Posted by: Dan | February 3, 2019

In Which I Object to Sympathetic Literary (and Other) Presentations of Violent, Rapey Men

I once read a book by some guy named Cormac about this guy who likes to fuck dead people.  He would kill them when they were parked in cars up on some lover’s lane or lookout or whatever and then take them down to this cave where he stored all the bodies of the people he liked to fuck.  Cormac is all into telling us that this corpse fucker is human like you and me and that guy who fucks watermelons in another story Cormac wrote, but he doesn’t describe the actual corpse fucking.  Like does the guy use lube or does he fuck ‘em dry?  Where does he fuck ‘em?  Just the usual orifices or does he fuck the holes he made when he stabbed his victims up, like a bed bug engaged in traumatic insemination (“male bedbugs have saber-like penises, that they use to stab females in the abdomen. The male releases sperm into the females [sic] circulatory system, not into their reproductive tract” as The Smithsonian Mag tells us) or like that when James Spader fucks the gash in Rosanna Arquette’s leg in that Cronenberg movie?  Cormac never actually describes much fucking in his stories, which is a pretty good thing, I guess, because, for Cormac, it seems like fucking always has to do with horrible or violent things – like fucking corpses, or that little kid with the Judge in that other book about the sunset, or the watermelons I already mentioned, I suppose, but I think that’s supposed to be funny.  Come to think of it, I think the watermelon fucking is the closest thing Cormac gives us to a sex scene.  I’m not sure I can trust a guy who only talks about sex in this way.  But anyway, yeah, this corpse fucker is supposed to be a child of god just like you or me or whatever, for whatever that’s worth, and maybe it’s worth something and maybe it isn’t, in which case it’s all the same anyway, but I don’t know if I buy that.  I mean, I don’t know, but if we want to blur the lines between all of us – corpse fuckers or just regular fuckers or people who aren’t fucking at all and who are fucking mad about that or whomever else – in order to suggest that, well, we’re all just human, and we’re all just specks of dust, and we’re all just equally loved or abandoned by god (take your pick), I mean I guess I get your point but, yo, isn’t that a little played out?  And where has that gotten us?  And, really, don’t we still want some lines in the sand somewhere?  Because isn’t that rapist anthem by Robin Thicke called “Blurred Lines”?  Don’t we want to say, hey, sorry Cormac bro, this dude ain’t just like me?  Come on.  It’s like when Sufjan sings that sweet, sweet love song to that guy who dressed like a clown and raped and murdered adolescent boys.  When Sufjan proclaims that “in my best behaviour / I am really just like him / Look beneath the floorboards / For the secrets I have hid,” I don’t think, “Man that’s a really profound post-Evangelical point about the universality of sin and the fallenness of man [sic].”  Instead, I think about how R. Kelly openly sang, for years and years, about all the adolescent girls he kidnapped and raped, and I think, fuck me, better start digging up Sufjan’s floors.  Because maybe it’s provocative or sweet to relate to all these horrible men and say, “don’t we really have more in common than not? should we not all say, ‘there but for the grace of God, go I?’” but if we don’t draw some kind of line and say, yo, that ain’t me, I ain’t like that and I never will be, what all do we let slide?

I mean, it’s like that Russian cat who wrote that story about that dude, Double-Aitch, who became the step-daddy of that little girl so that he could fuck her whenever he wanted to, but Double-Aitch wrote all these beautiful love poems about that little girl and everyone reads that book and thinks, God, what beautiful poems, but I’m thinking, hey, my dad never wrote me any poems and, hey, even if he did – and even if they were hella good and were published in the Paris Review or the LRB or wherever – I’d still fucking burn them along with him if I had the chance.  This guy is a kiddie fucker.  And if you think the fact that he can write beautiful poems is some kind of revelation and tells you something profound about yourself or humanity or whatever, then you’ve been walking around with your head up your ass all your life.  But I mean, okay, sure, lucky you.  Better your head up your ass than Double-Aitch’s dick your daddy’s.  And it’s no surprise that Double-Aitch was a fucking literature professor.  What’s up with these guys?  A Russian literature professor writes about a literature professor who diddles kids.  A South African literature professor writes about a literature professor who is (unfairly!) disgraced because he fucks his student.  An American literature professor writes about a literature professor who fucks his subordinate because his wife, Edith, isn’t down for boning down except when she wants a kid.    And another American literature professor writes about some average Joe who jackrabbits his daughter-in-law.  What the fuck is up with these guys?  And we’re supposed to empathize with these protagonists?  Children of god, like you and I?  Fuck that.

