The Sporadic Beaver

I Don't Believe in Writer's Block

February 28, 2013

Tags: writing, book promotion

So, here it is, two years to the day that I flew to London to begin the Beaver Street promotional campaign. And what am I doing two years later? Still promoting the damn book. As if to commemorate this anniversary, an interview has popped up on a British website run by Morgen Bailey. In the course of our low-key conversation about the writing life and my career, which took place several months ago, Morgen asked me, "How much marketing do you do?"

Today my answer seems especially relevant: "The marketing and promotion are the hardest parts of writing a book because you have to do it every day, and if you’re lucky it goes on forever."

To which I’d now like to add, “Amen.”

So, before I move on to the next phase of my day, I’ll leave you with a couple of more quotes from the interview which, with any luck at all, might inspire you—especially the aspiring-writer types among you—to read the whole thing, and maybe even pick up a copy of one (or both) of my books.

“Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?” Morgen asked.

“The best writing advice I ever got was, ‘Keep a notebook and write in it every day.’ I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you’re stuck, then write anything, even gibberish. And keep doing it. Eventually, the words will flow.”

“What advice would you give aspiring writers?” she asked.

“Don’t listen to what anybody, especially so-called ‘experts,’ tells you about your work because nobody knows what they’re talking about. And never give up.”

Amen to that, too.

Use Bing

February 27, 2013

Tags: Google, SEO

Yesterday's critique of the Google search engine prompted a response from SEO expert Ladyjean, which I've run below as a guest post.

Another reader, meanwhile, had this to say about the Internet giant: "Google's neutrality is clearly fallacious;" "the company is complicit in facilitating, endorsing, and funding piracy;" and "Google owns YouTube, probably the world's most popular outlet for copyrighted video and audio content--content which is often shared without the copyright holder's permission." He also provided a link to an article on Vox Indie, which goes into more detail about Google's contributions to Internet piracy. I can say this much from personal experience: It's easier to find on Google links to websites that have pirated my work (and which carry Google ads) than it is to find links to this website.


By Ladyjean

It's a travesty. You are absolutely right when you said, “...the superiority of Google search may be the single biggest Internet fraud perpetrated on humanity in the 21st century.”

What can we do? To start, tell everyone you know in any way you can. Then, stop using Google, for anything. Stop using all of their services. Calling themselves a “viable” search engine at this point, is fraudulent. They have another agenda, and acting as though they are still, first and foremost, a search engine is a cover for what they are actually doing.

One thing they are certainly doing is playing God about who will and who will not be found in searches; and that means who will or will not be able to have a successful business or enterprise based on what comes up in a crappy, mostly misleading search when people use Google. And they have people (businesses and entrepreneurs) who need good rankings bowing down and cowering before them, because of the power they wield. I just ignore them, because I realized a long time ago what they are.

USE BING. I’ve been using it for years. And simply face the fact that no one has conquered the problems with search engine technology. Until some brilliant newcomer comes along with a burning desire to create an honest-to-God search engine that really works, we are stuck between a rock and hard place.

The Google Fraud

February 26, 2013

Tags: Google, SEO, Missy Manners, Elisa Florez, Orrin Hatch

The Daily Beaver is the single best online source of information about the porn star Missy Manners (real name Elisa Florez) and her connection to anti-porn senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. For a long time, Google and their mysterious algorithm acknowledged this. That's why my post of June 20, 2011, "21 Facts About Porn Star Missy Manners," has gotten more hits than any other post on this blog.

Then, last October, Google changed their algorithm. Since then, "21 Facts" has gotten no referral traffic from Google. And I mean zero. If you do a Google search for Missy Manners Orrin Hatch, you’ll get about 746,000 results, including links to one of my Twitter posts and one of my Facebook posts, but even if you scroll down ten pages, you’ll find no links to this blog.

Recently, I used Google’s advanced search feature to try to find an old blog post. I knew the exact title but couldn’t remember when I posted it. “Your search did not match any documents,” Google told me. I thought the post had disappeared, but after scrolling through about two-dozen blog pages, I found it. That’s when I realized that the once reliable Google advanced search no longer worked the way it should.

Which brought to mind a guest post, “The Google Myth,” by SEO expert Ladyjean, that I ran here soon after I began experiencing problems with Google. “The idea that Google is this great, amazing search engine is a myth,” Jean said. “You DO NOT get the best results.”

I had no doubt this was true when I posted it four months ago. But based on what happened with the advanced search, I’d now like to suggest that the superiority of Google search may be the single biggest Internet fraud perpetrated on humanity in the 21st century.

