He’s Just Not That Into You And The Incidental Female Friend

Dear CF,

So glad to have you back, and just plain relieved to get your take on films du jour. I’ve almost stopped going to the movies (partly poverty, partly inertia) so I’m hopelessly behind. To give you a sense of where I stand re: our cultural capital: I haven’t seen Inception yet, but last night I finally got around to seeing He’s Just Not That Into You.

Re: the sad-sack zeitgeist of which Scott Pilgrim seems to be yet another instance, I wondered, watching HJNTIY yesterday, whether it was doing something with the female equivalent.

He’s Just Not That Into You tries pretty hard to be our generation’s When Harry Met Sally. It wants to articulate the sexual mores of our age—Drew Barrymore’s monologues are straight-up exposition on what the internet hath wrought, and though much of the movie leaves me agape, some of Barrymore’s stuff is actually entertaining. If back in Rob Reiner’s day the guiding question was whether or not men and women could be friends, now the question is whether men and women can rise above the pervasive insincerity of the flirtation—a basic dishonesty that infects every relationship, every marriage, every nonmarriage.

I’m not awfully interested in HJNTIY‘s framing of that question (and, one devastating Home Depot scene notwithstanding, I don’t think the movie handles it with much success), but I do think the film is hitting—tangentially, maybe even by accident—on something zeitgeisty about Filmic Female Friendships in America Today: namely, the extent to which that insincerity infects woman-woman relationships too. The movie spends some expository time on the tendency to lie charitably and to spin the story so that the friend is never forced to occupy that terrible unspoken category: The Undesired.

If the sad-sack Apatovian bromance consists of comfortably joking about each other’s undesirability until the glimmerings of homosocial mutual esteem erupt (as in I Love You, Man), the sororomance (ugh—seriously, we need a word for this) wallows and sometimes drowns in expressions of mutual esteem that must, eventually, turn fake. There comes a point when the friend assuring Gigi “don’t worry, he’ll call,” no longer believes it. She says it anyway. At that point, the female friend becomes an untrustworthy source of comfort. When Gigi says to Janine, quite seriously, that her husband’s infidelity isn’t her fault, Janine can’t hear her. She’s too used to the vocabulary of sugary consolation.

I wouldn’t argue that HJNTIY is about that—the insufficiency of female advice is what gets Gigi dependent on Alex for “truthful” masculine counsel, so it’s probably just a plot device—but it’s one of the few parts of the movie I find interesting. And while I don’t know to what extent it captures a *truth* about modern friendships, it’s definitely theorizing a different modern myth of lady-homosociality than, say, the easy bluntness, the comfortably skeptical chemistry Rosie O’Donnell has with Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. Or Meg Ryan’s candor to Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally (“he’s never going to leave her”).

Again, while the dilemma of masculine friendship remains at the fore these days, I’m panning for intelligent glimmers of the other. As I think of other films with multiple female protagonists—Mean Girls, Vicky Cristina Barcelona come to mind—I notice that none of them really take the problem by the horns. Whip It has other narrative agendas it puts first, although I have to say that friendship strikes me as more “real.”

I don’t begrudge the boys their time. Friendship is worth thinking about on both ends of the gendered spectrum. But I doubt Beaches and Thelma and Louise are really the best we can do. Until the existential isolation that frequently attends couplehood gets coded something other than exclusively male*, we might have to consign our female friendships to bit parts, and think of them as consolation prizes.

Fondly,
M

*Though actually, Janine’s existence in that half-built house in HJNTIY captures the feminine version of this surprisingly well.

PS: [SPOILER ALERT] That last scene, when Affleck proposes to Aniston after spending seven years on his principled unbelief in marriage! Intensely disappointing. Harriet Vane would have dropped him on the spot.

