The Book Meme

TagDamn, this meme has legs! I got tagged with the book meme over a year ago, and darned if I didn’t just get tagged with it again (by Michael DePaula). So what the hey.

Here’s the meme instructions:

1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Hot_throbbing_dykes_to_watch_out_foOkay. The nearest book is the comic collection “Hot Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For” by Alison Bechdel (lately of Fun Home fame). Here are the 6th, 7th, and 8th sentences on Page 123:

“My, but you’re curiously well-informed for someone who’s been in a preponderantly flannel relationship herself for the past sixteen years. Unless the U.P.S. babe has been delivering more than packages.”

“No such luck. I read about it in a magazine.”

(Quick context explanation: Toni had been explaining to Harriet why a lesbian would put a condom on a dildo; her partner Clarice is asking how and why she knows this. And yes, I know, I typed four sentences instead of three. So sue me.)

I’m not going to tag anyone else, since I don’t like tagging people non-consensually and I don’t have the energy right now to round up five consensual tagees. If you like the meme, consider yourself tagged. Wa-hoo!

“Stories I wanted to tell”: An Interview with “Best Erotic Comics” Artist Trina Robbins

Bec_2008_2And welcome to the second in a series of interviews with the artists of Best Erotic Comics 2008. Today’s interview is with one of the book’s Hall of Fame artists, Trina Robbins. I’ve been an admirer of Trina for many years, both as a comic artist and as a historian. The author of The Great Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Superheroes, and From Girls to Grrlz : A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines, as well as many other titles, Trina has been a powerful influence on the comics scene since the underground days. I was thrilled to have her work in Best Erotic Comics 2008, and even more thrilled to interview her here in my blog.

BTW, Trina will be one of the panelists at tonight’s Best Erotic Comics 2008 launch party, Thursday 2/28 at 7pm at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission Street in San Francisco. Come by and say howdy!

Greta: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed! Tell me about your piece. What inspired it, what were you trying to accomplish with it, etc.? I know why I like your piece and why I included it in the anthology — but what do you think makes it stand out?

PetsTrina: Nothing heavy, really, just: what if the tables were turned and WE were the pets? Not even really an animal rights story, because I certainly am not opposed to neutering pets — at least until someone invents tiny kitty kondoms. Our two cats are neutered — they’re a male and female — and sometimes the poor dears get an inkling of an idea about what they’re supposed to do, and they assume position, the male biting the neck of the female, but then they can’t remember what comes next and they just kind of stand there. It’s funny in a pathetic way. My partner calls it the love that can’t remember its name.

And tell me a little about the history of this piece. You originally drew it in 1978, but it’s being published for the first time here. Can you tell me the story about that?

Yeah, back in ’78 I had done some illustration for this men’s mag, and I got along nicely with the editor. I sent him a sketch for the comic and he liked it and gave me the go-ahead, but by the time I finished the piece, he’d been fired and the new editor wanted nothing to do with anyone the old editor had worked with. So it has sat in my file cabinet till I heard from you.

Well, I’m so glad I could help it to see the light of day! Since you bring up men’s magazine, I wanted to ask: Do you see erotic comics as a separate genre from mainstream comics? Or do you see your erotic work as being an integral part of the comics world?

Wet_satin_2Well, they obviously ain’t mainstream. But comics are comics (or comix) and there are many different kinds and they’re all valid.

And when you’re creating sex comics, is it important to you that they be arousing to the audience? Or are you focused entirely on other artistic goals?

I’ve done so few sex comics! I’ve certainly never done any with arousal of my readers in mind — they’ve always simply been stories I wanted to tell.

Since you have done non-erotic comics as well as erotic ones, I’m curious: How has your adult work affected how your non-adult work is received? Has it made it harder to get your non-erotic work published or recognized? Easier? Or has it had no effect at all?

Far more non-erotic than erotic! But I don’t think one ever affected the other.

You’ve been doing comics — both adult and non-adult — for a long time, since the early days of the underground comics era. How do you think adult comics have changed since then? And how have those changes affected your own work over the years?