Theories abound as to why Google is doing whatever it is they’re doing. Many of them have to do with Google ads—if a site doesn’t carry them, then Google won’t direct you there. But nobody outside Google knows exactly what’s going on.

The questions people should be asking are: What, if anything, can be done about Google? And where do you go for reliable information? Unfortunately, there are no answers, though one can hope that there will be, sooner rather than later. And all anybody can do until then is be aware that when you’re searching for information on Google, the results often leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately, some cities still have brick-and-mortar databases. They're called libraries.

Ten Days Without the Times

February 25, 2013

Tags: The New York Times, Joan Didion, Junot Díaz

My wife, the Mistress of Syntax, likes to have The New York Times delivered, and when I know the paper's lurking outside the door, I can't resist reading it first thing in the morning. I also know that a half hour of total immersion in all the news that's fit to print about looming economic catastrophe, militarized computer hacking, and the latest Republican plot to hijack what's left of the democratic process, topped off with a dose of David Brooks's and Thomas Friedman's utter bullshit, will, by the time I need to put down the paper and get breakfast going, leave me feeling despondent. Reading the Times is hazardous to my mental health, and it should come with such a warning.

That's why, when my wife went out of town for ten days, I suspended the subscription. Instead, I began my day with a book. The first book I read was Joan Didion's Political Fictions, in part a bracing analysis of why much of what passes for "objective" political reporting in the Times (and elsewhere) is little more than a fantasy that the people in power and the journalists who cover them have agreed to tell. And though the book made me angry, it was a pure and satisfying kind of anger that confirmed my worst suspicions and brought me to a higher level of understanding, rather than leaving me feeling despondent and helpless.

The book I’m reading now, This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories, by Junot Díaz, is literature in the best sense of that word. Díaz is all about voice—the natural voice of the street—as much as he’s about storytelling, and it’s the kind of writing that inspires and motivates me, which is the highest compliment I can pay any author.

But Díaz will have to wait, because tonight the wife returns, and that means tomorrow morning, The New York Times will again be lurking outside the door, and I will not be able to resist its siren call, and I will give myself over to the illusion that if I read it, I will know what’s happening in the world.

Blogs vs. Books

February 22, 2013

Tags: Observation Post, Beaver Street, City College of New York, writing, 1970s

The Daily Beaver is a thing unto itself that usually has nothing to do with anything else I'm currently writing. It's a promotional tool, a warm-up exercise, a place to occasionally let off steam, and a daily challenge. But one thing I don't do with these blog posts is spend a lot of time rewriting them. What you're reading is a first draft. Maybe I've read it through twice and made some minor changes before posting it. The whole process takes less than an hour.

My books, on the other hand, are probably a fifteenth draft that I've been working on and thinking about for years. They've been critiqued by editors, vetted by lawyers, and subjected to professional copy-editing. I'd hope the difference is apparent to even the casual reader.

I think if blogs existed in the 1970s, I’d have been a more effective blogger than I am today. And by “effective,” I mean that my postings would have gotten more hits and more comments. Because blogging is a better medium for inexperienced amateurs than it is for polished professionals, especially those who put their best work into books.

In the 1970s, I thought writing was easy. Which is to say, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was unpolished, unguarded, I had nothing to lose, and I said all kinds of outrageous things (usually about sex) without understanding the impact it would have on the people who read it. I’d not yet developed a filter, and drew little distinction between what I thought, what I said, and what I wrote. I didn’t understand how easy it was to offend people. I put down on paper whatever was in my head, and then, with little editing, published it in Observation Post, the so-called alternative newspaper at City College. And, boy, did I ever get a reaction… and comments. (See Beaver Street, Chapter 1, “How I Became a Pornographer.”)

I’ve learned a lot in the ensuing decades. For example, I now know that writing well is hard; that it’s not a good idea to publish many of the things I say privately; and that it’s a terrible idea to publish everything that crosses my mind, no matter how many hits and comments it might provoke. There are certain people I’d prefer not to offend. In other words, I’ve learned the art of restraint, which is the opposite of what people are looking for on the Internet.

So, if you want total abandon—at least the kind of total abandon that’s not going to get me sued—then you’ll just have to read my books. In fact, I think I’ll work on one now.

Is Writing Torture?

February 21, 2013

Tags: Philip Roth, writing

There's a story making the rounds about Philip Roth's encounter with a waiter in a Manhattan deli. The waiter, Julian Tepper, presented the literary lion, who was about announce his retirement, with a copy of his first novel, Balls. In a piece that Tepper then published on the Paris Review Daily website, he said that Roth had warmly congratulated him and then told him, "I would quit while you're ahead. Really. It's an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and you write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it's not any good. I would say just stop now. You don't want to do this to yourself. That's my advice to you."

