted I had to stop. I decided whoever wrote this stuff was a bit unstable and I was really freaked out that I was supposed to learn from this book. I went back to my Jack London…or my abridged Jack London, because I was like 7 years old.

  11. 0
    Chris Green says:

    Hey Vy,

    I didn't mean to indicate that organized religion is the only way (a joke to laugh at and not take seriously: "there's also disorganized religion!"). One could ascribe to a certain type of game-theory morality (the greatest good in the long term for the greatest number of people), for instance. I just have observed that most folks at Swarthmore have rejected extreme relativism, but I don't understand where they actually get their morality from. I'm quite curious about this, because my naive assumption is that somewhere down the road you have to take something as a priori.

    Isn't your suggested possibility just a mix of some sort of moral absolute (the UN Declaration of Human Rights) and consensus morality (whatever everyone agrees on)? I'm not sure I understand your argument from an evolutionary or biological basis: what if our biology is different (e.g. a mentally deranged person who thinks killing anyone he sees is just fine)? Who's to say right and wrong there?

    Argos,

    isn't picking and choosing whatever feels right to you a form of moral relativism? Granted, you did not say you oppose moral relativism, but it seems a little odd given your distaste for post-modernism. Perhaps I am not fully understanding your position.

  12. 0
    Peter '11 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "If I had a racist friend, I would certainly try to explain or show them why racism is straight up silly and harmful. But would I surround an Asian-phobe in a room with me and my family so that they break down and cry? No. I don't think that this "shock therapy" is useful and it's just mean."

    Haha I don't have morals or compassion and I would TOTALLY do that. That sounds awesome. That should be a TV show.

  13. 0
    Kaz says:

    I would argue that this is less about morals as it is compassion. I am a very anti-social norm kind of guy myself, but where is the basic level of respect and compassion for others? If I had a racist friend, I would certainly try to explain or show them why racism is straight up silly and harmful. But would I surround an Asian-phobe in a room with me and my family so that they break down and cry? No. I don't think that this "shock therapy" is useful and it's just mean. If it was guaranteed that if I locked my racist buddy in a room surrounded by those that he or she fears my friend would instantly see the error in racism and everything would be happy-go-lucky, I think I would. My problem with forcing people into uncomfortable situations simply because you think it is the "right" thing to do is that 1) it does not necessarily help your cause 2) it can can harm your cause 3) the person will have a bad time 4) suffering, regardless of who it is, is a bad thing.

    To apply this to the current situation, if it can be reasonably assumed that a significant number of people may find whatever you're watching offensive and painful to watch, why not close the blinds? If you think these people should understand that this should be acceptable, talk to them about it.

    Making someone very uncomfortable and making someone accepting of your particular morals can be separated. People should face their fears, but they shouldn't be forced to face them for the sake of a particular set of morals.

  14. 0
    Chris Green says:

    For those who don't favor moral relativism, postmodernism, and social constructionism, from what bag of tricks do you get your moral standards? I'll straight up say that I just accept on faith that the Bible is true and go from there. What about others?

    I reject moral relativism for a lot of reasons, but if you accept it, it seems to me you really do have to accept that murder is no more or less moral than talking to a friend on the phone. Similarly ambiguous for all the debate on sexual matters.

    Ad, if you are so keen on pushing the envelop, why are you posting anonymously? Most people at least use their real first name. You may be a radical, but it seems to me that you are a radical coward.

    Kat, you have my deepest sympathies: I also was once flamed and burned for expressing discomfort at public presentation of sexually explicit material at Swarthmore. It's not fun.

  15. 0
    Clarice says:

    Just wanted to say:

    Thanks folks for comedic relief! I always enjoy Swatties intellectually frying each other over stupidity.

    Oh, and P.S.: "thus the idea of someone being offended by "two men kissing" while in public seems just as absurd as the thought of someone taking offense to a casual, heterosexual make-out session on a nearby park bench."

    Dearest KDC, when was the last time that you were one of two men kissing in public? I'll have you know that I'm a man, and I can't touch my boyfriend in public, let alone kiss him without drawing odd glances and watching people move to the other side of the street.

  16. 0
    Argos says:

    Stephen Pinker. "The Blank Slate". Chapter on gender, round the middle.