LustI’m not an enormous readers of erotic comics, but the impression I get is that first of all, there are genuine women drawing erotic comics now, so you’ve got a different viewpoint than you had 35 years ago, and also of the ones done by men, I think far less of them are the kind I’ve always objected to — the kind where rape and torture of women is portrayed as something cool and/or amusing. I’m sure you know that there are people who have accused me of being a censor simply because I have objected to comics that portray rape as funny. Those people don’t quite get it that objecting to something is not the same as censoring it.

On that topic — not the topic of censorship, but the topic of the changing world of adult comics: Do you think the increasing acceptance of comics as a serious art/ literary form has affected sex comics? Has it made it easier for adult comic artists to work? Or are artists less willing to do sex comics for fear of not being taken seriously… whereas 30 years ago they didn’t care because they weren’t getting any respect anyway?

Rent_girlCertainly there are some excellent graphic novels out now that deal with sex and that are widely respected. Michelle Tea’s Rent Girl comes to mind, as well as Phoebe Gloeckner’s books. And those books are definitely taken seriously.

Do you find that working on adult comics is an erotic experience? Or when you’re doing the drawing, are you just focused on the craft of your work rather than the eroticism of the scene you’re creating?

As I said before, I’m focused on telling a story. I find the idea of people as pets being allowed to mate before being neutered ironic rather than erotic!

And finally — what are you working on now?

Gogirl_coverI’ve been writing educational graphic novels for kids and they are definitely not erotic! They’re meant for the classroom, as teachers and librarians have become aware that kids are reading less, but that kids WILL read graphic novels. Some of them came out very well, thanks to a bunch of good artists: the stories of Hedy Lamarr, drawn by Cynthia Martin; Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to get her pilot’s license, drawn by Ken Steacy;and Florence Nightingale, drawn by Anne Timmons, with whom I also team up for our ongoing graphic novel series, GoGirl! I just finished adapting a Ray Bradbury story into graphic novel form for Scholastic, and this Spring Anne Timmons and I will be doing a graphic novel adaptation of Little Women — like I said, definitely not erotic!

Web_picRetired cartoonist Trina Robbins has been writing books and comics for over thirty years. Aside from writing about women cartoonists, she has written books about dark goddesses, Irish women, and women who kill.

Previous posts in this series:
“That’s the fun of it”: An Interview with “Best Erotic Comics” Artist Justin Hall

The Meaning of Death, Part 3 of Many: Fear, Grief, and Actually Experiencing Your Emotions

GraveThe subject of death — and the fear of death — came up recently in another excellent Daylight Atheism post. Someone had written to Ebon Muse (the Daylight Atheism author) asking for advice on dealing with the feelings of dreadful fear and despair they sometimes had over the finality of death.

Ebon had some excellent philosophies and comforting thoughts about death, as did many other commenters in the discussion. (This piece was developed in that thread, in fact.) But I want to take a slightly different tack on this. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently, and I want to offer a somewhat different angle.

Death is natural, and we shouldn’t try to pretend that it doesn’t exist and isn’t real.

But the fear of death, the desire not to die, is also natural. (As Ebon pointed out in his post, if our species didn’t have a strong preference for living over dying, we wouldn’t have lasted very long.)

And we shouldn’t try to pretend that that doesn’t exist and isn’t real, either.

CouchI had a very good therapist once. We did a certain amount of the usual therapy stuff: talking ad nauseum to help me gain insight into my behavior and help me choose it more consciously, yada yada yada. But a lot of what we did was simply to create a safe place for me to experience emotions that I was afraid of, emotions that I kept shoving to the back burner because they felt so enormous it seemed like they were going to overwhelm and drown me. Grief and fear over death, of course, being high on the list.

Sad_faceAnd what I found was that, sometimes — often, maybe even most of the time — the best way to deal with difficult and painful emotions is to stop trying to fix them and just let myself feel them. When I let myself actually feel my emotions, they tend to pass. Sometimes they come back, of course; but then they pass again. And they’re not compounded and made worse by the meta-fear, the fear of the emotion adding to whatever emotion it is I’m afraid of.