The Bitch

Dear M.,

I just ate two tamales happily microwaved into melty Trader Joe’s delight, and feel fortified to write what I was going to originally try to work into my earlier post.  On one of my recent library scavenging hunts, I picked up Norman Mailer’s The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing.  I read it yesterday while waiting for Glee to buffer on Hulu (to no avail).  Yes, dearest, the majority of my literary intake happens while I wait to watch shit television without interruption.  It was an appropriate window for Mr. Mailer, who stoked my ire triple time for every nugget of ye olde writing advice.

He is a self-mythologizer, very much in love with the idea of the hungover writer who understands the virility of being.  Writing is dangerous: you risk alcoholism, depression and madness if you let yourself go into your art.  Writing is dull: only stupid people choose it as a profession (but this is so much in the vain of self-de/precation that we are supposed to begoggled).  The world doesn’t want your art, but you have to dare to look in that great void and understand it will takes its toll for doing so.  Picasso was a jerk, Vidal Gore could have learned some things from him, The Last Tango in Paris needed actual cock and vagina.  He adores Hemingway, but understands what got him killed.  Mailer reads like the writer that the young men in Mad Men are hoping to be.

I would like to say his sexism is part of his generation, but as the book was published in 2003, I’m surprised there wasn’t more editing.  Generally, when he refers to an aspiring writer, it is a he.  He also mentions that women “might be less comfortable” writing about war:

How often have women shown the same inventiveness and hellishness that men have at war? How can they approach the near psychotic mix of proportion and disproportion which is at the heart of mortal combat?

However, we can write about bravery (he goes into a long example how brave an old woman must be crossing a street, so therefore, women do have bravery in their lives).

Some other doozies:

  • He is anti-masturbation, calling it a “miserable activity…all that happens is everything that’s beautiful and good in one goes up the hand.”  And then, “it strikes me that masturbation, for a variety of reasons, does not affect the female psyche as directly.”
  • In a chapter on writerly identity, he tells a story where a friend was at a party where he didn’t know anybody.  He apologizes to Mailer because is a moment of recklessness, he decided to introduce himself as Mailer at the party.  He took a girl home. “Were you good with her?” Mailer asks. “Yeah. It was a good one. Real good,” the friend says.  “Then I’m not mad.”
  • “The novel is like the Great Bitch in one’s life. We think we’re rid of her, we go on to other women, we take our pulse and decide that finally we’re enjoying ourselves, we’re free of her power, we’ll never suffer her depredations again, and then we turn a corner on a street, and there’s the Bitch smiling at us, and we’re trapped. We know the Bitch has still got us.”
  • “Every novelist who has slept with the Bitch (only poets and writers of short stories have a Muse) comes away bragging afterward like a GI tumbling out of a whorehouse spree — –“Man, I made her moan,” goes the cry of the young writer. But the Bitch laughs afterward in her empty bed. “He was just so sweet in the beginning,” she declares,”but by the end he just went, ‘Peep, peep, peep.”

I think the heat that rises when I read this is the sexiness of it all, the great drama of writing.  The great manfeat of it all.

But, some of his advice is really helpful. For example, he says that if you tell yourself that you are going to sit at your desk and write tomorrow, it is important that you actually do it.  Otherwise, you unconscious quits trusting you, and won’t show up as reliably.  This is why it’s hard to get back in the habit of work after letting it go.

The rule in capsule: If you fail to show up in the morning after you vowed that you would be at your desk as you went to sleep last night, then you will walk around with ants in your brain. Rule of thumb: Restlessness of mind can be measured by the number of promises that remain unkempt.

So, there’s that.

Yours,

CF

Bromance Vs. Romance: Cross-Dressing For Love

Dear C Fran,

If you love someone, you have to become them. That’s the thesis of Book One of the oldest and oddest bromance I’ve encountered yet, Philip Sidney’s Old Arcadia, published in 1590.

It’s a fun read. For one thing, the narrative voice is modern; urbane, sarcastic, and touchingly sensitive to the desires of its characters. (Example: when one of the two bros (Musidorus and Pyrocles) decides to dress up as an Amazon to get access to his lady-love, the  narrator gently helps him into his feminine garb, which is lovingly described, and declares that from now on he’ll refer to Pyrocles as “she”:)

Such was this Amazon’s attire, and thus did Pyrocles become Cleophila, which name for a time hereafter I will use, for I myself feel such compassion of his passion that I find even part of his fear lest his name should be uttered before fit time were for it.

