I saw her picture first
I saw her picture first
The medico-pychological health establishment and popular media mold our sexual proclivities and cabin our instincts. I’m convinced of it. Like Cicero, I have pushed the bolder of an idea that labels of gender-sex identification are arbitrary, prejudicial and crippling, that love is far too mult-faceted, complex and unexamined to be striated into gross categories of behaviors: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. If they have a function at all, it is to be descriptive of tendencies and not modes of prejudicial placement and exclusion. And like Cicero, the bolder comes down with excuses from friends and followers that human nature is thus. That may be so, but it is important to delve into how human nature is not so natural, that there are unconscious contributors that frame our nature, confining it to a few convenient options that order behaviors neatly and conveniently for reference, analysis and mating.
An article from askmen.com entitled “Exploring Female Sexual Fantasies” written by Dr. Victoria Zdrok gives men advice about dealing with women’s fantasies during sex. She advises men not to feel intimidated if your woman is fantasizing about Brad Pitt during sex or Angelina Jolie, for that matter, since “many women are naturally bi-curious and women are much more likely to have same-sex fantasies than men.” She further advises: “If you find out that your girlfriend or wife is having such fantasies, don’t worry about her being a lezzy — take advantage of the moment and suggest a threesome. But don’t be too eager; pretend that you are actually indulging her fantasy!”
Now, she’s a doctor so she should be good authority, right? Men and women should believe her and I am sure a publication like askmen.com with a wide readership (largely men, I would presume) features an article written by a doctor for legitimacy and persuasiveness. No matter that a quick google search reveals the doc as a Penthouse centerfold and her front page images are one of the following.
Now, I am not suggesting that the good doctor is not authoritative or doesn’t know her stuff. I mean what man wouldn’t suggest a threesome upon discovering his woman has bi-curiosity and that most men lie and manipulate women into fulfilling men’s fantasies, right? What I am suggesting is that most readers would not question the source of the writing for legitimacy and take the advice from a doctor as a credible given. They would take it as fact that many women are bi-curious and women more than men have same-sex fantasies. I am no sexpert and no doctor. However, my more than five decades on Earth have proven at least circumstantially otherwise. Try trolling on Craigslist in the personals ads for men seeking men in just about any city. They vastly outnumber the women seeking women section. If men are not fantasizing about men maybe it’s because they are having the sex with other men that the women are not with other women because women are busy being mere curious fantasizers too afraid to act or maybe they are not advertising their sexual behavior or getting hooked up through other means.
I am being ridiculously reductive, but I believe Dr. Zdrog is too. It’s not just Craigslist but my lived experience talking with and reading about men from a variety of sources that leads me to conclude that probably more men are curious and fantasize about sex with other men than this article suggests and more women are more than curious, but I would not dare make a bold statement about any of that in writing, not without affording the reader the benefit of my research and findings. No, I am not overlooking the fact that askmen is not supposed to be the Atlantic Monthly of scientific research.
The point is that we take our information fed to us without examination. Publications like askmen are in the business of making money by selling exciting and eye catching ideas (duh, right?), the more biased and incomplete–suggestive–the better. No one wants to get bogged down in reading a bunch of facts and studies. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Dr. Zdrog may be right or she may be writing more from her own experience as a bisexual and self-proclaimed sexpert Penthouse featurette (whatever all of those dynamics suggest). The magic is in being published. If she is published, she must be right. If she is a doctor, she must know. I mean I am sure my GP, my family’s all purpose doc for coldsores to leukemia, knows all about sex and fantasy, right? Men can believe the bold statements about women and bisexuality (and implicitly men not being as bisexual). Women can believe it. What effect does that assumed, unverified “fact” have on incurious readers’ sexual understanding about themselves and others? If I am bi curious, is it because I have been fed that curiosity or does it derive from MY natural inclinations?
Michel Foucault, Twentieth Century French philosopher, in his work entitled The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction“> theorized that sexuality has been controlled by the medical establishment throughout history by legitimizing or norming sexual behavior through science, something humans are cultivated to accept as authoritative. Doctors of medicine and psychology analyze human sexual behaviors and label them deviant or healthy, and those “facts” are disseminated into the population as the standard against which individuals measure their own normalcy.