FoundationI will caution that this only works if you have a pretty solid foundation to begin with. Which is where all this wonderful atheist and humanist philosophy about death comes in.

The idea that loss, including death, is necessary for life and change to be possible.

The idea that your life, your slice of the timeline, will always have existed even though you die — and the fact that your life has an end as well as a beginning doesn’t eradicate that.

The idea that death is necessary to focus our lives and make us treasure the people and experiences we have.

The idea that we are free to create our own meaning of life.

Rivers_and_tidesThe idea that things don’t have to be permanent to be meaningful. (Many thanks from me go to the movie “Rivers and Tides” for getting this one across so vividly.)

The idea that death is a natural, physical process that connects us intimately with nature and the universe.

The idea that each one of us was astronomically lucky to have been born at all, and that complaining that our lives aren’t infinite is like winning a million dollars in the lottery and complaining that we didn’t get a hundred billion, or indeed all the money in the world.

The idea that your genes and/or ideas will live on after you die.

The idea that we didn’t exist for billions of years before we were born, and that wasn’t a painful or bad experience; and so as frightened as we sometimes are of death, it probably won’t be any different from not having been born yet.

Etc., etc., etc.

Life_preserverNone of this gives us an escape from the deep fear or grief over death. Nothing gives us that. What it gives us is a solid place to come back to when the fear and grief have passed. It gives us a life preserver to hang on to when the fear and grief are gripping us, a bridge over the chasm. It gives us the strength to actually feel our fear and grief and despair… because we can trust that we have a safe place to return to when the feelings pass.

Holding_handsAnd I think that, for all the comforting philosophies we can offer, the most powerful and useful thing we can give each other in the face of death is companionship and witness. When I’m struggling with the fear of my own death, or the grief over the death of a loved one, what comforts me most isn’t ideas or philosophies (although those do help). It’s the presence of someone who loves me just sitting with me silently, letting me feel what I have to feel, not trying to fix it or make it go away but simply being with me while I feel it. It’s the presence of someone who loves me letting me know that I’m not alone… and by their presence, being part of the foundation that I can come back to when the feelings pass.

ButtonI think American culture has a pathological fear of painful emotions, and a freakish sense that they somehow make you a failure. And I know that people often feel helpless in the face of other people’s grief and want desperately to fix it, to find a magic button that will make it go away. I’ve sat with grieving friends and felt that way myself. But I also know that there is no magic button, and that sometimes the only way out of fear and grief and despair is to just go through it.

So here’s the final thing I want to say to Ebon’s inquisitor, and to anyone else who’s struggling with death:

GravestoneYes, I have those feelings, too. I sometimes have the despairing feeling that death eradicates and trivializes my life; the sense that, without immortality, my life is meaningless. And I also sometimes have the apparently opposite (but actually related, I think) experience: the despairing feeling that life itself is a burden, a parade of petty struggles and mundane samenesses that end only in nothingness and the void.

But I don’t feel that way most of the time. Most of the time, I love my life passionately, and accept the inevitability of death with a fair amount of peace. And the fact that despair creeps in from time to time does not, I think, make me a failure as a person, or a failure as an atheist. It just makes me human.

Other posts in this series:
Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing To Do With God
The Meaning of Death: Part One of Many
The Meaning of Death, Part 2 of Many: Motivation and Mid-Life Crises

“Things to be angry about”: Google Poetry

Computer_keyboardSaw this at An Apostate’s Chapel, and I loved it, so I’m doing my own version. The concept: Compose a poem, a more or less coherent one, using search terms that people used to arrive at your blog. It’s an entertainingly eerie exercise, and while I am generally a suck poet, I think that mine freakishly captures the essence, both of my blog and of my current mental and emotional state.

