The film, like the novel on which it was based, became hugely popular. Historian Robert Schultz argues that the film and the novel are cultural representations of what Adlai Stevenson had described in 1955 as a "crisis in the western world", "collectivism colliding with individualism," the collective demands of corporate organizations against traditional roles of spouse and parent. That increased corporate organization of society, Schultz notes, reduced white-collar workers' (represented by Tom Rath and the other gray-suited "yes men") control over what they did and how they did it as they adapted to the "organized system" described and critiqued by contemporary social critics such as Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, and William H. Whyte, Jr.
I liked Jasmyne the first time I saw her. I can't remember exactly the circumstance, but on another occasion we happened to be in the same place at the same time. It was the end of the seminar and we were headed in our own separate directions but still on the same path at USC's campus. We shared some brief reflections on the event and suddenly she stepped into character and gave me an honest opinion. Most of the time ordinary people have to step out of character to blurt out some truth, but with us writers it's different. We have a mode that we go into where we are compelled to say exactly what we think and to describe exactly what we sense. We get all documentarian, and we know that we have to or else we'll be stuck with the burden of handling the truth alone.
As soon as she did that, I had one of those very rare impulses which tells me, hmm, I could be with this woman. And so I tilted my head and jumped into character with her all the time wondering when I might see her again. It has been at least two years and I haven't seen her, nor have I been looking for her, but I do remember the moment. For some reason, Iyanla Vanzant was mixed into the moment as well. Either I had just met her or was just about to meet her.
At the time, I was most definitely on the downslope of my media career. I had concluded that I didn't want to be spending my spare time climbing political and social ladders in order to make some impact on.. well that whole edifice of black edutainment of which Steve Harvey is King and TVOne is the institution of choice. Other people want it more than me, and I know how ethically difficult it is to navigate those pathways. I must confess that this is a Talented Tenth dilemma I have dealt with before and I essentially see no future in it for me. So I needed to stop dabbling and be serious about what I truly want to be serious about, which is my actual career.
Jasmyne is for real in the dimensions of a few of my other black media pals, Jimi Izrael, Lester Spence and Jennifer Longmeyer - of the most well known. In particular, they have genuine hearts and are in no way the sort of opportunists who prey at the hopes of the black Americans. These are people who walk into a room and see individuals, not 'a people in need of leadership'. I am proud to call them friends because I know how rare people with charismatic talents of the sort those three possess and wreck havoc in today's media climate. I would summarize it this way. There are not many people on this planet who can get onto the national broadcast media and not make a fool of themselves, and fewer still who can make a positive impact. Do not be fooled, that is a death-defying business. As one of Cobb's Rules states, never underestimate the intelligence of people in power. The long knives are everywhere.
Now I'm going to say something that I believe most people would think I have no right to say, but it is true about me in a way that Michael Jackson once sang, I can't help it if I wanted to I wouldn't help it even if I could. But I do not care about the personal pain of individuals. I'm a stoic, and I have always been prepared to be one. Like Spock, perhaps, and certainly as a writer as I have described above, I possess a certain emotional detachment from the sort of personal emotional drama that has grown into the minds of America. And it is that facility, plus my age and experience that finds me moved ever so slightly (enough to write this post, but not a whole lot more) by the tale of Jasmyne Cannick's that I think is going to make it's impact felt on a lot of people. You see I have had a best friend die of AIDS back when people basically died of AIDS. And I have had a brother die before his 30th birthday. I've gone through the process. And since 07, it seems, almost every year, someone close to me has died.
So for most of my adult life, since the age of 30, I have had the experience of dealing with grief and much of my personality is tempered with that. Who died and why? That's what I want to know. And I say that most of human activity that counts for something requires that grown ups are dealing in life or death decisions. Everything else is just shopping.
So let me jump then, directly into the drama that Jasmyne had to deal with. Here, she speaks of a turning point in dealing with an ex-lover who was withering away in a hospital:
What I did find out was that apparently her right leg basically went numb and I guess her mom had stopped by to visit her—because she was keeping herself basically hidden away from everyone. Her mom saw her and took her to the nearest hospital—again under the illusion that her daughter was suffering from “stress-related” health problems.
At the hospital my friend never told them her status, so while they were wasting time testing for this and that, she just let them knowing all along what was wrong. Why? Because she couldn’t let her mother, her “up in the front pew, every Sunday church going, sanctified and holified” mother know. She would rather die first, and was well on her way to doing so if you ask me.
Well, sorry, I can’t play that game and I told her that I was going to tell the doctor and the nurses immediately.
She almost had a heart attack.
I had to explain to her that they couldn’t tell her mother anything because of patient confidentiality. I had to explain that they weren’t going to treat her like a leper and that she wasn’t going to be shipped of to some remote area of the hospital and left to die alone.
She didn’t believe me.
If it was me, I'm hard pressed to say that I would remain engaged. I would struggle with it. People who are ill-prepared to handle the truth - even of their very own condition? Is every such death a slow suicide?
I am reminded of Sex Panic. There was a clique of gays who were so enamored of their own sexuality that even knowing that their riotous ways were a high-wire act, they would rather be so engaged until death, rather than grow old, boring and unsexy. But at least they had the bold sort of stupidity that understood the consequences. Self-conscious lemmings are, in that way a bit better off - they leap from the cliff with a 'Whee'' rather than a 'What?'. Jasmyne roping in her friend halfway down the cliff from a position of strength is admirable from the close up perspective. A life, after all, is a life. But how complicit is the person who runs with that pack of lemmings?
One of the reasons I excel at my solitary pursuits is that I understand the value of what I do, whether or not anyone else does. There are a number of parts of my life that simply need no ascent or recognition. This is not unusual - many altruistic people express the same conviction, with the exception that their actions are pointed to individual intervention. "If what I do makes the difference in just one life, then it's all worth it.", they say in defense of their seeming folly. So there is a carefully constructed edifice of thought I've been building here at Cobb and elsewhere and it has led me to certain unavoidable conclusions. One of these is that is that grim outlook.
I'm glad that there are lucky people. There are lucky people just like there are exploding stars, and the effects of the inevitable gift of chance gives us all a reason, like the birth of a nebula, to consider the eternal forces that mock our plans. But for the most part, the Universe remains constant with rules in effect that can be ignored but not avoided. As a stoic, I align myself with that which cannot be avoided, with the constant in the mainstream of the forces of life. And these alignments tell me that saving the life of a fool can make a lucky difference, but 99% of the time it is merely an act of individual choice. No monumental significance, no butterfly effect. Nevertheless, we humans are social creatures who are profoundly affected by certain types of drama. Awaiting Taleb's or Ariely's perfect term, I call them mental illusions. Like optical illusions, they are tricks and traps that lead us to believe that the true meaning of something is what we immediately perceive.
There is no way to percieve Jasmyne's heartbreaking quest as anything but noble. Unless you're me and you have the habit of jumping into the character of a writer who is compelled to say something else. Something not obvious but evident. Yes, I am the grim faced crank who plays video war games for entertainment. I am the hardcase who has figured out how we all go soft in peacetime, how in this new wonderful Twitter-filled world of Instagrams, nobody is showing photojournalism of screaming naked Vietnamese refugees any longer.
Everybody wants to be a lifeguard, because every once in a while, you get to save the drowner up close and personal. But...
Let us first have a moment of silence for the 7000 civilians killed in Syria.
Ok now let's talk about the sex life of collegiate women and what it means in American peasant politics. And while we're at it, let's talk about how one man's insult means everything and how his apology means nothing. But before that lets talk about how another man's untimely death provides an opportunity for his political enemies to Write his obituary and how .. Nah let's not. I believe that the portsiders are against the privatization of anything, including and especially sexual behavior.
If you have a civil libertarian bone in your body consider the following. I don't want sexual behavior made public and I am against any agenda that seeks to politicize sexual behavior. I don't think you'll find that there are any sex crimes whatsoever that the American Right defends. So why is there a political agenda to saturate the public sphere with the sexual details of certain Americans? If I had read what the media has published about the woman who is now famous for being insulted by Rush Limbaugh, chances are that I would know more about her sexual history than I do about my own mother's. It's not because my own mother doesn't have a sexual history, it's because it's none of my business, none of your business and none of America's business. Whomever she is, she shouldn't have to opt out of having her personal information shared. I don't want my personal information shared. I don't want you to ask and I don't want to tell. But there is a political agenda out there that says we must ask and we must tell, and they're willing to change the law in order to do so. They have.
All they want to do is talk about sex. And they won't shut up. It has gone too far.