The narrator’s as good as his word. From here on out Pyrocles is called Cleophila, and at one point gets called Musidorus’ “he-she-friend.”

1500s Cross-Dressing 101

Thanks to Shakespeare in Love and its ilk, we all know cross-dressing was pretty common in sixteenth and seventeenth-century plays. Shakespeare-wise you’ve got your Twelfth Night, your As You Like It, your Merchant of Venice. There’s Lyly’s Gallathea, where the ladies dress as men to avoid being offered as sacrificial virgins to Neptune. But the cross-dressing, when it happens, tends to be of the women-dressed-as-men variety. Same goes for Ariosto’s Bradamante in Orlando Furioso and Spenser’s Britomart in the Faerie Queene. In the plays, the big joke was in the inversion: it’s a boy playing a girl dressed as a boy!!! Madness!

There aren’t as many instances of men dressing as women. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Jonson’s Epicoene, The Silent Woman (a bizarre little play where a man gets punished for wanting a silent wife by being set up with Epicene, a man dressed as a woman who nodded mutely throughout their courtship and turned into a loud nag the second they married). And, you know, Achilles. But that was much longer ago.

Anyway, back to Sidney. Pyrocles falls in love with a painting of Philoclea and, his reason infected, starts thinking about her nonstop. Like, all the time. His decision to cross-dress isn’t merely—as is usual—an expedient way of getting access to the beloved, but actually amounts a principled stand on what it means to be love someone of the opposite gender and how one’s imaginative energies might end up going about it.

I mentioned that Slate post by Dahlia Lithwick that speculated that women, because they’re forced to hypothetically occupy a male perspective so often, might be more empathic and therefore “better” judges because they have a greater capacity to inhabit different perspectives. (The boys in the study she cites often refused to even entertain the idea of pretending to think as a girls.)

The idea seems problematic, at least as applied to jurisprudence. But since I’ve been puzzling over empathy generally, one angle of which includes the sexes’ ability to see from each other’s point of view, I wanna take a gander at Sidney’s argument, in which the logical conclusion of falling in love (for a man, with a woman) is to become one.

The Old Arcadia is sort of a sendup of the scholasticism that characterized young men’s education in the 16th century, in the course of which they had to argue pressing issues like whether day was better than night, or which was more important, friendship or love.

Musidorus and Pyrocles are pals. But, once Pyrocles decides he’s in love and dupes Musidorus into hanging out in the vicinity of Philoclea’s house instead of doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, Musidorus keeps trying to talk him back into his senses in a conversation that ends up pissing off Pyrocles and endangering the friendship.

Dude 1: Love Will Make You Girly. Dude 2: BRING IT ON, BITCH.

The tension between friendship and love gets worked out as a bitterish debate over whether women are poopie-heads or not, but the “not” bit takes an interesting turn. Musidorus says, among other things, that Pyrocles’ love will make him womanish:

For, as the love of heaven makes one heavenly, the love of virtue, virtuous, so doth the love of the world make one become worldly, and this effeminate love of a woman doth so womanish a man that if you yield to it, it will not only make you a famous Amazon, but a launder, a distaff spinner, or whatsoever other vile occupation their idle heads can imagine, and their weak hands perform.

