17 November 2010
Amelia Airheart, anal penetration, Anal Sex, biography, Eleanor Roosevelt, Family Guy, Feminism, Gender Expectations, Hook, How to Make Love like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, Jenna Jameson, Jumanji, Legend of Zelda, Mrs. Doubtfire, Playboy, Pornography, Pornography Industry, Pornosexuality, Rape, Robin Williams, sex, Sex Workers, Sexual Fantasy, Sexual politics, Sexual Rhetoric, Sexuality, slut, The Other, Tropic of Cancer
I’m part of a generation raised with porn. Before the reader begins to imagine my upbringing I need to clarify. While I did stumble upon my dad’s Playboys, and then eventually an actual porno VHS tape, porn was never “laying around” the house when I was growing up. My days were largely spent either playing Legend of Zelda on my Super Nintendo or else watching Robin Williams movies like Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, or Jumanji. The lines “My first day as a woman, and I’m getting hot flashes” are sealed indelibly upon my psyche for the record. Pornography did eventually make its way into my life, but I was spared the hardcore stuff, in every sense of the word, until I had hit puberty in which case that was purely based upon my own research.
Still despite this porn was everywhere, I just didn’t recognize it as such. When I would read a statistic early in puberty that by age thirteen most kids of my generation will have seen at least 100 sexual images I was surprised and then at the same time not surprised. Films always seemed to have sex in them (I’m thinking of American Pie and that infamous flute), books like Tropic of Cancer or For Whom the Bell Tolls would contain descriptions of sensuality, advertising was brimming with sex based imagery, and Family Guy, my favorite television show, relied regularly on sex for jokes. Pornography then was really just the core media from which every aspect of visual culture was derived.
Still despite this prevalence, and free usage let’s be clear here, I never discovered the work of Jenna Jameson until I was at least sixteen or seventeen, and even then I didn’t have much consideration of her, her work, or what impact she would have upon society. She was yet another blond face in the seemingly endless ocean of naked bodies enjoying the mechanical performance of a sexuality I’ve taken to classify s pornosexuality. This is a sexual expression in which individuals engage in sex with members of the same and opposite sex and exhibit a near insatiable desire for single or multiple partners.
Jenna Jameson may not be the President of the United States (yet, if Trump can run now anybody can), neither is she a diplomat nor an accomplished public orator, but her voice and body has been part of many individual’s personal sexual experiences, and also their reading habits. Including mine.
About two years ago I stumbled upon How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale when I was working up my courage to actually stand and stay in the Sexuality section of the Half Priced Book Store. My hormones hadn’t completely calmed down, but I was getting to that point where a picture of boobs no longer left a me two-hundred-pound ape grunting and groping the air. More importantly I was becoming interested in sexuality not only as a fun activity, but also as a discourse unto itself. Buying up books about homosexual men, sexual expression, the history of lesbianism in early Europe, the history of cultural attitudes about the penis, and sexual behavior in history was intoxicating and while I gathered up a small pile I turned and saw Jameson’s book. I’d seen it before on book shelves but I never had the nerve to actually open it and read it. I added it to the pile, bought it, and began to read.
When the biography was published in 2004 it spent six weeks on the best seller, for all the reasons you probably suspect. One passage alone can probably reveal everything:
Anal Sex. Anal fucking sex. Brown-hole spelunking, rusty-can-expanding, colon tickling anal fucking sex.
I know you’re interesting now because just about everyone is interested in doing it up the butt, whether it’s because they want it, their partner wants it, or they’re just curious. (323).
Now personally before throwing the concept of anal sex into my writing I like to start off either with a joke or an amusing anecdote about Beanie Babies, but then again I’m not a porn star. These few lines are similar to numerous passages throughout the book, and while this particular example of bad rhetoric is designed to entice the reader further, it should be noted that it actually does serve the larger purpose of starting a chapter dedicated to the realities of being a female porn-star. It also is an opportunity for Jameson to reveal a bit of herself, and given the fact this book is a memoir first a bit of self-disclosure is appropriate:
For me to allow a man to have anal sex with me, I must have trust first. Because to be on the receiving end of anal sex is to give yourself completely to your partner. […] And that’s why despite the fact that it is practically an industry standard to have anal sex in every sex scene, I’ve never done it in a film.
It has become a constant issue for me. I’ve been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to do anal. But even if I walked away with $300,000 for having done it, I would also be taking away the feeling that I gave up something that was really important to me. This is almost embarrassing for a porn star to admit, but I’ve only given that up to three men, all of whom I really loved. (323).
She follows this on the next page with:
If you come into this industry as a woman, you need to have a clearly defined set of guidelines and boundaries for yourself. That’s how you maintain your sanity. And every person I know has a different standard they hold themselves to. (324).
This passage may in fact hold some kind of feminist statement though I recognize immediately just writing that puts me in a precarious position. A cisgender man, even if he is bi-sexual, writing about a pornstar’s memoir and arguing that it’s a feminist document, or contains feminist sentiment, reeks of bad apology and by that I mean it sounds fucking pathetic and sad. Many men before, some of them good writers but most of them just terrible, have attempted to make the argument that a woman starring in porn can have a feminist position, but when you’re making the argument with your dick in your hands it’s a little difficult to take that argument seriously. Even if I don’t watch Jenna Jameson videos regularly, I do believe this passage has some feminist argument behind it.
Whether or not you like porn, or agree that it should even exist, the fact that Jenna Jameson places responsibility of her body, and more importantly control over her body in her own hands rather than in someone else’s is a feminist statement. As such the contesters of this position typically fall back upon the standard yet reliable weapon, namely the word slut.
The arguments against female pornstars are often reduced down into the sentiment that they’re simply sluts. As such nothing they say or do should really be taken seriously because no slut should be taken seriously. There’s a conflict with this however because it is “othering.” By reducing a woman into the title of slut, a critic turns her into an “other” a being that doesn’t represent any kind of humanity and therefore any and all treatment of them is acceptable. I’ve written before that I don’t care much for the word slut. It’s not a pretty word linguistically, it’s almost always used as a pejorative term, and the individuals who typically use it usually seem to possess a holier than thou stance in their approach to life. Slut is used as a weapon to reduce women rather than raise them but at this point the contester emerges.
So what? Jenna Jameson is a pornstar, and the memoir isn’t written by Tolstoy, so why should I bother reading it?
This is a fair question because not even I have full answer to this one. How to Make Love Like a Pornstar: A Cautionary Tale is not literature or art by any means, and in terms of biographies of famous women the lives of Amelia Airheart and Eleanor Roosevelt are almost certainly more the model most parents would prefer their daughters to aspire to. The lack of creativity concerning prose, and the actual details of Jameson’s life creates a conflict when trying to defend this book as art, or at least an important cultural object. However, I will argue that part of the importance of this book was the conversation it started.
Pornography is, at least in America, is an institution that is beloved and despised simultaneously. Before Jenna Jameson’s biography few sex workers had the bravery, or even outlet, to write about their life outside of a few publishing companies sympathetic towards the industry. When Jameson’s biography was published this changed. How to Make Love Like a Pornstar not only proved that pornstar biographies could reach a mass market, it validated the idea that sex workers were a functioning figure in the American cultural landscape. Traci Lords, Asa Akira, Terra Patrick, and Monica Mayhem are just a few of the well-known pornstars to have written memoirs following the success of Jenna Jameson, and in the last few years Belle Knox, the Duke University Student who starred in porn films to pay for her tuition, told her story effectively writing herself into a feminist icon for her generation. Women in pornography are no longer just sluts, they are in fact individual women creating a career and life for themselves that actively involves their bodies.
Jameson’s book addresses this old argument however, by offering her reader a real moment of her humanity. Later in the book she describes an interview she gave during the height of her career on the Howard Stern Program. Stern asked her the usual sexual based question, it is Howard Stern and he has a reputation to live up to, but during the interview he began to ask her if she was in porn because she had a rotten childhood, or if because she was ever abused or molested. Jameson reveals that she said no but that the question summoned the memory of being viciously gang raped by a bunch of football players when she was a teenager. She says no and describes the attack, and just to be clear I won’t repeat the attack here because I refuse to out of general principle. What is important is her reflection on the experience and why she told Howard no:
It had only flashed through my consciousness a couple of times since then, but Howard’s question—I’d never been asked anything so direct—brought the images flooding back. I understood what he was trying to get at. The question had crossed my mind before: Was I in this business because I was victimized or because I wanted to succeed at something? I examined it from every angle I could, and every time came to the same conclusion: that it didn’t make a shred of difference. It occurred too late in my development to be formative. Whether it happened or not, I still would have become a porn star. I’ve been through enough therapists to know that.
I’ve never told about either the Montana experience or the one with Preacher because I don’t want to be thought of as a victim. I want to be judged by who I am as a person, not by what happened to me. In fact, all the bad things have only contributed to my confidence and sense of self, because I survived them and became a better and stronger person for it.
Ultimately, what really matters is not just the experiences you have at a young age, but whether or not you are equipped—by your parents, your genetics, by your education—to survive and deal with them. (395).