Is what Roth said true? Or is it suspiciously reminiscent of the kind of advice that Traci Lords now gives to aspiring porn stars? In short, are these the words of a fantastically successful person who doesn't like the idea of a potential competitor following the path that they so brilliantly blazed to glory?

Since it’s far too late for me to quit while I’m ahead, and I’ve devoted the better part of my career to attempting to follow a nonfiction route similar to the fiction path that Roth had taken, allow me to weigh in with an objective opinion.

No, I do not think writing is torture. Yes, it’s a difficult thing to do, and it requires an enormous amount of discipline and commitment. But it suits me perfectly well, because I happen to be very good at sitting alone in a room, listening to the voices in my head, getting those voices down on a computer screen (or paper), and then spending the next several years rewriting those words and, yes, throwing away most of the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth drafts. (And maybe the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, too.) But I ultimately find writing to be satisfying, which is why I do it. And every day, once I get in the groove, I often find it pleasurable. If this were not the case, I’d have quit decades ago. Because unlike Roth, my first genuine success didn’t come quickly. Writing was a compulsion, something I felt I had to do, and that’s what kept me going.

What makes writing “awful” and “torture” is the business side of it—dealing with the stupidity and fear of publishers who are looking for pretty faces rather than good books; chasing after people for money; devoting more time and energy to promotion than writing; and simply surviving in a business that’s undergoing the most traumatic upheaval since the invention of the printing press.

But that’s not what Roth told Tepper. So, my advice to young Tepper is: Don’t listen to Roth or to anybody else. And don’t write because you think it might be a good career path. Write because you can’t not write. Write because it gives you pleasure. And keep your day job.

Why I Like Joan Didion

February 20, 2013

Tags: Joan Didion, politics, reviews

Joan Didion in 2008. Photo by David Shankbone.
Variations on "What writers have most influenced you?" is a question I often get during interviews. The unsurprising short answer is Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller, and Philip Roth. (Click here for more detail.) But the list goes on to include George Orwell, Joseph Heller, and one woman, Joan Didion, now the only writer on the list who's both alive and active.

It was Heller who brought Didion to my attention, back in 1972. For a fiction writing class at City College, he put Play It As It Lays on a list of the greatest novels of the 20th century. (The list also included Catch-22.) Though I didn't enjoy it when I read it then, a recent rereading of this story of a woman's life in Hollywood proved Heller correct: Play It As It Lays is a great book.

But it was Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem which I first read in grad school and have reread countless times since then, that proved influential. The essays are textbook examples of first-person journalism at its best—a perfect fusion of style, emotion, and information. And the title essay, about Haight-Ashbury in 1967, is one of those rare pieces of writing that I read and thought, “This is what I should be doing.” I also love the simple truth she expresses in the preface: “Writers are always selling somebody out.” Every serious writer should have that embroidered in needlepoint and hung on their wall. Because if you’re not selling somebody out, what you’re doing is PR.

I’m writing about Didion now because the other week, I finally picked up her 2001 essay collection, Political Fictions, a series of devastating takedowns of the democratic process, the journalists who cover politics, the politicians themselves, and the books that some of these politicians have written. What I like most about the essays is that Didion tells the truth as she sees it and, unlike the journalists she’s writing about, she doesn’t care who never speaks to her again. She sells out everybody.

For example, perhaps the kindest thing she says in “Newt Gingrich, Superstar,” about the literary output of the former speaker of the house is: “To Renew America shows evidence of professional copy-editing.”

And in “Political Pornography,” she says of the oeuvre of Bob Woodward, stenographer to the Washington power elite: “These are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent.”

Much of what Didion writes is truer now than it was 12 years ago. Which is why nobody mentioned in these 322 pages has ever used one word of Didion’s as a blurb on a book cover.

Glossy

February 19, 2013

Tags: Adult Video News, Swank, Vanity Fair

You think Vanity Fair is a glossy magazine? Well it is. But when it comes to glossy--and I mean a smooth, sensual, oversized, light-reflecting cover, printed on coated, heavy-stock paper--Vanity Fair ain't got nothin' on Adult Video News. The printed edition of AVN is a work of art.

I hadn't seen a printed copy of AVN in over a decade, since I left the adult entertainment industry. So when the February issue, with a review of Beaver Street, arrived in the mail, its postmodern incarnation came as a shock--not because of the disorienting contrast between the quality of the package and the X-rated material inside, but because the mag had evolved from a standard trade publication, very much like Billboard, to a veritable coffee-table book. (And I now have it on display on my coffee table, right next to Vanity Fair.)

