How I Came to Orbit Around Ceara Lynch

What follows is not the complete me; it’s not the totality of the person writing these words. Rather, it’s simply just one of many dimensions of my psyche and personality.

It’s the story of the addicted2ceara persona. Who he is. And how he got to be this way.

How did this happen?

Some of you may be wondering how much input Ceara Lynch has into this blog. Fact is, she has very little. Before writing each entry I run the proposed subject pass her, more as a courtesy than for approval. Other than that, she doesn’t know what I’ve written until it’s posted. She gets no advanced draft copies, makes no pre-post edits. Occasionally after reading, she may offer a short comment or two, but that’s about the extent of her input and feedback.

Following my last posting, I mentioned that unless she had some other ideas, I was thinking of doing a futurecast piece speculating about what her persona might be like fifteen or twenty years from now. I hadn’t put much thought into that subject and, in retrospect, it probably was just another one of my frequent brain farts. Anyway, she replied that I might want to write about something a little more personal, like the separate lives I lead – everyday me versus financial slave me. Or more specifically, I should write a bit about my persona.

Well that suggestion was a bolt from the blue. First, it’s not in keeping with the main theme of this blog. Second, I really don’t think I’m all that interesting. And third, a persona is how other people perceive you and how could I possibly know that?! Still, I guess I could write about how I wanted other people to perceive me, which is probably the closest I could get to answering the “What is your persona?” question. And who knows, maybe someone might find my story interesting enough to read through the crap I’m about to write. I mean, if Ceara thought it might be something worth writing about, who am I to argue.

So here goes.

But First

Did you ever notice how men describe themselves in terms of what they do or what they’ve accomplished? An extreme manifestation of this phenomenon is the military. If you’ve ever been in the military, you learn to quickly surmise a person’s career and accomplishments by “reading their chest” (those rows of ribbons over the left pocket on their uniform.) Each one of those ribbons means something – campaigns participated in, medals received, awards conferred. These ribbons, along with other uniform devices, insignia, patches, shoulder tabs, and accouterments tell a story. To the lay person, these things are meaningless. To the service member, they tell the tale of a person’s career. Read a person’s chest and the sum of a person’s military experience and accomplishments can pretty much be taken at a glance.

But a person’s experiences and accomplishments are only one dimension of their identity, and a fairly shallow dimension at that. A list of awards, a curricula vitae or resume, the size of their bank account, what kind of car they drive – these things miss the deeper more interesting dimensions that make a person who they are. Things like their motivation, their values, how they think and express themselves, what they fear and what they’ve overcome, their character, their dignity, their compassion, their selflessness, the things that give them joy, and the joy they bring to others. None of these things can be inferred from a listing of accomplishments. None of these things can be deduced from a string of experiences. And yet, the default way for men to describe themselves is by their job, their career, and their achievements. I guess it’s a way of measuring success or, more idiomatically, a way of competing in the dick-measuring contest that pretty much defines male competitiveness.

So, except for a few relevant facts, I’m going to dispense with the list of significant accomplishments and life experiences. Not only are those things not particularly important, but by not disclosing them, I am able to retain a modicum of anonymity. What remains is this attempt to flesh out my online persona using as few uniquely identifiable traits as practical.

Who Am I? (The Short Answer)

I’m retired. Over 60 years old. Have an annual income well into six figures. Not married. No children.

That’s probably enough information for you to stereotype me; to begin to make some judgments. For some, you’re probably not going to read further. You’ve already got me figured out. And that’s fine.

But for those others, I’d like to round out my persona a bit. To tell you a little bit about who I am, how I got here, and what my relationship with Ceara Lynch is all about.

A Moment of Clarity

I can go as far back as you want. Even as far back to my Catholic grade and high school years. I mean, it’s all part of a life’s trajectory, right? Still, maybe the best place to begin is after college. It was 1976. The economy was just beginning to recover from the stagnation of the mid-1970’s, but it was still near impossible to find a job in the profession I educated myself for. I was young, single, and strong, so eventually found work roll-slitting steel on the second shift at one of the few steel mills left in the region. Aside from work, I was mostly bored. I had a few dollars in my pocket every now and then, which was okay because when I wasn’t working I was just wasting time and partying. I lived on Chicago’s south side. It was blues and bars, and the bars didn’t close until 4 AM. Bottom line: I was just another fearless kid too drunk and stupid to see that I headed down a long path to a crappy life. “Loser” wasn’t my name but it could have been.

Late one night I was sitting in my usual spot at the end of the bar, nursing a 12-ounce draft of Old Style and listening to the jukebox. I happened to gaze at the old man sitting a couple stools away and I realized that guy was always there. Every time I came in, he was there. Sitting alone. Drinking. Nursing his beer. And in that moment of clarity, I saw my future. If I didn’t do something, that was going to be me 25 years from now. I had to get away from the booze. I had to shake things up and try something … anything … different. I had to get off that dead-end track to Crapsville. So I up and joined the military.

Pay for Play

My first duty station was Guam. Where America’s day begins. In the middle of the Pacific ocean. 5000 miles and 10 hours by air from anywhere close to familiar. And what could a young man with a few dollars in his pocket do on Guam during his off duty time back in 1977? Well, aside from snorkeling and sports, the main entertainment option was … drum roll please …. drinking. Bars and booze. And blues on the jukebox. Yeap. I ran right smack dab into what I running away from. Funny as hell, and just a little ironic!

And, lest I forget, there were the Guam strip clubs. For a dollar tip or two (or twenty) you could drink and have some female company for a couple of hours. The more money you spent, the more money you tipped the dancers, the better their company. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough tip money for after hours companionship, so I’d masturbate when I got back to the base. But sometimes I did. Payday was lay day. And I’d get laid. Money and sex were linked. That link was reinforced by alcohol.

I probably should have gotten a girlfriend, but it was Guam, and I was only going to be there for a 18 months before being assigned to another overseas location. Getting serious (or even semi-serious in some sort of dysfunctional relationship) wasn’t something I wanted – I rationalized it by thinking such a relationship wouldn’t be fair to either of us. But more important, I liked playing. I was sowing my wild oats. I was that guy – the one good girls would never dream of bringing home to meet the family.

Though it may have started on Guam, it didn’t end there. During the next 28 years of military service, I moved 15 times. I had addresses in the United States and addresses in foreign countries. The longest I was ever in one place was 27 months. I deployed; I traveled. And I got my shit together. My arrogance-filled youth gave way to humility; humility enabled by the cultures I experienced and the people I met. I met women that I fell in love with, and I met women that fell in love with me. I went to graduate school; earned two advanced degrees; got promoted regularly; adopted the military’s code of ethics, honor, and behavior; strengthened and refined my character; matured; became dependable; and, in short, stopped loathing myself and became proud and sure of who I had become. I gave the military my life, and they saved it.

Somewhere along the line I throttled back the drinking so it no longer contributed to the mental and emotional anguish I had when I was so much younger. I still hadn’t married. (Through all those years there was only one woman I ever wanted to marry but the circumstances of life kept getting in the way.) But the link between casual sex and money endured. There were still strip clubs and, though I found myself in them less often than before, old habits are hard to break. Besides, giving an attractive woman money in exchange for their company and time is much more certain than trying to meet women in bars, clubs, and other traditional venues. It’s not a lifestyle I would recommend for most men, but given my circumstances, it worked for me. As it has worked for countless of other men throughout the ages.

Then came the 90’s and the AIDS epidemic. Casual sex became riskier. ELISA tests became part of my annual physical exam. With each negative test, I sighed relief and vowed to curtail my sexual activities; vowed to find a safer way. That safer way turned out to be pornography and masturbation. The internet explosion was still 10 years away, but video cassette tapes were popular, and adult pornography shops could still be found if you wanted to find one. And I found them.

I gravitated to FEMDOM magazines and tapes. The images and idea of beautiful women with attitude aroused me. So much so that I booked several real-time sessions with now familiar and well-known Dominatrices. In a way it was a different form of the same paradigm I had gotten accustomed to (cash for company.) It was safe in that bodily fluids weren’t exchanged, and it was different. But as things turned out, it wasn’t for me. The fantasy proved more erotic than the experience as I was neither submissive or masochistic enough to let myself completely revel in those roles.

After retiring, I treated myself to a couple of extended travel adventures. When I returned home in 2007 , the internet was exploding. Porn was rampant and I was intrigued. I wasn’t obsessed or addicted to pornography, but I still masturbated when I needed sexual relief. And the internet was like having a porn shop on my desktop. One evening, while looking for FEMDOM images, I stumbled across Niteflirt. The site had a category called “Financial Domination.” I had never heard of financial domination before, but it sparked a line of thought so deeply embedded within my consciousness it wasn’t until years later that I was able to recognize it for what it was. Anyway, financial domination resonated. It was a new twist on an old paradigm, one in which “cash for company” took main stage. As I had grown older, my sexual tastes had changed. In some ways, they became more mature. Financial domination was a perfect storm of appeal for me – it was where money, arousal, dominance/submission play, and virtual companionship collided with all my old sexual habits and desires. As it happened, one of the most striking financial dommes listed on the Niteflirt site was a young woman calling herself Ceara Lynch.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Ceara was cute. And she definitely had that oh-so-sexy-brat-domme attitude I like. But Niteflirt was a phone sex website and I really wasn’t into phone sex with strangers. Sure the photos on the website were compelling enough. The problem was that most of those photos were of professional models. Who knew what the girl on the other end of the phone looked like? Now I know it shouldn’t matter, but somehow it did. I mean, dishonesty is a turnoff and the website was filled with fake profiles. So I didn’t call. In fact, even though I trolled the website often because I found the images arousing, I never called any of the financial domination listings. As I said, anonymous phone sex with strangers just isn’t my thing.

What I did do was purchase a couple of Ceara’s clips from her Clips4Sale studio. I loved how she looked and how she moved. I loved the POV perspective. But the words she spoke, well, they were so far out of my erotica sweet zone that rather than arouse me, they left me flaccid and completely turned off. Turns out that humiliation wasn’t my thing either. Not even close. So I masturbated to the videos with the sound turned off, and ordered some customs from her that catered to a couple of my relatively mild fetishes (edging and tease and denial.) Ceara Lynch was now on my radar. But she was just a blip. I was looking for something more personal, someone more attuned with my emerging financial servitude values which, for lack of a better description, were service with dignity and mutual respect.

