Untitled “Dialogue” (Fiction, 09/25/08) Doc. #021

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Teddy prefers it “bearback.” (BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)

The Text:

Filename: Thesis-Dialogue.wsp

Written September 25, 2008 (Age 22)

“If you want me,” she said. “You can have me.”
“I do want you,” he said.
“Then why don’t you take me?”
“Why don’t you take me?” he asked.
“Because then I wouldn’t have been gotten,” she said.
Silence.
“What about tomorrow?” he said.
“What about tomorrow?” she said.
“What if I want you again tomorrow?” he said.
“Do you think you’ll want me tomorrow?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you think I’ll want you tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “You might.”
Silence.
“Will you want me to want you tomorrow?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Will I?”
“Maybe,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Silence.
“What if I don’t want you tomorrow?” he said.
“Don’t you want me now?” she asked.
“I do,” he said. “But what if I have you now and then I don’t want you tomorrow?”
“Is that how it’s going to be?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe.”
Silence.
“If you don’t want me tomorrow, why do you want me now?”
“I didn’t say I don’t want you tomorrow, I said what if I don’t?”
Silence.
“C’mon,” she said. “I’m sleepy,”
“I want you,” he said.
“Come back tomorrow,” she said, closing the door.

Critique:

The biggest problem with this piece is that I don’t know what to call it. It’s fictitious, but it’s not really “fiction.” It’s like a poem, but it is written in prose. It’s really more like an unformatted radio play; the addition of sound effects cues would make it complete.

Whatever it is, it’s pretty damn good. It’s funny and clever and the repetition of words and phrases makes it highly memorable. Despite being only dialogue, the dynamic of the situation is perfectly clear, and highly relatable.

Reading “Dialogue” is like finding a foreign coin; you may not know what it is, but you know it’s worth something. Grade: A-

My first thought on reading this piece is that I want to slap both the speakers.  The two of them with their endless sounding out of the other, their absolute refusal to own up to how they do or do not feel.  This is especially irritating because it’s a flaw I share and seeing it in the extremities of its inherent ugliness is unpleasant.  Past Sean, you did not have to be quite so spot on, dammit.

My second thought was that I really wanted the female speaker to be a bowl of ice cream.  “You want me now.  Of course you will want me later.” *evil Mr. Burns style fingertips motion here*

My third thought is that this is a really realistic dialogue from the perspective of a person without much experience in healthy sexual relationships.  Or maybe with too much experience in unhealthy ones.  Again, hitting possibly too close to home?  Lucky for me this isn’t my blog and I don’t have to explore that thought! 

Dialogue is a difficult thing for a lot of writers to navigate; problems arise in making the speakers sound real while also trying to keep to the point.  In this, the interaction flows smoothly with one response arising naturally from the last.  It goes exactly nowhere because neither speaker is willing to invest themselves, that’s the point.  Lacking in substance, but for what it is very effective.  Grade: B

Reflection:

This “story” is a snapshot of almost every awkward, half-drunk make-out session I ever had the pleasure of being a part of. It’s exaggerated a bit (I was rarely this unsure of myself—I really liked sex) but the unusual negotiation of intentions and desires that go along with hooking up with strangers and friends is something I’ve experienced many times (occasionally with more than one party).

Consent is something I’ve thought and written about frequently. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I went to a typically progressive Liberal Arts college in a rural area. There was a lot of discussion about consent on campus, both in and out of the classroom. And yes, there was the occasional wackadoodle ultra-feminist who preached the “12 levels of physical intimacy” and insisted on getting consent for them all (“May I kiss you now? May I take off your shirt? May I chew on your eyebrows?”) but for the most part, it was good, healthy discussion. (It’s not nearly as wackadoodle to ask for consent to eyebrow-chew as it is to, oh, I don’t know, eyebrow-chew.)

Generally, the college was hesitant to address the issue at all, but their official policy was that rape was bad and they were against it. It was a bold stance, and would occasionally manifest itself in campus-sponsored events. (And rumor has it they closed those creepy tunnels between the buildings because people kept getting raped there.  As this was nigh 20 years ago, and considering the winters in the area, that’s a pretty progressive stance.)

