Some disclosure: I failed “girl” all through my formative years; never learned to use make-up, never belonged to a clique (not even a clique of losers), never had a clue how to pass. That said, I’m a childless straight white married-thirty-seven-years female. I’ve escaped the other end of the gantlet of gender expectations onto the landfill of middle-aged women, where nobody looks at you.
I’m not whining. I’ve gained an incredible amount of freedom. Though I flunked “girl,” I had more than a desirable share of sexual attention. When I turned forty and the men stopped looking (and talking and touching), the women started. Now I’m invisible. Thank God, thank God.
I see more. I have decades more experience. And I have a secret weapon I never expected to get: Mom power. For someone childless, this is like inheriting a lightsaber. I’m now the same age as many people’s moms (or grandmas), and younger people endow my gray hairs and wrinkles with whatever fear of Mom they secretly harbor. Mind, you can still chop your own toe off with a lightsaber. But, damn.
I’m also a romance novel writer. (My romance writer friends laugh when I say this, because my books aren’t pink enough. “F” in “girl.”) Still, I adhere strongly to the controversial sexual-political position that makes romance fiction so explosive a topic even in women-only conversations: that men and women can happily cohabit in a lifelong committed relationship. You don’t have to be homosexual or a radical feminist to disagree. You just have to be divorced.
A big part of the mainstream romance genre is an acceptance of conventional gender roles, at least overtly. This hero may have the trappings of the alpha male but he’s “trainable.” This heroine attracts the ultra-conventionally-masculine hero by being different, in that she fights the gender stereotyping of her culture. (I don’t know how the gay romance genre handles the gender stereotypes; should be interesting.) In short, part of romance novel heroism means doing combat with the stereotypes. Like most of my fellow romance writers, I don’t overtly challenge gender binary assumptions in my romances. I play along with them.
So when I started playing with Coed Demon Sluts, a new series spinning off my Slacker Demons, I knew I would be doing something to gender. But what?
Enter into this train of thought Lous CK, the comic. Here’s a clip I’ve posted and reposted since I ran across it on Facebook. My condensed takeaway from his hilarious rant about the difference between men and women: “You get to have those thoughts. I have to have them.”
This may not be news to you, but he blew my head wide open.
I thought about the decades I’d spent—really my entire life from age three up to forty-five, thanks to my father’s proclivities—recognizing thousands and thousands of times (told you I flunked “girl”) that, oh yeah, this behavior can draw unwelcome attention. Breathing got me unwelcome attention. (Maybe that was why I kept flunking. It was pass and freeze for life, or fail continually and get to live.)
Now, thanks to Louis CK, I thought for the first time about what life might be like in a body that nobody might ever notice—but that wouldn’t let me alone sexually. What if my own body continually threw sexual thoughts up into my head? What if the world is “just this big PUSSY” everywhere, inescapable, intrusive, reductive, mind-battering, demanding, focus-scattering?
My feminist brain was offended at this reductive interpretation of a bit less than half the human race.
My romance writer brain said a great big, “Oh.”
…I see some nice guys unwillingly driven by their hormones. Guys fighting their own bodies. Guys trying to live lives guided by mind and principle and bonds of affection and obligation, at war with biology, which won’t fucking leave them alone. Even when the men are gay and don’t want to fuck PY12, they’re still afraid of Mom, because who isn’t? And you can’t get away from her. She’s everywhere. By trying really hard you can pretend she’s invisible and succeed fairly well, as long as she isn’t actually your mom.
Short version: Mother Nature really screwed with males.
It explains a lot about patriarchy, homosocial cultures, and the bang-halt dominance thing that many of us find so trying.
All you Y chromosomes have no doubt been yawning, which I totally understand. But I’m gobsmacked. This is going to do me a lot of good on the next few romances I write.
I think I just figured out that one more thing I can do to mess with the gender binary (covertly, covertly) is to endow a whole pack of women with a male-type hormonal drive…after they’ve been brought up without it.
Huh. Every time I think I’ve run out of things to say about sex, I get another idea. Thank you, Louis CK. That shit is gold.