So I began in earnest my search online for real financial dommes. The internet was the perfect venue for me. All the elements were there. It was relatively anonymous, easily accessible, I retained control of the frequency and duration of contact, and the time required to establish a masturbation-based relationship with a beautiful woman could be established with generous and consistent transfers of cash. It was my strip club experience (minus the alcohol) with a FEMDOM twist. And it was on my desk top computer and available pretty much whenever I wanted it.

Back in the early years, financial dommes were relatively scarce. The craze hadn’t caught on yet. The traditional BDSM community was skeptical of financial domination at best and outright hostile to it at worst. After some searching, I found another young attractive financial domme whose notion of online financial domination appeared close to my own. It was just play. Edgy but still just play. I decided to give it a go. What followed was a year or two of genuinely trying to establish a relationship. Soon, however, the shortcomings and pitfalls of online financial domination raised their ugly heads. Financial domination was the primary source of the domme’s income, and as her lifestyle evolved, so did her need and her view of the relationship. It had moved from play to a different arena. She wanted a slave, I wanted something much less. Her demands became more persistent. The money I was spending on her was no longer part of my recreational and discretionary income; rather, it was cutting into the income I needed to live on and pay my bills. This was strange and new territory for me and I didn’t like it. I had gained a valuable insight; leaned a valuable lesson. Financial domination may be at the nexus of my sexual play dynamics, but it was also, at its core, wrong for me. As I mentioned earlier, actual submission and masochism aren’t my thing. I’ve no desire to be a slave. I’m a human being with dignity and worthy of respect. So I throttled back and moved on.

For the next two or three years I was in FINDOM limbo. I was still following what was going on in the community (reading Domme Dose postings, following certain blogs and Twitter accounts, etc.) but not really seeking a FINDOM relationship anymore. I joined a couple of Sugar Daddy web sites but they proved a waste of time. While I was only looking for a casual online “pay and fetish play” relationship, the women I found attractive were interested in something much more substantial. After two successive incidents of credit card fraud associated with the sites, I let the whole Sugar Daddy thing fall to the wayside.

Ceara Lynch Re-Found

As mentioned previously, Ceara Lynch was on my radar ever since I first stumbled across her on Niteflirt. I read her blog and infrequently checked her online activities. It was shortly after my Sugar Daddy excursion that Ceara Lynch took her blog in a new direction. No longer was her persona going to be simply another vapid one-dimensional Princess; she was going to reveal more of herself. She was about to become more complex, more nuanced. Her persona was going to have a personality. It was exciting. And I was instantly attracted. Ceara Lynch was no longer a blip on my radar; she had moved herself front and center. I was about to be slowly drawn into her solar system, about to become another lost planet captured by her pull.

I had learned a bit about myself those past few years of online play. Most notably, in addition to my few fairly vanilla fetishes, I liked to be seduced into not very deep and temporary sub-space. Now Ceara’s forte’ is humiliation and degradation which, you may recall, is not my thing. Fortunately, if anything, Ceara is a pro’s pro. She’s versatile and talented. Her tease and denial and hypnosis clips were in my sexual proclivity sweet spot. So I ordered several custom clips during the next 12-18 months. I usually provided a generous tip with each order so that, hopefully, I would make a sufficiently positive impression to stand out from the pack.

As I read more of Ceara’s blog and watched more of her videos, I began to see something more than just pixels on my computer screen. With her “self-outing” in 2014 on Joe Rogan, at the Mystery Box, and online articles, Ceara’s notoriety exploded. She had transformed herself from the earthbound caterpillar to a beautiful, intriguing butterfly. She had taken wing and was flying free. It was exciting to watch the metamorphoses. And I knew then and there that this wonderfully interesting and so-exotic-yet-so-normal woman had captured me. I may not have been thinking of her constantly, but I was thinking of her often.

So I did what I always do when I want a woman’s attention and time. I showered her with money and gifts. I didn’t ask for anything in return. There was no explicit transaction. The money was given freely with no conditions. I was pretty sure once I was noticed and remembered that my innate charm and good humor would endear me to her. By which I mean she would like me.

My Relationship with Ceara

Some of you will find it surprising when I say that, in all these past years to the present, I’ve only spoken to Ceara on the phone once or twice, and then for what was brief polite and non-sexual conversation. I have never Skyped or cam’ed with her. Aside from the infrequent email, we communicate exclusively by Twitter and DM. Any sexually charged communication between us is one way via custom videos. And, to be honest, I haven’t really ordered a custom from her in quite a while (once again, there was credit card fraud associated with the intermediate website that forced me to curtail my activities there.) What I do is promote her videos and business on Twitter, discuss my observations of her  in this website. And I send her money because money has always been part of the dynamic for me.

I’m over 60 years old. Sexually, I’m hardly the man I was even ten years ago. My libido didn’t slow down so much as it ran smack dab into a brick wall. For those who read my blog, I don’t think it’s too hard to read between the lines and find as many observations about myself as about Ceara Lynch. What you don’t know is that health issues, both for myself and for loved ones, now tend to dominate my life. As they say, cancer is a bitch. So for now, until those things are resolved, I write this blog, and nurture my mostly platonic online friendship with Ceara Lynch. Because, even if it’s just an illusion, it’s a pleasant one.

And she makes me smile.

Ceara Lynch: The Ethics of Financial Domination

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Consequentialism and Deontology …

In two recent blog posts, I’ve lightly touched on some narrow and specific moral dimensions of Ceara Lycnh’s profession. Ceara is part of a generation which often defines right and wrong in terms of consequences. Consequence-based morality maintains that if something doesn’t hurt yourself or others, it’s not wrong. When asked, most financial dominatrices morally justify their actions by pointing out that they aren’t hurting anyone.

Consequence-based morality is usually contrasted with deontology. Deontology judges the morality of an action based on rules. It is sometimes described as “duty-” or “obligation-” or “rule-” based ethics. In deontology, rightness or wrongness is derived from one’s actions rather than outcomes. Critics of financial domination usually take a more deontological view. To them, taking another person’s money by intentionally exploiting  weakness is against the rules and just plain wrong.

As a matter of practicality, however, consequentialism and deontology are not mutually exclusive. Unless you’re a pure “ends justify the means” kind of person, most consequentialists incorporate some sort of inviolable side-constraints which restrict the actions they permit themselves to do. They impose limits.

Ceara Lynch is no Girl Scout. She’s not big on rules-based morality. Ceara Lynch wrote to me, “I don’t think of morality as ‘what is proper’ (as you wrote) rather, to act morally is to act in a way that inflicts the least amount of suffering.” Hers is largely a consequence-based approach to morality.

Unintended Consequences …

Evil is wanting and planning for bad consequences. But what if the bad consequences are unintended? Is the person making that particular decision evil? Bad? Amoral? Of course not. As a practical matter, even in a consequence-based moral system,.intentions count for something. At the very least, good intentions mitigate actions when things turn out bad.

Unintended consequences are a fact of life. Sometimes the unintended consequences can be beneficial, sometimes there may be unexpected detrimental side effects, and sometimes the consequence may backfire and be contrary to what was originally intended.

In the case of financial domination, the most likely unintended consequence are detrimental side effects. In addition to the usual mental health risks associated with Dominance/submission play (such as tops disease, outing, emotional vampirism, etc.), financial domination poses the unique risk of financial harm and hardship for the submissive player. Although little to no public information is available about how often and to what extent financial hardship results from financial domination play, it’s probably safe to assume that it does occur.

For a consequentialist like Ceara Lynch, what then is the moral burden when results of the financial domination cause harm and undo financial hardship to her client? In her own words, her moral road map is about imposing the least amount of suffering. Yet the play she encourages and facilitates may unintentionally create harm and suffering. Clearly, she never wanted to hurt her client, so when harm occurs, her motives mitigate her moral culpability to a certain extent. But even though the actions and decisions leading to harm are not solely hers, she must bear some moral responsibility for the consequences of those joint actions. The moral price to pay ( in other words, justice) is predicated upon how much harm is done.

And there’s the problem. Because no one other than the harmed submissive knows the full extent of how much damage is being done. And he’s not saying. Not even to the financial dominatrix.

In the strawman postulated above, the dominatrix is able to avoid facing the moral dilemma posed by overlooking the consequences entirely. In the case of financial domination, ignorance is truly bliss.

An Ethereal Thing …

Discussions of ethics and morality are ethereal. They just seem too perfect for the workings of the real world. People are complex, situations are more often ambiguous than clear. Financial domination play is one of those situations. It’s on the edge – morally, ethically, psychologically. There’s an unspoken trust between play partners that boundaries won’t be crossed. Unfortunately those boundaries are often ill-defined or, in the worse cases (those devoid of any ethical considerations at all), there are no boundaries.

For Ceara Lynch, the boundaries are defined better than most. In that way, she is easier to trust. Still, the potential for harm is always present. How she addresses the potential moral dilemma embedded within her consequentialist perspective is dependent on how she makes sense of those boundaries and the ambiguous nature of internet social-sexual play.  Perhaps a more thorough reading of her past blog entries would give me more insight; for now, however, her approach to the ethics of financial domination remains a bit opaque to me.

I’m no moral absolutist and in no position to judge anyone – so will leave this blog open for comments, thoughts, and other insights into the contentious arena of ethics and financial domination.  Feel free to add your comments and replies.

Thanks.

Ceara Lynch: Humiliation Videos as Art

An essay in which I trace the artistic roots of Ceara Lynch’s humiliation and degradation videos.

Indifference …

In 1971, 25 year old performance artist Chris Burden stood against the wall of a California art gallery and ordered a friend to shoot him through the arm. It was performance art designed to unnerve.

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Shoot” by Chris Burden (1971)

45 years later, a class of students at Williams College viewed the grainy footage of Burden’s shooting.  No one expressed any sense of shock or revulsion. No one took offense that a taboo had been broken. Instead, there was tolerance. Or perhaps more accurately, indifference.

Has society and culture changed so much that what once was shocking is now commonplace? Has art evolved so that the values and social mores of the past are no longer applicable to art’s relevance? And does Ceara Lynch, and her video clips, have a place on this trajectory of art’s evolution?  If so, where?

This essay will explore some of the answers to those questions.

Art Is …

I remember the first time I understood art. It was 1986 at the University of Chicago. I was 34 years old, well established in my career, and headed down a path towards inevitable success. Adding a few more graduate-level courses to my curricula vitae would accelerate my progress. I was brimming with confidence – to the point of being downright unlikable. You know the kind of person I was back then. The one with a comment for everything; judgmental, critical, and just plain obnoxious. The asshole in the crowd. That was me. Humility hadn’t yet found a very favorable place in my character.

