Tuesday, May 31, 2016

One Eight One: Seating Arrangement

I've said before that I have my dislikes among the sex bloggers. I'm fine with Karley Sciortino at Slutever and Vogue, who's lovely and a delight.  But the two writers I'm currently regarding as my leading candidates for an enemies list are the blogger who calls himself "Dr. Nerdlove" and the woman who calls herself Arden Leigh.

I'm sure they're both well-meaning. I'll give them that. But reading either of them leaves me depressed and angry. There's nothing in either writer's archives to make me feel the least shred of hope, and both seem to take a positive delight in belittling, haranguing, and mocking hapless male readers. The so-called Dr. Nerdlove enjoys using "tough love" slogans to humiliate and bludgeon male readers. He enjoys mocking any male with limited social skills or who's the least bit shy. Arden Leigh uses New Age and psycho-babble terminology to the same end. Leigh sets herself out as a female PUA, as someone who's studied the skills of seduction...and then lashes out at any idea of romance, or fun, or actual flirtation.

And what have I learned from them recently? Well, I've learned this:

If you're sitting at dinner or drinks with a girl (but should you be? after all, asking anyone out is a show of "entitlement", isn't it?), be sure never to sit directly across from her. Always sit on the diagonal. Make sure you're the one sitting close to the wall and that she's always close to an exit/escape. Never, ever meet her eyes. Never under any circumstances hold her hand. Never touch. Never introduce any topic of conversation. Never attempt to add any information to a topic, never attempt to explain anything no matter what you may know about a topic. Reply only in monosyllables. Never show any emotion in your voice, and of course never raise your voice. Never ask a question, never ask for any information, never ask about anything personal. Never disagree; never defend a viewpoint. Offer nothing. Keep looking away, head down.

If you're on the street with a girl, it goes without saying that you never hold a date's hand or put an arm around her. Always walk just a bit ahead of her so that you're never behind her, where you might seem to be a looming threat. Never stop--- keep walking no matter what. Never give directions. Do not speak while walking--- certainly never speak first. Do not suggest destinations or routes. Call attention to nothing around you. Make no comments on anything. Again--- never meet her eyes, never look directly at her. Keep your body language close, keep your own social space to the barest possible minimum. At a bar, on a subway, on a bus--- keep at least one empty seat between the two of you. There at the bar, sit half turned away. Draw in on yourself. Never allow yourself to seem like a physical presence.

And never, never, never ask for anything, especially not any kind of show of attention or support or affection. Offer none, lest that be taken as being "entitled" to a response, or as a kind of manipulation.

Do all these things. I'm sure "Dr. Nerdlove" and Arden Leigh would approve. This is how we live now.

This is what I've learned.

Though the question remains open: how exactly does one make a dignified withdrawal from the emotional post-apocalyptic hellscape of romantic and sexual interaction?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One Eight Zero: Galt

Not long ago I ran across the acronym MGTOW. That's Men Going Their Own Way--- a subset of the MRA world. One on-line commenter described the MGTOW types as "the 1970s lesbian separatists of the Manosphere", which is rather funny.

The idea behind MGTOW is that men, or at least those men who've been wounded in the gender wars, should just walk away from those parts of the social world (romance, dating, marriage) controlled by women and live on their own.  There's an unfortunate linkage between the MGTOW philosophy and "exit" libertarians--- the people who talk about "going Galt" and withdrawing from a corrupt and collapsing society.  Somehow there's a connection made between not wanting to pay child support or pay for dinner on a date and not paying taxes.

All this does baffle me.  The political linkages baffle me, certainly. And the tactics here baffle me. Announcing a withdrawal from social life? That's all-too-easily mocked as defeatism. It's all-too-easily mocked as futile vanity, too--- commenters at articles about the MGTOW movement laugh at the idea of men who are self-described losers expecting that women will care about their withdrawal.

I'll say, too, that some of the Going Their Own Way types don't help their case by claiming that they've been traumatized and plundered in divorce settlements. Alimony is no longer what it was in 1950s movies or tabloids.  Here in the state where I'm writing, having to pay periodic support (it's not even called alimony these days) longer than eighteen months can happen under only a few very limited circumstances--- e.g., a spouse who's clearly disabled. If a middle-class couple have even rough parity of income, it's not going to happen at all. And there's no sympathy out there for anyone who feels aggrieved at having to pay child support.

