Recently in Sick and Twisted Category

Thanks to the media news digest I get every morning, I was able to spend several hours following the links detailing the sordid history of How Glamour Fired Nasty Male Blogger after its readers demanded the magazine do so. Turns out some self-proclaimed narcissistic asshole had a blogging gig at Glamour, which he used as a forum for writing about (among other things) running out on a woman after she made dinner for him because he assumed that some sort of small sore on her lip meant she had herpes, and how he then went to a Foo Fighters concert with her a week later, only to use it as an opportunity to feel up some other chick, and how being SUCH a jerk has been really emotionally HARD on him, especially since he forgot to the get the phone number of the anonymous chick at the concert.

The bile rose in my throat as I read about the events from the perspective of the woman who actually bought this creep a ticket to the concert. I'm glad to say that I've never dated anyone this awful, though I was sickened to realize that some of what the guy said echoed lines I heard from my evil ex Adam.... No. Won't go there. It's in the past. Anyway, after all his asshole-ry, this guy has the nerve to claim he's still the wronged one, that he would sue this crazy bitch, except she's crazy--really crazy, and he's afraid of her and for her--if he took legal action, she might hurt someone--even herself, and that would make him sad, because he's both an asshole and a guy with a big heart! As for the other details, well, Jezebel knows and analyzes the whole situation well enough that I don't feel obligated to attempt it myself.

What I really want to know is this: how did such an obvious douchebag and really crappy writer get this gig in the first place? OK, I discovered that part of it is that he used to screw the woman who started the blog at Glamour--it still has her name in the address. But didn't any of the editors read this guy's stuff? Didn't they pay attention to both the misogynist content and the dreadful prose? He treats women like shit, and then writes shitty little entries detailing it all. And for this he got paid? Like, not just with hair care products or a year's supply of Turtle Wax, but with real money, that stuff you can use to buy toilet paper, dog food, hot dog buns, bleach and a place to live?

It's all further proof that most fashion magazines are written and published by people who hate women and consider them stupid. If you don't believe me, check out Jezebel's wonderful column Cover Lies, which decodes the hyped-up teasers on the covers of magazines into the sorry, pathetic messages they really are.

Sartre Was Right

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You know my last entry, the one about my New Year’s Resolution to convince myself that “a stranger’s a friend I just haven’t met yet”? Well, I’ve already revised that resolution, because I’ve already seen the limitations of that attitude. And it all has to do with travel, with the fact that getting back from Chicago was as stressful and difficult as getting there in the first place.

I didn’t go into the whole rigamarole here, because it was painful and not that interesting, but it took 48 extra hours to get to Chicago. Mercifully it was the first leg of my journey that was canceled or delayed each time, so I just ended up leaving two days late, sleeping in my own bed each night. This is what you get when you travel so close to the holidays, I thought, and vowed to avoid it again in the future if I could. I thought about canceling the whole trip, but I’d made my plans and had stuff to do, and anyway, I wanted to go. Given how much fun I had, I’m really glad I did.

But then there was the trip home.... I left on schedule, got to Detroit on time, sat down to wait for my connecting flight which was scheduled to depart at 10:10 p.m., and was informed at 9:30 p.m. that it was canceled.

There was one agent at the gate to rebook flights for every last passenger on a completely full flight; it took her 25 minutes to deal with the first stranded passenger, a young mother with a very unhappy, tired baby. No one begrudged the fact that this woman was taken care of first--that poor baby was really tired--but we all resented the fact that no one else showed up to help the rest of us too. Some of us called the 1-800 number, because spending 20 minutes on hold was still quicker than waiting in that line, and learned that there was not another available seat for the next 48 hours, not on any flight into the airport closest to home, or, for that matter, into any surrounding airports.

So my choices were: spend two days in the Detroit airport, or do something like fly to Atlanta on standby then fly to LaGuardia on standby then fly to Buffalo on standby and rent a car. Yeah. And then a woman in line near me said, “I guess my husband and I will just rent a car here, because we’ve got to be back tomorrow--he’s a doctor and he has to see patients. It’s not that far to drive; just four hours.”

