How can ‘scenes’ be approached as a means of performing other selves, and as a way of enacting different subjectivities? How can the ‘temporary autonomous zone’ of a bounded space and time facilitate the embodiment of alternative orientations, desires, curiosities and roles? In BDSM, the ‘scene’ is used to generate a bounded space for engaging in certain roles and certain dynamics, often with pre-determined activities and participants. How can this performance space—much like the ‘trip’—be used to facilitate experimentation and growth—perhaps with enduring prospects and possibilities? To what degree is all intimate behavior performative and scene-bounded? Is there a value to unbounding sexual practices? What present and future roles might be imagined for the bounded scene?
Can we imagine lifestyles that reconfigure desire, care and creativity? Charles Atlas, in Hail the New Puritan, attempts to do so, as he follows the radical dance troupe of Michael Clark, et. al. Exploring themes of dance, urban life, queer and fluid sexuality, avant-garde art and fashion, etc., the film sketches an aestheticized vision of an alternative life, where collective creative production sits at the heart of both artistic and subjective (re)generation. The film, it is hoped, can open up some of these themes in order to spur discussion and imagination around the role of creativity in shifting the modes in which we deploy pleasure and care, and, ultimately, remaking our subjectivities.
For many, polyamory feels like the most advanced and sophisticated mode of engaging in relationships and sexuality. In this session, we will examine whether polyamory goes far enough in revolutionizing the terrain of love and sex--not from a monogamous or heteronormative perspective, but from a radical egalitarianism perspective. We will be asking whether openness necessarily means inclusivity (i.e. whether polyamory gives access to sex and social bonds to more people than other relationship styles); whether polyamory is all that novel or unique compared with other cultural practices of sexuality and interpersonal connection; and whether polyamory's continued centering of romantic connection is desirable or socially productive--indeed, whether any amor-centric life mode can genuinely be considered emancipatory.
Exploring themes of play to understand emotional intelligence and the healing elements of connection, Elese Moran, Director of Asking for Sex has been creating art that illuminates the discourse around power control dynamics and gender issues for several years now. After spending 15 years in the tech industry working as a marketer, storyteller and consumer behavior researcher, her documentary work uniquely captures how people play and interact with each other to gain connection in this world. Creatively bold and a risk taker, she has created Asking for Sex a documentary that deconstructs modern male sexuality through the stories of consent fails.
Why are we compelled to have sex? Regardless of how the mechanisms of sex originated, our behaviors, neuroses, and nuanced desires are also the products of a new world of complexity, influenced by cultural frameworks for family and intimacy, mass media, technology, identity, power, and status. Knowing this, why have sex at all? What are the benefits of sex to individuals and groups? How do we seize agency and use sex as a tool to build the lives and societies we desire, rather than accepting the status quo and its ramifications on ourselves and our societies?
In what ways do we frequently follow scripts 'in the bedroom'--performing these scripts about sex and sexuality for ourselves and our partners and rarely peering behind and beyond them? How does media and culture 'mediate' our sexual encounters by standardizing regimes of expectation, tropes, roles, and narratives about passionate love-making and/or dispassionate fucking? Where do these scripts come from, and what kinds of barriers do they place on communication, pleasure, solidarity and exploration? How might we shatter and push beyond these scripts, or at least embody them consciously as scenes, rather than as unannounced mass performances within a series of unquestioned expectations and standards?
Are permissive, urban enclaves like San Francisco and New York genuinely liberatory?Throughout history, the aristocratic classes have frequently enjoyed splendor, luxury, bodily enjoyments, and, at many times and in many places, downright debauchery. In many ways, these uncritical and exploitative hedonisms have inspired the condemnation of the middle and lower classes, in the form of religious and other principled attacks on the glaring, hypocritical behaviors of society’s most powerful. In fact, much of the episodic puritanical intervention that our society has experienced throughout the ages has been a backlash against aristocratic hedonism built upon and paid for by the suffering of the lower classes. This discussion examines the relationship between scarcity, power, the concentration of enjoyment, and ‘ressentiment,’ exploring the ways in which top-down imposition of ascetic order has frequently backfired by becoming a universal moral standard expected of all (and not just the working classes). What does it mean to be in an era of unprecedented overall wealth, and how might redistribution of both material comfort and permissivity lead to a genuinely ethical mode of hedonistic pleasure for all?
What makes something erotic? Is the erotic inherently tied to taboo and transgression? How does pornography both extend and limit the boundaries of the erotic imaginary? In the imaginary universe of pornography, are there ethical or other kinds of limits? At this event, Tobie will consider the nature of pornography, considering the boundaries between pornography, literature, and obscenity, with these remarks rooted in Susan Sontag's essay "The Pornographic Imagination."