Nothing new here about how much our thoughts about ourselves are not truly our own, but it bears reminding that critical thinking, among other practices, can set us free-er. Sex and relationships are far more complex and should be afforded the greatest respect and devotion of thought beyond the soundbites we are used to consuming. What attracted me to the definitions of bisexuality as a concept was the umbrella of its protectorate–all manner of relational behaviors– as well as its focus on human tendencies to separate and divide. We are pattern-makers as a species. We love the feel of a pattern. Patterns tickle our brains, and we are taught to recognize them from toddlerhood on. Maybe that is the human nature behind the science of labeling.
By Israa Nasir
It was around 10pm on a summer night, a few years ago. I was waiting on Queen West for a friend. We were going to head out to a party like any other twenty-something on a weekend. A man approached me and asked if I worked in the ‘entertainment industry’. When I said no, he told me that I had a “really good look for this stuff”. He introduced himself as a film-producer and continued to tell me that his next project was looking for exotic, middle-eastern-looking women and that the pay would be really good (side note: I’m not middle-eastern). As I began to walk away while refusing his offer, he shoved a card into my hand and told me to think about it. I turned the card in my hands and saw that he was indeed a film-producer; he produced pornography, specializing in ‘oriental and…
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How does it feel to be stuffed in a box
un-Houdini-like in chain-full eye locks?
How does it feel when you try to get out,
to be sealed up despite all your shouts?
How do you see shred of light in a crack
when dignity shards slice into your back?
For pain is a powerful dictator and names
are but words with swords slain too true.
How does it feel to be told to be enough,
to be more so you become the right stuff?
How does it feel to be typecast as a “girl”
when desire opens as ship sails unfurled?
How does it feel to be set up in the scene,
your role cast as the naif of ever green?
For prison is the picture someone holds
whether true or false that can’t be denied.
How does it feel to forfeit claim to the self,
your skin adorn-worn like an animal pelt?
How does it feel to be stripped naked down,
a number-tattoo name on all that you own?
How does it feel to be absorbed in an idea
not who you are nor what you hold dear?
For murder is the mayhem of false claims
and stolen names and imagery of a body.
How does it feel? How can you feel? How?
Two plus two always equals four, right? Well, except when things don’t add up. Take, for instance, an article I read the other day. I am aware that Mr. Mafioso, on a website entitled askmen.com, writes “Get Yourself a Sexy Mistress” half in jest. I get that the article is meant for entertainment–and it is entertaining–for savvy readers who recognize farce or irony. The caricature of a mafioso with his Italian/Sicilian Brooklynese appears in words like “dames” and “goomas” and his over the top machismo is both amusing and revealing that this author does not wholeheartedly advocate what he advises–to get a mistress with all boobs and no brains who poses no threats. Or does he? Of course, the writer knows that he is endorsing an “illicit” and “immoral” relationship without compunction and one with the criteria that the woman or women, as he recommends a circle of mistresses, be the receptacle of every man’s desires: to be used and disrespected willingly, i.e., cum on face, thrown money at for sex and secrecy, though not too expensive to thumb her nose at cheap motels and backs of Cadillacs. He depends on the everyman’s dream to have a beautiful woman with big boobs and no self respect to make the proposition.
Mr. Mafioso does not really mean it. The exaggerated caricature combined with his manifesto and disclaimer about his own lack of credibility–a convicted criminal–coupled with his good grammar and writing skills clearly show that he is not who he claims to be. He is not seriously a mafioso, a criminal nor an insecure man that needs to demean women to make himself feel better about himself, to make himself feel like a man. No, he is a writer utilizing a persona clearly satiric to pose behaviors that are recognizably socially unacceptable in the guise of a familiar reprehensible figure. He knows that all men are not that extremely macho type, but most men are in some part. There is partial truth that some men are excessively insecure about their manhood and need a certain type of woman, submissive with lower self esteem than he has, to make such a man feel whole, to give him an ego adjustment. To have that beautiful woman on his arm, one desired by other men, allows him to think he impresses as a big man, lover, and spender. How else could he get the girl? And if others perceive that, it makes it true. He works the outside appearance in hopes of installing some inside assurance of adequacy, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Mr. Mafioso works the stereotypes well. I read an article today on Mayor Betsy Hodge’s (Minneapolis) blog that stated this about stereotyping: it “blunts the humanity of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation between two people in a world where more, rather than less, human connection is needed for us to move forward as a community.” She was referring to the unfounded accusation by some political figures that she was using gang signs in a photo that captured her and an African American get-out-the-vote street stomper pointing at each other, in an article satirically called “Pointergate.” She thought African Americans were being stereotyped in assuming the pointing was a gang sign.
