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It's time for another massive collection of links, so I can close some of my browser windows and reclaim a whole bunch of RAM on this computer. Today's list is heavy on sex, tech, and humor, making it different from any other linky-links post in exactly zero ways, I suppose.


From New Scientist magazine, we have the article Sex on the brain: Orgasms unlock altered consciousness. It discusses fMRI scans of a volunteer who masturbated to orgasm inside an fMRI scanner while the experimenters recorded her brain activity. If I had the budget, this is the sort of science I'd be doing.

The Sexacademic blog gives us a story titled Explaining Porn Watching With Science!, which talks about the neurochemical pathways active during porn watching, and along the way debunks some lurid, sensationalistic pop culture ideas about "sex addiction".

On Sexonomics is an article Porn by the Numbers 5: On feminist porn. The myth that porn, or "mainstream" porn (whatever that is), never shows women in a positive light and is never aimed at a female audience is as enduring as the legend of Bigfoot. I was recently at a Science Pub, in fact, in which an otherwise sex-positive sociologist decried the portrayal of women in "mainstream" porn. The argument became neatly circular later when she said that "mainstream" porn is that which portrays women negatively. The fact that someone with a doctorate in sociology can think about something in such an intellectually sloppy way testifies, I think, to how emotional the subject of porn (and especially feminist porn) is.

Society and rape

Speaking of feminist issues, some time ago a prominent female blogger was approached by a stranger in an elevator at a convention. Said stranger asked her to go back to his room with him. She blogged about the incident and why it was inappropriate, and provoked a firestorm that many of you Gentle Readers are probably aware of. Her thesis is pretty simple: Lots of women are sexually assaulted; if you want a positive response from women, don't approach them in ways that would make sexual assault easy.

A lot of men--including some men that I know personally and otherwise find to be basically reasonable people--flipped out about that, and started wailing nonsense like "Feminists think all men are raaaaaaapists!" Which is total bunk; what's being said is that SOME men are rapists, but rapists don't wear special T-shirts or have a secret handshake that identifies them, so if you're being approached by some strange guy you have no way to know if he's likely to assault you or not. That means being aware that a strange dude you meet might be willing to assault you. (The defensive, "you're saying all men are rapists" response from a lot of guys is similar to the sort of response you see in US society when you try to talk about institutional racism; people who think "Well, I'm not a rapist" or "Well, I'm not a racist" become so reactionary when they hear what might sound like an accusation that they refuse to discuss rape or race in any sort of rational way.)

All that is a longwinded introduction to the next two links, The first, Women in Elevators: A Man To Man Talk For The Menz, talks about the reasons that women can be suspicious of being approached by strangers. Not every dog is aggressive, but nearly everyone feels some trepidation when approached by a strange dog, because there's no easy way to tell dogs that bite from dogs that don't. I'm sure somebody somewhere will be upset and insulted by a metaphor about dogs ("You're saying all men are dogs!"), but if that's the case, that dude probably can't be educated.

And second, for the dudes who say "Well, women should just say so if they don't want to be approached!" we have Another post about rape. This one talks about how women (and men, to be fair, though to a lesser extent) are strongly socialized not to say "no," not to assert boundaries, and not to upset people. It is, I think, a toxic set of social values, but that's a whole 'nother blog post. The point is, simply asserting a boundary carries a social cost. (This is why I think the idea of affirmative consent, adding "only yes means yes" to the idea of "no means no," is so important, as I've talked about before.)


For quite a while now, people have been bugging me to find a new home for my polyamory pages that until now have livedo n my site at www.xeromag.com. I've finally built a new site for them, More Than Two. I've blogged the new link before, but f you haven't taken a look recently, you should. There's now an RSS feed of new articles, and some new content has been posted.

On the Polytical blog is this excellent essay, I’m Better ‘Cos I’m Poly. Anyone who is openly out about being poly has probably at some point or another been labeled as "smug" or "arrogant" about it, most often by someone who identifies as monogamous. This essay is an excellent deconstruction of the "smug poly" stereotype.

Geek Humor

First up, we have these very funny Sci-Fi Ikea Manuals. What would happen if light sabers were real? Or the Tardis was something you could get at Ikea? What would the assembly instructions look like? Apparently, in order to put together an Ikea light saber, you must first have your hand chopped off by Darth Vader.

Our travel down the surrealist path continues with Ride the Gummi Worm, Muad’Dib, a diorama of a scene from Dune done with Gummi Bears and a gigantic Gummi Worm.

Do-It-Yourself Science!

I have blogged in the past about using and Arduino mocrocontroller board to make sex toys. For folks who think that sounds like a good idea but aren't sure how to use or program an Arduino, there is a comic book introduction to Arduino, which you can download as a PDF. If you don't have a background in electronics or microcontrollers but you want to build your own Arduino projects, this is a great way to get started.