To which Pyrocles, leaving aside the question of whether laundry is a “vile occupation,” offers a pretty rational and rhetorically devastating response that’s worth quoting at length:

Dear and worthy friend, whatsoever good disposition nature hath bestowed on me, or howsoever that disposition hath been by bringing-up confirmed, this must I confess, that I am not yet come to that degree of wisdom to think lightly of the sex of whom I have life. Since … I was … born of a woman and nursed of a woman; and certainly (for this point of your speech doth nearest touch me) it is strange to see the unmanlike cruelty of mankind, who, not content with their tyrannous ambition, to have brought the others’ [women’s] virtuous patience under them, like childish masters think their masterhood nothing without doing injury unto them who (if we will argue by reason) are framed of nature with the same parts of the mind for the exercise of virtue, as we are. And for example, even this estate of Amazons (which I now for my greatest honor, do seek to counterfeit) doth well witness that if generally the sweetness of their disposition did not make them see the veins of these things (which we account glorious) they neither want valor of mind, nor yet doth their fairness take away their force. And truly, we men, and praisers of men should remember, that if we have such excellencies, it is reason to think them excellent creatures of whom we are, since a kite never brought forth a good flying hawk.

In which the following points are made:

  1. Bro, your definition of wisdom is bullshit.
  2. The old “How can I hate women? My mum was one!” chestnut bibbled by Chris Finches the world over.
  3. The desire to dominate women is actually unmanlike because it consists of a cruel and childish brand of mastery, where we have to insult that which we control. (Weren’t expecting that, were you?)
  4. Look at the Amazons. They are awesome. I want to be one. Suck on that.
  5. The Amazons show that if women lacked the “sweetness” and vision to see the flaws in war, etc., they’d be (and are) just as capable of our battle hijinks and courage.
  6. [A reprise of the mum argument:] Fine. If you insist on thinking we’re awesome, logically we had to come from something awesome.

Not bad for 1590, eh?

“Gay” Doesn’t Exist Yet. Choose A) Narcissus Or B) Pygmalion

Pyrocles changes his name to Cleophila—Philoclea’s name in reverse (mirror image ahoy!), and dresses up as an Amazon, even showing a little leg through the cutouts in the leather buskins (boots) which “in some places open … show the fairness of the skin.” He—or, as the narrator rightly reminds us, she—wears a mantle fastened by a jewel with the following insignia:

an eagle covered with the feathers of a dove, and yet lying under another dove, in such sort as it seemed the dove preyed upon the eagle, the eagle casting up such a look as though the state he was in, liked him, though the pain grieved him.

For starters, what exactly is this visual asking us to imagine? How do you depict an eagle dressed in a dove’s feathers? How detailed was this insignia? Are eagle and dove feathers that different? Wouldn’t this just look like an eagle with a bad haircut? It may look like dove-on-dove love, or dove-on-dove S&M… the point is, whatever the impossible visual might be, we’re being asked to imagine a painful and pleasurable effort to achieve sameness.

Musidorus, seeing his friend in full Amazon regalia, finds in him such “excellent beauty” that he says

Well, sweet cousin … I pray you take heed of looking yourself in a glass, lest Narcissus’ fortune fall unto you. For my part, I promise you, if I were not full resolved never to submit my heart to those fancies, I were like enough, while I dressed you, to become a young Pygmalion.”

In a culture where homosexuality (cue Foucault) doesn’t exist yet as a category, we get Narcissus—self-love, love of sameness—and Pygmalion (the Cyprian king who made a woman out of ivory and pined for love of her until Venus made her real)—love of a statue, or of one’s own creation. (Or perhaps, of a painting, since so far Cleophila has only seen Philoclea’s portrait.)

To which Cleophila (now named thusly in the text) says, in this strange little scene:

“Speak not that blasphemy, dear friend … for if I have any beauty, it is the beauty which the imagination of her strikes into my fancies, which in part shines through my face into your eyes.”

In other words, so good is Cleophila’s imitation of Philoclea through imaginative effort alone that Musidorus, who loves Cleophila (nee Pyrocles) as all bros love each other, is in fact vicariously experiencing Philoclea’s beauty.

Poor Cleophila then wanders through to the desert near Philoclea’s house reciting a poem that begins thusly:

Transformed in show, but more transformed in mind,

I cease to strive, with double conquest foiled;

For, woe is me, my powers all, I find,

With outward force and inward treason spoiled.

What marvel then I take a woman’s hue?

Since what I see, think, know, is all but you?

