Category Archives: politics

Pride and Shame

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

I don’t get out to the BIG San Francisco events these days. Where once my eyes looked up and watered over from hope and stray glitter, now they tend to look elsewhere for SF Pride and Folsom Street. There’s all the waste, the trash, the dominating force of Big Booze ™ shilling Absolut Vodka and Budweiser, and the huge crushing crowds, terrible food, and the heart palpitations all of this gives me. No, I don’t care to see a parade of massive corporations demonstrating how tolerant they are despite whatever implications their brand and profits might mean for people, animals, water, and the globe at large. No, I don’t care for the tons of plastic crap manufactured with pride.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg

Pride and Folsom have had brave sexual components because of the illegality of what they were displaying in public. It was a protest. I’m all for Bacchanalia, believe me. It’s also important to remember that it was about taking something that people were being arrested and brutalized over and putting out in public view. It was about challenging how and why people were being marginalized for what they were already doing in private. Blowing someone in public was the reminder that the sun didn’t turn to blood, the streets weren’t suddenly cracking open, and there was no legitimate reason why people were being pulled from their bars and bedrooms and subject to a criminal record and all the damages therein.

I heard about “Gay Shame” when I was in college and I didn’t disagree with them totally but I wanted to have my day in the sun, a party celebrating something that had isolated me as a kid and a teenager, and most of all a good goddamn time. I wanted to put down my politics, pick up a beer, and just let it all go. Those Gay Shamers seemed a little uptight and political to me. Sure, corporations had some pretty bad policies but having Bank of America come out to the parade meant that others would to, right? Mainstream acceptance meant safety. If those stodgy old banker dudes could see why an event like pride where they knew there’d be drag queens and naked guys in cock rings and little baby dykes stomping around in their first pair of big black boots and a miniskirt trying on subversive in public for the first time ever then surely “we” were winning, right? Right? There were too many politicians in convertible cars waving to the masses for us to be losers.

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Of Sex And Drugs

Despite the porn, I’m terribly naive about why our society has conniption fits when it comes to talking about sex and drugs. Both are very taboo and subject to numerous pieces of legislation and come with deep currents of conscious and unconscious stigma.

Trying to develop a career as a “professional” in either field is a tenuous path. Semantics mark the difference between the suit and coat crowd and the plebeians or worse yet the crackpots. Those who aspire to join the suit and coat crowd can be spotted at their industry’s events with marked civility to the crackpots by their subtle but very nearly ritualistic social performances best described by Roland Barthes and an avian behavior graduate student sharing drinks at happy hour.

In the drug world, the people talking about sex are regarded as the way to ruin the legitimacy of things. The ones who don’t get “the bigger picture.” In the sex world, those who talk about drugs can also ruin the legitimacy of things. Legality is a major issue. Drugs could blow the whole house down.

When you already have to speak in sotte voce about a very fundamental reality, the introduction of another pretty much leaves you to the fragments and the faintest lines of symbols creating galaxies of the inferred. This is the blend of religion, and of disease. The orbit is farther out with a much more tenuous grasp on gravity. The stakes are closer to death and not because of something inherent to them so much as their relationship to codified law that has a very class distinct application on the masses. Having “made it” is so often defined by the cocaine of an appealing ass. It’s not the Benz, it’s the room for a buzz that never ends and never has consequences.

Class is marked by the consequences you face for your own humanity.

Sexuality has been my trade but I keep my personal cards kept more keenly to myself. I do think ones pleasure practices are as sacred (for whatever that word means) as ones spiritual practices. I don’t think I really get a say over how any given individual choose to guide their perception of the world by chemical, religious, technological, biological, material, or what-have-you-tools so long as there aren’t material world consequences on other non-consenting people. You can’t just steal some shit. You can’t just instantly use someone as a tool of your experience. The fact that we imprison people for getting high is, in effect, a thought crime.

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Musings On Mold

I can’t remember the PIN number to my handy-dandy, hippie-dippie credit union bank card. I’ve had it for sometime and I’ve never experienced a problem like this before in my life. All of the other uncharacteristic “brain farts” or missing pieces I could vaguely explain away to myself as cannabis or the one-size-fits all favorite, “getting older.”

