What Makes South Carolina South Carolina

I have been told by a novelist from South Carolina whom I know — a woman with an MFA and publications to her credit — that, in an exact quote: “Women don’t masturbate.”

Is that it?

Is that why South Carolina is — the way South Carolina is?

If the women in South Carolina don’t know how to masturbate, what do they do while they read Fifty Shades of Grey?

Who else in South Carolina doesn’t know how to masturbate? I mean, is it just the women, or does Lindsay Graham not know how to masturbate either? Did Strom Thurmond know? Why didn’t he tell anybody else? I know, I know — he didn’t tell anybody about his Negro daughter either.

This brings to mind a ludicrous written encounter I had with a South Carolina reader of my first novel, Safe Sex, published by Fourth Estate Ltd., in London in 1997. I was taken to task for the use, in that book, of the word cunt to refer to — women’s cunts. I was excoriated for this crass commercialism — why else would I use such a foul and inflammatory and degrading word — by a male reader, a married man who came of age during the Sexual Revolution. (That was the revolution in which all the combatants truly were volunteers.)

But as noted, this fellow was from South Carolina, and he further informed me that he had surveyed all his wife’s closest friends on the issue of the word cunt — and not one of these ladies called her cunt a cunt. This survey finding, coupled (if you will) with the news that South Carolina women do not masturbate, suggests that these women may be not-masturbating because they do not have cunts.

Where do South Carolina babies come from?

Cunt, of course, is the actual English word for the genitalia of the female of the human species, and was in everyday usage until the loss of the English Civil War by the Cavaliers (monarchists who talked about cunts) to the Roundheads (Puritans, who — well, you know). The Puritans judged cunt to be a dirty word because a cunt was a dirty thing. Geoffrey Chaucer, on the other hand, uses it freely and easily in The Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer was pre-puritan, and I’ll bet he knew how to masturbate, too. He certainly knew how to tell a dirty joke! (With style, baby — lots of style!)

I used the word cunt in Safe Sex for the same reason Chaucer used it [in The Canterbury Tales:  because it is the English word for this portion of the female anatomy.  And because I was trying, in Safe Sex, to write an honest novel about human sexuality.  About its power, you know?  (Sure, you know!)  I mean, if we weren’t in deep deep denial about human sexuality in the United States, we wouldn’t have the problems we have with HIV/AIDS, or with any other sexually-transmitted disease.

So, how do we begin to reform our society to accomplish this public health miracle?  Kung fu-tzu tells us, by the rectification of names:

“If language is not used rightly, then what is said is not what is meant.  If what is said is not what is meant, then that which ought to be done is left undone; if it remains undone, morals and art will be corrupted; if morals and art are corrupted, justice will go awry, and if justice goes awry, the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”

Does that remind you of anyone you know?

The quotation is taken from Eros Denied, a book by Wayland Young, M.P. — that’s Member of Parliament — which discussed in great detail and in plain English the subject of “Sex in Western Society,” the book’s subtitle.  And, as I said, cunt is the actual English name of this actual organ of the human female — no matter what language she speaks!

Back in 1997, my critic, who prides himself on being an enlightened South Carolinian, found a survey subject who called her cunt “my secret.” Now, this is just the kind of thing Chaucer would have appreciated, because it lends itself so easily and directly to ribaldry, viz., “How big a secret is it?” “How many people are in on the secret?” and, of course, my personal favorite, “Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.”

Which do you think is the dead one?

When my father retired from the U.S. Army in 1965, he got a job in South Carolina, and we moved there from Washington, D.C. At some point during my last two years of high school, South Carolina legalized liquor-by-the-drink. But they legalized it in a real special, South-Carolina kind of way: mini-bottles. Right — those little single-serving things the airlines used to dispense, and may still, I don’t know because since we got all secure I don’t fly anymore. When I first heard about this law, I thought that the South Carolina legislators had opted for this single-serving gimmick so that when they drank, they could pretend they were riding on an airplane.

