Monday, 5 September 2011

Transgression Park

There's a new leisure centre in one of Edinburgh's most impoverished and crime-plagued neighbourhoods. It's called "Transgression Park", and so I am a little cheesed off.

In a neighbourhood where people suffer because of transgressions--against their health, against building codes, against property, against their bodies--it's rather insensitive to present transgression as this really cool thing. "Transgression" pretends to be about the bold and brave individual standing up to the "hypocrisies" of society (i.e. its virtues), but it usually plays out as the stronger lording it over the weaker, or the baser instincts of a person lording it over the better.

Is it too early in the morning to use words like "satanic?"

Anyway, I am thinking about both transgression and addiction today because I got another anonymous comment from a recovering (or recovered) female porn addict/reader about my attitude towards female porn addicts.

I can see that it must be pretty annoying for female porn addicts. First I ignore their existence (although, to be fair, I am a child of the 80s and I had no IDEA women got turned on by internet porn), and then I react with unfeigned horror and say how awful it all is. But I am glad to read that my reader has managed to quit her habit.

Of course, I still think it is a disgusting habit to get into, especially since you can draw a direct line from porn to the sexual abuse of adults, children and even babies. Thus, watching porn is not only a sin against purity but an outrageous crime against other people, including the poor benighted, drug-addled actors. But I'm not saying this to heap coals of fire on female former porn-watchers but to send a message to the vast majority of my readers who do not watch porn.

"Hmm...," says a hypothetic reader. "I'm curious. Should I click on this sexy link and find out what all the fuss is about? What would Auntie Seraphic say?"

Auntie Seraphic does not say "There, there. I understand what it is like to be young and curious." Auntie Seraphic says, in her most sarcastic tone, "Oh goodie! With a click of a mouse you too can participate in an industry that leads to child-rape! How very transgressive of you."

How responsible we are for our sins is an interesting philosophical and theological conversation. It is particularly interesting in cultures obsessed with children's "self-esteem." It is also interesting in a culture in which all bad habits are called "addictions", and apparently women are much quicker to call themselves "addicts" then men are. I wonder if this is because men-in-general are more reluctant to admit that they are powerless over something and women-in-general much more eager. If we are powerless over a habit, we can do what we like but can't be blamed!

But, at any rate, I do believe that free will can be damaged, either by abusive people, or by the possessor of the free will themselves. This is why I am rather more sympathetic to porn addicts who first came across porn when they were kids, thanks to neglectful or abusive adults, than I am to porn addicts who started logging on of their own free adult will.

I myself am not addicted to anything, although I suspect from my inordinate enjoyment of seeing that I have new email that I might have a problem with slot machines, where I ever to go near them. (Click, click.) I wonder from time to time if I might be addicted to blogging, but as a matter of fact I can go without blogging for extended periods of time. What I have are habits--both a reading habit and a writing habit--which I've had since I was six.

According to a local public health nurse, I probably overeat. This I count not as an addiction, of course, but as a bad habit. Bad habits are usually hard to break. I had to go to Italy to stop eating potato chips. That's how weak I am, alas.

My late grandmother was addicted to cigarettes, which she smoked from the ages of about 20 to about 70. She quit cold-turkey when she got double-pneumonia. Fear of death sometimes has that effect on the will.

Quitting smoking won't kill you, of course. Quitting very few bad habits kills you. The only one I can think of is quitting drinking if you are a really hard-case alcoholic. The sickest, most addicted alcoholics have to be given little measures of booze or they might go into severe withdrawal and die.

At least two guys I dated were alcoholics. The first alcoholic didn't know he was an alcoholic, and neither did I until I dated the second alcoholic and thought back. What I learned from the second alcoholic is that it is a really bad idea to date alcoholics. Not only are they powerless over their drinking, you can become powerless over your hated of their drinking. One of the saddest hours of my life was trying to find an Al-Anon meeting in the pouring rain, having been sent to the wrong church on the wrong night by someone on the Al-Anon hotline.

"Maybe she was drunk," said a not-so-helpful, but certainly witty friend.