This passage for me is ultimately what demonstrates the value of How to Make Love Like a Pornstar, and what should compel the reader to at least attempt this memoir. I recognize going forward that I haven’t addressed the issue of the pornography industry for the most part, and so it may appear that I condone the manipulation of young girls entering the industry hoping for the kind of fame that actresses like Jameson have achieved. For the record, I don’t. The pornography industry is a business that regularly leaves young women metaphorically and literally screwed and Jameson’s book factually and unromantically addresses this problem.
Porn captures the imagination of the culture it entertains and Jameson’s book ultimately reveals that. Millions of people bought the book with its colorful passages and numerous photographs showing boob after boob after boob, and this desire to know and understand Jameson revealed something about American culture. It’s unlikely that the book will survive the battle against history, but it does stand as an important document that revealed that almost everyone’s browsing history held some dark sticky gem. Those readers eager and desperate to read a tragic story were horribly disappointed, while those readers eager to read about sex got their money’s worth while also reading about a woman who possessed a strength which defied an industry which has, and continues to do so, leave many women defeated, used, or destroyed.
Rather than besmirch it, deny it, or call it a slut however, Jameson’s book allowed a glimpse into the life of a real woman who achieved her success by the choices she made.
It’s not Gloria Steinem, but it’s difficult to find a more feminist message than that.
I’ve tried my best to explain why I feel that this book is a relevant document for contemporary society, but let me make one last argument. Sex workers face a real stigma in our society because their work exists within the double standard. People like and enjoy sex, and they enjoy watching sex, however because no one wants to acknowledge their sexual desire sex workers are typically dehumanized, cast as sluts and perverts, and receive verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Reading Jenna Jameson’s biography in many ways is an act that liberates the reader from this behavior because it forces the reader to acknowledge that she is actually a human being. Pornstars are people, living breathing people with their own personalities, dreams, ambitions, desires, and problems and the sooner society acknowledges this then there can be real progress in combatting the stigma that leads to negative behavior that these people typically have to suffer from the self-righteous or sexually frustrated who usually make their lives miserable. It also helps society by letting people admit freely that they consume pornography as a product, thus opening public, and honest, conversations about sex and whether or not the porn that is being produced honestly conveys a healthy sexual response and behavior.
Here’s a few links to articles about porn-star biographies, either the individual books or else the larger trend of pornstars writing biographies. Hope you enjoy or else find them interesting:
**Writer’s Note UPDATE 8-23-2017**
Since this article was published the periodical WIRED, a technology based magazine, has recently written an article about the inevitability of children being exposed to porn and what that will mean for parents. If the reader is at all interested they can follow the link below and read the article, which, I would highly recommend.
Book Review, Buildungsroman, Cassie Phillips, Daniel Clowes, Feminism, Film, film review, Gender Expectations, Ghost World, Girls, graphic novel, Millenial, Scralett Johansen, teen angst, teenage girls, Women Friendships
If you look under the “About” Section of White Tower Musings, and the rather pompous “About” section is rather long, you’ll find an email address I created hoping that someone besides me would be interested in actually writing for my site. At first many people expressed interest but life and school and work and trying to ignore eventually came in the way. I would often hope that somebody somewhere would actually take advantage of the address, but checking every day (I am that pathetic) there would always be the same two add emails from Google. So life went on, I started Infinite Jest, got a new puppy, auditioned for a job I didn’t get, and then around a week ago I checked the address and found someone had written to me back in May.
Cassie Phillips contacted me, told me she was a fan of the site and would be interested in writing for White Tower Musings. Given the fact I do all but crawl on my hands and knees begging people to write for me the fact that someone was actually interested was a delightful shock, but I said yes immediately and she responded in kind by writing a fascinating article. Here it is for your fine enjoyment:
Daniel Clowes “Ghost World” is the epitome of teen angst at its prime, and in particular, the viewpoint of female teen angst, something TV producers and readers the world over have been salivating over the past ten years (“Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” I’d dare even say “Fifty Shades of Grey”).
Right out of high school and lacking all direction, the protagonist Enid and her faithful sidekick Rebecca encapsulate the two dichotomies of prepubescent reality: the perfect one and the rebel. While this pairing has nothing to do with Millennials in particular, since examples in film crop up everywhere from the original 1961 “Parent Trap” to “Two Broke Girls” leads Max & Caroline, I would say their tumultuous relationship is something we’ve seen appear on “Girls” frequently enough that the stereotype can still be used to define the fringe age between pubescence and adulthood.
While we’ve got both the graphic novel and the movie to dissect, I’d claim that screen adaptation is a little more indicative of the millennial mindset than the graphic novel’s more traditional sense of coming of age, because for all the hoopla that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is dead, I’d make the claim that it didn’t start with Kirsten Dunst in “Elizabethtown,” but with Enid (and a fair share of Rebecca), before it culminated in Zooey Deschanel’s “New Girl” form.
The main obsession of “Ghost World,” both graphic novel and film, are its main characters Enid and Rebecca. They’re naive, and they have no perspective on their horribleness, terrorizing people, talking badly about them, and generally passing judgment on all who happen to walk in their paths. With the lack of maturity that powers them through their conversation and daily activities, we are invited into the world of children becoming adults by latching onto what they think is mature: endless criticism of the outside world as well as themselves.
Rebecca: “Oh face it, you just hate every single guy on the face of the earth.”
Enid: “That’s not true. I just hate all of these extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-Bohemian losers.”
We can see this as a relatively normal theme, popping up in everything from “Malcolm in the Middle” to “Rugrats” with Angelika’s insistence on calling everyone “stupid babies.” For one, Enid has a notorious potty mouth. Rebecca mirrors this to fit in, but we get the sense that Enid is the cause for it. And with Enid’s bad behavior comes the idea that she is just a miserable person hoping to get out, be someone new, and get a chance to meet new people. From Enid and Rebecca’s frequenting old school diners or prank calling personal ads (have Match.com and Tinder eradicated this pastime?), we get a sense that Enid’s quirkiness sets her apart but also ultimately ostracizes her, because unlike the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of Deschanel’s presentation, Enid doesn’t exist to further the plot of any male in the storyline. Instead, her quirkiness is much more similar to Lena Dunham’s Hannah.
A definition of a modern Millennial, Hannah from “Girls” can be (opinionatedly) broken down into someone who never has her shit together, is concerned about the appearance of having friends, and is also concerned with social norms and meeting those standards while still being somewhat outside of them because she’ll never be “normal.” For Enid, all of these characteristics ring true as well.
Enid has the opportunity to go to art school in the movie, which she ultimately botches because her piece is “too controversial.” It’s actually an old ad stolen from Steve Buscemi’s character’s former workplace, involving Enid in plagiarism as well as racist undertones. She’s desperate for men to view her the same way that they look at Rebecca. And her relationship with Rebecca is important to her, but there is an underlying antagonism between the two.
We first meet Enid and Rebecca as they are talking with one another while the TV is on; Enid is verbally abusing the comedian on the television and Rebecca: “Boo, what a loser…you always go out with guys like that who have the same fake shtick,” while Rebecca continues to watch TV and listen to Enid talk. This first scene sets up the entire course of the relationship; Enid’s open rejection of anything popular is contrasted by Rebecca’s normalness. However, both are connected to one another by their feelings of unrest as to what lies in the future. But where Rebecca ultimately fails Enid is when she gets a boyfriend Josh (a love interest of both Enid and Rebecca) and by being someone who fits into society effortlessly. This is similar to the relationship Hannah and Marnie, Hannah’s best friend, have throughout “Girls.” While Hannah is awkward, anxiety prone and a strange dresser on occasion (this doesn’t even tip the iceberg with the show’s nudity), Marnie is put together, organized and is a great friend. In the case of “Ghost World” and “Girls,” the audience learns by contrast how to identify a Millennial.
But in the movie, the relationship of Enid and Rebecca is most tested through the introduction of a new character: Seymour, played by Steve Buscemi. Seymour is dorky, old and desperate for a human connection, and when Enid and Rebecca find his personal ad in the paper looking for a lost love interest and missed connection, they pose as the woman he was seeking in a prank call.
While the man is little more than a mention in the graphic novel, the movie creates an entire character who pulls Enid’s attention away from Rebecca, and also away from the love triangle that exists between Enid, Josh and Rebecca in the graphic novel. In the movie, Seymour represents a quick satisfaction for Enid’s loneliness and desperation for someone who is even more of a loser than she is. By Seymour being her quick love interest, it draws Enid away from the Josh and Rebecca jealousy, but it also draws her away from Rebecca and further into her own little world. Adam, Hannah’s boyfriend, does the same thing; his rowdiness pulls Hannah away from the relationships she has with her girlfriends. From the Millennial angle, these romantic relationships don’t empower the women, they ostracize further, reinforcing the feeling of “otherness.”
Dunham on many occasion has illustrated the satirical nature of “Girls,” and the same could be said of “Ghost World.” But that doesn’t negate the ironclad characteristics of a generation’s stereotypes that have come to be defined by Dunham’s writing, and her themes come up often enough in “Ghost World” to draw these comparisons. When it comes to Millennial laziness, the graphic novel illustrated how both Enid and Rebecca only have dreams that extend as far as living together in their own apartment and getting a job. It is made clear at a graduation party by one of their classmates that he “should have figured you two wouldn’t go to college,” but the graphic novel makes a point to remind us that the girl’s experiences are important to their own empowerment.