I riff off the following:
Imagine two rowboats, both adrift at sea. The first rowboat has no oars. They can see an island in the distance. Somebody calculates the distance to it, and the rate at which they're drifting, and concludes that they have only half the food and water they'll need for everybody to reach the island. The conclusion is obvious*: at least half of them have to be thrown overboard. And the sooner it happens, the fewer of them will have to die.
Now imagine the other rowboat. It has plenty of food and water, and it has oars, but it has a different problem: it's leaking, and fast. Somebody does the math, and they conclude that they can all make it to the island in the distance. But they can only make it if everybody who can row, rows, and if everybody else bails water as fast as they can, and if they cooperate in sharing the rowing, bailing, and resting cycles; if anybody is selfish, if anybody doesn't cooperate, nobody will make it.
Call the first rowboat "America." Call the second rowboat "the Netherlands."
That's the metaphor that came to my mind after spending a couple of days deciding how to explain Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, by Amy Schalet (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Even though the book has nothing to do with rowboats, and only indirectly to do with the overall differences between Americans and the Dutch. What the book is really about is the regulation of teenage sex by their parents. You see, as someone who grew up in both the Netherlands and the US, baffled by the differences between the two, and who went on to do her Ph.D. research in the sociology of adolescent/parent relationships, Schalet has dedicated an entire book to trying to explain a major difference between two different cultures that were substantially identical as late as the late 1950s: democratic capitalist republics who won their independence from colonial imperial masters around the same era, dominated by conservative Protestants, who went through the same Great Depression and two World Wars, and the same sexual revolution when contraception and antibiotics were made widely available, and the same economic shock after the OPEC crisis. But in the years after that, huge social differences appear, and Schalet concentrates, as her academic speciality, on one of them.
I generally don't like to compare America with little Scandinavian countries because I believe the the matter of scale requires that every sociological subject have a different class of solution. But...
It's easy for me to see that the concept of a 'proper family' is what's guiding parents. Speaking as an American with three teens living at home, my answer has been to stress abstinence before adulthood. I do not see any benefit whatsoever in allowing people who are not consenting adults to act as if they were. In other words, I use the term 'statutory rape'. In the same way, I don't particularly expect that the experience of a babysitting job adequately prepares anyone for being in the workforce. In short, my attitude about teen sex is that more people are talking about it than are actually doing it, and those who are doing it are doing it all wrong. The idea that taking all of the risk out of the consequences that might lead to a shotgun wedding or herpes via a safety net sounds Orwellian to me. I like the idea that sex is complicated and dirty - that getting naked is not easy and casual.
I expect at long last that the results of the sexual revolution in the West will turn out to show a skew in our societies as much as the One Child policy in China. It is inconceivable to me that the historical norm has been so out of touch with reality and that the benefits of feminism are simple but have been overweighted. In short, I don't believe in social liberation through sexual freedom, but rather through the evolution of property rights. Women and children are not property and freeing them from those traditional constraints were necessary and sufficient to greater liberty - however to assert the additional demands of radical feminism (ie to properly have men 'deal with their female side', or question the roles of men & women in family life) was a gross error with significant detrimental consequences for the concept of family. And I think it is becoming more clear that having women think of sex outside of marriage as a liberating thing has worked primarily to the advantage of polygamous men.
So the very idea that this is a lifeboat kind of situation begs the question of the centrality of sexuality in our humanity and exactly what sort of benefits we have gained by focusing on upending our attitudes and trying new practices. It is my opinion that focus on sexuality tends to be dysfunctionally individualistic, and so it is not surprising that it brings into question those sacrifices necessary for family stability. Why is teen sex so important? I think it has to do with the improper way many Westerners conceive of freedom.
From John C. Wright, my new favorite skeptic:
"I would love to see your thoughts on the current dust-up the Atheist community is having (right now) over coffee."
For those of you who have not heard of this case, the fact pattern is this:
The young lady in question objected to a man attempting to court her according to what the modern world holds as a perfectly acceptable method of courting: after talking with her until four in the morning at a bar, he asked her to go up to his room for a cup of coffee. She objected, not that his attentions were unflattering or ill timed, but that he was sexually attracted to her at all. In other words, it is the fact that mother nature made her female that the young lady find appalling. With the utter inability to restrict her comments to proportionality (or sanity) typical of the Left, she likened the awkward proposition to rape.
Richard Dawkins, in the scathing fashion typical of the Internet, left a message on her blog mocking her for complaining about what was at most an imposition on courtesy, hardly an act of oppression or male dominion.
Need anything be said? It is one of the few times I agree with Richard Dawkins, who otherwise is a disgrace to the cause of Atheism I once served. He is right to hold the belligerence of the feminista up to mockery, and to contrast it with the real oppression of women by the Mohammedans
If the young lady were sane, or sincere, or in other words not a Leftist, she would be agitating for the return of Victorian standards of modesty, such that men and women would have a set of unwritten rules, known to both beforehand, as guidelines for when a young lady can be courted, and by what means, and when not.
You see, the idea of leaving the rules up to the individuals to agree upon each man for himself contains an absurdity: you cannot court a woman, or even ask her to dance, if you are already in a relationship with her and know her well enough to negotiate your own rules. The rules of courtship are rules on how to approach a woman who is a partial or a total stranger. Strangers can only be bound by unwritten rules that bind the whole society, with few or no exceptions.
And, of course, the hypocrisy of a woman who has been out drinking until 4.00, without an escort, suddenly wanting the protect of Victorian rules of modesty, but without being willing to pay the price demanded, i.e. to act modestly, is rank. If you are in a bar without an escort, and you are young and female, expect to be hit on. You and yours helped make this society exactly what it is: you cannot expect men to act like gentlemen when every single damn word out of your collective mouth for the past three generations has been a denunciation, a mockery, an insult, and a discouragement to gentlemanly behaviors.
In morals as in economics, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Do you regard modesty and chastity to be mere patriarchal restrictions and oppression, O ye ladies of the Left? Then utter no complaint when immodesty and unchastity of yourself and your sisters is answered by immodesty and unchastity by your menfolk.
That all parties involved are atheists makes the situation deliciously ridiculous. So, you think you can create a rational set of moral and ethical guidelines to guide human behavior, based merely on human reason and human appetites? Go ahead.
Behold the result: once group of morality-hating zealot screaming in holier-than-thou perfection of hot temper at another group of morality-hating holier-than-thou zealots. The cool reasoning powers that atheists praise seems not much in evidence.
This is an excellent teaching exercise.
In my world of thinking, I tend to agree that men are motivated by three things: Fear, Glory and Greed. This is an old idea of Aristotle's or somebody whose name fits into that same ancient bucket. Is interchangeable with Honor to my way of thinking, and in a small enough community, all your honor is glorified. But for the majority of us peasants, most of our good deeds go unnoticed.
In these days of fame and media celebrity, one can be glorified without being particularly honorable. That is something of a problem for peasants who don't realize their position as peasants. After all, if you can get rich by being a buffoon, what is the point of dignity? Part of the Peasant Theory is to remind us that rights are a gift of the strong, and we must attend to whether the strong are righteous or else we will find that our 'rights' are merely arbitrary favors. Therefore we must consider with our own best thinking whether the strong are actually honorable.
Not so much in American meritocracy, but in much of human history, ordinary people are bestowed titles and honors by the powerful, and the powerful are often royalty. We are fortunate to understand that royalty is expected to be honorable, and therefore there is honor in service to royalty. It does sound awfully feudal, and it is. We humans understand feudalism in its essence - I would say that it is something we know innately. We study history attending ultimately as to whether kings were bad or good. It is the focus of all our literature, broadly speaking.
So all of us in the English speaking world ought to have some interest in the goings on between this or that royal family. While I confess that I've been completely out of the loop in that regard for the sake of honor, we all ought to be as interested in the Royal Wedding as we are with any major election in the West.
Here's a piece of text I picked up. We've all heard the blather about women not having upper body strength and all that. Here are the details of the US Army study. Some simple facts that just sound so crazy because nobody ever speaks plainly about it.
The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength... An Army study of 124 men and 186 women done in 1988 found that women are more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men.
The Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony about the physical differences between men and women that can be summarized as follows:
Women's aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue.
In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.
The first truth about hairy chested men is that they like the hair on their chest. If you can understand that simple fact intuitively, then the rest of this essay will probably sound like common sense to you. If you find that fact somewhat puzzling, it's because you think like a woman. And that can only be an insult to a very few people, mostly men who have shaved their chests.
