Monday, September 24, 2012

Forty-Five: Inspirational

A girl I once knew, a recent graduate at LSE, an expat trying to make her way in London's East End, posted an image at her Tumblr the other day--- a poster that says in large block letters against a background of the sea "REMEMBER---- YOU are someone's reason to masturbate!I know what the poster is trying to do, trying to say--- it's meant to be inspirational for her. She's a gym rat, and she's had body image issues most of her life. The poster is mean to remind her to spend more time on the treadmill, to be more determined about weights and body sculpting. It's there to remind her to keep working out, to remind her that she can dominate the fantasies of the buff, washboard-abs men she fancies, that she can be the girl that gym rat men sigh over. 

The poster is inspirational for her, but it's not something anyone male could've posted. I can all too easily imagine what the Gender Studies crowd and the Social Justice Mob would make of that poster if it had been posted by anyone male. The propaganda of the gender wars would depict the poster as "creepy" and "entitled" if a male had posted it. I think we can take that as a given. I do wonder if any of that ever crossed my expat friend's mind... And I wonder if she ever thinks that she's doubtless been guys' Reason since her teens? Does she--- or any girl ---ever consider that? And...what is the Correct attitude about that? What do girls think about being strangers' Reason? Any thoughts? In my time, I've asked girls all sorts of questions about their views on sex and desire, but I'm not sure I could ask a girl that, ask her what she thinks of being strangers' Reason, ask her if she realises that she's very likely to have been part of male fantasies since her teens. Asking that--- or even raising the possibility ---isn't ideologically possible in an age of Gender Wars. Suggesting to a girl that she figures in strangers' fantasies (even if it's almost certain to be true) is regarded as tantamount both to sexual assault itself or to wishing a kind of assault on her. The expat gym rat girl can see the poster as inspirational, but no one male would be allowed in the current climate to offer her up the poster phrase, to say that to her as either inspiration or statement of fact.

Male desire and male sexuality are regarded as suspect--- or more ---these days. I've heard Gender Studies types argue that any masturbatory fantasy is a kind of rape. And that's alongside or in addition to the usual point of view in the culture that regards male masturbation as pathetic and laughable at best and as creepy and hostile and disgusting at worst. I looked at the image of the poster there at the expat girl's Tumblr and felt empty and glum. Part of that is being male and recognising that male desire is taken these days as something necessarily morally and politically corrupt. Part of it of course is recognising my own lack of value.

Another expat friend in London, a girl a few years older than the gym rat girl and part of a fairly posh and educated crowd, told me not to worry. Everyone, she wrote, is someone's Reason. I could only think of the end of "The Sun Also Rises": Wouldn't it be pretty to think so? Yes--- it would be pretty to think so, or at least consolatory. Being someone's Reason (and, yes, I always think of that someone as being "someone attractive") is a marker for value. I find it difficult to imagine being someone's Reason, and there's a sense of loss and futility and hopelessness when I look at the expat girl's Tumblr. 

Being someone's Reason would be a marker for social and sexual value. Being a fantasy object for an attractive girl--- especially a stranger ---has a clear rank-hierarchy value. I understand that I'd never be fantasy-worthy for the particular gym rat girl, and I don't want you to think she's the issue. She's certainly right about herself. She's quite fantasy-worthy by anyone's standards. But her own tastes run to males whose looks I could never match and could never have matched in the days of my far-off youth. So it's not about her. 

But it is about being fantasy-worthy. Everyone is someone's Reason, my other expat friend wrote. Tonight I can't imagine being anyone's Reason, or at least not a Reason for anyone for whom being fantasy-worthy would confer value. I'll just note that somehow, being fantasy-worthy seems to be more of a marker for value than just being desirable in the flesh. Maybe it's only that I see imagination and memory as being more important than the flesh. You're free to infer that; you may be precisely correct. The odds are in your favour, anyway. 

Tonight I'm looking out at the lights of the city where I live and thinking about the expat girl's poster. I feel empty and useless. She's certainly a Reason for handsome strangers. My other expat friend is a Reason for a great many people--- a different set of categories, but still a Reason. I'm not anyone's Reason. I don't have that kind of value, and I'm not likely to have it again. And I'm very, very depressed over the gnawing fear that I may never have had that value. Flesh has its charms, but being fantasy-worthy outweighs flesh. I'm no one's Reason, and I won't be a Reason in the future. All I can do is feel the dull, dead emptiness of coming to believe that I was never anyone's Reason. 

1 comment:

Katinka said...

Of course this is something girls consider, and even steer towards. I still remember how, back in my school days, this girl from my class told me to pay attention, and then went to sit on a boy's lap during our lunch break, deliberately wiggling for a bit and when she found that he got hard, screaming bloody murder. Yet I could tell that she was both proud and excited and it was something we giggled about for quite some time after that day.

It's always flattering to know that you are considered desirable by someone else. Posing alluringly and sensual for example, in order to attract compliments and attention is something almost every woman did in my early Friendster and Myspace days. And as I was quite young then, I soon discovered it was harder to NOT post pictures that men thought were sexy in one way or the other. It was fun too, to discover how much value others awarded to certain assets, what worked when wanting to generate attention and what not. It was and still is an addictive, powerful feeling to know that you are admired, that someone considers you very fantasy-worthy!

Since masturbation simply is a part of life, I can't imagine that many women have a problem with the 'dirty details' involved with being desired, as long as they are not forced to explicitly acknowledge them. And I must say that it's just not as flattering when the one who thinks you're a Reason, stares at you intently on a deserted train platform and publicly masturbates.

It would surprise me if you were never someone's Reason or would not be again at some point. I've always assumed - and isn't it the thruth? - that being a Reason as a woman comes in many cases with a rather harsh expiry date. Whereas men, especially if they are intelligent, well-educated and established, as you certainly appear to be, become only more appealing as the years pass. Being regarded as fantasy-worthy based on these aspects is, I think, more powerful than being considered a Reason merely based on how you look. The odds are definitely more in your favor than mine. ;-)