Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And That's the Way It Is

The debate over Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s controversial “Hardcore” piece, which appeared in the January/February issue of The Atlantic, rages on in the letters column of the April issue (and was previously addressed in the SP piece, "The Dukes of Hazard"). While porn is the putative subject, it’s the nature of the human animal that is really in question. Vargas-Cooper is an amoralist whose position combines Hobbes, to the extent that it eliminates altruism as a motive in human action, and a bit of Nietzsche, to the extent that it portrays dark instinctual forces that are beyond the rational certitude of good and evil. In response to criticism from Lux Alptraum, the oddly-named editor of a site called Fleshbot.com who wrote, “True, plenty of porn sites plumb the Hobbesian depths of human sexuality. But plenty of others offer a different view,” Vargas-Cooper remained steadfast. She is not surprised that Alptraum, “the editor of…a commercial site…would go out of her way to put a cheery spin on the state of pornography,” but goes on to aver, “If you were to open your browser to Tiava.com, you’d find 438 videos of women (and some men) getting double anal.” And when Alptraum argues that “a violent, abusive fantasy is hardly proof positive of a violent, abusive nature,” Vargas-Cooper comes back with a left-right combo when she describes “the undeniable drive for male domination and female humiliation that is embedded in most porn (and sex!).” What is most refreshing is Vargas-Cooper’s lack of histrionics about the symptoms she describes. She is neither censorious nor particularly enraged in the manner of old battleaxes like Andrea Dworkin, who crusaded against the depredations of male sexuality like a rabid animal rights activists decrying mink collars. Vargas-Cooper looks on the parade of appetite and instinct with the kind of solicitous resignation Walter Cronkite employed when he ended his broadcasts on the CBS Evening News, saying, “And that’s the way it is.”

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