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Who are you?

“Who the fuck are you?”

No, no, I am not being antagonistic; for the uninitiated, it’s a quote from The Who’s “Who Are You”.  And not the watered down version either, the big bad curse word singing album cut.  I remember bringing “Who Are You” to music class for “Friday Listening Day” in the second grade.  The teacher deemed it too “loud” for class.  True story.  I think we may have listened to “Puff The Magic Dragon”. Ironic.

It’s funny, as you get older, and you are lucky enough to have managed to keep all of your faculties, you begin to search for truth, for honesty.  In all parts of your life, but mostly in those things and people that you hold close.  For me it’s always been music and good rock and roll is always true and it’s always honest.  I know good true rock music when I hear it like the way our Congress knows pornography, “you know it when you see it”.

Music has played a big part in my life.  It was my destination for me to find answers, for me to ask questions.  Music and the musicians that create it have given me more of an education than the 10 or 11 colleges I attended.  At one point, I knew more about music than I did about anything.  I certainly knew more about music than I did about forming any sort of substantial relationship; familial, romantic or otherwise.  I’d like to think I have matured and gotten to know a little bit about those things and maybe leveled off on the music stuff, but I suppose there are people who would argue otherwise.  Lately though, I simply don’t have as much free time to scour the web in order to find all the good stuff.

Is there just too much out there?  Are we overloaded?  The web is massive.  Media is massive.  The blogosphere is huge and often serving as a shill for labels at worst and at best, just pointless.  I have to rely on a few trusted sources to get exposure to new music.  I was always the guy who walked into a music store and would completely freeze…I’d forget what I wanted and why I was there and invariably end up with something like The Carpenters Greatest Hits.  Seriously, I think I owned about three copies of this.

So, what else tells you who I am?  I suppose the standard applies: a male, older than I look (and act), a media studies graduate student, a playwright, a lover, a friend, an uncle, a brother, a son, a log editor, screenwriter/director, entrepreneur, jerk, self absorbed, absent minded.  How does one answer that question and not sound either egotistical or self-loathing?

It’s funny that the more I study media, I often find myself thinking about how today we are absolutely inundated with media.  Everywhere we turn, we are slapped across the face with someone selling something.  And let’s be honest, a very large part of media, MASS media, is selling you something.

“But Keith, my cousin is a multimedia artist and he is not selling anything.”
Yes, yes, I get it.  I am not really addressing “artiste’s”; however, I would argue he is selling himself and his ideas, but I digress.

There is so much media everywhere I am certain most people are not even aware of their exposure to it.  We’ve become numb.  What else are we becoming numb to?  Have we become numb to our responsibility to society? I’m not saying you need to run out and volunteer or work in a soup kitchen and give your earnings to charity, but you must be a responsible citizen…right?  What does that mean?  For me it means, being kind, being smart, being honest and most of all being respectful…of everyone.

And while we are becoming more and more numb to certain things it appears to me that the aforementioned kind, smart and respectful mantra is being tossed aside.  It seems to me that the things I am exposed to through media, kids are also exposed to.  Now look, I don’t have kids and frankly have no feelings one way or the other about them.  But it scares me a little to see the scope of the world that is hitting kids across the face the same way it is hitting me.  Even more alarming to me is how they may be interpreting this exposure.  Do they have the faculties to process what they are seeing?  Christ, I barely do.

I work with some younger people, no not 12 year olds but kids of the Internet, who would give their first born to be on a reality show.  Well, inasmuch as those shows are any semblance of reality.  I’ve met some people who’s only goal in life was to get a TV show, and to some that is the highest level of success.  Given the breadth and size of the Internet and cable television, sadly, that is not as unrealistic as it may seem.

“But Keith, what’s wrong with that?”
Well nothing really, I suppose.  I’d like to think people would aim a little higher than reality television, but the world needs ditch diggers too.

Take for example the Kardashian’s, forget trying to keep up with them, you might as well join them.  The only Kardashian I know is Robert Kardashian, one of OJ Simpson’s lawyers from the “trial of the century”.  OK, not true, I have heard of ye olde grande ass Kim.  Robert is the father of this brood of spoiled special needs dolts.  Now Kim is the only woman I know who has managed to shatter the traditional idea of a matriarchal family structure, she’s the daughter, not the mother, who started it all and heads it all.  She got some show because she videotaped herself having sex; the tape sold, her show sold, and it managed to get modestly decent ratings…for cable.  Now she, and her league of morons have found a way to infiltrate virtually all media with their banality, mediocrity and offensive behavior.  Her father must be proud.  Of course, this is the guy who defended OJ Simpson.  But alas, here is the point…since when is a sex tape the springboard to mainstream acceptance?  Yes, yes, mainstream exposure, that much I get, but acceptance?

