September 2005 Archives

The Exclusive Territory of Straight Men

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There are lots of posts on this topic. They are, in order of posting, Mormon Social Taboos, A Happy Marriage with a Good Man, the post you're reading right now, The Society of Buggers, Brokeback Mountain, Old Testament Weirdness, It's Not Just Mormon Men Who Don't Want to Lose the Beard, The SL Tribune Joins the Chorus, Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (the introduction), Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (the excerpt), Marriage Manifesto, The Ex-Exes from Exodus and the Agency of Gay Men, Sex, Misogyny and My Blog Stats, Narcissism and Misogyny, and Really Long Comment, In Which I Disavow the Cow Part.

Let me quote a paragraph from the essay by Ben Christensen in the most recent Dialogue that upset me so.

I don't understand people who call themselves liberal and progressive but are threatened by homosexual reparative therapy enough to try to stop people like me from having that option. In my mind, this kind of thinking is anti-progressive. The whole point of the civil rights and women's liberation movements was to allow blacks, women, and other minorities to break free of what had been their traditional roles. We live in a world where it's okay for blacks to do what was once considered "white" and for women to do what was once considered "male"--get an education, have a career, etc. Why then is it not politically correct for a gay man to venture into what is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men--to marry a woman and have a family--if that's what he chooses to do?

God, where do you even start with a paragraph like that.

I guess I'll do this sentence by sentence.

Mormons, Male Feminists, and Sex

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This post continues ideas discussed in three earlier posts: Ripe Peaches and Peach Schnapps, Venus Pandemos, and Male Mormon Feminists-–it's Part II of MMF, actually. For background information on all these topics, see Mormon Links.

When the panelists had finished and the session was opened to questions, I was (I think) the first one out of my seat. I thanked the guys for their comments, complimented them on having the courage and the conviction to declare themselves feminists, and said something like this--or rather, this is a more coherent version of what I wish I'd said:

"I've spent most of my adult life in academia in the humanities, which is someplace where almost everyone, male and female, is a feminist. In a graduate program in English or film studies or philosophy or the likes, it's hard to find a man who doesn't call himself a feminist--probably partly because he knows if he doesn't espouse it, chances are good he won't get laid very often. But despite these guys' declarations that they're feminists, they often treat the women they're involved with very badly."

I have dated enough myself and watched enough episodes of Sex and the City that I feel safe asserting that in conventions of heterosexual courtship, seduction and dating, men still retain most of the power of acting and choosing, while women have the role of waiting, and accepting or refusing. It is generally the man who is supposed to say, after a date or after sex, "I'll call you," and it is the man who is generally supposed to call. Certainly, there are women who are take the initiative in sexual matters. But there was only one Samantha to the other three more traditional, passive women in the cast of S&tC--it is not only Mormon women who are trained to be objects rather than subjects.

Mormon Links

In case you want some background information on Mormonism, including its beliefs about gender and sexuality within the family, here are some links.

A Necessary Ingredient for Enjoying Art

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I love Grendel by John Gardner so much I wish I'd written it.

It is, of course, a retelling of the Beowulf saga from the point of view of the monster who wrecks Hrothgar's meadhall and feasts on his men.

I love it because it's a fiercely intellectual book, concerned with truth and ultimate meaning. I love it because it has so many fabulous lines. I love it because the dragon Grendel visits is one of the best characters ever created in all of literature.

I love it because plot is never the point: if you've read Beowulf, you know how Grendel ends: Beowulf rips Grendel's arm off, and Grendel goes off to bleed to death in the woods. So you don't read it for what happens, you read it for how it happens, and why what happens matters.

I get annoyed when people refuse to know anything beyond the initial set-up of a book they want to read or a movie they want to watch. "Don't tell me! Don't ruin the end for me!" they shout, covering their ears, as if ignorance is a necessary ingredient for enjoying art. If I feel I'm getting too caught up in wondering what will happen next to appreciate things in a text like musicality of language and construction of scene, I'll read the end so I can just dispense with the suspense and concentrate on enjoying the pages before the end, rather than racing through to the end.

Easy Chocolate Cream Pie

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Today I went to an English department picnic and I brought along my friend Hugo, who is visiting for the weekend. My contribution to the day's festivities was a chocolate cream pie, which Hugo really liked--he said it was "orgasmic"--and I promised him the recipe. Then I thought I might as well make the recipe available to anyone who wants it, so here it is:

Ripe Peaches and Peach Schnapps

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Venus Pandemos

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In 1987, when I was finishing up my bachelor's degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona (at that point I was still primarily a poet), a beloved teacher and friend loaned me a copy of Little Star, Mark Halliday's first book. I loved it. It was one of my major influences. The title poem is about wondering who sang lead on some 1950s pop song. Halliday acknowledges that the poem


is not the first time I've tried to
get a rock-&-roll song into a poem and it won't be
the last; it is my need to call out
This counts too!

