PM Pick

Privacy: class matter, not generation gap?

More on youth and privacy (and lack thereof, as well as indifference and alleged superiority to). In the NYT magazine Alexandra Jacobs took a look at college smut publications -- oh, excuse me, I mean provocative sex magazines with "playful nudity" as opposed to "pornography". These are semi-amateur magazines drawing from the talent pool at the entitlement schools -- Yale, Harvard, BU, University of Chicago, etc. It seems the smack of elitism is critical to this entire enterprise; it is what distinguishes the spirit of these magazines from that of Girls Gone Wild or Hooters -- these people can afford not to be afraid of the consequences, a reassuring message to the other students for whom the zines are made. Also, they promote the quasi-bohemian idea that sophistication about sex means pretending to shrug it off while exploiting its market value. Jacobs offers this cryptic and highly speculative explanation of the phenomenon:

It’s as if, though curious to explore the possibly frightening boundlessness of adult eroticism, they also wish to keep it at arm’s length, contained within the safety of the campus. The students involved display a host of contradictory qualities: cheekiness and earnestness, progressive politics and retro sensibilities, salacity and sensitivity. They aren’t so much answering the question of what is and what isn’t porn — or what those categories might even mean today — as artfully, disarmingly and sometimes deliberately skirting it.
So the students are going to all the trouble of making these magazines so that they can create a space in which they can remain ambivalent about sexuality if not altogether confused by its economic and social instrumentality?

This explanation, from one of the models, seems more apt:

Oleyourryk said that for her and her peers, the question is not why pose nude, but why not? After all, they grew up watching Madonna (“All she was was naked all the time”), parsing the finer points of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and flipping through Calvin Klein ads: sexual imagery was the very wallpaper of their lives, undergirded by a new frankness about how to protect oneself from pregnancy and disease. “Condoms. They’ve been rammed down our throats ... since we were old enough to start contemplating training bras,” wrote a Boink contributor in an essay called “Fall Fornication Must-Haves,” which apparently included crotchless bikinis and a Swarovski-crystal-encrusted dildo called the Minx.

Sex is “everywhere, and it’s always been everywhere for this generation,” Oleyourryk said. “A body is a body is a body, and I’m proud of my body, and why not show my body? It’s not going to keep me from having a job. Maybe it sticks to people, but it doesn’t have that negative connotation like, I’m going to have to carry around this baggage. Maybe it’s like, I’m going to carry this around and be proud of it and say: Look how I looked then! My boobs weren’t on the ground. I wasn’t 45 pounds overweight. How hot was I? It’s not, like, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ anymore. It’s a little badge of honor.”

The logic here is interesting: the ubiquity of sexualized marketing and entertainment is seized upon as license and provides the curious ethical postulate that you need to "show" whatever you are "proud" of. Self-esteem, here, is meaningless without an audience, and the link to commodified sexuality (a given, we're expected to believe, for all youth -- sex is commodified by definition) implies that sexuality is nothing more than a medium for self-marketing, and attention is the currency in which one is paid and the ultimate measure of that self-esteem: "How hot was I?" In the context of elite universities, this seems like an extension of privilege, of demonstrating how far from necessity one is by squandering a long-conserved resource, one's private sexuality. (This seemed the principle behind Paris Hilton's behavior initially, but now her image is big business in itself). The message sent seems to be this: I don't need to prostitute myself for money, I prostitute myself for the hell of it. This is nothing new -- unfettered morals have been an aristocratic signifier ever since the bourgeoisie began; it's a compact way of demonstrating how indifferent you are to the need for a good reputation (the core of commercial life). Now this may be playing out in terms of privacy concerns, the lack of which signifies less a generation gap, as Nussbaum argued in New York magazine, than a class hierarchy. Some people's reputation will remain untarnished no matter what they do; other people will not be forgiven the slightest slip. And it's worth remembering that it requires a good deal of cultural capital to maintain a meaningful online presence; if sexuality is no big deal anymore, it's because it has ceased to be an end and has become a means to establishing that presence. It is losing its relationship to intimacy, which is probably not a terrible thing unless you happen to think that some evolutionary imperative linked them in the first place, and the decoupling is bound to be untenable. But kids, recognizing sexuality is already lost to commercialization are secretly devising new ways to be intimate, so secret that they haven't even been reported in New York magazine yet.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image