home Arts & Literature, Humor, Sex, Society On sexiness: Are you goddamn kidding me?

On sexiness: Are you goddamn kidding me?

I meant to respond to Steven ING a long time ago; unfortunately, I’m a slovenly mess with zero personal accountability. My unvarying response to life’s smallest challenges is to gasp, start panting, and hopelessly flop onto my side like exhausted, fat dog being chased up stairs. So that’s why it’s taken me this long to respond to the most interesting comment on my “Sexy Moves that Make You Want to Stab Yourself” article. Steven ING said:

“You have a lot of rules about being sexy and most of them seem to be very politically correct ones. Is there no sexual fascination that is at all dark for you or is it all of the responsible, nonsexist, American feminist approved type? It seems to me that the book title “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream” states perfectly that not all of our fantasies (some of which are set to film) are so correct and that many of our sexiest fantasies (also sometimes set to film) are exciting precisely because they are SO wrong. Art often illuminates what the rest of us are afraid to say aloud. This doesn’t make Art right…but at least we’re talking about the repressed and the forbidden. You seem to delight in tearing down without taking the chance of explaining what you think is sexy; please do sometime.”

Now, I started maybe 50 different replies, but I couldn’t figure out how to address all the different ways this made me rhetorically ask “Are you goddamn kidding me??” without doing it on a line-by-line basis. I ended up having a lot more to say than I thought, and for that, I really have to thank Steven ING. For whatever that’s worth.

“You have a lot of rules about being sexy and most of them seem to be very politically correct ones.”

I think “rules” is a pretty strong word, don’t you? But I can see where he’s coming from, and perhaps, yes, I need a few requirements to be met before I consider something even mildly erotic.

It’s mostly just the basics; things like “nothing makes me think I’ve stumbled into some sort of brutal, no-holds barred martial arts tournament,” or “no Jack Nicholson choking a woman into submission and then humping the daylights out of her on the kitchen counter.” Call me cookie-cutter if you like, but I don’t enjoy the idea of combining force or anger with sex. Maybe I’m failing to admit to my own darker desires, or maybe I just don’t need to sublimate my insecurities and deep-seated psychoses into a pelvic reenactment of the invasion of Normandy.

“Is there no sexual fascination that is at all dark for you or is it all of the responsible, nonsexist, American feminist approved type?”

I was honestly shocked by this sentence. I think that we come from very different places in life, because I know he meant to imply some sort of criticism here. The problem is that, upon reflection, none of those descriptors actually sounds bad to me.

Responsible: How is this a negative? I understand that when we were kids, it wasn’t especially cool to worry about finishing your homework or returning books to the library in a timely fashion. But we’re talking about acts that impact another person on physical and emotional levels, and can very possibly result in a new life. To me, failing to take things like that into account, even a little, isn’t so much “fascinating” as “morally bankrupt.”

Non-sexist: Here’s a funny story. I was installing burning oil traps in the staircase to repel invaders, and I was kind of kicking around the idea of enforcing foot-binding on all the womenfolk, and then I remembered what century we live in.

American: I’m not sure where he’s going with this. Is he intimating that my bedspread has a map of the U.S. on it, and I recite all 50 states and their capitals during intercourse? Is he suggesting that the only mood music I play is Glass Houses? Is he accusing me of telling my girlfriend that, in the event of a pregnancy, she had damn well better give birth to bald eagles? Someone please clarify.

Feminist approved: Until I formulate a questionnaire and poll the members of NOW, or manage to resurrect Emma Goldman, just refer to “Non-sexist,” see above.

So as you can see, I don’t really know how to respond to this part of his comment, other than with a hesitant “I…certainly hope so?”

“It seems to me that the book title “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream” states perfectly that not all of our fantasies (some of which are set to film) are so correct and that many of our sexiest fantasies (also sometimes set to film) are exciting precisely because they are SO wrong.”