I don’t know that I’ve ever, in all the romances I’ve ever seen or read, encountered this argument expressed in quite this way. Tootsie might be closest thing, but the knowledge gained was really a happy side effect, not a rational imperative.

Bromance-wise, Musidorus falls in love with Philoclea’s sister Pamela, recants all his earlier claims to reason, but doesn’t follow Cleophila. Instead of trading gender he trades class and dresses up as a lowly shepherd. Cleophila saves Philoclea from a male lion, Musidorus (now Dorus) saves Pamela from a she-bear. Neither bro notices what happens to the other, so taken up are they with saving their lady loves. Book One ends there, with the bros sharply divided not just by love and class but also by gender, even down to the sexes of the beasts they kill.

In the usual formulation it’s one thing to think about someone and quite another to think as someone.  Cleophila equates the two and in so doing drastically rewrites the marital ideal of  “two-becoming-one” in which the ideal isn’t complementarity, it’s mimesis. Conversely, the minute Musidorus tells Pyrocles he would (if he were otherwise) be in danger of becoming Pygmalion, he’s gone from thinking as Pyrocles to thinking about him. Our bromance is in crisis.

In thus abandoning his bro, Pyrocles is manfully (heh) struggling to achieve, not the averaging out of usually gendered qualities that result in a common mean, but in a really concrete (and rather painfully effected) equality, with equality, here, defined as sameness. This all seems a little batty, but also sort of contemporary, no?

Fondly,

Millicent

Sterling sounds like an affordable drugstore cologne

Oh my! The Sterling Institute looks terrifying.  I am fascinated that your friend presented it to you.  I keep thinking of Jez and Super Hans in their button up shirts and clean hair.  This reminds me again of that story in Jezebel that ran about men needing to release their inner douche-bag to claim their self/control of the world in rebellion to the control of their motherwives.  You have probably already read this, but I thought it was an interesting account of a reporter that almost took on our experiment of donning mustaches and packing a sock in the pants to infiltrate.  She went as a lady to the lady weekend.

These things are popular, and all the articles play with the idea of “is there something to all of this?”  But it seems like it is a giant excuse to blame women for everything; women are ruining the world by expecting men to be grown up human beings.  Drat us!

My computer is misbehaving, I am going to spank it,

more soon,

CF

Introducing The Sterling Institute Men’s Weekend

I think I’ve found the grown-up version of Calvin and Hobbes’ secret club, G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid of Slimy girlS): it is called The Sterling Institute Men’s Weekend. It seems to share genes with Robert Bly’s Mythopoetic Men’s Movement, but it has certain things that make it all its own animal.

First, it’s Purpose:

To engage in the process of locating the source of your power and discovering and dissolving the barriers between you and manifesting that power so that you experience total freedom as only a man can and with that freedom be the man you always wanted to be.

I found out about “the Institute” from an old friend, “Sam,” who has always embodied for me what “mild-mannered” means. He’s Clark Kent without Superman: gentle, generous, helpful, polite, goofy—maybe a little easy to take advantage of. As of his 27th birthday he has never—with one recent exception—had a girlfriend, though he’s worshipped certain people from afar, even buying one woman plane tickets home for Christmas so she could be with her family. (This while the woman dated someone else.)

Something was off as chatted. I asked him what was new, and he proceeded to tell me—via online chatting—about something that changed his life. He asked if I had ever wished for some higher purpose. Uh-oh, I thought.

It turns out he’s taken to driving two hours each way on Tuesday evenings after work to volunteer at “the Institute.” He sounds like he’s in a cult. He tells me that friendships are merely ways of modeling the person you really want to be with, and what if he smoked pot all day and played video games, would I want to be with someone like that?

Stymied, I visited the website to see what had happened to poor Sam. Why was he talking about cavemen hunting deer? Why did he keep telling me that women are infinitely superior than men—because they “create life and infuse it into anything and everything they do,” so that even when women fix cars they bring their “whole selves” to the project, and why did he insist, bizarrely, that “without women, men would run out of things to do”?

