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Charge of the Ferret Brigade

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Okay–that was sort of bemusing. 

I asked why I keep running into readers who tell me they don’t read first person, or prologues.

I got a couple of rants about publishing companies. 

So let me see if I can do it again.

I used to buy a lot of magazines–actually, I used to subscribe to them, close to a dozen of mostly political stuff, everything from The Nation and Mother Jones to National Review and the Weekly Standard.

I  sort of fell out of the habit of that a few years ago, probably feeling deluged by partisanship as a fashion statement, but I still pick up some of them on the odd occasions when I decide to have coffee at our local Barnes and Noble cafe. 

I was there this past Thursday, at the beginning of a long day of errands I didn’t want to do–personally, I think if those heating elements on electric stoves blow out like light bulbs, the damned stores should carry them instead of sending you out into the middle of nowhere to some parts shop to pick them up–

And what I found waiting for me was the new copy of Reason.  For those of you who don’t know the magazine, it’s not only my favorite one, but the best libertarian publication out there, bar none.

For one thing, it actually is libertarian, and not hysterical nutcase, like the Libertarian Party.

But at any rate, I like the magazine, not least of all because it will frequently publish articles that buck its own cheerleading section, like the one they did a few months ago about a guy who gets some of his health care in the US and some in France, carefully explaining why people might like the idea of a US national system over what they’ve got here.

This issue on Thursday had a small article, largely tongue in cheek, about sex tapes.  Specifically, it was about the celebrity sex tape, and why that is a flourishing industry when actual, deliberate pornography is in a slump.

I didn’t know pornography was in a slump.  I mean, please.  That would be great.  I’ve seen some of it.  What isn’t gross is boring as hell. 

But anyway.

The article contained a piece of information I hadn’t had before.  John Edwards–you know, the US Senator who ran with John Kerry in 2004–made a sex tape with his lover, and that tape is now being held by some court somewhere while everybody screams about it.

My guess is that it’s going to show up on YouTube any minute now.

But here’s my problem–why do people MAKE these sex tapes?

The Reason article was all about why people buy them, and I do sort of get that, although only sort of.   I’ll admit to not having much interest in seeing even those “celebrities” I find attractive–say, Kenny Chesney–naked, never mind naked and engaging in promiscuous fornication.

But it’s less of a puzzle to me why people buy and watch this stuff than it is why people make it. 

I mean, let’s face it.  John Edwards isn’t Kenny Chesney.  He’s not Sean Connery.  Hell, Elton John at his worst at least has more charisma.

And it seems to me that one of the first things I learned about sex was that most people are able to engage in it without embarrassment because they forget, for a moment, that they look more like Woody Allen than Frank Sinatra.

Why would an ordinary person want to make a sex tape?  And millions of them do, along with making pictures of themselves stark naked either just standing there or in various poses.  They do it in spite of the fact that they have to know, by now, that pictures like that are going to surface at the worst possible moment, if texting them doesn’t get them landed on the sex offender registry.

But “celebrity” sex tapes are worse, because these people have to know that there are millions of other people out there who will jump at the chance to show that footage as soon as they can get their hands on it.  And they will get their hands on it.  Even celebrities have to have their computers fixed, as the article noted, and their houses cleaned, and a whole host of other things that bring strangers into the house.  And those strangers will snoop around.  They always do.

But if Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson Lee seem stupid beyond belief for making these things–what does that make John Edwards? 

For the celebrity-celebrities, there is at least the excuse that they’re usually better looking (and in better shape) than the rest of us, and that they spend all their time being told by compliant media types that they’re just scrumptious to look at.

They’re often not as pretty as they think they are, but they do have something of a cover.  Getting photographed and filmed is what they do with their lives.

But what, in the name of God, did John Edwards expect to see except exactly what he was–a middle-aged, sort of paunchy politico with a face like a constipated ferret?

And what did he expect to happen? 

Surely the man watches the news enough to know that these things ALWAYS surface.  They always surface.  Either that, or I’m the only person left who ISN’T making one. 

I suppose the answer is going to be “ego,” but to me, ego doesn’t make much sense in this particular case.  I’d think that the one thing any politician ought to have above all else is a sense of self-preservation, and a sense of self preservation would have ruled out a sex tape before the discussion about it even got started. 

I don’t know.  Maybe when Edwards sees himself on screen, he doesn’t see the constipated ferret.

But the rest of us do.

Written by janeh

April 18th, 2010 at 8:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Charge of the Ferret Brigade'

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  1. OK, didn’t realize that readers were telling you that they didn’t read first person or prologues. You wrote that readers didn’t after coming back from a writing seminar, so I figured that was what aspiring writers were being told. A source of information is always helpful, especially is the information itself is open to dispute.

