VCO: Chapter 19

"VCO" image

Chapter 19

The cabin was no bigger than a two-bedroom cube from the outside. 

Morgen knocked on the door, cleared her throat, and the door opened itself.

Once inside I started feeling ill. The interior of the cabin extended many directions much farther than the exterior led on. From the outside it looked like a shack, but we were inside a mansion with multiple levels. 

A voice came from the other room accompanied by confident footsteps. A woman who looked the same age and height as Morgen, except with shock white hair and barefooted. Her dress and shawl looked handmade with jute or some other durable fiber. Even the loose threads were engaging my focus. My ears pricked and my face flushed with blood. 

This was Joselyn.

She said, “Hi.” Like we already knew each other. She did not shake my hand typically but held it open in an offering. When I laid my hand on hers, then we naturally rolled our fingers into one another’s. 

A deeply buried intuition gripped my heart so viscerally I had to clench my jaw to remain still. This intuition told me that I was meant to be here and that all my decisions, the few I’ve truly had, were preordained to influence me to be delivered to this place, in this moment. I had arrived. 

Joselyn motioned her glass toward a study with many chairs, smiling and holding a dark drink in a martini glass. Waving a glass wand.

She says, “Peruse around, I need to finish up one thing and we’ll meet in there next to the fireplace.” 

And she walked into an adjacent room with a bed surrounded by light and sound equipment similar to an influencers pre-staged office. So out of place, like a state-of-the-art operating room in a stable.

On the ground were piles of papers and books. Unbound copies of Oeuvres badines by Alexis Piron. La Philosophie dans le boudoir by Marquis de Sade. André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat’s Félicia and Monrose. Translated into English in exquisite cursive. (Oeuvres badines translates to Kids’ Works.)

Pornography used to have such beautiful titles. Even in a foreign language, with the use of the Roman alphabet, these books were for much more than scholarship. Energy leapt from the pages, a lighthouse beacon shining directly in my eyes locating the lost ship of my soul. 

On the arrival of the year 1800 police in France had a special department whose sole purpose was the finding (as well as the removal) of “licentious” material. 

This included politically subversive resources.

“They’d write out sex scenes with King Louis and one of his secret lovers.” Joselyn’s mouth spread wide and thin into a smile as she re-entered the room, she says, “Can you imagine showing up to court?”

I already knew so much of this material but only in the edited versions by various publishers. Whose translators worked with unverified versions of the texts. 

I thought I was well-versed, but in this place my knowledge felt miniscule in the presence of this true purist. 

There were chapters of books I didn’t even know existed.

Outside of the bourgeoise the biggest readers of traditional pornography were the sailors who trafficked it. 

Some pieces were so lewd they’d work out their karma then burn the book. 

Like some Dionysian rite performed to “throw Jonah off the boat”.

I’m sure your average bear watches porn to urge a shot of relief through their cortex. But for me I’ve always felt a special connection. I could always see the art in it. It’s social importance. 

I smell patchouli and lavender and see Joselyn eyeing me with a large amount of cisness. And due to my maleness, I feel desired.

Subconsciously, I believe every man knows being objectified has no psychological benefits for the long term, and yet it produces delusions of grandeur that can make the fear of death disappear, make him fight a war and discard his own family, even lead him to destroy himself. Even still, it is one of the greatest intoxications he will experience. 

“I hear you have a knack for the naughty.”

“I recognize its power.” I say. 

“All of these books.” Joselyn says, “They are true pornography, trying to articulate a political message, veiled in calculated shock value, which charged their brains so high they reached new levels of thinking. Even revolutionary thoughts.” She shivered and blinked profusely. Flicking her eyes at Morgen, “Have you ever read any of the cursed books he has?”

She said it like kur-said.

Morgen took her glass and walked past us. She goes, “Once.”

We sat in chairs fashioned with snake and elephant leather, punctuated by brass buttons.

Some prior conversation must have gone on before tonight, without delay the two began discussing DPZ.

Under the assumption that the prohibited sells better than the regulated, our pitch to Joselyn was the Pornographica Penitus Libers, the shell we would encapsulate DPZ within, and market as a new venture. 

A comprehensive archive of explicit art in hopes that it will encourage people to contribute to recording a long history of moral reformation. This would be a digital cathedral that would outlive us by design.