Some time ago, I forget when, somebody asked me if I had shaved my chest. At the time I laughed and said no, and three seconds later I thought what a bizarre question that is. The funny thing is that as I was answering the question with the implicit understanding that it was something of a backhanded compliment. I thought of an old Eddie Murphy routine about a Jamaican dude named 'Dexter'. And that brought forth the image in my head of a black man walking down the beach who looks roughly the star of the current Old Spice commercials. To be precise, the Old Spice model is broader chested than my image of 'Dexter', whose pecs are a bit thicker nonetheless. In both cases for Dexter and the OldSpice dude, chest hair is absent. Now if you remember, Morpheus tells Neo that what he looks like in the Matrix is his 'residual self image', it's the perfected you of you in your dreams. That was my residual self image. Sorta like this guy here in stone-washed jeans. (me, San Felipe, Mexico circa 1987) I never was able to figure out that diet and excercise thing to the extent that I wanted. I ate a lot of fish and rice and Japanese food in college and couldn't figure out why I still weighed under 170 pounds. For me, all those many years ago, that was too slim, and so I couldn't have what I considered my own perfect pecs, and never bench pressed 175 in my entire life. Odd, now when I think about it.
At any rate, in my estimation, the cultural event that solidified the new standard of American male beauty was the Janet Jackson video starring Djimon Hounsou. Sure Michael Jordan helped guys like me make the choice to shave the head, but anything that could possibly get us closer to Janet was magic, and Djimon had it. Looking back, I see that video as a feminine style of thought as well - idealized and fantastic as romantic music videos should be, but fundamentally a female fantasy. Guys who wanted Janet Jackson (like me) wanted to look like the guys she like in her videos. There's an ironic twist to the fact that Janet's actual boyfriend, whom I saw with her at a Michael Jackson concert at then Irvine Meadows, looked more like El Debarge - nothing at all like the models in the video. But that was a few years earlier. My point is that I was in the mode of thinking of conforming myself to a feminine ideal of manly beauty, not the other way around. It just so happens that I didn't have the hairy chest and that was the way I liked me anyhow.
I don't think I'd be too far off the mark to suggest that today's American manly image is more feminine than it was in the 80s. My adolescence was marked, in the late 70s, by the style of the Marlboro Man (hairy), but in real life most primarily by Mohammad Ali (not hairless), Joe Namath (long hair) and Burt Reynolds, (much hair). In that period with those trinity of ideals, there wasn't much question about which way men were headed. It was not towards a feminine ideal of manly beauty but something more ruggedly male for male's sake. And that period lasted through the end of Magnum PI and the beginning of Miami Vice. El Debarge, thus, was a bit ahead of the curve for the transitionary period of the mid 80s. (Think 80s metal bands). Sure there was a lot of hair there, but it wasn't hairy chested. It was punky hair and weasel chested.
It has been a long time since America has embraced the hairy chested man, and I think that's because of the feminine ideal has not wanted such manly implications, and American men have signed onto the feminist agenda for male looks. But I think it is also because gay men have had a larger impact on standards of male beauty. My theory here is thin but my speculation is that there is a sort of anti-feminine thinking in gay male ideals that have undermined the credibility of the Marlboro Man image. To be a man's man in today's thinking is to be considered anti-woman, or to return to my example - to look other than the men in Janet Jackson's video is to suggest that you don't want Janet. So from a woman's point of view there's something wrong with a hairy chested man. There's something wrong with a non-metrosexual man. He's got woman issues to be looking like that. Which might be safe to assume if the man is gay, a presumption that more American men must deal with socially than ever before.
I have been writing this essay over a period of days, and it has been hijacked by the following image into something that must include class more explicitly. This is the picture of a man who is a rebel in Libya, a foot soldier in a true people's liberation army of irregulars. And I am forced to consider him a Marlboro Man in his country. He is a man for whom I presume many American women would have considerable ick factor to overcome. I can't see his chest, but I find it difficult to imagine it not being naturally hairy, and if it is not, I find it inconceivable to imagine it shaved. There he is with his shotgun, his ax and his cigarette. He claims victory. Forget about geopolitical strife for a moment and think about American men. Think about a bearded, hairy chested American man with a shotgun, an ax and a cigarette. Could he claim any sort of victory with American women, or is he Larry the Cable Guy?
I don't mean to suggest in all of this that there is something fundamentally wrong with feminine ideals of manly beauty. Like with most things I write about, I see the issue as a matter of degree and balance. My desire is push back to socially acceptable and desirable standards that don't require a man to shave his chest, moisturize his skin or use more than two types of soap.
As something of a globalist, due to my affiliation with scientific discipline at the crossroads of information technology and the liberal arts, I pay lots of attention to the extent to which America is out of joint with the rest of the world's population. I am far from wanting one world government or culture - heck no to that, but I do tend to focus on philosophical and economic dislocations. An American man should not be so isolated from any man, and vice versa, and therefore the amount of social experimentation we do here in America should be limited. I raise my old Baldwin quote:
Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which robes one's nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one's nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one's robes.
It is in our fundamental nakedness that we should gain acceptance. Everything on top of that is functional to a degree, but that degree should not dislocate us from our basic selves. Men need to be men. Women need to be women. The way we think about each other should not ignore what's underneath.
One of my peeves is the extent to which our culture has been overrun by what I'm saying amounts to a bunch of louts with cheesy business models. Ahh the amoral marketplace. Can it only dominate an amoral population? Hard to say, and I don't even know why I ask such questions. But the signal effect that gets to me about this cultural bogard is the lack of good stuff in the long tail that's free. Or maybe it's the difficulty I find in finding all that good stuff.
Part of the difficulty is that consumer markets are profitable for the cheesy louts because they are taking advantage of human nature. To wit, romantic comedies will always be a source of profits in the movie business, so long as you can find cute actors playing shy, confused and oblivious to what's right in front of their faces. Just like in horror flicks, we sit there impatient for the movie to get to the good part, but being deliciously teased is what makes a rom com something other than porn, despite the fact that the money shot is, after all, the money shot - even if it's only implied. In other words, sex sells.
But how much can sex sell, or how much should sex sell? Those who know me find that I have long subscribed to Aldous Huxley's defintion of an intellectual (and tried to be that), someone who after all finds something more interesting than sex. I doubt that he meant eating as that something, but thinking, but he was clearly immersed in some context of society that must have seemed to him what ours seems to me: overrun.
Did I mention the demographic? Oh. I should have, it was a lurking assumption. If you want to maximize your market you go for the bell curve, a target market with disposable income for your cheesy business model and an easily identifyable human attribute waiting to be indulged. So is American culture obsessed with sex because so many louts sell it, or because our demographic is sexy? Dunno. What I do know is this: It's hard to be a fan of Vladimir Horowitz when you're in your 20s. I was and still am, though I still haven't bought the Deutsche Grammophon box set. Maybe for Christmas, I'm still diggin' on Ella's. It's hard because Horowitz is dead and not sexy, and it might take a little doing for you to appreciate what he does (did) so well. A little doing means Apple doesn't pony up the electricity, servers, bandwidth and all that so you can preview it on Apple TV from the comfort of your living room. Vladimir Horowitz is not a hot meme and is never going to be a hot meme. You have to seek him out. If you have sought out Vladimir Horowitz or perhaps somebody even a bit more obscure like one of the authors mentioned in Niall Ferguson's history of WW1, you're likely going to have to do it the hard way.
If you have sex three times a week for 20 years you would still have several hundred orgasms to go to reach the magical 4000. Much likely more if you're a woman. You might never get that many. I've been thinking about this because I'm a guy, and most guys do it for the bang. In that I'm like most guys, if my theory about guys' purposes is correct. But I'm also like Huxley, who might likely suggest that sex is a fairly interesting human activity, for what it's worth, but there are much more interesting things to consider. With that distance, I can objectify it like RBIs or some other statistic. Since I think economically, I also think about the marginal value of the nth bang, which for me is starting to rapidly diminish. I know some of my readers may think I'm a bit odd (although the thought crossed my mind of using the word 'queer') in that I don't find sex particularly.. compelling. For me, I'd say that sex is like driving fast. It's a dangerous game that's exhilaratingly boring. You do it because you can and because you're used to having the privilege. You are simultaneously amused by how simple and stupid it is and repulsed by how people get wrapped around its axle. What is the purpose in having a 'healthy' attitude towards sex? To make yourself sporting, I think, and to provide the louts with market share. See how blunt I am? I happen to think that sexual bluntness is unbecoming, and by my style I'm alternately a rake and a coquette but that was back around number 1200. A long time ago, when it mattered.