I “point” this out not to get sensitive and politically correct minded about those who are stereotyped in Mr. Mafioso’s article–bimbos, machismos and mistresses–but to point to the truth about how we fall into stereotypes, not just make them. Stereotypes exist for reason of people practicing patterned behaviors over time, generations. If people are overexposed through media or in lived experience to African Americans making gang signs or being in gangs, they will use that patterned behavior to make conclusions about all African Americans. Not only that, they will look for confirmation that those behaviors exist even when they don’t just to make the stereotype true. It’s human nature.
Stereotypes are assigned by gender, ethnicity, race and age, mostly. While they are shortcuts that help in certain situations, to avoid dangerous people or for police investigative work, for example, they are so subtly a part of us that they are imperceptibly abusive. Stereotypes tap into the familiar, something most are drawn to like promise of the pillow and sleep. We want to be as comfortable as the somnambulant. It is difficult to take things not at face value but at examined value, actually having to pay attention, look closely, and withhold judgment until enough facts or evidence is present to make a determination after assessment of worth, trust, and/or truth. The sheer thought of the endeavor to be open and informed and equanimous is overwhelming. That’s why people are not so, generally. That’s why we rather stereotype. It’s the lazy person’s way of handling people and appeases our yearning for order and familiarity, for our egos. “See, I told you he was an asshole.” Stereotyping also makes for good jokes.
But let’s be good readers. Mr. Mafioso wants us to see that his persona is a jerk, that men should not merely use women as human toilets to cum into or for the sad scaffolding of their own nearly absent thin, weak egos. However, he is also showing us that his satire would not work if not based on certain truths about the human condition: there are men and women who treat each other the way he describes–using each other for sex, money and status–and we recognize and relate or recognize and hate that kind of behavior or both. Mr. Mafioso starts off with accepted notions of the mistress–having one is wrong/immoral–and builds on that idea that so long as you are going down the road of socially unacceptable behaviors, let’s go all the way. Here are some things that respectable citizens would not approve of: men who use women as their sperm banks and credit them with no self-respect and esteem and women who fuck for money and status and like those guys.
We laugh at ourselves. A friend texts me the other day with a screen shot of a man-filled sports bar with a dozen or so television screens transporting live or prerecorded football games, maybe a half dozen or more of them, where women with serving wench boob-filled bustiers serve the ever flowing beer. I text back, “When men fall lovingly into the arms of their mistresses–their own self-caricatures meta narratively.” He was mocking his own stereotypical picture of himself doing something he loves to do–watch a ton of football on a Sunday with a buddy in a boob bar. He is both amused at himself enjoying the actual entertainment and the entertainment of himself as stereotypically enjoying what men are stereotyped to like. I suppose I could counter with a snapshot of my teenaged daughters and I at the nail shop getting mani-pedis or our brows threaded. Except, we don’t do that. My daughters are smelly athletes with neglected nails, as am I. Perhaps we are stereotypes of the anti-stereotypical females.
Judith Butler tells us we should fight stereotypes with anti-stereotypes. I say, “Help! We cannot get out of the stereotype game!!” Because aren’t we merely instating new stereotypes that way? The anti-femme type becomes the stereotype of the butch type, even if only exercising a modicum of “boy-ish” behavior because just a hint will do for eager minds and attitudes. There is no way to escape that binary that stereotyping forces.
I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. I claim my stake as a close observer of human behavior and a superior note taker. I say the key to breaking the mold is for people to think, to stop depending on stereotypes and do the work of patience, of having an open mind and being informed. Look at Mr. Mafioso. He is a stereotype in service of exposing stereotypical behavior. He expects the majority of his readers to sheepishly identify with or bristle at what he portrays and advises. That’s called irony.
Poor readers may not pick up on that. Un-exercised minds, ones not disciplined in the rigor of observant examination, of continual curiosity and vulnerability to wonder and awe, will lazily confirm their beliefs by the existing patterns without question–for their own security. It’s unkind as well as it deepens fear and separation as the good mayor states. Here’s a close cousin of the stereotype, a cliche: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Here’s another: think before you leap. No, feel compassion before you “blunt the humanity” in you and imprison your victim with a stereotype. Thanks for the reminder Mr. Mafioso that we should get ourselves a sexy mistress–and she is our own beautiful human capacity and desire to love. Unfortunately, she is still just the side chick.