Of the hundreds of adult titles that I worked on over the course of my career, none of them came close to the production values of the current AVN. In fact, on magazines like Swank and High Society, the idea was to make it look super-sleazy by using the cheapest paper and the cheapest printing. It was a science: How cheap and sleazy could you go and still have people buy the magazine?

What AVN appears to be saying with its decidedly upscale production values is that despite the recession and the financial ravages wrought by the Internet, the adult industry is still alive and well, and is heading even closer to mainstream acceptance. And the $11.95 cover price is a clear sign that people in X have money.

Biggest surprise of all: There were my old friends from Swank, who are now in the video business, too, at #94 on the hot 200 chart with Anal Babes Gone Wild 3. I’m sure it’s a classy production.

Personal Faves: Volume III

February 15, 2013

Tags: BEA, Bloomsday, Beaver Street, Bernhard Goetz, reviews, 9-11, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Google, monopolies

A final look back at some of my favorite posts, selected at random, from The Daily Beaver on its third anniversary. Then, on new blogging frontiers.

Godfather of Grunge Meets Godmother of Punk (June 7, 2012)
A report from the BEA.

Bernie on Beaver Street (June 19, 2012)
This is what happens when a celebrity vigilante shows up at a book launch party.

My Book Promotion Philosophy (Sept. 6, 2012)
Why I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me about my books.

Distinguishing Characteristics (Sept. 11, 2012)
A guest post from Mary Lyn Maiscott on the anniversary of 9/11.

Google Is God (Oct. 18, 2012)
What do you do when you don’t like the way a powerful monopoly is treating you? Nothing you can do.

Personal Faves: Volume II

February 14, 2013

Tags: Slate, pornography, Izzy Singer, Ken Kesey, John Babbs, Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Traci Lords, Beaver Street

This week I've been celebrating the third anniversary of The Daily Beaver with a look back at the ten most popular posts and a selection of some of my personal favorites. As I was putting together Volume II of my personal faves this morning, it reminded me that anniversaries also serve a practical purpose: They are a time to take stock, evaluate, put things in perspective--to see what's come out of this three year frenzy of writing, promotion, and travel. So, once again, here's a random selection of blog posts that caught my eye.

The Business of Smut: Critique #2 (June 15, 2011)
A review of "Hard Core," by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, one of the articles Slate selected as an example of great writing about the porn industry.

The Real Life of a Beaver Street Character (July 15, 2011)
Izzy Singer steps out of Beaver Street to publish a shocking pornographic e-book.

Still on the Bus (Aug. 4, 2011)
A review of Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Cool Place, and a tribute to my friend John Babbs, who passed away last year. I ran this photo essay on my other blog, Maiscott & Rosen, because you can't run multiple photos on The Daily Beaver.

Yossarian Taught Here (Aug. 18, 2011)
A memoir by Joseph Heller’s daughter, Erica, prompted me to jot down some of my own memories of Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, and one of my creative writing professors at City College.

The Trials of Traci Lords (Jan. 10, 2013)
A further exploration of one of the main subjects of Beaver Street: At age 44, the once underage porn superstar seems to have stopped complaining about being “exploited.” Instead, Lords complains that people won’t let her forget her X-rated teenage exploits.

Tomorrow, Volume III

Personal Faves: Volume I

February 13, 2013

Tags: Occupy Wall Street, performance, Lou Perretta, Scott Garrett, Susannah Breslin, pornography

As the third anniversary celebration of The Daily Beaver continues, I'd like to now share some of some of my personal favorite blog posts. The pieces below were selected at random. They're stories I’ve written over the years, most of which I haven't looked at since the day I wrote them. But reading them today, I think they still stand up, and they give a good sense of the type of material I've been covering here and will continue to cover.

'72 (Sept. 29, 2011)
My report from Zuccotti Park (which I call "Liberty Square") in the early days of Occupy Wall Street, on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772.

The Writer as Performer (March 27, 2012)
What does it take to get a book published in America these days? Good looks, primarily.

The Lou Perretta 20-Point Plan for Demoralizing Employees: A Guide for Postmodern Office Management (Feb. 1, 2012)
How bad was it to work in a Paramus porno factory? This satirical guide explains.

What’s the Matter with Jersey? (March 21, 2012)
I was subjected to a surprising amount of criticism for writing about my former boss Lou Perretta, the abysmal working conditions at his company, and his campaign contributions to Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett. This is my response.