I did mine as a set of quasi-haikus. And yes, the title is also a search term that was used to find my blog. (No images for this one, btw; I want the images of the poem to speak for themselves, or some such poetry blather.) Enjoy — and if you’re inspired to do your own, please feel free to post the link in the comments!

things to be angry about
by Greta Christina

prayer of looking after someone
pray for someone with terminal illness
now with 40% more design

galileo nonconformist
letters of comfort in terminal sickness
slut

weird photos of naked girls
let’s see some women with nice asses that like sex
girls fuck with fruits

Harry potter porn for adults
flintstones having sex
simpsons make sex look like church

marriage no sex
sex fun
deliberately fucking with me weird shit coincidence

has barack obama voted for same sex marriage
Why does Barack Obama feel wrong to me?
if it’s different it’s wrong

perfect porn
spanking her on her bare bottom
he spanked her and then started to lick her pussy

blue eyed cats
55th Academy Awards Ceremony
keep fresh bread fresh

attempting Reason
strange and terrible earthly coincidences
you have the right to your own truth

agnostic grace
atheist rant
i just became an atheist

list of reasons why parents argue with their children
children thinking thoughts of death
the meaning of death

i have weird thoughts about death
fear of being dead forever
FEAR OF DEATH

You’re Invited To a Party! “Best Erotic Comics” Launch Party, Thurs. 2/28

Bec_2008_2It’s a party! For erotic comics!

You — yes, you, reading this blog — are cordially and cheerfully invited to the launch party for Last Gasp’s Best Erotic Comics 2008, at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, on Thursday, February 28. The party will begin at 7:00 pm, and is open and free to all adults 18 and over.

The festivities will include a slideshow of art from the book, and a panel discussion and book signing by editor Greta Christina and five of the book’s contributors: Trina Robbins (“The Great Women Cartoonists”), Justin Hall (“True Travel Tales”), Daphne Gottlieb (“Jokes and the Unconscious”), Steve MacIsaac (“Sticky”), and Dave Davenport (“Hard to Swallow”). Tidbits and schmoozing will also be provided.

Best Erotic Comics 2008 is a literary and artistic exploration of human sexuality — and a fun dirty book, featuring today’s smartest, raunchiest, funniest, filthiest, most beautiful, and most arousing adult comics. With work by Daniel Clowes, Phoebe Gloeckner, Gilbert Hernandez, Michael Manning, Toshio Saeki, Colleen Coover, Ellen Forney, and many others, Best Erotic Comics 2008 smashes the divide between literary/ art comics and adult comics by including both the hottest work from the literary/art comics world… and the highest-quality work from the adult comics world.

LogocamThe Cartoon Art Museum is located at 655 Mission Street in San Francisco, near the Montgomery St. BART station. The only museum in the western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art in all its forms, the Cartoon Art Museum has been in existence since 1984, and has been at its present location at the heart of the Yerba Buena art district since 1987.

For additional information, please contact Greta at bec@lastgasp.com, or the Cartoon Art Museum at 415/227-8666. Hope you can make it!

The Texas Dildo Massacre, or, Reason Number 2,767 Why Gay Rights Matter To Everyone: The Blowfish Blog

DildoAs you’ve probably heard, the Texas law banning the sale of sex toys has been overturned. I have a new piece about it on the Blowfish Blog: in it, I talk about what this ruling means — not just for consumers of sex toys, but for everyone who cares about the right to sexual privacy. And I talk about the Lawrence v. Texas case — the Supreme Court decision legalizing sodomy and same-sex relations, the case that was the foundation for the Texas dildo decision.

It’s called The Texas Dildo Massacre, or, Reason Number 2,767 Why Gay Rights Matter To Everyone, and here’s the teaser:

The Lawrence case didn’t just say that gay sex couldn’t be criminalized. It said that people — all people — have the right to engage in any consensual intimate conduct in their home, free from government intrusion. It said that people’s sex lives are not their neighbors’ business, not society’s business, and most emphatically not the government’s business. It said that the fact that the State doesn’t happen to like a particular kind of sex doesn’t mean they have a right to ban it, or indeed to have any say in it at all.

This case says, “Yup. That’s what Lawrence meant, all right.”

And that has enormous implications.

To find out what I think the implications are of the Texas dildo case — and the Texas sodomy case that preceded it — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

The Scarlet Letter: Visibility and the Atheist Logo

Scarlet_aInsanely observant readers of this blog may have noted that I recently added the Scarlet Letter, the big red “A is for Atheist” A of the RichardDawkins.net Out Campaign, to my blog.