There are things you know you forget. There are things you know are the most vulnerable to being forgotten during stressful times. Then there are things you just don’t forget.

My PIN number is one of things I just don’t forget and when I stood at the register of the grocery store trying to pick up just a few items for my anti-mold diet staring at my dumb fingers at the keypad with neither the muscle memory to type it out nor the ability to recall the sequence I knew that it was going to be a long recovery process.

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Tales Of Kink.Com

So I rage tweet, sometimes. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the recent scandal of Peter Acworth being arrested for drug possession charges.

But what’s interesting to me is how quickly people will act as though my tweets all pose a mortal threat to Cybernet Entertainment, also known as Kink.Com which is located at the San Francisco Armory. What a long strange relationship it’s been.

A long time ago before Mayhem was even thought of and I was a college freshmen chomping at the bit to indulge my long internet researched proclivities for getting creative with the integrated imagination of the sexual landscape, I went to a party at Kink.Com and didn’t even know it. I had purple hair and I was modeling someone’s leather creations with fairy wings, purple hair, and my trademark thick rimmed glasses. I was a teenager, I wasn’t yet 21. I was wide eyed and bushy tailed and as I wandered through the space I realized that it was…familiar. And my, there were drains everywhere…I realized in a flash that left me flushed that I was at The Porn Palace of Kink.Com. It wasn’t the armory then and although it was a profitable company is wasn’t the pledging to join a more mainstream entertainment sorority.

I never thought I could be a model, then. I had whiplash from the world I emerged from and the number one thought that ran through my head at all times “remain cool, calm, and collected.” I didn’t want to appear as anything but a natural addition to “Love’s Elysium.” I’m glad I welcomed the latex zebras who would kick and nip, the zipped up gimps, the strange men who crawled out from the shadows begging me to fuck their ass, the strange devices and contraptions like Fuck Saws, the grand theater of courtship rituals, the sense that I had crossed over to some other realm and I sat back with quiet humility that I didn’t know the rules of the sexual underworld and that I should watch often and I did for years.

Most people don’t walk into porn in their mid twenties and there’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell you all, one that I’ve been uncovering for myself as my relationship to porn evolves, about why I did. I look back now and say that I committed social suicide at age 24 when I walked into the Armory to exchange a short nude, bondage, orgasm, and masturbation video for a few hundred bucks and a lifetime of stigma. About a year ago, this author and co-writer&director of “About Cherry” (a film loosely based on and filmed at Kink.Com) emailed me to ask about the first time I did porn. I never answered him. It was more complicated and personal that he asked me.

Let me paint my mindset. Adventures in Africa6560_maggiemayhem002

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This American Life v. This American Whore

whorecast whorecast2

There’s a flashy literate opening to this story. It’s a tale of some sex workers out in San Francisco where the rent is so high, the top of overt prostitution is possible in even the most high end coffee shops favored by the wealthy white victors of the tech revolution. It has to do with a brilliant man with a great idea of sharing stories openly who came up with This American Life and its perfectly elegant title and its willingness to let a story happen as it does on National Public Radio. Ira Glass likes to put the spotlight on real people leading real lives.

Well, as long as those stories are neat and clean and don’t violate FCC standards.

Our stories aren’t often told because they’re illegal to talk about and that creates the isolation that can drive you crazy over time. What does it mean to be “NOT SAFE FOR WORK.” If you ask me, that’s the capitalist beast barking at people not to be distracted by their human drives for pleasure and spare time above directing their hearts, bodies, and souls for the profit of a hungry machine. Not safe for work…or not safe for “The American Way.” What we do for a living is in direct violation of actual FCC standards. We literally could not access the venue of “This American Life” because it is on NPR and yet what are we but whores trying to make it in a very hostile America?