There was an exhibit of Jeff Koons’s work in a lobby of one of the University’s buildings. This particular work , two basketballs floating in a half-filled tank of water, caught my eye.

eq24_sm“Two Ball 50/50 Tank” by Jeff Koons (1985)

Being a full-throttled asshole, I offered a snide comment to no one in particular. “This is art?! It’s just a couple of basketballs floating in a half-filled aquarium.” Fortunately, there was someone much wiser and enlightened nearby who, upon hearing my comment, replied, “It has to do with shapes.” I looked again. And I saw something different. That was my epiphany moment. That was the moment I began to understand art (and, coincidentally, it was also the moment that genuine humility began to take on a larger role in my life.)

Art was about perspective. Art was seeing the unexpected in the familiar. And, in a larger sense, art was about a willingness to view things differently. This is where artists make their mark, by implanting pictures in the underwater processing that is upstream from conscious cognition. Art smashes through some of the warped lenses through which we’ve been taught to see. And what we see is a different way of seeing things; a new perspective from which to view truth. Art shapes in meaningful ways our image of ourselves or define our collective values. As society’s values and culture has changed and evolved, so has art.

Art Evolves …

For most of human history, works of visual art were the direct expression of the society that made them. The artist was not an autonomous creator; he worked at the behest of his patron, making objects that expressed in visible form that patron’s beliefs and aspirations. As society changed, its chief patrons changed and art changed along with it. Such is patronage, the mechanism by which the hopes, values, and fears of a society make themselves visible in art.

When World War I broke out in 1914, that mechanism was delivered a blow from which it never quite recovered. If human experience is the raw material of art, here was material aplenty but of the sort that few patrons would choose to look upon. The human body—dynamic, beautiful, created in God’s image—had long been the central subject of Western art. It was now depicted in the most tormented and fragmented manner, every coil of innards laid bare with obscenely morbid imagination. Ernst Kirchner and Otto Dix depicted the gore. George Grosz, who refrained from showing actual injuries, was even more disturbing. He made collages of faces out of awkwardly assembled parts, like a jigsaw puzzle assembled with the wrong pieces, suggesting those sad prosthetics that would have been a ubiquitous presence in 1918.

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Remember Uncle August, the Unhappy Inventor” by George Grosz (1919)

Christianity had introduced the motif of beautiful suffering, in which even the most agonizing of deaths could be shown to have a tragic dignity. But things had now been done to the human body that were unprecedented, and on an unprecedented scale. The cruel savagery of this art can be understood only as the product of collective trauma, like the babble of absurd free associations that tumble from our mouths when in a state of shock. That kind of irrational expression was the guiding principle of Dada, the movement that came about at the end of the war and that was made famous by Marcel Duchamp’s celebrated urinal turned upside down and named Fountain.

fountain

“Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp (1917)

The absurdity of Dada applied unserious means to a serious end: the search for an artistic language capable of expressing the monstrous scale and nature of the war. But the absurdist moment was short-lived and quickly superseded. The toppling of Europe’s three principal empires and the Russian Revolution seemed to confirm that the West had entered into a radical new phase of cultural history, the most consequential since the rise of Renaissance humanism half a millennium ago. There was a general sense that a world radically transformed by war required an equally radical new art—an art of urgent gravity. While modern art had certainly existed before the war, there now came into being a comprehensive “modern movement” that was active in all spheres of human action, not only in art but in politics and science as well. In its wake, Pablo Picasso rose from being a mere painter with a quirky personal style to a world-historical figure whose work was as important to the future of mankind as Einstein’s or Freud’s.

All this gave the modernism of the 1920s its tone of moral seriousness, which became even more serious once the Great Depression began. Artists of that period assumed their role was to express the human condition, and in so expressing, make efforts to improve it. To accomplish this, they did not require the traditional patron. The prestige and power of those patrons had been diminished by the war, and with that diminution went their ability to dictate to artists. A half century of robust artistic patronage by the industrialists who had ruled American life since the Gilded Age was written off with a sneer. The making of art was considered far too serious to be left to sentimental clients.

After World War II and the introduction of the atom bomb, it seemed pointless to try to preserve the confused traditions of a civilization that had brought the world to the ledge of oblivion. Instead, the artists came to believe they had to dispense with the entire accumulated storehouse of artistic memory and the history of the benighted West in order to begin anew. The 1950s painter Barnett Newman summarized this line of thought pretentiously but accurately: “We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of western European painting. Instead of making “cathedrals” out of Christ, man, or “life,” we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings.’” “We are making it out of ourselves” is a fair summary of the revolution in patronage the modern movement had brought about, in which the artist himself had now been transformed into his own patron. And yet, radical as this new art had become, it remained traditional in one key respect: It still existed in a recognizable moral universe. For all its portentous grandiloquence, the new art still spoke of that ancient durable strand in the Western tradition, a belief in the tragic dignity of man.

But in the early 1960’s, art’s belief in man started to decline, and the age of postmodernism began. It was not so much a change in style or philosophy as in sensibility. Although the condition of the world seemed ever more serious, a younger generation in the Western democracies had determined that the proper response was to be even less serious, to throw up one’s hands and confront the world with irony. That new sensibility was being reflected in painting (Andy Warhol), sculpture (Claes Oldenburg), and architecture (Robert Venturi.) Common to all was a shared posture of irreverence and ironic detachment. The burden art had carried since the end of World War I—the obligation to express ponderous things in ponderous ways, the burden to be on perpetual guard duty in the avant-garde, ever alert to any reactionary tendency—had been cast off.

With the Vietnam War, seriousness returned to the art – a seriousness tinged with fury, indignation, and, increasingly, politics. A whole spectrum of other political causes soon found expression in art—environmentalism, feminism, Chicano rights. This new seriousness differed sharply from the old. If modernism had understood itself to be upholding and developing the culture from within, revolutionizing Western art in order to save it, its postmodern successors offered a critique from without. This was the counterculture that emerged after the collapse of the postwar liberal consensus, and its stance was essentially adversarial, distinguished by hostility to the existing order. It viewed the advanced industrial society of the West not as the highest development of human civilization but rather as a corrupt enterprise whose shameful legacy was slavery, colonialism, and exploitation.

Most of this slipped under the radar of the American public, which had by the 1970s established a kind of concordat with the art world. Whatever art had to offer—minimalism, conceptualism, photorealism—was a zany precinct where anything might happen, a source of entertainment, a zone that might be safely regarded with benign neglect. This concordat fell apart spectacularly in the late 1980s, and when it did, artists were just as shocked as the public.

Disgust, Rage, and Obscenity …

From time to time, so-called conceptual artists had looked to find new ways to use the human body artistically. Their agenda was by no means to express humanist values or even beautiful suffering—quite the contrary. In 1961, Piero Manzoni offered for sale 90 tin cans purportedly containing the Merda d’artista (to this day it is uncertain whether or not the cans actually contain his excrement, since to open one would cost on the order of $100,000).

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Merda d’artista” by Piero Manzoni (1961)

Manzoni’s foray into scatology was a prophecy of things to come. Ten years later, Vito Acconci became a minor celebrity with his performance of Seedbed, which involved his hiding under a platform in a gallery and speaking to visitors above while masturbating.

If these acts had any political agenda at all, it was anarchy. And in the wake of Roe vs Wade and then the AIDS epidemic, there poured forth a great deal of body-centered art. Its one great constant was a high quotient of rage—as furious as any statue-smashing interlude in the long history of iconoclasm. Here was an anguish and loathing not seen since the days of Grosz and Dix, both of the self-hating variety expressed through masochistic acts and generalized rage against society (Ron Athey’s now notorious Four Scenes from a Harsh Life, for which he incised patterns into the back of a collaborator with a scalpel, dabbing up the blood with paper towels that were affixed to a clothesline and swung out over the wincing audience.) Such art, unlike that of Grosz, offered no coordinates from which society could navigate to find a higher purpose. It was purposely disgusting and subhuman. It’s emotional response was unreasonable, animal, and something to be distrusted. And it fulfilled the definition of what the late Philip Rieff called a “deathwork,” a work of art that poses “an all-out assault upon something vital to the established culture.”

Then came 1990 and four artists whose grants were withdrawn by the National Endowment for the Arts because of the obscene content of their work. Their names were Tim Miller, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Karen Finley—the latter especially famous because her most notable work largely involved smearing her own body with chocolate. As it happened, their work was rather less offensive than that of Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, who had been the subject of NEA-funded exhibitions the year before. Serrano’s photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of his own urine was called “Piss Christ.” Mapplethorpe’s notorious self portrait featured a bullwhip thrust into his fundamental aperture.

piss-christ

“Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano (1987)

 self-portrait-with-whip

“Self Portrait with Whip” by Robert Maplethorpe (1978)

That controversy ended with a double defeat. In a case that was heard by the Supreme Court, the NEA Four failed to have their grants restored. But Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Newt Gingrich likewise failed in their determined effort to defund the NEA. And the American public—left with an impressionistic vision in which urine, bullwhips, and a naked but chocolate-streaked Karen Finley figured largely—drew the fatal conclusion that contemporary art had nothing to offer them.

Given this arts’ flagrantly, deliberately transgressive nature, it is remarkable how surprised and bewildered its creators were when they felt the full measure of public disapproval. After all, having been properly vetted and celebrated at every step by curators and journalists, academics and bureaucrats, these artists quite reasonably assumed that they were beyond reproach. That there was yet another actor out there in the mists, a public upon whose judgment their fate might depend—a public that might act to withdraw state funding of projects that were expressly intended to transgress its values—seems not to have crossed their minds. One Harvard scholar suggested that Serrano erred because while he knew “his photograph to be provocative, he did not count on such a broad audience outside the art world.”

Art and Degradation of the Body …

But what to make of an artist who does not wish to have a broad audience or speak to his own society? At a minimum, it is not even political art—art that seeks to persuade or focus attention—if it exists only within the silo of its own echo chamber.

