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Let’s talk about pleasure. I keep hearing a particular gripe about this cultural shift, and maybe you have too. Some people have been calling this movement Puritanical or a return to Victorian values, where men can’t behave or speak sexually around dainty, delicate, fragile women. To these people I want to say:
The current system is Puritanical. Maybe men can say and do whatever they want, but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our desires, wants and needs, from seeking our pleasure. Let me tell you about my own experience:
I turned 12 on the set of my first film, The Professional, in which I played a young girl who befriends a hitman and hopes to avenge the murder of her family by a corrupt DEA officer. The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her desire, and her voice. At that moment in my life, I, too, was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire, and my own voice.
I was so excited, at 13, when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan mail, to read a rape fantasy a man had written to me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the date I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my “budding breasts” in reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe, and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body, to my great discomfort.
I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene, and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized my bookishness and seriousness and cultivated a way of public dressing that was stereotypically “elegant and refined.” I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy and serious — in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and my voice would be listened to.
At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body, and to inhibit my expression and my work, in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression- from small comments about my body to more threatening, deliberate statements, served to control my behavior, through an environment of sexual terrorism — where even a woman who is not directly subject to assault, feels threatened by the environment of violence to inhibit her behavior.
A world in which I could wear whatever I want, say whatever I want, and express my desire however I want, without fearing for my physical safety or reputation — that would be the world in which female desire and sexuality could have its greatest expression and fulfillment. That world we want to build, is the opposite of puritanical.
One of my girlfriends from school used to joke: “sometimes it’s easier to just kiss the guy than explain to him why you don’t want to.” We would all laugh, but the message was clear — we were more worried about offending the guy, or being uncomfortable with him, or hurting his feelings, than about doing what we wanted to do.
As girls, we were socialized to spend our time making ourselves look attractive to guys- our hair, our makeup, our bodies. We learned our best angles for them, the things boys liked us to say — and the things they didn’t like us to. We were able to see ourselves through their eyes, and dictate our behavior by what they wanted us to be like. And it made us sometimes forget to ask what we, ourselves, wanted. And often made us unable to even know what we, ourselves wanted, because we were so caught up in thinking about what they wanted.
Well let’s not make our new world about we and they, about us and them. Considering what someone else desires isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a form of empathy. The consideration just needs to be reciprocal, and not at the expense of one’s own desire.
So I’d like to propose one way to continue moving this revolution forward: Let’s declare loud and clear: This is what I want. This is what I need. This is what I desire. This is how you can help me achieve pleasure.
To people of all genders here with us today, let us find a space where we mutually, consensually look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast, limitless range of desire to be expressed.
Let’s make a revolution of desire.
At a time when millions are losing trust in the the web’s biggest sites, it’s worth revisiting the idea that the web was supposed to be made out of countless little sites. Here’s a look at the neglected technologies that were supposed to make it possible.
Though the world wide web has been around for more than a quarter century, people have been theorizing about hypertext and linked documents and a global network of apps for at least 75 years, and perhaps longer. And while some of those ideas are now obsolete, or were hopelessly academic as concepts, or seem incredibly obvious in a world where we’re all on the web every day, the time is perfect to revisit a few of the overlooked gems from past eras. Perhaps modern versions of these concepts could be what helps us rebuild the web into something that has the potential, excitement, and openness that got so many of us excited about it in the first place.
[An aside: Our team at Glitch has been hard at work on delivering many of the core ideas discussed in this piece, including new approaches to View Source, Authoring, Embedding, and more. If these ideas resonate with you, we hope you’ll check out Glitch and see how we can bring these abilities back to the web.]
For the first few years of the web, the fundamental way that people learned to build web pages was by using the “View Source” feature in their web browser. You would point your mouse at a menu that said something like “View Source” (nobody was browsing the web on a touchscreen back then) and suddenly you’d see the HTML code that made up the page you were looking at. If you squinted, you could see the text you’d been reading, and wrapped around it was a fairly comprehensible set of tags — you know, that
<p>paragraph</p> kind of stuff.
It was one of the most effective technology teaching tools ever created. And no surprise, since the web was invented for the purpose of sharing knowledge.
