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Illustrations by Phanie Pack It’s Not Easy Being Obscene by Matt Hogan An Interview with Jim Deva of Little Sisters Beyond Emotions: Censorship versus Obscenity by Kurt Beers 1


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Memewar Magazine Editorial Collective Missy Clarkson AJ Ivings Elliott Lummin Carmen Papalia Thor Polukoshko Aubyn Rader

Contributing Editor Amelia Pitt-Brooke

Layout

AJ Ivings

Website Maintenance Thor Polukoshko

ISSN: 1912-3310 Copyright 2008. All rights revert to the authors and artists upon publication.

This magazine was printed on recycled paper. Memewar gratefully acknowledges the financial support of: Those attending the release party and our fundraisers, and the continued support of Arcprint and Imaging Inc. Front and Back cover art by Phanie Pack 2

memewaronline.com


Somewhere Between Cunt and Vagina Carmen Papalia

In the 1970s the Library of Congress in Washington, DC began to translate select issues of Playboy magazine to braille. The energy behind the project was inclusion, to provide the visually impaired with access to materials otherwise censored, but during the translation process this idea became confused. Soon, people in power started asking questions: what materials should be translated, why, and where to draw the line? Anti-pornography groups protested, urging that obscene materials should not be spread, or made available, to people who did not already have access to them. What started as an initiative to eliminate censorship, eventually created it. The product was an 8.5” X 11” bound booklet of heavy, brown braille paper. The cover sported an embossed Playboy bunny, and on the inside were the monthly Playboy articles—but no images had been translated, or described in a tactile format. Through “sensorship,” the disabled community, a group that historically had been cast aside by the general public, were being denied a means for sexual exploration, and, to a degree, even education. Although misguided, the efforts to produce a braille Playboy were steps in the right direction. The braille Playboy existed as nothing more than a symbol of inclusion, a public declaration that acknowledged that members of the disabled community were engaging in sexual relationships, and were capable of creating a sexual identity. However, the idea of translating a Playboy, a text that relies heavily on the visual, did not create for the visually impaired a means for sexual exploration, but instead provided the general public with a rare looking-glass into a world that social and cultural structures had worked to conceal. The translation merged a public and private space, and the framework for the disabled community to independently construct a public sexual identity had been laid. In this issue of Memewar we take a look at the borders between the public and private, the agreeable and abject, and attempt to understand the ways in which we classify. In an essay entitled “It’s Not Easy Being Obscene” Matt Hogan defends obscenity as one of the most important art forms of our time—a mode of expression that is capable of provoking what modern poetry seldom does: dialogue. Further investigating this theme, Dave Gaertner asks whether we can analyze pornographic material through an academic framework, and considers the career of Annie Sprinkle (Pornstar/PhD) for some possible answers. In “Beyond Emotion: Censorship Versus Obscenity” Kurt Beers tackles obscenity from the perspective of a law enforcement officer, suggesting that harmful obscenity does exist in the world and must be censored. Beers does recognize, however, the difficulties inherent in classifying materials as obscene and believes that it is only through intelligent conversation that a consensus on the matter can be met. Finally, Jim Deva of Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium speaks to Memewar about the lack of intelligent conversation between Canadian Border Services and the people they “serve,” and recounts the arduous court battle that came to define the bookstore as a landmark in Vancouver’s Davie Village. 3


Parental Advisory

Features

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Matt Hogan

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22

48

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It’s Not Easy Being Obscene

Matt Hogan recounts his experience of censorship after reading a modernized nursery rhyme to a youth audience at the Vancouver Poetry Slam. Illustrated by Thor Polukoshko, this inquiry into the state of artistic expression includes both the traditional version of “A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go” and Matt’s wholesome rendition.

Beyond Emotions:

Censorship Versus Obscenity Kurt Beers

Kurt Beers explores the definition of obscenity, as outlined in the Canadian Criminal Code, from the perspective of a law enforcement officer.

Untitled (Illustrations)

Phanie Pack

Our featured artist pairs aspects of beauty and fashion with the grotesque and the pornographic, in a series of humorous images that embody the cross-section between the agreeable and the abject.

One Dildo at a Time:

An Interview with Jim Deva of Little Sisters Carmen Papalia

Memewar sits down with Jim Deva of Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium to discuss border guards, anal penetration and total fucking power.


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Letter from the Editor

Essays

22

Transhistorical Deja-vu: Reading Victorian Obscenity Today Victoria Haynes

42

The Elusive Ass’s Dick: The Editorial That Never Was Thor Polukoshko

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If You Want My Body and You Think I’m Sexy (Come on, Sugar Let me Know) Dave Gaertner

Health & Fitness

41

Your Bowel Speaks to You! Michael Ho

Reviews

58

RAUNCHORAMA REVIEWED! Amelia Pitt-Brooke

Art/Poetry

16 62 64

Untitled (Concrete Poetry) Sonya Capriceru Obituaries Cereal Junkies: The Trouble with Tigers #9 5


A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go Traditional Nursery Rhyme Illustrated by Thor Polukoshko

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A Frog he would a-wooing go, Whether his mother would let him or no. So off he set with his opera hat, And on the road he met with a rat, Pray, Mr. Rat will you go with me, Kind Ms. Mousey for to see… When they came to the door of Mousey’s hall, They gave a loud knock, and they gave a loud call. Pray, Ms. Mouse are you within? Oh yes, kind sirs, I’m sitting to spin. Pray, Ms. Mouse will you give us some beer? For Froggy and I are fond of good cheer. Pray, Mr. Frog will you give us a song? But let it be something that’s not very long. I would, Ms. Mouse, replied the Frog, But a cold has made me as hoarse as a dog. Since you have a cold, Mr. Frog, Mousey said, I’ll sing you a song that I’ve just made. While they were making a merry din, A Cat and her Kittens came tumbling in. The Cat she seized the rat by the crown, The Kittens they pulled the little mouse down. This put Mr. Frog in a terrible fright, He took up his hat and he wished them goodnight. But as Froggy was crossing a silvery brook, A lily white duck came and gobbled him up. So there was the end of one, two, three, The Rat, the Mouse, and the little Froggy. There’s a little piece of corn bread layin’ on the shelf If you want anymore you can sing it yourself. 7


It’s Not Easy Being Obscene Matt Hogan

There are two major reasons why it’s not easy being obscene: first, you get in shit for what shouldn’t be a big deal (although that is part of the fun), and secondly (this is my main point), it’s not that easy to offend people anymore. We’ve heard it all, haven’t we? And so, when one day I managed to actually offend a crowd, I was rather happy about it. More than once I’ve been accused (and I’m grateful for it) of being “controversial.” That is, I’ve read what some have deemed to be provocative or obscene material in public. But there’s one particular story that I’ve read, and one particular occasion on which I read it, that’s worth mentioning. So here’s the story about the story. It’s called “A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go: A Modernized Nursery Rhyme.” In case you’re not familiar with the original (it’s also known as “Froggy Went A-Courtin’,” among other titles), it tells the story of a disobedient and horny toad who, against the orders of his mother, takes off to woo Miss Mousy with his new opera hat. In some versions of the tale Froggy and Miss Mousy, along with Uncle Rat, have a “merry din,” after which the Frog and Mouse marry. But in most versions all three are killed: the Mouse and Rat are attacked by a Cat and her Kittens, and the Frog, after escaping, is gobbled up by a Lily White Duck. Sometimes, as in the marriage versions, a Big Black Snake comes to devour the entire wedding party, and other times 8

the Snake simply brings another dish for the reception, and the couple honeymoon in Paris. Either way, the nursery rhyme’s lesson is clear: if you’re going to disobey your mom and have a merry din with Miss Mousy, then you better marry her or else prepare to get killed. My prose rendering of the story follows the most common version, the one where they all die. No marriage, just death (same thing, as I sometimes joke). I often take advantage of the open-stage at the Poetry Slam held at Café Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive, given the often large and receptive crowd. The particular occasion that I read the Froggy piece happened to be a Youth-themed Slam Poetry event, where a number of young teenagers were in attendance. In my defense (because I’ll need it) I didn’t plan it that way. I was simply running out of original material. The coincidence, I thought, would be a happy one, since my theme was nursery rhymes and my audience was young people. My preamble for the piece went something like this: Nursery rhymes, as we all know, are about socializing children and instructing them through narrative about what’s right and, more importantly, what’s wrong. Then I recited a traditional verse version of the story that ends with the lines, “There’s a little piece of corn bread layin’ on the shelf/ if you want anymore you can sing it yourself.” In other words, if you learned your lesson you’re allowed to eat.


Then I read my version of the story, set in modern times, complete with cell phones, Myspace and hip hop. My Froggy, Mousy and Rat all curse, smoke weed and drink beer. The audience responded positively enough, until that is, I got to the sex and violence. In the middle of a detailed exposition in which Mousy is torn apart by the Kittens, I heard a voice yell out from the audience. It was a young, teenage girl. She yelled, “That’s sexist!” I thought about it and replied, “It’s a nursery rhyme.” Meaning, What do you expect? I finished the story, received some muted applause, and sat down. At the break I was pulled aside by an organizer of the Youth Slam event and the older sister of the girl who called me a sexist. The organizer made sure to point out that she liked my writing, that is, everything up until then. “Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I think your stuff is good. I just don’t think that piece fit with the type of values we’re trying to espouse for the Youth Slam.” I asked if censorship was a value they were espousing. Of course, she said no. “We’re trying to create a night where the young poets can feel safe and come express themselves, and we don’t think your piece helped do that.” Fair enough. I told them, though, that if young people can’t handle a little pornographic sex and violence, then they shouldn’t go to public poetry shows, where they should expect anything. They told me that they didn’t feel like they were “being heard.” I assured them that they were, but that they were overreacting. The representation of violence against the female character, they said, made some girls (the little sister in particular) feel “unsafe.” I apologized for that, since that wasn’t at all my intention, and added that the male characters got it just as bad in the end, Froggy even more so. They conceded the point. The biggest irony, though, was this: “Look,” the organizer said, “We don’t want the teenagers going home and telling their parents about the type of story you told, because they won’t let them come back.” The irony (which didn’t fully hit me until later) was that my whole point in

telling my story to an audience with teenagers in it was that nursery rhymes - or traditional folktales in general - are precisely about getting young people to obey their parents and not step out of line. And so you can imagine my disappointment when they told me, in all sincerity, that they were afraid some parents might get upset. But the thing that bothered me most was that almost every other reader that night, including the featured performer (who was also not a “youth”), talked about sex. The difference was that they did it in a “poetic” way, more “subtle,” more “disguised,” whereas I was explicit and straightforward, bringing to the surface what was only latent in other performers’ work. My point was to extract the violent, misogynist, pornographic tendencies inherent in something like nursery rhymes, and lay them bare for the audience to see. The fact that I was called sexist - when I was attacking sexism - just goes to show how far we’ve come from art being used as an tool against social injustices. Instead, poetry (as typified by the poetry slam) has been reduced to mere self-expression and cathartic entertainment. The audience is expected to sit enraptured, awed by the magical poet before them. Personally, I consider this to be offensive. And so when I read on stage I don’t aim to convince the crowd I’m creatively superior and receive their praise and fan-like loyalty. I want to piss them off. I want to make them think. I want to involve them with what I’m talking about, not alienate them by showing off my transcendent talent and “inspiration.” I’m actually glad that it’s still possible to offend. It shows that there are still taboos out there, still barriers to be broken, still work for the artist in society to do, beyond the ego-stroking of personal self-expression, which is, to my mind, the shallowest form of art. If the artist cannot provoke - especially her own generation - then she’s lost her power. And when art ceases to be controversial, it may well cease to be art. The easy thing for the artist to do is be liked, admired, worshipped. The difficult thing - the nobler thing, the higher thing - is to be disliked, provocative, irreverent. If you’re pissing people off, at least you’re making them think. 9