But you see, here is where it matters, kids appear to be becoming more and more immune to the consequences of their actions.  The explosion of the Internet has made all sorts of adult material readily available and I have no problem with that.  Personally, I think porn serves a purpose and God knows there is a market.  I am a capitalist after all.   And I may or may not have stumbled upon some adult entertainment in my day.

So a kid can hop online and see anything from Big Butt Kim’s sex tape to bestiality.  So if we take that as the base, kids look up to morons like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who have been videotaped having sex.  There’s the entry point, right?  So then, is it really that far of a jump from watching your ‘idols” to the kids trying to emulate that?  And then that sexual activity becomes the norm?  In an effort to save space, I won’t take you step by step but I submit to you that it is not that far of a jump.

Color me a little reactionary but I don’t think a 12, 13 or 14 year old should be familiar with the concept of a threesome.  I don’t think they should be familiar with phrases like “double penetration” or “gang bang” “wife swapping”, etc.  There is a place for this behavior and there is a market for it.  To choose to participate or view this stuff as an adult is one thing.  The adult can recognize that these videos, however dark, twisted or weird they may be, are made for a fantasy.  Adults can reconcile the fact that the girl with a penis in every orifice, well, that is her job.  These people are paid to do what they are doing.  Some of us go to work and get fucked a little differently.  They are, and we are, at the end of the day, acting.  The line is blurred considerably when the Kim Kardashian’s or Paris Hilton’s of the world are videotaping themselves and then building on that.  The capitalist in me says “Kudo’s to you all” the human in me says “Jesus on a crutch, these girls are awful!”.  So for this purpose, let’s refer to them as the gateway.

Following the idea of the gateway, come with me as I draw this parallel.  I am as white bread mid-western average as they come and I can tell you with complete sincerity that I smoked pot because I knew Bob Dylan did.  I knew Jimi Hendrix dropped acid, I dropped acid.  I knew Keith Richards did coke, I did coke.  I did a lot of dumb shit because people I liked did dumb shit.  I got lucky and made it out of that tunnel alive and relatively sane. Do I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug?  No, I do not.  But I would not have done the other drugs had I never smoked weed.

“Umm, Keith, that by definition is a gateway drug.”
Well no, it’s not.  Look, I didn’t smoke weed and then go on this wild pursuit of my next big high.  I just got curious and if you buy weed from someone, the odds of them being able to get you something else are, pardon the pun, high.

If porn stars, or idiots, are treated as the new rock stars, what is in store for us in the generation after that?

“But Keith, you listened to Bob Dylan and did drugs.  Isn’t it OK to look up to porn stars like you did rock stars?”
Umm, not for my money, no.  I’m neither proud of that nor ashamed of it, but I did it.  I think that is more a part of growing up then someone emulating Jenna Jameson or having the same career goals as Kim Kardashian.  And let’s be honest, the road to being Jenna Jameson or Kim Kardashian is a tough one.  The road to being Bob Dylan is a tough one.  There is no doubt they all fucked and got fucked to get where they are, but it is a different kind of fuck.

Look, I dunno, for me there is just something inherently different about smoking weed with your friends listening to music versus videotaping yourself banging your friends for public viewing.  Or having a contest with your girlfriends to see how many people you can sleep with in a summer versus following Phish or Dave Matthews around for the summer (hmm, that may be not quite as a distinction as I want).  Well color me a from a red state, but those are different.  If some young girl has slept with 100+ people by the time she is 22, is that not some sort of health risk akin to shooting heroin?  Was protection used every single time?  Be honest.  To me the risk is equal.  AIDS concerns aside, the fact that one in four people have herpes does not make it acceptable.  Do we really need it to be one in three?

“But Keith, sex is different.  Sex is not a drug.”
Oh really?  Sex is not a drug.  I know a bunch of 12 steppers who would disagree.  Personally, I’m not sure I am convinced it is a drug, but there seems to have been a proliferation of “sex addicts” in the past 15 years.  I would argue that an orgasm releases as much serotonin and endorphins as any drug, but I ain’t no doctor.

