A New Category Debuts: Love and Beauty

There is so much that’s wrong with today’s porn that it’s easy for anti-porn activists to be in a bad mood most of the time. As Andrea Dworkin freely admitted, “I represent the morbid side of the women’s movement.” The public sees the anger and frustration, and many turn instead to the porn industry, which is much better at selling itself as glamorous and fun.

Our new category, Love and Beauty, will show how sex, love, relationships and people can be so much more than the narrow, blinkered version that porn offers. Watching porn instead of seeking a loving relationship with a real person is like being given a gorgeous race car that can go 200 miles per hour, only to drive it backwards down the highway at a crawl and scrape it against railings and bridge abutments.

A beautiful act can be astonishingly persuasive. Ian Frazier relates this episode from the life of SuAnne Big Crow, a young woman growing up on an Indian reservation in America:

Some people who live in the cities and towns near reservations treat their Indian neighbors decently; some don’t. In Denver and Minneapolis and Rapid City police have been known to harass Indian teenagers and rough up Indian drunks and needlessly stop and search Indian cars. Local banks whose deposits include millions in tribal funds sometimes charge Indians higher interest rates than they charge whites. Gift shops near reservations sell junky caricature Indian pictures and dolls, and until not long ago beer coolers had signs on them that said INDIAN POWER. In a big discount store in a reservation-border town a white clerk observes a lot of Indians waiting at the checkout and remarks, “Oh, they’re Indians–they’re used to standing in line.” Some people in South Dakota hate Indians, unapologetically, and will tell you why; in their voices you can hear a particular American meanness that is centuries old.

When teams from Pine Ridge play non-Indian teams, the question of race is always there. When Pine Ridge is the visiting team, usually the hosts are courteous and the players and fans have a good time. But Pine Ridge coaches know that occasionally at away games their kids will be insulted, their fans will feel unwelcome, the host gym will be dense with hostility, and the referees will call fouls on Indian players every chance they get. Sometimes in a game between Indian and non-Indian teams the difference in race becomes an important and distracting part of the event.

One place where Pine Ridge teams used to get harassed regularly was the high school gymnasium in Lead, South Dakota. Lead is a town of about 3,200 northwest of the reservation, in the Black Hills. It is laid out among the mines that are its main industry, and low, wooded mountains hedge it around. The brick high school building is set into a hillside. The school’s only gym in those days was small, with tiers of gray-painted concrete on which the spectator benches descended from just below the steel-beamed roof to the very edge of the basketball court–an arrangement that greatly magnified the interior noise.

In the fall of 1988 the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes went to Lead to play a basketball game. SuAnne was a full member of the team by then. She was a freshman, fourteen years old. Getting ready in the locker room, the Pine Ridge girls could hear the din from the Lead fans. They were yelling fake Indian war cries, a “woo-woo-woo” sound. The usual plan for the pre-game warm-up was for the visiting team to run onto the court in a line, take a lap or two around the floor, shoot some baskets, and then go to their bench at courtside. After that the home team would come out and do the same, and then the game would begin. Usually the Thorpes lined up for their entry more or less according to height, which meant that senior Doni De Cory, one of the tallest, went first. As the team waited in the hallway leading from the locker room, the heckling got louder. Some fans were waving food stamps, a reference to the reservation’s receiving federal aid. Others yelled, “Where’s the cheese?”–the joke being that if Indians were lining up, it must be to get commodity cheese. The Lead high school band had joined in, with fake Indian drumming and a fake Indian tune. Doni De Cory looked out the door and told her teammates, “I can’t handle this.” SuAnne quickly offered to go first in her place. She was so eager that Doni became suspicious. “Don’t embarrass us,” Doni told her. SuAnne said, “I won’t. I won’t embarrass you.” Doni gave her the ball, and SuAnne stood first in line.