Blog’s in Your Court, Ms. Breslin (Oct. 19, 2011)
A spirited online debate about blogging, criticism, and books about pornography.

Tomorrow, Volume II

Greatest Hits: Volume II

February 12, 2013

Tags: Ron Jeremy, Gail Dines, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics, Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn, About Cherry, Missy Manners, Orrin Hatch, Beaver Street

Yesterday, to celebrate this blog's third anniversary, I ran Volume I of my most popular posts since The Daily Beaver's inception. Today I bring you Volume II, my five greatest hits of all time. And they're all related to pornography.

5. The Great Porno Debate: Ron Jeremy vs. Gail Dines (Aug. 17, 2011)
Let's just say that my opinion has evolved since I wrote this piece.

4. The Marvel Comics Porno Connection (June 29, 2011)
This video of Stan Lee explaining his partnership with Jack Kirby provides additional insight into one of the central themes of Beaver Street.

3. The Christy & Ginger Show (Apr. 24, 2012)
Big surprise: People love Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn. But who knew they had a radio show, You Porn? And who knew I’d be their very special guest one day? (Note to anybody with Sirius XM Radio: I’d love a recording of my appearance on the show, air date May 10, 2012.)

2. About Cherry (Sept. 18, 2012)
I called About Cherry, starring Ashley Hinshaw, James Franco, and Lili Taylor, the best film about the porn industry since Boogie Nights. Mainstream critics hated it.

1. 21 Facts About Porn Star Missy Manners (June 20, 2011)
There’s an enormous amount of interest in “Republican porn star” Missy Manners (real name Elisa Florez), former aide to anti-porn senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and former girlfriend of Artie Mitchell.

Greatest Hits: Volume I

February 11, 2013

Tags: Nowhere Man, Beaver Street, John Lennon, riots, Lou Perretta, Scott Garrett, Plump & Pink, Erotic Review

I launched this blog three years ago, on February 10, 2010, with the announcement that my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, was going to be published in Italy. Since then, there's been a lot of water under the bridge--the publication of three editions of Beaver Street, a UK and a US promotional tour, various battles with mega-conglomerates, and an assortment of earthquakes, hurricanes, and blizzards. As this past week has brought an influx of new readers to the Daily Beaver, I thought this might be a good time to look back on the 10 most popular blog postings--my greatest hits--which I'll run in two parts, beginning today with 10 through 6. And by "popular," I mean the individual posts that have gotten the most total hits over the years.

10. New York Calling to the Riot Zone (Aug. 11, 2011)
A meditation on the London riots from the comfort of my New York living room.

9. The Tea Party Congressman and the Porn King (Feb. 14, 2012)
An investigative report detailing Swank publisher Lou Perretta’s campaign contributions to ultra-conservative congressman Scott Garrett.

8. Fat Sex (Sept. 28, 2011)
An essay on some of the problems I had editing magazines like Plump & Pink and Buf.

7. The Unfinished Life of John Lennon (Jan. 3, 2011)
A piece I wrote for the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, in its original English.

6. Memoirs of a Pornographer (May 13, 2011)
Editor Jamie Maclean’s rave review of Beaver Street for the British sex journal Erotic Review.

Tomorrow, Volume II

The Stop Porn Culture Phrase Book

February 8, 2013

Tags: Stop Porn Culture, Gail Dines

What I've come to realize this past week, in my dealings with Gail Dines and the Stop Porn Culture tribe, is that they don't speak the same language I do: English. What they say and write may sound like English to the untrained ear, but the words they use often have no connection to their standard English definitions. So, as an unmonetized (see below) public service, and in the interest of helping people communicate with the tribe, which has recently banned me from communicating with them, I've begun assembling a Stop Porn Culture Phrase Book. This is, of course, a work in progress, and I would invite both renegade tribe members and outsiders who have attempted to communicate with the tribe to add to it.

Andrea Dworkin: (pers) A founding mother of the tribe. Believed all sex was rape.

body-punishing sex: Common phrase repeated ad infinitum when a tribe member is forced to debate.

boring as balls: Common phrase used to describe the juvenile writing style.

bourgeois revisionist and apologist for the system that oppresses millions of people around the world: Common phrase used to describe any person who does not believe all pornography should be banned.

bullshit: (n) Truth, especially when presented in a humorous, satiric, or well-reasoned manner.

debate: (n) A public exchange of opposing ideas. Something to be avoided under most circumstances.

Gail Dines: (pers) A current leader of the tribe. A marginally more palatable version of Andrea Dworkin.

douche: (n) A person who writes in the juvenile style.

juvenile: (adj) Refers to a sophisticated writing style that lampoons, satirizes, or parodies the pornography industry or its detractors.

monetize: (vt) A prejudicial term used to describe the selling of goods or services the tribe disapproves of.