I'm fascinated in the same repulsed way about how the mattress manufacturers have managed to sell us another statistic about ourselves. To hear the louts blather, we all have a 'sleep number'. Well, we also must certainly have some inflection point at which the marginal utility of another sexual encounter heads south, and suddenly the overrunning of culture by the louts and their cheesy business models goes 'whoosh' right over your head, or under your feet as the case may be. All the gyrations on 'music' videos seems pointed to a completely alien demographic. When I got married 16 years ago, it's true, I really stopped buying a certain kind of shirt. I have not purchased cologne in a very long time. In fact, I think I may have the last two bottles of Kouros on earth, or at least the oldest.
So there's all this energy and money and ego out there in the culture selling and influencing and intimating everything about what's supposed to be so.. compelling about sex, all the personal drama, all that 70s Me Generation stuff that's rolling back around, and it's all beginning to look extra strange to me.
Let's take this into one more dimension which is the dimension of 'sexual liberation'. At what number might we suggest that an individual is sexually liberated? I mean all have come to recognize what the government tells us our caloric intake should be. We've been roundly seduced into what Michael Pollan calls 'nutritionism'. We know what vitamins and minerals and calories and carbs and anti-oxidants are supposed to do. But are we hungry? I mean statistically how much do we have to eat to qualify as off the critical list for the UN Special Committee on Hunger? There must be a number for that. Similarly there must be some amount of sex we have to get in order not to be sexually repressed. There's a certain amount of bang we have to get, presumably for the least amount of bucks if any at all, such that we pass. When are we into the meat of the curve? (Now there's a double entendre for you.)
You see it's not enough for the louts with their cheesy business models to exploit our own anti-Huxley-intellectual hungers but the culture has to make us 'healthy' in our attitudes. But we all know deep in our hearts that there's just something wrong with the fine print in the Viagra commercials when it has to be said that one should consult your doctor to see if sex is alright for you, you old horny bastard. We know somehow that there's a limit. Or do we actually think porn stars might really be making all those noises because they are.. compelled. It seems to me that somewhere after 2000, nobody should be able to tell you anything or sell you anything about sex. At the very least, you should know that you're being sold. And yet I continue to be amazed by the prodigious amounts of time, energy and money are expended on capturing the attention of the bazillions all upon the basis of this 'healthy' sexual identity we're all supposed to possess. It's unhealthy.
So there are 1200 channels on my television, and 1200 times that many coming over the internets. I'm old and tired but not jaded. I've still got Vladimir Horowitz and Bud Powell and Art Tatum and others similarly lightning fingered. Although it's difficult, the bandwidth for high culture is crowded out by the lazy loudmouths, it's not impossible to get off the beaten track and put aside all that co-opting of basic instincts. But it must be hard for the new suckers of Me Generation marketing to imagine themselves beyond the faux diversity of the same sexy sales. But the crazy thing is that it's even harder for me, approaching 4000 to care about what so many evidently care about.
Then again, I've managed to speed quite a bit without getting wrapped around the axle.
First item - Republicans blocking repeal of DADT
I think this is good news, because I basically like the policy of DADT. Homosexuals do serve in the military but they cannot advertise their sexual orientation. It's essentially private. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons advocates might come up with in defeating this policy, but to my way of thinking it necessarily politicizes homosexual identity. In other words, it makes it gay. Do homosexuals all want to be gay? Does the gay agenda serve all homosexuals? I think not. So, I hope the block works.
Second item - Assange arrested for 'rape'.
Julian Assange is facing what basically appear to be date rape charges. He has violated the 'sexual integrity' of two women, and it turns out that this may include actions which are not penetrative. According to what I've read, if you force a woman's legs open and do nothing else, you might face this charge. It's essentially sexual assault, not rape. My impression is that this is a law for the dainty, and that Assange is most definitely guilty. I wonder if he'd care if somebody would distribute the evidence.
Third Item - Age of Consent
In a great lecture presented by Dan Ariely I have come to understand something about 'deviant globalism'. According to Ariely, the enabler and accellerant for black markets are border conditions of national / cultural values. When it comes to the global sex trade, it is the difference between legal ages of consent. I just came to understand that until recently, the age of sexual consent in Canada was 14 years old. I'm also quite fond of his term 'moral pollution'.
So I was looking to make a new avatar of myself and I found an anime site with ads for something I haven't seen before. It was Victoria Secret -style wedding dress models. Wowsers. So 'Wedding Porn' is the first thing that came to my mind. Wouldn't that be something? If you think about it for a while, when is the last time you saw any pop culture marketing or style that made something very attractive and sexy about a woman in a wedding dress? Maybe you and I don't watch the same channels, but I can't recall it ever. Not even when I used to watch House of Style with Cindy Crawford on MTV many years ago.
A search of that term took me to the Offbeat Bride blog where I happened upon a very grownup and obvious patch of text:
I think wedding rings on a dude (especially your own dude) are sexy! Every time I saw that flash of metal on his finger I gave me a thrill — it's all sexy "grown up" of him.
But when I stepped back and looked at the reality of the situation I saw that, honestly, that ring spent more time spinning on the table in front of him, or in his mouth, than on his finger. And I just saw how uncomfortable it made him. He really HATES wearing jewelry, and he complained that the air conditioning in the recording studio where he works made the ring so cold that his finger ached.
Now, I could've bitched and nagged and guilted my husband into just accepting his be-ringed fate, but I had realize that, even though that ring gave me a thrill, it's not at allworth his discomfort for one minute.
And what's the point of it really? 'It's symbol to show that he's devoted and faithful to me,' is what I came up with. But isn't it okay that the symbol just be that he freaking MARRIED ME!? I mean, what more do I need? This man stood in front of family, friends, and a few complete strangers, and exchanged vows with me — do I need more than THAT? And the answer was, obviously, no. There doesn't need to be a physical symbol when his vows alone and my trust in him are enough to show me (and everyone else?) that he is devoted and faithful to me.
So, no, he doesn't wear a ring, and I'm okay with it. But I'll keep wearing mine because I think it's purrrrty.
I have that kind of weird love hate relationship with my wedding ring, which is btw my second replacement. It's my favorite because it is comfortable. Like Muslims, I have a thing against wearing gold. For me it's mostly aesthetic - say 65% but the other 35% doesn't like the flash at all. I do have a negative connotation with wearing the stuff. I don't suppose I'd do very well in India on that score. This ring I have now is fat and heavy brushed tungsten steel. It's very comfortable, but. I have this thing against the marks rings leave on my fingers. I hate the greasy tan line it creates.
I love wearing my ring when I'm dressed to impress and I consider it in the context of the watch I'm wearing. But for sports or camping, it has got to come off. On the whole, I consider my wedding band much more in the context of what it is as jewelry than what it represents as a symbol of the Sacrament. I do like, and have said, that because of its composition it's like my Marriage, unglamorous and unbreakable, but that's about it. It physically looks nothing like the one I put on my finger 16 years ago that I lost on a ski trip in 2000. It does resemble the first replacement which was a very traditional fat silver band that I kinda ruined opening a bottle of beer. Yeah, I know.
Isn't it interesting how typical, malleable and shallow many of these symbols of marriage are? They could be done a lot better if people have any imagination.
The other story I got from Lee was very interesting and anecdotally it's true for me as well.
It turns out that there was an experiment in which men didn't shower for three days, so that all of their funk and manstink got into their sweatshirts. Women were then asked to dig into that pile of sweatshirts and find the one they felt most comfortable wearing. The result was that they were most compatible, all of them, and meaning sexually attracted to the man whose genetic profile was most different from her own. This is a natural kind of attraction that makes for human biodiversity.
However, when women are pregnant, that sort of thing reverses. Then they most want to be around family. It makes sense, family will protect her and the baby.
So here's the kicker. If a woman is on the Pill, it works by simulating pregnancy. So a woman who stays on the pill will be more attracted to men who are genetically close to her. If she gets off the pill, suddenly she can't stand him. Similarly, as was the case for me, my girlfriend didn't particularly like me when she got on her birth control, but wanted me around more when sex was risky. After we got married, we had all kinds of headaches until I got my permanent fix and she could be off the chemicals.
So guys. If your girl is on the Pill and tells you that she loves you, she probably doesn't.
Camille Paglia describes with some deadpan aplomb, the state of confusion over gender roles in the chatting classes. Do read the whole thing.
Only the diffuse New Age movement, inspired by nature-keyed Asian practices, has preserved the radical vision of the modern sexual revolution. But concrete power resides in America’s careerist technocracy, for which the elite schools, with their ideological view of gender as a social construct, are feeder cells.
In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.
Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.