These days, View Source is in bad shape. Most mobile devices don’t support the feature at all. And even on the desktop, the feature gets buried away, or hidden unless you enable special developer settings. It’s especially egregious because the tools for working with HTML in a browser are better than ever. Developers have basically given ordinary desktop web browsers the potential to be smart, powerful tools for creating web pages.
Bringing View Source back could empower a new generation of creators to see the web as something they make, not just a place where big companies put up sites that we all dump our personal data into.
When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he assumed that, just like in earlier hypertext systems, every web browser would be able to write web pages just as easily as it read them. In fact, that early belief led many who pioneered the web to assume that the format of HTML itself didn’t matter that much, as many different browsing tools would be able to create it.
In some ways, that’s true — billions of people make things on the web all the time. Only they don’t know they’re making HTML, because Facebook (or Instagram, or whatever other app they’re using) generates it for them.
Interestingly, it’s one of Facebook’s board members that helped cause this schism between reading and writing on the web. Marc Andreessen pioneered the early Mosaic web browser, and then famously went on to spearhead Netscape, the first broadly-available commercial web browser. But Netscape wasn’t made as a publicly-funded research project at a state university — it was a hot startup company backed by a lot of venture capital investment.
It’s no surprise, then, that the ability to create web pages was reserved for Netscape Gold, the paid version of that first broadly consumer-oriented web browser. Reading things on the web would be free, sure. But creating things on the web? We’d pay venture-backed startup tech companies for the ability to do that, and they’d mediate it for us.
Notwithstanding Facebook’s current dominance, there are still a lot of ways to publish actual websites instead of just dumping little bits of content into the giant social network. There are all kinds of “site building” tools that let you pick a template and publish. Professionals have authoring tools or content management systems for maintaining big, serious websites. But these days, there are very few tools you could just use on your computer (or your tablet, or your phone) to create a web page or web site from scratch.
All that could change quickly, though— the barriers are lower than ever to reclaiming the creative capability that the web was supposed to have right from its birth.
Okay, this one’s nerdy. But I’m just gonna put it out there: You’re supposed to be able to include other websites (or parts of other websites) in your web pages. Sure, we can do some of that — you’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos embedded inside articles that you’ve read, and as media sites pivot to video, that’s only gotten more commonplace.
But you almost never see a little functional part of one website embedded in another. Old-timers might remember when Flash ruled the web, and people made simple games or interactive art pieces that would then get shared on blogs or other media sites. Except for the occasional SoundCloud song on someone’s Tumblr, it’s a grim landscape for anyone that can imagine a web where bits and pieces of different sites are combined together like Legos.
Most of the time, we talk about this functionality as “embedding” a widget from one site into another. There was even a brief fad during the heyday of blogs more than a decade ago where people started entire companies around the idea of making “widgets” that would get shared on blogs or even on company websites. These days that capability is mostly used to put a Google Map onto a company’s site so you can find their nearest location.
Those old hypertext theory people had broader ambitions, though. They thought we might someday be able to pull live, updated pieces of other sites into our own websites, mixing and matching data or even whole apps as needed. This ability to include part of one web page into another was called “transclusion”, and it’s remained a bit of a holy grail for decades.
There’s no reason that this can’t be done today, especially since the way we build web pages in the modern era often involves generating just partial pages or only sending along the data that’s updated on a particular site. If we can address the security and performance concerns of sharing data this way, we could address one of the biggest unfulfilled promises of the web.
Your own website at your own address
This one is so obvious, but we seem to have forgotten all about it: The web was designed so that everybody was supposed to have their own website, at its own address. Of course, things got complicated early on — it was too hard to run your own website (let alone your own web server!) and the relative scarcity of domain names made them expensive and a pain for everybody to buy.
If you just wanted to share some ideas, or talk to your friends, or do your work, managing all that hassle became too much trouble, and pretty soon a big, expensive industry of web consultants sprung up to handle the needs of anybody who still actually wanted their own website—and had the money to pay for it.
But things have gotten much easier. There are plenty of tools for easily building a website now, and many of them are free. And while companies still usually have a website of their own, an individual having a substantial website (not just a one-page placeholder) is pretty unusual these days unless they’re a Social Media Expert or somebody with a book to sell.