Its Function:

The Weekend clarifies the conflict between modern society’s expectations and our ancient masculine biological and emotional foundation. Participants learn to integrate, rather than reject, their masculine instincts, resulting in success, power, and contentment. The Weekend has a profound and far-reaching effect on men of all ages and backgrounds. For many, it has been a defining moment in their lives.

Who leads it, you ask? One A. Justin Sterling, an “acknowledged relationship expert” whose “expertise and familiarity with the innermost thoughts of women, [sic] has given him the insight and perspective to teach men to be better relationship partners by being more masculine, more honorable, and more disciplined.”

I, for one, would like nothing more than to meet A. Justin Sterling and learn about the innermost thoughts of women. I propose therefore, that you and I dress up as men (surely there are appropriate wigs) and infiltrate one of these weekends.

Men who are not ready for a long-term relationship will find good advice on how to manage their emotional well-being in romantic endeavors, while men who are considering marriage and family will find much needed guidance on self-preparation, choosing the right mate, and staying on the path to a thriving marriage.

Perhaps most hilariously, we are reminded that The Men’s Weekend Is Fun:

The Sterling Men’s Weekend is a chance to let your flag fly, whatever it might be and enjoy the acceptance and camaraderie of men. There are no political correctness police here, and good-natured vulgarity is suitable for the occasion.

Here is the thing: I think I am being courted by this friend under the Sterling-approved Caveman model of Relations Between the Sexes. On the one hand, I cheer for him—he needed something like this, I think, to usher him out of Doormathood. On the other hand, it troubles me that he has taken this so to heart, ascribes his whole life’s direction to it. He believes he knows exactly What Women Want (in a nutshell, someone with Drive and Energy who will provide for them and their children. They don’t have to a Basketball Player or anything. What matters is the Drive. A sense of Purpose). When I told him these ideas were the sort that make women like me run screaming in the opposite direction, he suggested I try the Sterling Women’s Institute.

I declare the birth of an Experiment. I’m going to see if, in future conversations, I can’t deprogram him a bit while leaving the broad strokes—the confidence, the newfound “power” that apparently accompanies his newly-discovered masculinity—intact. Do you think this is possible? And what do you think of A. Sterling himself?

Fondly,

Millicent

On Flirting: The Meeting of Eyes and Ayes and Is: Part 2–Practice

Dear Carla Fran,

Migraine struck again, but as it happened it worked out well. I have further results to report!

To continue where I left off in Part 1 (available here): Our mission was to flirt in the time-honored way through eye contact, smiles, coy glances etc. My friend was more experienced in this than I, but neither of us was exactly proficient at this sort of thing.

Advice:

Before setting off, we were advised by male friends to play with our hair. Several demonstrated the art of concentrating all one’s “come-hitherness” into a glance–which yielded funny, if not particularly seductive, results. Flirting out of context is kind of hilarious. The most helpful advice came from a friend of mine, D, who called the activity in question “sparkling.”

“Sparkle,” D said. “For you maybe it’s not about the eyes. That’s fine. But it’s that thing that makes you fabulous to be around. You want to convey that you’re amazing, that anyone with you is lucky and shinier because of their contact with you, and that there just might be something magical between your legs.”

Bar #1

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On Flirting: The Meeting of Eyes and Ayes and Is: Part I–Theory

Dear CF,

So enjoyed your last few posts which–as it happens–coincide with what I wanted to write you about anyway: flirting. I’ve conducted a smallish experiment and am eager to share the results with you.

But first, let me agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the sexes’ attitudes toward pizzle and cooch instrumentality. Yes! Having read figleaf a bit, you’ve no doubt noticed that one of his major pet peeves is the “No Sex Class”–not just a population but a whole system built around the self-evident truth that men always want sex and women never do. That what is in fact being transacted across a room when people make eyes at each other is a tricksy rhetoric by which a man convinces a woman to let him do something to her that she doesn’t particularly want done.

