Friday, April 28, 2017

Is This a Dagger That I See Before Me?

by Jean Roberta

So far, no one here has interpreted “edgy” writing as involving blades of various kinds. Swords, switchblades, ritual knives (athames), skewers, and various other tools or weapons are great props to use in melodrama, and I find them more versatile than guns. The appearance of an object with an edge and/or a point always raises the tension and introduces several possibilities. The famous literary theory that if a gun is introduced in the first scene, it must be fired later in the narrative applies equally well to a blade, but in that case, it could be used for Shakespearean swordplay, a dastardly secret stabbing, or for cutting the cake at a surprise birthday party.

The following piece was written early in this century, and it was inspired by my discussions with two fellow-members of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. The male one, “Cervo” (an academic, playwright, poet and novelist, unfortunately now deceased) claimed to have “faith in metaphor” as a means of understanding the world.

In an exchange with the female one (Shiloh) about Freudian theory (in which she seemed well-versed), I asked her if it was true that Freud thought all women were masochistic. She claimed that Freud wondered (didn’t assert) whether there had to be some vaguely masochistic tendency at work “in order for the mind to accept the idea that pleasure comes from being penetrated.”

I answered: “I’ve often thought the answer to this question depends on the metaphor one uses (if any) to conceive of fucking. If it is thought of as a knife in the guts, then obviously it is likely to be considered unappealing. If it is thought of as a sausage in the hungry mouth, then it makes more sense.”

She responded: “And then the question would be... which analogy is sexier?”

I didn’t accept her implication, and I wrote the following story as a response. It was first published in 2002 in a marvelous magazine of dark fantasy with beautiful artwork, Cthulhu Sex from New York, which went defunct (as great publishing venues so often do), and then in Problem Child (2003), an experimental zine produced by Lori Selke of Oakland, Calif, which lasted for two issues (as far as I know).

This story, which I originally thought of as an unpublishable private joke, might even be published a third time. A group of very young and eager-looking writers/editors/artists in Toronto (judging from their photos) plan to launch a new fantasy mag, Augur, with a Canadian focus, and they are asking for reprint stories for a teaser issue. I sent them three, including this one. I await their decision.

Awakening

I am a teenager, and the Spirit of the Sixties (actually, the recorded sound of “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five) is blasting all around me. The whole room rocks to the beat as I breathe in the combined smells of sweat, hairspray and Jade East men’s cologne; all the guys think it gets us like Spanish Fly or something. My stretch pants grip my whole lower half like a pushy date. I want to dance, and this makes me angry. My partner has to be male, and I have to wait for him to ask me: stupid rules. Stupid world. I want something cold to drink, I want someone to see me for who I am (even if everyone can see the teasing in my hair and the pimples under my makeup), and I want to Do It soon.

Christie digs me in the ribs. She thinks it’s her sacred duty to find me a boyfriend, and she thinks that’s all we can ever be for each other: boyfriend-finders. “J,” she tells me, “he’s looking at you. He’s got a neat name, Blade Steele. His parents must be rich.”

“Blade?” I ask. “That’s his name?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s so masculine and classy. Rich people give their kids names like that.” Or crazy people, I think. Maybe cartoonists. “He’s got his own car,” Christie tells me. “He’s looking at you.” I try not to notice, but it’s hard. Hard-up, that’s what I must be to care what some boy from the South End thinks of me. Guys like that usually assume I’m easy. I can’t afford to let my reputation get any worse. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” sings Aretha from the speakers, “find out what it means to me.” Maybe it’s already too late for me to get any respect from anybody, ever. I could scream, or cry.

“Hey,” he insinuates, looking at me as if he has known me for years. “Come and dance.” (Or dance and then come? Come while dancing?) He just assumes I’m willing, and he’s right. All my friends and his friends are watching, and I can’t turn him down. Then someone worse would ask me, and everybody would say things behind my back no matter what.

I can get into the beat, no matter who I’m with. He’s a better dancer than the other guys I know. He smiles as if he likes me. I guess I can’t hate a boy I don’t know very well yet. He’s not bad-looking, even handsome in a way. He has a nice nose - “chiseled” is what that’s called, I think - and laughing eyes. The smell of Jade East comes at me in gusts. Having a boyfriend with his own car would really help my reputation.

Slow dance, oh my god. He’s holding me tight, letting me know what he wants. I’m supposed to believe this feeling is a sign of Love. I’m supposed to be a Nice Girl, that’s why. My breasts are mashed against his hot chest and his sweaty hands seem to be burning through my back like brands. He’s breathing into my neck, breathing hard. I can feel the hardness through his pants, so I pull away. I’m sure everyone is watching. I can’t stand it. We have to get out of here.

“Come on,” he murmurs. I don’t even bother to tell anybody where I’m going. Fuck them. That’s probably what they’ll all do later anyway, but then they talk about me.

It’s cool outside, and I can breathe again. His arm is around my shoulders as if he wants to take care of me. I know better, but I want to believe in this. My prince, my shield against the stupid world. The one guy who sees things the way I do, and who loves me beyond my wildest dreams. Yeah, sure.

His car is a Chevy. It looks like a family car to me, but I don’t care if it belongs to his dad. For now, we’re the only ones in it. I know he’s taking me to a place where I shouldn’t be, where my parents don’t want me to go. They don’t want to admit that I’m a woman (not legally, but as a certain famous writer once said, the law is an ass) and I have rights.

