October 19th, 2006
OK. That's a cheap tabloid headline, just like the one we put on the audio version of this interview.
In truth, we get into some interesting questions: about evolutionary psychology and women's sexuality; about the awful state of sex education in the US; about how media corporations try to purchase edginess, and of course, about how Violet Blue's boobies were all over Market Street in San Francisco.
As most of you know, Violet Blue is a popular sex writer and sex blogger. Her recent books are The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys and The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn. And she's just started writing a regular sex column for SF Gate, the website run by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The whole gang from The RU Sirius Show piped in with questions, including Jeff Diehl, Diana Brown, and Steve Robles. In the end, we all agreed we'd do Bruce Campbell.
To listen to the full interview in MP3 click here.
RU SIRIUS: You have this column for SF Gate, which is a website for San Francisco's mainstream newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. How shocked should America be with this column?
VIOLET BLUE: It's fairly shocking, actually.
RU: So say you're like in Iowa.
VB: Oh yeah, I'm getting mail from them actually.
DIANA BROWN: Love letters, no doubt.
VB: Love letters from the square states. Yeah, it's utterly adorable being told that I should be locked up and thrown away without a key and that I should crawl back into the little hole that I came from.
JEFF DIEHL: Sounds kinky!
VB: It is. It's kinda hot actually. It's giving me all sorts of ideas. I never really received hate mail until I started writing for the Chronicle and now I'm receiving hate mail from really conservative people.
I haven't really written about anything particularly shocking, although I am writing about sex in San Francisco. We're definitely in a bubble in terms of having a really large and articulate sex culture here.
In an article I wrote about having beer with sex educators in an old man bar on Market Street, I joked about the fact that we joke about bestiality and necrophilia. To some people in Iowa... theyre like, "Oh my god, they're having sex with dogs in San Francisco in a bar..."
DB: I was working for a small publication and we were interviewing this person who put on swingers parties, and she was very clear that the majority of these things happened in hotels by the airport out in mid-America, not on the depraved coast, like people would think.
VB: Yeah, the informal statistics that I've seen for the most part state that most of the people who participate in the swinging lifestyle and also purchasers of sex toys tend to err on the Republican and Christian side.
I have some interesting and antagonistic things planned for a column coming up.
DB: Can you give us a taste?
VB: The last week of this month is Protection From Porn Week. It's Morality In Media's little war-on-porn week. They do as much as they can to educate people about the dangers of pornography. So I have a couple of columns planned around celebrating that week in a wholly different way.
JD: You're feeding their getting-offended fetish.
VB: Yes. In a way, it's like fishing with dynamite.
RU: So is there a kind of prophylaxis against porn that you could approve of? You do tell us what good porn and bad porn is.
VB: I'm definitely in a war against bad porn.
RU: So is the fact that you have this column on the Chronicles website controversial? Are their internal politics, within the Chronicle. that you can talk about?
VB: It is controversial. From my experience so far, it's kind of like working for a cokehead.
RU: Are you talking about Phil (Bronstein, Executive Editor of the SF Chronicle)?
VB: Oh no. Phil is actually cool. Phil is REALLY cool. No, I mean the institution itself. It's just like, they really want to do this thing with me but then someone at the highest level freaks out at the last minute and they pull all my links. My column went up and they originally didn't link to my site or use any of the links in my column. And then the next week, they put a couple of links in. And then in the next column, they put all my links in, including linking to my site. And then two days later, they yanked the link from my bio to my site. So now I'm wondering, what's going to happen with the next column.
DB: It sounds random.
VB: Well, it seems like there's some kind of war of ideology going on there. They want the hint of sex, or the hint of cool, or the hint of hip, or the blogger, because I'm like the token blogger.
RU: This is the whole story of corporate America; where they're always coming around and saying, "We want edgy." And they don't. They just want something that looks fashionable.
VB: They want the aura of edgy without also making the commitment to what that means.
RU: Your column [for SF Gate] was advertised illicitly [laughter]. Do tell us about our friends in the Billboard Liberation Front. Not YOUR friends, of course. You're innocent!
VB: I had no idea actually that this was even happening. I got like a grainy phone cam pic sent to me in the middle of the night. I was like, "This has got to be a photoshop job." And then when I woke up in the morning — it was the morning my column launched — I got an email from somebody in the Chronicle building that said, "I can see you from my desk, seven times life-size."
RU: Do tell our audience what this is, because they may not know.
VB: Apparently, in the middle of the night, a group of individuals went out — they had printed pictures from my website, not just pictures from my blog but somewhat explicit photos from my explicit photos gallery — and they made them look like ads that the SF Gate and Chronicle had done, so they looked like bus stop ads and bus shelter ads. And they put them all over the place. I did see one on the side of a bus.
RU: Wow. They did a hell of a job!
VB: One of the pictures that someone showed me was from the side of a bus, and the bus was in motion. I had no idea this was going to happen. I had no idea who did it. I went and found one at 5th and Mission and at the bottom it said BillboardLiberationFront.com.
What's weird is that's not actually the URL for Billboard Liberation Front. BillboardLiberation.com is their real url.
JD: I missed them. Do you have them posted on your website?
VB: I do, yeah. My boobies were all over Market Street! [laughter]
RU: They must be big!
JD: So when I was reading the part in your book (The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn) about women being turned on by visuals. I think I can believe that...