Although the body-art movement lost its incandescent fury as the AIDS crisis subsided, there lingered a fascination with the degraded human body. This reconfigured itself in the 1990s as the movement known as “abject art,” which the website of London’s Tate Gallery tactfully defines as “artworks which explore themes that transgress and threaten our sense of cleanliness and propriety particularly referencing the body and bodily functions.” The most notorious example came seven years ago when a Yale art student presented a performance of “repeated self-induced miscarriages.” According to her own account, she inseminated herself with sperm from voluntary donors, “from the 9th to the 15th day of my menstrual cycle…so as to insure the possibility of fertilization,” afterwards using “an herbal abortifacient” to induce the desired miscarriage. Here was indeed a deathwork, proud and unashamed. Such projects returned the spotlight to the human body. But this was hardly the body that was, as Hamlet put it, “like a god in apprehension.” Rather, it was a ravaged and wounded thing, degraded and defenseless. One can almost understand the popularity of the ghastly flayed and preserved bodies exhibited by Günther von Hagen, the notorious corpse artist, in his traveling “Body Worlds” exhibition. Unlike the degraded victimhood on display in most examples of abject art, his figures evoked dynamic action and freedom, and at least a shard of hope.

body-worlds

One of many “Body Worlds” exhibit by Gunther von Hagen

Art as Experience …

Even as the public was flinching from the excesses of performance art and abject art, it was embracing museums as never before. If one compares the performance of museums to other entertainment facilities in the United States in terms of box office, the museums come off splendidly. According to the American Association of Museums, annual attendance hovers at about 700 or 800 million, and it did not even suffer declines during the recession of 2008. These figures far exceed the combined attendance at major-league sporting events and amusement parks. This is not by accident, for museums have been assiduously cultivating their attendance for quite some time. The process began with the “Treasures of Tutankhamen” exhibition that opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1978 and drew a record 1.8 million visitors. Startled museum trustees, previously accustomed to covering the annual deficit with a discreet check, took notice of the lines stretching around the block. The temptation proved irresistible, and the culture of the museum reoriented itself toward the regular production of a reliable blockbuster.

By any measure, there is hardly an institution in the Western world so healthy as the museum today. By any measure—there’s the rub. For some things cannot be measured but are important nevertheless. In 1998, exactly 20 years after the Tutankhamen exhibition, the Guggenheim brought forth “The Art of the Motorcycle,” an exhibition widely panned as without educational merit. Yet it, too, was a crowd-pleasing sensation, and it, too, broke attendance records. There may be a considerable difference between the gold mask of King Tut and a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle, but not in the calculus of quantifiable data by which museums gauge their success. Still, it did not seem to trouble the general public that art museums now sported motorcycles and helicopters (in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art), for they no longer expected museums to offer objects but an experience. The temple of the arts had been transformed into what the critic Jerry Saltz has called “a revved-up showcase of the new, the now, the next, an always-activated market of events and experiences.”

Art and Technology …

Art, then, is the product of a particular cultural moment. Painting, sculpture and architecture (the “big three” genres of traditional art) are being diminished in their importance by new art genres enabled through technological innovation, such as photography, the motion picture, and perhaps digital art. These new art technologies add to (and in some cases supplant) the repertoire of existing genres, expanding choice for the art consumer (as entertainment) and the art producer (as means of expression).

A new technology can change the cultural moment with shocking speed. America’s culture of vaudeville, vibrant for a half century, sank into oblivion after the introduction of sound in film in 1927. The big bands of the Swing Era and their culture of nightclubs and ballrooms could not survive television. Now it is literary culture that is on the chopping block. According to Publishers Weekly, the greatest sales of nonfiction books was achieved in 2007—the same year that Apple introduced the iPhone. Since then, book sales have been declining steadily, up to 10 percent a year.

Art Evolved …

But technology alone cannot explain what has happened to the arts in the past few generations. The same period has witnessed a catastrophic breakdown of the belief systems that sustained Western civilization. The belief in its goodness and fundamental virtue, once the unspoken premise on which society operated, is something that any high school student, properly instructed, knows how to debunk.

Those beliefs have been largely swept away; their place has been taken by the institutions of mass media, commerce, and advertising. The human experience has been redefined in this new culture. And just as that experience has adapted to this new sociocultural environment, so has art.

And the humiliation videos of Ceara Lynch are part of that evolving art.

The Art of Ceara Lynch …

Art enlightens the mind, affects the imagination, and recodes the mental maps people project into the world. For countless numbers of men, Ceara Lynch has recoded, redefined, or brought into sharper focus a dark side previously denied from, or hidden within, an individual’s self-image. In that sense, her work is art; an art that reflects a modern media driven socioculture of loose one-dimensional affiliations where avatars replace faces, and emoticons replace expression and body-language. Her art did not spontaneously occur. Rather, its roots may be found in a century of avant-garde tradition; a tradition that has both reflected and contributed to sociocultural changes.

The young male ego is a marvelously fragile thing. Feminism, and particularly feminism as a political movement, upended a centuries-old male-dominated social order. Modern males often find themselves in a sort of psycho-sexual angst grappling with the tumult, disorder and uncertainty of gender roles in modern society. And like 1920’s Dada, the humiliation videos of Ceara Lynch use unserious means to a serious end; i.e., they provide an outlet for submissiveness not found elsewhere. Ceara Lynch and her videos offer certain men a glimpse of clarity and order among the internalized confusion brought forth by the demands of more fluid gender roles in today’s culture. Like pop art of the 1960’s, her videos are irreverent, often absurd. Produced for individual patrons, the point-of-view videos usually takes a personalized adversarial stance. Like the art of the 1970’s (which took a similar adversarial stance against society-at-large), her videos depict man as corrupt, unworthy, and without dignity. Her degradation is sexual, perverse, and beyond cultural norms. She is deliberately transgressive; reminiscent of the taboo-breaking art of the 70’s, 80’s and, most particularly, the abject art of the 90’s. In fact, her art is a sort of abject art focused more on the mind rather than the body. In her art, the mind is a ravaged and wounded thing, degraded and defenseless. And of course, like most art today, it’s more about entertainment and visual experience than it is about social merit.

Ceara Lynch’s video art is as much a product of her patrons as it is a product of herself. Art is said to refract the world back to people in some meaningful way; to illuminate human nature with sympathy and insight. In that regard, her art reflects the sociocultural sexual angst of today’s male. It’s on the edge in pushing abject art into the mental realm. It’s absurd. It’s serious. It’s taboo-breaking. And it’s uniquely 21st century.

Sharing some thoughts about Ceara Lynch for “Ruin Me”

Recently, Director Julian Shaw, “Ruin Me” asked my opinion regarding Ceara Lynch, her persona, her profession, and her business. Below are some of the thoughts I provided.

Why did you choose to start a blog about Ceara?

I originally was going to do a blog about my findom experiences; thought it would be a good way to make sense of some of the nuances and complexities of online FINDOM I’ve thought about over the years. But soon realized that I really wasn’t ready to (1) reveal that sort of intimate introspection to the public, (2) the blog would quickly become one-dimensional, and (3) it probably wouldn’t appeal to a large audience. So the thought struck me that examining various aspects of Ceara’s online persona … the persona she projected intertwined with the frequent insights she offered of her personal thoughts and life … would allow me to express and examine my thoughts and experiences about FINDOM within the context of an infinitely more interesting person than myself.

Comment on how Ceara has deliberately constructed her online persona.

Well, I think if you go back and look at her web presence (and clips) over the years, you can discern an evolution and maturity in her persona. Whereas the early persona had a lot of ‘fuck you, pay me’ tinge to it; her presence today is more refined. Personally, I find her current persona much more appealing. Less brat; more femme fatale. I think she has discovered that seducing men is financially and psychologically rewarding; more so than say a one-dimensional bitch that simply demands money and submission from “losers.”

You say the Ceara Lynch persona is apolitical, but she has certainly inspired some politically minded discourse (you mention the Breitbart article for instance). Please discuss this phenomenon.

Well, within two days of posting my “Politics, Morality, and Sin” blog (the blog in which I say her persona is apolitical) she tweeted a picture of her marked up U.S. presidential ballot … with the comment … “Repeat after me. That’s an order.” So I was pretty much wrong about her persona being ‘apolitical’.

That said, aside from that one tweet, any other political (or judgmental) comment is rare. Social media have turned into a vehicle for people to voice their unsolicited opinion about a variety of topics; with politics being among the more passionate arena. Political comments (and sport comments, for that matter) often turn toxic and venom filled; people both offend and become offended. Commenters exploit the “Three A’s” of internet interaction … anonymity, accessibility, affordability (i.e., there are no repercussions for comments, no matter how vile or hate filled.) Two of those “A’s” can’t be exploited by Ceara … anonymity and affordability. Disagreeable political comments will impact both her market image and her bottom line. So I think she wisely keeps her web presence apolitical.

What do you perceive as the difference between Ceara the character and the real person behind the character?

I like to think the real Ceara is more of a romantic than her persona; someone not as cynical or as uncaring as the character she plays. Although I don’t know Ceara the person, I imagine her with many of the traits her persona displays … grounded, secure, confident (but not arrogant), intelligent. I also see her with weaknesses never displayed by her persona … the usual human weaknesses … unsure, confused, and emotionally befuddled at times. I don’t see her as greedy or hurtful. She is compassionate, loving, and willing to forgive. She knows hurting is part of living, so she doesn’t dwell on things that disrupt her life. She’s not bored; living life interests her. She’s not extravagant, in dress or lifestyle, but has a mind that’s just a little quirky and twisted. She likes horror movies; is not big on romantic comedy. In some ways, she’s both the “son” her father always wanted, and the little Princess he adores.

Briefly place the Ceara Lynch character into an American historical context.

As an entrepreneur and business person, she is the embodiment of America; i.e., exploiting new technology, inventing new markets, where hard work meets opportunity to create success. That said, she is the antitheses of the norm; an independent woman succeeding on a path usually reserved (or at least expected to be followed) only for men. She not a legacy of 1980’s feminism, more it’s step-child. She could be a standard bearer for gender equality if she wasn’t working so hard at being better than equal. That “can-do, damn-the-torpedoes, got-new-frontiers-to-explore” competitiveness is the essence of what America perceives itself to be.

She’s Huck Finn in a dress.

You mention the Ancient Greeks in your blog – describe the antecedents to the Ceara Lynch persona.

The Ceara Lynch persona is the quintessential femme fatale. She charms and ensnare men, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest days seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having power over men. She achieves her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. Her traits include promiscuity and the “rejection of motherhood,” seen as “one of her most threatening qualities since by denying his immortality and his posterity it leads to the ultimate destruction of the male.” She is morally ambiguous, and evokes a sense of mystification and unease. Ancient mythical or legendary examples include Mohini, Lilith, the Sirens, Aphrodite, Circe, Medea, Lesbia and Helen of Troy. Historical examples from Classical times include Cleopatra as the Biblical figures Delilah, Jezebel and Salome. The femme fatale is everywhere in American literature, film and television.