So this ignorance of masturbation should not have surprised me. Could it have any connection with the fact that, during the years from 1966 to 1976, which I spent in South Carolina, I was more or less always suicidally depressed, insanely drunk, and using dangerous drugs? If I could have taught basic masturbation to one South Carolina woman — just one — would I still have to go to all these 12-Step meetings?

And remember that 2014 is an election year. Perhaps we can take political action on behalf of the female South Carolinians. Perhaps an educational intervention sponsored by the Public Health Service — surely you remember Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the adult member of the Reagan administration who tried to respond like a doctor to the occurrence of disease in the form of HIV/AIDS. He wore that white uniform all the time — it’s the uniform of the U.S. Public Health Service — the PHS staff at the CDC used to wear their uniforms every Wednesday, and maybe they still do, I haven’t been over there in quite a while.

But wouldn’t that look just loverly! A busload of uniformed Public Health personnel, all bright and shining white, descending on the Palmetto State to cleanse the land of messy bodily fluids, and probably, too, some other stuff we can’t even talk about, not even on the Internet. (Well, we can talk about it on the Internet, but it will crash all the servers in Utah and, yes, South Carolina, too.)

Maybe we could take up a collection on KickStarter or GoFundMe and send a busload of PHS staff from the CDC to South Carolina, where they could give instruction in human female masturbation. Of course, we wouldn’t call it masturbation. We’d call it something like training in preventive techniques to inhibit the spread of sexually-transmitted disease. Yeah, STD makes the technique sound like something real clinical and really clean — like an absolutely sterile treatment for the dirtiest something-or-other you can imagine. We could say we were helping the women of South Carolina “dodge a bullet.” (Dodging a bullet is an instance of language that voters really relate to in South Carolina. That and negra guvermint.)

And also since it’s South Carolina, we shouldn’t say the technique is preventive. We’d have to call it preventative.

(And oh, yes, my female correspondent, referenced at the beginning of this post, has earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Why does this not surprise me?)

(This post is dedicated to all the citizens of Sumter County, South Carolina.)

Open Letter to Democrats From a Disillusioned Young Voter

Special from Reader Supported News, by Carl Gibson

07 November 14
Dear Democrats,

Are you listening? President Obama says he hears us. He says that people don’t have a reason to show up to vote if the politicians they have to choose from don’t motivate them. He’s partially right. But that’s only part of a much larger problem. To all you would-be elected officials looking for my generation’s support at the polls, listen closely – get populist or get ready to lose bad.

2014’s low voter turnout was historic. Voter turnout actually hasn’t been this low since the 1940s. As Mother Jones pointed out, voter turnout for people under 30 was dismal. In this election, people like me only made up 12 percent of those who voted, while people aged 60 and older made up almost 40 percent of total voters. In 2012, when President Obama was re-elected and Congressional Democrats made gains in the House and Senate, millennials made up almost one-fifth of all voters, and voters 60 and older made up just 25 percent of the electorate, bringing us a little closer to a tie. It isn’t hard to see the difference – this year, Republicans steamrolled you, Democrats, because most of us stayed home and let our Fox-watching uncles and grandparents decide on who was going to represent everyone else.

So how do older people pick who runs Congress? Like every other voting bloc, they pick the ones who run on issues most important to them. And as Vox reported, data consistently shows that younger people want their tax dollars spent on education and job creation. Older voters want their money spent on Social Security and war. The Republicans who swept the U.S. Senate ran largely on fear campaigns over ISIS, promising to be more hawkish than their opponents in an eagerness to pour money and troops into Iraq and Syria to snuff out America’s newest boogeyman.

Contrast the unified Republican message with the profound silence from you Democrats on addressing the trillion-dollar student debt crisis, rampant inequality and underemployment, and your collective fear of openly embracing economic populism, and you cook up what we saw on Tuesday night. Older people showed up, highly motivated to elect war hawks. Younger people mostly stayed home, disillusioned with the only alternative on the ballot who didn’t even talk about the issues affecting our lives every day.

