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As this episode goes out, there's a hysteria about touching one another. Not just kissing, not just holding, not just sex, but even shaking hands, even being within a few feet of somebody. But touch, and the ways we touch, have always been troubled by definitions and rules handed to us by others and the metaphors we've inherited.
So it's time - isn't it time? - to talk more about the ways we view touch, the ways we view intimacy and sex, and pornography. So I invited the amazing Dr. Kate Lister, a sex historian known for her hugely popular twitter account Whores Of Yore, and now for her excellent book, A Curious History Of Sex . Both the twitter account and the book are grand compendiums of sex in history and theory. Also? Very, very funny.
We talk a lot about the history of sexual imagery, the ways we touch each other, and, in perhaps the most challenging of all questions - What sex is. It's not as obvious as you think!
This is the second of a pair of episodes that are deep dives into sex and intimacy, the first of which was AEWCH 101, "The Trouble With Consent" featuring Katherine Angel.
And it's a deep, penetrating, hot episode. Enjoy it in yer ears!
ON THIS EPISODE
- The way we all experience one aspect of our sexual awakening through pornography + Kate's first experience and mine (which I compare to John in the Bible)
- How anti-porn activism is a rehash of childhood misunderstandings of sex
- How the language we use today can't contain the way we looked at sex in the past
- Porn is there because we want it, it's not merely that we want it because it's there
- Taxidermy in old porn shoots?
- Attempts to control consent by people and institutions in power, and how sex workers take some of that back
- The way "wokeness" can interfere with seeing sex and power dynamics clearly
- Pornography as political protest and why those pictures of Trump and Putin making out aren't JUST homophobia
- What sex is, anyway?And does desire always collapse into nothingness?
- How we don't understand our desires
• For more on Kate, just follow Whores Of Yore on twitter, and also go to her website, which is a huge archive of sexual information, including in-depth historical essays about sex by Kate and others. Also, here's a good, brief interview with her.
• One of my earliest essays on porn was "By The Time You've Seen It's Too Late" in which I compare seeing porn to The Evil Dead.
• Would you like to learn more about the 28,000 year old stone penis? Of course you would. And here's a bit on Jill Cook of the British Museum, asserting that we had sex before we understood that it made babies.
• Do fetuses masturbate? Well, probably? Maybe?
• There's a great book about the invention of pornography called The Secret Museum: Pornography In Modern Culture. It's by Walter Kendrick, and well worth reading. Another great book on the same subject is The Invention of Pornography, 1500-1800: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity edited by Lynn Hunt (this is the book I mention later that has lots of information about pornography as political protest).
• I talk a lot about the need for conversations about resilience with Sara Maria Griffin on AEWCH 93.
• Here's a short article on Christine Helliwell talking to Dayak women in Borneo about the different concept of sex and assault.
• A conversation between Heather Berg and I about sex work and the wage-labor relationship is here.
• "I am a whore. Find something else to fight about." –Nell Gwynn (pictured below), after two men were fighting after one called her a whore.
• I talk about the origins of sex on AEWCH 92, which is called...wait for it...The Origins Of Sex!
• And there;s a book about a very different thing with the same title - The Origins Of Sex: A History Of The First Sexual Revolution by Faramerz Dabhoiwala. It's great.
• I've brought up What Is Sex? by Alenka Zupančič many times on the show. If you're interested in a dense psychoanlytical investigation of sex, check it out. And also I talk about Wilhelm Reich on this bonus episode, and on AEWCH 59 with Reich James Strick.
• Here's a great interview with legendary gay porn director Joe Gage in BUTT Magazine.
• I wrote an essay on my (homo)sexual awakening waaaay back in 2010 (the essay, not the awakening); it's called "Looking At Men."
• A book I love on the sex lives of animals (well THAT'S a way to open a sentence) is Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice To All Creation by Olivia Judson.
• I mention the Katherine Angel episode, but you should really get and read her amazing book, Unmastered.
Until next time, friends, don't give up on your desires!