Marriage, Poetry, and Fucking That Ass That I Own

Poetry is a lost art that no one rightfully cares about anymore. Modern media offers many more powerful and direct methods for expressing the abstractions in our lives. The dusty old practitioners of word bending couldn’t keep pace with the rest of the world. It’s not that poetry is bad, nor that John Milton doesn’t matter anymore. It’s that there’s nothing left to build on in what remains of those old creations. You could listen to a song on your iPod, discovering the same colliding ideas held together across the semantic handholding of a linebreak, but now with the added embellishment of sound and performance. You could watch a montage of abstractly connected ideas held together on YouTube video streamed to your phone while waiting for the bus. The abstract surrounds us in new forms so much more than it did centuries ago, in an age of deliberate functionality and ceremonial human engagement.

One of the strange byproducts of this modernization is that emotional experiences can be so privately and personally tailored that we oftentimes excise them from public discourse. It’s okay to encounter some unflattering emotional abstraction in private, at your laptop, or in the cocoon of your headphones, but it’s dangerous to air those untamed beasts in public.

Publishing a person’s text messages is among the most unflattering and invasive things that modern media can do. It’s a fantastic way to give body and voice to those lurking hounds of hypocritical instinct inside. It’s by way of this phenomenon that we can now say that Tiger Woods is, like Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Newt Gingrich, Martin Heidegger, Brad Pitt, and Albert Einstein, an officially documented adulterer.

In his own words, Woods sounds especially terrestrial in describing his imminent interest in Joslyn James, a balloon-chested porn actor. “I want to treat you rough,” he wrote in a squat sort of SMS poetry. “Throw you around, spank and slap you. Slap your face. Treat you like a dirty little whore. Put my cock in your ass and then shove it down your throat. You are my fucking whore. [I want to] hold you down while I choke you and fuck that ass that I own.”

I confess I’ve never said anything like that to anyone I’ve had sex with, but the sentiment beneath the strained words isn’t entirely alien. I remember one night out with a friend who, after being picked up on the dance floor by her rather manly partner, spoke to me spilling over in girlish amazement. Something about the feeling of smallness that this show of strength had suddenly made immediate, triggered a flush of sexual something, like some inner rabbit turned around and found itself in the descending shadow of a massive creature whose approach was both rapturous and terrifying.

A woman I used to date a few years ago got in the habit of making fun of how I had to slouch down to kiss her. Sometimes I’d wrap both my arms around her butt and pull her into the air, suspending and encircling her in a hallway or bedroom while we’d kiss. The thought that I should go from there to mandating a blowjob after anal, making my penis a kind of fecal swizzle stick, never followed. But I don’t like golf either.

In a new commercial for sports paraphernalia, a black and white close-up of Woods’ face is shown while a recording of his dead father’s voice interrogates him. “I want to find out what your thinking was,” the elder asks. “I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?”

After the posing of the final question, the advertisement is over, leaving everyone free to bring out their own moral pitchforks with which to gore Woods in effigy. The saddest thing about all of this is that we’ve collectively asked those questions of Woods with a mindset that any answer other than “sorry” will be immoral and condemnable. What if he said that he’d learned that adultery ultimately isn’t all that bad? Or that a lifelong relationship with another human being shouldn’t realistically be conducted in the chains of sexual exclusivity?

In a New Yorker article about the history of marriage counseling Jill Lepore describes the sad and deluded life of Steve Popenoe, the father of the entire field. He was an advocate of eugenics, eventually became well connected to the Third Reich, and promoted the notion that marriage between genetically ideal people should be preserved. His endeavor was not built around proving what was so worthwhile about marriage, but instead focused on ways to make two unhappy people stay together. As Lepore puts it, “there’s not much profit in pointing out that some things—like the unglamorous and blessed ordinariness of buttering the toast every morning for someone you’re terribly fond of—just don’t get any better. Not everything admits of improvement.”

One of the first mentions of marriage in history comes from the Hammurabi Code, which describes it as a relatively straight-forward arrangement to build a family. In 1790 BC that was an especially desirable building block in the formation of cities and the interconnected wealth that they brought. It took another 3000 years to get to Romeo and Juliet, a conception of love as fatalistic and destructive of societies built on family. 500 years after that we finally arrive at fucking “that ass that I own.”

Marriage has now become a kind of cultural idolatry to which most normal people are expected to succumb. Not everyone will marry, but the idea of signing a legal document ensuring you’ll remain “faithful” to a partner has been an infrequently questioned institution for a long time. How serious can any life-long commitment be when it needs a legal document to validate it? And how seriously can one speak for one’s interests and needs for a future so distant that you can’t even say for certain that you’ll be alive in it?

