In two of my dad’s churches, the front of the churches were set up so that there was a raised area surrounded by the communion rail. The podiums were towards the front of the raised area. Then there was some open space and towards the back, there was a table where the offering plates, Bible, candles, and cross were arranged.
Behind the table was a large velvet curtain on the wall. At one church it was red and at the other it was blue. Even as a minister’s kid who ran willy-nilly all over the church, I never went behind that table. So, for a long time, I imagined that there was something behind that curtain, maybe another room or a poster of Jesus or something that only the minister was allowed to know.
Finally, when I was in high school, I looked behind the curtain and found there was just an unfinished board.
I was thinking about this in terms of that porn that’s like “let’s stick a camera right inside your vagina” and you look at it and wonder who the hell gets off at looking at something that’s so devoid of context that it appears to be just a bunch of shiny soft pink billows and folds.
It’s like the opposite of the curtain at church. The curtain at church pretends to cover something mysterious, but really just hangs there as a backdrop. But the vagina is inscrutable. No matter how long you look at it or how close up you get, you’re never going to see that place where the boundary between here and there–the ordinary and the eternal–is always permeable.
And yet, there it is–bringing forth life when you want it and sometimes when you don’t or remaining silent and unmoved when you beg it to stir something up, making up unviable monsters and viable babies, dumping out blood and tissue and sometimes small humans.
The Legal Eagle once said, “Until you can impregnate yourself, men have a role in this thing” when he was arguing that men ought to have a say in abortion. It’s a little like the flour saying to the whole kitchen, “You can’t have cake without me.”
Fair enough, but you can’t have cake without the oven and the eggs and the bowls for mixing, either. Why does the person who supplies the flour have as much of a say as the person who supplies everything else? The flour is crucial to the production of the cake, but it’s not an equal contribution to all the rest of the ingredients and whatever else is in the kitchen combined.
Anyway, I’m sure most of you saw this story in the Village Voice this week, about the man who tortures pitbulls (Important quote from story: “Ed Boks, the director of New York City Animal Care & Control, says the blame for pit bulls’ negative image is shared equally by the press–which is fascinated by pit bull attacks–and breeders who take advantage of the dogs. ‘Pit bulls are actually a rather stable breed,’ says Boks. ‘The thing about pit bulls is that they are stuck with this bad reputation. They are extraordinarily loyal and loving animals and they will fight to the death just to please you.'”) in order to make them monsters.
Here’s the relevant passage to our discussion:
“The men always say, ‘You’re taking my manhood away.’ We get that every week. They say that they can’t walk the dog in their neighborhood anymore because people will see that his testicles are gone. They are adamant about it,” Clemmons says.
They’re talking about this over at Pandagon, too, and it’s the comments that have me thinking. One commenter in particular says, in response to someone talking about dog vasectomies, “That’s the solution for me. I’m sorry, I’m not going to be responsible for some other dude, whether human or canine, getting his balls cut off.”
Isn’t this interesting? It’s got me wondering if this is an opposite impulse to the “I must make sure those slutty women are punished with babies” or if it’s really the same impulse.
We could see it as an opposite impulse–some men saying “not my body, not my place to demand its modification to suit me.” But I worry that’s it’s evidence of the same impulse, one that understands the man as being defined by his manhood, which is represented by his ability to control the animals and humans beneath him. Their fecundity is evidence of his manliness.
The behavior of others–what a fragile and stupid thing to hang your own self-worth on.