We can follow our history by following trends in society by the content uploaded. PPL will inform us more than the news. An index tracking human sentiment. Ukraine gets bombed by Russia, then categories like UKRAINIAN HOUSEWIFE, UKRAINIAN GF, or UKRAINIAN WIFE SWAP ANAL, spike for the next week. We had real data proving it: war is trendy.

“Premium prices.” Morgen says, “At the end of the day if there’s a market for it, someone will pay to have it made.”

Joselyn says in agreeance, “Doesn’t matter what it is.”

Settled in my chair I popped a piece of gum in my mouth and observed these two bodies talk like they were of the same spirit. Like watching Buddha talk to Buddha without a single slip.

“We can make sex work safe. For the first time in history.” Morgen says in an unexcited way that seem unnatural. Joselyn made a glare at her that showed me this was this only person who possessed the ability to make Morgen feel small.

But what Morgen said was true.

Prostitution could be replaced by custom videos fulfilling fantasies. A referral program will be hugely important and discrete like introducing your friend to your pimp. Dancers can do webcams for tips and perhaps have a fan club option where subscribers get to have “private” events. And if they let us export their videos to external hubs they’ll get a premium on their royalties.

Of course the analog experience of all these things could never be replicated in total, but it was about the access. 

Everhet had all this worked out and into place. He doesn’t even know we’re at this meeting.

Morgen referred to him as our COO when talking to Joselyn instead of using his name.

Morgen primed me yesterday, she’d do most of the talking and I was there to seal the deal at the end. A show-me-where-to-sign situation. And I wonder if that’s all she’s really cosigning me on for as her husband. 

To just replace her grandpa’s name on official documentation regarding Arto Family business.

I don’t see how she couldn’t get the will altered somehow. Some adherences to the old patriarchal means of conducting business. But I’m not complaining.

Maybe in some hidden place she wanted to have someone, a partner, but was too proud to admit it, so she adheres to an outdated tradition and pretends it’s a nuisance. Two things can be true, I guess.

They kept talking while I flipped through pages sitting on the table beside me. 

Details on deistic libertine religions that included homoerotic rituals. Notes on the Cult of Priapus. Sodomy of women is the link to most cults. An act that at its core is nothing but for the pleasure of men fulfilling a nihilistic domination fantasy. Not to take away from the pleasure some women (and men) may feeling while having their prostate milked.

Before the 1700s there was almost no pornography that came out of anywhere except England and France. 

Even nonpornographic foreign novels were often only available as handwritten translations commissioned by high-ranking nobles. Possession of such literature was always a risk. 

Joselyn stopped the conversation by standing up while Morgen was talking, to make another drink for herself. Morgen must have noticed my particular fascination with a few of the things I’d found. She grazed her fingertip along the spine. Over its petrified and cracked leather binding. She says, “She translated them for Hans. Some of these are the only ones still in existence anywhere.” She picks one up and holds it saying, “This was once someone’s thought.” 

Many a household is held up by the strength of the books on its shelves.

I look over at a refilled Joselyn and she nods her head and glass forward like taking a bow while seated. Waving that wand again.

Sexual liberation is always a threat to power structures. 

More than once in history, engravings with deliberate violation of moral and social taboos of the time were suppressed by order of the pope.

I read once that Russian cult pornographer Ivan S. Barkov authored stories about male genitalia and named the collection The Maiden’s Plaything. It was a staple in underground Russian literature. Later, a man arrested in the Decemberist’s Conspiracy of 1875 said that the source of his radical ideology came from reading Barkov and the sexual acts graphically depicted.

(Which was the source of my unease about hosting Lugnut’s content. Was. Now, my newly found security makes the idea of seeing how people react to things an exciting experience. But it would be a little too chaotic if we made it available for literally everyone with absolutely zero moderation. Within reason. Let’s have fun.)

Like it would catalyze the crazy in everyone’s brain if they had every dark joyous wonder available on their mobile device.

Joselyn nods after a quiet moment in their conversation. She says, “I agree. It needs to change again.”

“Innovation.” Morgen calls after.

“How do you update sex as a metaphor? You can’t just bend someone dressed like Uncle Sam over the arm of a couch and rail them. It’s too obvious.” Joselyn says. “But you can’t get too complex with this kind of audience.” And starts to laugh. 

Because I knew that my being here was meant to be, that must mean everything I feel well up inside of me needed to be said. It was why I was here. And what welled up inside of me was the need to defend the everyday person. 

“Don’t insult people’s intelligence like that.” I say. 

And the two look at me like I wasn’t there before. Or I was some disembodied voice they heard.