By using curse words, constantly putting one another under verbal attack and questioning each other’s opinions, a surface interpretation would put their relationship as some sort of prepubescent rivalry that means nothing. However, as the story unfolds, this rivalry establishes the two girls into the people that they will become and isn’t without weight: Enid as an intrepid “other” who pursues life outside of the town she’s from, and Rebecca as the conventional one, existing, “beautifully,” behind a glass pane in the town. Again, Hannah and Marnie come to mind.
What is important throughout the graphic novel and the movie is the approach of the two girls on the modern view of feminism. Acting as an apparent depiction of the dual nature of women’s role in society, the graphic novel and movie are equally clear and representative of the two girl’s perspective roles. Enid’s apparent lack of conventional femininity is starkly contrasted by Rebecca’s apparent normalcy in both her appearance and situation, and both characters are envious of one another. While Rebecca is depicted as a blonde “wasp” by Enid—“You’re a skinny blonde wasp, that’s what every guy wants”—Enid’s haircut, glasses, figure and apparent overcompensation for lack of attention from males through intimidation and intelligence, pose her as a rebel. This rebellion is very much a huge part of the feminist movement, as well as the LGBTQ movements; that gender should not define us as people.
The movie ends with Rebecca sitting on the bus, with Enid meeting her after talking with Seymour, and they have a moment of honesty that reveals that their friendship isn’t superficial, but the graphic novel ends with a little less sentimentality (there’s Hollywood for you).
As an older Enid spies her friend in through the window of a coffee shop at the end of the graphic novel, saying “You’ve grown into a very beautiful young woman,” we see that the graphic novel has created a situation where we only get Enid’s perspective on adulthood, unnoticed by her old friend. This is a deliberate attempt by Clowes to encapsulate the true meaninglessness of conforming to a societal view of adulthood. Either way, you’re screwed. Either way, you’re invisible, which is something Hannah can relate to.
The text presents that a true path to being a good adult is unclear in Enid and Rebecca’s state of adolescents, and the movie moves to confirm this further by presenting Seymour, a character outside of Enid and Rebecca’s age group, who is equally ghosted by the pressures and lack of fulfillment with adulthood, ultimately expressing the idea that a view into the adult world is a view into nothingness. For Millennials the world over, this grim outlook on the present may not offer any cuddly reinforcement that people claim we need, but it gives Lena Dunham plenty more material to shock.
About the Author:
Cassie Phillips is a digital nomad who splits her time between writing for Culture Coverage and Secure Thoughts and reading her way through the stacks at Barnes and Noble. Whether it’s written or watchable, great storytelling is her weakness, and she’s out to share the written (and spoken) word with the world.
(Jammer) I’ve also included links to a few of Cassie’s other essays if you’re at all interested in reading more of her work.
"PC Police", Academic Book, Bill Maher, Boobs, Breasts, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, Gender Expectations, Gender Fluid, Gender Trouble, Henry Killinger, Henry Kissinger, Jack Halberstam, Judith Butler, Lady Gaga, Lesbianism, Luce Irigaray, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus's Tongue, Millenial, Pansexuality, Passive/Active Sexual Performance, phallocentrism, phallus, Queer Theory, Sexual identity, Sexual Rhetoric, Sexuality, This Sex Which Is Not One, tongue, Vagina, vaginal imagery, Woman's Body
I like Miley Cyrus. I recognize immediately that this statement is sure to lose me some friends, associations, professional contacts, and they key to the hall of Badassery (I’ll miss the swans the most), but I am willing to make it because I admit freely that I’m not a huge fan of her music. While Cyrus has behaved erratically from time to time, her work in the LGBT community, specifically her work with raising awareness for Trans homelessness is something truly admirable. Miley Cyrus as a musician is likely to be remembered the way Madonna or Lady Gaga will be remembered: the record will reflect that some music was made, but for the large part what will be studied is how these women affected the public perception and discourse around the female body. Miley then will most likely be recorded because of her tongue.
While my own reading tends to deal more with male sexuality and body image, understanding perceptions of women are just as, if not more, important because usually the best method of determine the nature of a thing is to understand fully what it is not.
The reader may immediately object by noting that: Gross, you’re gross, seriously what the fuck? Why are you even talking about her tongue? Are you some tongue obsessed serial killer? You’re just, weird man. Ew, just, ew.
Now that you have that out of your system I’ll continue.
Miley’s tongue is a discourse unto itself, and while popstar’s body parts typically derive cheap entertainment fodder it is interesting to observe the populace, as well as Miley herself, fascinated by the recurring image of her tongue stuck out. Simply Google image searching the name Miley Cyrus reveals several images of this action after the first few lines, and should the reader search “Miley Cyrus Tongue” they’re greeted with an entire page. Cyrus has explained in an interview with Barbara Walters that this sticking out of her tongue is simply her trying to cope with always being watched or stared at by cameras since she doesn’t know how to smile. It would be enough to leave it there, but alas a great portion of the population possesses a not-so-well-hidden perversion in trying to understand and dissect the sex lives of celebrities and as such Miley’s Tongue has become a discourse that is worth exploring.
The reason for this is the idea of phallocentrism. Before I get to that though I need to address Cyrus’s gender and sexuality.
Originally the inspiration for this particular essay was Bill Maher. I don’t consider myself a liberal by any means, in fact my mantra for politics is usually “fuck liberals and fuck conservatives, Elmo/Cookie Monster 2016,” but between the bouts of self-righteous dick waving the man can be legitimately funny. I honestly can’t remember the set-up, he was likely complaining about the “PC Police” and during his “New Rules” monologue he made some random comment about a “Millennial’s blog post about Miley Cyrus’s Tongue.” I laughed at first because I was positive that such an essay probably existed and it probably would confirm every bad stereotype about Millennials, but upon deeper reflection I really began to think about it. Writing about tongue’s would have to involve discussing sexuality, and when approaching the topic of the public’s fascination with celebrity bodies this actually becomes something relevant, as well as something which has been done before.
Jack Halberstam has written a book entitled Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal which, while I haven’t read it, explores aspects of Queer theory within popular culture and this idea becomes something pressingly relevant given the fact that more people probably know the name Miley Cyrus than they do Henry Kissinger.** Miley Cyrus is not just a wannabe celebrity desperate for attention, she’s become a figure within the public consciousness, and unlike previous instances of “the IT girl,” Miley is unashamedly queer.
Miley Cyrus has openly identified herself as gender fluid and pansexual. If you don’t know what either of those are I’ll provide a basic explanation. Gender fluid is a state in which individuals self-identify as both genders, but rather than have it fixed all the time as man and woman it depends upon a person’s feeling or individual mood. She has said in one article:
On not conforming to gender stereotypes, she continued: “I don’t relate to what people have made men and women into. I know I’m more extreme and badass than most guys, but that doesn’t make me a boy.
“And the other night I wore a pink dress because I felt cute. I can bake a cupcake and then go play hockey.”
Gender fluidity is not free-for-all, nor is it simply “what I feel like at this moment.” Gender fluid is one of the most mistaken gender identities because it is derogatorily perceived as someone just being weird or confused. Despite naysayers which would argue that this is a vapid identity structure, it is a conviction that one simply does not recognize a gender binary (the idea that there are only men and women) as the core of their identity. As for pansexuality this a sexual preference in which individuals do not center their erotic attraction based upon gender. Whereas straight men and cisgender lesbians are attracted to women, and likewise straight women and cisgender homosexual males are attracted to men, the pansexual is open to a wide variety of body types and gender identities. This is sometimes mislabeled as the Cole Porter hit “Anything Goes,” and if the reader is confused do not feel bad for both this gender identity and sexuality is often poorly represented in cinema and television so understanding will not always be direct. Pansexuality, like all sexuality, is nuanced and for each person there are preferences and fetishes. Simply put: the Pansexual person does not hold one gender as desirable, but in fact believes that any human being they encounter can be sexy regardless of sex, gender, or sexuality. For lack of better clarification I’ll let Cyrus speak for herself:
“I’ve had really bad anxiety and depression in my life and a lot of that stemmed from the way I look,” she confessed to the publication. “Now I really try not to give a f**k. If you’re funny enough and cool enough and confident, that’s what will make you feel beautiful.”
With all of this in hand understanding the public discourse of Cyrus becomes easier for too often the critics talking about her often use “her.” Even I’ve done it if you’ve been paying attention, and while Cyrus hasn’t made any public comment about pronoun usage this does complicate all the talk about her tongue.
Looking at the tongue in general the average image association can become rather phallic. Gene Simmons the base player of KISS has even gone so far as to suggest openly that Cyrus has attempted to “steal” his tongue “look,” and given the fact that Gene Simmons is Dr. Love immediately Cyrus’s physical gesture becomes connected to the idea of the phallus(I believe the colloquial term is “The D”). The tongue during sex becomes a pseudo-phallus penetrating the vagina and stimulating it and thus the figure using it becomes the “active penetrator.” Which is an elaborate way of saying the one using the tongue is “the man.”