Speaking of Ikea, which I was a bit earlier, for those of oyu who are photography buffs comes this guide to building a cheap time lapse panning unit using only things you can get at Ikea.

And from the Department of Mad Science So Preposterous it Just Might Work comes the story of a high school student who rigged a camera and GPS transponder to a bunch of garbage bags, filled them with helium, and let them go. This is a really cool science project done on a tiny budget and with really fun results.


Over at New Scientist is this awesome article, Sky survey maps distant universe in 3D. The universe isn't shaped like you think it is, and now a group of researchers are working on building what is by far the highest-resolution map of the physical universe yet undertaken...in 3D!

The Department of Unclear on the Concept

It's likely that most folks reading this are aware of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It's kind of the flip side of the American Tea Party movement;. The Tea Party is a bunch of mostly middle-class people who love and cherish the superrich and believe that the superrich, being such wonderful people and all, should be exempt from paying the same tax that the working class pays and should otherwise be given all sorts of concessions so that they can make more money. The Occupy Wall Street folks, on the other hand, embrace the heretical notion that taxes on the superrich should be increased so that the very wealthiest people are paying sixty percent of the taxes that the middle class pays, instead of fifty percent of the taxes that the middle class pays...even if it means that some of the world's richest people might have to postpone purchasing that five-million-dollar yacht for a few weeks because of it.

I'm generally sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, though there's at least one of them who simply doesn't appear to Get It...nor to have a functioning sense of irony. He argues that the mainstream media lies or distorts truth to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful, which it arguably does...so his response is to, err, do the same thing. And when he gets called on it over on TimParkinson.net, hilarity ensues. Read the comments to get the full effect; there's even a followup here.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
FYI -- your polyamory faq on morethantwo has broken links (I suspect going to the locations from the old site, but with the host set to "morethantwo.com"). Amusingly, your 404 *also* has broken links in it, for I suspect the same reason. :-)
Oct. 11th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Ouch. Right you are. Looking into it now. Man, this Web stuff is complicated! :)
Oct. 11th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
Btw, thanks for writing all that. I used to write about such things in my own blog, but stopped when I found yours -- you were writing everything I had thought of, but better than I could have. Humbling but good. ;-)
Oct. 11th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
So, because I had to defend/critique my sociology colleague, I went and did a quick, basic review of the literature on the content of "mainstream" pornography and found two studies which I think cover the content of "mainstream" pornography fairly well.

The first study did a content analysis of 50 of the best-selling and most rented pornographic videos, as determined by Adult Video News, between December 2004 and June 2005. They chose the medium of DVD or VHS rentals because AVM reports that this is still the most common way for pornographic texts to be consumed. This would be a pretty good sample of mainstream videos, no? They coded for both verbally and physically aggressive acts - such as insulting, threatening, slapping, gagging, etc - as well as the responses of the perpetrator and the targets of these acts. They also coded for "positive" acts, such as kissing, hugging, giving compliments, and admissions of love.

They found that 89.8% of scenes in these films included verbal or physical aggression. In 94.4% of these cases, men committed aggressive acts against women. By contrast, women committed aggressive acts against men in only 4.2% of cases. As well, female actors reactions to these acts were predominately neutral or pleasurable (95.9% of cases). Positive acts occurred in 9.9% of scenes. They conclude that the most popular pornographic films do present aggression and violence against women by men as a normal part of the sex act, and as welcomed by women.

The second study did a similar content analysis of 45 videos, randomly selected from the front pages of the top 15 free internet porn video sites they could find in Google search - again, a pretty good example of mainstream pornography consumption. Their study produced more mixed results, likely due to the fact that about a third of the videos were amateur.

They concluded that the most common primary themes in the films they reviewed were male domination of women (33%), exploitation of women (22%) - most commonly by men, but they reference two films where women exploit other women. However, they also conclude that the theme of reciprocity between partners was the primary theme in 20% of films.


Both studies reported that fellatio was the most common act portrayed in the films analyzed (90.1% of scenes in study 1, 79% of films in study 2), much more common than cunnilingus (53.9% of scenes in study 1, 37% of films in study 2). Both studies interpreted this trend to indicate the foregrounding of male pleasure over female pleasure.

That all being said, neither study indicates whether or not the films they are reviewing are explicitly BDSM-oriented, which could provide a partial explanation for the prevalence of male aggression towards or exploitation of women. This was likely not a confounding issue in the first study due to the high prevalence of male-on-female aggression reported, but it could have had an effect on the results of the second study.


So, if we define "mainstream" pornography to be the most popular DVDs and the easiest to find free internet porn sites, we can likely conclude that mainstream pornography both a) commonly displays violence or aggression towards women, and b) more commonly foregrounds male sexual pleasure at the expense of female sexual pleasure. Both studies go into more depth and make much more negative conclusions than I do here, but they also both utilize theoretical groundings which can be interpreted as "anti-porn," so I decided to err on the side of caution.