A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go: A Modernized Nursery Rhyme Matt Hogan

Illustrated by Thor Polukoshko

Once upon a time Froggy wanted some pussy. So he put on his fancy new New York Yankees cap, which, for some reason, was covered in dollar signs, diamonds, crowns, fleur-de-lis and skulls. Froggy thought the skulls looked really cool and very sexy. He headed for the door. But there his mother stopped him. “Froggy, where do you think you’re going?” “Whatever, moms. I’ll be back later,” Froggy said, pushing past her and out the door. “You just want to show that slut Miss Mousy your new hat,” his mother yelled. “You’re better off at home!” “Mind your own fuckin’ business!” Froggy shouted back, and started down the path to Uncle Rat’s house, flipping his cellphone open. “Yo, Rat, what up? ... I’m on my way ... Remember that girl’s MySpace I sent you? ... Yeah ... And the nice tit10

ties... Yeah.... I’m goin’ over there right now, you wanna come? ... Aight, peace.” Uncle Rat met Froggy on the road. “Wanna blaze, bro?” Rat asked, baptizing a big joint. “Yeeaah, son. Light that shit,” Froggy said, and they made there way to Miss Mousy’s house. Froggy was very excited. “This Mousy bitch, she’s like maaad freaky, yo.” “Word?” Uncle Rat inquired. “Word, son. She messaged me on MySpace and was like, ‘Come over any time. Come as many times as you like. Come on my tits.’ And I was like, ‘I’m there, son!’” Froggy explained, hopping up and down. Uncle Rat passed the joint and said, “Word, this bitch does sound like a freak.” “Yeeaah, son!” said Froggy, and they gave each other a pound on the knuckles. When they came to Miss Mousy’s hall they gave a loud knock and they gave a loud call. “Eh, yo, Mousy, where you at?” “It’s open,” a voice sounded from within. The two entered and saw Miss Mousy in front of two turntables, headphones around her neck. “Hey guys, I was just spinning,” she said, putting on a Snoop Doggy Dogg record. “Ooh, I like your hat, Froggy.” Froggy blushed, “Yeah, girl. Just got it. Thanks for noticin’.” He and Rat checked out her decks. “This is a dope set up, yo.” “Thanks,” said Miss Mousy, removing the headphones. “Gimme some love, boys.” She kissed the two


“Okay!” Mousy squeaked, pleased. “I’ll play some more shit.” She rubbed their thighs as she pushed off their laps to get up, slowly, sticking her booty in their faces, and put a Black Sheep track on the turntable. The three sat together again, smoked the joint and downed their beers. “I’ll get three more,” Froggy said, adding, “That’s the bomb weed, son!” When Froggy returned with beers in hand, what a sight he did see! Miss Mousy on her knees in front of the couch with her round ass in the air, slurping on Rat’s cock. Froggy put the beers down and kneeled behind her, slapping her ass and squeezing it. Then he yanked down Mousy’s Lululemon pants and red thong, rubbed her pussy, slapping his dick on her ass cheeks as he got hard. Mousy turned to face Froggy, stroking Rat’s saliva covered, glistening cock. “Just stick it in,” she said, and took Rat’s dick back in her mouth. “Mmm, damn this bitch can suck,” Uncle Rat moaned, biting his lip. Froggy grabbed Mousy’s ass, spread her cheeks wide open and pushed his dick into her pussy. She groaned and sucked on Rat’s cock even harder, forcing it on the cheek and hugged them each, pressing her tits into them, very much on purpose. The two did the same with their hips. “Damn, girl, you are fine.” Uncle Rat said, surveying the shape of her ass through the tight, black Lululemon pants as she was pressed against Froggy. “Thanks, baby,” she said, and turned to kiss him again. Uncle Rat then pulled out his bag of skunkweed and began to roll a joint. Froggy entered the kitchen and opened Mousy’s fridge. “Yo, Mousy, can we grab some beers?” “Yeah. Get me one, too,” she yelled back. Froggy returned with three beers and sat on the couch next to Mousy, who was now sitting snugly between he and the Rat. “So,” Mousy said, “are you gonna freestyle, Froggy? I can put on a fly beat. You messaged me on MySpace and said you would bust some raps for me.” Froggy hesitated. “Yeah, I can, but I need to get loosened up, you know? Wait ‘till the beer kicks in, yo. And after we blaze and shit.”

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entirely down her throat. “This girl ain’t got no gag reflex. I think I’m in love, dog,” Uncle Rat joked, and then pulled Mousy’s t-shirt, which was dotted with pink hearts and skulls, up over her tits, which he squeezed, pinching her nipples. Rubbing her clit was Miss Mousy, and making the merriest sounds. Froggy tickled Mousy’s asshole, wet his thumb and stuck it in, flexing his cock stiff, fucking her faster. Then he wet a finger and tickled his own ass with it. Froggy groaned and spasmed, about to come, and Uncle Rat announced, “Uhhh, I’m gonna bust a nut!” Miss Mousy pointed Rat’s dick at her chest, stroking it fast, and thrust her ass into Froggy. The three were panting. Just as Rat’s cock throbbed and began to squirt come - three, four, five giant wads - on Mousy’s tits, Froggy heard a noise at the door, and saw it burst open! In came tumbling a Cat and her kittens. The Cat, she seized the Rat by the crown. The kittens, they pulled the little Mouse down. Trying to escape the ferocious 12

animal, Uncle Rat screamed and thrashed, but the Cat dug its fangs into his head, crushing his skull. His eyeballs burst and his brains oozed out his head. Rat twitched and jolted, a thick flow of blood running down his body, drenching his Tommy Hilfiger hoodie. The kittens - three of them - held Mousy down. She squealed and squirmed as they clawed at her skin. They scratched her stomach, they tore her face up, and they cut her throat open. One bit into her ribs, puncturing a breast, through the nipple. The second ripped off other breast with its claws. The third kitten dragged Mousy’s naked, bloody body away by her leg, which started a vicious fight for her mangled flesh. This put the Frog in a terrible fright. “I’m out!” he yelped, pulled up his pants, grabbed his New York Yankees hat, and sprung out the door, into the night. When he was safely away he hid by a tree, caught his breath, and said to himself, “Damn. Shit was hectic. I ain’t fuckin’ with these MySpace bitches no more. I’m switchin’ to Facebook!” Then added, “I didn’t even get to bust a nut. Shiit.” Froggy looked around. He made sure the coast was clear and he started for home, walking along the road. He even laughed to himself in relief about how he had gotten way. But as Froggy was crossing a silvery brook, a Lily White Duck came and gobbled him up. There, in the stomach of the Duck, Froggy was slowly tortured: little by little digested, acids burning through you him, eating his flesh, suffering the tortures of the damned, in the dark. So there’s an end to one, two and three: the Mouse, The Rat and the Little Froggy, who were sex, death, and disobedience. These three are always the same, and this is all the nameless narrator knows. If you wish to eat, little one, you are allowed, but tell me this story first.


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Submit your Work!

God(s) and Idols Deadline October 31 2008

movement

deadline February 28 2008

for more info visit

www.memewaronline.com

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Censorship Fact:

“The Bible. On June 11, 1997, the Central Okanagan School District Trustees voted to ban the in-class distribution of Bibles from the Gideons. A representative had been giving classroom presentations as well as Bibles to grade five students in Kelowna for the past twenty-six years. This was felt to be in violation of the School Act, which prohibits “religious dogma” from being taught in schools. [“Bible Banning in Kelowna,” BC Report 8, no. 44 (June 30, 1997), p. 30]”

Censorship Fact: “The Peak. In 1990, a student Christian Group laid a criminal complaint against this Simon Fraser University student paper; they claimed that it was hate propaganda because it satirically suggested that Pro-Lifers were undemocratic and linked Christians with the sexual behaviours of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. The RCMP did not lay charges, but called the newspaper’s sense of satire “inappropriate.” [“Fight Bigotry, Racism with Logic, Not Law,” The Vancouver Sun. 27 April, 1990, p. A14]”

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Untitled

Sonya Capriceru

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Transhistorical Deja-vu:

Reading Victorian Obscenity Today

Victoria Haynes

Paired with the Illustrations of Phanie Pack At the Librarie Parisienne in London, 1890, a poorlywrapped manuscript found its way into the hands of Charles Hirsch, proprietor of the French bookstore and publisher of underground literature. The manuscript was finally complete, after passing through the hands of a number of anonymous young men one after the other (one of whom was rumoured to be Oscar Wilde), using the bookstore as a drop point. That manuscript, entitled Teleny, told a tale of passionate and erotic love between Camille Des Grieux and Rene Teleny, a love that destroyed Teleny and left Des Grieux forever languishing over the tragic end of their affair. Decades later, editions of the same story were seized at the Canada-US border on their way to Little Sister’s Book Shop and Art Emporium in Vancouver. The cause of the book’s covert creation and circulation in London and of its legal censorship in Vancouver was not its subject matter, the graphic representation of homosexual male sexual intercourse. Instead, the controversy surrounding Teleny arose originally from efforts by the Victorian bourgeoisie of London to define themselves. In order to define who they were, the bourgeoisie also had to define who they weren’t. The bourgeoisie classified undesirable identity characteristics as “obscene.” Included in the “obscene” identity was homosexuality, and Teleny and other novels like it became marginalised by this “obscene” classification. In Vancouver in 2000, Teleny was again faced with censorship regarding the obscenity of 22

homosexuality. However, this time mainstream culture and the legal system asserted that homosexuality was not obscene and therefore neither was the novel, despite what Canada Customs had claimed. In both cases, the word “obscene” was used to delineate and redefine homosexual identity. Although the word “obscene” is often considered to be a stable concept given its persistence across time and space, it is instead a much more “volatile and continually changing” (Colligan, Traffic in Obscenity 6) concept, rendered unstable as people deploy and redeploy it to effect different ends. The similarities between these two scenarios in just about every aspect, ranging from obscenity legislation to topography, intimates that there is more at stake than the mere circulation of a slim volume of fiction. Teleny provides a lens for us to examine the importance of literature as a litmus test for social change. The bourgeoisie of nineteenth-century London were experiencing an identity crisis. Since the bourgeois were not elevated to the status of aristocrat, the desire to separate themselves from the lower working classes was so overwhelming that important discursive measures were taken. Reform was high on the list of city priorities, hoping to advance, clean and preserve much of the city in its journey towards improvement. Studying the reform literature of the time, Stallybrass and White examine these measures in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. They


observe that “as the bourgeoisie produced new forms of regulation and prohibition governing their own bodies, they wrote ever more loquaciously of the body of the Other – of the city’s ‘scum’” (126). The division of the bourgeois “self” from the lower class “other” was projected into the division of suburb and slum, morality and immorality. The “self” of the bourgeoisie became grafted onto the city of London. Areas of the city associated with the animalistic, functional parts of the body or self became obscene and had to be separated from the moral, healthy self of the rest of the city. The word “obscene” became a very important method of delineating the self from what the Victorians viewed as a “form of poison…not only fatal to moral values, but [which] also destroy[ed] social, political, and economic standards” (Nead 158). “Obscene” was a term applied both to location and sexuality, homosexuality in particular. Coventry Street, where Teleny was written and published, was made a location of obscenity due to its sexualised character. The homosexual community was silenced under the banner of “obscene” for fear of both persecution and prosecution. Obscenity delineated “good” bourgeois values and definitions of morality and health as a mainstream, legitimate identity from what became the “bad,” illegitimate lower class identity of pestilence, immorality, and sexuality. Thus opposing identities spring out of what was previously undifferentiated. * * * Teleny’s birthplace was the Librarie Parisienne on Coventry Street in London. In the minds of the reforming bourgeois, Coventry Street was a place that was dangerous to public morality, and to the health of the community as a whole. There was nothing inherently obscene about the physical location, but the abundance of immorality present in the goods, services, and actions occurring at the location bled into the mythology of the place itself. Contributing to the construction of Coventry Street was the presence of prostitution, theft, 23


