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'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
Utopias
Lust
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Get All Worked Up About Utopias
by J.T. Benjamin



J.T. BenjaminTrust me. This column is about sex.

Political junkie that I am, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of utopian and dystopian societies, especially in fiction.

In case you happen not to have a dictionary close by, a “utopia” is defined as an ideally perfect situation or place, or as an idealistic plan for an improved or perfect society. The word comes from the Greek, and can mean either, “no place” or “good place,” or, in the context of St. Thomas More’s epic work of the same name, an imaginary, perfect society upon which a 16th Century European traveler stumbles. In the 1516 novel, one of the first of what could be considered speculative or science fiction, he describes his vision of an ideal civilization, one in which there is no crime, no want, no suffering, no strife, and all the citizens live in peace and happiness.

St. Thomas More’s Utopia isn’t itself the first example of a vision for an ideal society. Plato’s Republic,” from almost two thousand years before, describes how in his eyes, civilization would be best ruled by a small cadre of “philosopher-kings.” The ultimate goal of Karl Marx’s communism was a “Workers Paradise” free of war and poverty.

Religious works are loaded with utopian themes. Follow the guidance of Yahweh or Allah or whomever, and Heaven on Earth shall be realized. Conversely, fall away from His teachings, and the shit shall hit the fan. The Bible, as an example, begins with Man and Woman in Eden. The Old Testament documents how the Israelites are in a constant state of societal happiness and then misery, and then happiness again. The Bible then closes with the Book of Revelation, which promises all sorts of ideal, blissful existences for true believers, and eternal, unending punishment for the rest.

A “dystopia,” on the other hand, would best be described as the exact opposite of a utopian society. Where, in utopias, peoples and societies have the noblest motives and achieve the highest ideals, in dystopian literature we see what happens when things go horribly wrong. Instead of peace and harmony, the world is filled with strife, war, crime, senseless violence, tyranny, and unending misery.

Think, 1984, by George Orwell. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, Revolt In 2100 by Robert Heinlein. Dystopias make great settings for movies, such as Blade Runner, V for Vendetta, Escape From New York” and the aforementioned A Clockwork Orange as interpreted by Stanley Kubrick.

A close examination of some of these works of fiction reveals several common elements.

In most dystopian societies, anything goes. There are no limits, no sense of decency or decorum or morality. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse run rampant, spreading War, Disorder, Famine, Pestilence, and Plague with them.

In some of these dystopias, an extreme, overwhelmingly controlling and tyrannical order is imposed from above. People are dictated to about what they do, how they behave, and even how they think. Orwell himself said it thusly: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face … forever.”

In other dystopias, such as in Huxley’s Brave New World, society is an unending, chaotic orgy of vice and misery. Anything still goes, but on a personal level people display no sense of individual morality. It’s a chaotic, mindless existence. But with a twist. As with the former type of dystopia, a dictatorial order is imposed from above. However chaotic society may appear, the chaos is usually under strict control by the Powers That Be. Big Brother, The High Chancellor, the Executive Board, Lucifer, whomever is in charge is secretly pulling strings and encouraging this disorder, either for its own ends or because through their selfish, hedonistic existence, citizens are sufficiently distracted from recognizing the depths of their own misery, and as a result they are rendered powerless to resist.

By contrast, utopias are well-structured and well-ordered societies, but in a different way. Everyone gets along, in part because everyone is comfortable with his place in the world. There is nothing over which people fight, and there is therefore no conflict. While this society is well-ordered, the people in control aren’t wearing jackboots. Rather, they’re benevolent, selfless leaders dedicated only to acting in the interests of the common good. A utopian society is peaceful, calm, and pleasantly homogenous. As with dystopias, there is no resistance, but in this case it’s because there’s no reason for people to resist.

What makes the study of utopian/dystopian societies so interesting is the ways that these themes leave the world of fiction and enter reality, especially when it comes to American history and politics.

When that hardy band of Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower and set forth across the stormy Atlantic Ocean for America, they weren’t just seeking freedom to practice their faith, they were pursuing the opportunity to pursue that faith to the extreme. They weren’t just pilgrims, they saw themselves as the spiritual and moral descendants of the original Lost Tribes of the Hebrew Bible, pursuing their own Promised Land and the opportunity to establish their own Heaven on Earth. In other words, they were seeking their own form of Utopia; their own perfect society.