Because Elliot Rodger killed six people and fourteen others, but really just wanted to kill all the young women who wouldn’t lay him because he hated women, but the issue isn’t that we can’t see the humanity of guys like him.  The issue is that so many men now venerated him (“Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please.  C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger” said Alek Minassian right before he rented a truck and ran over women on the busiest street in Canada).  The issue is that Brock Turner raped a woman behind a dumpster at Stanford and was given a lenient sentence because, hey, fucking Brock was a fucking good swimmer and he had a fucking bright future ahead of him and, really, hadn’t he fucking suffered enough already? Because apparently being found guilty of rape-fucking a gal, a gal who apparently has no future or use, really, other than being a fuck-doll, really takes a toll in a guy—especially when that guy never takes responsibility for his actions and constantly sees himself as the victim, like he’s the one who got fucked.  So, yeah, the issue is that a serial rapist who has never been held accountable for anything is also now a Supreme Court Judge.  And this Judge (who now goes by the honorific “Justice,” for fuck’s sake) was nominated by the President of the United States of America who said he likes to grab women by the pussy, and how are we supposed to respond to that?  With some kind of profound observation about our shared humanity, how we are all flawed, and beautiful, and disgraced, and images of the divine?  Like, yo, Cormac, Vlad, and John 1, 2, and 3, do you think you’re doing anything different than anyone else when you offer these sympathetic, complex, oh-so-human presentations of rapey men?

And that’s why Kristen Roupenian’s story about that guy who likes cats and indie music and arty films and female university students is so brilliant and necessary.  It helps us to see that when singers like Sufjan or R. Kelly, or writers like Cormac or Vlad or all the Johns, offer these sympathetic stories about violent men, they aren’t being profound or brilliant or radical or whatever.  They’re hiding in plain sight. And when other men sympathize with them, like all those men who lined up to yell at women about how that guy who likes cats is a good guy and if you don’t understand this you’re some kind of “butt-hurt” bitch or cunt, I don’t think, hey, these guys really appreciate the moral complexity of all people and are rich with empathy.  I think, man, I wonder whose pussies they grabbed or photographed without consent when they were young and if they still do it and I feel bad for their wives and daughters. And it’s also why Margarita Karapanou’s book about Kassandra and The Wolf is the best piece of literature written on this subject that almost nobody has read.  Because here’s a story about a young gal who is sexually assaulted by a family member and it’s written by a woman who was sexually assaulted by a family member when she was a young gal, and maybe that’s why everyone ignores it and all I hear is Lolita this and Lolita that, and my god, isn’t Vlad a fucking bold and daring genius, and I never hear a word about Kassandra and the much more bold and daring genius, Margarita.

And here’s the kicker—Margarita’s presentation of both The Wolf and Kassandra is far more nuanced and complex and messy and troubling than anything written by the men I’ve mentioned.  I mean, fuck, if you really want to get a sense for the confusion and ambiguity and love and hate that abusers instill into the minds of children, then listen to survivors, man.  Because, yeah, the dad who fucks you at night is also the dad who comforts you when you fall and skin your knee, and helps you with your homework, and takes you out for ice cream.  And the uncle who makes you do all kinds of things with his body is also the uncle who has the loveliest tea parties with you, and makes you feel so special about yourself, and does things that make you feel, at least in part, for a little while, excited.  Survivors of this kind of thing don’t need lessons in fucking empathy.  Survivors are some of the most empathetic people I’ve known.  But listening to survivors helps us empathize with them.  And that’s what we need to be learning to do, instead of continually being fed a message about learning to empathize with violent, rapey men, as if that’s anything but something that happens all the time, everywhere, with everyone.

MK

Rest in Power, MK. 1946–2008

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