It took me a long time to get over inordinate horror of alcoholism. I stopped seeing an alcoholic female friend for a few years because of it. And yet I kept discovering various crush objects were themselves alcoholics, albeit non-drinking ones. However, it may have been through friendships with non-drinking alcoholics that I got over knee-jerk co-dependency. When I realize friends are alcoholics, I think it is sad for them, but I don't go into a frenzy of grief. (As far as I know, I don't know any drinking alcoholics who drive, however. I don't think my tolerance extends that far. A bad habit or addiction that hurts only the doer is one thing; a bad habit or addiction--like watching porn or driving drunk--that by its very nature springs from or leads to the hurt of others is another.) I still say it is a very bad idea to date or marry a drinking alcoholic, however.

Co-Dependent No More and other works by Melodie Beattie also helped me. Melodie Beattie is a huge fan of Alcoholics Anonymous, and so am I. I think what I find most amazing about Alcoholics Anonymous are the 12 Steps, and what I think most amazing about the 12 Steps are the emphases on both powerlessness AND responsibility. The alcoholic has to both admit that she is powerless over alcohol AND she has to make amends to anyone who has been hurt by her drinking.

The humility of the self-confessed alcoholic touches my heart. Against the instincts of men-in-general, he admits to being powerless. Against the instincts of women-in-general, she accepts blame for what she has done.*

The humility of the addict (even years into recovery non-drinking alcoholics do not hide their stigmatic identity from themselves) is a beautiful thing. Humility is the opposite of pride. Love of transgression, I suspect, springs from pride. And pride is the very worst of the seven deadly sins.

*Women and guilt is a long conversation. So many women seem capable of blaming themselves for things that aren't their fault and then the next minute refusing blame for things that are their fault. Or we blame ourselves inordinately and get depressed instead of saying, "I did it. It was wrong. But it's in the past now, and I've made amends. I'm so much more than my sins, and I'll never do it again."


MaryT said...

"Against the instincts of men-in-general, he admits to being powerless. Against the instincts of women-in-general, she accepts blame for what she has done.* "

Aunty, that is so perfectly said. I am surprised, sometimes, to think that AA still exists, seeing as how that is the core. I mean, are we not at the point, societally (is that a word?), where there is absolutely nothing that we can do about our "addictions"? We just have to accept them and continue them and go one our merry way. Humility? Responsibility? What are THOSE?

Claire Christina said...

I look forward to your discussion on women and guilt. I'm glad to wait patiently, but I just thought I'd chime in that such a topic looks fascinating. :)

Maura said...

I googled it because I thought it would be some kind of crazy art installation, but it's just an indoor skate park! Kids transgress the law when they skateboard in public, so, here's a place where they can do it safely. Not so awful. I think you're awesome, Seraphic, and that's why I'm commenting to say that you're being a BIT of an old lady conjuring satan himself in connection with what seems to be a positive youth facility. All the best, really.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Words are important. As are old ladies. I do not have a problem with an indoor skate park, but with calling a skate park "Transgression Park."

Perhaps if you had been on the bus going past where Transgression Park when a rock flew through the window, you would understand better what I'm talking about.

Seraphic Spouse said...

*is now*

some guy on the street said...

In defense of algebraic topologists, the latin elements together can signify simply "step across"; because, as Aunty so adroitly asserts, words matter, postmodern textual criticism has no such defense, which is why the Sokal affair was funny-sad (and also not a very kind thing to do).

SO, maybe mathys like me could have considered "parabainon" instead, but it feels just that much more foreign to many of us.

Seraphic said...

Ah, yes. I had forgotten that Sokal had included the ever-so-sexy-and-hip "Transgressing" in his title.

In grad school (English Lit) the great cocktail historian Christine Sismondo (buy her latest book!) and I took a class called "Irony." We heard all about the Sokal case, but somehow I didn't grasp its liberating, emperor-has-no-clothes implications until I left grad school.

I think Sokal did many people a favour. It said the unthinkable: the reason why so much postmodern thought by famous, fashionable people was so hard for otherwise very bright students to understand was that it was simply nonsense. It could not be grasped by reason, it was an imposition, and only students who "got it" attempted to play the game.