Sad Sex Robots

Note: This can be a touchy subject. The very last thing I want to do is bring any shame to it. This is not about drawing conclusions or saying what is right and wrong. These are thoughts and questions based off of my personal experience, which is mine to own. Yours can be entirely different and yours to own. My reason for sharing this is because it doesn’t really get talked about and if it does, it’s polarizing. But processing through this is a part of my life and I wish I could do that more with people instead of pretending like we don’t all have some level of relationship or experience with it. So please know that is where I’m coming from. My hope is it results in more questions and conversations over a drink rather than Facebook rants and upset messages. My hope is that it simply causes people to pause for a moment and think. That is all.

 

I spent an hour reading about how sex robots are a thing. AI robots with ‘warming intimate areas’ and the ability to hold a conversation, express desire, and learn about you. Researchers predict that between 2030-2050, sex robots will be normative. There will be sex robot brothels to replace human prostitutes (anyone who finds this intriguing should watch Ex-Machina). I also saw articles that referenced the impending mainstream of virtual reality porn. And another article that mentioned web cam sites that allow users to upload a photo of someone they find attractive (friend, co-worker, celebrity, anyone) so it can use facial-recognition software to pull up similar looking sex-models from their database. This beautiful, humanity-restoring material inspired me to visit some porn sites. It had been almost three years since I’d done that. The same thing that always happened, happened: my ears and cheeks got hot, my heartbeat went funny, and after clicking out I felt sad.

It used to make me sad because I was with someone who couldn’t get enough of these women forever scrolling across the screen, arranged and dominated in window boxes. They were perfect because they were quite literally: unending. Instant, always desiring, never asking, and completely uncomplicated. I was sad because I didn’t know what my response was supposed to be and it confused my perception of what was real and what wasn’t. Is this supposed to be seen as pretend entertainment or an instruction guide? If one is aroused by demeaning, aggressive, exploitative sex, does that mean they want that for their own sexual relationship? If not, what is the value in watching it? If your partner closes their eyes during sex, are they picturing all these other women and does that prevent connection and intimacy? Is this what makes it difficult to stay hard or last long enough and is that the only thing that is going to get people’s attention? If they’re spending hours with them instead of you, does that count as cheating? I used to pray that he’d just ‘actually’ sleep with someone else so that I’d at least be able to make sense of the pain I felt from the constant, quiet competition. It used to make me sad because I had an overwhelming suspicion that I had been having sex with someone for years and yet we had never really touched each other.

But this time I wasn’t seeing it as someone looking to spice up their sex life or trying to understand their significant other. I was seeing it for the first time as someone who has been sexually assaulted. Now it made me sad because I know what it is like when someone picks you out and decides that your body is for consuming. I know what it is like to be arranged, dominated, and rendered completely uncomplicated. I am a part of a system that agrees sex is something that men do to women or watch women do to each other. I understand there is a level of consent in pornography, making it different from sexual assault. But I would argue that both are dehumanizing. There are so many men who would never EVER dream of abusing, harassing, or assaulting a woman. Men who consider themselves feminists. Men who stand up for women, respect, value, and praise women. But I think what they really mean by women is women they know. Because when it comes the women they watch in porn, is that respect null and void? Are they valuing those women for who they are or what they will do? Are those women being stood up for or laid down for? It seems like the only “right” viewers care about is the right to consume someone else’s body as a means to an end without it being abuse or assault. Because we all hope and assume that these people are getting paid well and enjoying their job. But there is also plenty of evidence that the porn industry is rampant with physical abuse, sexual trauma, drugs, and mental health disorders. Documentaries, research, and the personal accounts of ex-porn actors all indicate that there is a lot more to the conversation than is being widely discussed.

Our world compartmentalises porn. It puts porn in this box and says this couldn’t possibly contribute to 1 in 3 women being sexually assaulted, 4.5 million people being trapped in forced sex work, rising rates of impotence and ED, half of marriages ending, and generally being the most addicted, depressed, obese, in-debt adult cohort in all of history. It couldn’t possibly contribute to that because everyone does it. It’s normal. It’s fine. This is just acting. No harm, no foul. But let’s look at these statistics from PornHub’s 2015 annual review. Keep in mind this is just one porn site.

  • 87,849,731,608 videos viewed (that’s 12 videos viewed per person on earth)
  • 4,392,486,580 hours of porn watched (that’s 2.5x longer than homo sapiens have been on earth)
  • Americans account for 41% of overall traffic
  • The most common search terms were “teen” and “stepmom”

You can’t have statistics like this for anything and not have it creating an enormous impact, even if its subconciously. Even if it hasn’t been like this long enough to have conducted comprehensive, in-depth research. That is a lot of people watching a lot of material that propels the message that the female body is an object and that sexiness is a woman’s currency. It propels it at a pace and in forms we have little control over. Technology moves faster than we do. Today the average age of exposure to pornography is 8. And we aren’t just dealing with Playboys stashed under mattresses anymore. I’ve worked with 14 year old guys who showed me Snapchat videos of them receiving head. I’ve worked with girls who feel it is completely normal to send nude pictures of themselves to guys at school because they expect it. The line between liberation/empowerment and objectification is very blurry depending on who you’re asking. There are generations yet to enter adulthood that have learned most of what they know about sexuality and human interaction from the internet and social media, which is fascinating. And kind of terrifying. I just wonder if and how this is affecting our ability to be in relationship, to have empathy, to build intimacy, and to humanize?