I don’t want to hear what Woods has learned from the media frothing outrage, nor the public humiliation of having his metaphysical privates shown in public, but he does remind me of one pervasive question that he, not uncaringly, asked of Joslyn.

“You still have not told me what turns you on.” (Double penetration was apparently her answer. The mighty he-golfer seemed unwilling to mix shafts with another duffer, not unselfishly.)

Phil Levine is one of the last great poets of the Twentieth Century. He’s frail and shaky now where once he was cocksure and pugnacious. He became famous in the 1960’s when there seemed to be a great cultural convergence between high and low, vulgar and refined, black and white. He wrote stubby lines of free verse about life in Mid-Western ignominy, slathering heavy grease onto a factory wheel with a portable copy of Keats in the back pocket. He reveled in the ugly filth underneath the American fable while invoking the figurative melodies of Romantic poetry. He was a confrontational egoist in a world of charcoal and cow turds.

When I think of someone asking an adulterer and sodomite what he’s learned by virtue of his indiscretions having been made public, I think of Levine and the way he described breath.

“I give you
almond blossoms
for your hair, your hair
that will be white, I give
the world my worn-out breath
on an old tune, I give
it all I have
and take it back again.”

I want to get married, but I don’t know if I ever will. If I do, and someday I find myself closing the door on a distant hotel room where I’ve just finished fucking a woman in the ass, I imagine whatever it is I’ll have thought I was giving won’t be any different than what I’ll be taking with me at parting. And it will be that same thing that wakes me up the next morning to butter the toast for someone I’m awfully fond of. What connects those two worlds is as much a mystery now as it ever has been. And we’ll have to continue to try and describe it in new ways that leave all our older forms in the past.

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5 thoughts on “Marriage, Poetry, and Fucking That Ass That I Own

  1. As For Poetry, I truly don’t believe that no one cares about it anymore or that no one will care in the future. While it is true that it is far more niche now than it was, I see that more of a sign of how poetry has become so esoteric and mysterious of its own meanings through the modernist and post-modernist periods, that it drove most people away who couldn’t be bothered to figure out the many nuances of an author’s references and in-jokes.

    But even this sort of poetry has its place, and will continue to be read. I don’t know that poetry will provide the bread on many a poets table, but it will exist.

    I say this largely because I think poetry does still speak to the reader (or listener) in a unique way that cannot be outdone by other mediums. Certainly, individual preferences may drive people to search out other mediums that suit their tastes best, whether through images, music or footage. The more options people have, the fewer people are going to choose old options. But just like Radio wasn’t killed by television, and books weren’t killed by radio, poetry will still have a place in some hearts.

    That said, I write poetry infrequently, and read it just about as rarely. *shrug*

    As for Marriage, people are far too caught up in the visage of marriage (the document, the white gown, the rings, the wedding night and the soon-to-be-rumpled bed sheets) to understand what they really must mean by the contract to make it work. Usually. Sexual freedom in marriage is something that the individuals entering into such a union must decide upon. I think there are more “free” marriages now than in the past, though I could be horribly wrong. In any case, I doubt that there is much difference in the divorce rates of “free” couples as completely monogamous couples. Again, this is mere supposition.

    I tend to be a bit old fashion in my personal preference. I’m still a virgin, and plan to be until marriage. Thankfully, my girlfriend has agreed, though she is not a virgin herself.

    As for “Fucking that Ass that I own,” As I’ve said, I don’t really have any experience in the area, though fooling around has sown me that, while somewhat experimental, I do not “talk dirty” like Mr. Woods. I cannot fathom where I would have to be mentally do say those things. It’s not part of my nature. Neither is the charming imagery of the fecal swizzle stick.

    Thanks for that, by the way.

    As for where any of these things cross in the great experience of life, well, I have no Earthly idea. It’s out of my experience.

    Thanks again for an interesting read.

    -Edward

  2. What I would have preferred to hear from Tiger at the very start of all this is: This is my life. I’m living it, now go live yours.

    I would love there to be a mandate that if one wants to comment publicly on someone’s supposed transgressions, they have to open their life to the same public scrutiny. I’m not religious in any sense of the word, but I have to chuckle that one of Jesus’ well-known preachings is conveniently forgotten by most of the morality-demanding world, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

  3. I blame Ernest Hemingway for the existence of NASCAR. The short and dirty version of my reasoning is this:
    One of the main leitmotifs (one might say _preoccupations_) that appears in Hemingway’s work is the femiphobia of which you write in your article “Vaginophobia: Fear of Women in Gaming.” The Edwardian period and World War I saw a vast expansion of and shift in the perceived abilities, rights, and places of women. Hemingway saw a resultant shrinkage in the world of men.

