Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Women with PTSD: The New Sex Symbol?

Laurie and Debbie at Body Impolitic ask: Is PTSD Sexy? The context is the sexualized, Madonna/whore photographs accompanying a fine, thoughtful New York Times article on PTSD in women soldiers.

My answer to their question:

Of course women with PTSD are sexy.[1] They're damsels in distress. The classic damsel in distress is being held prisoner by a monster (usually male, but sometimes an older, sexually rapacious/repressive female), and the first thing the rescuer does is take the monster's place in her affections, then in her bed. Stockholm Syndrome in action.

Women with PTSD are scared, they're helpless, they're easy to comfort/victimize.And nobody will believe them if they say they didn't want sex, because they're already defined as crazy.

Yes, genuine nurturing and protective instincts can be expressed sexually -- by people of all genders and in all life situations. I've been known to grow rapidly attached to people in pain. I've sought and given comfort with my body. And I'm not even willing to say that all the times I did that were innocent and harmless.

I don't know what the right answer is. I do know that presenting people with PTSD as pin-ups is the wrong one.

[1] For the record: I have complex PTSD, which I have written about extensively.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We Have a Winner!

Julie Phillips’s powerful biography of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr., has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography—a signal honor, and one thoroughly deserved.

I scrolled back through the winners, and it looks like this is the first SF-related book to win in any category. It’s possible some of the collections of criticism addressed SF, so I can’t be too dogmatic about that statement. Given the prestige of the National Book Critics Circle, I’m hoping this award is a portent of things to come.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Freedom of the Mind, The Cost of Alzheimers

"There is only one freedom of any importance: freedom of the mind." The late Iris Murdoch said that before she was attacked by Alzheimers disease.

I know another literate, liberal, original woman whose mind is slowly being destroyed by Alzheimers: Michele's mother Shelley. I was lucky enough to meet Shelley when she was fully herself, and she was extraordinarily kind to me in circumstances when kindness was the greatest possible gift. Now she is still kind, but confused and desperately confabulating to try to explain the inexplicable world she is lost in.

I mourn the loss of her brilliance and wit. I grieve for her husband and daughters, who are watching helplessly as she fades. And I will give what I can to help. For the sake of Shelley, who may well die before a cure. For the sake of the next generation, for those of us who may carry the genes that will take our minds long before our bodies surrender.

Five or ten or a hundred dollars--will I remember in a year what I did with that money? But it will make a difference to the Alzheimers Foundation. They'll use it to fund research, education, and support for Alzheimers victims and their families and caregivers.

You can help too.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

IN MEMORIAM: Jean Baudrillard (June 20, 1929 - March 6, 2007)

Quotes by the late Jean Baudrillard

It is always the same: once you are liberated, you are forced to ask who you are.

Terror is as much a part of the concept of truth as runniness is of the concept of jam. We wouldn’t like jam if it didn’t, by its very nature, ooze. We wouldn’t like truth if it wasn’t sticky, if, from time to time, it didn’t ooze blood.

One of life’s primal situations; the game of hide and seek. Oh, the delicious thrill of hiding while the others come looking for you, the delicious terror of being discovered, but what panic when, after a long search, the others abandon you! You mustn’t hide too well. You mustn’t be too good at the game. The player must never be bigger than the game itself.

The skylines lit up at dead of night, the air-conditioning systems cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them. The mindless luxury of a rich civilization, and yet of a civilization perhaps as scared to see the lights go out as was the hunter in his primitive night.

If we consider the superiority of the human species, the size of its brain, its powers of thinking, language and organization, we can say this: were there the slightest possibility that another rival or superior species might appear, on earth or elsewhere, man would use every means at his disposal to destroy it.

Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us.

Smile and others will smile back. Smile to show how transparent, how candid you are. Smile if you have nothing to say. Most of all, do not hide the fact you have nothing to say nor your total indifference to others. Let this emptiness, this profound indifference shine out spontaneously in your smile.

Depressed moods lead, almost invariably, to accidents. But, when they occur, our mood changes again, since the accident shows we can draw the world in our wake, and that we still retain some degree of power even when our spirits are low. A series of accidents creates a positively light-hearted state, out of consideration for this strange power.

Cowardice and courage are never without a measure of affectation. Nor is love. Feelings are never true. They play with their mirrors.

Deep down, no one really believes they have a right to live. But this death sentence generally stays tucked away, hidden beneath the difficulty of living. If that difficulty is removed from time to time, death is suddenly there, unintelligibly.

Information...exhausts itself in the staging of meaning...[and leads] not at all to a surfeit of innovation but to the very contrary, to total entropy.

In the same way that we need statesmen to spare us the abjection of exercising power, we need scholars to spare us the abjection of learning.

Information can tell us everything. It has all the answers. But they are answers to questions we have not asked, and which doubtless don’t even arise.

Post-modern life
We are becoming like cats, slyly parasitic, enjoying an indifferent domesticity. Nice and snug in the social, our historic passions have withdrawn into the glow of an artificial coziness, and our half-closed eyes now seek little other than the peaceful parade of television pictures.

Television knows no night. It is perpetual day. TV embodies our fear of the dark, of night, of the other side of things.

If everything on television is, without exception, part of a low-calorie (or even no-calorie) diet, then what good is it complaining about the adverts? By their worthlessness, they at least help to make the programmes around them seem of a higher level.