We cannot access the resources that Ira Glass has to tell our banned, censored, taboo, NSFW stories but we live and experience every moment. To hear that NPR would threaten a lawsuit to a podcast being run out of an apartment that is telling a story that is just as real and American as all the others but is literally ILLEGAL to share in the format of its namesake is disgusting. No love of stories could be complicit in that bind. There is no profit being made. There are no grants for whores, there are no advertisers in the wings, and we only face criminal risk for speaking up the way we have about out lives on this podcast.

It’s obvious to me that they never even listened to the podcast. They just wrote the letter. Why bother to listen to what the whores have to say any way? We’re only murdered and thrown into jail for paying our rent. Not like we have stories to share, right? Right, NPR? The narratives of the anti-sex worker feminists who want to end sex trafficking without research or even the dignity of listening to the people they claim to want to rescue and insistent that incarceration is good for sex workers and the laws that imprison us are in our best interests.

This American Whore Flag

PRI has nothing to fear from underdog whores. It is gratuitous to make these threats.

Send your love to The Whorecast and your criticisms to This American Life. Check me out in Episode 4 and download them all!

EDITS:

The lawsuit is not from NPR. I wrote this after seeing the tweets to share my thoughts and opinions. HOWEVER, I do think that those who syndicate and carry “This American Life” need to hear from their listeners the same way that advertisers are held accountable for the content of shows that they support. If your local radio station carries “This American Life” then please tell them that you support “This American Whore.”

Also, here are more links and stories from:

Melissa Gira Grant
SF Weekly

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Anarchists & Zines

street grafitti reading 'exercise empathy' on a light pole

So out in Oakland I made my way out to the East Bay Anarchist Book Fair which was a nice treat for a rainy day. I really value talking about social resistance and sharing literature and music and words with one another. The Humanist Hall in Oakland was the hosting venue who are tolerant hippies ready to take on the manarchists and chain smoking in the back.  It was also nice to match some faces to names and to get to re-know a friend I from college. It was strange and wonderful to realize that Laika Fox and I were taking our clothes off in Rocky Horror way back in the day. There’s something supremely awesome about crossing paths again and realize that political wheels in the mind can also be directed into swiveling hips and shaking tits.

This was a cool spread and I really do enjoy being in far left spaces. A lot of this material is niche and harder to find because it doesn’t have mass distribution. It’s true that you can access most of these ideas and many of the zines and books online but it’s also really empowering to create a space to see that others are browsing, too. I picked up books on anarchist queers, I bumped into a Syringe Exchanger that I met years ago at an HIV test training. I had been the one to roleplay his first practice positive test disclosure to and I was the intimidating one who had already been doing it for a long time. I remembered him instantly. I was so proud that he was still fighting the good fight. I totally love and support syringe exchange and overdose prevention and naxolene distribution. Sensible drug policy, to me, has always included overdose prevention as a part of first aid and CPR training. This should be integrated into all of our emergency care models.

Bash Back & Self Defense

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Election 2012

The monster has been held at bay.

That’s how this 2012 election has felt. Time moves forward, our culture slowly but surely begins to acclimate to the world wide web, some social movements advance and others seem more constricted.

California, my state, the home of “fruits and nuts” has been a state with either a rapid strain of virulent conservationism that shows up at the polling place in time to strike down initaives for social advance and the preservation of the earth and its bounty. Where do these people come from? Whether it’s pushing back same sex marriage, voting against decriminalizing marijuana as we have in past elections, this year we decided that YES we do want a costly, ineffective  and unethical death penalty and who the hell would want to know if the fruits and vegetables they were buying had been genetically modified, anyway?

Sometimes we are a backward place.

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Link Roundup

Oakland Coroner’s Bureau, iPhone shot by me

As a long time fan of Bowie, it was cool to see another artist examine his aesthetic and apply it to a new project.

  • Spot Larry David and Michael Richards in an ABC answer to SNL in a sketch about the Time Warp from the 70s to 80s in “The Ronnie Horror Picture Show.”

A surprisingly good piece of satire for both the film and the times.

A compulsive and problematic relationship to the body is something that can’t be purely defined as a “feminine” problem.

This article, along with The Village Voice, gives me hope that a more reasonable dialog about sex work and its discontents can be voiced.