The neighborhood is quiet, with big lawns. Not exactly rich, but respectable. Unlike me. He pulls into the garage. “My parents aren’t home,” he grins. Of course; I should have known. This is my cue to - what? Scream? Run down a dark street to find some guy in a car who will drive me home without wanting anything in return? I already know what’s going to happen. I agreed when I got into his car. I guess it’s true that I’m a born slut. I just hope he won’t get me pregnant.

He leads me into a basement room and turns on the light. It’s a red lightbulb in the ceiling. “I bet you’ve never seen a real man before, baby,” he tells me. “Look at this.” He sits on a day-bed and rips his shirt off over his head, proud to show me his sweaty chest with a trickle of hair down the middle. He unbuckles his belt, watching me watching him. Too bad for him that guys can’t get paid to do strip-tease. He pulls his tight jeans down over his thighs. His jockey shorts are sticking up at a strange angle. When he pulls them off, I see why.

It’s actually growing out of his crotch, with a nest of brown curly hair at its base. The red light bounces off it as he moves. It looks about a foot long, and both sides of it are sharp. The point looks as if it could pierce through the thinnest or thickest of objections. I can’t believe this! I don’t believe it. I know it’s not real. But he made it real. I know that too.

“Let me go!” I shriek, even before he grabs me.

“Hey, baby,” he soothes me. “Come on, just sit down here with me a minute. Don’t be like that.”

“You did it,” I tell him, as if he didn’t know. “You made it that way. It was all right before, it was flesh and blood.” I know I’m wasting precious breath, but I want him to know that I know he has brought a stupid symbol into the physical world. “You creep!” I shriek, wasting more breath. “Why?”

I can’t get free from his grip. “Hey baby, I didn’t force you,” he tells me. “You’ve been begging for it. I know you like them big and hard.”

“I didn’t know!” I scream into his face. I could scream my lungs out, and he wouldn’t hear me. I don’t want to cry. “I thought you were like all the other guys!”

He laughs aloud. “How do you know what the other guys are like, honey? You’re a bad girl, aren’t you? That’s what they told me. Now you think you can make a fool of me, but I don’t take that. You can’t back out now.”

In years to come, this line of argument will be called Patriarchal Morality. At the moment, however, I am stuck. As I am deathly afraid I will be.

Either I will be alive tomorrow, or I won’t be. It’s that simple. It’s not theoretical to me. My pussy feels hot and swollen, hungry and slightly sore, like - like something else I can barely remember. So mote it be.

“I guess you’re right, Blade,” I tell him, carefully moving closer. Of course he thinks I’ve accepted his view of things, no matter what it’s going to cost me. He pulls me onto the day-bed beside him and slides a hand inside my pants, wanting to explore me with his fingers first.

I bet he has no idea where my new teeth are located.

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7 comments:

  1. Oh Jean! How perfect!

    Did you share this with Shiloh and Cervo? What did they think?

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    1. Yes, I posted it in Storytime when it was new, and if memory serves me, they were both amused. :)

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  2. Wow, I love this so much, and I'm glad you told the back story first. I love this story as a rebuttal, and I also love the last second reversal. It doesn't feel too abrupt and it made the air whoosh right out of me. I also love the vivid description of that sensation of having to helplessly go with a dude, and the just-below-the-surface queerness at the outset. So, amazing.

    One other thing. You said: If it is thought of as a knife in the guts, then obviously it is likely to be considered unappealing. If it is thought of as a sausage in the hungry mouth, then it makes more sense.

    And I love that, because I remember a blog conversation sometime last year that was profoundly irritating to me, where people were talking about the meaning of woman-as-penetrated with no apparent awareness of the metaphor, as you describe.

    This story is heart-stopping, and so smart about those deep Freudian metaphors.

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  3. Wow. Didn't see it coming. I have read teeth-in-the cunt scenarios before, a metaphor of woman as predator, but this was an entirely natural consequence that really hit the mark.

    Will mention my own experience when at record hops as a teenager: I was, believe it or not, pretty outgoing in most dynamics with friends. The one exception would be getting up the gumption to ask a girl to dance. In reference to waiting for a boy to ask you because it's convention to do so. Well, I could easily wait until the last song to ask a girl I'd had a crush on the entire evening. In fact, I used to wait for the "ladies' Choice" slow songs so someone would ask me in lieu of taking a chance I'd be refused. At least the girl wanted to dance with me.

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  4. Brilliant! It reminds me of ideas I've seen of turning the penetration thing upside down, in that rather than conquering by penetrating, the male is consumed by the vagina, trapped, and released greatly diminished. Who's conquered now?

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  5. Thank you for your comments, Annabeth, Daddy X, and Sacchi! Please forgive me for being so late to respond. Stuff was happening all weekend at the local queer club, including an ocean-themed drag show, "Release the Kraken" (partly sponsored by Kraken rum) which included the "crowning" of new Mr. and Miss Gay for the year, plus victory brunch on Sunday -- and Mirtha and I have to make sure the club is reasonably clean, before & after events. I'll continue in next message.

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  6. I'm so glad my surrealistic story about the teen dating scene of the 1960s makes sense to all of you! Unfortunately, I doubt whether the credibility gap between boys and girls (or young men and young women) has changed much since then. As my narrator explains, I really wanted to find a guy who would find me interesting, would show some empathy, and not damage my reputation any further by telling all his buddies how far he got with me. Most of the boys I met seemed to think girls were obsessed with social status (esp. as represented by cars) and really wanted strong, confident (i.e. pushy, controlling) boyfriends with big, hard cocks, even if they could cause physical damage, and/or pregnancy. More honest conversations might have helped bridge the gap.

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