    He promulgated this anxiety (one I’m sure he was not alone in experiencing) in his literary oeuvre, and, since he was then (and is still) one of the most popular and widely read authors of all time, and a nascent example of rock-star celebrity, his ideas carried a LOT of clout.

    Again, I don’t think Hemingway was the only man who felt threatened, lessened, by the sociopolitical growth of women; he is, though, noted as being one of the first people to say it out loud, so to speak–to yell and scream and behave badly and brutally because of terror and uncertainty and self-loathing rather than disguising it beneath a saccharine veil of concern of a superior being–man–for the welfare of an inferior one.

    Most people weren’t–and aren’t–able or willing to ‘fess up as Hemingway does (which, by the way, is one of the reasons his stories are still such great literature), and seeing the expansion of women’s dominion into the realm formerly belonging to men is still looked at as male habitat loss. Because apparently we can’t share.

    In reaction to this perceived threat, the men and women of the Western world have developed a variety of bizarre behaviors, most of which would be humorous if one were not directly affected by them. Women are now expected to present a hyperfeminized or infantilized appearance. The expectation that they will be the primary, or even sole, caregivers for children has not diminished in the least, and added to this is the now-overt message that women must also be caregivers for adult men.

    This last is an extension of the changing definition of masculinity. As one feminist ex-boyfriend of mine mused, “There’s not much left now that’s exclusively male except serial killing and pro football.” I see much of the current cultural definition of masculinity as following this idea. “This is all we’ve got left,” masculinity has announced to men, “so we’re going to RUN with it.”

    And behold: NASCAR, created as a guard at the gender borders. (It’s now become popular with both men and women drivers and viewers but I maintain that whistling past the graveyard of masculinity was its original purpose and that Hemingway thus bears a significant part of the blame for it.)

    And so we come to today: Western culture now proudly presents men as little better in terms of humanity than well trained water buffalo–brawny, ill-washed animals whose only thoughts are of conquest, whether financial, logistical, fantastical, mechanical, physical, or sexual. Impulses to care, to self-sacrifice and form intimate attachments, to work hard or play or cry or worry or create art or care about beauty, are viewed as rare and fleeting in the human male and cause for panic if they should persist (for surely they must be indicative of either faggery or being dominated by one’s female counterpart).

    And all THIS stems, in turn, from the idea that masculinity is an additive, not an inherent, attribute of maleness. Since it is impossible to prove oneself male by doing things or having interests that women do or have, the interests and behaviors that men, as a population, exhibit slightly more often than do women, as a population, have been tweaked, bloated, caricatured, and summarily imposed on everyone born in a male-looking body.

    And since the purpose of this is gender boundary maintenance, which is best reinforced by extreme contrast, it is bad to be a woman wheresoever it is good to be a man. Thus even heterosexual impulses–those things that make men like women no matter how very hard they try not to do–must be safely contained in a context of conquest or, worse, contempt, as though the conquest is assumed to have already occurred. Because, shit, if you identify with women, you must be some kind of pussy or something. And that’s bad.

    _Masculine_ and _male_ are concepts that have been horribly conflated. The saddest thing about Tiger Woods’ text messages to Joslyn James is that Woods may well have felt as he wrote that he was expressing affection, or at least attraction, and paying James a compliment–that he was, in short, behaving properly, the way a good man should. Certainly I, personally, know many men who have felt so.

    In light of all this nonsense, I think that we must discuss gender and how it simultaneously fits into and shapes our lives and our selves before we can discuss inter-gender relationships and marriage and how they do the same. We need to go further back and talk about what, exactly, is expected of person as a gendered individual, what those expectations cost that person, and what they will cost his or her relationships. Maybe we should look into redefining gender before we start redefining marriage, because neither institution is serving us the human race particularly well right now.

    • I’m completely there with you on the corruption and erosion of the healthy definition of masculinity and so forth. I don’t have a good grasp of NASCAR culture and history, so I have no opinion on that topic one way or the other.

      But I think that you’re selling short the feminist movement and all the progress made by like minded people when you say: “The expectation that they will be the primary, or even sole, caregivers for children has not diminished in the least, and added to this is the now-overt message that women must also be caregivers for adult men.”

      I dare say there has been progress. Quite a lot. And not just in this nation, but in many others. Take Sweden, for instance, where progress is being made. I’d like to direct you to this article for the info: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-sweden.html?pagewanted=1

      Is there still work to be done? Oh, absolutely! But to say that there has been little to no progress isn’t factual.

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