  • “Your vaginas might be important, but so are the lives that nobody seems to be grieving.” Feminism Abandoned Me

Vagina != Woman

This is a phrase we need to retire and we forget that saying angry women need sex is a form of gender policing and part of rape culture. Pleasure politics are about access to pleasure NOT other people determining what pleasure looks like for you and how often you need it.

An analysis of assaults on children that has a lot of insight into how we turn our backs on any sexual assault.

  • An open letter to journalists about interviewing sex workers from Tits & Sass

No, really, don’t ask or expect us to do your research for you for free. Seriously.

  • The gospel of Jesus’ Wife? From NY Times.

I’m so into lost and forgotten gospels it’s not even funny. The politics around he gets canonized reveal a lot about why religious dogmatic thinking is fundamentally flawed.

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Musings On Farmhouse Conference 2

From the Archives of Mayhem, photo by Sleek Images

I am just home from a preternaturally awesome conference in Los Angeles, CA called Farmhouse. I’ve been to a lot of conferences and as a whole, I tend to enjoy them although the exhaust me. MomentemCon in Washington D.C. was a marvelous affair and I think I shall always file it as my first big family reunion of sex positive feminism and its cousins, second cousins, in-laws, and maybe even a few party crashers, too. I learned a lot and had many a tremendous moment and I was also very much in my comfort bubble.

One of the reasons why I agreed to speak at this crazy little thing called Farmhouse was because it wasn’t but it sounded like a cool idea that I could get behind. I wanted to meet the kind of person who looks out at their backyard in Hollywood, CA with a massive avocado tree casting a fruitful canopy across the space and could see a bunch of people getting together to break down walls and rocks in their brains at a conference. At the same time, I didn’t really think I fit into a very tech-centric conference in Los Angeles. That’s my home town and one that I left because I never felt like I belonged in it. I was intimidated by speaking with a tech satellite event and tangled complicated knots about coming back to old haunts of social and cultural incompetency.

I’ve put a lot of personal work into not running away from things like that. Anxiety is a motherfucker and L.A. gives me a lot of it. That’s the place that civilized me, by and large, produced those early fundamental experiential moments that are etched so indelibly into your brain you take them utterly for granted. Moreover, I literally did grow up in L.A. underneath two large avocado trees that were very likely cross-pollinated over the century they have grown in such a relatively close proximity quite accessible by the L.A. public transit system. These were ideas that ran through my head as I rode a train from Oakland to L.A. Union Station over the course of 12 hours.

Farmhouse was the best conference I think I’ve ever been to and the realization of this hit me in one of those rare and precious times where happiness is a full body experience. Everyone filters the world into something we can navigate. Asking what “reality” looks like is just like asking what the internet looks like. The way the internet looks and interacts with you has a lot to do with with what you’re running, the hardware and the software and the experiences both have had since they first powered on and started to take a look at this universe that humans have created. If you’re a running a committed and positive, “I’m going to get something personally valuable out of this experience,” personal web browser, you’re going to see that which is personally valuable. Part of confronting my anxiety issues was recognizing the kind of project I was going to do and making conscious software decisions that would help facilitate my optimum user experience. I made a choice to stay committed to positivity and listening to people and staying as open as possible to their ideas without letting my very unhelpful anxiety corrupt my network and limit my experience.

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Sex Week 2012 & Occupy New Haven

My dear internet travelers,

This blog post comes to you from New Haven, CT and more precisely, Yale University where I have been invited to speak at Sex Week 2012. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be a part of a round table panel with Professor Gail Dines and Professor Carolyn Bronstein and then I will be speaking with students about sex, sex on camera, and the porn industry in a dialogue moderated by Cindy Gallop.

It’s an incredible honor for me to speak here. I am a smut peddler which is low culture at its finest and here I am in the hallowed halls of the prestigious Yale University Campus. Apparently, my presence here is somewhat controversial as is Sex Week, itself. Reading the news coverage reveals the paradigm of “porn star” at work in the American imagination.