RU: I've just never SEEN it. [laughter]
JD: Most women WILL say, "porn doesn't really do it for me." And certainly the mainstream media repeats that over and over again. And even mainstream science says, "it's just a simple evolutionary fact that there are reasons why men are more turned on by visual imagery." But there have been a few instances where I've been with girls and watched porn and could clearly tell that they were affected by it in a good way. So do you think that a lot of the difference between either the perception or reality of men versus women being affected by visual imagery has to do with the taboo? Women are more resistant to accepting that they can enjoy it because of the fear of being perceived as a slut?
VB: I think there are a couple of different answers to that question. This reminds me: I recently did an interview with the guy who is the Editor-in-Chief of Playboy magazine: the print magazine. Remember that? Anyway, he wanted to feature my book in the Playboy Advisor section. And for some reason, he wanted to talk to me on the phone. And we got into a half-hour argument over whether women are turned on by visual imagery or not. And I thought it was a really telling argument to be having with this guy who is in charge of this magazine — this very dated magazine that a lot of people often voice complaints about. And one of the things he kept throwing at me in terms of this argument is this biological imperative — that women wouldn't be interested in anything that would cause them sexual pleasure outside of anything that would promote their biological imperative to breed and have babies. And it's a real common mainstream argument when it comes to women and sexual pleasure.
RU: That's a very extreme interpretation of Darwinian evolutionary biology. There are distinctions between the sexes but that's a very extreme interpretation.
VB: One of the things I come across... obviously my Smart Girl's Guide to Porn is for women, and it's written for sort of a newcomer audience. Most women tend to be newcomers to porn. Guys sort of grow up with porn and women don't. Every guy you talk to, as a generalization, will say, "Oh yeah. Dad's Playboys" or "My older brother's porn stash." So guys grow up already with language about it before they even hit eighteen. And women don't get that growing up. And we also don't get a cultural acknowledgement between our peers about what's hot to jack off to. If you and I are the same age, your experience of porn is going to be much more advanced than mine just because of the way that our genders are acculturated.
RU: Do you think there's anything to this whatsoever? The belief is that women get hot reading stories whereas men like visuals.
VB: Ugh. It's context context context. When you grow up and you're not used to explicit sexual imagery... For instance, I got sex ed in school, but I grew up in California. In most of the nation, particularly over the last five years, you can only get abstinence education in public schools. And people who do get any sex ed in school, it's reproductive education. It's all about how babies get made and it's all illustrated cutaways of genitals. So you never see actual genitals until you see porn.
RU: When I was in school, they didn't have sex ed at all.
VB: Right so your education came from porn.
JD: So most young males get their education about how to be sexual mostly from porn and whatever R-rated films they can sneak into. But (just to get you to take a devil's advocate position against yourself) with the internet, much younger boys are seeing much more extreme pornography that is pretty much sexist.
VB: Totally. It's super-dated gender stereotypes and Barbie bodies and all that bullshit.
JD: What do you think is the possible negative effect of that on how boys learn about their own sexuality, particularly with the current conservatism that's preventing any real sex ed in schools?
VB: OK. Before I play Devil's advocate to myself, I'm going to say the positive things about that. It's not just boys that are getting a porn education because of what's readily available on the internet. It's girls too. And women are being allowed to individuate their sexuality and their choices by being able to sort-of shop a little bit for visual stimulation on the web. And then they can decide, "I like that' and "I hate that." So that's a positive. People are getting more tools to be able to individuate their sexuality.
As far as negatives go, I think that there's a lot of educating and a lot of consumer advocacy that needs to be done about porn that's out there — about finding the good porn. Because there are so many racist, sexist, really Jackass-type displays of sexuality — things that you should never try at home that are on the internet, are in "mainstream porn practices." I mean, these people are trained athletes to do a lot of the shit that you see them do. Regular adults shouldn't even be trying some of this stuff at home because it's really unhealthy. That's the type of information and education that needs to get out there, because there are going to be a lot of negative effects. No one is going to be talking to these kids. STD rates among kids are skyrocketing right now because of the abstinence education. It's ridiculous. So people do need to be talking about it. But nobody is talking about anything related to healthy sexuality in regards to pleasure in a public forum for young people. Sites like Scarlet Teen are really good for kids just to learn about healthy sexuality and individuating their own choices.
RU: Besides having a guide to good porn have you ever thought about having a guide to bad porn?
VB: That sounds like a great article for 10 Zen Monkeys actually.
DB: So tell us a bit more about bad porn.
VB: There's so much bad porn. Where do you begin with bad porn?
STEVE ROBLES: How about Evan Stone? Can we just narrow it down to Evan Stone?
VB: Thank you very much.
SR: I called him the Bruce Campbell of B-level porn.
VB: He's not even that good. I would do Bruce Campbell. Evan Stone is like the Chippendales dancer that got lost. Overly waxed. Lantern jaw. He's the kind of guy where girls like me look and say, "Where are all the hot guys in porn?"
SR: They're in gay porn.
JD: In your book, you write about a lot of girls renting gay porn just because the guys are so hot.
VB: It's true. I see it in the Castro all the time. I'm never the only woman in the gay porn section. The guys are really hot and there's actual sexualization of male bodies. Mainstream porn is really homophobic. It's depictions of male sexuality are really negative, for the most part. And in gay porn, it's more like, "Whoo hoo! Look what I got. It's fun. Let's play with it." And women like me, who like guys, are like, "Whoo hoo! Yay. Let's play with it."
See also: Japanese Nose Abuse (written by Violet Blue)