Moron: (n) Standard English (e.g., Do you speak Moron?)

pornography: (n) Any word or image that depicts sex in any manner. Describes an entire spectrum of material, from XXX S&M videos displaying acts of double penetration to Vanity Fair.

rape: (n) Any sexual act.

self-aggrandizing: (adj) Refers to promotion of any work that deviates from the tribe’s party line.

sex: (n) rape

S&M: (n) A type of war crime.

Stop Porn Culture: An isolated and puritanical tribe of self-described feminist warriors who believe that all pornography should be banned and that they are waging a winning war against the proliferation of pornography.

typical capitalist: Common phrase used to describe a freelance writer or editor who is not a member of the tribe.

Vanity Fair: A pornographic magazine.

wannabe: (n) A critically acclaimed author whose books have appeared on best-seller lists in multiple countries and in multiple languages.

war crime: (n) Any sadomasochistic act, especially one that is recorded on video.

war criminal: (n) An actor who participates in an S&M video or photo shoot.

warrior: (n) censor

white noise: (n) A well-reasoned argument.

The Sayings of Chairman Bob

February 7, 2013

Tags: Gail Dines, Stop Porn Culture, Beaver Street

"People become porn stars because they're good at it; because they have no other options; because they have nothing to lose; and because they're desperate, either economically or emotionally or both." --from Beaver Street by Robert Rosen

The happy warriors of Facebook's Stop Porn Culture page have accused me of self-aggrandizement and other far more serious crimes. The self-aggrandizement charge, unlike such charges as being in favor of violence against women and being a "bourgeois revisionist and apologist for the system that oppresses millions of people around the world," might even contain a grain of truth. So, call me "Chairman Bob," and let's get on with it.

The online debate, Chairwoman Dines and her Happy Warriors vs. Chairman Bob, is heating up. Fortunately, the Warriors have disobeyed Chairwoman Dines’s edict: “Please do not engage with Rosen. He is white noise and our job is to close down the industry, not have fights with the wannabees.” And the Warriors, in their insubordination, have made a number of interesting points. I’d like to respond to all of them, but to do so in one blog post is impossible. So, this could go on for some time. (Note to Chairwoman Dines: What is it, exactly, you think I wannabe?)

First, a bit of background: Gail Dines came to my attention about two years ago, when Beaver Street was published in the UK. Her book, Pornland, was listed under Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. I did a little research and found Dines to be a more palatable version of the late Andrea “AllSexIsRape” Dworkin. I agreed with much of what Dines said. A lot of porn is degrading—to women and men. I can’t stand watching it, either. It has nothing to do with sex or eroticism. But I don’t think that that’s the case with all pornography—a major point on which Dines disagrees.

The more I learned about Dines, the more I came to dislike her point of view. For example, in one of her lectures that I watched on YouTube, she called Vanity Fair “pornography.” Though she didn’t explain why, I assume it’s because they’ve run photos of topless women and women posing in lingerie. But to categorize Vanity Fair as porn is as absurd as calling for porn stars who participate in S&M videos to be prosecuted for war crimes. And to equate Vanity Fair with degrading X-rated videos is counterproductive. You’re going to lose people, like me, who might be inclined to agree with you.

It’s Dines’s stridency and unwillingness to consider any opinion other than her own that ultimately turned me against her. She says, for example, that if you’re not in favor of eliminating all pornography, then you’re in favor of violence against women—another absurd and counterproductive charge.

Has Dines ever spoken to any of the porn stars she wants to free from bondage? If she did, then she’d know that porn stars don’t want to be freed; that they went into porn due to lack of economic opportunity; that they think that porn is the best job they’ve ever had; that before porn, the best they could do was a minimum-wage job at Burger King.

Is Dines offering porn stars economic opportunity? A college education? Or is she a “bourgeois” professor sitting in an ivory tower at an overpriced private college, who only rails about the evils of pornography but has no real understanding of why people go into it or what it would take to get them out? Is Dines aware that porn stars see her as an ignorant woman who wants to take away their livelihoods and offer them nothing in return?

To be continued…

The Sayings of Chairwoman Dines

February 6, 2013

Tags: Gail Dines, S&M, Beaver Street, Stop Porn Culture

"Robert Rosen, author of Beaver Street, and occasional contributor to this FB page just wrote a rather juvenile piece on me on his blog. The pornographers and their cronies are so interesting because they have no concept of activism for social change. They assume that we are all like them in our desire to 'monetize' everything we do. This is a typical capitalist thinking that can't conceive of a world where people act on the desire to make lives better for others." --Gail Dines, author of Pornland

The above quote, along with a link to my blog post, Gail Dines's Symbiotic XXX Embrace, appeared the other day in the Facebook group Stop Porn Culture. It resulted in a little online dustup.