It's unfortunate, too, that the movement pronounces its own name as "Mig-Tau". It's not possible to take seriously a social/political movement that calls itself "Mig-Tau".  Let's remember: it's not possible for anyone male to indulge in the Solitary Vice with any self-respect at all once he's become aware of the words "wanking" and "tossing".  It's just as impossible to maintain any self-respect while belonging to something called "Mig-Tau".

Nonetheless, there are some serious questions that the MGTOW types approach, but can't answer while blathering on about Red Pills and going "off the grid". What about the males who consistently don't do well at games of sex and romance? What about the ones who've run out of the resources (financial, psychological) that you need to deal with dating, sex, or relationships? Is there a case to be made for simply withdrawing from the sexual marketplace--- whether that case is based on age or cost-benefit analysis or just on emotional exhaustion? If there is a case to be made, how do you argue for a dignified withdrawal? How do you maintain yourself in some kind of dignity afterwards?

The world as it stands now isn't all that accepting of the old idea of the bachelor.  I'm not talking here about the recluse, about the aging fellow who lives at the top of the stairs in a walk-up flat and comes out only to go to the market or the liquor store, who snarls at anyone who speaks to him.  I'm thinking of someone who simply doesn't participate in the rituals of pair-bonding or mating. Do we still have social room for the extra man, the quietly courteous dinner guest who'll fill a BGBG-arranged table? Can we accept that someone might want to just withdraw from the search for a mate and devote himself to...reading, or male friends, or a quietly successful career? Is it possible to be accepted as being happy (or not diagnosed with something unpleasant in the current DSM) as an unmarried, solitary male?

Is the social world prepared to accept someone's principled resignation? Can you say "sorry, I just can't afford this" or "sorry, this is too emotionally risky" and not be mocked as a loser who couldn't attract someone anyway, or as someone hiding some deep inner flaw?

I've no idea what Mig-Tau believers do after "going their own way". Perhaps it's only that I see them as having poor cultural capital, or that "Mig-Tau" sounds too close to H.P. Lovecraft's dread Mi-Go. But I'll them serve as examples in a slightly different list of arguments. Is it possible to make a dignified withdrawal from the world of relationships and pair-bonding? Is it possible for someone who's announced his resignation to retain any social value or avoid outright mockery? Does contemporary society have any use for--- or understanding of ---the solitary male?  Can you be a bachelor and be regarded with anything other than poorly-concealed derision?

Any thoughts on any of this?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

One Seven Nine: Towers

Geoff Dyer wrote an essay some years ago called "Sex and Hotels". I know that it was posted at Nerve.com once upon a time, and it was probably in one of his earlier collections of essays. I saw it referenced not long ago, and I'll be having the local library find me a Dyer collection with the essay. I usually like Geoff Dyer, and "Sex and Hotels" is something I do need to read--- or re-read.

Not long ago I wrote about Karley Sciortino's little essay on hotel sex, and I'd like to pair that with Geoff Dyer's essay. Hotel sex has always had a special valence for me, and I always love hearing girls' stories about the hotels where they've gone with lovers or beautiful strangers.

Location has always been an important part of sex for me. Backseats, desktops, library stacks, wagons-lits...  Location matters. It matters for establishing a mood, for establishing literary or film tradition. A lovely friend in New Zealand messaged me the other night to say that she wanted the measurements of my office desk, just in case she ever found herself spread out atop it.  Wellington NZ is something like eight thousand miles from where I'm sitting, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Hotel sex, now--- hotel sex comes with so many literary and film connections. Each hotel tells a different story about a city and about a particular affair. Each different hotel puts you in a different story.

I have my favourite hotels in Manhattan--- the Royalton, the Parker Meridien, the midtown Pod Hotel, the Night Hotel. Different lovers in each, different kinds of stories being told. My New Zealand friend told me once that she kept a log of every hotel pool where she's swum naked late at night, and that she has a list of Auckland hotels divided up into those where she's been with married men and those where she's just been with boyfriends or girlfriends. I admire a girl who keep lists of things, of course. I admire a girl who keeps score.