    Sex tapes and politicians. Getting photographed and filmed is what they do with their lives too. I’m not even sure they rate as a separate category from celebrities. Consider Schwarzenegger, Reagan, Franken, Thompson, Garafolo, Redford, Sonny Bono and Bono. (I’m missing a California Senator–Murphy?–and a US Rep who used to be on the LOVE BOAT.)

    And the politicians don’t lack for people to tell them how beautiful they are–at least Edwards never did. I am more worried by the people telling politicians how clever and well-informed they are. That damages the country, while the “beautiful” bit just weeds out some of the stupider politicians. We have plenty of spares.

    As for why anyone makes sex tapes, I don’t know. The human interest in souvenirs, perhaps? But as for why politicians, for whom it would be especially dangerous, do, I think the general statement is that many–perhaps most–politicians don’t think the normal rules apply to them. This is true two ways. First, they don’t think they have to adhere to the standards of morality and obedience to the law they expect of the rest of the citizenry, and second, they don’t expect the same consequences when they violate those rules. They’re too often right. The ordinary Joe goes to prison, but the politician is sufficiently “disgraced” by having to resign his office, or even being reprimanded. His shame lasts something under six months, as a rule.

    It’s also possible they mostly don’t get caught. “These things always surface” is an unprovable assertion. For all we know, a dozen politicians do this for every one we hear about.

    And thank Heaven some politicians don’t have a sense of self-preservation. The turnover might be even lower, and it’s much too low now.

    Subsidiary issue: is pornography declining, or redefined? I could name several “romance” writers whose works would have gone behind the bookstore counter in 1970.


    18 Apr 10 at 9:58 am

  2. Why do people, ordinary or celebrity, make sex tapes? Perhaps because they find it stimulating to watch themselves doing it. If politicians like watching porn, how much better to watch themselves, since they are already narcissists or ego-maniacs? I often wonder if these people watch tapes of themselves making speeches and being adulated. I suspect they do. Why not watch themselves doing “it?”

    For most who set up the camera in the bedroom, I’m sure the “this will get out” thought doesn’t occur. They think they’re going to be forever watchful and discreet. For some though, revelation might even be more tempting, in the exhibitionist-at-second-hand sense. Nobody in the throes of video-worthy passion thinks of the inevitable day when they break up with the object of their affection, or as Jane says, have to have their computer fixed.

    As for porn, we always hear “women aren’t visually stimulated.” Well, this isn’t universally true. Many women find porn boring, disgusting or offensive, but for some, it can a nice spice to time spent with a loved one. If a couple (so I’ve heard, ahem) watches a bit of nicely staged fantasy, and then turns it off and takes up where it left off, then porn can serve a purpose. It all depends on whether visual stimulation works for you. If not, then watching porn is like watching a contortionist’s gynecological exam…interesting in a technical sense the first time, then pointless.

    I do like the image of the constipated ferret. :) Very nice. Edwards has always given off creepy vibes for me. Nothing he does would surprise me.

    My puzzlement with male politicians is why so few of them can keep it in their pants. Is sex *really* all that powerful a force that you literally cannot control your own behavior? Really? Is getting into a young pretty woman for a few moments of stimulation (and not even love) so worth risking everything for? Perhaps my sex drive is just not strong enough for me to understand this, because I truly do not.

    Robert says they don’t believe normal standards apply to them. Perhaps. I tend to think they truly believe the rest of us actually do behave the way they do, we just don’t admit it. Remaining faithful, being kind, making sacrifices just doesn’t seem to have value for them. Being *seen* to do all of the above, yes. The actual substance of it, no.

    Frankly, I think career politicians should be outlawed. Make everyone who serves in elected capacities work for a living. Draft them, don’t give the job to anyone who actually wants it. Of course then the unemployment figures would be even worse, all those trough-wallowers out there looking for work.


    18 Apr 10 at 12:42 pm

  3. I think Lymaree’s got it – they think everyone else does exactly the same sort of thing they do. In fact, in one recent Canadian case that I heard about a little late (Toronto municipal politics not being exactly the centre of my universe) I first heard some other politician saying, what’s the fuss about? Everyone has multiple affairs when in an committed relationship, and plotting lies and cover-ups (so as to keep the votes of those who don’t admit to all their affairs) hardly means that the person in question is untrustworthy or a liar. At least not in any important matter!

    I have no idea why people videotape themselves having sex. I just don’t get porn, although it’s perfectly obvious that it’s of enormous value to a lot of people, especially men. But I also don’t much like being photographed with my clothes on, and although I like taking a limited number of holiday pictures and of other interesting places, I am baffled by the people who take hours of footage of their summer vacations, too. All I can say is that for some people the drive to memorialize their life on film is far greater than their sense of self-preservation, if they are in a position in which the discovery of such material would result in legal action or loss of a job, a marriage, a relationship….and never mind the embarassment of having all your little figure flaws right there on the screen.


    18 Apr 10 at 1:15 pm

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