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and violence (Colligan). Continuous involvement with the exhibition and distribution of sexually explicit publications from as far back as 1886 (Colligan) solidified the characterisation of Coventry Street as a location of obscenity. In fact, the exact building where the Librarie was located had a long history of distributing obscene publications. Victor Hubert, bookstore owner at 4 Prince’s Buildings on Coventry Street, was prosecuted for the distribution of obscene material years before Charles Hirsch published and distributed Teleny from the Librarie Parisienne. Directly preceding and overlapping Hirsch’s proprietorship of the Librarie, Celine Subtil was also prosecuted for distributing illicit and obscene French novels from the same location.

obstructed with traffic, creating a “spatial aneurism” (Nead 163) and disrupting flow between the two major city spaces. The cramped space of this passageway contrasted with the new wide thoroughfares, which “[generated] order without despotism and circulation with purpose,” (Nead 168) and represented the new bourgeois initiative for cleanliness and efficiency. Coventry Street promoted “unregulated and purposeless movement” in an area teeming with opportunities for moral infection. The fact that Coventry Street interrupted the flow of traffic throughout the city, forcing individuals to linger and become ‘infected’ by the obscene activities proliferating within the location made it all the more threatening to public moral health and the bourgeois sense of self.

The fact that all this illicit activity occurred in the same building, spanning generations of inhabitants, is a testimony to the importance of topography in characterising Coventry Street as a location of obscenity. In her book, Victorian Babylon, Lynda Nead uses topography to help her characterise Holywell Street in London as a location of obscenity. Key aspects of this topographical characterisation include location in relation to the rest of the city, flow or congestion, and architecture. How a street is located in relation to the rest of the city determines the degree of contact that the public might have with it. Flow or congestion determines how long pedestrians have to stay in that location once they get there. Architecture is important in a slightly different manner. The nineteenthcentury saw a vast leap forward in the development of London as a city. City planners were interested in promoting a new identity for London as progressive and efficient. New developments required the demolition of many streets and buildings to make room. Opposing the desire for progress was the desire for preservation. Many old buildings were preserved as heritage sites, paying homage to the roots of London and embracing past aesthetics. Coventry Street, like Holywell Street, was a place where the tension between the conflicting desires for progress and preservation came into direct contact.

The “obscene” label applied to Coventry Street both aided and hindered the circulation of Teleny. The street’s cramped space increased the opportunity for contact with obscene material. As traffic slowed in the narrow street, one had more time to peruse the goods and services available in the various shops. The crush of humanity would also increase levels of anonymity amongst members of the crowd.

Coventry Street functioned as a passage between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. It was a short street and, despite being widened in 1881, became easily

The “obscene” label of homosexuality made it necessary for the community to preserve its anonymity out of fear of persecution. The bourgeoisie, in their reform efforts, would have prosecuted and oppressed individuals found to be homosexual. Marginalising homosexuality was important in making clear the lines between acceptable mainstream identity and the “obscene” identity that they were trying to repress. As a result, Teleny could not be widely or openly distributed. There were only 200 copies of the first edition and a five guinea price-tag ensured that the novel would only be consumed by the upper and middle classes. The threat of prosecution upon being found in possession of Teleny forced it to be circulated in a very covert manner. Mirroring the process by which the novel was written, when circulated it was passed hand to hand from one trusted individual to another (ed. Mitchell & Leavitt xiv). The level of intimacy involved with this method of circulation ensured that no one who came to possess the novel would expose the previous possessor to legal action for distribution of obscene material. Those 25


individuals who possessed or passed on the novel even risked being “outed” and prosecuted for their sexual preference much in the way Oscar Wilde was in 1895. Ed Cohen observes that the widely publicised trial of Wilde marked the “discursive production of ‘the homosexual’ as the antithesis of the ‘true’ bourgeois male” (“Writing Gone Wilde,” 801). The circulation of Teleny depended heavily on individual points of contact between members of the transient homosexual community. In much the same way that Benedict Anderson conceives of community as existing only in the minds of its members (Anderson, Imagined Communities) so can we conceive of the homosexual community in London. “Homosexual” was not a widely used term and “gay” as a reference for homosexuality was not in use at all. Homosexuals as a community did not exist linguistically prior to being labelled “obscene” by the bourgeois. The community was united both by its “obscene” classification and by the covert circulation of Teleny. The homosexual community in London was imagined because they may have “never [known] most of their fellow-members, [met] them, or even [heard] of them, yet in the minds of each [lived] the image of their communion” (Anderson 6). Likely they would only interact with a select few, and yet they could be convinced of their existence in large numbers, thanks to the very effort of the bourgeois to smother and deny their existence. It was not conceivable to be openly homosexual, as sodomy was a criminal offence, not to mention the extreme bias with which one would be socially ostracised upon discovery of homosexual preferences. Now that homosexuality had been defined as “bad” identity, and coupled with the reforming attitude of the population, it became necessary to increase the amount of legislation in an effort to preserve public decency from the hazards of obscenity. In 1824, the Vagrancy Act made the exhibition of obscene prints a summary offence. Solicitation by prostitutes and indecent exposure were addressed in the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 (Nead 192). In 1857, obscenity was again addressed by the legal system in the form of Lord Campbell’s Obscene Publications Act. This act enabled law enforcement to obtain search warrants based on information that obscene 26

materials were being sold, distributed, or exhibited in a given place. Any obscene material discovered in the search was then confiscated and destroyed unless the person responsible for the material could prove that the material was not obscene. The test for obscenity was used to pick out material that had “the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth, and of a nature calculated to chock the common feelings of decency in any well regulated mind” (Nead 193). The legal codification of obscenity solidified the Victorian conceptualisation of homosexual identity as a form of Nietzsche’s noble morality. In no way could the lines between sanctioned and unsanctioned identity have been more firmly drawn. Law after law enabled the prosecution and censorship of homosexuality under the label of “obscene.” However, it was the legal system that declared the reintegration of homosexuality into mainstream culture a century later in Vancouver. * * * Similar to London, the legal system in Vancouver documented current conceptions of obscenity. It also bore witness to the conceptual shift of homosexual identity back into mainstream culture. The Canadadian Criminal Code employs its own definition of obscenity to deal with sexually immoral material or behaviour. Obscenity is codified as being anything the “dominant characteristic of which is the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following subjects, namely, crime, horror, cruelty and violence” (Canadian Criminal Code, part 5, section 163, item 8). The Canadian definition has moved away from the Victorian focus on morality to an explicit focus on sex, although both still have in common the defence of decency against exploitation. In 1986, Teleny was greeted with the accusation of obscenity defined under the Criminal Code when Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium attempted to import it, along with a wide variety of other publications, from the United States. Customs officers at the Canada-US border functioned in a similar fashion as the policemen in London: as a first-line defence against obscene material by screening material being imported into Canada at the determination of the Customs Act of 1847. The Customs Act was “legislation originated by the Province of Canada


which prohibited the importation of “books and drawings of an immoral or indecent character” (Carefoote 486). It is this act in which all Canadian censorship laws have their root. Law enforcement officers have the power to classify any material they see as obscene and confiscate it, as did the Victorian law officers. Should the importer challenge their classification, it is the responsibility of the importer to prove that the material is not obscene (Maple Leaf Web). Having classified some materials as obscene, Canada Customs detained the entire shipment. Passages where Des Grieux describes his sexual encounters may have alerted the Customs agents to the possibility of obscene content. One such passage details the violent end of a debaucherous orgy: “Thrust it in – thrust it in!” he groaned, with a dying voice. The hand of the manipulator was convulsed. He gave the bottle a strong shake. We were all breathless with excitement, seeing the intense pleasure the Spahi was feeling, when all at once, amidst the perfect silence that followed each of the soldiers groans, a slight shivering sound was heard, which was all at once succeeded by a loud scream of pain…The bottle had broken; the handle and part of it came out, cutting all the edges that pressed against it, the other part remained engulfed in the anus. (Anonymous 110) Such

a

gruesome,

macabre

scene 27


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was surely enough to strike the Customs officers with apprehension at letting Teleny into the country, not only due to its graphic sexual content, but also due to the extreme violence that is paired alongside the sexual content. Under the Criminal Code, the portrayal of sexuality alongside violence qualifies as obscene, particularly if the depictions are gratuitous. Taken out of context, the above passage would seem to fit the exploitative definition of obscenity. However, in comparison with other sexual encounters throughout Teleny, this particular instance is one of the more violent scenarios. The heinous death of the Spahi is reminiscent of the blood soaked death of the consumptive prostitute earlier addressed. In both situations, death seems to have been the end result of decadent, unnatural behaviour. The orgy is not characteristic of Des Grieux’s and Teleny’s relationship. It is an anomaly that does not recur. The detainment of the Little Sister’s shipment was the beginning of a fourteen year-long battle between Customs and the bookstore. Persecution of Little Sister’s signified the struggle between old and new concepts of identity, one in which homosexuality was separate from mainstream culture and one where it was integrated and even celebrated within mainstream culture. One issue raised in defence of Little Sister’s was that the wholesale confiscation of the shipment was not rooted in the obscenity of its content. Instead, it was argued that Customs agents were targeting the bookstore itself, withholding material that was imported by other bookstores with no difficulty. Evidence supporting location specific persecution was covered in a newspaper article covering the trial; “the trial judge…found works by well-established authors and some safe-sex educational literature were detained, although the same material was imported by other mainstream bookstores without problems. And Customs agents did not stop some similar content depicting heterosexuals” (Skelton and Tibbets). Because of the censorship of their shipments, Little Sister’s suffered significant financial losses. Suspicions were raised that the bookstore was being persecuted based on its sexualised location and reputation. Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium has resided at 1238 Davie Street for eleven of its last twenty years