The point I'm trying to make here is that I can't think of ANYONE who argues that mainstream porn - the porn most commonly consumed in the US - is fine and dandy and should be left alone to do what it wants. Even the article you link doesn't make that argument. All of the pro-porn activists I've read argue that good porn can and does exist, but it is not mainstream. Feminist and queer porn is rare (even rarer is good male-sub porn), but it's out there.
Oct. 11th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC)
(Ran out of room in my last post)

For more, visit:

Study 1: Bridges et al. 2010. "Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update." VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. 16:1065-85.

Study 2: Gorman et al. 2010. "Free Adult Internet Websites: How Prevalent Are Degrading Acts?" GENDER ISSUES. 27:131-45.
Oct. 11th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
So, if we define "mainstream" pornography to be the most popular DVDs and the easiest to find free internet porn sites, we can likely conclude that mainstream pornography both a) commonly displays violence or aggression towards women, and b) more commonly foregrounds male sexual pleasure at the expense of female sexual pleasure.

When you're talking about porn DVDs, I think that's a very suspicious definition of "mainstream" that needs to be looked at very carefully.

Porn is a highly fragmented and very niche market. A successful porn DVD will sell perhaps six thousand copes. It's not like other forms of mass media entertainment, where a few authors or artists have a very broad appeal.

Let's look at fiction, for example. J. K. Rowling has sold somewhere between 350 million and 450 million books. Dean Koontz is not far behind; he's sold somewhere between 325 million and 400 million books. Stephen King's sales are 300-350 million. Between the three of them, they've sold roughly two books for every man, woman, and child in the United States; or, to look at it another way, they have sales that amount to approximately one-seventh of the entire world's population. It's reasonable to call them "mainstream" writers.

Pop music is the same way. The Beatles have sold somehwere between 600 million and one billion(!) records. Michael Jackson has sold, reputedly, more than 700 million records; his sales, just by themselves, amount to one-tenth of the total world's population, if that's true.

Book and record sales, if you look at the entire publishing industries, follow a predictable curve. Sales are overwhelmingly dominated by a small handful of authors or artists, and there's a "long tail" of authors and artists who sell few books and albums.

That's not true of porn. As of the AVN 2006 statistics, one of the best-selling porn DVDs of all time, Erotique, had sold...8,500 copies.

Now, let's say you look at a lost of top-selling porn. Let's say that the 50 top-selling porn DVDs sell around 8,000 copies...and behind them is another 600 porn movies that sell 6,000 to 7,000 copies. This doesn't follow the curve of other entertainment media at all. There is not a steep curve, dominated by a handful of titles. If what you have is essentially a flat curve--a very long list of titles, each of which sells basically about the same number of copies as its competitors, with no clear dominance by one or a handful of titles or creators--it becomes very, very hard to claim that the top sellers represent a "mainstream."

Instead, what that says is that there IS no mainstream--it's such a niche industry that all you have are niches. When the "top selling titles" are ahead of the competition by an amount that's basically statistical noise, I do not believe it's valid to label those top-selling titles as "mainstream" at all. You're letting the "mainstream" be defined not by hundreds of millions or even billions of sales, but by a few thousand at most.

Edited at 2011-10-11 07:46 pm (UTC)
Oct. 12th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
I couldn't find the sources you use in this comment about the AVN 2006 statistics or the distribution curve of adult entertainment vs other forms of mass media. Once you link or reference those sources, I'll reply in full.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 04:57 am (UTC)
The fact that I never got a source on this haunts me to this very day.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
CNBC: The Best-Selling Adult DVDs of All Time. Note that you have to get to the #14 best-selling title in order to find one that has sold 10,000 copies, and that this isn't a yearly tally...it's cumulative. #1 on the list sold about 32,000 copies, or a number of copies equal to 0.0106% of the US population. Would uou use that data to define what "mainstream" tastes in porn are?

USA Today: Sales for a hit DVD were 35,000 to 50,000 two years ago. Now, they are about 20,000, [CEO of Sex-Z Pictures Bo] Kenney says [in 2007].

From Hollywood Reporter: The average adult industry tape sells only several hundred to a few thousand copies but is very cheap to produce with multiples of $100,000 being considered a really high budget.

Oct. 12th, 2011 06:29 am (UTC)
What some of us are saying is not "you're saying all men are rapists." We're saying "When you choose to use an approach that involves terms like 'rape culture' many will HEAR it that way and you'll lose mass portions of the audience, especially those who need to hear it most."

This doubles when you get in to denial of female on male violence, statements like "all violence/all sexual violence is misogynist in nature," etc. Throw in the misuse of terms like "male privilege" (note I said "misuse," not "use") and many other fallacies & behaviors based on anti-male violence & you're actually hurting a very important cause.

Unfortunately many people are so emotional about the topic they can't even discuss it without becoming emotional and descending in to attacks on anyone trying to talk about the issues of presentation, generally insisting on misconstruing such discussion as attacks on the principle.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )