Just a quick observation about our president and Russia and then we’ll get to the meat of today’s post.
Here’s what I believe: The Russkies did not go out of their way to help Li’l Duce win the presidency because he and they were in agreement about what the two sides could do together once he got in the Oval Office. Tsar Putin and his boys don’t give a good goddamn about anything the now-President Gag can, should, or will do for them, mainly because it ain’t much.
They gamed the 2016 US election in his favor because they thought his election would throw the US into a kind of chaos — which it has — and because having a know-nothing blowhard as our leader would weaken us and turn a lot of our allies away from us (which it has).
Oh, and don’t forget to tune in this afternoon to Big Talk on WFHB 91.3 FM. My guests today will be poet Ross Gay and singer/songwriter Kacie Swierk. Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature of the Daily Local News at 5:00pm.
Now, then, the meat….
The Entrée: We’re All In On It
Let’s begin with the obvious: We’re all guilty. Every one of us. Men.
Guilty. I am, too. Because I am a man.
The for-profit media rage for workplace sexual harassment is a good shake out, a necessary clearing. As the lyric poet wrote, “You may expel Nature with a pitchfork….”
It is to be dearly hoped that Horace‘s kicker line — “But Nature always returns” — won’t play here and now.
We men have been the beneficiaries of a stacked deck, the rules of which males wrote with little or no consultation with fully one half the participants in the game.
The steps to the physical courtship dance were laid down by men. Women — those who wished to engage with men in the act of bonking* — had to play by those rules.
[ * A usage of science journalist Mary Roach.]
Men, throughout the millennia, have forced sex upon women, raped them, molested them, cajoled them, lied to them, and broken every standard of decency — written by men, natch — in order to get a single night’s pleasure, or a whole series of them.
And boys and men have been taught most such taking is “manly.”
Throughout the centuries, many women came to believe this is the right and natural way as well. When you’re hammered day and night with a message, no matter if it resounds within you or not, that message takes root.
The rules were written by men because we had the muscle. We were able to take what we wanted — much as governments do to other governments, and business titans do to each other, as well as to their laborers and consumers. Strength, raw power, physical stature, plus wealth, have won out in pretty much every field of human endeavor since the moment we became human.
I like to think that now, with civilization advancing, fitfully, often taking two steps back for every one ahead, but in the long view of history moving forward toward reason and civility, the sinew factor may be losing sway.
Still, the rules of the game of sex continue to be a male conception. Men in power believe they have a divine right to sex from the women “under them,” a king’s prerogative. CEOs figure a woman who wants to advance will surely like to see him fondle his junk. Branch managers want to establish who’s boss and the best way to do it is to make a woman sexually subservient. It’s only right and natural.
Sex between men and women largely has been positioned not as an act between equals but a seizing by the mighty from the weak. Women who like sex are considered weak. Men, robust, impressive.
Even those of us males who fancy ourselves enlightened and sensitive have been tainted by this asymmetry. All we’ve been taught, from our street corner chats, our porn, the heart-to-hearts we’ve had with our parents and our pals, our priests and our social arbiters, is that a woman who fucks a lot is, at very least, suspect. A man who does the same is…, well, vigorous.
I’d like to pretend I’ve ignored this law-of-the-jungle bullshit, but I haven’t. Not really. When you’re hammered day and night….
I too have made offensive remarks. I too have leaned on women — more indirectly than otherwise, but still — in order to get near them. I too have touched women inappropriately. I’ve committed most, if not all, the sins we’re reading about in today’s papers.
That said, I consider what’s happening these days to be a bright new morning in relations between men and women — between me and women.
Why? Because, at long last, women have achieved the status and the power to begin writing some of the rules. Because women hold elective offices. They write news stories. They are branch managers and CEOs. That’s what’s happening today. Women are saying, Enough! Here’s the way it’s going to be.
They don’t want to see our junk flopped out in the office or the back room. They don’t want the boss to extort sex from them. The don’t want strangers’ hands creeping up the backs of their shirts or sneaking between their thighs.
They’re taking charge.
It’s about goddamned time. Let’s celebrate it.
A Hint Of What It’s Like
I once was forced by threat of violence — a weapon was involved — to engage in a sex act with a person. It happened one night as I walked on Belmont Ave. just off Broadway on Chicago’s North Side. I was led to a gangway.
The person who did the forcing was, for that moment, superior to me. I was robbed of all will and choice. That person was the king, possessing the prerogative, and I was weak. I had no recourse.
It happened just the once, so I was able, with ease, to compartmentalize it, to stash it away in some hidden pigeonhole of my memory. I’ve thought about it now because, I’m guessing, that’s the way women — too many of them — feel. Weak, with no recourse.
It’s a lousy way to feel. And women are placed in that position every day of their lives.
That’s why I want to celebrate this re-writing of the rules. With luck, within a generation or so, few women will have to go through life feeling this way.