The first time I read this, I thought he was seriously referencing a source. Upon second glance… yep, he’s just quoting the book’s title. You see, “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream” is actually an in-depth analysis of the deep-seated drives and emotional circuitry that underlies antisocial and violently psychotic behavior, written by an eminent forensic psychiatrist, and published by the APA. I think it’s giving the benefit of the doubt to assume that he just saw this book title once and thought it sounded cool. After all, can you imagine if he actually had read the book, and was still making this point? You’d pretty much have to assume that his Cosmo’s Top 10 List of Turn-Ons includes things like “revving up a chainsaw” and “dirty hockey mask.”

But the book (title) isn’t the issue. I read through the next bit and really gave it some thought; this is my understanding of what he’s getting at:

Unless I’m mistaken, you’re talking about the purple area, signifying the intersection of exciting “non-wrong” fantasies and “wrong” fantasies. I went ahead and divided “wrong” fantasies into “more” and “less exciting” as well, because it makes logical sense, and because I think the funniest aspect of all of this is the “less exciting wrong fantasies” subset. It’s the sort of fantasy where you say things like “I guess I’ll f*ck this cantaloupe, but I’m not really into it.”

“Art often illuminates what the rest of us are afraid to say aloud. This doesn’t make Art right…but at least we’re talking about the repressed and the forbidden.”

The fact that he capitalizes “Art” like that literally makes me cringe; I get the feeling that the sort of “Art” he’s talking about is the kind that I positively despise. “Art” congratulates itself for opening up the eyes of the less enlightened. “Art” is preoccupied with being provocative and noisy, and it confuses being obnoxious with being courageous. It’s the sort of 9th grade, attention-starved theater geek mentality that I’m always surprised people haven’t outgrown.

Besides, isn’t “Art” open to interpretation and criticism? Isn’t that the best part, because it gives comparative lit majors have something to bitch about? My interpretation of those movies in that article is that they were the silly, emotional finger paintings of coffee house goofballs with funny hats and penchants for beat poetry circles. My criticism is that my libido didn’t know whether to laugh or lock itself in a panic room and shiver under a desk until help arrived. I think that’s fair.

“You seem to delight in tearing down without taking the chance of explaining what you think is sexy; please do sometime.”

He’s right. I do criticize more often than not. It’s the path of least resistance for me, because I love jokes, and those sort of require making fun of something or other. In that sense, it’s a little lazy, but the truth is that “tearing down” lends itself more to my writing style. As of right now, most of the serious stuff I write turns my stomach, and I erase it 5 minutes after I finish it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not yet the sort of writer I want to be.

He’s also right in that I never do actually mention what I consider to be sexy. Since the point of the Sexy Movies article was to make fun of ridiculous, artsy-fartsy movie picks, the thought never crossed my mind, but that’s easily rectified. A lot of it probably depends on context and specifics. For instance, the vast majority of female extras in R&B videos terrify me. To me, they’re an intimidating storm of vicious dance moves, booty clappin’, and the sort of abs that could be used to forge Zeus’ lightning. An erotic encounter with one of them would be like getting harassed by the smoke monster from “Lost” – only set to a Timbaland beat.

Of course, that isn’t always true, is it? Because if Rihanna decided that there was nothing sexier than crushing student debt and a working knowledge of Queen’s entire discography, I would literally break down and start weeping for joy. Two years after our torrid love affair ended, Morgan Freeman would be the narrator in a movie based on my life, but the underlying theme would be the transcendence of the human spirit. It would be like if “Life is Beautiful” had been produced by Vivid Entertainment.

I’m digressing a bit, so to summarize: there are very few hard and fast (1) rules. But I would have to say that the most enduring thing, the one that really gets me, is just knowing that the other person wants to be there as much as I do. As a rule, I very much like mutualism. It’s not artistic, and it’s not “dark.” It’s not even especially clever-sounding, but it’s as honest as I know how to be.

[1] I struggled for hours over how to fit in a “hard and fast” joke that wouldn’t morally compel me to punch myself in the mouth.

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Joe Sapien

Joe Sapien is a regular columnist. He is currently floundering through grad school and running up debt. He never got to be a bully as a child, but he would have been pretty good at it.

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