I haven’t been leaving the house. I rarely find it pleasurable. Even speech becomes a bit of an effort… so when I decided after the Racial Politics in Porn panel at the Berlin Porn Film Fest that my question was worth asking, it came like a wave of violence sloshing from my mouth: “Do you think maybe the compulsion to always claim empowerment in queer feminist porn makes an erasure of the traumatic that brings us here?” When asked to articulate further, I stuttered attempting to affirm: “I’m not tasking each of you individually with the production of images of trauma for me to jerkoff to…” Yes, after hearing 5 black queer feminist porn workers speak I was the white guy questioning the invocation of the word empowerment… Feel free to walk out now in protest if you must. I wasn’t questioning them as individuals but rather the queer feminist collective body to which the panel was formed in response to… which on many occasions, I’ve heard reclaim porn as a means to empowerment. I believe it’s important to consider the implied progress of yet simultaneously concealed dimensions of this progress in the very lofty promise empowerment, especially when we consider gay Pride… activists organizing around the desire to experience an emotion, the emotion of pride over shame.
The panel left me with two conclusions: One, I will never ask a Q & A question again, and two, I truly don’t care about porn, especially the queer feminist variation renaming porn empowerment. The project of sharing feeling is quicksand under the architectural plans of “safe” space. I know porn isn’t my problem (to teach, mold or argue against). It’s not that I require anything of the queer porn moment… I just don’t think queer porn will ever happen to/for me, because I am an open source wanker. While I’m in favor of all workers actively seeking to better terms of employment, I hold the same candle in the wind for someone hoping to make it in porn as I would for someone who wants to open a used CD shop… It seems simply, outdated media for money making now that the whole world of porn is free, no?
What is a politics of achieving an affect? Be it security, safe space, pride or empowerment? When groups of persons seek to share in the same affect it does little but set the stage for mobbing, coercion, extortion of resources or labor for personal gain… offering your personal access to empowerment as proof, reward and payout to those who experience a less explicit sense of the feeling, or goddess forbid any tangible share in that success. Regardless how questionable and subjective your own testament of feeling good, the politics of affect acquisition require total faith in the proclamations of its participants and shapers. We all mean well, even me (believe it or not) but this is an immature politics. In what ways is queer a community rooted in affect? The intoxicating pleasure of being wrong, to misplace desire and feel free of becoming empowered… realizing there’s very little one can ask of anyone let alone a group social… so the external variables that compose the individual’s sense of empowerment will change and become a myriad of other things, just as a normative middle class will chase happiness their entire lives.
Organizing around an affect is not any different than a group of boys who take GHB together. Some people make it to the other side of that experience. Others do not. Fine for drug cultures; however, the political body, that purporting to be community in the name of uplift, doesn’t get to so carelessly discard those who fail in its experiment. Politics is a conversation long after we’re gone. Those speaking against, vacating in the middle—their absence brings undeniable form to the political project. The lack… that which is not in the picture haunts the body politic, animates much more over time when the opposing view becomes common knowledge—right? Everyone loves narrating the complexity of the insider’s struggle. Look to a not so distant heroine who recently converted to an instrument of evil saying: The Boys Are With Bernie… Uttered in such arrogance and determination, here Gloria Steinem casts a shadow over her entire legacy… all that power she usurped from being lucky enough to get recognized as a foundational feminist… exerts itself against the political opinions of women, young and old, who simply disagree. Power erodes: that is its only promise. Feminism isn’t the means to argue becoming upper middle class! It’s not the tool of choice when wishing to ascend from having enough already to simply having more. Free market capitalism works for women now too—watch the L Word: LA Lesbians rather uncritically spending money everywhere playing commitment and career games.
NYC Lesbians competitively play a trivia night in Green Point about the L Word… they even form study groups leading up to the event. Living the L Word, studying it… this is tricky… how is extreme wealth feminist? The strong hold of identity in reality TV… seeing “yourself” playing a role, played for you. Imagine that within a mere moment of meeting someone heterosexual, I ask why they don’t watch some stupid Big Brother bug-eating survivalist shit… not only would a straight person’s entire being drown in the audacity of my assumption that their identity play stems from watching truly bad TV… I would be dismissed immediately for believing that they too need a reality play of themselves in order to better exist. For me, the gaze of wonder that accompanies the question: “How can you not watch Drag Race?” is a disappearing act… I disappear because I cannot exceed or out perform their expectations without first dulling my mind with the learning of that drag language. For me, a lot of the drag I see—rife with its verbal black-facing—is done mostly because they imagine themselves one day there… reading that live script while rat racing to represent product lines and the suddenly cement-limited dimensions of ‘fierceness.’
There is no political high road: “When emptying a cesspool one cannot expect to come away clean” says Gary Indiana. We are a mess… and we in this room don’t have the faintest idea of the worst of it. Feeling good together communities versus feeling ‘okay’ apart, which is a much larger portion of our ability to be living alongside one another. Feeling bad is never a public gesture. Feeling bad is always supposed to be a private, isolated expression, but it’s not, because feeling bad is, I believe, quite normal—we could be together in that. Maybe church is a feeling-good community, in which you’re also allowed to feel bad some of the time. Faith falters, and even while in the progress of nothing, faith still does it’s job. (I do see faith communities as the only way to convincingly honestly and affectively enact a post-national project.) Invoking politics to achieve an outstanding, correct self… perhaps maybe as a fame-worthy being… this is the imaginary of finally feeling good, alone. But we know this is not the case. Fame eats the conscious. Recognition halts progress, experimentation and revision. Politics and her questions are not a moment to be seen being correct, nor should the discovery of all our wrong come as a comforting realization.