Please expand on the idea of ‘play/fantasy vs reality’ in her work. Does Ceara ever blur the lines?

With regards to the “Ceara Lynch Experience”, I think the best way to differentiate ‘play’ from ‘reality’ is to by understanding the role suffering plays when she interacts with her clients. During absolute play, there is no suffering. It is a completely enjoyable experience with no harmful consequences. For those infrequent times when play might cross over into reality, some suffering for the client might ensue; be it physically, mentally, or financially. Ceara Lynch’s talent is that she is able to get close to the edge between play and reality without crossing it. She shies away from causing suffering, routinely rejecting appeals from masochists to cause on inflict it on them.

Does Ceara in fact offer a psychological/therapeutic service to some customers?

If you’re asking if there is any socially redeeming qualities to Ceara Lynch’s service, I suppose she provides an outlet for men to play out some of their less traditional erotic fantasies. And, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, she offers some men temporary relief from loneliness and boredom. I don’t really know if those have any psychologically therapeutic value, however.

Ceara Lynch: Morality and Internet Pornography Addiction

“ … as the tip of the little finger caught in a mill crank will draw in the hand, and the arm, and the whole body, so the miserable mortal who has been caught firmly by the end of the finest of his nerve is drawn in and in, by the enormous machinery of hell, until he is as I am. Yes Doctor, as I am, for while I talk to you, and implore relief, I feel that my prayer is for the impossible, and my pleading with the inexorable.” 

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, “Green Tea”

Reefer Madness” in the U.S. Senate …

In November 2004, a panel of anti-pornography advocates, addiction treatment professionals, and other experts testified before the U. S. Senate’s Commerce Subcommittee on Science that a product which millions of Americans consume is dangerously addictive. They were talking about pornography.

The panel, convened by then Sen. Sam Brownback, an outspoken Christian conservative and chairman of the Subcommittee, provided testimony on Internet pornography’s addictive effects and its potential health hazard to the American public.

Internet pornography was said to be corrupting children and hooking adults into an addiction that threatens jobs and families. The effects of porn on the brain were called “toxic” and compared to heroin. One psychologist claimed “prolonged exposure to pornography stimulates a preference for depictions of group sex, sadomasochistic practices, and sexual contact with animals.”

The panel concluded it’s testimony by noting that scientific research “directly assessing the impact of pornography addiction on families and communities is rather limited” and called for Congress to both finance scientific studies and launch a public health campaign warning people about the dangers of “porn addiction.”

Since that hearing, much has been learned about behavioral addiction. So much so, that reading the panel’s testimony is akin to watching 1936’s campy film classic, “Reefer Madness.” And while a limited measure of the panel’s testimony has been reinforced by subsequent neurophysiological studies, it’s interesting to see just how far some people will go to convince us that ready access to pornography is one of the worst things in the world.

Pornography is a Loaded Subject …

Opponents argue that pornography can ruin marriages, lead to sexual addiction or other unhealthy behaviors, and encourage sexual aggression. Proponents claim that erotica can enhance sex lives, provide a safe recreational outlet and perhaps even reduce the incidence of sexual assault. (After pornography was legalized in Denmark in 1969, for instance, researchers reported a corresponding decline in sexual aggression.) But in some ways, both arguments are moot: People like porn. Various international studies have put porn consumption rates at 50 percent to 99 percent among men, and 30 percent to 86 percent among women. A 2008 study on university campuses found that a whopping 87 percent of “emerging” adult men (aged 18-26), and 31 percent of emerging adult women report using porn at some level. Twenty percent of young men report using pornography daily or every other day, and almost half use it at least weekly.

Porn is practically ubiquitous, and the Internet has made it easier than ever to get an erotic fix. The accessibility, affordability and anonymity provided by the Web have put adult content right at our fingertips. The fact is there are a lot of people out there using a lot of porn who have no problems with it whatsoever. So when does compulsive viewing of pornography become a problem?

The Internet and Addictive Behavior …

We all have the brain reward circuitry that makes sex rewarding. In fact, this is a survival mechanism. In a healthy brain, these rewards have feedback mechanisms for satiety or ‘enough.’ But hypersexual disorder (a broad category which includes sex addiction, chronic masturbation, etc.) and internet pornography addiction is far more than just an overabundance of libido. With addiction, the circuitry becomes dysfunctional such that the message to the individual becomes ‘more’, which leads to the pathological pursuit of rewards.

Interestingly, the very nature of the internet lends itself to addictive behavior. There is a key element found throughout all internet-related experiences: The ability to maintain or heighten arousal with the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger. Attention to new and different things (scanning for salient cues in the environment) furthers survival, and research shows that it activates the brain’s reward system. Thus, the act of seeking (which would include surfing) triggers the reward system. So do stimuli that violate expectations (positive or negative), which is often found in today’s video games and internet pornography. Some internet activities, because of their power to deliver unending stimulation and activation of the reward system, are thought to constitute supernormal stimuli1, which helps to explain why users whose brains manifest addiction-related changes get caught in their pathological pursuit.

In short, generalized internet chronic overuse is highly stimulating. It recruits our natural reward system, but potentially activates it at higher levels than the levels of activation our ancestors typically encountered as our brains evolved, making it liable to switch into an addictive mode.

Defining An Addiction is not the Same as Diagnosing It …

Pornography addiction has been defined as compulsive sexual activity with concurrent use of pornographic material, despite negative consequences to one’s physical, mental, social, or financial well-being.2

Determining whether pornography is a diagnosticable addiction is no scientific slam dunk. Two questions have to be answered first, and the answer to each has some elements of uncertainty.

First, can pornography become addictive? Addiction, almost by definition, involves significant dysfunction in a person. Their functional level at their job, in their family, in school, or in society in general, is altered. Human beings can do all sorts of dysfunctional things when they have addiction. The response of society has often been to punish those antisocial and dysfunctional behaviors, and to believe that the person with addiction is, at their core, “a bad person.” When you understand what’s really happening with addiction, you realize that good people can do very bad things, and the behaviors of addiction are understandable in the context of the alterations in brain function. Addiction is not, at its core, a social problem or a problem of morals. Addiction is about brains, not just about behaviors.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), founded in 1954 and representing over 4200 physicians, clinicians, and associated professionals, is the most regarded professional organization in the field of addiction medicine. In 2011, as a result of growing neuroscientific evidence, ASAM formally expanded their definition of addiction to include both behaviors and substances:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

This ASAM definition makes clear that addiction is not about the substances or behavior; it is not even the quantity or frequency of use. Addiction is about what happens in a person’s brain when they are exposed to rewarding substances or rewarding behaviors. It’s more about reward circuitry in the brain and related brain structures than it is about the external chemicals or behavior that “turn on” that reward circuitry. Food, sex ,gambling, internet gaming, and even shopping behaviors can be associated with the “pathological pursuit of rewards” described in this definition of addiction.

Second, Can pornography addiction be diagnosed? The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been the standard diagnostic system for mental disorders since the early 1950’s. It serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis. Treatment recommendations, as well as payment by health care providers, are often determined by DSM classifications.

The DSM lists hundreds of diagnoses of different conditions, and the criteria by which one makes a diagnosis. The method that psychiatry has relied upon has been the patient interview and outwardly observable behaviors; i.e., the DSM focuses on outward manifestations that can be observed and the presence of which can be confirmed via a clinical interview or standardized questionnaires about a person’s history and their symptoms. A diagnosis does not depend on a particular theory of psychology or a theory of etiology (where a disease comes from); rather the DSM just looks at behaviors you can see or symptoms or experiences that a patient reports.

When the fifth edition (DSM-5) was being drafted, experts considered a proposed diagnostic addiction called hypersexual disorder, which included subcategories for pornography, sex addiction, and chronic masturbation. In the end, however, because of lack of research and lack of an agreed upon list of symptomatic behaviors, reviewers determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to include hypersexual disorder and its sub-categories in the 2013 edition.

That said, not being included in the DSM-5 does not mean hypersexual disorder and pornography addiction don’t exist. Already the new DSM accepts gambling (a behavioral addiction) and lists internet videogaming addiction for possible inclusion. And since DSM-5 came out in 2013, more than 80 brain studies of various forms have revealed that addiction to and on the internet (to include internet pornography addiction) entails the same fundamental kinds of neural changes seen in the brains of substance addicts.

About Those Studies3 ….

Most of the studies used neuroimaging measures, EEGs, or physiological measurements, although some studies used neuropsychological measures. The common thread was that they all used neural data to tie Internet-related behavioral addictions (and their subtypes, like pornography addiction) to the well-established neuroscience on “substance abuse.” The net result was a very large number of neuroscience based studies that support the application of the drug addiction model4 to addictive Internet-related behaviors. These studies collectively constitute strong evidence for considering addictive Internet behaviors as behavioral addiction.

Maybe It’s Not a Large Public Health Issue …

For some people, internet pornography is a real problem. They spend excessive time viewing pornography instead of interacting with others. These individuals report depression, social isolation, career loss, decreased productivity, and adverse financial consequences. Internet pornography addicts tend to show symptoms like compulsive novelty seeking and shifting sexual tastes. These symptoms can further exacerbate stress, confusion, fear and despair if users’ porn-based sexual fantasies morph to the point where they clash with their self-identified sexual desires or orientation.

Fortunately, it appears only a small percentage of people are susceptible. Despite the lack of diagnoses guidance in DSM-5, several studies have attempted to determine the extent to which internet pornography addiction may be prevalent. One study of a sample of 9,265 people found that 1% of Internet users are clearly addicted to cybersex (though 17% of users met criteria for problematic sexual compulsively.) In short, even though pornography is addictive, it doesn’t appear to be anywhere in the same class as highly addictive substances like opiates.

Still, without the clinical diagnostic tools provided by DSM-5, it’s hard to substantiate how many of the self-identified pornography “addicts” are truly addicted. Self-perceptions, biases, and responsibility avoidance may play a large role in inflate the self-reported numbers. For example, another 2014 study identified a connection between a subjects religious beliefs and their self perception of pornography addiction. One of the findings of the study is that there appeared to be a predilection in religious people to believe they are addicted to pornography regardless of how much they watch or whether it negatively impacts their lives (roughly 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women self-report being addicted to porn.)

