Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Perversity Think Tank by Supervert

Supervert (I think it's safe to assume that's not his real name) is man who has had his hands in several projects over the years. One of those was the website PervScan (a site I wish I had known about in high school) which cataloged stories about perversity in the news from its inception in 2003 until 2010, when it culminated in the publication of the book Perversity Think Tank.

To Supervert's own consternation, PervScan did not inform this seminar on the nature of sexual aberration very much. As he points out:
Many of the acts I covered on PervScan — like the three middle-aged brothers who sexually assaulted their bedridden mother while she lay suffering amid lice, roaches, and fecal matter — struck me less as perverse than as ignorant, heedless, cruel. There were days when I thought my compendium of deviant doings was nothing more than a catalogue of errors in judgement and lapses in common sense.
And so Supervert is forced to go back to square one by answering a basic question. Just what is perversity? He sets about to attempt to answer this question with the help of thinkers like Freud and Schopenhauer and de Sade, artists and authors like Joel-Peter Witkin and Charles Baudelaire, as well as his own personal experiences. 

The book itself is divided into three parts. The "main" essay is a philosophic examination of the nature of perversity.

An interesting part of this essay is where Supervert examines and ultimately rejects the "traditional" definition of perversity. That is, any form of sexuality that hinders reproduction. He points out that by this definition, heterosexual sex in the missionary position where one of the partners has been sterilized is "perverse." Surely that can't be right?

Of interest to note is that Schopenhauer subscribed to this school of thought.
Schopenhauer argues that the dependence of reproduction on sex implies a “metaphysics of sexuality.” The purpose of sex, he thinks, is the constitution of a new generation of beings. Everything that seems instinctual is a matter of duping the individual into propagating his species. Conversely, non-reproductive acts and proclivities have the purpose of preventing the individual from perpetuating his presumably defective characteristics.
In addition to this, Schopenhauer also believed that giving birth was ultimately negative on the ground that suffering always outweighs pleasure in life.

In the essay, Supervert argues that for an act to be perverse, it has to have intentionality of wrongdoing on the part of at least one the participants in the perverse act. As an example, he contrasts the stereotype of the hillbilly who has sex with his daughter with one of de Sade's libertines. The hillbilly has sex with his daughter because out in the sticks, she's one of the few girls there. The libertine, on the other hand, desires to have sex with his daughter precisely because she is his daughter. The hillbilly is satisfying an urge with his limited options. The libertine has an urge to commit an act considered wrong by most because it is considered wrong.

To bring this back to Schopenhauer, let's consider a heterosexual couple who accepts that giving birth is ultimately negative and has a child anyway. Could this couple be considered "perverse" in their actions? They certainly are if we accept Supervert's argument.

The second part of this book is a more "personal" essay. In this essay, Supervert uses examples of his friends and girlfriends (among other experiences) to aid in his examination of the nature of perversity.

One of the more interesting examples is a girl he knew who lived in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village is known for its unusual characters, but this girl?
She seemed — dare I say it? — the most "normal" person I ever met. 
The fact that the girl was so "normal" made her all the more fascinating to Supervert. Especially in contrast to the people she was surrounded by. This leads Supervert to realize "the pervier the masses, the normaler the perv."

Homosexuality is increasingly socially accepted, premarital sex is hardly taboo anymore at all, BDSM erotica is bestselling material and weird fetish porn is a Google search away. As Supervert himself asks, does this mean that "prudes" who wait until marriage to have sex or who only have sex to have babies will eventually become the new "perverts?" One can't say for certain. I doubt my grandfather would have thought gay marriage would ever be legal in Iowa when he was my age. But it should prove interesting to contrast what I think of as "normal" now with what is considered "normal" several years from now.

The third part of the book is the "pictures." There are no actual pictures in the book. Only black boxes accompanied by descriptions of what "should" be there, as well as Supervert's reaction to the pictures. All but a couple of the pictures are easy enough to find with a Google search. I would personally recommend reading the whole book before you go looking for them, though.

None of the three parts stand on their own. Each one is required to fully understand the other two, yet none of them are ever confusing. He will briefly touch on a subject in one part, then more fully explore it in one of the others. I think it could be said that Supervert set out to create a "perversely" structured book. I think he pulled it off rather well.

I have to give a lot of praise to Supervert's writing in this book. It is highly readable. He discusses philosophical issues without sounding dry or pretentious. He has a great sense of humor. He keeps you enthralled even when discussing repulsive subjects.

Perversity Think Tank is not for everyone. If frank discussions of incest, rape, pedophilia and bestiality are beyond the pale for you, it's best you skip it. For everyone else, I can not recommend this book enough. It is fascinating, entertaining and an all around great read. I've purchased Supervert's other two books, and I very much look forward to reading them.

Unfortunately, the physical book just went out of print a few weeks ago. Used copies are also ridiculously expensive and Supervert apparently has no plans for another print run. I can only hope he'll change his mind and put out a second run for latecomers like me. Until then, Perversity Think Tank is available as a free PDF on Supervert's website. So go over and read that. While you're there, check out the rest of what Supervert has to offer. The website and its affiliates are full of great content.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Poem and Coming Soon

I've posted a new poem at Let People Poems called "Unsent E-mail to a Right-Wing Friend". I hope you enjoy it.

I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I've been juggling a lot of writing projects, none that I want to give away here. I do have another review I hope to have up soon. The book is Perversity Think Tank by Supervert. I'm a bit reluctant to discuss it for a few reasons. One is that it just went out of print last week and used copies are ridiculously expensive, so I had to read the PDF on Supervert's site. I was so enthralled with the book that I feel the need to get my thoughts down here. I just want to wait another day or so. I'm worried my review would just end up coming across as mindless gushing otherwise.