of operation. Located in Vancouver’s trendy West End, Davie Street and the surrounding area was and is referred to as the Pink Quarter, not only because of the fuchsia pink colour of the bus stops that are the earmark of the area but because of the thriving gay community that they signify. Davie Street was named for A.E.B. Davie, Vancouver’s first openly homosexual politician. It traverses the entire West End, intersecting major commercial streets such as Burrard and Granville, where many of the city’s high end clothing stores and specialty boutiques are located. It also runs alongside St. Paul’s Hospital, well known for its age, beautiful architecture, and respected reputation for treatment and research. The central location of the Pink Quarter in Vancouver is reminiscent of the centrality of Coventry Street in London. Because of its centrality, the location is also a high traffic area, increasing the number of people exposed to any potentially “obscene” subject matter at a given time. High traffic density increases congestion as well, affecting pedestrians length of exposure. Judging from Victorian standards, the Pink Quarter should pose just as much threat to public decency as did Coventry Street. Despite the grid layout of downtown Vancouver, the Pink Quarter still becomes very congested during rush hour traffic and on event days, of which there are many. For example, Davie Street connects with English Bay, a popular beach where the annual Celebration of Lights fireworks festival takes place. Traffic comes to a near standstill during this time due to the thousands of spectators that attend the event. A similar situation occurs at the yearly Gay Pride Parade. Lasting about two hours from start to finish, the parade circuits the West End from Denman Street to Pacific Avenue. The Pride celebration is so large in Vancouver that it has been featured on Pink Planet, a gay and lesbian travel show airing on City TV. This series showcases gay and lesbian-friendly travel destinations around the world, Vancouver in general and the Pink Quarter in particular ranking high in their survey. The high ranking is due, in part, to the wide variety of queer-oriented services to which the Pink Quarter is home. Davie Street alone hosts four different gay nightclubs, a 29


variety of sex shops, and the main offices of XtraWest, a biweekly newspaper aimed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LBGT) demographic. It is also where an internet-based boutique called GayMart has its main offices. Before moving into its current residence, Little Sister’s bookshop was located on Thurlow Street, a street just off Davie in the Pink Quarter. Accompanying the bookstore’s original location on these side streets of Davie can be found Rubber Rainbow, a condom boutique, and The Centre, providing mental and physical health services for the LGBT community. Because of its stock of queer material, Little Sister’s attracts a largely queer patronage. While this is not the only subject matter that they supply, queer identity makes up a significant portion of the store’s reputation and thus the community involved with it. During the legal dispute with Customs, demonstrations of support came pouring in from a number of activist groups, including PEN Canada (defending freedom of expression), Cleis Press (largest independent queer publishing company in the US), the BC Civil Liberties Association, and many bookstores across Canada and the US regardless of specialty. Little Sister’s was not without its opponents, despite the widespread show of support, chief of whom was the radical feminist organisation, Equality Now. Equality Now was against the importation of erotica, regardless of genre, because it promotes harmful and oppressive characterisations of female sexuality, queer or straight. In a report submitted to the courts during the Little Sister’s trial, Equality Now commented that “gay porn, by adopting ‘male dominant roles,’ renders stereotypically gay men ‘more susceptible to homophobic attack’” and that “sexually explicit materials that are intended to help foster a positive sense of sexual identity in the context of homophobic hatred should not portray the degradation of or violence to any person” (Rau). Teleny itself could be interpreted as portraying a negative representation of female sexuality. Camille Des Grieux relates his first heterosexual experience with disgust, describing the women of the brothel he visits as “painted-up Jezebels, cadaverous or bloated” (Anonymous 27). The macabre description is especially 30

chilling as one nears the end of the scenario when one of the prostitutes finally gives in to consumption and dies in a blood-drenched coughing fit. In subsequent expressions of straight sexuality, the women are taken against their will. Des Grieux nearly rapes his mother’s chambermaid, but decides against it, only for her to be raped by a jealous coachman. She commits suicide as a result (50-9). As Cohen states, “All these manifestly straight incidents… portray the heterosexual as a displacement of the true affection of one man for another; they juxtapose the universal acceptability and ‘naturalness of heterosexual passion (even if accompanied by incest or violence) to the execration and ‘unnaturalness’ of homoerotic desire” (804). By framing heterosexual interactions as grotesque, the authors of Teleny emphasise the innate rightness of homosexual behaviour. Teleny enacts its own Nietzschean revolt by overturning the goodness of heterosexuality and replacing it with homosexuality. Despite the positive end of homosexual representation, the degree of harm that negative depictions of heterosexual desire might inflict on Teleny’s readership had to be examined by the Canadian court system. In determining whether or not something is obscene under the Canadian Criminal Code, the test applied is called the harm test. The harm test has three primary characteristics: (1) it centres upon the “risk of harm” to those involved with the expressive materials, (2) it involves both physical and psychological harm, and includes the depiction of such things as rape and physical cruelty, as well as acts that are degrading and dehumanizing, and (3) in order for the harm to be obscene it must be “substantial.” In ascertaining what was “substantial,” the courts would rely on the community’s standard of tolerance. Demonstrating that their literature passes the harm test, Little Sister’s claimed that they only stock sexpositive material and that books like Teleny were necessary as representations of queer sexuality. For a community so long silenced, it was of the utmost importance to allow for as many different voices to be heard and preserved as possible, including those expressing violent aspects of sexuality, as does Teleny. At one point in the text, Camille comments on the appeal of violence in sex:


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Nothing is a greater incentive to pleasure than a fight. A short tussle with some tingling slaps and a few cuffs will set any man aglow, whilst a sound flagellation will rouse the blood of the most sluggish old man, better than any aphrodisiac. (Anonymous 50) Ed Cohen examines the ways in which Teleny promotes a positive gay identity in his essay, “Writing Gone Wilde: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet of Representation.” He draws attention to how the main character, Camille Des Grieux “articulates a theory of ‘innate difference’ similar to the third-sex theories first proposed by the late nineteenthcentury apologists for same-sex desire” (Cohen, 805). Des Grieux relates, Well, is nature moral? Does the dog that smells and licks with evident gusto the first bitch that he meets, trouble his unsophisticated brains with morality? Does the poodle that endeavours to sodomise that little cur coming across the street care what a canine Mrs. Grundy will say about him? No, unlike poodles, or young Arabs, I had been inculcated with all kinds of wrong ideas, so when I understood what my natural feelings for Teleny were, I was staggered, horrified; and filled with dismay, I resolved to stifle them… I know that I was born a sodomite, the fault is my constitution’s, not mine own. I read all I could find about the love of one man for another, that loathsome crime against nature taught to us not only by the very gods themselves, but by all the greatest men of olden times, for even Minos himself seems to have sodomised Theseus. (Anonymous 33-34) The passage is significant to queer identity in the face of accusations that homosexuality is a choice. Des Grieux defends homosexuality despite its supposed immorality by drawing a parallel with the nature of animals. The

behaviour of dogs could be classified as obscene because of their preference for the bodily. But because they are dogs, their behaviour is not judged immoral. The behaviour of dogs is judged part of their nature. Des Grieux wishes to express that homosexual preferences is not a matter of immoral behaviour. It is a matter of nature. It is evidence that intuitions regarding the biological connection to homosexuality existed over a century ago. The mere existence of such a work, where the love story revolves around two men could be enough for it to count as a positive representation of queer sexuality, because “as inhabitants of a subculture… [the main characters] still use a public language that has no explicit forms to represent (either to themselves or to one another) their involvements; hence, they must produce new discursive strategies to express concerns unvoiced within the dominant culture” (Cohen 806). The novel in some sense may have provided a new language for the discussion and expression of homosexuality. Important at the time of its publication, such a work is of the utmost importance a century later because it provides a sense of history and roots to a newly voiced community. Teleny is an artefact of homosexual culture and identity. A key moment in the bookstore’s obscenity pre-trial was the decision of the courts “that anal penetration was no longer going to be considered obscene” (Blackley). This decision reflected the level of not just tolerance, but acceptance of gay sexuality both on a national level and on a local level. The homosexual community connected via Little Sister’s Bookstore was, and continues to be, much more tangible than the community connected by the Librarie Parisienne. No longer is homosexuality the “love that dare not speak its name” (McRae 7) for fear of criminal prosecution or public shaming. Since the necessity to go unnoticed has passed, homosexuality being more widely accepted now than in the nineteenth century, the community was no longer immediately imagined, as it was in London. Instead of the majority of the homosexual community being speculated in the minds of the individual members, the community as a whole had the ability to be visible. Individuals were able to interact with one another in an open, overt manner and identity has become stable 33


enough to proclaim it outright. Although Davie Street and the surrounding area possess similar qualities to Coventry Street, overt sexual activity in particular, for the most part the city of Vancouver has chosen to celebrate rather than suffocate the sexual deviance of the area. The Davie Street Business Association has done its part to contribute to the festive nature of the location by commissioning street banners which depict a sun design on one side and a rainbow flag on the other, the latter of which being an international symbol for gay pride. It is no surprise that homosexual identity has overcome the label of “obscene.” The mainstream community has redefined obscenity in order to reclaim homosexual identity. Instead of trying to suppress the existence of a homosexual community, Vancouver celebrated and embraced it. The homosexual community in the Pink Quarter became a trademark of Vancouver’s marketed image. When faced with the accusation that homosexuality was obscene, the Canadian legal system reaffirmed Vancouver’s tolerant and welcoming attitude by sanctioning homosexuality within mainstream culture. Serving as a representation of community standards, the law chose not to take issue with Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium. The 2000 Supreme Court ruling that the Little Sister’s book shipments, including Teleny, did not conform to legal definitions of obscenity overturned Victorian delineations of identity.

Censorship Fact:

“The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Challenged in 1993 at the Port Coquitlam Public Library, because it “puts animals down.” [“Protecting the Right to Read,” Coquitlam Now. 2 March, 1994]”

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What is surprising is the fact that this comparison could be made at all. The trial between Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium and Canada Customs was a flashpoint in the standard of community tolerance for gay identity. The trial codified community tolerance for homosexuality, officially legitimising homosexuality as an acceptable identity within mainstream culture. In the legitimisation of homosexuality, the label of obscene acted as a catalyst. The fact that the Canadian Customs agents mirrored in their function and evaluation of obscene material the Victorian obscenity police leads us to consider how far we have really come in our considerations of morality. Likewise, this scenario ought to urge critical examination of the power exercised by customs agents in their authority to determine obscenity and immorality in the blatant absence of explicit training and in the absence of any familiarity with the communities that they exert this control over.


Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso, 1991. Anonymous. Teleny. New York: Mondial, 2006. Anonymous. McRae, John ed. Teleny. London: GMP Publishers, 1986. Carefoote, Pearce. “Government Censorship of Print,” ed. Carole Gerson and Jacques Michon, History of the Book in Canada, vol. 3 (1918-80). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. 468-73.

“Charter Summaries: Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada (Minister of Justice).” Mapleleafweb.com: Research – Charter Summaries: Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada (Minister of Justice). Maple Leaf Web. Copyright 2006. 27 October 2006. <http://www.mapleleafweb.com/scc/public3/decisions/ 2000_2scr_1120_02.html> Cohen, Ed. “Writing Gone Wilde: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet of Representation”. PMLA: October 1, 1987, Vol. 102, Issue 5. 801-813. Colligan, Colette. The Traffic in Obscenity from Byron to Beardsley. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. The Picadilly-Soho Trade: Teleny in London and Paris. Chapter 2. Forthcoming. “Criminal Code.” Canadian Criminal Code. Part 5, section 163, item 8. Department of Justice Canada. 27 October 2006. <http://laws. justice.gc.ca/en/c-46/> Little Sister’s vs Customs Canada. Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium. Karen Tulchinsky. “Little Sister’s Big Battle,” 25 October 2006. <http://www.littlesistersbookstore.com/ court.asp#lsdoc15> Skelton and Tibbets. “A New Standard for Obscenity,” 25 October 2006.<http://www.littlesistersbookstore.com/ court.asp#dec2000sun1>

Krishna Rau. “No Porn for Lesbians,” 25 October 2006. <http://www.littlesistersbookstore.com/court.asp#lsdoc23> Stuart Blackley. “Little Sister’s Begins Final arguments,” 25 October 2006 <http://www.littlesistersbookstore.com/ court.asp#lsdoc9> Mitchell, Mark and David Leavitt eds. Pages Passed from Hand to Hand. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. Nead, Lynda. Victorian Babylon. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. Politics and Poetics of Transgression.

