SOME THOUGHTS (IF YOU CAN CALL THEM THAT) ABOUT SEX

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With all the hard-to-miss whoop-de-do about Christian Grey (“Fifty Shades Of”) and his compliant Ana in the tittering press, in movie box offices (where multi-millions are rolling in) and even in the feminist blogosphere, it perhaps behooves me to deliver a few expurgated observations on the matter from my own demographic. (Female, hetero-, old.) I speak of course only for myself, as I have not yet discovered another woman well over eighty blogging away on WordPress or anywhere else.  (There are two who are seventy-seven and seventy-six respectively, but whatever they’re doing privately, neither “do” sex in print.)

It’s not true that women over seventy have fantasies about sex zero percent of the time. This canard was apparently reported in AARP about four years ago and then picked up to be made sport of by “Life in the Boomer Lane,” written by Renee Fisher, a mere sixty-seven herself.  I can personally vouch for the falsehood of such piggy-back hearsay, and know of at least two other non-blogging women in the demographic who would emphatically agree with me. Since I don’t know many women in the demographic anyway (most of my acquaintances are  younger), two plus me seems sufficient rebuttal on this point.  I draw a veil over why these women plus me are having fantasies instead of, or in addition to, real sex.

There’s a huge disconnect between what’s desirable (or even acceptable) in real life from a real man and what’s desirable in one’s fantasy life from a fantasy man.  I’ve read quite a bit of heated discourse in the past couple of days about how terrible it is to glorify a movie that glorifies female submission and bondage (i.e. “rape”) — this despite the fact that audiences, currently comprised of 68% women in North America, are apparently rushing to see it like lemmings to the sea. The disconnect may not be so true of the young or youngish — although I suspect that even for them if the line between what they see in movies and what they do in bed begins to blur, they can still distinguish between (a) playful bondage by a trusted loved one who lashes them to the bedposts with their own nylons while they both giggle and (b) the really painful stuff with whipcords and duct tape.

But for those of us raised in a faraway time when the proper response to going “too far” was always “No!” even when all your senses were begging “Yes!” — fantasy rape had, and may still have, a certain initial appeal.  When I first came upon Candide in college and read of pure sweet Cunegonde, Candide’s lady love, being raped by Bulgarians, my first thought wasn’t horror but “Hmmmm, what do Bulgarians look like?”  However the problem was that you’d have to decide which Bulgarians, and how many, would be allowed to have their way with you (even in a fantasy), and that didn’t seem likely (even in a fantasy).  In fact, it’s always a given in fantasy rape that you have to secretly want to be raped by that particular man — whose hunger for you (and your unavowed hunger for him) is so overpowering that it cannot be gainsaid, despite your feeble struggles.

[Note to militant feminists:  The preceding paragraph most certainly does not mean I agree with those Yale students who were suspended for marching through campus with a banner proclaiming, “No Means Yes!” Read more carefully. The Bulgarians are fantasy. Yale is real.  As a Yale parent several times over, well aware of the tuition involved in even being on that campus, I can assure you Yale is very real, and no most definitely means no.]

Admittedly, “Fifty Shades” is only “soft” porn. Even so, what’s so exciting about a former Calvin Klein male underwear model pouring wine into the belly-button of the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson while she bites her underlip apprehensively?  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen not yet in my demographic.  If your memory is long enough, you may recall those first ads (in classy magazines no less) for Calvin’s teensy-weensy BVDs with the CK logo-embossed elastic band that barely cleared the groin area.  Well, the guy in those ads was Mr. Christian Grey himself (shorn or retouched of all chest hair) — a scrap of pristine white cotton between us and his, ah, member — posed in a full frontal come-hither slouch that must have turned on at least 95% of the gay community who saw it but didn’t do much for me.  Yes, Jamie Dornan has a four-year-old daughter now and probably hopes that when at some time in the future she sees her daddy’s comely rear cheeks beautifully photographed above a naked lady who’s not mommy, she won’t ask questions.  (I know, I know, it’s my age talking.  Young Miss Dornan probably just won’t care.) But he still doesn’t do much for me, even with wisps of chest hair.

As for young Miss Johnson, I suppose what she does is her own business. But as I remember her mom in “Working Girl” before she did that ill-advised thing to make her lips fuller and they came out much too much fuller, and also recall her dad was the one in “Miami Vice” who made wearing only a white tee shirt under a jacket look really cool — seeing her naked underneath naked young Mr. Dornan would be like watching one of the neighbors’ kids put out for a vacant-faced muscled guy with impossibly huge scads of money and power, plus really gorgeous clothes (before he takes them off).  I mean, come on.   Who’re we kidding here? If we’re talking soft SMBD porn, Mickey Rourke with his ice cube in “Six Weeks” was much more like it; at least he looked the part. (Except look at him now.)

I do admit that typing the word “naked” twice just now was somewhat exciting. But that’s probably a demographic thing too.