I wanted to talk briefly about why.

I’ve been resisting the Scarlet Letter for some time. Well, “resisting” is too strong a word. “Not doing it” would be more accurate. It wasn’t for any grand and lofty reason; I didn’t have a problem with it being too in-your-face or not in-your-face enough, I didn’t have a problem with it promoting a robotic conformity or being insufficiently explicit. I didn’t have a problem with it at all.

Designing_the_21st_centuryIt was pretty much an aesthetic decision. I felt that the look of my blog was already very busy, since I like to illustrate my posts so heavily, and especially since I now have ads. I didn’t want another design element glonking things up even more. And it just seemed superfluous. I figured that anyone who reads my blog for thirty seconds will figure out that I’m an atheist. The banner/ slogan at the top even says it: “Sex, atheism, politics, dreams, and whatever.”

So why did I change my mind?

FemaleI was in a discussion thread — I can’t even remember now where or which one — and the subject of female atheist bloggers came up. I wanted to offer a short list of female atheist bloggers that I liked; but it occurred to me that there were some female bloggers who I’d been assuming were atheist without actually knowing for sure. So I did a little blog-hopping, visiting some of the women bloggers I like to see if they were atheist or not…

…and I quickly realized that what I was looking for was the big red A.

The big red A meant that I could see immediately, at a glance, that a blogger was an atheist.

This was useful. It was helpful to have a conspicuous visual cue on a blog that screamed “Atheist!” in big red letters. Well, a big red letter. And it occurred to me that someone else doing the same thing I was doing wouldn’t be getting that helpful visual cue from my blog.

And then it struck me:

Oh, right.

Pink_trianglesvgVisibility.

Like pink triangles and rainbow flags and “Dyke March” T-shirts with the word “Dyke” in four-inch tall red letters.

Duh.

Yes, I have the word “atheist” all over my blog like a cheap suit. But I think visibility sometimes has to be about more than just words. I think sometimes visibility has to be about… well, the visible. The visual.

Gay_pride_2The writer in me hates to admit it, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. A picture of a crowd of a million people marching in Washington, D.C. conveys the sense of a vast social movement better than the words “a million people marching in Washington, D.C.” A picture of a colorful, well-attended Gay Pride Parade conveys the sense of joyful defiance better than the words “colorful, well-attended Gay Pride Parade.”

Rasied_handsAnd the image of hundreds of bright-red “A is for Atheist” A’s popping up all over the blogosphere like hands being raised in a crowd… that’s a powerful image, one that gets across a sense of what’s happening in this movement, in a way that just saying, “Hey, there are exciting things happening in the atheist movement!” doesn’t.

I want to be part of that. I want to be one of the people with my hand raised.

Scarlet_aAnd if it makes my already crowded-looking blog look a little more crowded, I’ll just have to find a way to live with that.

Are You A Sex Addict? Part 2

Part 2 of a two part post. Please note: This post discusses many different aspects of my personal sex life — many, many aspects — in a fair amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read that, please don’t. Really, really don’t. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

TestIn the last column, we were discussing this Sexual Addiction Screening Test created by Dr. Patrick Carnes, inventor of the term “sex addiction.” We saw a noticeable pattern in this test: the pathologization of unconventional sex; the pathologization of sex that other people are shocked or upset by — regardless of whether they have any right to be; and the pathologization of people who make sex a high priority in their lives. (Thanks to Dr. Marty Klein’s Sexual Intelligence blog for the tip). Today we continue going through the test, looking at all the questions that a sexually healthy person might answer “Yes” to… and examining what exactly is troubling about this test and the model of sexual dysfunction it represents.

(This piece contains explicit descriptions of sex. If you’re under 18, please do not continue reading.)

[Read more…]

Are You A Sex Addict?

Please note: This post discusses many different aspects of my personal sex life — many, many aspects — in a fair amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read that, please don’t. Really, really don’t.

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Are you a sex addict?

Probably.

I seem to be.