    I'm too busy killing deer and eating their babies to argue about the biological roots of human nature and their relevance to sexuality, and why it is inherently a bit fucked up, so I'll let a legitimate evolutionary psychologist do it for me.

    At some point he demolishes the moral relativism that I intensely dislike. It might be pertinent to whatever the hell you wallys are going on about. Or it might not and I could just be stoned.

  17. 0
    Student 1 says:

    AD, kat's problem clearly has nothing to do with "show{ing} a film in public with two men kissing, but not… a film with two men having sex"
    The presentation of pornography in public is can be seen as just as offensive as the presentation of theistic rhetoric. It presents a normative view of the world that clashes strongly with certain unsuspecting passerby's that can be nauseating. Certain tenants of religious morality are offensive to me and I would prefer that churches not point their speakers outside their buildings, and for the sake of the conscience clarity of their neighbors they frequently choose not to aggressively proselytize in this manner. I of course can not object to the pursuit of such teachings by interested proselytes.
    Sexual pornography is either meant or happens to elicit erotic excitement and these images (though i did not see them) were also meant to inspire intellectual reactions to sexuality. And they are powerful (If depictions of chemistry were as inherently as compelling and distracting and controversial wouldn't humanities students confused and uninterested by such issues not want Lewis structures left around in plain view). As I see it the entire upshot of Kat's request was for these images to be contained to those willing to view them. You originally critiqued that "more people should be forced to watch gay porn". This is as ludicrous as saying that more people should be forced to read math proofs. These ideas are complex and I hope personal. Approval of any type of sexuality does not necessarily indicate an approval of exhibitionism.

  18. 0
    Argos says:

    The only thing that angers you guys more than singed genitalia is, evidently, porn.

    Honestly kids, calm down. How can you be so angry over sex when there are baby deer being slaughtered and ravaged by the homeless?

  19. 0
    AD says:

    "American culture has evolved over the past 50 years to the point where homosexuality is now a much discussed and often accepted subject, and thus the idea of someone being offended by "two men kissing" while in public seems just as absurd as the thought of someone taking offense to a casual, heterosexual make-out session on a nearby park bench."

    That is my point. We are at the same place today with sexual images that we were fifty years ago with homosexual images. Almost all the arguments my opponents are making would have applied in 1955 too. They are essentially conservative arguments that will always oppose any stance that radically questions the social values that predominate.

    Now, because we are more enlightened, we can look back to 1955 and say that the homophobes were wrong, and should have been criticized (well, maybe you can't do that, because you seem to be a moral relativist of the high school variety). In fifty more years, our society, or at least Swarthmore, will probably be enlightened enough to see extreme discomfort with sex as just as dangerous, and just as wrong as the discomfort that the homophobe felt. Am I fifty years ahead of the curve? Maybe, but that doesn't make my views wrong, it makes my views radical, which I won't deny they are.

  20. 0
    AD says:

    "Is there anything wrong with men having sex? That depends on your opinion"

    "Who is to decide who's ideas are right and who's are wrong?"

    Really, KDC?

  21. 0
    KDC says:

    I understand where you're coming from in making your "circa 1955" argument, Ad, but I think it misses the main idea of Kat's original comments. American culture has evolved over the past 50 years to the point where homosexuality is now a much discussed and often accepted subject, and thus the idea of someone being offended by "two men kissing" while in public seems just as absurd as the thought of someone taking offense to a casual, heterosexual make-out session on a nearby park bench.

    The problem, as I understand it, is that Kat didn't see two men kissing; she saw two men having graphic sex. Is there anything wrong with men having sex? That depends on your opinion, but in this case Kat made no comment about her personal feelings on the matter, and thus this does not appear to be the subject that is up for discussion. Her point was that those who were viewing the explicit films she happened to glimpse were doing so privately, and thus probably should have closed the blinds. A member of the group itself acknowledged her suggestion, saying, "I think I can understand how you would feel, Kat, because, analogously, I would certainly feel that way if I saw graphic violence projected in Kohlberg 115. In the future, I will be sure to mention to my fellow PersuASIAN members (or GSST minors, or whatever) that if we are showing explicit content we should pull the curtain."

