If I had I been born a decade earlier I would have lived on New York’s Lower East Side and died (of heroin or AIDS).
For better or worse, that ship sailed without me—more often than not I think it’s the latter.
No one is surprised I dig these images except old, toothless Stevie, who lives in a shotgun shack on the outskirts of Duluth and is surprised by everything.
But what surprises me is that I do find something off-putting about these images. I am not entirely sure what it is, so let’s go over the obvious stuff it’s not first:
- Fields’ Polaroids feature prostitutes paid $40 to do whatever he wanted. Yes, that’s totally sketchy; but, I am the last person who is going to denounce sex work; further objecting to the use of prostitutes as models means you object, by dint, to the entire western art historical canon. So yeah, bring on the whores.
- It doesn’t bother me that Fields admits these boys were loaded to the gills with drugs during sessions. Hell, it was the eighties who wasn’t?
- I do not even mind the graphic display of gay kink. Hell, if watching people who really want to fuck each other is what one needs to get off, then one would do well to skip over hetero porn completely.
- And I do dig the images– especially the one I’ve posted.
What feels off to me, I think, isn’t a result of anything intrinsic to the images; it’s reading Fields ideas with regard to sex:
I just think it’s best to fuck whores. I’ve never been in a situation where being emotionally involved with a person has made the sex better. While I’m fucking someone I care about them, and that’s enough for me—that’s where it means something. I want sex to be so intense that I’m not thinking about anything else. The loving part is distracting: who’s going to pay the rent, who didn’t clean the bathroom, that kind of stuff. After I cum I just want a trap door to open and whoever I’m with to fall through the floor.
I can’t relate this notion of intimacy but hey different strokes for different folks. But when this disposition is coupled with situations involving heavy drug use, sexual charged interacts and money changing hands, it’s all too easy for things to turn coercive and the imperative for explicit consent to become muddied.
Fields’ preempts accusations of exploitation by stating the images were produced prior to the Internet; a bullshit dodge since the Internet exists and sure enough the images are on it. Therefore the original intent is less certain than that he understood that any future right to privacy was forfeited when he paid the $40 fee.
I am not necessarily condemning the man—passing judgement on ethical matters is the last thing I am qualified to do.
Aesthetically, I think the images are great—they feature exactly the sort openness and permissive immediacy that will always be a quintessential turn on.
Unfortunately, they suffer under critical inspection. And not due exploitative elements or Fields insistence on that intimacy is essentially disposable. It’s their conjunction and Fields implicit nonchalance to it that is problematic. That does not make him a terrible person so much as intellectually disingenuous.
And isn’t disingenuity,the most un-punk thing ever?