The problem with this is that this is bullshit, at least as far as Cyrus is concerned. Cyrus’s tongue can’t be a penis because that would be an aspect of gendering her. To get a clearer perspective of this the reader should consult Judith Butler’s seminal text Gender Trouble in which she explores her thesis that gender is a performance rather than the innate biology. Looking at the way human beings gender bodies she notes:
Pleasures are said to reside in the penis, the vagina, and the breasts or to emanate from them, but such descriptions correspond to a body which has already been constructed or naturalized gender-specific. In other words, some parts of the body become conceivable foci of pleasure precisely because they correspond to a normative ideal of a gender-specific body. Pleasures are in some sense determined by the melancholic structure of gender whereby some organs are deadened to pleasure, and others brought to life. (95-6)
The reader may be wondering what that exactly said seeing as how Butler’s work is incredibly academic, and also tremendously theoretical (in the humanities sense, not the scientific sense). Butler is arguing that sexual pleasure is often centered in the erogenous zones of the breasts, vagina, and penis because society designates them as erogenous zones. The reason the penis is the sight for male pleasure is because men from birth are told that they are men, that the penis is the sight for orgasm and all pleasure, and any other physical pleasure is either unnatural or else a fetish. The same dialogue takes place over breasts. The reader most likely has a friend who often shares photos or videos of women breastfeeding in public and being scorned or else told to go somewhere else (it’s me, I’m your friend that does this, it’s an important issue). The reason for this is because our society has over-sexualized women’s breast to the point they have negated their original purpose. Breasts by design are meant to produce milk and feed babies, yet the rhetoric of pornography and advertising has inundated the public at large with the paradigm (sort of a standard of behavior or ideology) that breasts are sexual objects and “the bigger and less saggier the better.”
The reader may then ask, well so what? Why is that important or relevant to Miley Cyrus? Why should I give a damn?
The reader should give a damn because Cyrus’s tongue is being sold and mass marketed as a phallus. Miley Cyrus’s body has become a discourse and corporate product, and the sexual rhetoric around her becomes problematic. I will try to look at both interpretations.
Miley sticking her tongue out is photographed, recorded, and contextualized alongside her misunderstood sexuality to sell either “lesbian” pornographic fantasies, or else to make her tongue appear as a pseudo phallus.
The tongue is sold to heterosexual audiences, either of mainstream media or private pornography, as the lesbian’s main sexual tool. I think the reason for this is that straight audiences fall back upon Butler’s argument, and can’t process anything outside the typical erogenous zones best explained in the equation “dick = great.” Straight people more or less write the tongue off as the lesbian’s “penis” and this attitude is best expressed by a joke a friend of mine, who happens to be straight, told me during high school:
What do you call a homosexual woman with an extra-long tongue?
A well-hung lesbian.
This attitude repeats itself, and what’s important to note is how the vagina, labias, clitoris, fingers, and lips are totally absolved from erotic responsibility. The tongue is a penis where there seems only absence. Recently I’ve begun a book This Sex Which is Not One by Luce Irigaray and the opening passages held some interesting insight into this matter:
Female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters. Thus the opposition between “masculine” clitoral activity and “feminine” vaginal passivity, an opposition which Freud—and many others—saw as stages, or alternatives, in the development of sexually “normal” woman, seems rather too clearly required by the male sexuality. For the clitoris is perceived as a little penis pleasant to masturbate so long as castration anxiety doesn’t exist […] and the vagina is valued for the “lodging” it offer the male organ…
In these terms, woman’s erogenous zones never amount to anything but a clitoris-sex that is not comparable to the noble phallus organ, or a hole-envelope that serves to sheathe and massage the penis in intercourse […]. (23)
Ultimately it all comes down the idea best expressed by a work colleague of mine expressed so eloquently: “Everybody, apparently, is a fan of “The D.”
Irigaray’s arguments are valid, though it’s important to note that her book has more to do with women’s bodies that a gender fluid person’s body. For now we’ll work with the fact that Cyrus possesses similar physical territory and work from that. Regardless, Cyrus’s tongue is often comparable to a penis and Irigaray’s is able to express clearly how this pollutes the concept of a person’s, specifically a woman’s, erotic anatomy. It’s not just that the penis becomes the only object of importance during sex, it’s the fact that a woman’s vagina is treated and perceived as useful only for receiving the penis and holding it during the act of sex. Nevermind the fact that lesbians have been using vaginas for sex, and apparently enjoying themselves just fine, for centuries without the need for a penis.
In the case with Miley’s tongue, the rhetoric around it suggests that it is a lesbian-penis but it can’t really be that because lesbian’s don’t like penises unless you watch “lesbian” porn in which case there’s phallic objects galore…or so I’m told (*cough*). This may be getting too theoretical for the reader but I promise I’m almost done. To me part of the lasting impression is a point Irigay makes a few pages on when she says:
But woman has sex organs more or less everywhere. She finds pleasure almost anywhere. Even if we refrain from invoking the hystericalization of her entire body, the geography of her pleasure is far more diversified, more multiple in its differences, more complex, more subtle, than is commonly imagined—an imaginary rather too narrowly focused on sameness. (28).
Sex is not limited to just the interaction of genitals but too often people are told, sold, and buy the idea that the penis is the center of all sexual activity and this is a problem. Sex is not just stimulation, ejaculation, and then some Conan before bed. Sexuality involves the entire body from the shoulders, to the stomach, to the thighs, and even, to the tongue. If it’s not clear at this point that this was never really about Miley Cyrus then I really don’t have anything else to offer you except a few more closing thoughts.
It is rather ridiculous to spend the time and effort to write up an essay around some pop-star’s tongue, but going over these ideas of genderization and phallocentricsm I really don’t think it is. Talking about sex and gender may be the stuff of bad blogs you make one semester while you’re finishing up your core with a gender studies class, but the way we talk about sex and gender at large does matter. Miley Cyrus by her own admission isn’t a lesbian, but neither is she straight, but because the public at large is still catching up to the nuance of sexuality and gender expression a discourse has emerged because she stuck her tongue out during a few dozen pictures. Looking at these images casually it’s easy to simply write Cyrus off as a lesbian, but it’s also incorrect. Just as it’s incorrect to assume that that the only way two women can have sex is through tongues because that’s the closest thing to a phallus besides a finger.
The tongue is part of the body and as such holds the potential to become an erotic instrument, but instead of simply looking at the tongue as a second penis there exists the alternative to realize: it’s just a tongue. That’s all it is. Like so many things in life it really doesn’t matter what you think of it, it just matters how you use it.
With that bad joke, I’m out.
I’ve included links to a few random articles I found while working on this essay that deal with the topic of Miley’s Tongue. They range from using the images of it to talk about her health, to her activism, to her performances. Enjoy.
Henry Kissinger was the Secretary of State for Richard Nixon and is widely regarded, by me and a few others, as one of the world’s most revolting human beings. Apart from prolonging peace talks with the Vietcong while helping Nixon lead bombing raids against civilians in Laos and Cambodia, he was also partly responsible for the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, a dictatorship maintained through a systematic employment of torture, incarceration, censorship, and execution that lead to the deaths of at least 40,000 people. And don’t even get me started on Cyprus.
Case in point: More people know Miley Cyrus than they do Henry Kissinger, which is depressing if only for the fact it makes the Henry Killinger reference in Venture Brothers that much more confusing.
Academic Book, AIDS, anal penetration, Book Review, cisgender men, Epistemology of the Closet, Female Masculinity, Gay Macho: The Life and Death of the Homosexual Clone, Gender Expectations, Gender Trouble, history, Homos, Homosexual Clone, Homosexuality, invert, Jack Halberstam, Keep it Gay, Manhood in America: A Cultural history, Martin P. Levine, masculinity, Michael Kimmel, Queer Theory, Sexual identity, Sexual Rhetoric, Sexuality, The "Fairy", The Penetrated Male, The Producers
A friend of mine recently asked, why are you so interested in all that Queer stuff? This reminds me that my mother is really enjoying my mail.
While I no longer live with my parents, most of my mail still goes to their address, specifically whatever I buy on Amazon. Since I recently graduated I decided to treat myself to a small splurge of books, only ten or eleven…or fifteen. My regular reader will probably not be surprised that a significant number of books in that pile had to deal with Queer theory (in my defense I bought a Billy Wilder Movie called The Fortune Cookie as well as The Seventh Seal which is a film about Death playing chess with a knight in Medieval Europe…obviously, I am a nerd). The reason my mother, as well as my sister, has derived so much pleasure from this is because it’s my father who usually gathers the mail, and while he is not homophobic by nature, he does sigh whenever he opens one of the packages and discovers a title like Gay Macho: The Life and Death of the Homosexual Clone. My mom and little sister have come to enjoy and anticipate those sighs, going so far as to cheer “Yay Jammer’s Gay Books!” I believe this is usually followed by Dad retreating the office and opening a bottle of bourbon.
That’s a joke, it’s actually scotch. My father has class.