During my freshman orientation, I was required to attend a presentation about safe sex from the campus’s “Healthy Positive F***ing Club,” (good name) or whatever it was called. After a fun demonstration on how easy it is to get an STI involving M&Ms (which clearly had no effect on me given the events described in “working on dying” (Poem, 5/11/07) Doc. #011) we were given the following tips about consent:

  1. If the girl you want to have sex with is super drunk, don’t put your **** in her.
  2. If the girl you want to have sex with is passed out, don’t put your **** in her.
  3. If the girl you want to have sex with doesn’t want to have sex, don’t put your **** in her.
  4. If you’re already having sex with a girl and she changes her mind about having your **** in her, take your **** out of her.
  5. If you’re already having sex with a girl and she passes out, take your **** out of her and reread tip #1.

(The campus gets an A for it’s anti-rape policy and an F for heteronormativity*)

Obviously this isn’t the official phrasing they used, but the idea was the same.

It really would have been nice to get some tips about consent that weren’t just about not committing rape, like, “If the girl you want to **** is totally insane, don’t put your **** in her.” Or, “If you’re not sure you want to **** a girl, don’t put your **** in her.” Or how about, “If a girl want’s to marry you and all you want it to ****, don’t put your **** in her.”

You know, practical advice for the non-rapist. (See Sexplanations with Dr. Lindsay Doe on Youtube: What is Consent?  It’s all this and more.)

Courtship has changed immensely in the last 20 years. Our ideas about how men and women are supposed to come together and interact are evolving. Yet in the hetero-cisgender dating world, there is still a lingering stench of tradition about the whole thing: the man is the pursuer, the passionate hunter; the woman lets herself be caught, the willing prey.

A few years after writing this piece I discovered Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the story of a privileged young man who magically transforms into a woman. Chapter 4 contains my favorite description of the dynamic I’m speaking of, in a scene where the recently female-made Orlando is hit upon by a sea captain:

‘A little of the fat, Ma’m?’ [the captain] asked. ‘Let me cut you just the tiniest little slice the size of your fingernail.’ At those words a delicious tremor ran through her frame. Birds sang; the torrents rushed. It recalled the feeling of indescribable pleasure with which she had first seen Sasha, hundreds of years ago. Then she had pursued, now she fled. Which is the greater ecstasy? The man’s or the woman’s? And are they not perhaps the same? No, she thought, this is the most delicious (thanking the Captain but refusing), to refuse, and see him frown. Well, she would, if he wished it, have the very thinnest, smallest shiver in the world. This was the most delicious of all, to yield and see him smile. ‘For nothing,’ she thought, regaining her couch on deck, and continuing the argument, ‘is more heavenly than to resist and to yield; to yield and to resist. Surely it throws the spirit into such a rapture as nothing else can. So that I’m not sure’, she continued, ‘that I won’t throw myself overboard, for the mere pleasure of being rescued by a blue-jacket after all.’

Almost makes me want to put on a dress and go sailing. (Presumably on a boat where you can trust the captain to respect you, and not just rape you across the seven seas.)

The truth about men and women, is that there is no truth (duh.) And yet there are things, like the hunter-prey dynamic, that do seem to have some element of truth in them for many of us. In most of my romantic and sexual encounters, I was the aggressive one, the pursuer, the asker-outer. Women I meet never compliment my appearance (note to @Mackey4Saw: no jokes here [Dammit!]).  There are ideas in our heads that we’ve come to accept over millennia. They’re going to be with us for a while.

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please SUBSCRIBE and SHARE! Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

*Autocorrect gets an F for heteronormativity too.  Specifically, for wanting me to change it to “heterosexuality.”

3 Thoughts

  1. Explanations for the coy female may be found in ethology. Female reproduction is expensive in terms of resources required. Male contribution can be very cheap. He wants to scatter sperm and doesn’t really care if some is wasted. Her eggs are precious, gestation costly and risk of morality in bearing children a real concern. It is in a females best interest to string all potential suitors along until she can chose the best according to whatever criteria her species uses.

    Like

    1. Spotted hyenas.
      Some species do the female is “coy” or “pursued” thing. And boy are those loaded phrases to put on nonsentient creatures. But then you have animals like the spotted hyena, where females are aggressive and dominant, with bigger dicks than most of the males and zookeepers often identify who is male but by who gets bitten more.
      It’s not without benefit to look at the sexuality of other species as context to human sexuality. But there’s a strong and problematic tendency to use SOME species to normalize socially accepted traits while ignoring socially stigmatized behaviors and also other species that totally negate the “Oh, it’s totally natural!” claim of our sex and gender politics.

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