To recap: I’d written, in part, about Dines’s suggestion, in a column on Counterpunch.org, that Kink.com, a production company specializing in S&M videos, was in violation of international laws prohibiting torture. Apparently unable to distinguish between professional actors being paid to make S&M videos, and CIA agents torturing prisoners at black sites, she said that both the actors and agents had committed war crimes and should be brought to justice.

The inherent absurdity of this argument led me to suggest that Dines is more interested in selling books than she is in achieving her stated goal of eradicating pornography. Because if she ever succeeds in achieving the impossible—eliminating porn—then she’ll be putting herself out of business. And the anti-porn biz is a good and lucrative business, indeed. Just ask Traci Lords.

In any case, I think Dines’s statement at the top of this post deserves a response, and I’ll begin with her grammatically disjointed charge that I’m a “typical capitalist” who assumes that everybody wants to “monetize everything.”

If by “typical capitalist” Dines means that I have attempted to make my living as a writer, editor, and occasional teacher in a capitalist society—a society where I sell my time and work for money—then she is correct. And God help capitalism if I’m typical.

But I also took this charge to mean that Dines does not monetize her time and work, that she must be a socialist, a communist, or even an anarchist, whose purpose in life is to get out word to as many people as possible about the evils of pornography. I therefore assumed that her book must be available as a free download, and that Wheelock College, in Boston, where Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies, must be free tuition.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Pornland is selling for the standard Kindle price of $9.99, and that tuition plus room and board for four years at Wheelock will cost an undergraduate about $175,000—a fee that strikes me as a form of capitalism as pure and exploitative as pornography. It brought to mind an image of one of Dines’s students, in the year 2038, still struggling to pay off her student loan, and thinking fondly of Professor Dines and all that useful information she taught her about “body-punishing sex.” It even occurred to me that this imaginary student might have, at some point in her career, turned to the porn industry to earn a little extra money to pay off that crushing debt.

But enough about capitalism for now. Let’s turn, for a moment, to the charge of “juvenile.” Funny word, juvenile. If I didn’t know the meaning, and had to figure it out based only on how radical feminists have used it to describe my work, I might conclude that juvenile means “people who write in a humorous or satiric manner about the porn industry and its detractors.” Because the only other person who has described my work as “juvenile” is a radical-feminist book reviewer who, in order to trash Beaver Street, made up things about the book that are demonstrably false, and then based her opinions on those misrepresentations. She said, for example, that I “excluded female pornographers entirely” from the book, when, in fact, there are more than dozen women pornographers in Beaver Street, five of whom are major characters.

But this post is about the absurdity of Gail Dines, not the absurdity of radical feminist critics who have reviewed my work in a less than honest manner. And though I’d love to continue in this vein, it’s getting late, and there are more books to be written. So, I’ll have to continue on another day. But I will leave you with one last thought: If my work has pissed off porn kings (such as Lou Perretta) and radical feminists alike, I must be doing something right. Could it be that I’m telling the truth?

AVN Reviews Beaver Street… and they like it!

February 5, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, Adult Video News, reviews, Lou Perretta, Scott Garrett, Swank, High Society, Larry Flynt, Carl Ruderman

One of the odd things about the Beaver Street promotional campaign, which has been ongoing for two years, is that despite the coverage the book has garnered all over the cultural spectrum, in such places as Vanity Fair, Bizarre magazine, an academic site called H-Net, The Village Voice, Erotic Review, and Little Shoppe of Horrors (to name but a few), there hasn't been one review in any of the men's magazines that I write about in Beaver Street.

I suppose the primary reason for this lack of coverage is that Lou Perretta, who now owns two of the titles at the heart of the book, Swank and High Society, as well as every other porn mag except for Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, is upset that I've blogged about the abysmal working conditions at his company and his campaign contributions to Scott Garrett, the Tea Party icon who represents New Jersey’s 5th congressional district. Perretta, apparently, has forbidden his merry staff, under penalty of termination, to so much as mention Beaver Street in or out of the office.

And I suppose that Playboy and Penthouse are not especially interested in books of any kind, and that Hustler doesn’t write about books unless Larry Flynt wrote them—though I’d think that Flynt would have gotten a kick out of my stories about his former rival, ex-High Society publisher Carl Ruderman.

