Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Wolff In The Land Of Dry Pussies

Michael Wolff has written an interesting meditation on the difficulties of being a middle-aged man in the United States. Suddenly, in the midst of life, he walks into a dark forest of despair and depression, and why? Not because of those cholesterol values or that mortgage payment or all those youthful plans he once had, plans, which are now as dry as the dandruff on his stooped hard-working family-man shoulders, no. It's because he can't get wet and gushy pussy anymore, young and bouncy and eager pussy.

Once upon a time this was all different. Powerful middle-aged men had mistresses, and nobody ratted on them:

J.F.K., so incredibly priapic so long ago, was protected not just because men protected their own (which they did) but also because at that time you literally couldn't describe what he had done. (There is a story Gore Vidal tells about J.F.K.: having sex in the bath, he liked to suddenly push a woman's head back underwater, causing her to fight for air, just as he was about to climax.) Now it's all good sport and entertainment.

What is now good sport and entertainment? Trying to drown the woman you are fucking in the bathtub? No, that was caused by my hapless clipping of the quote. What Wolff laments is the way the media hounds perfectly priapic middle-aged men into the limelight, there to be ridiculed and destroyed by the post-sexual cadre amongst us. Those would be older women, women in the Hillary Clinton mold:

The Hillary story is—and how could it not be?—largely a sexual one. This is not so much a sexist view as a sexualist view: What's up here? What's the unsaid saying? What's the vibe? Although it's not discussed in reputable commentary, it's discussed by everyone else: so what exactly is the thing with Hillary and sex, with the consensus being that she simply must not have it (at least not with her husband; there are, on the other hand, the various conspiracy scenarios of whom else she might have had it with). It's partly around this consensus view of her not having sex that people support her or resist her. She's the special-interest candidate of older women—the post-sexual set. She's resisted by others (including older women who don't see themselves as part of the post-sexual set) who see her as either frigid or sexually shunned—they turn from her inhibitions and her pain.

Isn't it all marvelous? The piece is like a long and painful erection, a love-song to the past which was full of sexually sated powerful middle-aged guys. They stuck together, covered for each other, and even if people found out nobody minded, because the world was their oyster. Of course, Viagra wasn't around those days and the rates of erectile problems seem to be fairly high without it among the middle-aged wolves in the land of dry pussies. But brush that off with your dandruff brush! We are talking about male lust here.

What about female lust? What? I can't quite hear you through all those wolves howling before going off hunting for some prey. Those young pussies are all waiting, ready to open and close, open and close, for the right middle-aged hunter. Yeah. That's the story.

Well, the second line of the title of the piece does talk about "human desire." It's just very, very hard to turn that into male AND female desire, so Wolff doesn't try. Women are mostly an obstacle to getting young pussy. Either they are wives who stop the middle-aged hunters or they are members of the dry pussy brigade or both. Then there are the women who moralize and make it difficult for the middle-aged pussy hunter to stay hidden from the limelight. Then, of course, there is the young pussy itself, but that doesn't seem to think about desire, either. It's a body part, after all.

The saddest part of Wolff's lament is here:

The argument pits empowered soccer moms against guilty dads, a prosecutorial matriarchy against a nolo contendere patriarchy. The erotic life of a man who holds most of society's financial and political power is now, in public parlance, only pitiable, or corrupt, or comic. A generation or two ago, there was, in so many of the greatest American novels, the figure of the middle-aged man liberated by sex or heroically jousting with it or making a separate peace with it—but those were written by men (Bellow, Roth, Updike, Cheever), and men neither much read nor much write novels anymore. The middle-aged man's middle-aged experience, lacking sympathetic and firsthand interpretation, has become mere reality TV—just about humiliations and buffoonery.

Why sad, you might ask. Because the same writer sees nothing sad in the view of most older women as post-sexual, as dry pussies without desire, and because that is exactly how older women have been portrayed, for centuries and because those older women who have been exposed as sexual creatures have surely been labeled as comic and pitiable. Remember the stories about Catherine the Great and the horses? Remember how Queen Victoria was rumored to hump her Scottish servant? To not see any of this is sad, but then wolves are far above pussies in that odd land the author inhabits.

For better analyses of the piece, check out Lance Mannion and Digby.