September 15, 2007

This Needs To Be Explained



145000 unique visitors may not seem like a lot to those in the porn industry, but it's a lot for me, and especially for a "throwaway post" like the one on Halloween.

Getting on Digg and the front page of reddit certainly is the cause of this, but not the explanation.  The post got over 200 comments, not counting what my spam filter destroyed; more importantly, the post went to places like metafilter, where it had over 170 comments-- more than any other post that week.


About half of the people didn't like the article at all.  A lot said it was badly written. (I know.)  A lot disagreed with what they thought were my points-- the same points that made the other half like the post.

There were four elements of the post that received the most attention.

  • Are violent films bad for kids?  Very polarized debate.  Interestingly, the debate was always personal and negative: "watching horror movies didn't affect me."  No one asked whether currently violent people had watched horror movies as a kid, and if it had an impact.  And no one suggested they'd be okay with taking their kid to one.
  • What is "torture porn?"  Are horror movies really porn?  To call it porn implies something-- what is the nature of that implication? 
  • I was surprised by the number of people whose main criticism was the photo of the stroller-- that it wasn't scary.  "It's just a stupid stroller!"  That is an example of concrete thinking, and I'd bet that those people like Halloween, Hotel, etc, but are not touched by them (i.e. they go to sleep with the lights off no problem.)  I'm not criticizing, just profiling a preference set.
  • Why did I refer to the parents as "obese" and "white?" Is that really relevant?
I posted a comment on metafilter that is worth repeating/rephrasing here:

1. I suck at writing. Some of the criticisms of my points are really the result of this. Not an excuse, just an explanation. If I wrote better, I think there would have been less disagreement.

2. The point of the last sentence was NOT that horror movies make kids into ADHD serial killers-- that's up for debate. My point was that those/these kids are growing up in a family/environment where obviously there are so many negatives-- taking them to Halloween is simply an example-- that for psychiatry to be focused on utter nonsense-- food additives and ADHD-- misses the whole context of the "ADHD" child.  Psychiatry does this a lot: it focuses on the trivial because it's the only thing it can affect.  But in doing this, it creates the social policy story that these minor issues are the causative, or at least substantive, ones.

3. I tried to juxtapose the bad childhood of Michael Meyers with the (IMHO) bad childhood of these kids, not to imply they will become serial killers, but to suggest that maybe, oh, I don't know, once in a while, how we parent affects how the kids turn out.   Just saying.

4. The "obese white parents" comment. You know what? I have no idea why I wrote that. It's factual, but it was a completely prejudicial remark that I now regret writing-- it was nothing less than the promulgation of stereotypes.  It highlighted things that have no relationship to the topic at hand.  

4b. Except those attributes did have some relationship, otherwise it wouldn't have been on my mind.  I wasn't born with the stereotype in my head.   I'm going to tread carefully, and I hope you'll appreciate what I'm going to say: I recognize that my thoughts were wrong-- i.e. a prejudice,  but they came from somewhere-- even if that somewhere is an attribution or information bias. This speaks to the whole problem of prejudices in general, where they come from and how we combat them.

Here's an example: when I wrote that comment, my thoughts were exactly this: "I better let everyone know they were white, or else they're going to assume they were black."  Think about that.

Strangely, it never occurred to me not to write they were obese-- another prejudice on my part. It  surprises and frightens me that I could have and execute thoughts so automatically, without any consideration.  It never even occurred to me that writing "obese"was in any way wrong.  

5. "Torture porn."  People took issue with it because they think porn gets defined as "what other people think is bad."  As a working definition, porn can be anything that causes sexual excitement in the absence of the fetishized object. Think of it like this: porn's natural outlet is masturbation. There's no actual naked coed with you. The masturbation is the end in itself.

What about when porn leads to actual sex, with, say, your wife of 15 years? It's still masturbatory, in that your sexual energy is directed at the porn (e.g., how her hip looks like that pic, or how she moans the same way, etc.) Your mind fantasizes around the reality of your wife, so that the wife becomes a prop for masturbation. (This is an example, don't yell at me.) All of this is narcissistic, introverted.  It's power over your own identity. Torture porn is the same: it's about you, and making the other simply an extension of your own affective needs. The point isn't to kill the person; the point  is the killing.  That's why torture porn is never about revenge, or crime, or any obvious purpose.   The purpose is the exertion of your power. If there was a purpose to it, it wouldn't be masturbation.