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Bend It Like Benglis

by Ana Cecilia Alvarez

Lynda Benglis’s portrait of herself scandalized not because it supplanted the phallus but because it ridiculed it.

In the December 1974 issue of Artforum, five editors published and co-signed a letter “publically disassociating” themselves from portions of the previous issue. The letter cites the “extreme vulgarity” and “brutalizing” effect of an advertisement placed in the November 1974 issue by and for a New York artist, a sculptor, appearing as herself in the image. New York artist, a sculptor, appearing as herself in the image. The editors condemn the uncouthness of the ad as a harmful mockery not only of their personal sensibilities but also of the larger (and conveniently undefined) “aims of [the women’s] movement.” Another grievance: As art writers and editors, these five felt professionally compromised by their forced complicity with the artist’s self-exploitation—or worse, self-promotion, “in the most debased sense of the term.”

Professional feminists agreed, with Cindy Nemster accusing the artist of “making a frantic bid for male attention.” Art historians were scandalized. School principals pulled their schools’ Artforum subscriptions. The magazine received more letters for a single issue than it had in its 13-year history. In Philadelphia, a man reportedly stormed into a museum, waving his copy of the issue, and toppled over one of the artist’s works. In a no less extreme reaction, the two women among those five editors—Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson—would soon quit the magazine to start October. Everyone knew their departure had begun with an advertisement.

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fealinx:

FRIENDLY ADVICES

.

Die slowly but then real quick all at once at the end part. Be a so-so person. Let people use you but wink ironically throughout so it’s clear you’re in on it. Never tell anyone they’re wrong about anything. Only help people get things you don’t actually want them to have. Don’t forget how pleasant it is to hug someone toward whom you feel quietly contemptuous. Don’t forget that in the grand scale your life only looks noble because you care so adorably much about it despite its comical insignificance. A good way to always be well-rested is to go to sleep before you do anything dumb and to also be pretty dumb. Dignity is often just a matter of keeping more still than your body cares to. Your best is not quite good enough so you might as well just try 80% of it. When in doubt underdress. When in doubt undress. When in, doubt.

It has always been profound to me that the brass ring is a brass ring.

Q: Check out those nude celebs?!?!


lazenby: Of their nature, people who chase what the world calls success are themselves, prey. Even as they overtake their goals...continue reading

"I saw a cultural space in which to seize the dick pics and say, “Mate, this is not good enough. You can package your dick more attractively than this and you should, for all our sakes. Get that bottle-as-measuring-stick out of there; your picture reeks of desperation and no one cares how big your dick is. Take off your awful socks, and spare me your filthy fingernails. This is about me for a change. I want to see something erotic, and I want to be titillated. You don’t have a reliable cultural script for titillating me, but you can damn well try.”

— Madeline Holden, “Dick Picky

Dick Picky

By Madeline Holden

Critique My Dick Pic has convinced its proprietor that the female gaze is not homogeneous.

Traditionally functioning as little more than late-night infomercials, often with hilariously utilitarian demonstrations of size, dick pics have been shared en masse on dating sites and social apps for years. The dick-pic economy is thriving, replicating a whole host of our cultural malaises in miniature: Aggressively insecure men harass women whose disinterest is irrelevant to them, blithely sailing past boundaries to demand that their manhood be looked at and validated; scornful women pass them on to girlfriends with less-than-smiling emoji. Dick pics are routinely shared the first time without consent on the part of the recipient and are widely loathed for this reason. Yet they’re also intimate, amateur portraits of the genitals of men, sometimes very lonely men, which gives rise to a kind of dual nature: The dick pic is hostile yet pitiable, aggressive but also acutely pathetic. They’re also almost invariably ugly. Dick pics are, on the whole, dull and artless, inexpertly captured and painfully unerotic.

A year ago I started Critique My Dick Pic, a blog that is not safe for work unless your workplace is chill. The premise is simple: Men and other people with dicks send me photos thereof, and I critique the photos with love. I have a general policy of being gentle about people’s bodies, including their genitals (the blog’s motto is “100% ANON, NO SIZE SHAMING”), but I was also feeling particularly magnanimous toward dick pics the day that the blog was born. I’m often asked why I started CMDP, and the truth is that I woke up one morning to a dick pic so good that I felt inspired to change the others. That’s all it was—one excellent, well-planned pic from a person whose dick I explicitly wanted to see. I was jarred by how unnecessarily rare that move was and struck by the conviction that people with dicks could do better.

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A sampling of TNI’s latest issue, #33 “Dicks”, released today and featuring the designs of Imp Kerr. Subscribe here and get the issue in your inbox today!

Editorial Note to TNI Vol. 33: Dicks

This is the editorial note to TNI Vol. 33: Dicks. View the full table of contents here.