    And do you really believe that mocking her discomfort at viewing explicit images during a time of grieving as "part of a larger dynamic in society that is stifling, repressive, and just plain wrong" is not oppressive in and of itself? Who is to decide who's ideas are right and who's are wrong?

  22. 0
    uhm says:

    Here is this thread, if someone complained about a movie being shown featuring a giant douchebag (anachronisms included!):

    "A boy I knew died two days ago, and last night I walked around campus thinking about what happened to him. As I headed back to my dorm, I could see a huge video screen lighting up Kohlberg's back windows. On my way past, I realized that what I was seeing was [[a giant douchebag]]. I felt like someone was forcing those images into my head. In the future, out of sensitivity for those who choose not to attend, maybe those kinds of screenings should be held in a more enclosed space."

    " This is probably the only place in the world where someone would be insulted for not wanting to see [[a giant douchebag]] while grieving. People always talk about how this is such an open campus, and everyone is accepting of other people's views… I wish I experienced it that way, too."

    "the point is that since [[douchey and]]sexual images are experienced as powerful images, people should get to choose when they're exposed to [[douchebaggery]], and that it might, indeed, be a better idea to not have it blaring out of Kohlberg where any passerby will have to see it."

    And so forth.

    So you really need to do better, and actually make arguments that aren't just mad libs. 😀

  23. 0
    AD says:

    Here is this thread circa 1955, if someone complained about a movie being shown with two men kissing (anachronisms included!):

    "A boy I knew died two days ago, and last night I walked around campus thinking about what happened to him. As I headed back to my dorm, I could see a huge video screen lighting up Kohlberg's back windows. On my way past, I realized that what I was seeing was [[two men kissing]]. I felt like someone was forcing those images into my head. In the future, out of sensitivity for those who choose not to attend, maybe those kinds of screenings should be held in a more enclosed space."

    " This is probably the only place in the world where someone would be insulted for not wanting to see [[two men kissing]] while grieving. People always talk about how this is such an open campus, and everyone is accepting of other people's views… I wish I experienced it that way, too."

    "the point is that since [[homo]]sexual images are experienced as powerful images, people should get to choose when they're exposed to [[homosexuality]], and that it might, indeed, be a better idea to not have it blaring out of Kohlberg where any passerby will have to see it."

    "Wow. I can honestly say that I don't understand what is controversial, or what needs to be explained, about not wanting to see a huge projection of [[two men kissing]] (or graphic violence) as I walk across campus."

    "oh, give me a break Ad. kat felt uncomfortable when she ran into the [[gay movie]] showing because of something going on in her life, and made a simple suggestion as to how that can be changed, so it won't happen to people in the future. poor justification for the way you jumped down her throat."

    "[[Homosexual]] images shouldn't be seen as offensive or evoke powerful emotions in people (but they seemingly do in some, especially [[straight men]]). AD is right in that the power it holds is only the power you give it, but the same could be said of anything really, and it all really boils down to the question of what can we actually control about ourselves (or, on the other hand, how much about ourselves can we not control). If I were in Kat's place I would have shrugged and moved on with my grieving walk, but was that character trait of mine ever mine to decide to have, and is it Kat's fault that she wasn't so lucky to have it as well?"

    "In an ideal world, maybe [[homosexual]] images would not evoke powerful emotions in people. But I have a hard time even conceptualizing that, because I live in this world, and in this world nearly everyone DOES experience powerful emotions, both negative and positive, around [[homosexuality]].

    You can't blame Kat (or myself) for having those emotions, and you ought to realize that the single worst way to make people who are uncomfortable with [[homosexuality]] more comfortable with it is to shove it in their faces. Even if an objection to [[homosexuality]] WERE an oppressive opinion, people are PEOPLE with relevant personal concerns and experiences before they're "bit players in a system of oppression," and they should be treated as such, which is why any combative style of argument really makes me sad."

    "While I certainly believe that the taboos that [[homosexuality]] has accumulated are generally unwarranted, I do not see the problem with respecting other people. This is simply an issue of privacy – do what you want on your time in your space."

    "Images are powerful things, and it isn't your right to tell people what should and should not upset them—-who do you know who has perfect control over their feelings?"