The few of us who did show up to vote largely did it to support state ballot initiatives that actually mattered in our daily lives. We still voted to raise the minimum wage in 4 states to a slightly more respectable amount, and to $15 an hour in San Francisco. We voted for a week of paid sick days in Massachusetts, and for marijuana legalization in three more states (okay, well, DC isn’t a state yet, but it definitely will be by the time we’re grandparents). We voted to turn nonviolent drug offenses from felonies into misdemeanors in California. We even boosted high voter turnout in Michigan for Gary Peters, a Democrat who made climate change – something we’ll have to confront long after the boomers are gone – his top issue. We just didn’t vote for Democrats who haven’t done anything for us since we voted for them in 2012, and who brazenly took our votes for granted this year.

Even though the Republicans have made it clear they won’t raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, or address climate change as long as they’re in power, they at least have a unified message that appeals to enough people who share their values. They can also communicate that message in a confident way. The Republican platform comes in easy-to-remember, tweet-sized sentences. We all know their buzzwords – “national security,” “family values,” “free markets.” That may translate to endless war, homophobia, and corporate feudalism for the better-informed, but for most people, those are catch phrases they can get behind.

You Democrats, on the other hand, looked pitiful in the year leading up to the midterms. You didn’t seem to stand for anything in particular, you just pointed the finger at the other guy, told us they were bad, and that you weren’t like them. That’s not enough. Take a risk, be bold. Get behind Elizabeth Warren’s 0.75 percent interest rate for student loans. Allow student debt to be abolished with bankruptcy. Push for single-payer healthcare, or at the very least a public health insurance option. Need some catchy buzzwords? Try “affordable education,” “good jobs,” and “healthy families.”

President Obama hit the nail on the head – we won’t show up and vote for you if you aren’t offering us anything real. If Democrats want to stay relevant, they’ll have to learn to stop taking us for granted and actually make an effort to get our votes. Simply banking on being the lesser evil and having that be enough won’t cut it any longer.
_____

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at carl@rsnorg.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to RSN.

Links of the Week

The Economist calls for fairness and balance in accounts of American slavery. What would Peggy Garner say?  (Well, that’s just one mother’s opinion.)

“Fuck your parliament and your constitution! Or: the kind of governments American leaders really like!

And a Sam Shepard interview at the Guardian: These days, he reads a lot of Irish writers. “They are head and shoulders above,” he says. “It’s the ability to take language and spin it.” And a lot of South Americans, too, “because they seem to have a handle on the ability to cross time and depth.” He struggles to think of contemporary American writers he rates, beyond Denis Johnson.

Robert Henri on the Mastery of a Fine Art

From a letter by Maxwell Perkins to James Jones, 28 May 1947, concerning work on From Here to Eternity, taken from Editor to Author:  The Letters of Maxwell Perkins edited by John Hall Wheelock (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950):

Yesterday, without naming you, I was trying to explain to a prominent and able writer what you were trying to get across in your book, and the great difficulties of it. It would have been much easier to make a man writer understand, but I think she did, for she is very intuitive. Then I told her you had been reading “——-,“ and she was shocked by that and agreed with me that while you are writing you should not be reading about writing. But then she spoke of a book which was not about writing, but which by inference enormously illuminates the problem. I have sent you that. I had read it years ago and thought it most revealing. It is concerned with painting, and is derived from the lectures of Robert Henri.

From The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, compiled by Margery Ryerson (Philadelphia and New York, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1951):

The real study of the art student is generally missed in the pursuit of a copying technique.

I knew men who were students at the Academie Julian in Paris, where I studied thirteen years ago. I visited the Academie this year [1901] and found some of the same students still there, repeating the same exercises, and doing work nearly as good as they did thirteen years ago.

At almost any time in these thirteen years they have had technical ability enough to produce masterpieces. Many of them are more facile in their trade of copying the model, and they make fewer mistakes and imperfections of literal drawing and proportion than do some of the greatest masters of art.

These students have become masters of the trade of drawing, as some others have become masters of their grammars. And like so many of the latter, brilliant jugglers of words, having nothing worth while to say, they remain little else than clever jugglers of the brush.

The real study of an art student is more a development of that sensitive nature and appreciative imagination with which he was so fully endowed when a child, and which, unfortunately in almost all cases, the contact with the grown-ups shames out of him before he has passed into what is understood as real life.

