The new edge play?

October 15, 2003

The new edge play?

This is an unformed thought. I am writing it down to pin it down. I will elaborate in a week or so. For some people, particularly people who have been embracing a lifestyle of relatively frequent, promiscuous, and kinky sex, romantic love and even monogamy are the new "edge play." They provide an excitement, and a sense of risk and potential hurt, of a comparable magnitude but different nature to their edge play. Dirty Whore is in the process of negotiating with a potentially serious honey. Cat Nastey found that the most exciting thing all week was chocolate chip cookies delivered at work. I think I can find other examples if I look around, including a study of the physical pain of rejection via the Speculist.

I mention this because, elsewhere, Carly asks what is the new genre for pornography. One of the attractions of pornography is that it plays with taboos - this is not the only attraction but it is one. Porn generates excitement by standing right at the edge of social norms, pushing buttons to generate a feeling of unease, coupling that unease with sexuality, and then combining the two to induce fascination. This is one reason why inter-racial erotica is still prevalent, though dated, and why it always uses "Black" with the capital B rather than any of the other words to describe African Americans. This is one reason why youth, or age, or strange sex have been recurrent themes. (Ed. This definition is very unlike the German definition of pornography as anything that encourages the audience to treat a human being as an object.)

As you play with a taboo you both reinforce it in the short term and undermine it in the long term. Howard Stern, for example, gets much of the energy from his show from "I can't believe he just said that" - focusing his listeners on the norm that Stern just violated. But, over time, he needs to find new boundaries to push. Similarly with sexuality and sexual foci, they change as what was once edge becomes mainstream. Examples of this include genital shaving - from kinky to mainstream - and even anal sex. If I recall from when I last rented dirty movies back in the 1980s, anal was unusual, exciting, and rare. These days, it is difficult to find hardcore erotica that uses the vagina. The point of all this information is simple, not so much that we are waltzing to Gomorrah but rather that fashions change, that erotic charge comes, in part, from risk and discomfort, and that falling in love with another, committing to another, is a huge risk which will lead to terrible emotional discomfort if things go poorly.

I could say more about how many young folks these days no longer date. They go out in packs, they "hook up" for casual sex. Sometimes they hook up regularly and get married. But there is less of the ritual, less focus on one-on-one social interaction. I may be hopelessly mired in the world of the nineteenth-century people I study, but perhaps there is something to be said for dating, for emotional risk and physical caution, and for love.

This definitely needs a re-write, but not this morning.
Edit: grammar, white space, and one comment. It still needs a major rewrite.

Posted by Red Ted at October 15, 2003 08:46 AM | TrackBack