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Beyond Emotions:

Censorship Versus Obscenity Kurt Beers

German political theorist Hebert Marcuse once stated, “Obscenity is a moral concept in the verbal arsenal of the establishment, which abuses the term by applying it, not to expressions of its own morality but to those of another.” That statement is as true today as it was decades ago when Marcuse made it. This article hopes to add an element of insight and personal experience to the ongoing and ageold debate of obscenity and censorship. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are charged with upholding the Criminal Code of Canada, which can at times be a daunting task. Balancing personal beliefs with the law and trying to assess what is fundamentally right in any given situation can at times be tricky. Members of the RCMP from across Canada respond in times of need in difficult and sometimes very challenging situations. Most police men and women do this because they have a genuine desire to serve their country, protect their countrymen and to maintain law and order. This article will attempt to shed light upon two things: first, it will try to establish whether or not obscenity and censorship can be governed and policed in a practical and realistic manner in Canada. Secondly, it will endeavour to point out the real-life challenges faced by the police when it comes to dealing with these two related yet distinct 36

matters. It is important to define obscenity in a way that will provide consistency to the reader for the purpose of this writing. Obscenity is most often used in a legal context to describe expressions (words, images, actions) that offend the prevalent sexual morality of the time. This definition differs from culture to culture, between communities within a single culture, and also between individuals within those communities. Many cultures have produced laws to define what is considered to be obscene, and censorship is often used to try to suppress or control materials that are obscene under these definitions: usually including, but not limited to, pornographic material, racial exploitation, gender, religion, and issues involving politics and rhetoric. Under the Criminal Code, depictions of violence are not considered offences unless they are joined with “the undue exploitation of sex.” This combination of sex and violence is defined as obscenity. Pornography, or obscenity, is an extremely complex and difficult moral and legal issue. Feminists and civil libertarians put forward starkly different arguments; many traditional allies tend to find themselves on opposite sides of this issue. Section 163 of the Canadian Criminal Code provides the country’s legal


definition of obscenity and states that everyone commits an offense who makes, prints, publishes, distributes, circulates, or has in his/her possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation any obscene written matter, picture, model, recording or other thing whatever; or the distribution or circulation of a crime comic. Censorship, on the other hand, restricts freedom of expression, crafting a legal definition of obscenity, which presents an entirely new debate on personal and civil liberties. One could safely define censorship as the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor whether it is moral, political, military, religious or corporate censorship. Section 464(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada addresses this matter and it gives police the authority to act on censorship within the confines of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both of these concepts, censorship and obscenity, are difficult to enforce and they are even more difficult to govern. It could be said that laws surrounding both obscenity and censorship are created to combat the other. Obscene material is produced and then laws are created to restrict the degree and to invoke limitations on how far obscene material is actually able to go. Conversely, laws

related to censorship are enacted to prevent the general populous from viewing obscene material that was either legally or illegally produced. It is very much a vicious circle that is almost impossible to stop; no matter how many laws are put in place there will always be difficulty in stopping obscene material from being produced and an even greater challenge in censoring people from viewing the material. In an age when pornographic and other such material is so easily accessible on the internet it is hard for the police to catch those who are breaking these laws in the privacy of their own home as it is rare they would ever get caught for their actions. It is virtually an impossible task to identify and arrest all the people who break the established laws for obscenity and censorship. With so many other crimerelated matters happening throughout the country on a minute-by-minute basis, police on the front lines are left to prioritize. The immediacy of the situation and the damage done will always trump matters that are of a lower priority. The woman who has just been physically assaulted by her husband will be responded to without reservation, yet, the person viewing obscene material in their home, contrary to Section 163 of the Criminal Code, may very well get away with doing so for a lifetime. This certainly does not make this crime an accepted one but it points to the difficulty 37


and to the reality of how hard it is to detect, arrest and charge perpetrators who contravene Section 163 or Section 464 of the Criminal Code. We do have laws in Canada enacted to address both obscenity and censorship but do they work? Is anything accomplished by the laws that are currently in place? Does more have to be done to protect those who are afflicted by obscenity and for those who want more done in the area of censorship? These are some of the questions that have to be asked by the law makers and Parliamentarians who govern the country. One can assume, particularly in a country like Canada, that suppressing a person’s ability to freely go about their business as granted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is difficult. Canadians are granted fundamental freedoms under the Charter and they are important to reiterate. The freedom of conscience and religion, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association are all rights that are granted to Canadians and have to, at all times, be respected and upheld by the police. On 27 February 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision in the case of R. vs. Butler. The Butler case arose in Winnipeg when the accused opened a shop that sold and rented “hard core” videotapes and magazines as well as sexual paraphernalia. He was charged with 250 counts of selling obscene material, possessing obscene material for the purpose of distribution or sale, and exposing obscene material to public view, contrary to Section 163 of the Criminal Code. This case concerned the constitutionality of the obscenity provisions of the Criminal Code. The Court held that the prohibition against pornography contravened the freedom of expression guarantee in section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but went on to hold that the section could be demonstrably justified under section 1 of the Charter as a reasonable limit prescribed by law. In the result, the provisions were upheld. The trial Judge concluded that the obscene material was protected by the guarantee of the freedom of expression in section 38

2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a powerful thing and a great privilege and protection for Canadians. The Charter protects all of us at all times in ways that many Canadians do not even fully realize. Canada truly is a country full of opportunity and a place rich with personal liberties, which is the underpinning of every law that is made and every act that is amended in our country. At all times police are guided by the personal freedoms we all share as Canadians and with every interaction police have with the public these guiding principles are at the forefront. When it comes to dealing with the matters of obscenity and censorship the rules do not change they just become a bit more complex. Hebert Marcuse felt that obscenity was created and used by the establishment to dictate an understanding of what is right and what is wrong – of what is just and what is unjust. If that is true, one could assume that censorship exists to play a role in scrutinizing obscene material once it is determined what bits should be censored and what bits are fine to leave exposed for public consumption. It is my opinion, as I believe it was the opinion of Marcuse, that obscenity weights heavily on one’s moral and personal beliefs. There are, of course, limits to what most will accept, and I believe that the masses would agree that such material as child pornography and hate crime literature are offensive, wrong and should be deemed obscene without question. However, we must all be mindful, particularly in a liberally democratic country like Canada, of charting down a course of infringement when it comes to dealing with personal freedoms and liberties. It is a task that is both dangerous and ill-sighted. Police will continue to do their job as best that they can and politicians will continue to do their job as best that they can to ensure that Canadians are safe from harm and from crime. Sections 163 and 464 of the Criminal Code will continue to be enforced and remain part of the Criminal Code of Canada. The ramifications of breaking either of these laws are clear. Obscene material will always be available and will continue to be produced.


Censorship attempts to do its best to eliminate obscene material but it can merely scratch the surface. This is neither purely a police problem nor strictly a political problem, but rather a universal issue that will only be bettered through education and discussion. It is the responsibility of society as a whole to engage in intelligent dialogue, working to find a viable solution to this discord. Then and only then will the age-old debate of obscenity versus censorship be elevated to a debate of the merits of either rather than the emotional responses they inspire.

Works Cited “Section 163 Criminal Code of Canada.” The Department of Justice Canada. 2008. Government of Canada. August 30, 2008 <http://laws.justice. gc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/C-46/bo-ga:l_VI::bo-ga:I_VII?page=4>

“Censorship.” Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. August 30, 2008. <Http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship> .

The Supreme Court of Canada. “R. v. Butler, (1992) 1 S.C.R. 452. Judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada. 1992. University of Montreal. August 30, 2008 <http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/ en/1992/1992rcs1-452/1992rcs1-452.html>.

Censorship Fact:

“Ulysses by James Joyce. Banned from Canada in 1933; the ban was finally lifted in 1949. Previously, students taking modern literature courses at the University of British Columbia had been given reading lists that contained a blank space; once students got to this course level, they knew that this space represented Ulysses. Although the book was illegal, it was still available in the UBC library. The book had also been available, upon application, at the Vancouver Public Library; Victoria Public Library’s copy had been kept in a vault until the ban was lifted. [“Freedom to Read Week Kit 1996: A Chronology of Freedom of Expression in Canada,” Book and Periodical Council, p. 3; “‘Ulysses’ Comes Out of Hiding,” The Vancouver Sun. 13 April, 1950, p. 12]”

39


Your Bowel Speaks To You! Michael Ho

This piece is inspired by my friend who is currently writing his thesis on Elephant dung. While no two healthy bowel movements are alike (due to genes, past illness, genetics, diet, age, etc…), there are some guidelines that can be adopted by the general public. Without getting too technical or detailed, the following general information can be useful in determining what constitutes as healthy bowel movement. Colour: Medium to golden brown is the general consensus. However, this can be affected by vitamins and diets that are heavy in vegetables which may produce some green hues. What is important, is to make sure your stool is none the following colours: Black - Iron supplements can cause black stool, but the other, more alarming cause is digested BLOOD. Blood can turn the stool black, called “MELENA.” The stool may also be tarry and sticky, and may smell especially bad. This is SERIOUS. YOU GO DOCTOR NOW. Grey or silver - This can be a sign of issues with your gallbladder, liver or your pancrease. Either case, contact your doctor. Bright red spots (blood) - I am not going to bother to explain. GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR. NOW. And hope it is hemorrhoids. Blood is never normal. 40

Smell: Contrary to belief, stool should not have a strong odour or be extremely unpleasant to the nose (of course it will also not smell like a garden of lilacs). You are what you eat; if you find your stool is extremely foul, review your diet. Foods that are high in fats (especially trans fats), lack of fibre in your diet, or lack of water will all add to the odour of your stool. If your body is not given the proper tools to break down the foods that it consumes daily, the food shall remain in your intestines. The longer it remains, the stronger the smell!! So do your body a favour and fuel it with proper nutrition so it can do its job to dispose of your crap. Size and shape: A bowel movement should be soft and easy to pass, though some people may have harder or softer stools than others. Stool should be formed, have a texture similar to tooth paste, and have a size and shape similar to a sausage. Size of stool will mainly depend on the person’s intestines. Bouyancy: Your stool should drop and linger for half a second or so before making its descent to the bottom of the toilet. Stool that floats usually has a higher fat concentration. Watch out for fast food and any other crap– pardon the pun. Fiber: I prefer whole wheat everything; pasta is a great source. One serving usually equates to 8-10 grams. Oatmeal, whole wheat breads, organic, grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits are some common sources. I will add


Censorship Fact:

“In April 1948, the BC Provincial government began to control the sale of health literature, after a book on venereal disease, sold in Toronto, was declared “salacious.”  [“BC Will Control Health Literature,” The Daily Colonist. 23 April, 1948, p. 9]”

though, that with some foods you need to be careful and read the nutritional content. Oatmeal, for example (pre packaged instant packs), may include 2-4 grams of fiber but are you also getting 10 grams of sugar with that? Read and empower yourself. Try for 25 grams of fiber daily. Conclusion: Proper removal of waste and Big Mac remnants from your body should be a top priority. Make it a goal, or better, a lifestyle to consume your proper amount of fiber and water. You would be appalled if the garbage man nonchalantly strolled past your pile of refuse and allowed the foul waste to build. There is no difference with your bowel movement and your body should not have to put up with such wretched treatment. Remember: Never flush without examining your stool; it speaks to you each time telling you what you are lacking. Listen and take action. 41


