Photo by The Streets Are Calling.
In a recent conversation on Twitter, another editor inquired about the value of texts, tweets and personal ads collected in a blog. This is an interesting question and as the curator of this blog, one I find worthy of discussion. I'll start with a little background: When I was 22, I decided I wanted to change my major -- again -- to history. But it wasn't really the battles and overthrows of power which held my interest, it was the stories.
The accounts of Antonio Pigafetta as he sailed with Ferdinand Magellan to secure a route west to the Spice Islands, the diary of Rose de Freycinet aboard the Corvette L'Uranie's sojourn in Micronesia, James Cook's journals -- the fascination with explorers was less about adventure and more about how, by writing about new peoples, the writers exposed more about their own lives and biases than in any other form of writing.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that I ended up a blogger, able to chronicle my life and those of others without the constraint of a newsroom, which always considered me a little too gonzo for their taste. I won't deny that the historical events newspapers chronicle regularly are important -- these are essential in telling the human story. But dates and situations stripped of the lives and beliefs of the people of their generation are incomplete. The two go hand in hand.
We no longer have myths - not in the same way that the Navajo, Inca, Chamorro, Inuit, and Aztec did. But have our desires. If you think about it, our erotic writings are an incredible artifact; they literally leave the cultures from which they spring naked.
Look at the Marquis de Sade - yes, it's brutal and colored with his own philosophy, but who can miss the glimpses of that time's corrupt lawgivers and philandering clerics? These same glimpses of time and place appear in every story from the anonymous Autobiography of a Flea, which depicts the hypocrisy of Victorian England, to Emmanuelle, which gives us a taste of the leisurely life of diplomats in a foreign land, to the diaries of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, which offer to us the ins and outs of Paris.
Sexuality and the nature of desire change constantly, subject to the dynamics at play within a culture. There is an incredible dynamic between a culture's sexual narrative and its social reality. In a sense, these erotic writings are the unsung mirrors of culture. Even now, shortly following an anti-pornography convention in Boston that brought together a backlash of hundreds of pornographers, we see that the industry as we've known it for decades is changing once again toward one where feminism is starting to be more seriously taken into account in the depiction of the sexual.
The power of sharing sexual experience is in painting a clear picture of time and place. NakedCity LA in and of itself is interesting and amusing, but taken into account as part of a whole with NakedCity NY, it's something more than that. The texts, tweets, ads, stories and photos capture a city's personality in a way many writers pitting Los Angeles against Manhattan have tried to do for decades, sometimes succeeding, but most often not.
In this way, the offerings on other blogs across the web that chronicle desire have great value. But if you take the time to consider it, the story is, by necessity, refined. Texts, tweets, personal ads, e-mail missives and other artifacts from the daily life cannot be edited. They serve not only to illustrate time, place, the nature of desire and the personality of a city, but also the way that people talk to one another.
If one can't see the value in that, they're blind.