    "I was trying to express one of the many reasons why a person would not want to be involuntarily exposed to [[two men kissing]] while walking across campus. I'm sorry if it didn't make sense to you. "

    "Taboos associated with [[homosexuality]] are entirely to be expected. Had we as humans developed in a bubble independent of our biological pasts, [[homosexuality]] would not be so madness-inducing as it is. The emotions invoked by [[homosexuality]] exist for reasons rooted in our evolutionary past. Now they may be painful/inconvenient, but they are also unavoidable. The least we can do as people is to acknowledge the discomfort of others and respect that discomfort, even if that means self-censoring…or just finding a room without gigantic bloody windows."

    This is exactly how people would have answered, the same arguments and everything–it fits too damn perfectly!. So you people really need to do better, and actually make arguments that aren't just "she was offended and we need to respect her!". I am saying that just like homophobia, sexophobia is oppressive and wrong. In some ways, it is probably worse than homophobia because it effects almost everyone. Both are systems based on cultural norms, both have victims, and in both the perpetrators of the system might mean no harm, and might just be products of their environments. So tell me why I'm not like the hypothetical guy who criticized the hypothetical homophobe in 1955 (or do you all think that he was wrong too!?)

  24. 0
    Dr House says:

    "Is this thread a joke? One person asked for the curtain to be pulled down and got called those ridiculous things? wtf?"

    That isn't the point at all. Not one bit. If you over-simplify the opponent's argument to the point that it is ridiculous it doesn't make you correct. It makes you a tool who either doesn't understand the discussion or you just don't care enough to consider the issue.

    The point was that people shouldn't be offended by sexual imagery. Maybe people are biologically programmed to have powerful emotions about sexual images, but people are also programmed to do many other things that we repress.

    Yes, AD completely overreacted and perhaps the viewers of said pornography should have lowered the blinds, but that isn't really the point of the discussion. The thread that evolved is not a joke and people are trying to seriously discuss the issue of human's sensitivity to sexual images.

    Stop trolling and either participate or don't.

  25. 0
    Argos says:

    I, too, barely made it through Pan's Labyrinth. This is primarily because I for some odd reason seemed to think it was children's programming and was a bit shocked to discover that it patently was not.

    Ad, you are insane. So am I, but you are insane in a different, and worse, way.

    Also I am delirious with fever. I think I am ill.

    Taboos associated with sex are entirely to be expected. Had we as humans developed in a bubble independent of our biological pasts, sex would not be so madness-inducing as it is. The emotions invoked by sex exist for reasons rooted in our evolutionary past. Now they may be painful/inconvenient, but they are also unavoidable. The least we can do as people is to acknowledge the discomfort of others and respect that discomfort, even if that means self-censoring…or just finding a room without gigantic bloody windows.

    If that last paragraph was incoherent, it is because I am, as I said before, delirious. Wot wot. Hello Gazette editors! Revel in my lack of sensibility and all that.

  26. 0
    Kat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I would not have included "A boy I knew died two days ago, and last night I walked around campus thinking about what happened to him" in my post if I thought it was irrelevant to the rest of what I was saying. I was trying to express one of the many reasons why a person would not want to be involuntarily exposed to porn while walking across campus. I'm sorry if it didn't make sense to you.

  27. 0
    Kristen Allen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "I don't think anybody would be complaining if it were a violent film or documentary being shown."

    I certainly would. I happen to be fairly sensitive to violent images (barely made it through Pan's Labyrinth) and if I'd been exposed to one when I was just walking around campus I'd have been quite upset and offended. Images are powerful things, and it isn't your right to tell people what should and should not upset them—-who do you know who has perfect control over their feelings?

  28. 0
    Kaz says:

    While I certainly believe that the taboos that sex has accumulated are generally unwarranted, I do not see the problem with respecting other people. This is simply an issue of privacy – do what you want on your time in your space. Although this certainly is related to social norms, the actual problem that the original poster had was with one group forgetting to close the shades. I do not like smelling cigarette smoke, but I do not think that me preferring smokers to do it in private places (or at least somewhere where it won't affect my air) necessarily means that I am oppressing smokers with my anti-smoking views. Thank you, R, for actually responding to the original poster's actual request.
    Kaz

  29. 0
    R says:

    As both an attendee of the showing, and a member of PersuASIAN, the Swarthmore group that presented that showing, I'm sorry that we did not pull down the curtain. It was dark outside, so I'm sure pulling the curtain just didn't occur to any of us. I think I can understand how you would feel, Kat, because, analogously, I would certainly feel that way if I saw graphic violence projected in Kohlberg 115. In the future, I will be sure to mention to my fellow PersuASIAN members (or GSST minors, or whatever) that if we are showing explicit content we should pull the curtain.