Persons and things are whatever we imagine them to be.

We have little interest in the material person or the material thing. All our valuation of them is based on the sensations their presence and existence arouse in us.

And when we study the subject of our pleasure it is to select and seize the salient characteristics which have been the cause of our emotion.

Thus two individuals looking at the same objects may both exclaim “Beautiful!” — both be right, and yet each have a different sensation — each seeing different characteristics as the salient ones, according to the pressure of their sensations.

Beauty is no material thing.

Beauty cannot be copied.

Beauty is the sensation of pleasure on the mind of the seer.

No thing is beautiful. But all things await the sensitive and imaginative mind that may be aroused to pleasurable emotion at sight of them. This is beauty.

The art student that should be, and is so rare, is the one whose life is spent in the love and the culture of his personal sensations, the cherishing of his emotions, never undervaluing them, the pleasure of exclaiming them to others, and an eager search for their clearest expression. He never studies drawing because it will come in useful later when he is an artist. He has not time for that. He is an artist in the beginning and is busy finding the lines and forms to express the pleasures and emotions with which nature has already charged him.

No knowledge is so easily found as when it is needed.

Teachers have too long stood in the way; have said: “Go slowly — you want to be an artist before you have learned to draw!”

Oh! those long and dreary years of learning to draw! How can a student after the drudgery of it, look at a man or an antique statue with any other emotion than a plumbob estimate of how many lengths of head he has.

One’s early fancy of man and things must not be forgot. One’s appreciation of them is too much sullied by coldly calculating and dissecting them. One’s fancy must not be put aside, but the excitement and the development of it must be continued throughout the work. From the antique cast there should be no work done if it is not to translate your impression of the beauty the sculptor has expressed. To go before the cast or the living model without having them suggest to you a theme, and to sit there and draw without a theme for hours, is to begin the hardening of your sensibilities to them — the loss of your power to take pleasure in them. What you must express in your drawing is not “what model you had,” but “what were your sensations,” and you select from what is visual of the model the traits that best express you.

In drawing from the cast the work may be easier. The cast always remains the same — the student has but to guard against his own digressions. The living model is never the same. He is only consistent to one mental state during the moment of its duration. He is always changing. The picture which takes hours — possibly months — must not follow him. It must remain in the one chosen moment, in the attitude which was the result of the sensation of that moment. Most students wade through a week of changings both of the subject and their own views of it. The real student has remained with the idea which was the commencement. He has simply used the model as the indifferent manikin of what the model was. Or, should he have given up the first idea, it was then to take on another, having destroyed the work which was the expression of the former.

The habit of digression — lack of continued interest — want of fixed purpose, is an almost general failing. It is too easy to drift and the habit of letting oneself drift begets drifting. The power of concentration is rare and must be sought and cultivated, and prolonged work on one subject may be simply prolonged digression, which is a useless effort, as it is to no end.

Your model can be little more than an indifferent manikin of herself. Her presence can but recall to you the self she was when she so inspired you. She can but mislead if you follow her. You need great time to paint your picture. It took her a moment, a glance, a movement, to inspire it. She may never be just as she was again. She changes momentarily. As she poses she may be in the anguish of fatigue. Who can stand all those hours, detained from their natural pursuits without being bored? At least there is a drifting of the mind, pleasant, gay, sad, trivial — and, imperceptibly the forms and the attitude change to the expression of the thought, and it gets into the brush of the careless artist and it comes out in the paint.

Few paintings express one idea. They are generally drifting composites wandering through the poses of many frames of mind of the sitter, and the easy driftings of the view of the artist. They present the subject, but the parts are as seen under different emotions, and their only excuse is that they are so wonderfully well done.

This Week’s Links, 24 Aug 2014

Astra Taylor on The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

Wall Street Journal’s Interactive Graphic of the Defense of Israel

In Honor of Studs Terkel and Working
‘Sometimes I Just Feel Pretty Discouraged’

THE OTHER HUNDRED

From “You won’t notice” to “It’s a little bit of a lonely experience”: The Distortion of Sound