Returning for a moment to the question of sexual fantasy, I’m going to offer a slight corrective to figleaf’s lucid cultural critique: wrongheaded as it is, I think this might, in fact, be the biggest unacknowledged fetish in Western culture. The pretense that women don’t want sex (or some sort of contact) is a HUGE fantasy that fires the imaginations and loins of the lusty, and it has the benefit of being sufficiently widespread (heh) that it doesn’t need Craigslist postings or special outfits to be enacted in bar after bar the world over.

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Penvy Is A Bad Word, I Swear I Know

Dear Millicent,

In a surprising gesture of affection, my cat has decided to take a nap on my back while I type.  It is really a gesture for warmth, but I am interpreting it as affection, and that she thinks of me as a really big cat.  Queen cat.

Onwards! As the wise have said since the early nineties, let’s talk about sex.  Speaking of sex, I was perusing Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint today, and there is an early scene in the sex-addled book where the narrator is constantly masturbating, even jumping up from dinner complaining of a stomachache in order to go masturbate.   He’s thirteen, his parents’ are banging down the door of the bathroom, and his mother is desperately worried about the state of his “poopie,” because diarrhea has been his reason for locking the bathroom door.  The moment that grabbed my attention (by the way, all the verbs available to me seem overactive in this paragraph–I guess erections have that effect) was that he furiously finishes himself off mostly to prove to himself that while the rest of his life is controlled by his mother, he and his cock can do whatever they want.

And then I was reading on Jezebel today about how there is an argument that men suffer in marriage because they have to stifle their inner douchbaggyness. That they cheat and go to titty bars because their wives control the rest of their world.  This again seemed to be refuge in the autonomy of being able to stick a dick somewhere, or as jezebel so aptly says:

That cure, in fact, is to rebel against one’s wife or girlfriend as though she is his mother, lying and doing things that he himself knows are wrong and self-destructive, in order to prove that he is not ruled by anyone but his own penis and sense of self-entitlement.

And so, I realized how novel that idea was to me…the idea of the freedom and self assertion through the actual assertion (dare I say insertion) and pleasuring of a body part–that men feel their are in touch with their power through their prowess of penis (I know, I’m getting carried away).  What surprised me about this idea is that I couldn’t quite think of an equivalent as a lady.  My interpretation of my sexuality has usually been about granting access (even with oral sex), but never any power in what I could stick and where–never in what I could do to other people as much as what I could allow to be done to me.   Which has also led to much more worry about what could be done to me (part of the typical stance of caution and protection).  This sounds darker than I mean, but I have to say that it showed me a possible difference in ideas of male and female sexuality that I have accepted as normal.  Men might have anxiety about performance, and have to hide erections, but their joy in their body is power and immediate identity.   For women, it might be more about growth and acceptance, the joy in the body comes from exploration and a kind of self love (oh! how silly all language gets when masturbation is the topic!)…which seems like it is leading me to a little bit of penis envy…which I think is sloppy logic on my part.  What it comes down to is, I don’t think masturbation or rampant doing it is an ultimate “fuck you” to my lack of control.  A distraction, yes,  but an empowering bordering of my selfhood…not so much.

Speaking of penis envy, I was reading recently about somebody famous going on and on about how men are jealous of women because they can have babies, give life, all that stuff.  And yes, women can do those things, but it seemed hilarious to me that nobody famous ever said that men were jealous of women’s menstrual cycles (really, quite an important part of the whole power to give life thing).  Which is maybe why I find the ladyparts a less symbolic place for identity and sovereignty.  Is it because women are intimate with their bodies on a monthly basis at the unpleasurable demands of menstruation that we accept its vitality and work involved without making it the fulcrum of what we can do in the world?  It’s difficult to imagine a girl gleefully unwrapping a tampon and reveling in what she and her vagina are gonna do one day.    She can do things, and with her vagina, but the two just aren’t as hand in hand as boys and their pizzles. That’s right, I said it. Pizzle.

More thoughts shortly (all adjectives are also cracking me up in such close proximity to penis talk),

heh,

CF