I am glad to be in a community that doesn’t heavily medicate, where medicated people don’t have guns… drunken driving doesn’t happen here like it used to in my hometown… in my family. These are affects… very valuable ones… but they are also larger than feeling when shared as social contracts. I cannot prescribe these elements of feeling from these experiences to masses of others from elsewhere, because how could I know? We, collectively, share little in the details of circumstance, experience of precarity and affect, or love and safety. Groups cannot cultivate emotions. We will never be equal in that sense. This is the lonely burden of the individual. Groups confuse this process of social contract development by regulating and controlling individuals with affect expectations, and so when lesser desirable affects are observed they are merely prescribed other redirecting affects of sacrifice, heroism, buck-up and wait your turn. Tough love thrown over the stick in the mud, the bad one who’s holding us back from feeling good actualizing our future… Political play from the radical side can mirror almost identically the gestures of the now revolutionized right where the concept of knowing plays almost exclusively second to the act of feeling.
Porn as prescription to empowerment isn’t naïve, it’s recruitment. Is there safe space within such a volatile network of desire? Is there a porn pension program or are those bodies supposed to recognize empowerment as saving for themselves? This regimented sharing of affect is cult behavior. No individual survives a cult because they are always defined by it thereafter… empowerment sounds neurotic instead of honest. Claiming an affect in lieu of sharing specific experience avoids the political project of deconstructing the self within it. You lose so much of yourself in politics of identity because it’s a losing battle. You think you’re going to fight on behalf of your own vindication, but then you’re asked to check your weapons at the door… suddenly for many, individualism becomes the only way thereafter.
Affect communities, like drug-takers, are not inherently radical… I am not certain that drug taking is conscionable—troublesome for most at the pharmacopornographic trough. Preciado’s Testo-Junkie fails entirely to consider how deadly drug addiction is to poor people without continents to hop… without the glamour of drug treatment that is like a spa for your soul… gender swapping in lower classes is not a recreational activity, let alone for those stopped and frisked. Persons who fail to read in Preciado the wealth of his multi-lingual tongue might think that studying architecture at Princeton is normal. It is not. Princeton is not a casual purchase. Study of architecture to write queer theory reads to me: Money enough to do whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I feel like it. We read his feelings in Testo Junkie… his power in T without consequence… alongside his power to grieve, breaking the theoretical arc with personal biography in a way that intellectuals approve and that feminists also embrace. He makes useful observations, but medicated urban living is only affordable sustainably to some, so here cost prohibits the group from feeling his freedom… of movement… of job integrity… while his synapses fire away both legally and illegally.
The Miracle of Community… Elisabeth I love your willingness to have me perform something under that title. What I love about it is the immediate kinship among those who have experienced a miracle—that kinship being that most people don’t believe us. What comes as a miracle to one, might just be a given to others. Miracles are precious because they operate best in the realm of disbelievers… miracles carry us, as in the individual—we a single body believing, witnessing—feeling the fantastic—they carry that lonely soul beyond its breaking point… past the shards of others who have yet to realize their brokenness… What is a life spent in recovery? Especially if recovery of “the what” is such a question… Are we recovering the self we imagined to build from youth…. the self that would have boycotted and bled to prevent the future that is ours now presently… this space in which we know not how to act? How do we identify need in others when here thereafter need renders itself, for us, a theoretical space?
Recoverists have us believing that we were once better? Recoverists are sifting sand, artifact-checking for a past that might still bring us somewhere, else. The past only resurrects hauntings that guide… distort and pervert our self-interested in/actions. Born this way, miraculously born with what we needed… so much so that we don’t recognize need biting us in the face… a need of a new way of being… which is why we drink and drug to feel our being differently. Survival may not be ours, but we are no sacrificial lambs… much worse than we imagine… still having everything, still thinking we suffer loss… hoping that we recognize need in feeling together. Intellectualism doesn’t save us from barbarism… the flat on your face folly of claiming only self-betterment… the claiming of knowing cultures… navigating the world like a game of chess… is for the ego… a portrait of an artist as wounded little self … an unbearable project of becoming a little trifle who argues big. We are not the important ones.
We should work to erase ourselves from history… because we don’t want to be remembered this way, in some hyper-record of social non-events. The wages of work were always death… so we raised the stakes… by working a lot on nothing in particular. Feelings and gravity are incongruent—empathy is a flawed charity at best… We share in very little because we share almost nothing… certainly not our stupidity, self-serving weaknesses, addiction to pain martyrdom and survivalist ideation… In what way does one manage their own incongruence, walk away from the group… be it the political collective… the housing collective… the family… the Church… and experience peace in a world of strangers closing in? Why does anyone take to the stage with a basket of her worst material?!? The stage is for triumph and there’s no triumph without rehearsal… is that what makes the stage a space for telling unbelievable lies? For feeling lies believable? The fracture of a star, a leader or a savior elevated to clear us while we love them for what they are not… adore them for suppression. Fear? Does fear really transfer, or does it get confused with rage? Public feelings are an externalization of the problems of an incoherent self. Help me feel together—inside?