Drinking wine out of belly buttons is not new. Trust me on this one.  Back in 1948, Charlotte P. read aloud a story in Creative Writing I  that had seventeen-year-old me writhing with jealousy, envy and lust;  it was about her previous summer on an Israeli kibbutz where it was apparently not unusual to sip wine from the mouth of another and then have the other lap more wine from one’s belly button. (I believe they kept their jeans on, though.)  Oh God! I immediately filed this away as something to try at the first opportunity. (And you see? I still remember, after all these years.) Of course, you would have had to be an innie and not an outie. I’m not sure how outies took to Charlotte P.’s story.  What would Christian G. have done if Miss Steele had turned out to be an outie when her clothes came off?  Torn up the contract?  Or improvised with some other declivity?  (That should keep you thinking for a bit.)

Since we’re talking about porn, in my demographic “hard” porn is for men.  Sometimes we ladies do sit through their kind of thing to be accommodating (or in some cases because it’s easier than working them up ourselves). Yes, we sit patiently all the way to the money shot, with mess sprayed here and there over the other party, which to me has always been the erotic equivalent of a cold shower.  But candidly, I could go on quite happily for two or three more lifetimes without seeing any more.  Men get excited by shapely female breasts (or unshapely ones, swollen monstrously by silicone), lovely rounded buttocks gently parted, spread-eagled vulvas, luscious lips slurping eagerly, close-ups of piston-like activity, the camera eye right in there like a third participant.  Why would a heterosexual woman want to look at any of that?  It’s not part of our sexual experience, even without eyes shut.  As for threesomes — apparently another real stiffener — forget it. I never did like sharing and just can’t multitask.

So what is erotic for women?  I won’t deny my demographic still appreciates a nicely built unclothed male torso (although it’s not essential for powerful attraction).  However, speaking only for me and not for the other two known members of this demographic, I far prefer the sight of work-made muscle to the barbell-crafted kind. Attractive construction workers, not gym rats.  Just to check myself (and also, of course, in the interests of thorough research), I typed “naked straight men” into Bing.  (It seems Apple is at war with Google and switched search engines when I wasn’t looking.)  Did I get brought up to date fast!

Tattoos all over the place!  I mean with no inch of skin except the face untatted!  Yuck! (Demographically speaking, of course.)  And photos of bare men of every ethnicity enjoying each other in every which way you can imagine. (Is this what Bing thinks is “straight?”)  And photos of other bare men smirking or scowling at the camera with a “Look what I have for you!” expression on their faces. (I once had a husband, now dead — although not at my hand — who actually pronounced those very words.  It did him no good whatsoever.)

And I’ve got to tell you what some of those bare men had for us couldn’t possibly have been for us at all.  It’s true my experience has been quite limited, but I know — I just know, and to hell with the demographic  — there isn’t a woman alive, of any age, who wouldn’t flee at the thought. These were appendages of such extraordinary length as must have been attached to the unfortunate straight fellow a therapist once told me about: he had to wear a very thick rubber donut before any woman would even consider — I’m looking for a nice clean word here — congress.  And then the faces of those guys on the Bing-sourced websites!  What could you talk about with them before you began? Can they talk? I know, I shouldn’t be mean. (I do think though that Apple could reconsider its position on Google.)

I might also add before leaving this possibly controversial section (in which I may have recklessly destroyed all the good will I’ve slowly built over the past year) that there’s a color photograph of a nicely built unclothed male torso, with pleasantly smiling face attached, that’s practically perfect. It’s cropped just above the pelvis so it’s also perfectly decent, and it’s right here on WordPress.  It belongs to the nephew of one of the Australian ladies who occasionally drops by this blog. I remember admiring it when she posted it and wishing I were at least sixty years younger.  But I’m not and probably you’re not either, so I’m not looking up the URL and you’ll just have to wonder forever.

Well, if not photos, then what?   I’ve actually considered that question quite a bit before embarking on this post.  What really turns on my demographic? (And maybe other female demographics too?)  I think it’s faces, voices, words. Words above all. A well turned phrase — even on the screen — and you’ve got me interested.   My demographic, and perhaps also  yours, wants a story; we want to hear things and see things that maybe promise and maybe don’t, we want hope and uncertainty, and lots of hide and seek, until it’s just about all we think about.  Imagination is a big part of it, too. (And who needs photos with a good imagination?  After a certain age, eyes shut and imagination trumps photos every time.)

One of the more erotic things I’ve read recently turned up in a first novel published about thirty years ago which I discovered at a used bookseller.  Near the end of the book the protagonist, a thirteen year old boy, and a somewhat flat-chested girl his age, who are both staying in the same house that summer weekend, play a game together that’s rather like strip poker.  Round after round, the garments very slowly come off each of them, one by one.  They look at each other. She offers to do one more thing for him since he won, but he can’t think of anything. So she goes off to bed.  Still naked, and now erect, he thinks about her and thinks about her in his own bed, and then gets up and creeps down the hall to her room. She is sleeping, in a nightdress.  He slides under her sheet from the bottom and lies there naked and erect with his head between her legs.