The Elusive Ass’s Dick:

The Editorial That Never Was Thor Polukoshko Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a picture of a donkey’s penis. That said, the original intent of this editorial was far grander than a semi-blurry, solitary image of a hairy, black penis. The plan was to present a spread of five or six images—all close-ups of various animals’ genitalia—with the purpose of making a point about censorship. The original title I had considered for the piece was “Cocks, Beavers, and Pussies, Oh My!” and the intention was to push some comfort boundaries—just imagine a drooping pair of bull testicles completely filling the opposite page, the image close enough that you can make out individual hairs and veins (in the porn business they call that the “meat-shot”). The idea was to illustrate how arbitrary our comfort-levels are when confronted with animal “nudity,” and how some of these same arbitrary anxieties affect things like censorship. Let me explain. When we see an animal in the wild, on a farm, in a book, or on TV, we usually see the entire animal, genitals included (granted, some advertisers photoshop out the family dog’s wiener for the sake of selling baby food, but for the most part, animals are uncensored). Few people would make a fuss about seeing an animal’s penis in the context of the animal’s entire body; the average person is not made uncomfortable or squeamish, and does not feel sexually threatened or offended by it in any way. That’s just how the animal is—a horse is a horse, of course, of course, and part of that horse is its reproductive organs. Now, take that animal penis away from its context (i.e. the animal’s body) and display it in a style generally reserved for pornography, and suddenly the comfort-level changes. It switches from “Look, mom, the rhino’s peeing!” to “Cover that up, it’s a sexual organ.” Even though the 42

images themselves are not eroticized, and even though the image is simply a close up of what was already wholly visible, the animal genital now has a heightened ability to offend or disgust. Perhaps it is the sudden realization of how similar we might be to the animal, or perhaps we are simply afraid that we might become sexually aroused by such an image, but regardless of the reason, don’t expect any close ups of zebra vaginas to grace the cover of National Geographic anytime soon. This was the original intent of the editorial. But due to time constraints, and due to the fact that on my trip to the Greater Vancouver Zoo most of the animals stood too far away from the fence to get a decent meat-shot, I ended up with far fewer pictures than I wanted. I was ready to scrap the project. Some of the other editors at Memewar were leery about the piece in the first place, so it wasn’t going to be a devastating loss for the magazine. But then it hit me. The very fact that I didn’t have any pictures proved my point, and this brings me to the donkey. It was near the end of the day at the zoo, and I didn’t really have any good pictures yet. The male donkey was right next to the fence. His penis was in full view. All I had to do was hold the camera up to the fence and click. This was the shot I was looking for. I had gone to the zoo with my wife, my mother, and my 12-year-old cousin, all of whom were very supportive, and were quite helpful in pointing out when I might get a decent shot. But their level of support did not change the fact that the zoo was teeming with hundreds of families with little, face-painted children running around and gawking at their favourite animals. At the same time as these children were gawking, with their parents patiently


watching over them, I was crouching low to the ground, trying to snap some pictures of their favourite animals’ genitals.

want to get yelled at by a parent for being a pervert. I approached that same boundary I was concerned about, and could not bring myself to cross it.

Suffice to say, despite the objective purpose of the editorial, and my let’s-point-out-what’s-wrong-with-theworld attitude walking into the zoo, I could not bring myself to properly align a shot of the donkey’s penis while 5-year-olds reached through the fence to pet his neck after getting permission from their doting parents. I didn’t

In the end, I chickened out (pardon the animal pun) and used the zoom on my camera to capture this semi-blurry, and poorly-framed image. At the risk of misrepresenting the donkey, I should probably add that he was actually a bit bigger than it looks.

43


If You Want My Body and You Think I’m Sexy

(Come on, Sugar Let me Know) Dave Gaertner Pornography: 1. a. The explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Where do pornography and intellectual thought meet? When I was beginning my M.A. at the University of Manitoba I had a friend who was teaching a first-year Women’s Studies course. While there were plenty of stories that came out of that class, the term came to a raucous conclusion when the final papers were submitted and one of those papers included photos that had been cut out of a magazine and stapled into the text. These photos were from what was most likely a Hustler or Swank magazine. My friend’s initial reaction was shocked outrage (buoyed somewhat by laughter) and the offending student was made to know her error. The rest of us in the graduate program were left with a funny story to take home for the holidays; I still like to bring it up when graduate conversations turn towards bad or outrageous student essays. After recently reading essays by Linda Williams and Angelika Czekay, two prominent feminist critics, I had cause to reflect on this story and to think about exactly what makes it so funny to me. I have come to the following conclusion: I find it hilarious that a student would submit pornography in a scholarly essay simply because I assume 44

the academy and pornography (not to mention Women’s Studies and pornography) to be entirely incongruous. Pornography in the academy seems to me to be a classic fish out of water story; I might go so far as to argue that it hits the same comic nerve that The Beverly Hillbillies or Crocodile Dundee once exploited. Of course my assertion --that porn and intellectual thought go together as well as a sunburn and a firm slap on the back—is troubled by someone like Annie Sprinkle, a self-proclaimed “porn-starlet” (Herstory of Porn) who has either written, directed, produced or starred (or any combination of the four) in hundreds of pornographic movies. As an actress, sex educator and PhD, Sprinkle gloriously blurs the boundaries between “obscene pornography on the one hand and legitimate art on the other” (Williams 361). Inasmuch as Sprinkle inspires her audiences to think critically about a woman’s agency in the porn industry, she also revitalizes the form and content of traditional pornography and its stereotypes. If I want to invite her into my conception of what the academy is, I have little choice but to invite pornography as well. But Czekay, who I would like to foreground for the remainder of this short piece, seems to disagree. While


she does an excellent job illustrating how Sprinkle’s work can be welcomed into her idea of academia, pornography itself, in a way faithful to my own experience in Manitoba, is still told to wait at the door. I would argue that this is the case not because of the anti-feminist ideals that surround porn, but because—as the OED definition I opened this essay with shows—pornography inspires the erotic in its audience. It seems to me that Czekay denies arousal in her work and this is why pornography is unacceptable as a point of academic study for her.

display” (186), which effictivley excludes it from her imagined academic space. This is not to say that the behaviour exhibited at the Berlin show was not reprehensible or a blatant example of the objectification of women as initiated by the male gaze. However, as Williams points out, Sprinkle’s show is both performance piece and pornography at once, and to annex off the performance is to violently rend the work of what

Czekay makes her refusal of arousal explicit in her writing. “Distance and Empathy” ends with a rather essentialist either/or statement that assigns the erotic to one camp and the intellectual to another. She writes that, “yet her body [Sprinkle’s] itself remains a text, a representational site on which the various reactions are projected—a site for the arousal of sexual desire or for the representations of a political camp” (my emphasis, 190). I will go ahead and suggest that the political is equitable with the intellectual here, because it is clearly Czekay’s purpose to show how the latter half of her formulation of Sprinkle’s body is what is important to her as a “materialist feminist and postructuralist” (179). It is then the “political” response that she is most comfortable analyzing as an academic, while sexual arousal is relegated to a space of depravity and lewd behavior. The “or” in the above passage works to divide representations of Sprinkle’s body into two distinct camps with no room for movement between them. Czekay’s analysis of Sprinkle is taken from two separate performances. When she goes to see Sprinkle perform live in Berlin, desire, due to a number of factors, spills out into the audience. Here, “many spectators’ attention was automatically directed towards her [Sprinkle’s] body and the images it represented. The body became an unmediated signifier and was immediately enclosed in a conventional frame for a sexual display” (186). Men in the audience begin behaving like men in a strip club, rather than with the reflexivity Czkay feels Sprinkle’s show is meant to evoke. Because of the arousal that infiltrated the audience Czekay is quick to relegate the Berlin performance to the category “pornographic 45


it is. Thus, like Williams, “I am suspicious of attempts to draw the line too vigorously between performance art on the one hand and pornography on the other” (361), especially when the two categories are being marked by one body. So, while I think that Czekay is right to point out the distortion of Sprinkle’s work in Berlin, she fails to note a similar distortion in Chicago. In Chicago, Sprinkle’s work is stripped of its pornographic content, or more specifically its capacity for arousal. In the American production, Czekay argues that the performance “deconstruct[s] the usual (gender) power dynamic of a pornographic display with the anonymous male consumer and the fetishized naked body” (180). This obviously intellectual activity seems to take place for Czekay when arousal is confined to the stage and Sprinkle’s own body: “while her body remains the main signifier, Sprinkle claims the performance space for herself, reversing the representation of the pleasure dynamic so that she, not the spectator is the recipient of pleasure” (182). Chicago thus operates for Czekay as an inverted distortion of the Berlin performance. Rather than denying the intellectual level of Sprinkle’s work, as in the latter, the former’s audience denies the erotic level. In both instances Sprinkle’s work is stripped of an essential quality. In conclusion it would seem that we cannot include Annie Sprinkle as such in the academy without also including pornography. To do so, as Czekay attempts, is not really to include Sprinkle at all, but a shadow of her, stripped, so to speak, of an essential quality, the erotic. However, while writing this essay, I seem to have stumbled upon another concluding remark. If denying pornography access to the academy really is, as I have suggested, a denial of arousal and the erotic, then critics like Czekay are only contributing to a scholarship that erases the body. Indeed, for Czekay, watching Sprinkle’s performance is an affair of the mind; for her, desire and the body should be confined to the stage. Perhaps the question should be, then, not “where does pornography fit into intellectual thought?”, but, more importantly, “where does the body?” 46

Works Cited

Czekay, Angelika. “Distance and Empathy: Constructing the Spectator of Annie Sprinkle’s Post-POST PORN MODERNIST—Still in Search of the Ultimate Sexual Experience.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism VII (1993): 177-192. “Pornography.” Oxford English Dictionary.com. Accessed July 17, 2008. Sprinkle, Annie. Herstory of Porn. Joesph Kramer Productions, 2008. Williams, Linda. ““A Provoking Agent.” The Pornography and Performance Art of Annie Sprinkle.” Social Text 37 (1993): 117-133.

