A Democratising Process?

Whilst waiting (and pretending not to wait) for an 80+ year old swimmer who lives near me (and is on the buses as she has ‘lent’ her car to her (wastrel) of a son), I am treated to sight things that should not be seen before breakfast.  My mate has recently discovered chat rooms and is rapidly becoming a bit of a junky.  Our swimming pool (and shower) conversations are rather fruitier these days and we are developing our own special language to conceal blushes when someone unexpectedly gets too close. We are respectable ladies after all and it makes the early morning encounter all the more dangerous!

 The preferred virtual destination is Whose Near Me, an international social network for ‘friendship’ of an intimate nature. Or that’s how it’s used as opposed to what it was originally set up for. I confess to not having registered myself or even browsed the site on my own equipment! Stupid as it might sound I worry about being found out even though I live alone and no one else has access to my laptop. Users are identified by GPS so you can see how far the person you are ‘speaking’ to is from you. Your performance or should I say activity is tracked and rated using a range of criteria.

 Recently I received an embarrassing annual report from WordPress reflecting my (poor) performance over the last 12 months. Concentrating solely on posting here, and abandoning to 150+ email missives I sent out until November 2011, has not attracted many readers. A mere 3700 hits is frankly pathetic but does it matter I ask myself? Of course it does! I must give attention to addressing this shortcoming! So back to WNM and the chatroom.

 This particular morning I met my mate’s special boys; well three of them (there are many so I think the term ‘special’ is a little devalued myself. But who am I to judge she’s having tremendous fun and for the first time in ages has a permanent grin stamped on her face!

Number 1 is single (aged 28) based in the UK near an airport; we shall call him Stansted or perhaps Prestwick as he’s currently standing steady in position number 1 of her Special Boys. (Or Prestwick because recently he’s been a bit of a dick and may (unbeknownst to him) about to lose his first place) Either way both are regionally insignificant airports as is he). Nice enough but after the Christmas photo well I don’t know how to say politely that posing in (women’s) red French knickers (as large (enough) similar boxer shorts were unavailable) is WRONG on so many fronts I wouldn’t know where to start!

Number 2 is Shining Knight (aged 30s married from the Indian sub continent) – fit sculpturally muscular PR entrepreneur active whilst his wife is in bed or away as now. The privacy of his office provides too much leeway for round the clock correspondence! Eager boy with a vivid imagination and very persistent (declared that he is exclusive i.e. doesn’t indulge in sex chat with anyone else – really?

But the piece de resistance (quite literally) is number 3, a Scandinavian Stud; now this one I do get. The blonde (of course) is aged in his 40s, married and has two children. A baby faced an entrepreneur working in software (oh really). He sends sex texts whilst his wife sleeps next to him; apparently the sleep of the innocent. He is cute both bespectacled and nude as it were. Overnight he has be busy ‘relaxing’ in the bathroom (nice tiles); considerately one handed photos have been taken and sent. A real smorgasbord, if a little livid in colour; why does this not arouse me? A picture tells a 1000 words but without them is a tad stark (especially when standing in the car park of a municipal building at 745 am on a bleak January morning in South Wales!)

I don’t deny receiving not dissimilar pictures of intimate appendages in the past; I still remember the shock on opening that particular text message! Even on a tiny screen the image packed a punch as I assume it was designed to. Some years later when transferring pictures on my laptop I came across the photo, in date order, located alongside family snapshots and a proudly erect amaryllis of the kind given as a bulb for Christmas! What possessed me to keep it I prefer not to ponder upon! But at least I’ve only ever had one; (that I remember and am prepared to admit to). Frequent visitors to chat rooms are knee deep in membership details it seems. Without labels or distinguishing marks how does one know who is who?

Alongside male sex organs are an equal number of breasts, cleavages plumped up like cushions or prepubescent rose bud nipples with and without accessories. And let’s not pop downstairs as the cellar is just as full of quirky hairstyles. This is the ultimate in user generated content in this equal access platform; quite literally anything goes and in this environment that passing of La Senza will be mourned.

 As a lifelong feminist, a label I happily apply to myself, I have wrestled with the erotica versus pornography debate for decades. Is it ultimately a male dominated and controlled industry that exploits vulnerable women or an empowering business that provides a steady income for the woman in need of easy cash? There are degrees of sexual exploitation from the relatively harmless stockings and suspenders titillation one step beyond an underwear catalogue, through the one on one (or two or three) live action, to the more violent hard core stuff plus many variants (and ‘participants’) in between.

I am currently reading Caitlin Moran’s book ‘How to be a Woman’ in preparation for An Audience with Germaine Greer. Moran’s text is said to be a contemporary re-writing of A Female Eunuch; some of it is unsurprisingly uncomfortable reading especially the pornography debate. Perhaps I’m getting more squeamish as I get older but I tend to think it’s positive that this stuff still disturbs me as once you’re exposed to this material the risk is you become immune to it. But Moran takes the discussion in an unexpected, intriguing, direction.

Moran suggests that if more pornography was generated with women in mind, where the female actually looked like she was enjoying herself, where desire was an underpinning value, and then the world would be a better place. Replace exploitation with indulgence and bingo there is a ready audience of liberated women waiting to be aroused! Female desired led pornography, consensual sexual pleasure as if someone were secretly recording our fantasies. The adult version of an updated 11 o clock Diet Coke break perhaps? Calorie free and readily available at the click of a button (and a credit card payment)!

And then I began to wonder if this user generated content was the beginning of a democratisation of pornography; a new wave as it were and it’s bespoke (and no credit card needed). As it’s shared in the ‘privacy’ of your own cyber space there are no arbiters of quality or taste; you can always delete the conversation after all. Now personally I’m not nearly trusting enough, I mean you don’t actually know the other person, no body uses their real names and there are usually no faces attached to these body parts. Well not to the male ones at least; men prefer a face above the breasts it seems.

I must give this some serious consideration before going to see Ms Greer. In the meantime I may decline the offer of a visual update on my mate’s virtual conversations especially on an empty stomach!





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