  30. 0
    Lauren Stokes ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    also an anecdote which is probably going to get me attacked, but maybe it will resonate with someone else–reading comment threads nearly anywhere on the Internet and having emotional responses to them consistently makes me self-conscious about being a woman with "womanly" responses.

    which is weird given that the Internet is supposed to be a great leveling force.

  31. 0
    Lauren Stokes ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    In an ideal world, maybe sexual images would not evoke powerful emotions in people. But I have a hard time even conceptualizing that, because I live in this world, and in this world nearly everyone DOES experience powerful emotions, both negative and positive, around sex.You can't blame Kat (or myself) for having those emotions, and you ought to realize that the single worst way to make people who are uncomfortable with sex more comfortable with it is to shove it in their faces. Even if an objection to pornography WERE an oppressive opinion, people are PEOPLE with relevant personal concerns and experiences before they're "bit players in a system of oppression," and they should be treated as such, which is why any combative style of argument really makes me sad.I guess this relates to AD's point about online communication–I see what you mean, AD, especially about the lack of discourse on this campus, and I think there are a lot of pros to anonymous discourse, but I still prefer to hang out places where anonymous people engage as people rather than blocks of text, which is I think what Will is saying as well. Even if you have no idea who I am, it sucks when you take something about me that I've written and call me close-minded.

  32. 0
    Dr House says:

    Sexual images shouldn't be seen as offensive or evoke powerful emotions in people (but they seemingly do in some, especially women). AD is right in that the power it holds is only the power you give it, but the same could be said of anything really, and it all really boils down to the question of what can we actually control about ourselves (or, on the other hand, how much about ourselves can we not control). If I were in Kat's place I would have shrugged and moved on with my grieving walk, but was that character trait of mine ever mine to decide to have, and is it Kat's fault that she wasn't so lucky to have it as well?

    Anyway, if you are going to walk around in public grieving, you have to accept the risks that come with that (which sucks, I know, because walking around is a good way to contemplate such grave matters). But you could've run into any number of people or things that could have upset you. You can't expect the world to be a nice, quiet place that will go out of its way to do nothing to offend you in the slightest way just because you are upset. I'm sorry that the world sucks, but you've gotta accept that and move on.

    "Don't let the gazette trolls get to you, and I hope nobody takes this as emblematic of the discourse that Swarthmore as a whole provides."

    The DG doesn't really have any trolls, these are all people presenting their opinions and backing them up. You're the troll that just runs in here and calls someone a douchebag for taking part in the discourse, while you offer nothing to the debate other than an ad hominem (you've got to earn the right to throw around ad hominems by actually contributing, you idiot).

  33. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    Just a side note as to Kat's original post: Am I the only person that gets mad when someone opens up an argument/thought with "Something bad just happened to me, and I think this (and don't you dare be mean to me because something bad just happened to me!)"? Her opinion is valid enough but the way she presented it made me want to tear her to shreds. I seem to have arrived at the party late, however, so I'll have to deal with AD's sub-par, mostly-humane attempt at reeducation.

  34. 0
    AD says:

    When you post online, you open yourself to criticism. Kat can rest easy, as can I, because this is a mostly anonymous online forum. I don't know who she (or maybe even he!) is, so my comments and criticisms are obviously not targeted towards her as a person. If she feels like I am wrong, well, then she shouldn't feel bad at all, since I am just a random person who is misinterpreting her comments.

    This is the reason why anonymous online communication can seem mean to people unfamiliar with it. It is a kind of "mean" that is actually only "mean" if the criticisms resonate with the person under attack. It is a different kind of dialogue than a real-life one, because attacks would seem personal in the real world are not personal online. This is not a problem with online discourse, it is a positive aspect of it. It allows for the deconstruction of opposing views without causing great offense.

