Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Smutty Party School

Playboy Magazine recently named my alma mater the top party school in America. That's no surprise; The neighborhoods around campus are world-class fiestas three nights a week. Of course Wisconsin is among the top party schools.

But who is the judge? Why would we deem Playboy qualified to judge collegiate bacchanalia? Hugh Hefner’s pornographic empire is embarking on a long-range strategic project of relevance in a sex-drenched society. If Playboy fails to brand itself as an arbiter of cool, its brand will easily fade into the dustbin of history: Playboy simply can’t keep up with today’s awful internet standards.

In the last several years, pornography has migrated out of the realm of trenchcoat-and-dark glasses-wearing perverts, to being cool. Porn is edgy, and ostensibly liberating.

Which is nonsense. As Pamela Paul writes in Pornified, today's pornography is just as knuckle-dragging as good-old-boy machismo ever was. Porn is the opposite of liberation. It's addictive to users and degrading to everyone.

Ms. Paul's ingenious prescription is "censure, not censor," or to shame porn users, without banning porn. This is a fancy way of saying we ought to uncool porn. Cool is the ultimate trump card in popular culture, and if we can sabatage porn's grasp for the trophy of cool, we can relegate it without resorting to unworkable prohibitions.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Orchard Street

A significant decision for me in college came when I walked home from a party at 10 S. Orchard Street, as a young man was treating a young woman fairly roughly. The party (at 10. S. Orchard St, in Madison - icon at bottom left) was full of people, most of whom were drunk to one degree or another. They were making out in the hallway. He was groping her all over; She was way too drunk to consent in any meaningful sense of the term.

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On the other hand, this was a crowded party, and it was one of dozens that night up and down Orchard Street. I despaired of any action on my behalf having any consequence. Women were getting manhandled all over that street. Could I stop it all?

Instead I went home (Witte Hall - icon at top right). And I've wondered about it ever since.

What else could I have done? What else should I have done?

This is not rhetorical - I'd love your comments.