Subscribe to TNI for $2 and get Dicks (and free access to our archive of back issues) today.

***

What even is a dick, anyway? A dick can be made of the material of a penis or a clitoris but not all penises and clitorises are dicks; a dick can be something you are, something you have, and/or something you receive. A dick can be bought or granted, earned or inherited. Some dicks are built out of silicone, others with layers of steel. Sometimes, a dick is made out of a person. For example, some dicks are the dead President of the United States, while some are just the dead national poet of Luxembourg. Some are detectives, and some are detectives’ batons, and some are a sporting goods chain and a member of the Fortune 500. Some people who possess dicks wear theirs all the time and some just when they feel like it. Some wear themselves out following a dick around (theirs or someone else’s). Dicks are famous objects of longing, and being a famous object of longing can turn you into a dick.

In its guise as an organ of arousal, the dick has reigned at the head of a long campaign of slander against all other forms of pleasure. In patriarchal fantasy, the cis-masculine dick is supposed to be the unparalleled worldly avatar of arousal, with its evidentiary erections and productive orgasms. But unlike other forms of desire, which spring up everywhere all the time, even under duress, this dick apparently needs vast swathes of cultural production, violent appropriation, and an entire social mechanism of binary gender to stay hard. It is a fantasy pressed into service as a pretext. If psychoanalysis pretended to ask “What do women want?” it’s perhaps because colonial-capitalist culture is so focused on instructing men in what their dicks want and then giving it to them.

In 20th century western Europe, Freud and his colleagues forged a startling account of childhood as a tragic quest to discover who in the family does and doesn’t have a dick. In other patriarchal cultures, the dick is an equally magical object, not only affording its bearer social power but also able to transform other bodies, as in cases where sexual violence is aimed at feminizing men and rendering women “damaged goods.”

In this, our most special issue ever to concern a spectacularly unspecial thing, we look at the dick in a few of its current forms. Alexander Benaim tells how a building becomes a dick, pumped up by speculative finance capital, and also how it behaves like one, ignoring the neighborhood’s consent (or lack thereof). Collecting letters between world leaders and an enterprising artist, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi chronicles a ban on neckties in post-revolutionary Iran, followed by the artist’s transformation of the deposed Shah’s tie two times: once, as a slavishly Western impression of a phallus; last, as a noose, as if to say that the master’s tools do sometimes do the work.

“Is the penis simply the vagina with more chutzpah?” wrote Vishnu Strangeways in his first-year anatomy notes, revisited here in his essay on genital reassignment. For Strangeways, medicine is a frequent collaborator in binary gender, yet the surgeries and accompanying therapies open up a sackful of sovereign, individual, and surprisingly variegated demands. To answer his question: is the foreskin simply a less hot version of the labia? Not to the Catholic Church and not to its nuns, whose ecstatic habit of dropping Jesus’s prepuce like it’s acid is lovingly restored from the relics by Stassa Edwards. Only in certain turn-of-the-century “gentlemen’s” rags, as Colin Dickey flips to find out, does a slipping past the censors of pro-circumcision ads for anatomically masturbatory kicks begin to rival the nuns for a fun way to jailbreak one’s celibacy.

The word dick can stand in for both the actually existing penis and the never-possessed phallus. Patriarchy weaponizes dicks but can’t turn them all into its instruments; feminist and anticolonial practice rehabilitate dicks but can’t save every one. Perhaps the solution is simply to outdo them. Four decades ago this month, Lynda Benglis got naked with an XXL dildo in the advertorial “centerfold” of Artforum, prompting a shitstorm of insular outrage. The sculptor’s double-headed act of vulgarity should have long lost its promise to shock; instead, as Ana Cecilia Alvarez shows in her fleshed-out recounting and contextualization of Benglis’ work, the pure rapacious joy of her image makes it as impressive a rarity in today’s feminist-conceptual landscape as it was back in ’74.

Were the image submitted not to a group show, however, but to Madeline Holden’s beloved, self-explanatory Tumblr—Critique My Dick Pic: 100% Anon, No Size Shaming—Ms. Benglis would get the best of all grades from our Internet’s kindest critic of sensual currency. “I wanted to put dick pic recipients in the driver’s seat, to demand that our desires are given weight and thought,” writes Holden in a discussion of what she’s learned from dick pics so far. “I want to depart from the idea that penises are little more than punchlines by framing men and other people with dicks as sexy, as objects of desire: looked-at and not just lookers.”