I was just mentioning the effect of the Baby Boom on sexual attitudes to my daughter yesterday after she remarked on how there seems to be nothing that 12 year olds can do, but 13 year olds are OK. I talked to her about the world of film before the ratings boards, when people had more discretion but didn't actually need it so much when selecting a movie, book or entertainment.
The very idea of female viagra is more of the same - a confusion born at the prospect of a large society of peasants looking for the ultimate entertainment in their spare time. There's not much else left to exploit. The extreme sports are getting more extreme, the pecs on the actors at the checkout counters are getting more prominent, the political name calling is getting more caustic. It seems like only a handful of Americans anywhere have a sense of inner peace and are in harmony with their life's purpose. The rest are lining up to buy iPhones and then complaining about dropped calls two days later. PT Barnum would be rolling in clover plying his trade amongst today's vaguely dissatisfied and upscale masses. But the trump card would be and has become the idea that you're not quite healthy and sexy enough - that you have to enjoy more and better sex in order to fulfill your potential as a human being. The idea is already fertile, you just need the product. And what's more perfect than a pill?
I know better. Sex is dirty, complicated and embarrassing. It involves getting naked, making yourself completely vulnerable. And this is something we in the tail end of our revolution don't want to admit. It's something many of our youth can't even fathom. And of course it's something the pro-choice movement at core cannot abide. Sex must be, for today's unsatisfied peasant appetites and their marketing masters, all approaching the 'zipless fuck', that timeless fantasy revived by Xaviera Hollander aka the Happy Hooker. It must be the combination of exhilarating seduction, spontaneous orgasm and guiltless separation. How many millions of hours and billions of dollars are spent in that pursuit? What does it take? The right hair? The right abs? The right resort? And we just fall into it, right? Love, right? And don't even get me started about oddment sex.
Even the eHarmony guy says of us 6 billion fish, there's only 23 things we really need to know about each other and then boom. Instant happiness. But it isn't working out. That's why female viagra is necessary. Think about it.
We're going to have to get to the moment when somebody introduces legislation to get us building same sex bathrooms before the backlash bursts this gender happy slavishness. Straights know deep inside that we're not happy from sex. Gays know deep inside that they're not happy from sex. Yet we all keep pretending that happiness is out there if we just do enough rumpy pumpy; as if we could position our emotions like we position our bodies and get some kind of deterministic results. All we really know is that the drama continues and we can't quite seem to get ourselves extracted from it. Well, the unsatisfied among us.
The simple fact is that we've been eating at a McDonald's of sex, and the secret sauce is bad for us and not all for Victorian reasons. We've been supersizing our sex lives and becoming sybaritically obese. We've been expecting that every variety on the menu is equally nutritious and treating every exotic morsel like cuisine from another country all equally digestible. We've forgotten what it's all about because we're second hand consumers of romantic and sexual fantasy.
For me this goes rather deep. Ask my wife if I care about Cancun, she'll tell you I don't. I'm sure of it is just some buckwild maleness but I don't need exotic locales and drinks with umbrellas. I just need time and space. Without getting into the boys and girls details of desire, wants and needs - we've all been sold a pokey pig. You simply cannot satisfy yourself through the contemporary narrative of sex. It's literally perverted, and with the willing prevaricators of that sloppy thing called 'feminism', women are extra vulnerable and men are getting away with extra douchbaggery in addition to extra buggery.
I really have to laugh every time I watch a Hollywood production of some savagely efficient female spy, cop or soldier, and I wonder how long it is that American women are going to stand for this illusion. Female viagra doesn't work because its not what females want. It's what males want females to want - just like the chick in the Clooney movie 'Up In The Air' said. "Don't think of me as a woman, think of me as a just like you, only with a vagina". Zipless, and also perfectly gay and quite obviously perpendicular to family life. Perfect objectification of women, but like I said, many so-called feminists don't get it. They're eating at the sex McDonald's too.
I'll repeat myself. Sex is dirty, complicated and embarrassing. You have to get naked and vulnerable. In fully formed human beings, that takes some doing and some mutual obligation. More than we think we know, and more than most are willing to say.
It has been a long time coming, me getting into Jimi Izrael's book. There has been a clumsy conspiracy of comic errors that has kept me from it, including a forgotten freezer full of fish and a hotel clerk with an African name. But all that's in the past and I have read the introduction.
The introduction you say? And already I'm raving. Yeah. Well, that's OK because I have learned that there is a kind of genius that doesn't need a great deal of explication. If you know that there is something true in love at first sight, then you understand how a lifetime can be changed in an instant. I hate the utopian opportunism implied in that now common phrase 'teachable moment', but yes there are moments when suddenly you know something weighty is approaching on that train coming round the mountain - and all you've heard is that mournful whistle. Like the first notes of a Sade song you're hearing for the first time, you already know that you're going to fall in love with somebody slow dancing to it one day. Intuition tells you it's coming.
I'm at that delicious point. Teased to be ready for it - the rest of The Denzel Principle, the new book about what's going wrong with some people we know, some people we are sometimes. It's all by a man I thought I knew but I know better already, and did I say the word 'genius' already?
Let me tell you why I love Jimi Izrael as a man. It's because he is one of those men who lives in his skin. A man who could hang with all that thoughtful reflection - except he's all about the now. It comes out of him in real time, preternaturally instinctual it seems. I mean if you put him together on paper you wouldn't imagine that he is what he looks like. He looks like a man of action, but he's deliberate and deep. He's got emotional intelligence. Every moment that I've been hanging with the brother, in person, on the radio, in online forums, he has given me the impression that he's all right there in the moment. Like he never turns off. Moreover I know what he looks like and sounds like going after a woman which is an extraordinary thing to watch. It is a spontaneous, loving, bottom line interview, sprinkled with hot pepper and dirt. Like we are talking about X, and suddenly he starts with an off the cuff remark to the woman in our orbit, and it sounds like a compliment that is going to go maybe two sentences and that's the end of it - like he's just trying to be suave and leave an air of cool. But then he's back to talking to me about X again, and he continues with the woman and getting into her life and her people and discovering her everything. He's telling her in so many words, I already know I could love you, I'm just finding out how much. I'm like damn. It's like that Hmong wise man in 'Gran Torino', he's already there feeling her insides and pushing the pressure points. These aren't throw away lines. Jimi gets into your life like that.
I love that as a man because I love the company of men who don't play games, and when it comes to the big things you need somebody who can handle the truth. And that's the difference in character that we all ought to know. I'm going to bring forth a poem that I taught my children and you said you would too when you saw Akeela say it:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Now I'm going to tell you that I've only seen him do it on two brief occasions, once with a white girl and once with a black girl, but that's where he was, letting his love light shine and giving her permission to do the same. Until I read the introduction to his book, I couldn't know where that was coming from or how deep it went. But I always knew that the man doesn't play.
Now I don't mean to suggest that he's totally serious 100% of the time, I'm saying that he's the kind of man that doesn't work at being some kind of emotional Tootsie Pop. What's at the inside isn't some kind of moldable chewable center that's a different color, flavor and consistency from the outside. He's all that sweet and hard inside just like on the outside. Same stuff. There's no trap and surprise. At least that's the man I see, consistent with the man I read, and the man I appreciate that much more today.
Jimi hustles. He's working all the time and what you watch is his work in progress. It's himself and his words and his passion. He has a passion against bogus motherfuckers. It's something we share as black men tired of being mistaken for him, tired of cleaning up after him, tired of sharing a world of vulnerable people when he's around jacking them and we're too distant to slap him about. But Jimi also knows the female of the bogus species and he's calling her on her madness and mess. He ain't afraid. And he hustles and is not shamed by hustling because he's inherited nothing but a good heart and an eye and ear for truth. Most of us are ashamed by what we know and let go. Jimi must testify. It's hard, but it's fair.
All that is important in a world that's the world we have today - when nobody is quite sure of the value of anything and people are trying to sell you something about themselves because they aren't quite sure what their own value is. They just know what worked last time and what the suckers buy. So what I'm conveying is something about the character of a man I know who has survived among the snakes with his mind and soul intact. And the way it works out with Jimi is in the language of emotional truth, one that he speaks well.
The language of emotional truth, even about love and devotion is not hearts and flowers. I don't know what the deal is with 'Sleepless in Seattle' because I've never seen that movie. People tell me it's a great movie but I just don't think of that when I think of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Sorry. I don't even know why the genre 'romantic comedy' can be taken seriously. Maybe it's because people desire so much for emotional truth to be fun and entertaining. For me, it was more like Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin in 'Sea of Love' or Larry Fishburne and Irene Kennedy in 'Deep Cover' or maybe even Nick Cage and Elizabeth Shue in 'Leaving Las Vegas'. The language of love has overtones of risk, desperation, passion, urgency, fate and fear. So when you hear Izrael talking about it, there's none of that Nubian Queen bodewash. He doesn't need a lot of windmilling and pre-gesturing to get to it. It's bam pow, a swift combination of the right words, tough like the sweet science. You read a few swift paragraphs that seem like simple street brogue of a hiphop bohunk and then the idea comes around inside your sense of time and knocks you out.