I admit freely that one of the main reasons I bought Gay Macho was because of the cover. A young fit man, most likely in his early twenties, is wearing just leather chest straps held by a metal circle. His face is cut off above the mouth which is stoic but for a faint smile, and the reader catches a small glimpse of the start of abdominal muscles before the title so rudely interrupts to remind you that you bought the book because it’s actually an academic work and not The Male Nude…which I also own. Don’t judge me.
The appeal of the cover was not just for enjoying a stud (that’s what the internet’s for), it was also for the fact that many of the books I have purchased and read for classes take a particular theoretical approach, by this I mean they’re largely esoteric affairs that analyze the choice of color in a man’s tie in a specific paragraph of an obscure French novel published in 1797. That’s hyperbole, but only so much. Much of the early work of Queer theory, especially books like Epistemology of the Closet being one the best (in every sense of the word) examples, tended to focus on the existence of Queer desire. As such most of the books looked backwards to the Victorian, Romantic, Neo-Classical, Renaissance, etc. periods in order to establish a pattern of same-sex desire and understand how it was understood and conveyed. From there much of the work was designed to begin to understand how the desire operated in order to validate it for contemporary critics of homosexual/same-sex desire.
The conflict with this is that expression of sexuality has always interested me more than just the desire.
Books like Homos, The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Masculinity, Gender Trouble, and Female Masculinity were interesting, and important milestones to begin with, but I was and still am pursuing a different route. Martin P. Levine lived the lifestyle of the “homosexual clone” and his book stands as an important document not just for the fact that he recorded the desire and the way it was expressed, but for the fact that he placed the movement of cisgender male homosexual lifestyles and expressions into an important historical context, specifically the rise of AIDS and why Gay men in the 70s were susceptible to it because of their sexual expression, but more importantly their attitudes towards Masculinity.
I should note that this will be one of two reviews of Gay Macho. The book is divided between the first half which explores how men began to create a unique sexual and psychological culture around their idea of masculinity, and the second half deals with the fallout as AIDs gripped the community and their gender dynamic. Levine’s book is packed…poor word choice, and I think it would be better to tackle this beast in two rounds…phrasing.
You get the point.
This essay could not explore the entirety of Levine’s book which is both brilliantly researched and written so that almost anyone could approach the work in one sitting. As such I’ll tackle the first half and review the second section at a later date.
The first half of the book is aptly titled as “The Birth of the Gay Clone.” Levine’s concern is to demonstrate how the cultural stock figure of this man came to be, what were his morals and ethics, what were his desires, how did he perceive himself, how and why did he fuck the he did, and most importantly how did he view himself. This is an important idea, for even if Levine’s book is exploring the idea of masculinity through a feminist lens his concern is still to understand men as men, and speaking as a man this idea of “manhood” is still something I, like many of my fellow penised-individuals, am working out. Masculinity and manhood were important ideals for the homosexual clone because up to this point the homosexual man was not virile in any real sense. In fact, in terms of his title, he was mythic: he was a fairy.
The reader probably recognizes this character from some examples in popular culture, most likely a Mel Brooks movie. Think the song “Keep it Gay” from The Producers. You’re seeing it now aren’t you?
The “Fairy” is a character originating in the 1800s, though dates can be tricky*, as homosexuals began to be perceived, and thus perceived themselves as “inverts.” Jack Halberstam explains this “clinical” term in their book Female Masculinity:
When the idea of sexual identities did come to dominate people’s thinking about sex and gender, it was not some idea of an autonomous lesbian desire between women or a nation of outward hermaphroditism that provided the basis of those notions of identity; it was gender inversion. “Inversion,” then, was the medical term used in the late nineteenth centuries to explain the phenomenon of homosexuality… (76).
Simply put the homosexual individual was not truly man nor woman but an inversion of their gender. Gay men were effeminate “fairies” because they weren’t really men, they were simply inverted women. That’s not to suggest that behaving in a feminine manner is totally unfounded in all homosexual men. Ru Paul exists and damn if he isn’t fabulous in every sense of that wonderful word. However in in the 1970s a large gathering of middle class men, often white, during the 1970s wanted something besides this identity and so they fashioned a new working model of homosexual masculinity.
Levine describes some of the attitudes:
The emergence of the gay liberation movement in the early 1970s resolved this tension among mainstream gay men, and reorganized the presidential strategies of closet culture. Activists rejected the belief that gay men were womanly, claiming that to believe so was a symptom of internalized homophobia (self-hatred based on the dominant culture’s view of homosexuality as deviant or immoral). Gay men were simply men who loved men. They were not deviant, were not failed men. They were real men—and in their presentational styles they set about demonstrating their newfound and hard-fought conformity to traditional norms of masculinity. (57).
This masculinity manifested in various trappings:
The physical appearance of the clone was the first signal of a new type of gay masculinity. Clones used such stereotypically macho sign-vehicles as musculature, facial hair, short haircuts, and rugged, functional clothing to express butchness.
They wore Western, leather, military, laborer, and uniform looks for going out or partying. Lastly, they favored the sleaze look for cruising. All these looks called for short hair, thick mustaches, or trimmed beards. (59-60).
All of the outer appearances were really one rhetorical gesture on the part of these men to become something more than that they had, and Levine says it outright when he notes that:
Like most middle-class men before him, the gay male middle class found the upper class feminized and effeminate; if he was going to prove his masculinity he needed to embrace the rougher, courser masculinity of the common laborer. The gay fop of the 1950s wanted to be Lord Chatterly; the gay clone wanted to be the gardener. After all, he got all the good sex. (60).
Male motivations usually aren’t that difficult to follow. It would be an asinine mistake to suggest that all decisions made by men are for sex, for in my experience most men are looking first and foremost, like all people really, for comfort and happiness. The idea of sex is something that became of such paramount importance for these men, but I want to understand the performance of the Homosexual clone before I look at Levine’s cataloguing of his sexual expression.
Masculinity has become a complicated word in the last few decades, and while some have become readied and able to scream and shout about the death of the “Real Man” thanks to “Feminazis and the PC Police” I do believe this issue is a little more complicated. Masculinity is a performance that is entirely unique to circumstance, time period, ethnicity, race, nationality, history, culture, and the general paradigm you’re living under. Expressing Masculinity then becomes a life-long struggle and discovery that, like any real study, will leave you both satisfied and dissatisfied and often wondering why you’re even bothering in the first place. I’m almost thirty and I still have no idea what Masculinity really is even though I try, and probably succeed in small instances, to appear “manly.” My wife tells me my beard helps though I should probably ditch the high heels, but they flatter my hips damnit. The problem is it requires more than a pair of denim jeans and a Slipknot t-shirt to pull this off, though I do believe making a handle-bar-mustache work is still the golden standard of masculine performance.
Looking for any kind of clear answer is impossible, but I do believe some of the best answers come from Michael Kimmel. A gender scholar by trade, Kimmel writes extensively about masculinity, both contemporary as well as the past, and before Martin Levine died of AIDS Kimmel helped him edit and compose Gay Machos going so far as to write the Introduction. In the Introduction of his own book Manhood in America: A Cultural History he gives what is to my mind one of the best explanations of the complicated nature of Masculinity:
American men have no history.
So how can I claim that men have no history? Isn’t virtually every history book a history of men? After all, as we have learned from feminist scholars, it’s been women in the title, it’s a good bet that the book is largely about men. Yet such works do not explore how the experience of being a man, of manhood, structured the lives of the men who are their subjects, the organizations and institutions they created and staffed, the events in which they participated. American men have no history of themselves as men. (1)
At this point the “Men’s Rights” activists will launch to their keyboards eager and willing to catch the first woman who comments so they can drop this quote as a justification for odious behavior, and for cutting out Elizabeth Cady Stanton from high school textbooks. It’s true that being a “man” has become a complicated identity in the twenty-first century because being a “man” has changed from what it was. Shows like Madmen have been glorified and praised, rightly so it’s a damn good program, and many men have looked back to that time period with some nostalgia because the “rules” and “mandates” concerning masculine behavior were far clearer…or, really, were written by men so they could be whatever they wanted women be damned. Despite what many malcontents and naysayers write about on blogs and comment sections Masculinity is a highly personalized construction, and while some would prefer an outdated misogynist model to return, the conflict with this position is that that model of masculinity has been demonstrated to be hollow and vapid.
Which, brings me back to sex. Levine describes in intimate detail, see what I did there, about the sexual expression of gay clones noting that the performance was often one of desperation. Sex was part of what it meant to be “manly,” but more important than just sex was the attitude towards sex. Levine explains “Cruising”:
Cruising was the mechanism that created most sexual contact among gay men, although some sexual contact, such as glory holes or orgies, didn’t require even that much initial social contact with a potential partner. Cruising was the vehicle by which the clone either signaled sexual attraction or characterized the search for erotic partners. They cruised for affirmation of their hotness as sexual contacts. (79)
Cruising was the way many gay men lived at this time because it was through these acts that their idea of manhood was expressed, and more importantly, validated:
Masculine erotic norms and self-fuffilment values shaped the patterns of cruising. These norms called for detached, objectified, and phallocentric, sexual conduct. In other words, they told men to engage in recreational sex for orgasmic release with partners selected for physical attractiveness. They also instructed men to affirm manly prowess through sexual conquests. (79).