    I too hope that "nobody takes this as emblematic of the discourse that Swarthmore as a whole provides." Outside of classes at least, I've found the school's discourse to be virtually non-existent. To me, what is emblematic of the "discourse" that goes on here is the fact that most people who sign petitions in Sharples don't even read them, let alone think about them critically.

  35. 0
    Will ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Kate, you rock. AD, you're such a douchebag I can't even take you seriously. Kat, I'm sincerely sorry you were exposed to that – it would've ruined my night too. Don't let the gazette trolls get to you, and I hope nobody takes this as emblematic of the discourse that Swarthmore as a whole provides.

  36. 0
    AD says:

    Did I pounce on Kat? Yes, and I am sorry if my combative style offends. I didn't post to insult anyone though, and if you read my posts you will see that what I am criticizing is Kat's irrational discomfort with pornography, and the social norms that it is a part of. Maybe I went to far in calling her close minded, which I still think she was in this instance, but which she very well may not be on the whole. So I apologize for that, Kat.

    If someone posted something like "I don't think gay porn should be shown on this campus," the whole campus would have pounced. Well to me, the system of sex-negativism that Kat plays a small, perhaps innocent role in, is on a similar level as the system of homophobia that the hypothetical commenter played a small, perhaps innocent role in. "I feel personal discomfort when gay porn is being shown on campus, but I have nothing against gay people" would not be a sufficient defense for the homophobe, and "I feel personal discomfort when I see pornography, but I have nothing against sex" is not a sufficient defense for Kat. Both are bit players in oppressive systems, even if they themselves are well-meaning. Allowing either to get away with voicing their views, in public, without being criticized, is passively accepting the destructive systems.

    One thing I make no apologies for is my comment about mid-western housewives. They tend to be conservative, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a jokey generalization about them. If you are that offended by somebody making light fun of your region of the country, Kate, you need to grow a thicker skin. For the record, I have been to the twin cities before, and have met progressive Minnesotan women.

  37. 0
    ad says:

    I guess you prove my point then. You are so overpowered by pornographic images that you think there shouldn't even be a question as to whether it ever has a place in public. Nothing is controversial about your view, and that is the problem. Americans give so much meaning and power to sex, most of it ridiculous, that it is impossible to have any real dialogue about sex. It is a closed system where we shield ourselves from images of sex, so we don't talk about it, so we think it is strange, so we shield ourselves from it further. In my opinion, anything that breaks this cycle is a good thing, even if some people have to be made a little bit uncomfortable.

    I'm sorry that having to watch sex makes you feel uncomfortable, and I acknowledge that lots of other people would probably feel uncomfortable too. But your discomfort is part of a larger dynamic in society that is stifling, repressive, and just plain wrong. If people take your discomfort into account and don't show anything sexual in public, they are contributing to the system that produces the discomfort and the unhealthy attitudes about sex that usually accompany it.

  38. 0
    kate says:

    oh, give me a break Ad. kat felt uncomfortable when she ran into the porn showing because of something going on in her life, and made a simple suggestion as to how that can be changed, so it won't happen to people in the future. poor justification for the way you jumped down her throat.

    she didn't recommend that gay porn not be shown on campus, or that queer speakers not be brought to campus, or that people not watch porn in the privacy of their own room or at least the lpac screening room. she didn't even get angry! she just made a suggestion so that other people don't have to feel bad the way she did. so i don't really understand why you've got your panties in a wad. just because someone doesn't want to have to be caught off guard by images of someone with a schlong stuffed down his or her throat when they're on the way to mccabe doesn't mean they're "Victorian," "anti-sex," or think of sex as "dirty and wrong" or even as a "transcendental love-connection." but calling someone who doesn't want to see it rude names, and making ad-hominem attacks on a person who didn't say ANYTHING about her views on porn in general or on sex and sexuality at all, is neither progressive nor sex-positive.

    for all you know, Kat is queer and engages in group sex amateur porno making every night, but just didn't want to see it right at that moment. i know you think you understand what she meant, but she gave you barely anything to work with, so your attacks are really unfair.

    since they didn't put the speaker in that room with the purpose of exposing passersby to his movies so that they could also become part of the sex-positive club (which you make sound soooo enticing…thanks for giving the rest of us such a good name, prick) I don't think her suggestion was unwarranted.
    I agree that gay porn should be shown often and enjoyed often. i think it's unbearably silly for people to get miffed about seeing some porno, but is it that big of a deal to be courteously asked to do so in a different space?

    and you know what? I take offense to the comment about "midwestern housewives." I can tell you think you're so cool and progressive, but lording yourself over us unfortunate poor, conservative, corn growing, churchgoing, sex-negative victorian midwesterners makes you look like nothing but a pretentious loser. i'm proud to be a progressive, non-victorian, non-repressed minnesotan who's just as sex-positive as the next liberal. my mom's a midwestern housewife who likes to both watch and enjoy a good screw. and there are lots of us out there so seriously, get over yourself.

