Porn vs. Erotica

I want to start this post by saying that I expose myself to porn and erotica about equally, which is to say not that often but I have no objection to either.

What I have an objection to is women who read erotica and rave about erotica and think that 50 Shades is the best thing ever and then turn around and get into screaming fights with their male significant other because they dare watch porn.

Now sure, there are a thousand and one reasons to object to porn. It demeans women, it sets an impossible standard, it’s skeevy, it’s an objectionable industry, it plays into cultural misogyny, the plots are laughably bad, the acting is hilariously bizarre. I don’t object to those reasons even though I don’t actually care about my guy watching it except in those handful of instances where it’s a matter of… let’s call it bad timing.

That doesn’t make erotica any better on the face of it. Even if we say, for the sake of argument, that good erotica is better than good porn and that reading is by default better than watching television — things I’m not willing to commit to outside of this hypothetical situation — that doesn’t mean that 50 Shades of Gray gets to be your holier than thou high holy book. It is the very embodiment of, let’s count it off: 1) demeaning women 2) setting an impossible standard 3) skeeviness 4) playing into cultural misogyny 5) laughably bad plots.

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The Obligatory

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Enchantée, and welcome to Quaff Nepenthe.

First, a brief aside about the name. Quaff Nepenthe is taken from the Edgar Allen Poe poem, The Raven. I chose this poem both as a Baltimore native and a Ravens fan, and because many a productive afternoon in Poe’s Lounge at the University of Baltimore School of Law, but mostly because I’m a fan of 17th – 19th century poetry: particularly Poe, Lovelace, Tennyson and Kipling.

Quaffing is a wine term to describe a category of wine that is ‘simple and everyday’; that is cheap enough to be consumed in large quantities, usually available also in bigger containers (like the boxes we drank wine out of at philosophically-minded parties in college). Such wines are literally called “quaffing wine”. Because of this, the term quaff has come to mean “to drink (something, esp. an alcoholic drink) heartily.”

Nepenthe is a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a “drug of forgetfulness” mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt. Figuratively, it means “that which chases away sorrow”; so, literally, it means ‘not-sorrow’ or ‘anti-sorrow’. In the Odyssey, Nepenthe is a magical potion given to Helen by the Egyptian queen Polidamma. It quells all sorrows with forgetfulness.

As a suicide survivor, the notion of drinking heartily of an antidepressant has special meaning for me… and what better way to stave off depression than to liken oneself to Helen of Troy?

Second, a little about myself: these days I’m a twenty-four year old living in the Baltimore suburbs. I value family more deeply than anything, a fact you can tell because I live in a treehouse apartment situated neatly between my father and uncle. I have a BA in Philosophy and a J.D. but a confluence of events have left me on the path of becoming a teacher. Currently I work two jobs: I sell jewelry for the Boscov’s Department store and I assist disabled children in Special Education while I pursue the certifications necessary to teach Social Studies. In addition, I’m working on a science fiction novel entitled THE GENOCIDE DRAFT and serving as the Head of Building for Lithmeria, a MUD that has been in development since before I went to law school. It is scheduled to release in October.

I have a fairly patchy web presence, under a variety of names, but projects I feel strongly about supporting include Archive of our Own, Twitter, Blood Rites, Scribophile and Pandora.