A lot of what I’ve experienced has made my state of being feel out of control. It violated a part of who I am and I continually find myself trying to restore that. I don’t want to be angry and cynical. I don’t want to be incapable of trust. I don’t want to feel ashamed of what happened. So I’m trying to grasp how normal, nice guys end up in a mindset where they feel that sexually assaulting someone is okay. I’m trying to understand why we find it so easy to be disgusted by the degredation and objectification of women when we look up at our wives, sisters, friends, daughters, and mothers but when we look down at our laptops or phones we don’t think twice about participating in a system that helps sustain it?

I have this scenario that plays out in my head where I look at the guy who raped me and I say, “Hi! My name is Taylor and my favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip. In high school I was voted ‘Most Likely to Make Your Day’ by my classmates. I have a bunion on my right foot that I’m all self conscious about because it makes me feel like an 80 year old. I come up with terrible analogies. I can remember every movie line and I’ll make you the best mojito of your life. Look, I’m like a really sweet, angel, butterfly type person and if you would just stop to know me you’d never do this so please, please, please don’t do this.”

I want to believe something like this would work. Unfortunately, I know deep down that pleading for people to understand the gravity of what they’re doing has never been a winning strategy. But now all I can think about are the women that just flew across my screen in ‘Freckled Latina Deepthroat’ and ’19 year-old getting gang banged’. I hope that whoever is watching realizes just how very, very real these women are. And I hope that instead of getting off this time, they’ll just wonder what her favorite ice cream flavor is.

Love,

Taylor

img_7821

So This is Happening

I’ve been one busy lady. Good busy. But busy nonetheless. I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of mental breakdown some days, but soaring high on others. I’m finding it hard to muster the energy to do the things I want to do when I’m done doing the things I need to do. And trying to remember that I get to do it all.

But OK, so this is what’s happening…

I took a road trip to the mitten of the United States last weekend with my friend Kory. Between cafes, breweries, ice cream parlors, and bakeries…we just ate and drank our way through Grand Rapids with Miss Bailey. That city is dope. And so is Bailey. I also got to see my godparents- Dave and Maria and little James, the newest additon to their family. They spoiled Kory and I with an amazing dinner at Terra, a farm to table restaurant. I tried mussels for the first time and I didn’t hate it. After saying peace to GR, we ventured to Detroit to complete the mission of the entire trip: to see one of my favorite paintings in person. We perused the Belle Isle Conservatry, bought succulents at Eastern Market, and stumbled upon a Luge race downtown (which is possibly the most quiet and bizzare sporting event to see up close). A personal highlight was making our way through the midevial art section of DIA via Snapchat and creating these:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_7752

IMG_7754

IMG_7760

IMG_7762
IMG_7779

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

IMG_7787

IMG_7789

IMG_7792

IMG_7794

IMG_3350

IMG_7818

IMG_7819

IMG_7821

IMG_7837

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

IMG_7808

 

IMG_7831

Diego Rivera mural in the DIA

IMG_7870

YAY for used bookstore steals

+ I had the opportunity to play papparazzi at the Alzheimer Association’s Conference last week. The Alzheimer’s Association in Des Moines has been a huge support in the project I am working on and they have asked me to be on a project committee that creates social engagement events for patients and their caregivers. I am so pumped to be a part of that!

IMG_7704IMG_7678IMG_7673IMG_7653IMG_7628IMG_7630IMG_7632IMG_7636IMG_7637IMG_7664IMG_7626IMG_7625IMG_7624IMG_7619IMG_7611IMG_7593

IMG_7488

You should sign up for The Walk to End ALZ 🙂

IMG_7490

IMG_7547

This is crazy.

IMG_7529IMG_7523IMG_7576

My Fridays-Sundays are spent with the DMCW, serving up food and loving our neighbors. I am unendingly appreciative that I get to be a part of this community, which is about equal parts insanely beautiful and hella challenging. But being here keeps me grounded in my values and beliefs about how life is meant to be lived and shared. For every absence I observe, there is an abundance to be experienced. One thing the DMCW does is serve breakfast and give out Whole Foods donations on Saturday mornings at Trinity Church before serving lunch at the Dingman House at noon. If anyone is interested in volunteering or cooking a meal, hit me up!

IMG_7128

IMG_7133

My housemate Al and Justin…two of my favorite dudes.