  39. 0
    Kat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow. I can honestly say that I don't understand what is controversial, or what needs to be explained, about not wanting to see a huge projection of pornography (or graphic violence) as I walk across campus.

    To quote Lauren:
    "the point is that since sexual images are experienced as powerful images, people should get to choose when they're exposed to porn, and that it might, indeed, be a better idea to not have it blaring out of Kohlberg where any passerby will have to see it."

  40. 0
    Ad says:

    You were disturbed enough by a very short glance at a recording of a human sex act that you decided to complain about it publicly. To me, that says that you have an unhealthily strong aversion to images of sex, probably based on unhealthy attitudes about sex. If I'm wrong, feel free to explain yourself further.

  41. 0
    Kat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "To accept views such as Kat's is to support the Victorian, anti-sex value system that has greatly harmed the sex lives and mental health of countless people in our society."

    It's a good thing you know my views so well… because I didn't write anything about them on here.

    "Lauren, I know she didn't say those things, but they sure were implied."

    I keep re-reading what I wrote and I don't understand where you're getting all of this from.

  42. 0
    Ad says:

    Kat, sorry not everybody on campus is a politically correct drone who accepts others views no matter how wrong they may be. I for one believe that the destructive cultural norms people operate under are appropriate subjects for criticism.

    It's just a little bit of sex, pictures can't hurt you, and you will be better off in life if you learn to process the images you see in a constructive way instead of complaining when you are momentarily exposed to them.

    "This is probably the only place in the world where someone would be insulted for not wanting to see porn while grieving." Isn't it terrible that there is a place where people can take positions that a mid-western housewife would probably not agree with!

    Lauren, I know she didn't say those things, but they sure were implied. As I said, I don't think anybody would be complaining if it were a violent film or documentary being shown.

    And sexual images only hold as much power as we give them, and we give them too much power(I am talking about real, hardcore sex, not sensuality or titillation). Something is wrong when the mere image of a natural thing like sex causes so much offense. To accept views such as Kat's is to support the Victorian, anti-sex value system that has greatly harmed the sex lives and mental health of countless people in our society. The idea that sex is either dirty and wrong or a transcendental love-connection needs to be smashed, even if that might mean offending a few conservative sensibilities on the way.

  43. 0
    Lauren Stokes ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    ad–

    kat didn't say she was offended by gay porn, she didn't say she was offended by sex, she said she didn't want to see the porn at that particular moment. maybe she wanted to see it last week–maybe she didn't.

    the point is that since sexual images are experienced as powerful images, people should get to choose when they're exposed to porn, and that it might, indeed, be a better idea to not have it blaring out of Kohlberg where any passerby will have to see it.

  44. 0
    Kat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is probably the only place in the world where someone would be insulted for not wanting to see porn while grieving. People always talk about how this is such an open campus, and everyone is accepting of other people's views… I wish I experienced it that way, too.

  45. 0
    ad says:

    And what's the problem with those images being in your head? What's so offensive to you about sex, queer or straight? Would you even be complaining if it were a scene of violence? I highly doubt it. I'm sorry someone you knew died, but I don't see what that has to do with anything. Honestly, you are probably a close-minded person, and I am actually glad that someone forced you to watch gay porn. More people should be forced to watch gay porn.

  46. 0
    Kat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    A boy I knew died two days ago, and last night I walked around campus thinking about what happened to him. As I headed back to my dorm, I could see a huge video screen lighting up Kohlberg's back windows. On my way past, I realized that what I was seeing was porn. I felt like someone was forcing those images into my head. In the future, out of sensitivity for those who choose not to attend, maybe those kinds of screenings should be held in a more enclosed space.

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