And the Moral Implications for the Porn Industry Are …

Assuming that pornography addiction is a real disease of the brain, and that for a small percentage of people it is a very real problem, what then are the moral implications for the pornography industry?

Over two thirds of young men (18-26 years of age), and nearly half of young women believe that porn consumption is morally acceptable.5 This statistic of acceptance is particularly interesting because it is pulled from a generation which often defines right and wrong in terms of consequences. Consequence-based morality maintains that if something doesn’t hurt yourself or others, it’s not wrong. But even that moral code is not absolute and, as with any other moral code, risk-reward trade offs are implied when making a morality-based decision. And so, for the majority of people, the very real consequences of porn addiction, either intentionally or through ignorance, take a back seat to the entertainment value pornography provides. And it’s within this moral context that today’s pornography industry operates.

Make no mistake. Pornography is a business. A legal business born out of demand. And it’s good business practice to encourage people to use your product. So, as long as the industry follows those limited government regulations put in place to protect the most at-risk persons, it’s hard to see how they bear the preponderance of moral culpability for the suffering of people that have become addicted to their product.

As the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) points out, personal responsibility is important in all aspects of life, including how a person maintains their own health. It is often said in the addiction world that, “You are not responsible for your disease, but you are responsible for your recovery.” People with addiction need to understand their illness and then, when they have entered recovery, to take necessary steps to minimize the chance of relapse to an active disease state. Persons with diabetes and heart disease need to take personal responsibility for how they manage their illness–the same is true for persons with addiction.

Still, the pornography industry might do well to look to online gambling sites that allow options which assist addicts manage their disease. For example, A large number of reputable online casinos offer players the option to select daily or weekly online gambling limits. In fact, the majority of online gambling jurisdictions have made it compulsory for online casinos to offer this type of service. And for problem gambling addiction, players can also request that the casino block their account under the self-exclusion policy. This can be either a permanent or temporary block and during the specified period the player will not be able to access the account and the casino will stop sending that player promotional offers.

Providing similar options could go a long way towards alleviating whatever limited culpability society may end up perceiving that pornographic websites have regarding pornography addiction and it’s consequences.

And the Moral Implications for Ceara Lynch Are …

The discussion above applies equally to the online female domination/financial domination genre of pornography. With one notable distinction. Many online female dommes actually encourage and promote addiction within their clips. Not addiction to pornography, per se; rather they promote a particular form of online pornography addiction – addiction to their own specific name brand of pornographic material and related behavior.

Following last month’s blog on Morality, Politics and Sin, Ceara Lynch wrote to me,  “I don’t think of morality as ‘what is proper’ (as you wrote) rather, to act morally is to act in a way that inflicts the least amount of suffering. I don’t think offense is suffering (a la racial humiliation).” Hers is a consequence-based approach to morality. So what is the consequence of encouraging addiction? By definition, addiction entails harmful actions. It’s hard to rationalize the explicit promotion of pornography addiction with a moral standard of “inflict the least amount of suffering.”

But things are more ambiguous and nuanced than that. Ceara Lynch sells fantasy. Some guys want her to make them mentally “suffer”. At least within the context of the fantasy they envision when they commission or buy a video clip from her.

I’ve written elsewhere in this blog (Dignity and Humiliation, Playing with Men) that I think Ceara’s talent is her ability to play on the edge – to push the envelope of femdom fantasy without compromising the freedom of choice, and real world dignity, enjoyed by her customers. Ceara has no intention of hurting her customers or causing them harm and suffering. And intent, like consequences, matters. In a consequence-based moral framework, good intentions mitigate to a certain extent bad consequences.

Statistically, Ceara Lynch customers probably include a small percentage of genuine pornography addicts. For those few unidentifiable cases, any video clip or marketing effort that explicitly promotes or encourages their addiction could be viewed as morally irresponsible. Whether Ceara sees the same moral dilemma is unclear. As I said, the moral dimensions of online femdom/findom are nuanced and often ambiguous.

With Ceara Lynch’s increasing celebrity, and her forthcoming movie, it’s probably safe to assume that some increased backlash against her particular brand of pornography will ensue. Given the increasingly accepted reality of pornography addiction, it might be good business for Ceara to acknowledge, within any future addiction-promoting video products, the real world harm caused by pornography addiction. The gambling and alcohol industries use a disclaimer (“drink responsibly’) which, though almost absurd in their ineffectiveness, at least provide an appearance of accepting some modicum of responsibility for addressing the problem. And, as the saying goes, for most people, their perception is their reality.


Footnotes

1  Supernormal stimuli are artificial stimuli that overrride an evolutionarily developed genetic response. Junk food is supernormal stimuli in that they provide an exaggerated stimulus to craving for salt, sugar, and fats. Television is often considered a supernormal stimuli as an exaggeration of social cues for laughter, smiling faces and attention-grabbing action. Surgically altered breasts are supernormal stimuli.

2  Regarding the definition “… compulsive sexual activity with concurrent use of pornographic material, …” A leading researcher claims that Internet porn can lead to chronic masturbation, and that the masturbation itself is the primary issue. With each ejaculation, as with orgasm, you are turning on refractoriness. With each successive ejaculation, for chronic masturbators, the inhibition gets stronger — because of the increased serotonin — making it less likely for these men to achieve another erection, much less another ejaculation … it’s not the porn per se but its use in chronic and obsessive masturbation. The addiction is not actually to the porn but to the orgasm and the predictability of reward.

4  For a detailed explanation of the drug addiction model, refer to the Addendum at the end of this blog entry.

6  Always better” expectation may help to explain why 60% of men reporting compulsive sexual behavior (average age: 25 years) had difficulty achieving erections/arousal with real partners, yet could achieve erections with internet.


Addendum: The Neuroscience of Drug Addiction

Addiction is, at its root, a faulty and inadequate form of learning. And like learning to ride a bike, addiction is not quickly unlearned.

There are things you don’t forget, and there are things you can’t. For people who become drug addicts, the drug experience is not only unforgettable but indelibly etched into that person’s physiological brain circuitry.

And much of that memory is false. Because all addictive drugs appear to share a rather mysterious property: They’re “better than the real thing.” Better, that is, than the real things our reward circuitry was designed by evolution to reward: food, sleep, sex, friendship, novelty, etc. And better, even, than they were the last time around. At least, it sure seems that way to the addict.

Addictive drugs mimic natural rewards such as food and sex by kindling a network of brain areas collectively called the reward circuitry, which is responsible for enjoyment — which if you think about it, is an important survival response. It gets us to do more of the kinds of things that keep us alive and lead to our having more offspring: food-seeking and ingestion, hunting and hoarding, selecting a mate and actually mating.

Moreover, addictive drugs fire up the reward circuitry in a way that natural rewards can’t — by, in a sense, pressing a heavy thumb down on the scale of pleasure. Over time, the desire for the drug becomes more important than the pleasure the addict gets from it. By the time the thrill is gone, long-lasting changes may have occurred within key regions of the brain.

The brain is a little bit like the big snarl of tangled wires snaking their way out of that six-outlet surge protector behind your bed. They know where they’re going, even if you don’t. Nerve cells (or neurons, as scientists call them) can be seen as hollow wires transmitting electrical currents down long cables called axons to other neurons.

Addiction was once defined in terms of physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea and cramps in the case of heroin or delirium tremens in the case of alcohol, which reflect physiological changes within cells of an addict’s body. It’s now seen as changes in brain circuits, or combinations of neurons; in other words, the very neurophysiological changes that result from learning and experience. You crave and use a pernicious drug again and again because you have a memory of it being more wonderful than anything else, and because your brain has been rewired so that, when exposed to anything that reminds you of the drug, you will feel rotten if you don’t get some.

These are symptoms of a brain disease, not a mere weakness of will. Over time, these subcellular changes alter the strength of connections in the circuit, essentially hardwiring the yen for drugs into an habitual craving that is easily reignited not only by the drugs but also by the environment – people, places, things and situations associated with past drug use – even when the addict hasn’t been anywhere near the drug or the drug scene for months or years.

But what flips on the reward circuit in regular life, when electrical zaps to the brain are blessedly few and far between? The same chemical that triggered by dope. It’s called dopamine.

Dopamine is one of a growing number of known neurotransmitters, substances neurons produce for the purpose of relaying information from one neuron to the next. Different groups of neurons manufacture different neurotransmitters, which all work pretty much the same way but in different nerve bundles and with a spectrum of different results. These substances are stored inside numerous tiny bulbs budding from points along a neuron’s long, electricity-conducting axon at key contact points the neuron shares with other neurons.

When an electrical signal roaring down the axon’s surface rumbles past one of these little bulbs, myriad molecules of neurotransmitters get squirted into the surrounding space. They diffuse across that space (called a synapse) to specialized receptors on the abutting neuron, where the interaction can either set off (enhance) or shut down (impede) a new electrical current in the downstream neuron.

These dopamine-squirting neurons constitute a tiny fraction of all neurons. But each of them can network with up to 10,000 or more other neurons stretching to the far corners of the brain. A dollop of dopamine in your tank can really boost your reward mileage, so to speak.

Once dopamine’s centrality to the neurons constituting the reward circuit was worked out, people started wondering whether drugs might activate the reward circuits. It turned out they do.

One reason that the advances in our study of the neurophysiology of addiction so far exceed our understanding of other psychiatric disorders is because the animal models for addiction are extremely good. Teach a rat to press a lever for an infusion of a drug of abuse, and you will see the same compulsive behavior in the rat that you would in a person. A rat will work very hard to get drugs. It will press that lever hundreds, even thousands, of times and endure pain and suffering to get drugs.

As these animal studies have shown, virtually all abused drugs — for instance, heroin and other opiates; cocaine, amphetamines and other psychostimulants; nicotine; and alcohol — operate by interfering with the reward circuitry. They cause the release of dopamine in target structures such as the nucleus accumbens, that key structure in the experience of pleasure.

Different drugs do this in different ways. Cocaine and amphetamines prolong the effect of dopamine on its target neurons. Heroin inhibits other neurons that inhibit these dopamine neurons. (In the logic circuitry that is the brain, a double negative roughly equals a positive.)

You might think that the more you eat, or the more sex you have, or the more good vibrations you get, the more dopamine your reward-circuit neurons will squirt at their target structures in the brain. But it’s not so simple.