It didn’t stop at Plymouth Rock, either. Most of the American-oriented religious movements can trace at least part of their theology to the notion that America is not only special, but ordained by God to be the home of the new Chosen People, who shall reside in their own little Paradise on Earth. The Latter-Day Saints, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the neo-fascist Christian Identity movement, the Shakers, even those hippie communes that cropped up during the 1960’s, all are just a few examples of the unique place America holds in the quest for utopian societies.

Why do I bring this up now?

Well, it’s an election year …

While everyone involved in politics likes to paint a rosy picture of what life would be like if one particular candidate or party is voted into office, the modern-day Republicans have honed the rhetoric of utopianism to a fine edge. Follow us, they say, and life will be unending, well ordered bliss. No vice, no sin, and lots of smiling, reverent bland faces. Salt Lake City writ large. Vote for the Democrats, however, and the nation can look forward to one big hedonistic nightmare. It’s Las Vegas, Baby! Nothing but flashing neon lights and sex, drugs, and rock and roll from coast to coast.

Consider former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s concession speech when he suspended his Presidential campaign last month.

Governor Romney said, “Perhaps the most fundamental of the challenges that we face is the attack on America's culture ... the threat to our culture comes from within. The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography, even celebration of it, and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare, have led to today's grim realities ... Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That's the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life, and eroded morality. Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America's vitality. We know that it's the source of our strength. And we will not be dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values and morality and culture.”

Get that? America is headed down the path to destruction because we’re turning away from God, as did the ancient Israelites. By giving in to the temptations of vice, pornography, and sex for its own sake, we’re turning away from our God-given destiny as the new Utopia, and are becoming European … worse … we’re going to become the France of the Twenty-first Century.

The horror! The horror!

Governor Romney is not alone in his apocalyptic rhetoric. Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, another Republican Presidential contender, has gone on the record as saying that the nation would be better off if women subjugate themselves to the authority of their husbands, as commanded in the Bible, and get away from all those silly notions of equality, personal fulfillment, and achievement.

Republican front-runner Senator John McCain hasn’t been quite so vocal in his opinions, but he’s echoed the sentiments of the present occupant of the White House when it comes to what it takes to set American society straight. George W. Bush has spent the last seven-plus years pushing strict prosecutions of pornography, the elimination of women’s rights to choose, censorship of erotica, abstinence-only sex education, and the treatment of homosexuals as second—or even third-class citizens, and the so-called Maverick” McCain has endorsed every one of Dubya’s plans. Sen. McCain might as well stand next to the President wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m With Stupid.”

While the G.O.P. candidates’ rhetoric is loaded with utopian promises if they’re elected, and dystopian nightmares if the Democrats win the White House, mention must be made of the irony of the whole situation.

One classic work of fiction which I haven’t yet mentioned is Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. There, the nation has been taken over and is run by a cadre of religious fundamentalists devoted to spreading the word of God and promoting America (renamed Gilead) as an ideal, utopian society. However, an essential element of this utopia is the complete and utter subjugation of women. Handmaids are essentially sexual slaves, whose role in this society is nothing more and nothing less than making babies for the ruling elite.

There’s the rub. As we listen to the candidates flapping their gums, trying to win our votes with their eloquent lines of bullshit, we must remember the flip side of the coin when it comes to their respective visions of utopia.

Whether the control is exerted by the allegedly benevolent rulers of a utopian society, or by the tyrannical dictators of the myriad visions of dystopias out there, it’s still control, and that includes control over sex.

As for myself, I think I’ll pass on utopia, at least as envisioned by the current batch of the Powers That Be. I’d rather live in chaos than with order, if chaos means that consenting adults are able to fuck whomever they want, whenever they want, however they want, and why they want.

See? Told you this column was about sex.

J.T. Benjamin
jtbenjamin.blogspot
March 2008


Get All Worked Up with J.T. Benjamin in ERWA 2008 Archive.

______
"All Worked Up" © 2008 J.T. Benjamin. All rights reserved.

About the Author:† J.T.Benjamin says, "I'm a generalist. I write about what interests me, which is just about everything." His resume reflects the diversity of his interests. He's been a disk jockey, insurance salesman, private investigator, journalist, college professor, child advocate, political activist, truckdriver, thief,...doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief. He's currently trying to start a hippie commune in the Denver/Boulder area.
Email:† J.T. Benjamin



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