She came running onto the court dribbling the basketball, with her teammates running behind. On the court the noise was deafening. SuAnne went right down the middle and suddenly stopped when she got to center court. Her teammates were taken by surprise, and some bumped into each other. Coach Zimiga, at the rear of the line, did not know why they had stopped. SuAnne turned to Doni De Cory and tossed her the ball. Then she stepped into the jump-ball circle at center court, facing the Lead fans. She unbuttoned her warm-up jacket, took it off, draped it over her shoulders, and began to do the Lakota shawl dance. SuAnne knew all the traditional dances (she had competed in many powwows as a little girl), and the dance she chose is a young woman’s dance, graceful and modest and show-offy all at the same time. “I couldn’t believe it–she was powwowin’, like, ‘Get down!'” Doni De Cory recalls. “And then she started to sing.” SuAnne began to sing in Lakota, swaying back and forth in the jump-ball circle, doing the shawl dance, using her warm-up jacket for a shawl. The crowd went completely silent. “All that stuff the Lead fans were yelling –it was like she reversed it somehow,” a teammate says. In the sudden quiet all they could hear was her Lakota song. SuAnne dropped her jacket, took the ball from Doni De Cory, and ran a lap around the court dribbling expertly and fast. The audience began to cheer and applaud. She sprinted to the basket, went up in the air, and laid the ball through the hoop, with the fans cheering loudly now. Of course, Pine Ridge went on to win the game.

(The Atlantic, “On the Rez”, December 1999, may require a paid subscription)

We look forward to bringing you many beautiful acts.

2 thoughts on “A New Category Debuts: Love and Beauty

  1. Attitudes about sex vary over time and place. And in turn, this effects how humans perceive sexually explicit “art” or representation. In fact, one could say that porn is in the eye of the beholder. The luscious Venus statuettes of the Stone Age may have been little fertility goddesses way back then, but the same figurines seen through the eyes of a proper Victorian could be perceived as shocking, hard-core porn.

    Traditionally, Hindu, Islamic and Oriental cultures have looked favorably upon sex. Erotic scenes and themes have been depicted in artwork for centuries. The well-known Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian sex manual dating from the 4th century A.D. In the “Embraces” section, there are sixty-four chapters devoted to foreplay. The “embrace of the breasts” involves the woman: “inserting her breasts between the boy’s thighs and resting there with all their weight.” Some passages are much more explicit. If these words were inserted in the pages of Playboy or Hustler they could easily be considered pornographic. However, for ancient Indians, the Kama Sutra was to sex what the driver’s manual is to a car today. The cultural values in which we live shapes our views of sexually explicit material.

    To suggest “porn” and relationships absolutely cannot co-exist is just false. While there may be some problems associated with porn as an industry, to blame it for crime, rape, incest, and a degradation of moral values is an oversimplification and understatement of problems. Porn is an easy scapegoat, that is easy to blame for a lack of communication, love, or emotional emptiness, when in many cases porn is a result of those problems, not the cause.

    While our views may not be similar, everyone can agree it is important to protect children and family values, just as you can agree that the fundamental rights of the Constitution are important to protect. The answer is education – not intervention. Stopping people from seeing a point of view (and advocating such) is only going to cause the anger and backlash you see directed at many anti-porn sites today. I have to be honest – there is no real meaningful dialogue on NPN, only a one sided point of view. There are many instances in history where this has been a terrible route to go down, and in a country as diverse as ours, we should allow for the marketplace of ideas to decide, because 100 years from now who knows how we will perceive this debate.

  2. Ryan, we have read and responded to hundreds of oppositional comments in this blog and elsewhere. Sometimes we adjust our positions in response. If this isn’t “meaningful dialogue”, I don’t know what is.

    Porn is indeed an easy scapegoat because researchers have shown again and again that it pollutes peoples’ attitudes, influences their behaviors and that adult enterprises cause secondary effects. If you believe other causes are responsible, and the adult industry bears little responsibility, you need to provide evidence. It is not enough just to assert your personal beliefs.

    You can talk about ancient erotica, but what you cited has little resemblence to porn as it is in today’s America. You won’t find “Baby Kick and Bleed” in the Kama Sutra. It’s the abuse, violence, exploitation, commodification, and narrow perspective that we object to, not the fact that the subject matter is sex.

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