Maybe, just maybe, those who oppose my presence here have a reasonable reason to be concerned but not for the reasons they have articulated. There’s something dangerous about letting someone who has chosen a counter-cultural occupation in a stigmatized profession speak before young people who have lived within a distinguished institutional incubator on the political intersections of pleasure, labor, revolution, and autonomy. A whore with a library card has the potential to be a rhetorical assassin in the intellectual arena.

When you have been repeatedly dehumanized to your face, you start to cultivate a steely reserve that exceeds your nerves. What can anyone say that I have not heard or read in my inbox already? That I should be raped to death, brainwashed by the patriarchy, that I am in-human, that I am a traitor to feminism, that I am deluded, that I am a fucking stupid cunt? It’s the redundancy of these phrases that grates less than the punch that the prose emits.

I am the fearsome porn star. Rather than copulating my way across the campus, I have gone on something of a journey throughout the streets of this town and it’s co-dependent relationship on the exclusive institution in its midst that might possibly own more land than the city.

You see, sex is one manifestation of the tightly controlled madness in my brain. I have always followed the beat of my own drum, always on the outskirts of my cultures and communities, large and small. I don’t know what I’m looking for as I wander these streets as a veritable tourist but somehow I always manage to find at least one thing I was looking for without the conscious awareness that I was seeking it.

As I walked the streets, I noticed a striking number of video surveillance cameras. It was just a side observation and I began to snap cellphone pictures as I walked to help tally them up. Well, there may perhaps have been the knee jerk reactionary desire to take pictures of those taking pictures of me. Regardless, there I was snapping pictures of the video surveillance outside of a retail front office for a city district manager who was very curious about the pictures I was taking before inviting me into his office. There, he delivered a diatribe on how notions of a panopticon are just moronic liberal hogwash as well as his plans to get even more cameras onto the streets of New Haven.

Well, there you go.

My wanderings took me also to Occupy New Haven. As a resident of Oakland, CA I know firsthand how these camps have been received. Even as the weather is frigid and hypothermia is a legitimate risk of camping outdoors (especially when open flames of any kind of forbidden by law), the camp still stands and the protesters have a pretty reasonable relationship with the city and its police. Their greatest disruptions so far have come from students at the university. Erected on October 15, 2011 the camp is situated in between the city hall and a campus dormitory building, both of which look down upon the encampment in the park.

The punchline to this layout is the fact the city hall building of New Haven has a gorgeous and massive skylight that creates something just short of a literal glass ceiling. Looking down upon the city hall with a clear view into the building and its hallways and offices is Bank Of America.

Upon seeing the camp, the chill in the air hit me a little harder along with the reminder that the homeless lack even the minimal shelter of a tent to protect them from New England winter. There they are, holding the space, reminding people that their investment in cultivating change is serious. Although the number of campers has dwindled there is still a strong and consistent presence and individuals who have been there camping for 118 days without interruption.

What I love about the Occupy Movement is the easy access to political think tanks across the country. The culture shock of Yale has been striking to me. I did my undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, home of the banana slugs, which is relatively well known for being a hippie school with a solid University of California accredited education. I take my experiences in education in a weird little town where the surf meets the forest for granted, sometimes. Not everyone read philosophy texts at the top of 60 foot redwood trees? Not everyone hiked 20 minutes through a forest between classes? Not everyone has a tradition of running naked at the first rain of the academic school year?

The prismatic walls of my liberal bubble have been shattered by the prevailing Yale culture. The Occupy camp here in New Haven has been my primary means of assuaging my homesickness and working on my long-range goals for systemic change as well. Here I am, talking smut with the heirs to America and tactical politics with a group of crusty protesters braving the freezing weather to speak up for what is right and ethical.

It’s liberating to sit with them. I came today with some bags of food containing fruit, bread, cheese, yogurt, and granola. Experience has taught me that most of the food donations to Occupy Camps tend to run along the lines of junk food which is certainly tasty but not always the best possible option. As I cracked open a sourdough baguette to pass and share with some goat cheese, several of my new acquaintances commented that they had never tasted goat cheese before.