That's how I'm seeing Izrael's angle on the Dizzle, The Denzel Principle. He has identified something important and true without being all Dr. Phil about it. He has invested the contemporary argot with some righteous matters about character in the fundamental interactions between men and women. And he starts with his own story and his epiphany. I know Jimi, and I know him better now and I see why he had to write this book. Now you know what you're in for. Pick it up.
So I was in an elevator full of men who were wearing the team colors of the Cleveland Browns. They grumbled aloud and boldly that there wouldn't ever be any Baltimore Ravens fans anywhere near. I thought better of making a joke.
My reading of Ferguson is on a brief hiatus, but I was beginning to get the flavor of how the Germans got so aggravated in the years leading up to the election of Hitler. My short story does nothing good for history but humiliation is certainly part of the formula.
One of Cobb's Rules in the area of Boys and Girls has to do with what men love to hear and what they hate to hear. What men love to believe is that their particular skill is valuable. Just as I say that people don't have weaknesses so much as they overuse their strengths, the world of men is a world of hammers in a sea of nails whether or not those are actually nails. What men hate to hear is that they are deluded and useless. Destroying a man begins with demonstrating to him that he has lived a lie his entire life and all the work he has done has been a cruel joke - that he is a fool just like all the other fools. When a woman tells a man that all of his skills are meaningless, she is burning the last bridge to his heart. It is unforgivable for a man to be thought of like all the rest - to the extent a man accepts this, he competes with other men to get to the point of 'are we cool?'. And by the way, a 'bastard' is by definition the man who never says 'yes, we're cool'. The powerful bastard gives no quarter, ever, for any relenting in competition. The powerless bastard searches eternally for someone to dominate. These are men who suffer from the lack of having a father's pride and calming hand.
Speaking of which, I sensed something touching this past week in observation of a father and son up close and personal in their house with whom I shared a delicious meal. A father patiently but firmly pointing out the broccoli and the son with a big pile of food in his cheeks he doesn't want to swallow. My own son was a 'juice junkie' and would live on orange juice and string cheese if he had his way. Boys must be grown into social appetites, and like men, have their real appetites made meaningful and significant.
So my mind is on Cleveland and it fascinates me to no end that this is a place where steel was made and Rockefeller hung out, but today they are owned in most every way by LeBron James. It's not that James is an improper leader, but that his contract is short and two years hence, he may go the way of Republic Steel - sold off to some bidder from a bigger town. The men of Cleveland have as an expression of themselves, the Cavaliers and the Browns. And ain't nobody better be talking smack about Baltimore.
As it turned out, Baltimore shut the Browns out sixteen to nothing. What's worse, it all happened in under 30 seconds. All of the hotel rooms emptied out and Cleveland returned to a somber pace, laced with some self-deprecating humor which is the only peaceful cure for humiliation, that hedge against ambition that allows a man to laugh when he is the butt of the joke. The other cure is revenge which is sometimes sweet but more often cruel.
It is my observation that Cleveland is not full of bastards, nor is Ohio in general. And although they tend to pick on people to the north and south for their non-Midwestern accents, on the whole they wear their humility fairly well. Still.
On a dark night with rainy streets, there are crestfallen empty buildings on 9th Street that overlook a cemetery three blocks from the new stadiums. There's more money in the sports complex than in the financial district and bars with neon signs stand darkly awaiting a championship season. A Russian girl tends bar facing 10 big screens full of action and excitement from every town but this. Parking lot attendants stare over empty acres now that baseball season is over. The steakhouses are empty every night except when the wealthy fans from out of town fly in to see their team beat Cleveland.
There's no reason for this. It's not about Cleveland in particular because men everywhere have their standards and limits. Surely the Russian girl knows a town without such teams and men without such dreams. There is enough to be proud of without digging too deep. But pride lingers on the edge of disappointment and enough of that leads to bitterness. That was the edge in the huff and puff of the voices on the elevator last Monday night. A rivalry between Baltimore and Cleveland tinged with the readiness of ordinary men to do battle.
Guess who wrote this:
In our culture, sex has lost its sacred quality. If I were mayor or president, I think I would institute some rules for the good of the American Marriage, a prohibition or two — no touching allowed until Tuesday — because longing springs from distance. It is ironic but also absolutely understandable that proximity can kill sex faster than fainting.
You might guess as I suppose many people do, that this is something from the pen of a conservative man. It's not. It's from a woman of the sort I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I'm sure that this essay is going around the 'sphere. Try to read it with your mouth closed. Then when you're finished, imagine that this woman were actually mayor or president and could institute such rules.
I've known a couple neurotic women and well, actually I've known several. Scary.
What is up with sex, and why is American sex different from other people's sex? Specifically, what have we done in marketing sex appeal into our consumer economy that changes what sex is, or what sex is supposed to be?
This is a monstrously huge question that we've touched on in the Weird Science thread, and maybe a little bit in dealing with the implications of Proposition Eight, but not really directly in terms of why sex matters as much as it does as a cultural phenomenon and what effect it has on the basic function of society.
Mark Steyn made quite a big deal about the birthrates of Muslims in Europe and how Scandinavians and Japanese are essentially dying out by not reproducing. When I was a kid, I came from a family of five, which was considered large but not huge. Now, the very idea of a professional with five kids is almost unthinkable, but one with two kids and one from a second marriage seems to be commonplace. We expect teenage girls and boys to be sexually active. Meaning what? How many times a week is normal, with how many partners? I came of age in the 70s when best selling advice came from Xaviera Hollander aka the 'Happy Hooker'. What of legal prostitution? San Francisco is going for it.
Speaking for myself I realized at the age of 10 that everybody is naked. I was helped by an issue of Playboy magazine which showed nurses and nuns and secretaries and schoolteachers. What resides in the sexual imagination today? What's left of it? With all of the pornography out there, is there any sexual imagination? What's the deal with safe sex?
How much should our sexual proclivities and orientations define us? Should that be political? Is sex easy or difficult - how much hesitation do we have making friendships sexual? It sex today as intimate as it used to be? Is it a sport or is it a sacred act? WTF?
I ran across this in an email passed by me:
The only thing that scares me are the men who are not out and living a lie as straight men. That scares me and every other straight woman.
I don't think I've ever heard that said before. I must admit that I'm not necessarily inside the heads of any women, although I'm getting much better. The weird thing is that I'm coming to understand the truth of something I read from Henry Miller a very long time ago, and Henry Miller is one scary dude. He said, women eventually take it all. As in dishing it out and taking it. Henry meant, as usual, something sexual. He was somewhat impressed in the fact that women do suffer through sorts of debasement that would destroy men. Miller did his damnedest to debase women, and still they remained women. And so in that strange way I have another confirmation of something I believe to be true about women's ability to give, even under hostile circumstances. Why are women illogical? Because they must be, and they know it. A woman's ability to soothe the savage beast in man is something fundamental, something very deep. I think it is something elemental to the power of femininity. The woman who flows knows this, the brittle woman doesn't quite.
Watching my daughters I am coming to understand something about a woman's relationship to her attractiveness to men which is central to her opinion of her self - of her confidence. A lady, I was instructed, puts herself in the line of sight of a man she's interested in. The man will do the rest, he only need see her. She only need be seen. And so a woman of confidence knows very well how men who see her want her. She will not be ignored. So she is to be sure that she is seen in a very specific way. Women spend huge amounts of time and effort in controlling their image and designing their orbit of desire. In the same way a martial arts master studies for years and can draw a circle on the ground with his sword, knowing he has a zone of fatality awaiting every foe, a woman architects her beauty as the central petal in a floral display creating an orbit of desire.
And it is in this way that I understand the quote above. The gay man who masquerades as a straight man is never drawn into this female orbit by desire. It must be horribly disconcerting to the woman who assumes attraction finds at bottom, indifference, distaste or repulsion.
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.
Like many blackfolks in my generation who inherited no real understanding of how politics actually works, Obama spent a lot of time with academics and posers. This contributes to my theory of how his exposure to America, and particular the need any putative leader has to deal with *all* of the people tracks his positions towards the right. Obama seems much less baked to me, as time goes on, especially in light of his vacuous voting record. It definitely heralds change if he wins. The problem is that one cannot be truly sure what HE clings to. He has triangulated in a campaign which is exactly the same thing as growing wiser with a greater appreciation for the complexities, and in almost every case his flops have been towards McCain's moderate conservative positions.