After reading Halliday, I began writing all kinds of poems with rock & roll songs in them, or inspired by rock & roll songs; I wrote a poem about the video to Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" and I wrote a bunch of poems about death by hanging inspired largely by "Gallows Pole" by Zeppelin and I wrote a poem called "1812 Overture" but despite the reference to Tchaikovsky the poem is really about how much I love the song "Close to Me" by the Cure, how sad I always was when the song ended, how it was over far too quickly.

Because I was poor, I never bought Little Star; I just returned my teacher's copy after reading it once, then got a copy from the library and kept it until I finished my master's degree four years later. And then it went out of print and I didn't think much about it, aside from the poem "Why the HG is Holy," which is one of my all-time favorite poems.

But a few months ago, I mentioned to Tom how much I loved that book, and as he had a copy, he loaned it to me. And I got to reread a few of the poems I had rather forgotten about, including the longest poem (seven pages) in the collection, which is called "Venus Pandemos."

When I first read that poem, I thought it was funny, mostly because I didn't have much personal reference for what it was talking about. I was an incredibly naive Mormon virgin who had little experience with dating and had never been in love, and though at that point I quit riding the bus to campus because I found enduring the catcalls and whistles I got while I waited at the bus stop on a busy street too upsetting, I still laughed at this poem, thought he was saying something clever. In fact, I once read much of it aloud to one of my friends who ran the women's center before she stopped me, almost heaving with distress. The poem begins


What am I going to do with my desire
for women?

To be more specific, what am I going to do
with my interest in women's bodies?

Male Mormon Feminists

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At Sunstone this year, I attended a panel entitled "Advancing Feminist Sensibilities among Mormon Men." The abstract read

Why aren't there more visible and vocal male feminist voices within the Mormon community? The all-male panel will talk about their journeys toward becoming feminists, the challenges they face in maintaining feminist sensibilities in Mormon culture, and ideas they see for encouraging other Mormon men to take more active feminist stances. Audience discussion will follow.

The panel had four members, and I suspect it was rather hard to fill. One of the panelists was 30-something; one was 40-something; I'm guessing one was 50-something and I'm pretty sure the last was 60-something, so there was a decent range. All four panelists were still active participants in the church, though they might describe themselves as more or less devout.

I couldn't help but be thrilled that someone had wanted to put this panel together. I couldn't help but be thrilled that the topic was being discussed. I couldn't help but be thrilled that there are Mormon men who are willing to call themselves feminists.

All four men said interesting, valuable things. There was a lot of talk about how having a daughter broadened and deepened these men's appreciation of the challenges women face. They talked about a commitment to justice and a willingness to be proactive in their efforts to improve the lives of all women on the planet.

What they didn't talk about was sex.

Going to the Movies

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In the late 1980s, I maintained subscriptions to two film series at the University of Arizona. The first met on Mondays and showed classic American films, and is where I acquired my Gary Cooper festish, after seeing Pride of the Yankees, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Morocco--especially Morocco, where he and Marlene Dietrich are just so freakin' HOT. Friday at 5:30 was the foreign film series, which is where I first saw The Seventh Seal.... I loved Max Von Sydow; I loved the chess game with death; I related to the end, where the girl is just so glad life is over. (It was not a happy time in my life.) The Friday series was also where I first encountered those bizarre movies done by Ealing Studios in the 1950s and 1960s: things like The Knack and I'm All Right Jack–-something about their resolute, eccentric Britishness made them seem more foreign than Bergman.

The art house theater in Tucson was the called the Loft, and was housed in a tiny white building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and.... Fremont, I think.... In any event, it was almost entirely swallowed by the UofA campus and has since been torn down. It had been a porno theater for a while, and well before that it was the first Mormon church in Tucson, attended by my great-grandparents and their children. I went there a lot in its art house days, and I also hit a lot of dollar theaters.

I did this partly because I really liked movies and partly because I was lonely and bored. By 1987 I was in the weird liminal state, preparing to leave the Mormon church but not yet out of it. I was too clearly dissatisfied with the church to be attractive company to many people in it, and I was too clearly obsessed with the church to be attractive company to many people outside it.

Watching Football

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I guess I'm not so much "one of the boys" as I might have thought, since it turns out some of the boys have been getting together to watch football, and didn't invite me.

I found this out last week when Craig, another colleague, asked if I had been invited to SBJ's house that evening to watch football. I had not. Craig then asked, "Do you watch football?"

"If by ‘watching football' you mean, am I willing to be a in room with a television tuned to a football game, the answer is yes," I said, "as long as there's other stuff to do, like drink beer and eat, and as long as no one expects me to care about the game, and as long as there are other people who also don't care about the game, and who will ignore the game entirely whenever an interesting topic of conversation comes up." I've been to a couple of Super Bowl parties that fit that description, and they were fun. "But," I continued, "if by ‘watching football' you mean that I actually pay attention to the game, then no, I don't watch football."

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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