On Prurient Matters
An Ouch List
"The problem is not where we're different; it's where the difference is a problem."
Right now I'm very angry, angry and weary that more than just a few creepy asses cannot or will not get past a few events in my personal history of long ago. It's Pavlovian business, bypassing their brains, short circuiting any better taste and judgment they may posses. Then whenever I protest their stereotyping, like rapists over the ages, they feign surprise and insist this is somehow an honest compliment, to just sit back and enjoy it. When I finally must defend my rights, what next appears is the specter of a self-righteous monster roaring its head off, full of arrogance and dogma and warped logic, all the weapons of a bigot. They don't even wait until I'm dead to slander me, when it no longer would be considered slander. That makes it inevitable that when I do die my sexuality will constitute their one phrase cliched description (= dismissal) of me, the bastards. Watch if I'm not right on this, when I won't be here to do it myself...
No matter how hard I've tried over decades to lead a good life, to work long hours to be productive and creative, to have happy times with ironic wit and zest among many good friends, to try to assist others in my music field with some of the fruits of my labors, these brain-dead will never budge from their obsessions. Their glassed-over eyes are like the icon I've drawn above, truly. What has been of any real import in my life is invisible to them, except to allow them to make of me not just a dog, but a talking dog (she walks, she talks...) So while I'm still alive here tonight, I'd like to make obvious what really already ought to have been obvious all along, to any caring person.
You are now looking at a web page I never expected to write, on a topic I never expected to be pushed into discussing again. But lately I have felt the acrid stings of prejudice and ignorant scorn again. If you don't understand the depth of anger and frustration such an evil causes, you are most probably not Black, nor Jewish, nor Gay, nor Female, nor several other common targets of The Haters. This is why I've refrained from further personal candidness for many years. In earlier days the Net and the Web were pretty cool places to hang out. Things were mostly operated by and for folks who undoubtedly had some intelligence, many with some education and professional interests of many kinds. Ideas were the topic of the day, not quick titillations or smarmy wallows through the mire, gathering ye nuts in the come-what May.
The inevitable success and popularity of the Web has made it pretty hard not to notice inevitable dilutions and shifting of focus that are heir to the process. Some of the growth has been admirable and certainly helpful -- a great deal of good information is now available free, or nearly so, just for the browsing. Like most mixed blessings there's a yin and a yang to the maturing technology's uses; a double-edged sword hangs in the balance.
Up until now anyone who was "different", not cut from the center of the Gaussian Curve of human variabilities, could find a fairly safe haven here. Your personal life could remain your own. No one was about to pry cheekily into your bank books, your appointment list, or your bedroom activities, unless you tacitly invited them in. No more. With popularity it was inevitable that the riffs and the raffs would introduce a lot of stuff that used to be found over on Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street. Need not say that GoodSex is a happy experience. But when you're not "getting any" you might indeed seek some soft porn jollies on the new web, in a private way, no harm done. Flavors of molto sexissimo exist for every persuasion and taste. Bon Appetit!
As long as no one is harmed, no one is harmed. Plausible arguments have been made to give parents some means to control their children's ability to dig into these deep waters over their heads. I'm not a parent, so that's none of my business. It's all a part of life in these here United States, and the rest of the world, as the Millennium increments by one. While some of us may not be especially happy of the anything goes world we now inhabit, like Pandora's famous box it would be quite impossible to close it, to go backwards, as the fanatical right is so intent on compelling us to go.
(Note: Search engines can locate any words or phrases that are typed into a web page. I'll not write any obvious "buzzwords" and prurient terms herein, as this is MY site, and this page is for browsers of my site only, not a backdoor to those whose interests lie in sexcharged words. They have more than enough places to browse already.)
So okay, sue me, I'm not Ms. Jane Typical Doe writing here, as I try to find a way to speak about matters that are painful to explain, even to dwell on, matters that play NO active role in my life at all, except when they are dredged up again from way back in 1968-72 in order to stereotype me. I seem to march to a different drummer (not a drum machine, anyway!) in a lotta ways, good and bad, ways that are assets or liabilities. Big deal. As an ostensibly sane, bright human being past the middle of life, I've learned to try to maximize the former, and minimize if not eliminate the latter. Grief and bad memories are not stuff that I gladly return to, a fly attracted by the nocturnal lights of an electric fly zapper. Would you?