At that point I turned to the woman next to me, who was trying to get home for her grandmother’s funeral. “Want to split the cost of a rental car?” I asked.

She paused. “Sure,” she said. “If you drive.”

Then the woman married to the doctor said, “Maybe we could all go together, if you don’t mind riding with our daughters.”

And that’s how I ended up sharing a minivan with five strangers on a four-and-a-half hour trip through some very bad weather. It beat the alternatives, I admit that. I was glad to get home. And I was also glad I’d thought carefully about how I wanted to interact with strangers.

Personal Ads Worth Reading, If Not Worth Answering

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I'm able to share this thanks to Juti, who gave me this link to the London Review of Books personal ads. A sample:

Last Valentine’s Day I sponsored a truck load of mitten crabs on behalf on my girlfriend. She left me not long afterwards, but the mitten crabs are thriving. I learned an important lesson as a result of all this, but I’m really not sure what it was. That’s where you come in, F to 35 with profound love of mitten crabs for evenings spent drinking home-made iron brew and plotting the migratory pattern of mitten crabs with amateur mitten crab enthusiast (M, 35, mercifully low sperm count). Box no. 04/05

I don't know about you, but if I knew or cared what mitten crabs are, was under 35, lived in England and felt like dating, I'd be really tempted to respond.

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.

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?

A Happy Marriage with a Good Man

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Here's something from "Confessions of a Mormon Boy: An Autobiographical One-Man Play Written, Created and Performed by Steven Fales" (SUNSTONE December 2003). After serving a mission for the Mormon Church, Mr. Fales told his female best friend he was gay, then proposed. She accepted; they married, and stayed married for six years, until his "same sex attraction," to use the Mormon term, put too great a strain on the marriage.

As the divorce got closer, I got confused and scared. I didn't know how to be alone, and I didn't want to give up "hugging time." Emily and I shared a tradition her parents had started. You know how early kids wake up? Well, we would try to sleep in--trying to put off their needs as long as we could. Then, when we couldn't put it off any longer, we'd yet out, "HUGGING TIME!" In our two children would run and jump on the bed. We would then hug and kiss and snuggle--all warm and safe and happy. How many gay men get to experience that? Let alone watch their children being born. Couldn't I give it all up for the sake of hugging time? I was going to fight for hugging time!

I turned it all on Emily. It was her fault! She never wore lingerie! [Never mind that Mormonism has its own ugly underwear faithful members are required to wear.] She wouldn't watch the better-sex videos I ordered from the back of GQ. Emily knew going into this marriage it might come to this. And now that I've finally cracked, she's going to just throw me out?! How dare she watch Will & Grace and laugh when I was trying to change! She had failed me!

Mormon Social Taboos

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Tuesday evening I got home from work and found a load of mail, including two cd's of original (and spectacularly good) music from Wayne, and the Fall 2005 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. This is one of the primary publications of liberal Mormonism, and I've subscribed (and published in it) for years. I sat down to my dinner and watched part of a movie, took care of some teaching stuff, had a bath. Then I picked up the issue of Dialogue and checked the table of contents, and found this:

GETTING OUT/STAYING IN: ONE MORMON STRAIGHT/GAY MARRIAGE

Getting Out by Ben Christensen 121

Homosexual Attraction and LDS Marriage Decisions by Ron Schow 133

Thoughts of a Therapist by Marybeth Raynes 143

Staying In by Ben Christensen 148

I gave the section a cursory scan--that was about all I could bear--then went to bed. I fell asleep quickly, stayed asleep for an hour, got up and read Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun for a class I'm teaching on war literature (because after the Dialogue thing, I needed something cheerful and lighthearted), tried to medicate myself into oblivion, eventually succeeded.

Wednesday morning I got up and reread the whole section carefully.

Here is what Ben Christensen, a 24-year-old gay Mormon married to a woman by whom he has fathered a nine-month-old daughter, has to say about the fact that he can't mention to his friends that he "can't stop thinking about this guy in religion class":" "It ticks me off that Mormon social taboos force me to lie about who I am."

Mormon social taboos.

That's what's to blame for the fact that he can't discuss his same sex attraction: Mormon social taboos.