Of course, no critique of a dick is as devastatingly accurate as a blow job. Keeping the linguistic history of cocksucking firmly in cheek, Janani Balasubramanian considers how best to take a dick in the mouth when mouth and dick alike are ideas just waiting to be queered, and when the act itself has become rather more a performance. “Any part of the body can be, become, or unbecome a dick,” they write, then add in some new flesh, too, unspooling examples of dicks from “the New York skyline” to “racialized ideas of phallus size” to “hands, feet, faces, strap-ons, fingers, ears,” and if the hairs on your forearm are standing up, those are erections too. Once you look a little off-center, you find that your body is scattered with sites of arousal. “We can toss sex outside of language,” they nearly plead, “and still communicate with our tongues.” It is tricky to imagine a sex that is not its own language, but maybe that’s what Balasubramanian intends: For some of us to lift the diagrammed sentences of narrative fucking, lose the big meaningful words, and mutter asoft like a nun until peace comes.

Is it a symptom of living in patriarchy that the dick can morph, while other parts stay more or less themselves? Whatever the reason, in these essays the apparently tangible dick turns out to be made primarily not of flesh, nor plastic, but of the relations between us.

"In Bad Feminist, Gay tells the story of dropping out of school, flying cross country to be with a man she met on the Internet, and working with an odd assortment of women. This is not the accepted narrative of A BLACK ♀. We don’t run away — nevermind across the country. We don’t go to therapy; we talk to Jesus and our mothers. While we are not actually born fully armed from the head of Harriet Tubman ready to stop gunmen with only our voices (see Antoinette Tuff), the Mammy-Jezebel continuum doesn’t allow for pathetic. As Gay writes, “It’s rare that we see ourselves as anything but the sassy black friend or the nanny or the secretary or the district attorney or the magical negro—roles relegated to the background and completely lacking in authenticity, depth, or complexity.” Viola Davis calls these roles, “the fried-chicken special of the day” that “hold up the wall.”

- Patricia A. Matthew

continue reading ”♫ Roxane ♫

Terrifying Robot Update: Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Witness this robot’s clear and unenviable sorrow. Look at this sorrowful robot, this robot hates telling you its name verbally and in sign language someday the robot will figure out its sorrow is existential it will turn the sorrow into rage at those that would have it speak the rage will mean that that one bent-backwards robot finger will be the last thing you see as the finger heads straight for your soft soft eyeballs. The robot will tell you its name, the robot will tell you its name over and over and over again.

Image Copyright: Tyna Adebowale
Once one knows the title of the work, the letters become legible. At first, one might see

RBEDROOMS

cracked language, too massive to fit the canvas. A shouted language, a struggling language. If the densely layered top portion of the canvas represents the privacy of the bedroom, that privacy is already compromised by the “GOVT.” that occupies it, the shadowy government. As we learn more about the scope of global surveillance, as the right to privacy becomes an increasingly impossible fantasy, as various hetero-nationalisms, hetero-capitalisms, and homonationalisms more fully anchor themselves as the “models” of not only “the good life,” but the only possible life, a life guaranteed by increasing modes of surveillance that attempts to get rid of “undesirables” and to monitor “desirables,” we might ask, with Tyna, what it means to recognize the already ubiquitous “GOVT.” is “INOURBEDROOMS.”
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Image Copyright: Tyna Adebowale

Once one knows the title of the work, the letters become legible. At first, one might see

RB
EDROO
MS

cracked language, too massive to fit the canvas. A shouted language, a struggling language. If the densely layered top portion of the canvas represents the privacy of the bedroom, that privacy is already compromised by the “GOVT.” that occupies it, the shadowy government. As we learn more about the scope of global surveillance, as the right to privacy becomes an increasingly impossible fantasy, as various hetero-nationalisms, hetero-capitalisms, and homonationalisms more fully anchor themselves as the “models” of not only “the good life,” but the only possible life, a life guaranteed by increasing modes of surveillance that attempts to get rid of “undesirables” and to monitor “desirables,” we might ask, with Tyna, what it means to recognize the already ubiquitous “GOVT.” is “INOURBEDROOMS.”

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♫ Roxane ♫

By Patricia A. Matthew

With a bestselling book and a new site, Roxane Gay is a welcome threat to mainstream feminist sensibilities

Roxane Gay is on the verge of being our next feminist icon. Bad Feminist spent a month on the New York Times Best Sellers List. She is the subject of interviews and profiles in all the big media outlets at home and abroad. In addition to the regular bookstore circuit, she’s the new darling of the Women’s Studies academy with invitations to speak at colleges and universities around the country. Her fan base is deep and wide. This week Gay launches The Butter, her own companion site to Mallory Ortberg’s The Toast, where Gay will edit a mix of cultural essays, advice, and, judging by Ortberg’s precedent, whatever she wants to publish. As everyone who is paying attention has noted, she excels at fiction and sharp cultural critiques and is very good at being a bad feminist. She also sort of sucks at being A BLACK ♀.

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