IMG_7135

IMG_7136

IMG_7137

IMG_7153

IMG_7157

IMG_7162

IMG_7164

IMG_7169

I’m nannying for one more month. Still applying for jobs and becoming increasingly depressed and frustrated by everything. BUT I’m looking forward to being a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends in June and to being in Edinburgh for a TBD amount of time this summer. Also, I’ve taken up kickboxing again which has been a sanity saver and makes me feel like a total badass.

Uppercut. Hold the follow through.

Love,

Taylor

Responding

The amount of bad news is overwhelming. Is it okay to admit sometimes I’m a little disturbed that it is possible access the terrible, no good, very bad things happening in every country as they are happening? It’s too much. If you’re a doer or have a big, empathetic heart the scope of the world’s problems being at your fingertips is the wooooorst. Every day there is something horrible occurring as the result of large-scale, corrupt, systemic issues. Every day there is a justifiable reason to numb yourself, grow bitter and cynical, or become paralyzed and hopeless. I think this has probably always been the case… only now we live in a viral and far-reaching world of reporting that puts fear and hate on loudspeakers and then allows anyone who wants to comment to do so on a hundred different media platforms. It feels inescapable. It demands our undivided, or very divided, attention.

Although I have a guilt-inducing amount of things to be thankful for, this year I found it difficult to posture my heart in gratitude. Its all so heavy. There is always a new issue. Or an old issue with new steam. The list of things to be heart broken about grows and grows. Every time I read a headline that makes my stomach churn, I find myself sitting and wondering…

Okay, so what should my response be? What the hell am I supposed to do with this information? 

This is what seems certain: due to scope and copious amounts of complexities, most problems are not going to just end/go away/get solved. Injustices will continue to exist or increase, even. There will always be stomach-churning headlines.

I’ve obviously heard this in various contexts, but especially during college, I was consistently encouraged to “step back and look at the big picture”. As an artist, it was necessary to regularly back up and look at my work from across the room. From a distance I could see more easily what needed manipulated.

When it comes to the atrocities happening all over the globe, it is hard for me to believe that looking at or trying to do something about the big picture is helpful. I personally cannot elicit a response that changes something at a macro level and I struggle to see governments or other agencies implementing change effectively or compassionately. While I never want to disengage or isolate from the big picture, I cannot do anything from across the room.

You change the big picture on a detail level.

My response to the micro matters.

Colyn, my dear friend/air drumming extrodinare/part-time house mate/hero delivered an eloquent and thought-provoking message on Sunday that spoke to how we see this perfectly modeled in Christ. Christ never looked to a system, hierarchy, religion, or political party. He essentially was the big picture and the way he lived was one of small actions with big love. He took on a method and perspective of personalism. I am always stuck by how consistent Christ was in the action of tailoring his interactions. How as God, he worked on a detail level- ministering and calling individuals personally and intimately. This is the example he asked his followers to emulate. This free, creative, unrequited love is intented to lead us into solidarity with others. I believe the divine is experienced in community where we learn to empathize, bear one another’s burdens, and seek the best for the other.

What a different world we would live in if everyone actually sought what was best for…the refugee, the transgender, the drugged up, the prostitute, the delinquent, or the undocumented. If we cast aside our own presumptions and prerogatives. Perhaps this is the best way to fight against the ovewhelming amount of terrible, no good, very bad news. I would bet one of the main reasons this does not happen is because we read the papers, watch a bunch of news, and then feel entitled to speak about “them”. We’re convicing ourselves that we know and understand. That there’s nothing we can do about it except write about it on Facebook. But we must start from a place of admitting we do not know or understand anything.

If you want to talk about ____ I want to hear you say their names, show me their faces, tell me their stories, and what your relationship with them is like. As someone who wants a life of big love…if do not live this out myself, I miss the whole point. I think issues become impossible to generalize when we personalize and humanize them. I personally cannot stand see what is happening all over the world and respond by donating some clothes and dropping change in a styrofoam cup. There is a whole lot of pain and lonliness out there. Jesus’ response was to alleviate these sufferings through touching, tasting, and seeing. He invited everyone to the table to break bread. He showed that when we love and serve from a place of relationship, moving from unknowing to knowing, we see it all so very differently. We are convicted to seek the will of the other.

You will never understand or be satisfied with the big picture if you do not intimately study the detail work.

Love,

Taylor

 

IMG_0032

 

Just give me a candy heart.

Her armor is thin.

She knows how this ends: the delicate ones bend.

Oh God, thicken her skin when its arrows they send.

She’s boarding up the door.

She knows how this ends: trusting and expecting unearths the worst.

Oh God, hold the lock and key when no other is of worth.

She’s digging in the dirt.

She knows how this ends: with filthy, empty hands.

Oh God, reap before she sows in what will not grow.

It’s a struggle you know.

To hope in what you cannot see,

Through armor, though thin.

From behind a door boarded in.

Covered in dirt caked like sin.

Oh Love, if you agree,

Let no doubt intervene.

You know who holds the key.

And may you spend your days under each other’s white flags,

Holding dirty hands.

54e845e8c8136_-_sev-candy-hearts-lol-lgn

Love,

Taylor