Not Mormon doctrine. Mormon social taboos.

Nothing wrong with the doctrine--which says that homosexual behavior is a sin; no, it's just Mormon social taboos.

If you're not Mormon, you have no idea how big this issue is. Many religions venerate celibacy; many other religions tolerate it. Not Mormonism. Celibacy is unnatural; sex before marriage is, according to some leaders in the church (and one of my friends from college, one of the very few people whom I will never again speak to), a sin akin to MURDER (that's right: sex before marriage is the moral equivalent of killing someone in cold blood); and the entire reason we are sent to earth is to get bodies, have sex, and create children. So there's some room in many other religions for reconciling religious faith and homosexuality by choosing celibacy, but almost none in Mormonism--at least, not if you want to be respectable and happy.

Christensen writes of his engagement to Jessie, who knows about his attraction to men, that

Difficulties arose fairly quickly.... It bothered Jessie that she was usually more interested in kissing than I was. This bothered me too, but I didn't know what to do about it. I definitely loved her, and out of that love an attraction was growing, but to be honest it was nothing compared to the strong desire I had for men. But then it's not accurate to even compare the two feelings. My attraction to Jessie, the drive that made me want to hold her in my arms and feel her body next to mine, came entirely from my heart. On the other hand, the drive that made me want to feel a man's body next to mine was purely a libido thing. I've never allowed a physical attraction to a man to become any more than just that. Apples and oranges.

He marries Jessie for a variety of reasons, one of which is that "God told [him] to." Another is that he feels his only two alternatives are a conventional, monogamous straight Mormon marriage on the one hand and "[running] off to San Francisco and [embracing] a rampant life of unrestrained queerness" on the other.

A year later, at the ripe old age of 25, he is able to critique his earlier essay and the responses to it, by writing

Critiquing my essay, a friend asked, "Can you really separate love and sex so easily? I can't." I discarded his concern, believing I had a deeper understanding of love and sex. After all, he writes novels about missionaries who fornicate and teenaged boys who make out with cow udders. For me, the distinction between love and sex was clear. As I've become more honest with myself, though, I see that Marybeth states my dilemma more accurately when she says that people in my situation choose "between a deep love and erotic attachment plus love." This choice is a good deal more difficult than the over-simplified choice I thought I was making. By choosing heterosexual marriage, I've denied myself the experience of loving someone I am naturally attracted to and my wife the experience of loving someone who is naturally attracted to her.

Glad he figured that out eventually.

Aside from a few lines of dialogue in which Jessie reassures the author that she still wants to marry him despite the fact that he is gay, we never get to hear from her.

Ron Schow and Marybeth Raynes, the two respondents, are very respectful of the deliberate choices Ben Christensen is making at the same time they underscore the challenges and difficulties he is setting himself up for. Perhaps I might respect those choices more myself if I hadn't heard it all before, some of it almost verbatim. I'll never forget being told by the love of my life, "Look, I'm not really gay, and I still want to marry a woman. It's just that I prefer sex with men to sex with women." I could think of no response to that statement.

I'm grateful for my two closest friends on earth, both of whom are gay (formerly Mormon) men, and I'm also grateful that neither of them married me.

I'm not done.

I Never Meant to Hurt You

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Few things piss me off more than the statement, "I never meant to hurt you," since it's usually mustered in defense of some fairly heinous act.

"I never meant to hurt you... by sleeping with your best friend."

"I never meant to hurt you... by failing to explain that my estranged ex isn't always so estranged."

"I never meant to hurt you... by taking your credit cards and running up charges in excess of your student loan debt."

"I never meant to hurt you... by A) having sex with and B) impregnating you in your own bed while you were passed out from a night of heavy drinking and unable A) to give any kind of consent or B) tell me where the condoms were or C) remember a damn thing."

Well what DID you MEAN to do, asshole? What did you think your actions would result in? I hate that phrase because what it usually translates to is, "I was too lazy/selfish/stupid/mean to consider how my actions would affect you, so I just did what I wanted and hoped I wouldn't have to deal with the consequences."

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Sick and Twisted category.

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