Many of the things we like are either inherently scarce, or have been made artificially scarce, as a means of canalizing behavior and rendering subjects more docile. Perhaps alongside a project of eliminating what Herbert Marcuse calls “surplus repression,” we might also seek alternative pleasures. From heat, to play, to adventure, to food, self-expression and even altruism, there are a great many pleasures that are un-celebrated, partially because they are unprofitable, and partially because they are not consistent with society’s interests.This talk will explore the idea of ‘everyday pleasures,’ focusing on the kinds of pleasures that are not often emphasized, encouraged or celebrated.
Sexuality and domesticity have been thoroughly intertwined in western culture, with sex intentionally being confined and castigated to the home by Evangelicals and powerful social reformers. In many ways, the home was meant to confine, segregate and privatize the sphere of sex, and channel its vitality into the family and reproduction. Today, if one were to reimagine sex and sexuality, they might also elect to reimagine home as well. At this event, “polyamorous nomad" Leela Universe presents their take on domesticity and sex, ruminating on the nature of intimacy and connection, as learned from a lifestyle of perpetually delving into a myriad of private lives, while resisting the trappings of privacy and domesticity.
This event will feature an historical talk about the alternative structures and spaces built by the LGBT movement, exploring both where LGBT struggles encountered victories, and where their strategies have encountered their limits in the 21st century--limits that have been challenged by the queer and sex-positive movements. What are the prospects for queer spaces moving forward?
Objects can be sites of powerful eroticism and desire, yet the sexualization of objects has a long history of taboo and cautionary tales. From the negative connotations around 'objectification' to the fetishization of specific objects, body parts and physical settings, sexuality is always in some sense 'objective.' Are subjective qualities desirable? What is the difference between a simulated sexual experience and a 'real' one? What does Object-Oriented Ontology teach us about the perhaps artificial boundaries between subject and object, and the pleasure/desire relations between and among these? What does dematerialization of experiences (VR/AR, etc.) mean for desire and experience?
What are the consequences of a lack of touch and access to sexual intimacy for humans as a group? How do we reconcile the ideas that the individual has the right to their own body, and also that as a group we may have created an artificial scarcity of physical intimacy. Whilst many of us agree that solitary confinement is ethically treacherous, can we apply this same thinking to sexual solitary confinement? What would it look like if we recognized access to sexual intimacy as a human right?
This event is dedicated to the exploration of care ecosystems, with a ‘play’ space for exploring new pleasures, new intimacies, and new solidarities, preceded by a workshop on touch, which will follow a brief talk on economies of affective care. Tea service will be available.
Dating apps: some of us love them, some of us hate them. But can dating apps perhaps be reimagined as a means of bringing us closer together? Can we perhaps use them in different ways, that might bring about different results? Should we even be looking to romantic connection for solidarity? How can other types of connection and intimacy be facilitated using digital means? In this discussion, we will consider the premise that dating apps can be revolutionary tools for forging connection, if we use them intentionally and strategically. We will consider the ways in which we can forge authenticity and connection, and ways that we can challenge social difference through dating apps.
Can we cultivate a personal sense of beauty that gives us these wanted feelings that is also honest, broad, inclusive, and experiential as opposed to value and power-based? Is egalitarian hedonism itself beautiful and worthy of internalizing as such?
Imagine a more generous sexual economy generally, where sexual pleasure was not judged or withheld on the basis of judgement. Imagine a horizontal plane of pluralistic attractions, rather than a singular hierarchy of attraction. Are these things possible? Imagine a world that involves people (especially men) never needing to rely on their sex or charm for securing a life for themselves (sex as a survival strategy). Imagine a world where cultural obsession with sex built upon sexual scarcity was not a thing. What else might be possible? What stands in the way of materializing equitable sexualities? This salon is part of the Critical Hedonism(s) series.
Do the environments in which we live police our sexuality? How do the places that we live our lives and spend our time constrain, ignore, shape, incentivize and disincentivize sexual behavior? What is ‘sexuality,’ and what makes sex so special compared to other human activities, and how does this distinction map onto space? What does it mean that we have sex in private, highly interiorized spaces, and mask (if only with extremely thin, contoured, and presenting clothing) our sexuality in public? How does the city itself encourage certain sexual arrangements, groupings and dynamics, and discourage others? What would a more public, present, and immediate orientation and availability of sex (and/or places to have sex) mean for our culture and for the power dynamics that have regulated and/or benefitted from the regulation of sex?
Touching upon various strategies of the counter-archive as a foil to the production of dominant narratives, this talk will address both pornography's artistic and political dimensions with the aim of stimulating dialogue toward a more creative and critical approach to the consumption, collection, and creation of pornographies.
Is freedom really autonomous? To what degree are we subject to our desires? Addictions form when we lose willpower over our pursuit of pleasures; marketers harness wants and urges to manipulate our behavior; governments increasingly rely on making their subjects want things that are consistent with their models of rule; some desires form around the concept of being disciplinarily deprived of pleasure or affirmation. This salon explores the tripartite relationship between the pursuit of pleasure, liberty, and power, critically examining hedonism's role in contemporary power structures, everyday life, and creative expression.