That made me breathe faster than the dreary plod through the three free chapters of “Fifty Shades” you can get from Amazon Kindle.

Someone I’ve never met in real life who writes extremely well recently suggested via email that there was probably a big commercial market for “elderly erotic stories” and how would it be if a woman writer and a man writer collaborated to write such stories.  That’s pretty much how he put it (very politely), together with a possible opening paragraph and the caveat that the stories be about people of at least sixty. In my view nothing about people sixty or older would be erotic reading to the elderly because the elderly are turned on by the same stimuli as the young.  That is, elderly men probably want to picture young nubile beauties in their dreams and even elderly women fantasize about firm male bodies, not old ones. I didn’t write that though, but merely objected to his opening paragraph for other reasons, and suggested another opening.  He wrote back.  And then I became uncomfortable, because of course I was the “woman writer” and he was the “man writer” we were writing about and I am twenty-three years older than he is and he’s not safely far away in Australia but about fifty-two miles from Princeton, and it was becoming exciting even though I don’t really know what he looks like. It was crossing the line from fantasy to real, at least for me if not for him. And therefore time to stop.

Words, you see.  Words do it every time.  And now that I myself have written 2,314 words on this stimulating topic it’s time to go do something else.  What that might be I leave to your imagination.

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SKARA BRAE: MY KIND OF PLACE

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Bet you’ve never heard of Skara Brae.  Don’t pretend. You haven’t, have you?  I hadn’t heard of it either, until I found it in this book with a really dumb title.

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I mean, come on.  1001 historic sites you must see? Before you die?  Like The Smolny Institute? (p. 669)  Or The Bank of England? (p. 290) Or Old Melbourne Jail? (p. 926) And if you don’t manage to get to them all by deadline, then what?

But after a day of windy rain and robo-calls and waiting in doctors’ offices for probably unnecessary checkups and/or “procedures” (the bane of an older person’s existence — if the older person has health insurance, that is), and after the cleaning ladies have canceled at the last minute and you discover the car has about a quarter of a cup of gas left on which you may just possibly manage to coast into the nearest gas station on a wheel and a prayer — after all that, stress builds to a point where Skara Brae, the one thousand and first site in the book with the dumb title, begins to seem like heaven on earth.

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This is what 1001 Historic Sites says about it (after telling you it’s in Orkney, Scotland):
Five-thousand-year-old homes with evidence of orderliness and comfort

This Stone Age village was buried beneath sand dunes for centuries until a huge storm blew the sand away, around 1850. What was revealed gives a vivid impression of ordinary life more than 5,000 years ago. Despite their great antiquity the houses are remarkably uniform, so much so that they have been likened to a ‘group of prehistoric council houses’ ….

Built of stone, the houses would have been roofed with turf or thatch. Their wooden doors opened off an underground maze of narrow passages …. Each house, however, had one spacious main room, measuring about 20 square feet (6 sq. m.). The fitted stone furniture inside included two box beds, possibly one for the man and the other for the woman and their children. The family would have slept on heather or bracken, under blankets of animal skin, and the stone floor would have been made more comfortable with strewn furs and skins.

The Skara Brae families had ornaments and used cosmetics, and each house had the same regulation two-shelf stone dresser, apparently placed to display precious objects to visitors. Stone shelves and cupboards were built into the walls. In the middle of the room was a hearth for burning peat. There are small cells that seem to have been lavatories, with drains, and one of the huts was apparently a workshop….The people of the village kept cows, sheep, and pigs, grew cereal crops in their fields, went hunting, and gathered shellfish. The occasional stranded whale would have been a blessing.  At about 2,500 B.C.E. sand dunes began to encroach on Skara Brae and the settlement was abandoned.

Orderliness, comfort, ornaments, cosmetics, toilets. Fragrant heather mattresses, leather blankets, fur rugs, heat.  Steaks, lamb chops, bacon, oatmeal, oysters. A workshop for weaving things from sheep’s wool or practicing a prehistoric reed instrument.  What more could you want, after you’d grown your crops, hunted, gathered your shellfish and displayed precious objects to visitors?  There was probably also plenty of sex.  I don’t know why the editor of 1001 Historic Sites thinks the man slept in one bed, the woman with the children in the other.  I would have put the man and woman together in one of the two beds, and all the children in the other, where they could giggle and play games in the dark under their leather blankets while their parents disported themselves, quietly, across the spacious main room.

The occasional stranded whale I would pass on. It would also be nice to have a few books to put on those fitted stone shelves.  But I won’t carp.  Even without the books, Skara Brae sounds like a welcome change from electronic devices pinging, telephones ringing and the washing-machine breaking down just when there’s no more clean underwear.  (I bet they didn’t even wear underwear in Orkney five thousand years ago, clean or otherwise.)

All right, so maybe Skara Brae isn’t for permanent relocation.  But a nice vacation?

And then those sand dunes came along 4.500 years ago and ruined everything!  Why do these things always happen to me?