Karley Sciortino noted that hotel sex is about temporarily leisured, about being able to pretend for a few days that you're accustomed to luxury. Maid service, room service, the decor--- sex in hotels always feeds on class markers. Though there's something to be said for the stories you can create in decayed roadside motels or faded railway hotels in provincial towns. Both the four-star hotel and the places that probably house people who have "suspected" in front of their names promise anonymity, whether from the paparazzi or the FBI.

Hotel sex for me has always been about early mornings, too, about leaving a sleeping companion and looking out at cities just as the sky lightens. I don't smoke, but it would almost be worth starting just to stand with a cigarette and look out the window while the city began to stir. There are memories there, of course: kissing a companion's bare shoulder and slipping out of bed to watch the day begin.

If you're reading this, and if you're one of the quiet, literary girls I picture as my Imaginary Readers, I suppose you could tell me about your own favourite hotels and hotel sex memories. You could tell me about whether you see the hotel as an adventure in luxury, or an adventure in transgression (a married lover, say, or an alluring stranger), or as away to have anonymity and freedom.

Hotel rooms are for adultery,  as both Ms. Sciortino and Geoff Dyer tell us. They're for being sealed off in a room or a suite and not having to follow the rules of the outside world. Hotel sex is for call girls and clients, for escorts sent up after a discreet call to the concierge desk. Hotel sex can be about all the activities and positions and games you'd never feel comfortable trying at home. Hotel sex is about escape--- and all the best things in life are about escape from the quotidian.

If you're reading this, tell me about the hotels in your past. Tell me what desires you've been able to live out in hotels, and what you think about when the door closes behind you and you toss a carry-on bag onto a hotel bed.

Monday, May 2, 2016

One Seven Eight: Stones

I remember being once upon a time at a huge state park somewhere in the Smoky Mountains. I forget why I was there--- a vacation with my parents, maybe ---and  I recall hiking down through hills and thick woods. I remember that there was a stream, and that you had to cross it by going from rock to rock in the stream. It was easy enough to do. You just sprang from one rock to the next without a thought. But then, halfway over the stream, I stopped and looked around and then discovered that I'd lost my rhythm. I'd started to think about what I was doing, about how to make the jumps, about how much I didn't want to end up in knee-deep, chilly water. Once I did that, I just couldn't make the leaps--- however small, however simple ---any more.

The same is true of sex these days.  I've become afraid that I've lost my ability to just act. I'm afraid that I've begun to overthink that needs to be done.

Some of that may be age, or fear of age. I'm at a place in my life where I'm worried that some things will just be beyond me---- more precisely, worried that I'll make that discovery at some moment that will leave me open to derision and humiliation. I seem to spend too much time worrying over whether the last time for doing one thing or another has already happened. Haruki Murakami wrote in "I.Q. 84" that everyone secretly longs for some version of the end of the world. I have to hope that's not true. Or at least hope that I haven't made the transition from abstract speculation to actual longing.

It's not all age, though. Some of it is overthinking, taking counsel of my fears. There is a Zen kind of moral here: the conscious mind becomes a hindrance to true understanding. I look at a lovely girl and know what I should do with her while we make love. I know the things I'd like to do, the things my history and body say to do, and then I find myself paralyzed. Too much thinking, too much analysis of what it all means, of what could go wrong, of why whatever it is unlikely to be as good in the flesh as it is in my thoughts and hopes, of why fleshly bodies are untrustworthy and aesthetically flawed. A Zen moral, yes. The conscious mind gets in between things and trips up all your hopes and desires.

Maybe it's only that all desire is suffering, but I think that it's more. It is the Zen thing, the overthinking thing. I can't let a kiss or a touch or a taste be satisfying on its own, and once I stop to think about it, then my fears reduce it to being no good at all.  Needless to say, I also assign my own fears to whomever I'm with. I assume that she'll recoil in disgust at touches, tastes, sights.

I did once talk myself into being unable to board an aircraft for some years--- for almost a decade. Now I've talked myself into being afraid to touch or taste or caress or discuss any needs or hopes. Too much thinking. Too much taking counsel of my fears. Too much sense of all the things that are encoded into anything that involves the flesh.