Censorship Fact:

“The Classroom Orgy (author unknown). In August 1971, the Vancouver Morality Squad seized 39 books from a Vancouver grocery store; this title was among them. The grocery store owner was charged but was later acquitted on a technicality. [Mind War: Book Censorship in English Canada, p. 41]”


Censorship Fact:

“Escapade. The August 1962 issue of the magazine was banned in BC due to its description of a “spell binding potion” found in the story entitled “Mirage.” This story stated that the ink used to print the magazine contained a hallucinogenic chemical called diphenylphloroamyl-2benzoat. The article directed the reader to dissolve two pages of the magazine in wood alcohol and drink the “potion” while looking at pictures of nude women. Readers were encouraged to write to the magazine and detail their experiences. This chemical was fictitious; the issue was banned because the ingestion of wood alcohol could cause blindness, paralysis and death. [“Potion Described as Fantasy,” The Province. 12 May, 1964, p. 19]”

Censorship Fact:

“In 1954, Victoria Mayor Claude Harrison advocated the burning of subversive books, especially those thought to be communist. “Any books or literature which are of a seditious or subversive nature will go out of the library as far as I’m concerned... And any member of the library staff who belongs to a Communist organization will go out behind the book ... It’s time that many libraries throughout Canada are cleaned up.” He stated that tax dollars should not support seditious works, and offered the use of his own fireplace to destroy the offending material. MLA Lydia Arsons agreed with the mayor saying, “These books should be destroyed. If we remove all books about Communism and by Communists we are not denying any citizens freedom.” [“Harrison Wants to Burn Books From Library Held ‘Subversive’”, The Daily Colonist. 27 January, 1954, p. 1, 5]”

47


One Dildo at a Time:

an interview with Jim Deva of Little Sisters Carmen Papalia

48

On August 21, 2008 I headed to the very comfortable Vancity theatre for a screening of Aerlyn Weissman’s 2002 documentary “Little Sisters Vs. Big Brother.” Since I had not seen the film prior to the screening I was both excited and nervous—excited at the prospect of covering the event, and nervous because I really had no idea as to what I could say about one of the most publicized court battles against censorship in BC history. I had checked the online news archives, had done some light Googling, and yes, even fed “Little Sisters” through Wikipedia and was convinced that between various local and national news sources, every possible article about the landmark bookstore had already been written. In an attempt to ebb my anxieties I arrived at VIFF headquarters an hour early, and headed straight to the bar. After learning that I could take my drink into the theatre I carefully, and quite precariously, caned to a plush red seat near the front and tried to get comfortable. As the lights dimmed I eased back and started piecing together a somewhat intelligent angle for my not yet confirmed interview, but it wasn’t until the film was over, and the Q&A session had begun, that I found my focus: Mr. Little Sisters himself, Jim Deva.

the time Jim was inches from being blown to smithereens by a percussion bomb. Although each speaker provided personal and informed commentary on the film, it was Jim’s lecture on sexual honesty that struck me the most.

The presentation was part of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF), and local celebrities Jim Deva, Janine Fuller and filmmaker Aerlyn Weissman were in attendance. They all stayed behind to discuss the time since the film had been released, and to share bits of nostalgia—like

C: There was a sense that people who have seen the film before, upon coming back to it, think one of two things: “we’ve come such a long way,” or “things really haven’t changed.” And you mentioned yourself—from what you’ve seen at the borders recently—that this sort

Fellow Memewarrior Amelia Pitt-Brooke and I met up with him at the infamous Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium for the following interview. Carmen: You said at the screening that you didn’t see the legal battle as history while you were living it, but as Aerlyn’s film has proved, it was indeed an important time in Vancouver’s history. Jim: Yeah, and we have to have people around us who have the foresight to think, “This is an important moment, let’s document this.” So it is really good work that the Out on Screen people are doing, and their History Project as well… it’s hugely important. History is written by so very few people, and not many queer people write history. So it’s important that we document our own history, and I think Aerlyn’s film is a very good example of that.


J: Yeah, it is. And customs still think they have the ability to tell whether people are true upstanding Canadians or whether they have problems, and it has to do with whether your eyes move a certain way or some stupid fucking thing. They still believe that they have the ability to look at somebody and tell whether they’re contravening the laws or not. That is absolutely so totally wrong. C: And since there are no advocacy groups working with those agencies the same mistakes are made time and time again… and really, it seems like common sense to consult advocacy groups when your agency “serves” the public. J: Of course the last thing they would want is for anybody to come in and take away their power, because it’s all about power. They knew they were making mistakes when they looked back on what they were doing with the book seizures and all but they certainly wouldn’t admit it. Or if they did, they’d say that they’re changing it to meet our needs, but of course they haven’t changed anything. So they’ve gained that power, and they’ve chosen not to use it as far as Gay and Lesbian literature goes in the last few years but it still remains there and can be reinvigorated. Amelia: And it can come into play in terms of movement race or nationality as well. J: Very much so. And then you go into the terrorism thing and they can do whatever they want. I talked to a friend who lived in Canada illegally, I guess you could say, and when he was stopped he was actually thrown in a maximum security prison for 4 days. He asked for a lawyer each and every day, and he was denied the right. Once he finally got a lawyer he was out in two hours. A: No kind of process at all! J: None whatsoever, because he’s dark-skinned and looked like he might fit the profile.

C: Upon watching the film, I got the sense that media was covering AIDS back in the 80s in the same way that they’re covering terrorism now… harping on fear to create an enemy. J: So we have to be constantly vigilant. One of the nice things that has happened in the last 20 years is the development of the internet. Valuable information is able to be transferred very, very quickly, and we don’t have to rely on the traditional media to sort it out and give what they call a balanced story and all that crap. So that’s in our favour, that the information moves very quickly and people are able to get organized very quickly, but we still need to be energized

Left to right: Bruce Smith, Jim Deva and Janine Fuller, 1996. Photo by Daniel Colins, Courtesy of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium.

of discrimination is still rampant.

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and alert, and we need to be there for our community. A: Do you think that the film in that case will be like an artifact, a documentation of the process that was the fight… perhaps even helpful to people in the future? J: I hope so, I hope it’s a roadmap for people to be energized and invigorated and to feel like absolutely nothing is impossible… because when people say you can’t change something you just have to look them in the eye and say yes, of course we can make change! And then you have to believe that to your very core because if there’s any doubt in that march forward you’re extremely vulnerable. So I hope that’s what it becomes… kind of a blueprint for how you organize, get people involved, get people on board, all facing one direction in an almost impossible situation. That would be a fabulous legacy. People still come up and say, “Thanks for the fight,” and I think okay, but it was a fabulous fight. It wasn’t like it was onerous or it was a terrible thing to be doing, it felt really, really good to be doing it, and again it was the people joining in, helping, pushing – that’s what moved it forward. C: How has Little Sister’s changed over the years regarding the physical space, products, patrons, etc? J: It changed dramatically. There were three of us, my partner Bruce (who is still my partner), a woman named Barbara and myself, living in sort of a communal house in the early seventies and we were having a fabulous time. We went through different business plans and this was the one that seemed to work. Barbara was an artist so we had an art gallery and it was really gorgeous. But of course, the reality of retail sort of takes over, and every square foot has to pay, and in two years she went on to do other things because that part of the store really wasn’t paying. So it did change very much, and we had people coming up the stairs to the store and telling us what they’d like to see and we’d try it out. We had video games, pinball machines – for about two years we even had an illegal gambling machine up there. It paid the rent when we couldn’t pay the rent but we were finally told to shut it down. We were doing everything we could to pay the rent! The secret to our success though was that we started with no money. 50

It was because we started out with nothing that we were able to shift around and learn a whole lot, so that’s really what saved us. A: I’ve always found this space to be very diverse and very inclusive, being someone who grew up in this city and whose first access to gay culture was at university and in here… Do you find that has played in the success, that it’s one of the few inclusive spaces? J: I hope so, because it makes no sense at all to discriminate. Say the queer community accounts for 5% of the population, and you decide to cater to one gender and not the other, you’re down to 2.5%, and then if you make any more divisions… no, it doesn’t work. And we’re actually finding now that we’re getting more and more straight people in the store, and that’s our new growth area. We have a lot of books on gender and things, and as straight people have become more accepting they’ve become more curious. So we encourage them to come poke around and see if there’s anything of interest to them. Actually, I just sold a sex toy to a guy who I originally had thought was gay… so I took him over to the anal toy section, and he said, “Oh, I don’t know if my wife would enjoy that.” I had no idea! So it was kind of trippy. I don’t think we can put up walls and barriers, but we can protect our core values, and that’s a respect for everybody that comes in the store. C: In this forthcoming issue of Memewar we’re publishing an essay entitled “Transhistorical Déjà-vu,” which follows Teleny from Victorian London to Little Sister’s, actually, and compares Davie to Coventry Street in London because both get quite crowded when busy… like the elbow-to-elbow foot traffic during fireworks or pride, and there is a certain anonymity in that. Pedestrians can look into shop windows and can glance at erotic material and no one is privy to the act. J: That’s wild. C: Yeah, apparently a number of clandestine book shops on Coventry were also, to a degree, tucked away— interested customers had to turn a corner, walk down a


J: There is, and having to climb up the stairs at our old location was even more so. However we did consider going street-front, but thought this would be better, because we got a hell of a deal on rent. This was an unsuccessful business location for about twenty years before we moved here. It was a comedy shop at one time, a Boston Pizza, all sorts of weird stuff and none of them actually did take off. So it was a big gamble. I suspect street-front would

Davie Street, West of Thurlow, 1981. Dominion Photo Company, Vancouver Public Library Special Collections, VPL 78045B

corridor, knock on a door, say the secret word, and they’d be in a tight little room with Oscar Wilde and a few clandestine book dealers, thumbing through the dirty new arrivals. Was there ever a time when Little Sisters was considered to be clandestine, and if so, when did it become “above ground” or mainstream? … because there’s just something sneaky about having to Walk down that corridor to get to the front door.

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work now where it wouldn’t 12 years ago. This is one of the reasons why this location was attractive because I suspect that if there was a show window back then people wouldn’t want to be seen shopping in our store. Certainly not 25 years ago, when we still had people that would go up the back stairs, not the front stairs, and would knock on the door. But that’s an older generation, they’re almost all gone now, and a different attitude. Gay is much more acceptable than it was. It’s almost encouraged now that straight people come in to the store. A: Do you find that that, in a way, is… J: Mainstream? A: Or a simplification, like people are just coming in here to get a souvenir? J: I love it. I think it’s good and it’s healthy. I don’t know if we need to be forbidding or condemning in order to protect our community. But I think one thing … we do need to maintain and emphasize our sense of sexuality, because that’s how we’re going to change the world. And the straight world is now getting it. I loved that during the marriage thing they said, “Oh my god, it’s going to change marriage forever.” You’re fucking right it’s going to change marriage. Absolutely, because there’s no power struggle in a gay relationship, it’s just two equal people getting married. That’s what the straight world has wanted for years.

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the importance or the thrust that it did at that time with Preston and so many others. I think of a guy named Jeff Maines who wrote a book called Urban Aboriginals— absolutely amazing—he died about three years after that and the book virtually disappeared. A huge, important work, done by a scholar. After that, the lesbian writers emerged and became hugely popular, and the writers who are making a big difference now are transgendered, with the exploration of gender from all angles… wonderful stuff. It’s very exciting. But we really did lose the gay male thrust, and maybe it was our turn to sort of step back and let others come forward, but I still think gay men have a lot to contribute to the dialogue, and hopefully our scholars will come back and fill the gap of those people who are gone, because it is true that the really important are all gone, but thank god we didn’t lose Edmond White. A: Do you find that part of the struggle for legitimacy is visibility? Having a court battle for as long as you did, despite the outcome, brought those issues out into a public space. J: Yes, and of course it’s always been great advertising for the store, I mean every time we get in the news, particularly the national news, you can see a bump in our sales. C: Like when you were mentioned on Royal Canadian Air Farce?

C: In the documentary Sarah Schulman was speaking on behalf of John Preston, an author who had died of AIDS while waiting to testify at the trial, and she had mentioned that with the death of Preston, and other early queer authors, there was a literature that was dying as well. In order for a group to be taken seriously or have some legitimacy they have to have an attached culture, and literature is a huge part of that culture.

J: Yeah, that was a good one. It was always a really good thing to be public, I mean we get people coming in here from all around the world just saying, “I’ve heard a lot about this place and I really wanted to see it.” It’s bizarre, but it’s good. My work here is still granting people permission to think about stuff, to read different stuff they haven’t ever thought of reading, to try some toys they haven’t ever thought of trying… that’s what I do, grant permission to people. It’s very weird.

