04 June 2008

Eros and Thanatos

I haven't the foggiest notion if any of my readers who aren't also San Francisco sex-positive feminist fellas of my generation will find it at all compelling, but Thomas Roche's rambling brief memoir and reflection Panic for Satan: How I Learned to Freak Out and Wrote Lots of Porn Anyway hit me right where I live.

My own life misadventures match Mr Roche's in no specific particulars ... save a shared mortification at seeing the Ms. magazine cover story. But the fundamental story, of trying to figure out how the heck a responsible, feminist, girl-crazy fella lives a responsible and fulfilling life, rings true.


Lydia said...

Hmm. I can't say I can really relate, for fairly obvious reasons. When I read pieces like this I always end up in a confused space, among thoughts like, "Man, I wish feminists could stop guilt-tripping men who are the 'good guys'," then, "Who are the 'good guys'? It seems like in order to be a 'good guy' the most you have to do is not directly beat or rape women," then, "And shouldn't our standards of being a 'good guy' include stuff like, 'not contributing to cultural problems' or at least, 'being aware of his contributions to cultural problems and not blaming us when we remind him'?" then, "Well, okay, but probably the best way to encourage awareness and understanding is not to launch extreme accusations," and ends somewhere around, "What's an extreme 'accusation'? What will get a man's attention if he's doing something that could be fucked up, but not make him defensive and get him to mutter about man-hating bitches? What am I allowed to say to my boyfriend, what am I allowed to theorize about gender studies in public, when does gender commentary become an unconstructive problem?"

Jonathan Korman said...

You're grappling with exactly the right question. What constitutes a “good guy”?

Mr Roche's story is about trying to find an answer to that question in a time—the ’80s and early ’90s—when feminist culture was grappling with some difficult stuff. So difficult that it led to some nuttiness like that Ms. cover article. While this was going on, there was a collision between feminist culture at large and the first generation of men like me, who grew up inside the context of second wave feminism. Feminist culture was doing a lot of (mostly very well deserved!) critiquing of men but not providing clear guidance about what men should do, which put us blokes who were really trying to do right by our sisters—and ourselves—in a terrible fix.

If you care about that fix—and one of the lessons of feminism is that in a sexist society it's neither desirable nor possible that you always care about it—then all I think you need to do is to recognize that bind that responsible men are in. If you can see a way to point to a better ethic for men, terrific; if you can't, just admitting that you don't see what the “good guy” path looks like is a big help.

d a r k c h i l d e said...

The Gods know that I've wrestled with who the "good guys" and the "good grrrls" are too. As Lydia said; " It seems...in order to be a 'good guy' the most you have to do is not directly beat or rape women," and I've never been one to let people (including myself) off that easy.

My Buddhist studies tell me that when I get too far to the left or the right I'm in danger of extremism and attachment...which, of course, leads to suffering. Stay in the middle and be mindful tends to keep me on an even keep.

I think there are errors on both sides...and I don't really want there to be sides at all. And sometimes that makes me have to pull back from my indentification with a community (feminazi/pornwriter) and just deal with the face to face issues of the self.

I seem to be able to handle anything if its on an individual basis. Its only when we start boxing ourselfs in with definitions that things start to get weird.