Doctor Science Knows

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Laura Ingalls Wilder & the Savage Child

I posted this as a comment on teacherken's post on DailyKos, Are Children Savages?, itself a reply or comment on a NYT article, Kids Gone Wild.

Anyone who thinks schoolkids these days are out-of-control and that the Good Old Days were so much better should actually read Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In "Farmer Boy" there's a section about a teacher who is beaten and killed by teenage students, with the encouragment of their father.

In "Little Town on the Prairie" (when Laura is a teenager in school) and "These Happy Golden Years" (when she's a very young schoolteacher) LIW is forthright about the constant, draining discipline issues teachers had to deal with, for the most part in classes much smaller than the 22-30 students I'd expect today.

On a per-student-day basis, LIW reports much higher levels of student indiscipline and rudeness than would be tolerated today. Then as now, the rude, undisciplined, arrogant problem children had rude, arrogant parents, and neither poverty nor wealth guaranteed good behavior.

Indeed, given that LIW's schools were much less inclusive than schools today (most of the teenage boys didn't go to school most of the year, or at all), I think the evidence suggests that children today are, on average, better-disciplined than in LIW's day.

I do think one of the factors encouraging kids to be rude is that "political correctness" is used as a disparaging term for "respect and consideration for others". I consider it one facet of the "asshole politics" I saw developing in the Reagan era and which continues to dominate the American political scene.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Porn: What Is It Good For?

There's been a discussion of porn going on at echidne of the snakes 's, the discussion being largely in reply to a post of Arthur Silber's at Power of Narrative, which links to previous posts of echidne, Arthur, and others. Here's what I had to say:

This discussion has been very illuminating for me because I don't know what you guys are talking about. From this I leap to the conclusion that most of you don't know what the others are talking about, either.

When I say "porn" I normally don't mean what Arthur or echidne or their commenters seem to mean, and the discussion has certainly shown that it's not just me -- for instance, Arthur was originally thinking of "gay porn" when he said "porn", and echidne and her commenters pointed out that the dynamics in mainstream het porn are very different and pervasive.

The porn I mean when I say "porn" is (a) 99% in the form of text (writing), maybe 1% in the form of drawings, paintings, or photoshopped images, (b) probably 95% or more produced and used by women, (c) probably over half of my personal selection depicts male-male sex, but there significant proportions of heterosexual, lesbian, and multi-partner sex, and (d) never paid for with money, but is produced, appreciated, and exchanged as part of a social network.

It's porn, but not as *you* know it.

Along with being structurally different from mainstream porn along every important axis, the porn I know has a huge (hee. I am twelve) difference in content. To put it as radically as possible: my porn is better than your porn. The good stuff includes more sensual detail, it is more creative, it can evoke more different human emotions: not just desire, but fear, humor, pain, joy, anger, despair, loneliness, love, and the drive for chocolate -- the gamut. And including more emotions and more sensual experiences naturally (and I am using my Biologist Hat here), *naturally* means it will be more arousing.

I don't actually think the porn I read is better because it's being written by and for women, exactly. It's not that we're women, it's that we're not supposed to like porn, we're outside the purview of the porn industry, so we're forced to make our own fun instead of being consumers of the fun that is sold to us.

My experience is that porn can be both tasty *and* nutritious, including detailed, exciting descriptions of various acts *and* sex as an expression of character -- in the same story, at the same time.

As to the stuff the rest of you apparently mean by "porn", I think the parts where regulations are appropriate (and feasible) are what you might call the "labor laws" end. Conventional porn seems to all involve photos or video of real people, and the only regulations I could support concerns how *they*, the actors, are treated. So, no actors under 18, and rigorous penalties for selling or distributing photo-images of actors under 18. I also think photoimages of barebacking or other unprotected sex should be illegal and rigorously punished, because as far as I'm concerned they're snuff flicks, only slower. The actors need to be unionized, to get paid wages in money (not drugs), for there to be actual occupational health & safety regulations with teeth for the porn industry.

Most conventional porn is aristically bad, worse even than the "90% crud" predicted by Sturgeon's Law. It's not surprising, then, that it is probably bad for you. I don't know any way to make it better by law; I think it can only start to happen if people (in this context, men) realize that it's possible for arousing material to be actively *good*. Men deserve good porn, too! And if I knew how to market it to them, I'd be a very wealthy gal.