Like most of you I try to live life in pragmatic reality, in the present tense. That doesn't mean I can't be a dreamer, too, you know...! Artistic creativity seems to require some of that detachment. It's of very little daily concern to me that I was born and brought up in Pawtucket RI, although I'm not ashamed of being from that sleepy small city just north of Providence. I've lived in New York City since 1962, before many of you were born, and by any sensible definition I'm a New Yorker, not a New Englander. Interestingly, this is a city that is still very much like the early web was: a tolerant, open place, with people of great savvy and awareness most of whom are not in need to tell you how to live, what to do and NOT to do, and give you as great a swarth of acceptance and good old "live and let live" as they expect you to give them. Most civilized.
There's a tradition of artists who come here and make this their own home that goes back a great many years. One can easily take this all for granted, yet it's a good feeling, a healthy attitude that rewards those prepared to pay the price of living in tight, often noisy surroundings (it's gotten a LOT cleaner in the last 25 years, anyway) with a marvelously stimulating environment for work and creativity of every possible hue. I like it here. As I said, it's the way the web used to be, "IMHO".
New Yorkers hold the civilized notion that folks ought not go spying on neighbors, trying to dig up bits of scandal, private events that are no one else's business. If we get to be friends with the neighbor, as often happens, we'll undoubtedly learn more about them, even some private things. You know how it goes. Not such a bad way of conducting a life. I know the same attitudes can be found elsewhere in the country/world, too. But sometimes I fear from the daily news that this tolerant and open give and take is just not that common in most places, and is ever dwindling. I hope I'm wrong on that. It's just that the compressed living space in such a place as this demands that anyone of the "Redneck Persuasion" be rounded up and shot quickly at dawn (just kidding!)--
That's no longer the way things are being done on the Web. The same vile pandering to those suffering from BIC Syndrome (that's Brain-In-Crotch, if you didn't read the MetaPage yet) have fueled the recent blood bath of Monicawallawalla. Kids right now know more about her than they do about the American Revolution, for Pete's sake! BIC has turned the web into a nastier virtual place, with less compassion and tolerance. "SexUberAlles" might well be the new slogan, ready or not here we cum. It's harder to find much Virtual Tolerance on the Web as a result. Not just the White House, but personal freedom, civil equality, and the right to choice, even religious tolerance are under attack. Note the focus on sexuality, at the same time that the far right is hoping to curtail most sexuality. Scary stuff (much scarier than my new "Tales of Heaven & Hell"...!)
Recently I've discovered, quite by accident, that my name and person and background have become a "Topic of Discustion", to coin a term. No respect is shown. Certainly no empathy. Every factoid ever circulated about me, most of them inaccurate half-truths at best, is dredged up as if true, as if it mattered, as if it had any role in my life at all (discustion is right!) I'm treated with the scorn often shown public figures, although I am far removed from that category. I have no public forum as a public figure has, and, thankfully, only a tiny minority of the public knows my name or would recognize me walking down the street (that must be an impossible price for true fame...)
Think about who any of us is, and who gets the right to say what is or is not so, or is at least irrelevant, nobody's concern but the private individual's. Interestingly, the writers who so bravely abuse me are very selective and highly hypocritical. Of all the composers who were and are secretly or openly gay, you won't find that bit of information about them in any of the general music websites or books on musicians and composers. The reason is trivial: it's irrelevant. Why announce that Bernstein had blue eyes, or that Virgil Thompson stood only five feet four inches tall? What has that to do with music? -- Exactly. I'm the sole exception, picked on in ways the writers would protest loudly, if similar "reporting" appeared about their personal histories. Shame.
If a topic is titillating to many people, damn if it's no longer news, isn't recent or relevant, and certainly damn that it's impolite to gawk and stare and wink-nudge one another again -- they still do it! And many of them tell me to shut up and "enjoy the publicity!" Insensitive? Craven? Whatever happened to human empathy? Or common decency and respect? Am I such a worthless human being that I deserve to be reminded of something that caused me anguish, and nearly killed me? Something from three decades back that I never think about now, unless my face is pushed back into it?
If you had recovered from cancer thirty years ago, would you enjoy being defined as "that person who was dying of cancer"? Could "cancer-victim" ever be your essential identity? Okay, then how about: "former cancer-victim?" Would you remind an orphan that there was a time when they were unwanted and unloved? Would you keep photos of auto crash victims around to show them that despite months of plastic surgery their faces and bodies had once been severely chopped up? Consider a much milder cheekiness: "He used to stutter when he was growing up." "But, mom, I don't stutter now!" "Not now, but he used to stutter all the time!" "Please, mom, let's not talk about it!" Please, indeed.
many, if not most of you, who have browsed my site do it
with friendly, even compassionate, interest and the
enjoyment of shared interests, musical to be sure, and a lot
of other bits of business besides. I wish I had the means to
write back to each of you, to thank you for your touching
comments and simple understanding. You'll probably wince
yourselves at this oblique, deeply felt protest, if your
human values are intact. I'm sorry for that. I don't wish
that any of my pain be yours, and would much prefer I that
could be of some modest help, rather than depress you with
these justly dismal reactions.