Dont_call_it_loveVia Dr. Marty Klein’s excellent Sexual Intelligence blog comes news of this Sexual Addiction Screening Test from SexHelp.com, a site designed “to help those affected by sexual addiction and compulsivity.” The site was created by Dr. Patrick Carnes: inventor of the term “sex addiction,” founder and designer of multiple treatment programs for sex addiction, and author of several books on sex addiction.

According to Dr. Klein, Dr. Carnes admits he has no training in human sexuality. But let’s not focus on that just now.

Because according to this test, I have a problem.

ThumbupWhich is a bit odd. My life is good; my sex life is great. Things in my life are stable and flourishing, and sex is a happy part of that.

So I don’t actually think I have a problem.

I think this test has a problem.

Compleat_spankerI think this test has several problems. I think this test represents an extremely narrow, rigid view of what can constitute a happy sex life. It pathologizes any kind of sex that’s unconventional. It pathologizes any kind of sex that other people are shocked or upset by — regardless of whether they have any right to be, or whether their sexual sensibilities are reasonable. And it pathologizes anyone who makes sex a high priority in their life.

Man_with_the_golden_armAnd I think this is the problem with the way sex addiction commonly gets treated. In fact, I think it’s the problem with the whole “sex addiction” theory in the first place. I don’t deny that some people behave compulsively around sex, self-destructively and destructively of others. I’d be an idiot to deny that. I just don’t think “addiction” is the right word — or the right concept — for that problem.

And I think this shows up in this test. Specifically, it shows up in the way that unconventional sex, sex that defies conservative sexual mores, or making sex a high priority in one’s life, are all seen as signs of sex addiction.

But maybe I’m in denial. Maybe I’m one of those addicts who can’t admit they’re an addict. Let’s take a look at the test, and at all the questions I answered “Yes” to… and let’s see.

(This piece contains explicit descriptions of sex. If you’re under 18, please do not continue reading.)

[Read more…]

Carnivals of Bloggy Goodness!

I’m a little behind on my blog carnival goodness, and there have been some excellent ones lately, so I want to get caught up.

Carnival5Humanist Symposium #15 is up at Cafe Philos. This is probably my favorite blog carnival of them all; it’s the one dedicated to positive aspects of life without religious belief: in other words, atheist blogging on Why Atheism Is Good instead of Why Religion Is Bad. My piece in this Symposium: Defensiveness, Rationalization, Mulishness… What Does That Have To Do With Religion? Mistakes Were Made, Part 2. My favorite other piece in the Symposium: Stopping to Think at Elliptica, on art and the meaning of life.

Carnival2I somehow missed listing the last Carnival of the Godless at Mind on Fire when it came out. My total bad, which I’m attempting to rectify now. My pieces in this Carnival: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts — A Review, and Defensiveness, Rationalization, Mulishness… What Does That Have To Do With Religion? Mistakes Were Made, Part 2. My favorite other piece in this Carnival: The absolutely stunning, must-read What’s So Bad About Religion? at An Apostate’s Chapel.

Carnival3Carnival of Feminists #53 is up at Uncool (one of the coolest blog names ever). My piece in this Carnival: True Love Waits… And The Rest Of Us Get On With Our Sex Lives. My favorite other piece in this Carnival: I Wanted to Fuck Like a Man at Letters from Working Girls (an extremely nifty new blog, paired with another nifty new blog Letters from Johns — both run by Susannah Breslin, and both of which I’ll be visiting again).

Carnival4Skeptic’s Circle #80 is up at Bug Girl’s Blog. My piece in this Circle: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts — A Review. My favorite other piece in the Circle: the hilarious and informative Scientific Lovers at Gateway Skepticism, on a supposedly scientific dating service that matches couples based on their histocompatibility. (My favorite quote: “Sure, having a slightly higher chance of healthy babies is great, but I’d really like to know more about the ‘more orgasm’ thing.”)

CarnivalAnd Carnival of the Liberals #58 is up at Liberal England. My piece in this Carnival: The Content of Their Character: Judging On the Basis Of Beliefs. My favorite other piece in the Carnival: A letter to Senator Barack Obama at Prepare Yourselves for a Settlement.

And I think that catches me up with my Carnivals. I’ll try to be better about staying on top of them in the future. Happy reading!