Levine makes a conclusive point a few pages after this when he notes that:
This explains why the men at the baths said, “suck that dick” or “fuck my ass.” (92).
I’ve quoted Levine at length for the purpose of letting the reader observe for themselves his effort which is clearly a critique of the model of masculinity so many of his fellow Clones aspired to and performed. It would be a mistake though to interpret this book as a condemning criticism of that lifestyle. Men like Larry Kramer would criticize the homosexual community for its voracious misogynistic sexual behavior, and through his novel Faggots a book which has the tremendous capacity to shock and disgust any first time reader, his opinion is perfectly clear. As a gay man he sees what all the fucking and no loving is doing to these men. Levine does not judge his fellow homosexuals for acting this way, for he himself embraced this lifestyle while he was alive. Levine’s strategy is akin to an anthropologist deconstructing the numerous behaviors to try and get at the core idea, which, for Levine, is understanding why these men were so desperate to Cruise and fuck and assert their own masculinity.
Gay Clones were trying to distance themselves from the “Fairy” character that had become stock footage by that point and so by experimenting and borrowing the trappings from straight middle class America they created something new. Something that was entirely their own. Levine notes:
To affirm their identity as men, clones masculinized their sexual script. Accepting reformist images of liberation, they regarded themselves as real men. To demonstrate their sense of self, they exaggerated male expectations during sex. Having learned that men are tough, adventurous, and daring, they engage in rough, uninhibited, experimental sex. This accounts for the gagging, ramming, and slamming occurring at the baths. They justified this erotic style on the grounds of self-fulfillment. The script sets the standards for sexual activity. Defining “hot sex” as “butch sex,” it led clones to “take it like a man.” (92).
The first half of Levine’s book comes to a head with that final sentiment. These men wanted desperately to be seen by others, as well as themselves as real men. The Homosexual Clone is demonstrated as a man trying to find some sense of what it means to actually be a man, and while the book’s frank discussion of sexuality based upon research and first-hand accounts is likely to keep some heterosexual men from reading and enjoying this book, Levine’s work does the important job of contributing knowledge to the history of Masculinity.
What it means to be a “Man” is something that is constantly changing, and each man discovers for himself what that title ultimately means. That may sound like a pathetic platitude, but in my experience this is one that possesses real truth behind it. Masculinity as the Homosexual Clone experienced it was a cultural gathering of friends and family of men who were all trying in their own way to escape the feminized characterizations of their sexuality in the past. By becoming “Butch” and “Macho” they were in their own way able to fashion a working masculinity that provided many physical and, sometimes, emotional satisfaction.
It’s important to note that Levine explores the emotional toll this sexualized culture had on many men, but it’s the sexuality these men expressed with wanton abandon that led to a proliferation of venereal diseases and eventually the AIDS crisis that most impacted this community. Levine’s book is an attempt to look at this masculinity model through a feminist lens and discover some flaws. He certainly finds plenty as many of the men were clearly trying to fill something empty in themselves through sex, but it must be understood that Gay Macho is, for lack of a better phrase, a love letter to his community. Rather than condemn the actions, he tries to simply present the community to the rest of the world. By showing this community as a real collective and culture their behavior becomes more human. More recognizable to outsiders.
Gay Macho presents what it meant to be a Gay man, but more importantly how that identity was entirely the same as men in general. While there may have been some desperation to prove masculinity, the performance itself still remains a validation of masculinity. The “fairy” character has never really left, and it probably never will, but in their own time and way the Homosexual Clone introduced a second model of man that, to this day, can rival the heterosexual male in his own right, if only for the fact he seems to get laid far more than the straight guy does.
I myself have had some trouble with the dates of when the “fairy” character began to emerge in the historical and literary record. Realistically there have always been effeminate men. As such trying to pin-point an exact date is not daunting, but near impossible.
For my own part I have explored the first half of Levine’s book because as I said above sexual expression has always fascinated me more than pure theory. Levine’s book does incorporate some theory into his book, however the collections in the book tend to take a more objective view of the homosexual male community of this time, citing facts, studies, and direct testimony to contribute to those larger theories.
The next section of the book tracks the AIDS Crisis and the effect it had upon this community and I intend to fully explore this half at a later date.
The reader may have noticed some awkward treatment of pronouns concerning Jack Halberstam. The reason for this is because even Halberstam refuses any clear preference for “correct” pronouns. They simply go by Jack as far as I can tell. If the reader would prefer a more personal or nuanced account they can follow the link below to an interview they gave over this topic:
I didn’t get much chance to develop it in the essay but it should be noted that race did not play too much role in determining the attractiveness of the man to another:
This standard democratized clone types. The men perceived other men as sexy as long as they were macho. Nationality and class were irrelevant. A man could be Anglo or ethnic, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, but if he was butch he was hot. Even race was unimportant. Manly Latino or black men were viewed as handsome. In fact, racial minorities and working-class men might even have a higher currency in clone circles. Since gay clones were mostly middle-class white men, the air of authenticity hung around working-class men and men of color, so that these men were often more highly prized for tricks. Given racial and ethnic stereotypes as well as class-based beliefs about sexuality, black men, Latino men, and working-class men all guaranteed great sex and affirmed the masculinity of the clone with whom he tricked. They were virtually always in great demand. (82)
I will admit there is some fetishization taking place in this description of minorities, however it should be noted that the reason Latino or Black men were so “prized” was determinate on whether or not they presented a “Butch” image. At the end of the day whether a stud was black, white, yellow, brown, red, or orange the point was he was a stud.
Alison Bechdel, Apollyon, Bisexuality, Christian, Comics, Coming out, Coming out Narratives, crossed legs, Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, fathers, Fun Home, Gay Macho: The Life and Death of the Homosexual Clone, Gender Expectations, graphic novel, Homosexuality, John Bunyan, Literature, Martin P. Levine, masculinity, Matthew Shepard, metacognition, On Writing, Pilgrim's Progress, reflection, religious allegory, Ryan Renyolds, Sexuality, That's Gay, The Green Mile, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream, often just called Pilgrim’s Progess, The World According to Garp, Ulysses
I recognized Bruce the moment I picked the book off the shelf, even though I had never met him before in my life. It’s a sentiment I’ve read before in many of the testimonies by homosexual, pansexual bisexual, transgender, and everything in-between people in the amassing Queer Theory library within my own library and I think that idea of “recognition” is vital for Queer people. My recognizing Bruce Bechdel however wasn’t because he “looked gay”…okay, it wasn’t ONLY because he “looked gay,” but rather because he, like me, sat with his legs crossed.
The reader might immediately object, wondering what the fluffy duck that has to do with anything? Before I continue I like that expression and I’m totally stealing it.
When I was a kid, and I do mean kid, I was rather effeminate. That may be too strong a word to characterize my behavior because, boys are especially precious and exhibit some level of hyperbolic behavior but looking back I was a rather effeminate boy. Part of this might have been because I always preferred hanging out with girls rather than boys. The girls were nice, wanted to play Pokémon like I did, they didn’t laugh at me when I cried, they didn’t play sports which I hated, they had interesting things to talk about, and, Freud’s latency period be damned, I thought most of them were really cute and it was more fun having them chase me that kicking a ball across a field. Whether it was my extended interaction with them, or just genetic conditioning on my part, I often sat with one leg crossed over the other with my arms crossed over and balanced on the knee while my back slumped forward. If that position sounds familiar it’s because it is often the position that female models in magazines assume, and that hot girl in your third period history class sits in that drives you crazy because you know you could ask her out and you think she wants you too but you’re too much of a coward to and next period you find out the Baseball teams manager did…so yeah. Good times.
The legs crossed over the other was one of my go-to stances growing up, and when I was standing I often placed my hands on my hips and puffed out my chest. Both of these positions apparently were signs of femininity and some asshole-clown-fuck once picked on me enough about it that it was dropped until I graduated from high school. My shitty childhood aside, this example from my own life is rather revealing of a great number of boys who failed the “look of manhood.” Masculinity is often a performance, and a phallic performance at that for the way that “Men” sit is the uncrossed, open legged stance in which your body penetrates as much space as humanly possible.
Since it’s the start of the summer months, and I’ve recently graduated with my Master’s, I thought I would enjoy a nice period of just reading, playing Fallout 4 non-stop, and digging into some old writing projects. At the top of the pile of books I formed was a book that caught me, like Fun Home, from the cover alone. Gay Macho: The Life and Death of the Homosexual Clone tracks the history of Gay men in the 1970s before and then after the rise of the AIDS crisis. Martin P. Levine, who lived the lifestyle and also subsequently died of AIDS, tries to understand what were the codes of Masculinity that lead to the debacle of the disease and early in the book he observes how boys learn the codes of masculinity alongside sexuality. Levine says,
At the same time, boys also begin to learn what it means to be a man. This role also takes a variety of forms; there are multiple definitions of masculinity based on other social factors such as age, race, ethnicity, region of the country (Stearns 1979). The culturally dominant construction is male gender role stereotype, which includes a wide variety of traits and behaviors. Sociologist Janet Saltzman Chafetz listed seven areas of characteristics of traditional masculinity: (1) Physical—virile, athletic, strong, brave. Sloppy, worry less about appearance and aging; (2) Functional—breadwinner, provider; (3) Sexual—sexually aggressive, experienced. Single status acceptable; male “caught” by spouse; (4) Emotional—unemotional, stoic, don’t cry; (5) Intellectual—logical, intellectual, rational, objective, scientific, practical, mechanical; public awareness, activity, contributes to society; dogmatic; (6) Interpersonal—leader, dominating; and (7) Other Personal Characteristics—aggressive, success-oriented, ambitious; proud, egotistical, ambitious, moral, trustworthy, decisive, competitive, uninhibited, adventurous (see Chafetz 1974, 35-36). (12-13).