The near-sadists who perpetrate this shameful obsession of theirs have mostly been damn arrogant about it. I've tried to point out the gross disrespect and unkindness (and potential lawsuits) they are publicly exhibiting. Unlike magazine publishing, newspapers and broadcasting, whose exposures rapidly fade with each day or new issue, once on the web things have a tendency to remain there -- the odor of a leaking sewer. Isn't a matter of polite mutual respect called for here? Or are we all to become sneering little narcissistic savages, uncaring and unfeeling about anyone but ourselves?
I've mentioned the press here, because over the years I've been taken advantage of by a few clever manipulators of the printed word (although I count many friends in this once venerable profession, not these creeps.) I was and to some extent remain incorrigibly naive. A character flaw. It's only later on that I see when I've been suckered into shooting my mouth off in ways that a sharper mind would have scrutinized as being contrary to one's own sanity or health. The lessons learned are, to be honest about it, what have made me recoil this past 15 years, and to demand, as you would demand, the rights of privacy the USA was created to defend.
Fortunately those early transgressions were largely forgotten. Up to now. Little could I have anticipated (thinking most people don't try deliberately to be unkind) that some of these "sins of my youth" would now be jolted into new life, as in fiction did Victor Frankenstein reanimate dead flesh. I wish it were a fiction here, too, that something that I was manipulated into saying so many years ago now becomes the New Undead, brought back to taunt me. The offspring monsters repeat the lies and inaccuracies a crafty editor and writer spun together, grafting fiction onto fact, using phony photos I had been goaded into faking for "PR", misquoting what was said off the record into something to cater to the bored, distracted reader who, like the editor, really couldn't care less ("I got my end!").
Since most of you are simply NOT the target of this essay, one part of me wishes that like Merlin the Magician, some of you more knowledgeable about the net could find ways to trash such hateful pages. My human self-defenses shout out for sabotage of the villains, to treat like with like, to stop the pain, shut them out as they would do gladly to us if they might profit somehow by it. Perhaps those of you with writing skills might drop protest e-mail to the site & server, when you encounter one of these monsters in your browsing perusals.
Those who's arrogance is not balanced with compassion are not likely to be influenced in any way by any shouts of "Ouch" or "Foul" or "Grow Up". That's unfortunately been my experience. Like the self-righteous religious right, they dig in their heels, and invent new methods of veniality, of sideswiping the innocent. This time I am a victim. But anyone could be their next victim. I do hope it's not you.
--Wendy Carlos (Dec.1998; revised and edited Nov. 2000)
I Am A Barometer
Here's a postscript. By now you may have gathered I'm sometimes the target of individuals who otherwise may seem to be normal, humane adults. Their uncool smirkings and inability to treat me as much more than a cliché says far more about them than it ever could about me. Ironic? Too bad they don't realize it yet; they'd chill out. I guess folks like me just trigger their worst, those minefields waiting for whomever doesn't meet a narrow seal of "approval". They are compelled to show off their smugness, and in so doing hang themselves in the process for everyone else to see, once you're tipped off to it.
It seems that I am a barometer. This is why I suggest you can use me to benchmark any dormant cruelty or lack of compassion in a person you wish to know more about -- a potential friend, or lover, or even a business partner. Check them out. Try the Wendy Test (probably they've never heard of me, and so the test is invalid before it begins. Oh well, invent a similar test of your own, I can't do everything... ;-) See if they are pretty comfortable in their own personhood and especially in their sexuality. See if they've matured into empathetic adulthood yet. Or note those unable to climb up from that giggly self-conscious immaturity that allows kids to behave at times like little monsters, firmly rooted in the ego-centered subjectivity of a new baby. You may be surprised by what you learn...
(By the way-- to judge by the bunch of e-mail this site pulls in each month, an overwhelming number of you pass the test. Right now mail is running about 96% cool, 4% cruel. Thank you one and all, even the 4%. Your grades will be collected and forwarded on to the next world's Karma, to await your arrival there with the next cycle of the great wheel of life...
Copyright 1998-2003 Wendy Carlos.
Wendy Carlos - On