Don’t throw the gender card at me either.  “Oh it’s OK for a guy to do sleep around, why should it not be OK for a girl?”  Personally, I don’t care, but I can tell you if it’s my girlfriend and we have “full disclosure” and she reveals she has slept with 100+ people, yea, I am gonna think differently about her.  And you know what, if I had a guy friend who said that, I would think differently about him too. If ANYONE wants to sleep around, that is surely his or her prerogative.  I am just not sure that is healthy behavior psychologically or physiologically, no matter what methods you use to protect yourself.  And the attitude regarding women will always be different.  We’ve come a long way with gender equality and we still have a long way to go.  But frankly sexual mores are pretty ingrained in us already.  I didn’t make up the rules and I don’t necessarily adhere to all of them, but many many people do.

“But Keith, what about porn as a first amendment right?”
What about it?  Look, I am a capitalist and supporter of the first amendment.  So, no argument from me.

Personally, I think porn has crossed over into some very very dark waters since the advent of the Internet, or at the very least, that dark shit has become much more visible.  Nonetheless, that stuff still has a right to exist.  I don’t have to agree with it and I don’t have to watch it; I don’t have to participate in anything that I find unacceptable.  And should I have children, I hope to instill those same qualities in them.  I would never tell my kid to NOT smoke weed and I would never tell my kid to not watch porn.

“So what is the answer then mister smarty pants?”
Fuck if I know.  I don’t have kids, I don’t do drugs and I don’t care all that much.  I just am kind of uncomfortable with a young kid watching some of the stuff I have seen out there.

Porn is not the norm and being a rock star is not the norm.  Despite what “American Idol” wants to tell you and what you want to believe.  Bon Scott said it best “It’s the long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll”.  But that won’t stop people from creating and capitalizing on the illusion of shortcuts.  Are we that far from an “America’s Next Porn Star” reality show?  THAT is what I take issue with.  There is no short cut and the road to being Jenna Jameson or Bob Dylan requires a lot of work, you can’t escape it and there is no shortcut.  I recall hearing years ago that if you took all the penis’ porn star Annie Sprinkles had inside her and you stacked them up, they would be as tall as the Empire State Building (for those doing the math, that works out to be about 2500 dudes, with an average penis length of six inches).  That ain’t a shortcut.

Adult entertainment has every right to exist in whatever fashion it desires.  Any self-respecting adult film producer takes the effort to bury their product behind age verifying safeguards.  The majority of them play by the rules.  I try to believe that the people participating in them are there by choice.  I hope that everyone is treated fairly, but I have grave doubts about that.  But the question then becomes, what type of society do we want to be?  Do we want to be a society that says it’s OK to want to be a porn star?  Isn’t there a larger societal issue to contend with?  Well, yea there is.  Talk to your kids.  Interact with them.  Participate in their lives.  I grew up with TV as a babysitter which may explain why my life has more than one similarity to “Three’s Company”.

“But Keith, what about God and church?  Church says it bad and if I stick to the scripture I won’t be tempted.”
Uh-huh.  OK.  You’ll still be tempted dummy.  Personally I do not subscribe to any organized religion, but I do have a cursory knowledge of it and I seem to recall that Jesus was in love with a prostitute.  So, yea, umm, you’re gonna have to work that out on your own.  But understand any God, regardless of belief, should be a kind, loving and accepting one and won’t kill you for a little adult entertainment when you are an ADULT.

Again, porn should exist, it has its place.  But how do we get the next generation to explore a more simple and well-paced sexual awakening?  You know, the traditional way…the awkward fumbling around way.  The lying to your parents about where your going and with whom way.  The discovering of the other persons body.  The excitement of that discovery.  How can we make them understand that all the media they are exposed to represents a fantasy and that the reality of relationships is not only much different, but wayyy healthier and much cooler?  The body you have will not be the body of a model, that is genetics.  Most men want women to be women, not broomsticks with tits.  It’s not healthy to bang a bunch of guys in a weekend.  It’s OK to have the fantasy.  That’s what fantasy’s are for.  The reality of the fantasy is not all that pleasant.

Look, porn as an industry is not respectful.  It may appear glamorous to some, but make no mistake; there is an underbelly to that industry.  An underbelly that is awful.  And that is where you have to start.  You’re not gonna start out at the top, nothing in life works that way.  Just as Bob Dylan played coffee houses before theaters, the coffee houses in porn are A LOT different, I would imagine.  A life in porn will not lead to mainstream success, just ask Traci Lords.  Besides, “porn actor” is not a label you can easily shake.

Pick you partners carefully.  No one expects to marry a virgin.  Explore yourself first.  Look around you and become aware of how media infiltrates so much of what is around you and can influence you.  Find your truth.  Understand that those people are actors and that kind of behavior is not only unhealthy but also extremely risky.  Live your life and only your life.  Be kind, be smart, be honest and most of all be respectful…of everyone.

Who the fuck are you?
Who the fuck do we want to be?


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