This morning I was listening to Dennis Prager and he was moaning and mocking respectfully as he always does. Then he said something that was interesting in trying to understand how the Left gets their drawers in a bunch, especially those who find it easy to hate the middle of America aka flyover country. He said that politics is their religion - that they have no higher comfort. He then went to say how comforting it is to know that he has a higher calling and can let politics go when it gets too crazy and mentioned that he'll be celebrating high holy days which are upcoming shortly in the Jewish calendar.
He's wrong. The opposition does have a higher calling. It's sex.
Aldous Huxley said that an intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting than sex. What then is a person who finds sex to be the most interesting thing of all? The context I'm thinking of is one that suggests that if we all agree that everything we do in politics is to secure our pursuit of happiness, what exactly is the end game? What provides happiness? If governments are instituted among men to secure such things, what things are we securing.
This is something that Prager does talk about a good deal and I remember agreeing with him as he spoke about it some time this past spring.
I haven't seen the Vagina Monologues, but I can already tell that I don't like Eve Ensler. I just caught her video on the TED website and cringed at her example-making and her illogical inversion of the notion of security, especially her terms of embracing suffering. Then again I know she's not speaking to me but at me abstractly in the third person 'omnicient' in that passive-aggressive way liberals often express their anger. The girl who wears an 'I love my vagina' T-Shirt in high school was the heroine of the day.
Without going into the details of what has gone off the rails with feminism, and what we know is wrong with multiculturalism and identity politics, it is curious to see the dovetails between those ideological movements and the pursuit of sexual happiness. I asked the question without much response in The Sybaritic Side of The Culture. Is the end of human invention and civilization result in all of us basically 'reverting' to our true natures of enjoyment of sex, drugs and rock and roll? Or perhaps a better way to put it is this? Is there something more Godlike in sacrifice?
Perhaps an unspoken yet well understood trope of our culture wars - our divisions of Left and Right, between cosmopolitan and drylongso is over the same old matter of the Puritan work ethic all over again. After all, you can't get conservatives to swoon more obsequiously than when they describe some soldier's noble sacrifice. And there's nothing liberals love to do more than mock that as an utterly meaningless waste of a life.
I'm willing to put God as a higher purpose, or more accurately to state that we find our higher purpose and therefore the most true essence of our humanity in our search for God. And while it is abundantly clear that we American Christians have a gigantic black hole where the ritualization of sacred sensuality should be, it's not so clear that non-believers have a lock on transcendent sex. That is precisely the difficulty I have with those who make no distinction between sexual restraint and sexual repression - which is where I see most feminists and their supporters coming from.
I am approaching the age at which sensuality is academic, and every year that goes by finds me less and less anxious about it. I thoroughly enjoy the privilege of married life which obviates the tremendous pressure of single life. It would take some doing for me to get back in the mindset of embedding so much meaning into sex, meaning that would come close to justifying how much of it permeates the motivations of so much of our society. I've been laughing at single people's goofball relationships almost as much as skateboard blooper videos, and now I'm to the point at which I want to derisivley smack people for their idiocy. And I warm to them in the realization that they're looking for romance to provide a purpose. I am brought to pity. Remember Cobb's Rule: There's Marriage and there's everything else; everything else doesn't count. There's a statistical industry for you social scientists... How much despair in America is not created by Bush and the Republicans, but by the fact that so many people can't find happiness? A great irony if ever there was one - you'd think that those who seek to find redemption in their personal and sexual relationships would be, like stoners with the best herb, too happy to care about the intrigues of PNACians. Alas, there is not much purpose in romance, and so they must put passion into politics.
I understand and respect anyone who fights against the repression of women. There are not enough warriors in that battle. No society that disrespects women can long survive, much less sustain liberty. But I fear that many who mock conservatives on sexual matters equate abstinance and restraint with stupidity and repression, and in their verve to liberate the naughty bits of people around the world, have mistaken profligacy with liberation. What did I hear the other night? Yesterdays sluts are today's 'empowered women' and today's sluts are all celebrities. If you could fuck your way to freedom, nobody would need armies.
Where are all the good brothers at? Where they at?
I'm going to answer this question seven ways using seven different men I know who are all good brothers and seven different songs you know.
Byron: One Love
This tune is from Whodini. The same people who asked 'Friends, how many of us have them?' also procliamed, 'One love, one love, you're lucky just to have just one.' Byron was shy and goofy in high school. He graduated with good grades and a good sense of humor, and a virgin. He never had a girlfriend and never really tried to get one. Not even for show. He always took love seriously and said that one day he'd find the right girl, and that was all he had to say about it. He is not, was not and never will be on the market for romance. He found that one girl, married her 20 years ago and never looked back. In fact, he never looked up, down, sideways or any other way for any other girl. If you ask Bryon about love and the dating scene, he'll turn his head at you like a puppy. Women and men who shop for the perfect mate to him sounds like people who shop for the perfect refrigerator.
You're Janet Jackson. All of 21 years old talking about how you are going to have everything in your life and you don't even know how to have a baby. Daniel dismisses you without hesitation. He is the man. He wears the pants. He will work from sunup to sundown seven days a week. He will sacrifice and work his fingers to the bone. Driving a bus. Walking the postal route. He will buy a decent house and a decent car and decent clothes. All you have to do is not ask for diamonds and pearls. Do the kitchen work, the kid work and the bed work, and he will marry you and fulfill your every need. The problem is that you confuse need with desire. Daniel doesn't make a lot of money and he never will. He just wants to be the man of his house. If you want a man who will fly you to Hawaii, then he wants a Victoria Secret model. They are both dealbreakers, so why can't you just be satisfied? Daniel is an honest, decent man who just wants to be a man. You want 'more'. That's why he's not having anything to do with your ass.
Zachary: Climbing Up The Ladder
Zach is all about success. You don't understand why but everybody knew it when he was just a kid. All he dreamed about, all he talks about, all he ever wanted to be was that thing. Zach doesn't eat to enjoy the food, he eats to fuel his body so he can spend more time doing that thing that one day is going to get him to that place. In other words, you will never be first in his heart, his mind or his soul. Get used to it. Zach isn't cruel. It's not that he doesn't understand your needs. The problem is he will always think of you and the things that are important to you, second. He is singleminded about him and absent-minded about you, so half the time he will need to be reminded. It's not that you aren't perfect, he needs you to be able to understand him - to balance him and make him a whole person. But you will always be second fiddle to his dream. Get used to it. He's a perfectly good brother who doesn't read Essence magazine. You are too high maintenance. Zach is either a dreamer or a visionary. That depends on you.
Milton: Why You Treat Me So Bad?
Milton has been burned. Milton is fundamentally a good brother, but he is not even ready to trust. It makes him look more pathetic than he actually is. On the one hand, he doesn't want or need to be patronized. On the other hand he is desperately trying to be the man he once was. See Milton only knows one way to love - completely with all of his heart and soul. So in one way, he's never going to get over that bitch. In another way, he needs you more than you know. All you have to do is be 100% sure that you love him. Milton, will eat you up. He will devote himself to you - he wants to say all the perfect things and utterly sweep you off your feet, but if you even sniff another man's second-hand cigarette smoke without choking he's going to give you the evil eye. He gives total devotion. He demands total devotion. With Milton, it's do or die. Why do you keep pointing out his obvious faults? Nobody's perfect.
Larry: Never Give Up on a Good Thing
Larry is not a good brother, per se. He is a de facto good brother. Why? Because Larry has a great woman, a woman who truly loves him and works harder than the average bear. So Larry realizes he's probably not worth it so he's not going to risk anything so he does all the right things at the right time (at her prompting) and keeps his head above water. You are not going to get him because even though he wants you, you cannot outdo his woman. One day Larry's charm is going to wear off and then people will see right through him. He's an actual good brother because he's holding all the right cards, but that's luck, not principle.
Harry: I'm Too Sexy
Harry is Larry's twin brother, except Harry actually does got it going on. The problem is that Harry is not even ready to settle down and quite frankly you can't compete with the hoes. Harry is eventually going to turn into the model citizen, but right now he's young and full of himself, plus he's already heard everything you could possibly say. He's bored, in fact, and there's a chance that he'll never settle down at all. You know it, he knows it, everybody knows it. It ain't fair, but there it is. Prostrate yourself, or be a bitch. You never know what's going to work and it'll drive you crazy just trying to figure it out. Give up. Or try blackmail.