It turns out that what really gets the reward circuitry jazzed up isn’t so much the good vibes as it is the extent to which the goodness of the vibes exceed expectations.

Consider the following animal study. The test animal learns that if it presses a lever after it receives an environmental cue — to wit, a light goes on — it will get a reward: say, a nice slice of apple or a drop of juice. Of course, the animal soon learns to reach for the lever the instant the light goes on. With repeated exposure, the animal gets the hang of it, and a few interesting things happen inside its brain. The reward itself (the food) no longer produces the dopamine surge associated with reward-circuit activation – it is now the light, not the food, that triggers the activity in the reward circuit. The timing of the reward-circuitry’s dopamine squirts has shifted from the time of reward delivery to the time of the cue (the essence of the so-called “conditioned response.”) It’s not that the juice or apple slice no longer tastes good. It’s that the reward circuitry is responding to the difference between what we expect and what we get. How much dopamine gets secreted depends not on how great the reward is, but on the degree to which it meets expectations. The juice still tastes great, but it’s no longer a surprise; it’s predictable. However, the light’s timing can’t be predicted. It’s always a surprise, and (as the animal now knows) it’s always a prelude to something good.

The reward circuitry is always secreting dribs and drabs of dopamine. If an experimental animal gets a bigger-than-expected reward, the frequency and amount of dopamine secretion increases; if it’s smaller than anticipated (or if the light goes on but the animal’s frantic lever-pressing brings no juice at all), dopamine secretion drops below baseline levels. Moreover, this depression in firing rates of dopamine-secreting neurons occurs precisely when the anticipated reward should have come, but didn’t. Thus, the brain seems to interpret the absence of the expected reward not merely as a lack of enjoyment but as a punishment (“negative reinforcement.”)

Variations in dopamine levels tell all kinds of structures in your brain when something you want is within reach, getting closer, slipping away or not working for you anymore. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Cocaine, heroin and other abused substances usurp this system. And they do it in a really creepy, pernicious way: by short-circuiting it.

With normally rewarding things like food and sex, we usually have a pretty good idea of how good it will be. It’s when the reward exceeds our expectations that the dopamine circuitry really lights up big time. Conversely, if our expectations aren’t met, dopamine activity drops off.

But cocaine, heroin, alcohol and nicotine directly activate the circuit — they goose dopamine secretion — regardless of how high the expectation was. And every time you activate that dopamine activity, you getting a readout that says, ‘Wow, this was even better than I thought it would be.” It’s always better than you expected. Every single time. The experience is remembered as always getting better — even if, paradoxically because of tolerance mechanisms in the brain, it’s actually not so great anymore.6

In susceptible individuals, repeated drug use creates the same kind of lasting changes in the connections among neurons that we get from learning to ride a bike. One important way our brains snap an experience into long-term memory is by strengthening the synaptic contacts between neurons in the network that encodes this experience. This involves a number of biochemical changes in both the bulb protruding from a neuron’s axon and the brush-like extension of a nearby neuron. The long-term strengthening of drug-associated memory circuits, combined with that “even better than expected” illusion addictive drugs foist on users, goes a long way toward explaining what is probably the biggest problem addicts and those who treat them face: a pronounced tendency to slide back into the habit.

 

Ceara Lynch: Morality, Politics and Sin

A short essay in which I trace, from the ancient Greeks to present, the forces that shape some of today’s opinions about Ceara Lynch’s moral character.

Judgment …

It’s everywhere online. It’s rushed and it’s relentless. It comes from all quarters. It’s political and it’s moral. More often than not, it’s both. It’s judgment. And it’s ruthless.

It only takes a cursory glance at Ceara Lynch’s web presence to notice something is missing. If the internet is the venue of choice for expressing an opinion, Ceara’s social media postings are surprisingly devoid of political or social commentary. This is by design, of course; Ceara Lynch is disciplined in marketing her business. Nevertheless, as her celebrity increases, so do the judgmental comments about her, her profession, and her clients.

Examples …

Recently, a short 250-word article about Ceara Lynch appeared on the right-leaning news site, Breitbart.com. The article, which was clearly meant as entertainment rather than social commentary, spawned over 150 comments from readers. Most of the comments reflected the conservative political and moral view of Brietbart.com readership. Several made nebulous links between her activities as a humiliatrix and people with progressive political views:

This sounds like good work for HRC … if she doesn’t go to prison.”

Cuckold emasculated-by-feminism liberal males love this stuff.”

Other comments addressed Ms. Lynch’s morality:

It’s definitely demonic in origin and her fate is in Hell.”

Well, isn’t that special. Who could be her silent partner? Maybe … SATAN?!?!”

And despite the apolitical nature of her Twitter postings, political diatribe from online followers occasionally find their way into her Twitter comment stream:

I enjoyed the line ‘Her fate is in hell!’ I would guess the majority of your subs are Republican businessmen.”

Now you’ll get some clients who really deserve to be humiliated.”

In another recent example, Ceara Lynch’s production of racial humiliation video clips generated several comments, particularly from the left. One follower went so far as to write a short entry in his blog laying out arguments as to why racial humiliation is an inappropriate scenario for a publicly sold humiliatrix video clip. As cogent and articulate as those arguments were, the author couldn’t avoid referring to Ceara Lynch as racist.

It’s hard to swallow when we’re not even asking for political correctness here, but just the smallest modicum of respect, which Ceara (and other racist clip dommes) fail to provide.”

Do these sort of comments bother Ceara? The comments are directed at her online persona, not her, so I don’t think she takes them personally. In a way, I think these sort of comments are just part of the cost of doing business online.

Still, as I followed these discussions, I couldn’t help but wonder where this pervasive morality-based political judgmentalism came from? Did it arise because of specific issues, as it appeared? Or was there something deeper, more ingrained in our social DNA, that linked morality and politics in such a way as to fuel an enduring debate? Were there distinct social consciousnesses that always existed, but become most evident when discussing divisive social and political issues?

What is Morality Anyway?

Morality is about the difference between what is proper and what is not. Intentions, decisions, and actions are distinctions without a difference. Morality applies equally to all three. Morality can derive from a personal belief in some universal standard. Or it can be derived from a code of conduct for a particular philosophy, religion, or culture. Note that culture is generational and not static. Therefore, a new generation may develop its own set of morals.

Politics and Morals …

Politics is the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. At its core, politics is a competition between ideas. Nearly all these ideas have a moral component to them, with the debate won or lost depending on a person’s perception of man’s fundamental nature.

And what are these perceptions that frame the debate? That predisposed a person towards one moral argument and not the other? To understand this fully, it’s necessary to go back to the beginning of western political thought.

The Greeks, Romans, and the Foundation of Moral Governance …

Greek political science studied constitutions and generalized the relation between human nature and political organizations. Perhaps its most powerful instrument was the theory describing a cycle of political evolution called anacyclosis. The theory is mainly attributed to Polybius in Book VI of The Histories. As described by Polybius, the state begins in a form of primitive monarchy under the leadership of an influential and wise king. Political power will pass by hereditary succession to the children of the king, who will abuse their authority for their own gain; this represents the degeneration of monarchy into tyranny. Some of the more influential and powerful men of the state will grow weary of the abuses of tyrants, and will overthrow them; this represents the ascendancy of aristocracy (as well as the end of the “rule by the one” and the beginning of the “rule by the few”). Jut as with the descendants of kings, political influence will pass to the descendants of the aristocrats, and these descendants will begin to abuse their power and influence, as the tyrants before them. This represents the decline of aristocracy and the beginning of oligarchy. As Polybius explains, the people will by this stage in the political evolution of the state decide to take political matters into their own hands. This point of the cycle sees the emergence of democracy, as well as the beginning of “rule by the many”. In the same way that the descendants of kings and aristocrats abused their political status, so to will the descendants of democrats. Accordingly, democracy degenerates into ochlocracy, or more literally, mob-rule. During ochlocracy, according to Polybius, the people of the state,conditioned to accept the pandering of demagogues, will become corrupted by a sense of entitlement. Eventually, the state will be engulfed in chaos, and the competing claims of demagogues will culminate in a single (sometimes virtuous) demagogue claiming absolute power, bringing the state full-circle back to monarchy.

In general terms. the cycle, then, is (1) monarchies degenerate into tyrannies, (2) tyrannies are overthrown by aristocracies, (3) which degenerate into oligarchies exploiting the population, (4) which are overthrown by democracies, (5) which in turn degenerate into the intolerable instability of mob rule and anarchy, (6) whereupon some powerful leader establishes himself as a monarch, and the cycle begins all over again. It’s a cycle of benign, well-meaning governance (monarchies, aristocracies, and democracies) interrupted by malevolent, selfish governance (tyrannies, oligarchies, anarchy.) The ancient Romans, in an attempt to break this cycle, developed a republican model of governance composed of magistrates, senate, and comitia in which the three types of benign well-meaning government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy) worked simultaneously.

The Schizophrenia of American Consciousness …

As ancient as this theory was, at the time of the American Revolution, it remained the central thesis of political thought. In fact, the revolutionary Founding Fathers of the United States were so greatly influenced by it that their novel experiment of a republican government (with a considerable measure of democracy built in) was modeled on what Polybuis wrote of the Roman republic.

Choosing the Roman republic as a model wasn’t just coincidence. Rather it was an intersection of two opposing views concerning the very nature of man. These views, and their associated political perspectives, were championed respectively by the great ideological revolutionaries in America at that time, John Adam and Thomas Jefferson.

The noted historian, Page Smith, labeled these two opposing perspectives as Classical-Christian and Secular-Democratic consciousnesses. The Classical-Christian view (represented by Adams and later James Madison) emphasized the fallibility and limitations of humanity; the Secular-Democratic perspective (held by the Jefferson) viewed humanity through a gentler lens, focusing on both the equality and the perfectibility of man. The first view is realized in the Constitution, a document designed to guard against the cyclical appearance of malevolent selfish governments. The second view inspired the Declaration of Independence and, coincident with the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789), became the emerging Secular-Democratic ideology overlying a declining Classical-Christian polity. This ideological schizophrenia between Classical-Christian and Secular-Democratic is embedded in our country’s political DNA so that these two irreconcilable consciousnesses persist today and lie at the core of nearly every debate in US politics.

Redemption …

Not surprisingly, both consciousnesses spring from the same tap root. Though their perspectives diverge as the “How?” and the “Who?” what they have in common is “Why?”