As if he was speaking through me, I recalled a conversation of mine and Everhet’s. Most of what I said was directly quoting Everhet. 

“There has to be bridges to auteur that we might find campy, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.” My heart was on the verge of exploding like my childhood home, I wanted to bring up Morgen’s paper-thin interpretation of the gallery installation, but remembered the therapist, and that I often lash out when I’m being defensive, so instead I reconstructed my next attention, “You can’t expect everyone who encounters a piece of art to see its infinite depth, but you most certainly can’t assume people would or should give a fuck at all enough to look for deeper meaning in the first place. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Maybe I could tell the therapist about that.

Joselyn and Morgen both cocked their heads at me. Likely due to me having just spouted what sounded like a rehearsed speech. I waited for them to tell me to shut up and poke holes in what I said. 

“You’re right.” Joselyn says, “There’s going to be more genres than we can dream. The future’s going to be—”

“Niche.” Morgen says, “We’re post-print which means all scenes need a digital subculture to ensure their survival. Like uploading consciousness to a computer. Which means the landscape will democratize even further.”

Morgen rubbed her chin, and I focused on the color of her nails, and all the microscopic creases on her hand came into pristine focus. I’m getting that minty-tingly feeling again. 

I still can’t believe how seriously we’re talking about this and I don’t feel any guilt or shame. It feels validating and so I don’t really have any urge to work out any karma. Could it be that simple? Could it be the cure for spiritual decay is doing meaningful work?

When they got on a roll it was clear I wasn’t really needed for the rest of the conversation. It was enjoyable just to watch the ping-pong aesthetic. I think they also might be high on their drinks.

“Suburban life is inherently invasive and creates the need for new private experiences.”

Joselyn says, “Gentrification is always happening.”

“And privatization is just another word for algorithm.” Morgen says.

“The internet is a mine with no bottom.”

“New technology is only good for two things.”

“Porn and war.”

“But people are gonna want their porn—”

“Bespoken.” Joselyn says, “Like you said, niche.”

I thought of our ancestors. We stopped traveling to sacred locations in nature and built sacred buildings in cities instead. Eliminated the pilgrimage out of the process of liberation to save time. And placed cookie cutter temples on every corner. Just bring the sacred to me. I’ll wear it every day like jewelry. Put that which is sacred on my device and let me carry it around wherever I go, like a crown of thorns in the pocket of my jeans.

After the two of them revel in how great of an idea PPL is Morgen went to make herself another drink.

“You’re a smart boy.” Then took a sip. Joselyn says, “Genius.”

Joselyn stood and took me by the arm, escorts me around the cabin and shows me some of her favorites. I shouldn’t say her. In the end everything belonged to Hans.

L’Académie des dames was said to have been published by a Dutch philologist named Luisa Sigea but was discovered to have been authored by Nicolas Chorier.” Joselyn says, “And yes. Chorier was French.”

And I laugh because she smiled when she said it, not because I actually found it funny.

I wonder if Morgen is testing me with this temptation.

“It was written in Latin so it could be translated internationally by any local monastery who had a scribe in their employ.” Joselyn says.

“Or to obscure the trail to the country of origin.” Morgen says as she walks past us back to the fireplace to drop her jacket off on the chair, I’m not sure I’ve seen her shoulders.

And I feel my pride flare. Morgen’s not the least bit concerned another woman is touching me. In fact, she’s the happiest I’ve seen her. 

“That’s the beauty of pictures. Good ones, at least.” Morgen says, “No translation needed.”

Morgen hands me a glass of a dark familiar drink. The same one we had the first night Morgen and I met. Every special occasion is landmarked with self-poisoning. Humans are a paradox.

Morgen goes to the room with all the influencer style camera equipment. Leaving Joselyn and I alone.

Neither of us speaks. Joselyn caresses up my chest, my neck, down over my shoulder blade, to my lower back and lets her hand fall away like the end of a brush stroke. 

“Alright children.” She shouted from the other room at us. On her toes reaching to adjust a light fixture, she says, “Are we doing this Joselyn?”

Joselyn leaned in and kissed my mouth.


Licked her lips. Grabbed my hand.

She says, “Yes. I believe we are.”

This, and what happened next, I did not tell the therapist. 


James Jacob Hatfield is a displaced engineer, a painter, and many other contradictions. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His ekphrasis poem “torrents of lahar, No. 36” was anthologized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a Sterling Fellow and a Weymouth Fellow. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

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