Tony: It's Raining Men
Well he's gay of course. One out of seven? Don't be surprised.
Now to answer your question, I have been most of these men at one time or another. Well, all except Tony and Byron. Right now I'm probably Larry, meaning I'm very much into playing the stupid husband role, if you can remember that episode of the Cosby Show.
Secondly, this is a black public question. Or at least I should say that it was put to me in that way. The way I see that is through the lens of Cobb's Rule #2: There is Marriage and there is everything else: everything else doesn't count. There are no rules for relationships, it's all about people getting their jollies off whomever is willing to dole them out. Anything goes. And since anything goes, who cares what you think, and who cares what I think? The reason Marriage has lasted for centuries is because it is an arrangement that satisfies public and private needs, and there's an accumulated mass of wisdom associated with it. So everything I say about the good brother only makes sense in the context of Marriage, because quite frankly if you only want a relationship, the stakes aren't high enough to really matter in the end. People tend to bet their lives on Marriage, and that's the point. It's only when you bet your life that you get off your ass for something like exactly how you are going to treat another human being. Short of that, it's all transitory and fleeting and not worth much discussing.
To that black public question, you kinda have to ask why is the question out there? My kneejerk reaction is that the good black man becomes invisible to people who have to ask 'where they at?'. Daniel drove that bus right by you today. Did you notice him? Zachary wants to be a fashion designer. Did you think that was kinda gay? Milton is 36 years old, has never been married and has no kids. You keep thinking there's something wrong with him.
I know it sounds kinda strange, but men tend to confide in me about the subject of women. I sympathize, and I've heard these kinds of stories all the time. I think most men are like Milton and they end up being like a hard version of Daniel, and that is because most women don't know how to act like ladies. More specifically, most women don't act like they really want to be married, faithful and true. Those who do don't seem to recognize that they actually do have to compete with other women - it's all that shallow cow metaphor. The women that get it, then tend to think they're too smart to be a wife, like it's a punishment for being too fat or unsophisticated or something.
My personal opinion goes a little something like this. Women are crazy, and women know that women are crazy. Aside from predatory lesbians, there are no women who would go through what men do just to get in another woman's stanky drawers. And if women thought about just that thought long enough, I think they'd come to realize what I know to be true. Good wives are much, much happier in the long term. There is nothing quite so pathetic as an old single bitch. Well, OK an old single bitch with pictures of her toy dog on the piano instead of kids.
Men, of course, are filthy and ruthless. And men know that men are filthy and ruthless. Aside from bottom boy homos, there are no men who would subject themselves to the business end of a dirty, thoughtless man. And if men thought about however it is what women take pleasure in satisfying us, I'm sure they'd conclude as I do. A good husband is way more secure than a rogue. There's nothing quite so pitiful as the old man in the club. Well, an old poor man in the club who knows he's going to die alone.
Where are all the good brothers and good sisters? All around. Except they forgot what the endgame was. The question should have been, how can I get her to marry me? And until that question becomes more frequently asked 'good' is just a relative term. It ain't about the person. It's about betting your life.
Why do beautiful women go for bad boys?
Two and a half reasons.
The first and foremost reason is because bad boys know that they are bad more certainly than good boys know they are good, and women like a known quantity in their men. In other words, good boys, for the most part in American society are wishy-washy, and women's instincts tell them to stay away from wishy-washy men. From my perspective, most American women think that they are crazy in some deep part of themselves, and the last thing they need is a man who is more unsure of himself than they are.
The second reason is that women pride themselves in making their men respectable, even if the only thing respectable about their man is that he could possibly be associated with her. The easier this job is, the less self-esteem some women have. I would say this rule applies more especially to single women without kids. Not very many women have the patience to go on a male reclamation project when they've got crumbsnatchers to raise.
The half-assed reason that women go for bad boys is the worst reason of all, which is that they see bad boys as better than them. That is, some women need to be dominated because they know they are no good themselves. So they throw themselves to the dogs. This is a sign of a bad daddy in baby girl's past, and we know how twisted that can get. Such women are doing eternal penance.
So there it is.
I woke up this morning thinking about love.
Love must be felt, not simulated, not imagined or faked. This is the first and most important thing about love.
Love must be singular. There can only be one object of your loving affection. Love must be faithful, gladly.
Love must be voluntary and not coerced. You should not feel obligated to love but genuinely desire to love.
You must love the person for who they are and who they want to be, wholly. Not because of their car. Not because it feels good to be in love. Not for whom you wish they would be.
You must desire their physical company. You physically change in the presence of your lover.
Love must affect you profoundly, make you willing to make sacrifices. You cannot merely turn it on and turn it off, it must be something near the center of your life.
Love must be something you want to hold on to, not something to experiment with or just to pass the time.
I read this over at the Jane Galt abortion thread:
I am a lifelong Roman Catholic, which I realize means I have no intellectual credibility on this issue. However, when our adopted son was 7 or 8, he began watching a PBS program on abortion. We realized very quickly what he was watching and monitored the program very carefully. He watched the entire program. When it was over, he came into the kitchen, looked at the two of us and said: "If my real mommy had had an abortion, I wouldn't be." Rather amazing for a child his age. To this day, he has no question regarding what he thinks about abortion. Neither do we.
It's probably not fair for me to disagree with a child, then again if I didn't somebody else would. That is rather the point. If his mommy had had an abortion, he wouldn't be able to give his parents a post-facto justification for not aborting. But not only that, this is the child speaking from the position of the parent's child. In which case he might have simply been another child with the very same authority; the one not aborted. In either case he is the child, the chosen one, the one that exists. It doesn't matter how he came to exist, his existence justifies his statement, but the weight that the statement carries depends upon the fact that his adoptive parents accept it.
I often think of this paradox with my own children. No matter who their mother is, they would be my children. They cannot possibly be equal to any others who were not born, yet in fact they are, they are the inevitable, and because of that any abortions or secret children any women I might have known biblically are immaterial. They are that they are.
How about this way? There is a slot in my future (as of 15 years ago) called 'First Born Son'. It doesn't matter how he comes to be or in what order of sexual encounters or failures. Once he is born, he becomes First Born Son. It's like destiny. The moral question might be, to whom and to what does FBS owe this honor? Should his right to this destiny be compromised by prior abortions? That is to say do people who are born owe some debt to the unborn? Do you? do I? Do anti-abortionists have standing to plead on behalf of the unborn, or are they too compromised because of failed matings which predated their successful birth?
Such are questions which must be answered in describing and defending the rights of the unborn.
This is something we wrestled with in Catholic school. We called it the Question of the Sperm on the Floor.
I think a girly girl is a child who is actively looking for aspects of her femininity and really enjoys such expressions. Scholar is such a child. I can't think of a more comprehensive way to put it, but I know it when I see it. Here are a couple observations, which are actually easy because I can compare her to her sister.
- She puts makeup herself and on other girls.
- She will make pointless arguments or quips merely to distinguish herself from a male's opinion.
- She will initiate 'girl' play. Tea parties, dolls, etc.
- She keeps up with the girly qualities of other girly girls.
I was quite surprised at how quickly Scholar exhibited this behavior. Before she was in Kindergarten she expressed desire for the princess dress, and coordinated hairbows etc. I think a lot of it was because she was such a cute toddler and it was something all of her caregivers responded to.
Now that she's almost 12 I find her girlyness expressed in different ways. She's heading towards cheerleaderness. She has already created a production for one of her classes. She's and expressive dresser and up for parts in her school play. I'm not so good in recognizing the more subtle aspects of what the appropriate bounds of divatude are. I need to work on that. I never really understood 12 year old girls.
What I do understand are character issues, and I'm trying to hone in on those things that are girly but not un-virtuous. For example, I know for a fact that Scholar gets into dramatic situations. She does the drama queen act, but in a way I know this to be a fundamental difference between boys and girls. I expect Boy to man up and not complain, get it done. I expect my wife to protest loudly the very moment something's not Kosher (so I can fix it), but I don't want my wife to be petty or create drama for its own sake. I am aware of the duality of Pioneer vs Princess and I certainly don't expect any of the Bowen women to have a sense of entitlement without effort, and yet I very much respect their desire not to get their hands dirty and scream when someone is doing them dirt. It's quite a balancing act.
Such spectrums are not always clear or without contradictions. But I have to disambiguate what I think is nature from what I think is nurture, and keep all kinds of nonsense away. I believe that if I concentrate on character, I'll be OK but the trick is to recognize how girls express character and personality while they're not yet women. Fortunately, I have the Spousal Unit who grew up in an all girl family.