Both Classical-Christian and Secular-Democratic consciousnesses see redemption as the end state for man. The Classical-Christian view focuses on redemption of the individual; the Secular-Democratic on the redemption of humankind within a broader societal context. Classical-Christian seeks heaven, Secular-Democratic seeks utopia.

Whereas Classical-Christian morality is largely defined for the individual, Secular-Democratic morality is defined for society as a whole. The focus is different, so moral standards are viewed differently (usually along cultural, religious, or philosophical lines.) Because both consciousnesses have redemption as their common goal, seldom are moral standards in direct conflict. More often, the difference in viewpoint lies in prioritization and moral weight afforded a particular argument.

Argument, Hyperbole, and Sin …

As the intensity of competition between political viewpoints increases, so does the passion of proponents. Passions beget hyperbole so that the arguments are no longer about worst or best, but about right versus wrong. Or, at the extremes, good versus evil. The moral standards adapted for political argument become black and white. The middle ground evaporates. And, in the morality drenched competition of ideas that is politics, transgression takes on the appearance of sin. For the Classical-Christian, sin is any thought or action that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God, that obstructs a person’s path towards redemption in heaven. For the Secular-Democrat, it’s any individual thought or action that is not aligned with society’s path towards a perceived ideal order for human living.

The Sins of Ceara ….

Ceara has often advocated that people accept themselves and enjoy their kinks. That philosophy, akin to hedonism (but not quite), allows her to go about her business unencumbered by the burden of regret and guilt that morality-based proponents seek to impose for transgressional thought and deed. That does not make her amoral. Rather, her moral code is different and does not easily conform to tribal patterns inspired by Classical-Christian or Secular-Democratic consciousnesses.

That said, as Ceara Lynch’s notoriety has increased, so too has the number and type of people judging her and her sins. But what are those sins exactly? What moral standard is being used to judge her?

Within the Classical-Christian consciousness, the seven cardinal sins are the usual standard against which a person is judged. These vices (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony) are so odious as to have a fatal effect on an individual’s spiritual health, deny their redemption, and result in eternal damnation. Nearly all these sins are touched upon in some way within Ceara Lynch’s video catalog. But it’s important to note that for the vast majority of her clips. she is not the “sinner.” Rather, she is the Great Tempter, the Great Deceiver. She is more Satan than sinner. In that context, absence contrition and repentance, she is dammed and salvation is denied to her forever.

Within the Secular-Democratic consciousness, Ceara Lynch’s thoughts and actions are judged against a more imprecise standards. The standards, established by evolving social mores, are often inconsistent when applied across different demographic groups. The principle underlying these standards is social justice, so certain historically ill-treated demographic groups (women, minorities, etc.) are given preference where advocacy for social justice is concerned. Conversely, other demographic groups are seen as privileged, so that treating them poorly or with ill-regard is more often than not considered ‘justice served.”

For example, Ceara Lynch’s stock-in-trade is intentionally not affording respect or dignity to her paying clients. To the secular-democratic consciousness, white wealthy men are viewed as privileged; a humiliation scenario based on that demographic is not only acceptable, but is seen as virtuous. However, as in recent discussion surrounding racial humiliation video clips, the use of a non-privileged racial identity (i.e., black) as the basis for a humiliation scenario is heinous. It crosses the line. So a moral judgment is made. Ceara has sinned and, in order that all would know her for who she was, the scarlet letter “R” (for “racist”) is figuratively placed about her neck. You’re either in, or you’re out. To be outcast … to be shunned … to be perceived as part of the problem … is to be denied access to the envisioned Secular-Democratic Utopian society.

A Different View of Morality …

Both the Secular-Democratic and Classical-Christian consciousnesses provide guidance as to WHAT choice should be made when facing a moral problem. But a different approach, which may lead to less judgment and more acceptance, is to understand HOW moral choices are made. The scientific foundation for this approach was advanced by Lawrence Kohlberg, Professor of Education and Social Psychology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, in the 1970’s.

Kohlberg was able to demonstrate that people progressed in their moral reasoning (i.e., in their bases for ethical behavior) through a series of stages. He believed that there were six identifiable stages which could be more generally classified into three levels. Kohlberg’s classifications are:

LEVEL                          STAGE        SOCIAL ORIENTATION
Pre-conventional 	    1           	Obedience and Punishment
  	                        2           	Individualism, Instrumentalism, Exchange                             
Conventional           	    3	"Good boy/girl"
	                        4	Law and Order
Post-conventional     	    5 	Social Contract
	                        6	Principled Conscience

The “pre-conventional” level of moral thinking is that generally found in children. In the first stage of this level, people behave according to socially acceptable norms because they are told to do so by some authority figure (e.g., parent or teacher). This obedience is compelled by the threat or application of punishment. The second stage of this level is characterized by a view that right behavior means acting in one’s own best interests.
The second level of moral thinking is that generally found in society, hence the name “conventional.” The first stage of this level (stage 3) is characterized by an attitude which seeks to do what will gain the approval of others. The second stage is one oriented to abiding by the law and responding to the obligations of duty.

The third level of moral thinking is one that Kohlberg felt is not reached by the majority of adults. Its first stage (stage 5) is an understanding of social mutuality and a genuine interest in the welfare of others. The last stage (stage 6) is based on respect for universal principle and the demands of individual conscience. While Kohlberg always believed in the existence of Stage 6 and had some nominees for it, he could never get enough subjects to define it, much less observe their longitudinal movement to it.

Discussion and Moral Growth …

Kohlberg believed that individuals could only progress through these stages one stage at a time. That is, they could not “jump” stages. They could not, for example, move from an orientation of selfishness to the law and order stage without passing through the good boy/girl stage. They could only come to a comprehension of a moral rationale one stage above their own. Thus, according to Kohlberg, it was important to present them with moral dilemmas for discussion which would enable them to gain insight into cognitive conflicts at their current stage, help them to see the reasonableness of a “higher stage” morality, and encourage their development in that direction. Although Kohlberg believed that most moral development occurs through social interaction, he saw academic discussion as one of the ways in which moral development can be promoted through formal education.

Ceara Lynch and the Absence of Sin …

At the Conventional moral level (Stages 3 and 4), external judgment is the integral part in ascertaining the morality of a decision. So it’s not surprising that judgmentalism runs rampant in online social-political comments. Unfortunately, judgment usually shuts down discussion. And discussion is how people advance to the next higher stage of moral development. Which brings me back to Ceara Lynch.

I have found Ceara Lynch exceedingly non-judgmental. Rather than close down conversation, she pursues discussion; particularly when she thinks insight can be gained and moral growth is possible. This approach allows her to not just accept, but revel in the socially unacceptable erotic thoughts of others.

As mentioned at the start of this essay, her social media feeds offer little insight into her social-political consciousness. Judgment is kept to a minimum. And without judgment there is no sin; only a psyche unencumbered by guilt or misgiving, a mind uncluttered with the baggage of other people’s judgments and their moral certitude.

When it comes to living life, I think Ceara Lynch likes to keep things simple. So I suspect she lives that universal maxim, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” One interesting facet of this Golden Rule is that it doesn’t require a God, only a healthy respect for the dignity of man … an irony which just increases the charm of the Ceara Lynch persona.

Ceara Lynch: Dignity and Humiliation

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”  Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations General Assembly Resolution , 1948

Dignity is something a person is born with. Something a person has. It’s a birthright. An innate quality that can only be diminished. All persons are entitled to be treated with the dignity they deserve as human beings.

A Paradox …

Ceara Lynch makes her living as a professional Humiliatrix. Usually, in the complex interplay between her and client, dignity and respect are not just ignored, but intentionally rejected.

And yet, she is admired. Respected. Emulated. Loved.

How can that be? How can a person so completely flout a fundamental principle of human rights and get away with it? How can that person not be hated and despised?

Mental Agility and Compartmentalization …

The answer, of course, is mental compartmentalization. Compartmentalization enables incompatible thoughts and actions to peaceably co-exist. Compartmentalization is how people live with paradox and avoid hypocrisy.

We all compartmentalize. Within each of our minds lies a matrix of compartments. Some compartments have stout, strong walls. Others have walls that are more flexible. More adaptable. Our minds are a veritable Rubik’s Cube of compartments – infinitely flexible and dynamic. Constantly adjusting and altering themselves to new patterns, new ideas, new thoughts.

At the core of this matrix are compartments that don’t change. Or change very little. They have high strong walls that are not easily knocked over. Behind these walls, within these compartments, lies a person’s core values. Their character. Their beliefs. The mental and moral qualities distinctive to that person.

Integrity is defined by how well the walls to these core compartments are built. How strong they are.

Trust is defined by how another person perceives the quality of our compartmental walls.

Play and Reality …

Ceara Lynch, and her customers, compartmentalize. There is the world of play and fantasy. And then there is reality.

But, of course, the distinction not so clear. The walls between these two worlds are not very high. Actions overlap. For example, financial tributes to Ceara Lynch as part of play come from real bank accounts; they have a very real impact on the customer’s quality of life.

Ceara Lynch’s talent … her skill … is in managing this overlap. She has years of experience at learning to understand the nature of her customers’ mental compartments. That experience and hard work enable her to synchronize her own thoughts and ideas with those of her customers. If the customer wants to preserve his dignity during role play, then it is. If he doesn’t, then she adapts to conform to his compartmental limits. But most importantly, she establishes and respects the boundary between reality and fantasy … as defined by her and imparted to the customer.

Talent and Skills …

Her management skills are very real. The mental compartments containing her customers’ most vivid fantasies are complex and dynamic. Her talent is in aligning those compartments with a set of scenarios she has collected through years of experience. She exploits and modifies these scenarios so as to not tear through non-verbalized and unseen walls; so as to not access compartments that may be off limits. It’s a skill obtained only through practice. And more practice.

But it is her core values that enable her to garner admiration and respect. For the customer, these core values are first made evident through a shared business ethos. This common ethos lies beyond the compartments that deal with fantasy play. The ethos provides the basis for trust that is requisite if the play is to be fully compartmentalized and not allowed to leak into the world of reality. Over time, as play progresses, the customer discovers the strength of her core values. Trust is reinforced and play often takes on more diverse and exciting aspects. It’s a cycle that creates loyalty. That creates admiration and respect.

Trust …

With Ceara Lynch, humiliation can exists side-by-side with dignity and respect.

Thoughtful compartmentalization.  Skilled management of a dynamic and complex mental regime.  Core values that are unwavering.

These are her skills. These are her strengths. These are why she is trusted.

Unequivocally.