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The Vacuum Issue 11 spacer Issue 11
Wood Like To Meat - Underground Sexual Encounters
by Daniel Jewesbury
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East Antrim couple mid 30s, female bi-curious seek females or couples for fun. ALA photo and phone no. for quick reply.
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It's generally presumed that contact magazines are used only by a few desperate, lonely individuals who would not otherwise be able to find partners. The stereotypes revolve around the bored housewife, the reader's wife and the dirty old man. These days the traditionally seedy image of the reader's wife is a little outdated, as the internet has pushed the amateur pormographer into the mainstream; cheap, easy-to-use technology means that many millions of 'ordinary' people are publishing their own pornographic websites. The sheer amount of pornographic content on the internet, and the vast sums of money they generate, demonstrate that if porn still is a dirty secret, it's one that a surprising number of us are concealing.
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The point is that not all the users and producers of such pornography can fit into the stereotype: lonely trouser-worriers with no real sex life who therefore depend on unrealisable fantasies derived from poorly produced photographs, which they view in low resolution in their dirty bedsits (although I know some who are). By the same token, a contact magazine would hardly be viable if all the advertisers in it and respondents to it were sad, lonely, old or all three. Even if you can't bring yourself to take more than a cursory glance at the ads, you'll notice that people of all ages, of both sexes and all sexual persuasions are using contact magazines, and that the majority are not single but in couples, looking for other couples or 'bi-curious females' (advertisers often specify that single males need not respond).
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Contact magazines are of course only a small part of the story. Telephone sex lines (both recorded and live) have long been facilitating sexual encounters and liaisons. One writer has argued that the reason for the persistent success of sex lines, even after the internet has become ubiquitous, is that the absence of images leaves more to the imagination, allowing the caller to contrive fantasies that are both more extravagant and more personal. And with the internet have come any number of opportunities for thinking about and having sex: newsgroups, chatrooms and websites devoted to sexual interests of every stripe, allowing people to find each other even whilst they may belong only casually to the attached subculture (from gay bars and fetish clubs to swingers' networks), or prefer to avoid it altogether.
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Bi-couple, she 24, he 30, seek bi-female/guy* for times. Can travel/accommodate. No time wasters. *under 35. Into 'O' and toys.
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Wood Like To Meat - Underground Sexual Encounters
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If so many people are now part of the sexual 'undergound', if even God's Ulster is teeming with perverts, inverts and rubber-wrapped torture vixens, why do we persist in talking with such disgust about contact magazines and their ilk, and why do we attach such shame to their use? Because, presumably, we're often still far too embarrassed to admit that we are sexual beings, that we even have a sexuality at all (heterosexuality thinks of itself as an invisible sexuality, just as whiteness presumes itself to be the absence of 'race'); we certainly don't want to admit, in public, that our sexual interests go beyond the reluctant weekly exercise of our conjugal duties, after the lights are out, or at a stretch, the glossy soft-porn of the men's and women's magazines. Far too often, and far too easily, we find ourselves complicit in ridiculing or demonising non-heterosexual or non-monogamous sexual practices, whether it be simply with the jokes we tell or because we actively victimise those who enjoy them. Of course this is often simply a response born out of repression. We have been told we are normal, and we believe it, because, quite often, we have been told that if we aren't, we'll pay for it. Religious indoctrination, fear of one's peer group and numerous other social presures conspire to make us feel ashamed of the fantasies we harbour.
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Fear of fantasy is a dangerous thing, as is the attempt to police it. Our society, moreover, is an intensely hypocritical one: we're all familiar with the way in which sex is used to sell tabloid newspapers, the same tabloids which are simultaneously full of denunciations of the sickness and perversion threatening to destroy our society. Sexual deviance, of any kind, is a threat, and that threat must be recounted in lurid detail. But other examples are even more worrying. Fears about paedophiles and paedophilia are feverishly, and irresponsibly, peddled by the press, even as our culture sexualises young girls and infantilises grown women.
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Nor can we avoid the accusation that all pornography necessarily objectifies women. The fact that most commercial pornography is produced by men in a climate of economic exploitation of women (equal pay anyone?) does not mean that pornography is by necessity exploitative of women. In all these situations, the exploitation arises when we do not proudly own our bodies, or our sexuality, or our fantasies. It has been argued elsewhere that the anti-porn feminist case portrays women as having no sexual desires of their own, and thus leaves them just as vulnerable to exploitation as they were before. Even more worryingly, it is arguable that our current consent laws, by denying teenagers the right to say 'yes' to sex, take away from them the control of their own bodies (and if you can't say yes, you can't say no either).
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You may not actually want to contact Belfast bi-couple, m38, f34, or Inexperienced 27 year old male fetishist, or Female 24 yr old, lonely and frustrated, but understand this: there are many who will, and as you read this, in living rooms, bedrooms, hotels, guest houses and Vauxhall Vectras all over Ulster, and all over Ireland, there are people in possession of their sexuality and not afraid to stick a first-class stamp on their self-addressed envelope.
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The contact magazine Thraldom is available from Body Talk, 17 Lower North Street, Belfast.
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