The street outreach worker in me still lives. Although some people have homes in houses, experience has taught me that whether or not someone’s home has visible walls does not mean that you are any less a guest in that space. It is a long and international tradition to offer gifts of food as a sign of friendship and good faith when entering someone’s home. Sharing lunch turned into an opportunity to visit the New Haven City Hall for some research on resources, public meetings, and tax assessor maps. Having packed a wardrobe of largely “straight drag” items, I pulled my fancy notebook out and put my camera around my neck and followed behind to support their information seeking process.

Having someone who looks straight and makes it a point to confidentially and actively observe a situation with visible documentation tools changes the tone of a dialogue between a protester and a city official. The scandalous porn star invited to Yale somehow managed to slip into city hall and pass as someone legitimate based on presentation and accouterments alone. At no point did I lie, I just made it a point to sit back silently from the conversation and conspicuously take notes and maintain strong eye contact on the city officials at all times.

The conversation itself was immensely positive. As I said before, although there may be tensions with what many call crusty hippies the camp does not have a negative relationship with its occupiers and has been maintaining an open door for communication. The alderman that the occupiers spoke with demonstrated his skill as a politician when he worked quickly to find the common ground and establish rapport by discussing his local work around issues such as corporate personhood. He made it clear he was listening, he made it clear that he agreed that great changes to the political process should occur.

Finally, his curiosity broke and he inquired as to who I was. I was honest; I told him I was invited to speak at Yale for the Sex Week events and that I had been talking with the occupiers and was taking notes for my writing. Politicians, even the best that I’ve ever encountered, have some fairly consistent behavioral quirks. They are well practiced in their handshakes and eye contact and quite a bit of what they do to win your confidence is detailed in pick up artist manuals. They do everything they can to establish a connection so strong that the person they are speaking with really does feel heard and special.

I walked back to the camp and chatted with the occupier who instigated the 3 person field trip about how long he had been at the camp, what he was working on, and what his vision for action was. The occupiers I spoke with were all immensely warm and all in possession of a type of authenticity I do not see with most of the Yale students who seem to be consistently anxious and ill at ease with their abundance of un-embodied knowledge.

The other night I sat in a dorm room with many of the sex week organizers and shared stories and histories. Somehow in the cramped social space that had been designated as safe for off-the-record discourse about sexuality I could see some of them finally relax just a bit and begin to speak from their hearts. As the night wore on, their tone changed. There is a the palpable presence of pretension and privilege in a “Yalie,” but it is truly a facet of the institutional culture here. As their tone relaxed, I realized that mine was as well.

Even I had been making it a point to be strategic with words and topic matter in a way that revealed an acute anxiety about how people will judge me by the way I speak and the composition of my rhetoric. Is  it the Neo-Gothic architecture? The sheer number of churches and security cameras looking out and down and that people? Is it everything that you have to deny yourself in order to be a “Yalie” of distinction.

They wear more drag at Yale than they do in the gay bars of San Francisco and they don’t even know it.

Tomorrow, my dear internet friends, I undertake this crazy venture of contrasting the views of two women who possess infinitely more cultural capital than I in regards to scholarship in the arena of pornography. A student actually articulated the situation precisely when he said, “Tomorrow, they’re going to be able to get away with murder and you won’t. That’s just how it is and you have to be that good.” I guess that’s cost of admission if you have the audacity to fuck, think, and speak.

I don’t know what I can hope to accomplish tomorrow at the panel. I don’t know what people are willing to hear when I’m framed as a porn star rather than a curious stranger with infinite questions about the politics and philosophy of the spaces I enter. Perhaps I have so fervently pursued them because it may be more effective to have constant conversations in which I can show someone, at the very least, that I am capable of human thought and emotion and that I have come here of my own accord and on my own journey. I do not ask for the blessings of an institution but I do demand that my humanity be recognized.

I’m here less to be a groupie and more to look these young heirs to America square in the eye and show them that there are greater truths beyond their paradigm. It seems that I have had great successes on this front from my smaller dialogues and I will continue them so long as someone is there to listen, respond, and share their thoughts as well.

 

 

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