J: Yes, and if you look at the progression of literature— and it was the mid-eighties to about 1990 when gay authors really did start dying in huge numbers—it becomes clear that current gay male literature does not have the edge, or

A: It’s a powerful thing, even though it seems like a small thing, to have a bookstore. And again, using my own coming out experience as an example, to come here and to see literature available and other people


vocalizing, in a way, what was otherwise forbidden is really powerful. J: We forget. It is true, and continues to be, although not with the intensity we had during the first 10 years. There was no other way for our community to get the information at that time. Now, if you get creative, you can get the information – you can’t put it in the right social context, I don’t think, but you can get the information. So it was really a driving need that people had for that information back then, like basic stuff, really basic shit, and they had no idea. That has improved. But I don’t think you can become gay unless you’re around gay people, I mean you can mentally do it, but so much of it is social and way more than theory. A: It’s a social identity in the context of a community. J: Yes, and it’s hard to get that online. C: Going into the film I was one of those “society has come such a long way” people, but I think it might just be a different brand of surveillance that we experience now… and it’s almost scarier. J: Because they’re more clever than they were. They make fewer mistakes but they still do their work.

social progress. J: I sort of like the idea of straight men being penetrated anally… it would be a really healthy thing for them because then they realize the continuum of pleasure and it would just make them way better lovers. Honestly, you can’t give give without accepting accepting, and the cycle of giving isn’t complete if one person is just banging on top of another. What a horrible way to have sex! It’s got to be a continuum of pleasure, of giving and taking and being vulnerable, and queer people do that, because we approach it with equality. I think that is our role in this world. A: To teach other people how to fuck? J: Yes, and once they’ve got that down, everything else will be fine. Their politics will come in line, you know, that poor woman will not have to vacuum 8 hours a day, the whole thing will work out. It’s a theory I’ve got. One person at a time, one couple at a time, one dildo at a time. But censorship is very much alive, and it will be, and it’s not going away, we just have to be vigilant. Visit Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium at 1238 Davie Street Or online at: www.littlesisters.ca

C: Like the idea of being on a list… J: And a fear of getting on that list, yes… It’s going to be an interesting future. A: On the subject of the future, what are the immediate plans in regards to Little Sister’s? J: Well, my partner and I are still kind of looking for somebody or something to allow us to spend less time here, but nothing in the foreseeable future. C: On the night of the screening you were saying something about straight people having a sort of fear of their own sexuality, and how sexual honesty can inspire

Censorship Fact:

“Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. Banned by Canada Customs in July 1971 for advocating criminal offences. [Mind War: Book Censorship in English Canada, p. 41]” 53


Memewar presents: The Short Line Reading Series A space where artists can connect, debate and collaborate.

October 28

6:30 - 8:30 PM

November 25

6:30 - 8:30 PM

The Railway Club . . . . 579 Dunsmuir Cover charge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 0

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Censorship Fact:

“In 1990, the Engineering Undergraduate Society was fined $15,000 by the UBC Student Court for publishing a newsletter that “made fun of natives, women, and Jews.” [“Fight Bigotry, Racism with Logic, Not Law,” The Vancouver Sun. 27 April, 1990, p. A14]”

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Amelia Pitt-Brooke Vancouver Queer Film Festival August 14-24, 2008 www.outonscreeen.com My girlfriend and I sat down in our cushy Tinseltown seats for a theatrical evening at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. After seeing the flick that brought us there, we decided to stick around for the double feature, something called RAUNCHORAMA RESURRECTED! We’d neglected to read the description, but all our friends were there and very excited about it. It turned out that we were slightly more unprepared than we’d expected. The first film, “The AbDADAduction,” took us unwillingly to a fantasy land of surreal anal play. The story followed a young man who was abducted and held as a sexual captive by a room full of enthusiastic and voyeuristic women in strange outfits, ranging from dominatrix attire to welder’s masks and tutus. They proceeded to anally pleasure him with various sex toys. While not exactly what turns my erotic crank, it had a jubilance in its execution. Scenes in the “real world” were shot in the style of a silent film, while the fantastically adorned sex scenes were filled with riotous colour. Costumes are familiar to many as tools of erotic play, but what was interesting was the ambiguity of the film’s audience. It was being presented at a mixed LGBT event and featured a man having sex with women, 58

Miss Cookie La Whore and Tralala in “Girl on Girl”

RAUNCHORAMA REVIEWED!

yet it was certainly not a conventionally straight porn. Definitely queer, it played with gender roles (and their related associations to power), the audience’s potentially pre-conceived ideas of what would be shown, and with what is considered normative sex. It reveled in mutability of identity, and gleefully invited the audience to throw aside their hang-ups for the evening. One of the more accessible shorts featured more conventional images of lesbians and gay men. “Bare” was a charming film showing an erotic morning-after between two women. Their sexy romp in front of the glass patio door arouses the gay couple breakfasting across the apartment courtyard. This short film was more erotica than raunch, showing scenes of everyday life punctured by comedic twists and sexy scenarios. It had something for everyone, except perhaps the kinky. I am squeamish about germs. “Toilet Mouth” was an artistically rendered short that passed all my boundaries. A blurry figure gently caressed the bowl and seat, then began to lick the edge of the seat, eventually sucking on the handle and licking the rim of the bowl. As you can


imagine, I was not the only one who found this disturbing. A chorus of protest erupted from the audience every time the oral action escalated. Yet we loved having our buttons pushed beyond our own imaginations, and how outrageous it was. Sexual diversity demands that this film is hot for someone, and the crowd that was gathered in the theatre was the first to know this. For without this particular kink, we had our minds opened in ways we’d prefer not to think about. Regardless of where we stood, it provoked raw, visceral emotion from everyone in the room. “Avalanche” was a film along a similar theme. Its main focus was the urinal at the Pumpjack, Vancouver’s ever-popular leather bar. The urinal in question is a stainless steel trough filled with ice. Picture what warm bodily fluids do to ice and you have the idea. With different penile shots arranged kaleidoscopically to opera, this film functioned as my girlfriend’s personal Clockwork Orange. Once a student of opera and never having had an affection for urine, I’m sure she will never feel the same when listening to Maria Callas. I know that curiosity will compel me to peek through the door of the men’s room so I can get a better look at that urinal the next time I go to the Pumpjack. I had no idea it was such a phenomenon. “Pansexual Public Porn aka The Adventures of Hans and Del” delivered exactly what one would expect form the title. Documenting the public sexual encounters of several trandsgender, gender variant folk and gay men, it was the only film to present hormonally altered bodies as agents and objects of desire. The video was directed by Del LaGrace Volcano, a prominent gender variant visual artist who frequently works with gender and sexually queer subjects. With a similar mixture of sexuality and gender play, “Girl on Girl” used sex to explore honesty, trust and identity. It featured two performance artists, Tralala, a queer femme woman, and Miss Cookie La Whore, a drag queen, who together filmed a porn engaging ideas of gender and sexual identity. Casual in style, the film was shot like a documentary, lending it a realness and intimacy

not present in more scripted shorts. The performers were longtime friends prior to the production and their relationship was the constant in the film, bringing together, in a context, the sex scenes, the interviews and the concepts. It presented sex as an act of negotiation, not just of gender roles, and the hesitancy, humor and vulnerability of doing something for the first time. It was a very gentle movie, one that embraced the audience as much as it challenged them. At one point Miss Cookie articulated how when we assume a sexual identity we are often pressured to discard parts of ourselves that don’t fit that classification. To confine ourselves within a specific sexual identity is to limit the way we can relate to other people. As I looked around the cinema that night I felt far more connected with the queer community as a whole than I had in a while. In my experience the queer community often divides itself into more specific communities of gender and sexuality, which is often reflected by the bar culture. I recognize the importance of spaces that fulfill the needs of specific communities, but it felt good to reconnect with the larger group. The Vancouver Queer Film Festival is one of the few shared queer venues in Vancouver. Seeing such a diverse array of sexual expression, both in content and gender, gave me a refreshing window into the experiences and desires of the rest of my community. It’s easy to forget the reality of diversity. To find myself again in the context of other diverse sexualities made me realize my own conservativeness, my own assumptions and resistance to difference. Each film was liberating and joyful to see, separate from whether or not I could identify with it. As a group, the LGBT community needs to talk about sex as a matter of survival. From combating homophobia and transphobia to preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, our survival depends on discussing our sex. We need to publicly affirm that diverse sexualities and relations to gender are valid and important subjects of conversation. It is not difference that is unhealthy, but shame and silence. The Vancouver Queer Film Festival and RAUNCHORAMA RESURRECTED! reintroduced me to the pleasure of shared expression. 59


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Censorship Fact: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dungeons and Dragons game material. In May 1995, a 1,000-name petition was submitted to Richmond Public Library to ban this material from the library. Petitioners claimed the game was linked with suicide and murder, and that it glorified death, the occult, witchcraft, and demonology. [Richmond News. 7 May, 1996]â&#x20AC;?

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Contributors BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee. “Censorship in British Columbia: A History.” <http://www.bclibrary. ca/bcla/ifc/censorshipbc/1990.html> Kurt Beers pursued his post-secondary education at Carleton University in Ottawa, where he obtained a BA in Political Science with a Minor in History. From there he worked on Parliament Hill for various Members of Parliament in different, but senior capacities. In early 2007, Kurt joined the RCMP and trained in Regina, Saskatchewan before being posted to North Vancouver as a General Duty Constable. Kurt served until recently, before he left the Force to pursue a Masters in Political Communication at the London School of Economics in London, England. Sonia Capriceru: “Chance operations, typography, white glue, tick tock eight lines.” Dave Gaertner is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University. He is currently researching citizenship and its representation in Canadian literature. He is also a teaching assistant and a practicing insomniac. Victoria Haynes is currently a graduate student at the University of Victoria. Her essay submission was written at SFU in her undergrad and stemmed from the initial questions: is there objective morality in the world of literature and can the answer be found in a study of the reception history of obscene literature?

Michael Ho is a current SFU student studying Economics with various Kinesiology courses. He is an avid fan of fibre and complex carbohydrates. He also likes to box. Matt Hogan is a short-fiction writer and essayist living in East Vancouver, studying humanities, religion, and dialogue at SFU, and is far-too-slowly compiling a chapbook, to be titled “Least Van.” He can usually be found reading or writing in a booth at Bon’s Off Broadway, and drinking coffee until he gets the jitters, after which he likes to tell stories or rant at poetry readings, letting the poets know, as charmingly as he can, why they suck. He also collects vinyl with which he makes hip hop beats. He has a lot of kids’ records. Phanie Pack attended Catholic schools in her formative years. She then moved on to Kwantlen and ECIAD where she smoked cigarettes or drank during class, and graduated with her BFA in the Spring of 2007. She did not have a piece for the grad show. Amelia Pitt-Brooke is nearing the end of her stint in the undergraduate English program at Simon Fraser University, and has been doing so for the last two years. While looking forward to her actually obtaining her degree she moonlights as drag king Edward Malaprop, and has been known to produce a show or two.

All Uncredited Photos and Art Contributed by Memewar Staff 66


Thank-you We’re honoured to be named “Best Free Literary Magazine” in The Georgia Straight’s Best of Vancouver 2008. Many thanks to The Georgia Straight for this mention; we couldn’t have done it without the support of our readers and contributors.

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ISSN: 1912-3310

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Memewar Magazine (Issue 7: "Parental Advisory")