It is not entrails that we try to interpret these days, nor even hearts or facial expressions; it is, quite simply, the brain. We want to expose to view its billions of connections and watch it operating like a video game...All that fascinates us is the spectacle of the brain and its workings. What we are wanting here is to see our thoughts unfolding before us – and this itself is a superstition.

Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated.

I hesitate to deposit money in a bank. I am afraid I shall never dare to take it out again. When you go to confession and entrust your sins to the safe-keeping of the priest, do you ever come back for them?

Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise. Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other.

The cities of the world are concentric, isomorphic, synchronic. Only one exists and you are always in the same one. It’s the effect of their permanent revolution, their intense circulation, their instantaneous magnetism.

If you say, I love you, then you have already fallen in love with language, which is already a form of break up and infidelity.

There exists, between people in love, a kind of capital held by each. This is not just a stock of affects or pleasure, but also the possibility of playing double or quits with the share you hold in the other’s heart.


The surprises of thought are like those of love: they wear out. But here too you can carry on for a long time doing your conjugal duty.

Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time. Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.

Every woman is like a timezone. She is a nocturnal fragment of your journey. She brings you unflaggingly closer to the next night.

Executives are like joggers. If you stop a jogger, he goes on running on the spot. If you drag an executive away from his business, he goes on running on the spot, pawing the ground, talking business. He never stops hurtling onwards, making decisions and executing them.

Politics and the US
The era of the political was one of anomie: crisis, violence, madness and revolution. The era of the trans-political is that of anomaly: an aberration of no consequence, contemporaneous with the event of no consequence.

Deep down, the US, with its space, its technological refinement, its bluff good conscience, even in those spaces which it opens up for simulation, is the only remaining primitive society.

It only takes a politician believing in what he says for the others to stop believing him.

Paradox: all bombs are clean—their only pollution is the system of control and security they radiate when they are not detonated.

In order to function, capitalism needs to dominate nature, to domesticate sexuality, to rationalize language as a means of communication, to relegate ethnic groups, women, children and youth to genocide, ethnocide and racial discrimination.

Mistakes, scandals, and failures no longer signal catastrophe. The crucial thing is that they be made credible, and that the public be made aware of the efforts being expended in that direction. The “marketing” immunity of governments is similar to that of the major brands of washing powder.

What is a society without a heroic dimension?

What you have to do is enter the fiction of America, enter America as fiction. It is, indeed, on this fictive basis that it dominates the world.

Never resist a sentence you like, in which language takes its own pleasure and in which, after having abused it for so long, you are stupefied by its innocence.

Perhaps our eyes are merely a blank film which is taken from us after our deaths to be developed elsewhere and screened as our life story in some infernal cinema or dispatched as microfilm into the sidereal void.

There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world.

The sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence.

Perhaps the world’s second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore.

The great person is ahead of their time, the smart make something out of it, and the blockhead, sets themselves against it.

The order of the world is always right - such is the judgment of God. For God has departed, but he has left his judgment behind, the way the Cheshire Cat left his grin.

The very definition of the real becomes: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction. The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced. The hyper real.

In days gone by, we were afraid of dying in dishonor or a state of sin. Nowadays, we are afraid of dying fools. Now the fact is that there is no Extreme Unction to absolve us of foolishness. We endure it here on earth as subjective eternity.

Pornography is the quadraphonics of sex. It adds a third and fourth track to the sexual act. It is the hallucination of detail that rules. Science has already habituated us to this microscopics, this excess of the real in its microscopic detail, this voyeurism of exactitude.

Something in all men profoundly rejoices in seeing a car burn.

Selections from “War Porn”
Selections from
War Porn

The New World Order will be both consensual and televisual. That is indeed why the targeted bombings carefully avoided the Iraqi television antennae...The crucial stake, the decisive stake in this whole affair is the consensual reduction of Islam to the global order.

[On the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib] These scenes are the illustration of a power which, reaching its extreme point, no longer knows what to do with itself – a power henceforth without aim, without purpose, without a plausible enemy, and in total impunity. It is only capable of inflicting gratuitous humiliation and, as one knows, violence inflicted on others is after all only an expression of the violence inflicted on oneself. It only manages to humiliate itself, degrade itself and go back on its own word in a sort of unremitting perversity. The ignominy, the vileness is the ultimate symptom of a power that no longer knows what to do with itself.

These images are as murderous for America as those of the World Trade Center in flames. Nevertheless, America in itself is not on trial, and it is useless to charge the Americans: the infernal machine exploded in literally suicidal acts. In fact, the Americans have been overtaken by their own power. They do not have the means to control it. And now we are part of this power. The bad conscience of the entire West is crystallized in these images. The whole West is contained in the burst of the sadistic laughter of the American soldiers, as it is behind the construction of the Israeli wall. This is where the truth of these images lies; this is what they are full of: the excessiveness of a power designating itself as abject and pornographic.

This masquerade crowns the ignominy of the war – until this travesty, it was present in this most ferocious image (the most ferocious for America), because it was most ghostly and most “reversible”: the prisoner threatened with electrocution and, completely hooded, like a member of the Ku Klux Klan, crucified by its ilk. It is really America that has electrocuted itself.