This is a rather long list, and looking over the qualities of masculinity I recognize some that I do embody, and others that I don’t or never have. Still it’s a stereotype for a reason. I’ve written before about the conflicted nature I’ve had with the idea of manhood, and while I’ve never questioned my gender identity I have often wondered about whether I have passed the rites of manhood. Part of it may have been my effeminate nature, but other parts of it might have had something to do with the stirrings of my sexuality. Which brings me to John Bunyan. No not the lumberjack that was Paul. Played by Oliver Platt in Tall Tales. I’m referring to the 17th century Baptist writer and theological scholar.
It’s an odd moment, and even in retrospect I don’t know where it came from. In my sophomore year of high school my teacher always had two books assigned, one to read for regular class discussions, but also another for outside reading to be done by a set date. One of the books was The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream, often just called Pilgrim’s Progess. The story is a religious allegory (story where everything builds towards a didactic moral lesson and everything in it is usually symbolic) and is told in two parts. My class only had to read the first half which is the story of a man named Christian who has fallen from the Grace of god and goes on a long journey in order to find Heaven and Paradise and while he searches he encounters angels and demons of all sorts. One of said creatures is Apollyon, whose name literally means “Destroyer,” who has fish scales, a lion’s head, a second mouth on his stomach, and fights Christian in the Valley of Humiliation in hopes of returning him to the village to live his life out in dutiful service. For the record, as far as I know, Bunyan was not on drugs when he wrote this book though I imagine the people who turned Alice’s Adentures in Wonderland into a stoner’s paradise would get a nice kick out of this odd book. The reader may be getting frustrated with me by now but I’ve come to the important point.
I was in my home reading the book and this specific scene. My sister was sitting across from me doing homework while classical music was playing. I don’t know where my parents were, I think they were in the back watching television. I was in the middle of the fight with Apollyon when I had a thought that flooded my entire body and had come, seemingly out of nowhere: “Oh my god I’m gay.”
My body trembled. I felt like throwing up. I ran to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror. The next half hour is a blur because I talked to the figure in the mirror assuring him that I wasn’t gay. I liked girls. They had boobs and boobs were great. I wasn’t gay. I was not. Once he had been convinced of this truth I smiled to myself and left the bathroom completely forgetting about the thought.
In hindsight I had been both right and wrong.
To this day I don’t really have any explanation for this sudden conviction of homosexuality. Perhaps the image of Christian, a man desperate to hold onto his faith fighting an inverted monster was a convenient metaphor for myself, but at that time I was dealing more with budding atheism than my bisexuality. Perhaps my teenage brain imagined these two beings fighting one another, and the image of two male torsos pressed against one another in Grecian style combat created some stirring of desire which reared its ugly head up. Or, and this is entirely possible, I was just a confused teenager who didn’t know what I wanted.
This sensation would never return in such violent and intrusive quality, but it did occasionally appear over the course of my development. I would take more than just a casual notice of men in magazines or on the internet, and occasional dirty movies that I would pretend desperately hadn’t happened but Browsing histories don’t lie. It was always there and I had no real name or title for it.
I suppose that’s why recognizing Bruce on the cover of Fun Home there was once again a dormant stirring. I didn’t just want to buy the book, I needed to read it and find the man on the cover. I wish I could say I had heard of Alison Bechdel and her work in Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, but I was pushed by another force. I wanted to learn and study the behavior of men who desired other men sexually because I hadn’t yet realized I was one of those men. I tucked the book into my pile, and when my family had returned home I opened the book and began to read. The only other time I have devoured a book with such veracity was The Green Mile, and like that experience which made me recognize that I had to be a writer, Bechdel’s book instilled in me the idea that human sexuality, as well as my own, was something vital to the discourse and would forever after be part of my existence.
Reading the book I felt sorry for Bruce, but honestly there was more pity and concern aimed at his family who had to deal with his compulsive desire for perfection. Bechdel shows her reader numerous instances of her father’s at times erratic behavior whether it be during dinner where she compares him to the Minotaur:
Or else the numerous fights that took place between her parents:
Allison would describe her father as a towering malevolent presence:
And even Bruce himself would, in his own way acknowledge his faults:
The reader may at this point ask whether or nor Bruce Bechdel is really a sympathetic figure? Given the way he allowed his mania for perfection and closeted sexuality to come at the expense of his family can anyone really look at the man and see him as a good man? To this, I don’t have any clear response.
I’ve read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic about three times a year every year for the last three years, and each time I read the book I’m struck by the character of Bruce, specifically the conflict of his “erotic truth.” Bechdel employs these words in the last section of the book to imply the idea of person’s sexuality and that Bruce’s conflict was ultimately rooted in the fact that he was conflicted with his own erotic truth. She doesn’t say outright that Bruce is gay, for he might have been bisexual or pansexual, and without his outright testimony we’ll never really know. For my own part this idea of “erotic truth” became something incredibly important for me. I didn’t want to be something I wasn’t, more importantly I didn’t want my marriage to suffer. I told my wife I was bisexual, and she was happy for me but reminded me that unless Ryan Reynolds demonstrated any interest nothing was going to happen, which I’m perfectly fine with. (*in hushed whisper* Mr. Reynolds if you’re out there call me.)
This essay is not my usual objective approach to looking at a work of literature, but recently my friend Tom who leads our Graphic Novel Book Club announced that the new book for this week would be Fun Home, and seeing as how much this book has meant for my personal development I was thrilled and, as usual, forced into a bit of metacognitive reflection.
Fun Home is a book that, much like Ulysses, The World According to Garp, and On Writing, has left me so entirely affected that to consider my life without it now is unthinkable. Much the way Bechdel presents the moments in her life in relation to books so do I, and considering it’s place in my life the story of Fun Home is the story of my coming out. “Coming Out” stories have the potential to become cliché over time, but nevertheless queer authors, writers, artists, actors, statesmen, journalists, memoirists, and biographers have the duty of performing this right.
The “Coming Out” story is not just public declaration for the sake of acknowledgment by the masses, it also serves the purpose of recognition. Bechdel describes her own realization after reading The Word Is Out, a book which was a collection of interview with self-identifying queer people. This idea of “erotic truth” is important because ultimately is we cannot be honest with ourselves about our honest nature, sexually, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and everything else then we’re not really living. Bruce lived a life of quiet desperation, and while his family wasn’t ruined by the experience they did suffer at times the wrath of a man who might have served everyone better had he the gumption to be honest.
Of course there are extenuating circumstances and the man did the best he could with what he had, but finishing the book after reading it for the first time I was struck by yet another of my seemingly endless thoughts: I don’t want that to be me. I’ve now spent the last two years studying sex, gender, and everything in between and I’ll continue to do so because that’s my erotic truth. Fun Home, and Bruce with his prissy stance, kicked my ass out the door that would lead me to where I am now.
Recognition is everything. When we recognize the people we instinctively know as our own, whether they be men, women, or even fish-scaled demons with lion’s heads, then we start community and the process that leads to a fully functioning self, and, sometimes, access to people who suggest good books to read.
I’ve included below a link to a web series I’m a fan off that covers the way “coming out” is often presented in media and television. That’s Gay is a series that was always, alongside Modern Lady, the best part of Infomania for me and I hope you enjoy it too.
I’ve also included a link to a comic essay by Bechdel called Coming Out that I would really encourage you to read, you can begin to see the inklings of the work that would eventually become Fun Home as well as numerous scenes that would later actually be included in the book
“That’s Gay”-Brian Safi
“Coming Out” by Alison Bechdel
*Writer’s Second Note**
For the record Ryan Renoylds is not my go-to man crush, nor, believe it or not, is Benedict Cumberbatch. Now if Matthew Lewis were to…to…to…
Sorry, I seem to have lost my train of thought.
75 Arguments, Canon, English 1301, Essay, Family Guy, Feminism, Freshman Year Composition Course, Gender Expectations, housewives, I Want a Wife, Judy Brady, marital rape, Mila Kunis, Partner Vs Wife, Sexual politics, Sexual Rhetoric
In one of my favorite episodes of Family Guy Lois tells a matriarch posing as a feminist that feminism should be about choice, and defends her decision to be a wife and mother right before the two women get into a wrestling match that involves banana cream pies and ripping each other’s clothes off. The scene is every dull ring of male fantasy, and eventually ends with Peter grabbing his wife and running out so they can go home and have sex, which they do. The initial appeal of this episode’s end was my libido, I could offer the argument that it was the feminist sentiment and the constant irony throughout the episode, but I was a thirteen year old for fucks sake. I’ll lie to myself but not my steady reader. As the years have gone by however, and the urge to procreate has, not dimmed just softened to manageable levels, I’m able to watch the episode and realize that there is a great feminist argument to be made in this piece.