Well, I’m pleased to report that a magazine read by everybody who’s anybody in adult entertainment has published a brilliant Beaver Street review in their February issue, which features a cover story about the “30 must-read books on the history of X.”

Adult Video News (AVN) has been called “the Billboard magazine of the porn industry.” It’s the mag that the mainstream media turn to when they need reliable information about smut. The review, “Walk on the Wild Side,” written by AVN editor Sharan Street, calls Beaver Street “brutally honest,” “compelling,” and says that it’s “a fascinating exploration of the common ground shared by [comic books] and pornographic magazines.” Street (Sharan, not Beaver) also does an excellent job of pulling out just the right quotes to give the reader a good sense of the book’s overall flavor.

I’d urge you all to read AVN’s review of Beaver Street. It made my day.

Gail Dines's Symbiotic XXX Embrace

February 4, 2013

Tags: Gail Dines, Adult Video News, S&M

I must admit I felt a pang of jealousy when I saw AVN's takedown of Gail Dines's takedown of both James Franco's documentary Kink, and the subject of the film, Kink.com, following a screening at the Sundance Film Festival.

According to Dines's original piece on Counterpunch.org, Kink.com, a company specializing in S&M videos, is in violation of international laws prohibiting torture. According to AVN, Dines is an idiot for saying that professional actors being paid to make S&M videos are committing war crimes and should be brought to justice. Dines, they suggest, seems unable to distinguish sexual fantasy from the coercive interrogation techniques that the CIA once used on members of al Quaeda.

I’m jealous because the only thing that might sell more books than a high-profile takedown of an author is a high-profile rave review of the author’s book. And make no mistake about Gail Dines: Though she acts as if her primary goal is the elimination of pornography—“body-punishing sex” is her favorite phrase—her primary goal is selling books, and she’s very good at it.

Dines, a professional anti-porn activist, has built her career on criticizing the porn industry. And in so doing, she has become locked in a symbiotic embrace with that industry: The more pervasive pornography becomes, the more Dines has to criticize; the more ubiquitous Dines becomes with her porno-bashing books, articles, lectures, and media appearances, the more curious people become about the “body-punishing sex” she professes to hate so much. If Dines were ever to accomplish her stated goal of putting pornographers out of business, then she’d be putting herself out of business, too. And that’s not going to happen.

So, when AVN publishes a piece like “Quick! Someone Tell Gail Dines That Porn Is Actually Fantasy!” and the graphic for that piece includes the cover of Dines’s book, Dines, in the midst of her psychic orgasm, takes to her Facebook group, Stop Porn Culture, posts a link to the article, and says, in part, “I am so grateful to the pornographers for helping me understand that torture is just fantasy and sex play.” And Stop Porn Culture’s 1829 members follow that up with comments like: “Porn users are very entitled and do not like to be called out. They will grasp at anything that AVN says that allows them to maintain their dominance. They hate girls who are big meanies and make them feel ashamed!” And: “Someone (maybe their lawyers!) should remind [Kink.com] that they can go to ACTUAL prison for making people do that stuff.”

More books are sold. More pornography is viewed. And Gail Dines feels the satisfaction of a job well done.

Bloomsday on Beaver Street II: Father's Day Edition

February 1, 2013

Tags: Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Daddy Porn, Mommy Porn

MC Supreme Byron Nilsson introduces the first Bloomsday on Beaver Street.

It's only February, but already plans are being made for the second annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street, which will take place at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, in downtown Manhattan, on Sunday, June 16, 2013. The event is a celebration of the day that James Joyce's Ulysses takes place, and of all literature that was once banned as "pornographic." Joyce, incidentally, chose to set Ulysses on this day, because on June 16, 1904, he had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, and she gave him an epic handjob.

It's never too early to mark your calendars.

June 16 is also Father’s Day, which seems appropriate, as Beaver Street, the book, which I will again be reading from, is dedicated to my father. It’s also a prime example of what I like to call “Daddy Porn,” a counterpoint to the “Mommy Porn” of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Daddy Porn is sophisticated pornographic literature of the type my father used to sell in his Brooklyn candy store, like Tropic of Cancer and Last Exit to Brooklyn. Mommy Porn, a label that’s an insult to any mother who appreciates quality literature, is a Harlequin Romance with hardcore sex.

At this time, the lineup for Bloomsday on Beaver Street II is a work in progress, but MC Supreme Byron Nilsson will be returning. Other readers include Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace, and Lainie Speiser, author of Confessions of the Hundred Hottest Porn Stars.

Please stay tuned for more updates about some very special guests.