There’s no reason it has to be that way, though. There are no technical barriers for why we couldn’t share our photos to our own sites instead of to Instagram, or why we couldn’t post stupid memes to our own web address instead of on Facebook or Reddit. There are social barriers, of course — if we stubbornly used our own websites right now, none of our family or friends would see our stuff. Yet there’s been a dogged community of web nerds working on that problem for a decade or two, trying to see if they can get the ease or convenience of sharing on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to work across a distributed network where everyone has their own websites.
Now, none of that stuff is simple enough yet. It’s for nerds, or sometimes, it’s for nobody at all. But the same was true of the web itself, for years, when it was young. This time, we know the stakes, and we can imagine the value of having a little piece of the internet that we own ourselves, and have some control over.
It’s not impossible that we could still complete the unfinished business that’s left over from the web’s earliest days. And I have to imagine it’ll be kind of fun and well worth the effort to at least give it a try.
In a similar vein, you may also enjoy this look at the lost infrastructure of the early era of social media.
Looking for a little clarity in your life? Want to find some perspective to help you make decisions and navigate situations?
Here are 20 paradoxes that could help give you some insight into your life and your choices.
1) The best things in life can’t be bought
Healthy, happiness, family, friends: you can’t put a price on these things. Stop chasing material possessions in search of happiness. Everything you need is right in front of you.
2) Choice paralyzes us
When we are faced with too many options, we’ll often choose the wrong one or make a choice just to be done with it. Make a decision and move forward.
3) When you stop looking for happiness, you find it
Sometimes everything you need to be happy is right in front of you…all you have to do is just open your eyes.
4) When you stop trying to find solutions, you find them
Stop wracking your brain and let it be with its own thoughts for a while. Before you know it, you’ll find the solution is right in front of you.
5) You don’t know what you have until it’s gone
This is true of everything in life: you favorite pair of jeans, an ice cream cone that fell on the ground, you precious granny Sue. All things have an expiry date so enjoy them while you can.
6) The more you do, the less you get done
Taking on too much at once is counterproductive even for a skilled multitasker. Focus on one thing at a time and you’ll get more done in a day, week and a year.
7) What goes around comes around
You’ll get out of life what you put into it, so don’t sit idle and let life pass you by. Be nice to people and yourself. Otherwise, it could come back to bite you in the behind.
8) The more control you want, the less you have
Helplessness is a horrible feeling, but sometimes we have to let go of things to gain perspective on how to move forward. Stop trying to control everyone and everything.
9) Fiction can change reality
Things that aren’t real or that we can’t prove are real can bring us a great deal of joy: stories that aren’t true but make us feel good, art that has no impact on life except to provide joy, and faith. You can’t see it but you feel it.
10) We’re the same, but different
Everyone is different but everyone wants the same things: to be loved, safe, and happy. Respect how people go about getting those things in life and we’ll all be better off.
11) The more you sleep, the more tired you’ll be
Sure, this one isn’t fair but it’s true. Get up with the sun and go to bed with the birds and you’ll be happier and well rested for it.
12) You can only change when you accept who you are
When you accept yourself as you are, you are better prepared to take on the responsibilities and work associated with change. It comes from a place of love and not hate.
13) The more you run from a problem the bigger it will be
Fate always catches up with us. So if you owe your taxes, pay them. If you haven’t called your mom in years, call her. Don’t ignore what needs fixing.
14) Question what you think you know
The world tells us to question what we see, but not what we think we know. We can change our own minds if we question what is in them.
15) Eat more, lose more
What a concept: eat better foods with more nutrients and minerals and good for you fats, and you can lose more weight than a diet of lettuce and tomato.
16) Improve commutes with less roads
Reducing choice leads to more effective movements in life and on the road.
17) When you stop looking for love, you find it
As with most things in life, what you need is usually right in front of you. Enjoy life and love will come your way.
18) A watched pot never boils
Things take longer when you wait. Stop waiting and start living.
19) Talk less, say more
People who talk a lot usually don’t have much to say. Speak when you have something important to say.
20) Don’t cry over spilled milk
I mean, you could, but really, there’s no going back.