Lois does defend her choice, effectively, to be a housewife by the very fact that it is a choice. Feminism is first and foremost is about allowing men and women equal agency and distance from the fear of societal persecution of influence. But I did not want to defend an episode of Family Guy here, instead, I would prefer to talk about Judy Brady and an essay of hers that has been printed and discussed for at least 30 years.
I Want a Wife is an essay many who have taken English 1301 in college have probably read. The textbook industry for teaching freshman composition is booming because Composition, the teaching of writing to students, is a blossoming arena of academia. Many new theories and ideas are developing on how to improve it, how to craft pedagogies and ideologies in the classrooms, and, of course, which text books need to be employed. Now there was a time where Engl. 1301 was simply reading anthologies of standard essays by men and women like Thomas Jefferson, Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King Jr, and usually George Orwell. Canonical essays, or at least essays that have been studied again and again for their historical and rhetorical significance, have been given to freshman students as examples for them to emulate, copy, and hopefully develop their own craft. There’s a conflict with this style of teaching, but there are literally dozens of Composition journals, textbooks, and academic conferences that could explore that issue and you’re only here until you realize that that bit about faux-lesbianism in the first sentence was only a lead-in. Sorry. Here’s a photo of Mila Kunis to make you feel better.
I Want a Wife is almost always found in such collections, as it is in the copy I own. My edition is entitled 75 Arguments, and the Brady essay is listed under the section titled Satire. It becomes obvious just by this classification that the Academy has type-casted Brady’s essay as a way of teaching students about being clever. The second classification, because for whatever reason there are two table of contents, places her under:
MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE: HOW SHOULD YOU TAKE THIS PERSON TO BE YOUR SPOUSE?
She is included here alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sabaa Saleem, Andrew Sullivan, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, and Audrey Edwards. This second classification allows some breathing room, because this seems to open up far more possibilities for discussion in the classroom, at least from my own experience. Ideas like satire can be difficult for students who, suffering the force-fed-crap that is public education today, may be having trouble with figuring out the placement of commas in sentences let alone what Satire means. Talking about marriage, and what young or old students expect out of a marriage, and more importantly their partner could open numerous avenues for discussion and writing activities.
I Want a Wife will, first and foremost, strike the reader as an odd essay right from the start. She does not begin with an academic introduction, and in fact the essay is more anecdotal than it is academic. If you look at just the start you’ll see establish her rhetoric in the first sentence:
I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife? (318).
Brady spends the rest of the essay working from the premise that her audience objects to her having a wife, after all this essay, which was originally a speech, appeared in Ms. Magazine. Brady is clearly a woman, so how could a woman in 1970 have a wife? The answer of course is simple, “a wife” becomes neither a functional personality, nor even human being for that matter. Anyone who could read through the list of qualifications and agree to become what Brady calls “a Wife” would either have to be declared insane or possesses so little sense of self-worth it would make the sternest masochist weep for another human being. The reader may object and say I’m overselling her argument, but take one of the latter portions of the essay in which she describes what is expected out of “a Wife” sexually:
I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free. (320).
The solipsism of this statement is enough to make you want to hatchet your computer screen into tiny chunks of microchips before you realize your term paper is due tomorrow and now you’re screwed. Sherlock was right after all.
It would be enough to cite just this passage and say men are assholes now let’s move on, but a careful look at each sentence reveals how successful Brady’s argument truly is. The success of I Want a Wife is the way the speaker keeps pushing his/her own agenda and desires before someone, possibly the wife, can interject and ask what shall be afforded to the wife. The constant “I” and “my” builds to the point that the reader has to confront at some point whether or not this “I” is another speaker or a representation of their own thoughts. Whether you’re a man or a woman, there has probably been some moment where you have felt a pronounced desire to outsource your responsibility to another, and while this desire is perfectly normal in our impersonal modern society of comfort, expecting it out of your partner comes across as a supreme level of dickishness. The passage cited seems always the most odious, not just because of the demand that the “wife” not bother the speaker with her own sexual desires, but that she refrain from the audacity to be jealous of the speaker’s own conquests. It’s one thing to admit that monogamy isn’t your thing, but it’s another to demand it out of your spouse when you yourself can’t hack it buddy.
I Want a Wife does not limit its critique to sexual manipulation. The speaker begins the essay, and the reader is given a slim hope, a view that perhaps this individual is someone they can admire, before the trapdoor is opened and we plummet into base selfishness:
I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working. (318-9).
This seems unfairly cruel to the women who actually want to be housewives and homemakers, my contester argues. Why can’t a woman want to be a wife and mother, and why do feminists have to condemn the women that do?
My reply, if I may be uncharacteristically blunt, is that you haven’t been paying attention to the essay. Those that would wish to contest the idea that Brady is being unfair to housewives have entirely missed the point of the text. I won’t try to deny that in the 1960s and through the 70s, the Second Wave Feminist movement did not have many pleasant comments to make concerning housewives or being a wife, but given the time period that’s not a character failing on their part. Marital rape did not exist, in terms of legal penalization, until the 1970s. Before this time if a wife did not want to have sex but her husband forced himself upon her, no judge would consider it rape, it was just “the wifely chore.” That’s the most extreme example, but if one looks at the public rhetoric of what a wife should be it’s not a great image to aspire to. Women were to be subject to their husbands, rather than an actual partner, a woman might have been allowed to read books, but what was encouraged reading was not necessarily enlightening material. Women were expected to always be positive, and should she disagree with her husband in matters of politics, child-rearing, or even culture then it was a poor reflection on her as a woman. The “wife” that existed at this time period was in no way a “partner” as we would think of it today.
Now as for the idea a woman should be ashamed if she actually wants to be a housewife, I cannot agree with this and I return once again to Lois. See. You thought I wouldn’t go back to Family Guy but I did after all, don’t you feel foolish. Feminism is about choice, as a long as a woman is making the decision to be a housewife then no one should fault or shame her for making such a decision. There will be some feminists that will condemn women for being “just a housewife,” but those people are assholes. That’s what’s missing from the public’s awareness, and why an essay like I Want a Wife is important to discuss in the classroom. If the society is truly interested in making men and women equal, that choice must be the only concern. The problem with the “Wife” in Brady’s essay, the figure she is critiquing is an image of woman with no free will or say in terms of her own life.
The issue is not limited to a critique of housewives however, for there is also the larger question of, what do we think of people who are homemakers? Looking at my own situation as it stands, I could very well have to become one. My lovely lady wife makes far more money than I do, and she has made it clear that we’re having children. There exists now a very real possibility that I might have to be the partner that stays home and takes care of the kids. What will society say of me for this decision? The most likely response will be to suggest that I am less than half a man, that there must be something wrong with me, or else that I am henpecked. If a man wants to be a homemaker and take care of his kids, and, let’s go ahead and address the larger issue, if he wants to work with young kids in general he is perceived as suspect immediately. On that same coin is the issue of whether or not a woman wishes to become part of the workforce if she has children. A woman is expected to drop her life when she has kids and let her husband become the bread maker. No consideration is taken into account whether she makes more money and is therefore in a better position to work. Worse of all is the idea that she is unloving, or physically incapable of loving her children because she works full time. This argument continues time and time again despite protest and no hard evidence to suggest children are stunted in their development.
Several years ago while I was taking a biology lab class for my core credit, and one of my steady lab partners who was pursuing a medical degree confessed to me why he wanted to go to medical school. He said that he wanted to be the bread-maker and have his partner stay at home with the kids, but he emphasized that he wanted to make sure that she would have enough to really tend to them. I find it hard to hold this against him, either because I am a man and have some chauvinist tendencies myself, or else because he was honest about what he wanted out of his partner. At the same time however his testimony bothered me, and it reminds me of a later portion of the essay:
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene. (319).
Still, I’m hesitant to completely condemn the man, because he was clear about what he wanted and any woman entering into a relationship with him would have been informed of that before any ink was dry or any rings were bought.
Looking at all of this, the second classification of Brady’s essay in my anthology makes a lot more sense than the general idea of satire. Yes Brady does a damn good job of satirizing the attitude’s men have about what they want out of their wives, but the larger concern is not just to show students this essay so they can identify satire, it’s to make them question the satire and see if they themselves don’t ask for this same expectation. Discussions about marriage, and what people want out of it can be crucial since many students find their partners for life in their first few years of college. I did, and my idea of what a wife should be was nowhere near what it is today. Marriage is not going anywhere, despite the high divorce rate in this country, and a teacher’s job should be then to help students come to their own understanding of what they believe marriage to be, and then help them decide if that’s what they really want.
Do they want a wife, or a partner? I’ll let Brady have the final word on this matter:
When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.
My God, who wouldn’t want a wife? (320).
I’ve found the full essay online and have included a link to it, in case you’re interested in reading the entire essay, it’s not long, three pages at the most. Enjoy.