A short story by Anita Dalton
 

Feminist Theory: An Introduction
a short story by Erik Johnson

Like a million times before, I lay on the bed with my sweatpants round my ankles. I spit into the palm of my hand (it is good and thick because I have just eaten a chocolate bar). I begin stroking my already erect penis, thinking of a woman on the train who I saw today, sleeping with her head back and her mouth graphically open. My cat, watching me from the foot of the bed, begins to lick his fluffy white paunch. He thinks I’m cleaning myself. I don’t like to be watched; it makes me feel like I’m being misinterpreted. That’s why I usually jerk off in front of the television with a new tape in the VCR.

I don’t pay attention to the names of the stores I frequent. I simply seek the large red “X”s that mark the spot, the same letters that are found on bottles of poison and are also used to make the eyes of drunk or dead cartoon characters.

Most stores are divided by fetish. A renaissance porno addict, I peruse all “straight” sections with equal interest. Oral and Facial Cumshots, Anal Girls who give Handjobs, Big Boobs, Older Women, Pregnant Bitches, Fat Fuckers, German Teenie Bondage, British Spanking,  Afro-Erotica, Girls Who Eat Cum From Cunts, Wheelchair Sluts, Japanese D-Cups, Interracial Gangbangs, Big Butts, Only Sodomy, Forced Entry, Lesbian Shit Eaters, Piss Parties, Dogs, Horses, and Other Species, Amateur Videos, Japanese Upskirts on Trains, Incest, Retro 70’s Classixxx …   It’s quite like a normal bookstore, with the bestsellers on prominent display.

The largest number of tapes seem to be devoted to all oral cumshots, probably because many men think that this is the most degrading thing to do to a woman. It’s like throwing a cream-pie in her face, making her eat something akin to shit and piss, and getting you off at the same time. This idea is given some credence in one of my favorite books, published by the Routeledge Press in 1998. In Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, director Bill Margold is quoted as saying that the facial moneyshot is a way of getting back at all the women that men feel they cannot have.

For some reason the adult stores (always run by Indian or Arabic men; men other than me) play Lite Music love songs in the background. These tunes could not be more at odds with the tone of the merchandise and the depraved fantasies of the customers. Yet no one seems to notice the irony. Myself, I have always found that it adds to the experience. Hearing the guy from Air Supply sing about how much he loves a woman, while you’re looking at a box showing a girl in pigtails with bunny ears eating dogshit from an ashtray, makes you feel even dirtier and lowlier. Being reminded that there are men who feel real emotions of love toward a woman reminds you that you are perverted scum. That’s my definition of exciting.

I didn’t know other men felt this way until I met Morris. He’s the one who turned me on to Feminism. In fact, he’s the publisher of some major works of Feminist Theory, all of which I use in my classes. He’s the reason I’m the only male teacher of Women’s Studies at a prestigious university here in New York.

I was in the Barnes & Noble on Astor Place, flipping through the Women’s Studies section. I had scanned all the subdivisions: Latin American Women, African-American Women, The Experience of Asian Women in America, Date Rape, General Rape, War Rape, Child Abuse (Sexual & Physical), Women’s Health, Vegetarianism and Feminism, Psychoanalysis and Feminism, Lesbian  Incest, Eating Disorders, Women and Pornography, Nancy Friday-Style Erotica. Since I was a child, I’ve gotten turned on reading first-person accounts of rape and child abuse; as a more abstract and educated adult, it only takes a good anti-patriarchal theory to make me horny. Knowing that the ideas which you are reading were born of a victim with whom any moral person would feel sympathy, a victim who is trying to heal a horrible wound inflicted on her childhood, creates a hot thrill in my blood. Plus, there are scenes described in these books that would be illegal to film. Many passages in Andrea Dworkin, in particular, make for great masturbation material. I keep in mind her theory that all sex between a man and a woman is rape whenever I watch porno; it makes even the most “sensitive” scenes that much more wicked.

While skimming a select text, I heard the warm, mellow voice of a man in my ear. “This one on the mass rape of Bosnian Women is particularly good.” 

I turned to face him. In my hand was Dworkin’s masterful Intercourse. It could have been my penis, hanging out under unwanted scrutiny.

“Excuse me?”

“Did you know that more than 20,000 women were raped during the war between Bosnia and Serbia?” He asked, clearly anticipating astonishment.

“That’s a lot,” I said, feeling my palms go cucumber.

“Yes,” he said, nodding with a smile.

I turned away from him and pretended to examine another volume with scholarly interest.

“Houston claims to have the record, but Bosnia—now that’s truly the world’s BIGGEST gangbang.”

I chuckled a bad laugh-track chuckle.

“You aren’t an intellectual, are you?”

Still not looking him in the eye: “No.”

“Of course not. Uh, hey, I’m just asking because I published that book you’re holding right there.”

I examined the first page.

“You’re Morris Otis?”

“The same,” he said grinning, pulling out a Oklahoma driver’s license  for proof. He looked around quickly before asking, “Do you have a minute? I just want to ask you a few questions. I’d like to see what you think.”

He’d caught me so off guard that I had no thought but to comply.

He sat across from me at one of the tables in the café. He was a very safe, soft character, wearing a tan short-sleeved Izod shirt and chocolate Dockers. His hair was as evenly brown as a cheap wig, and he had more on the tip of his head than anywhere else. His dark eyes were small, earnest, popping out of a bland complexion with a rather broken nose dividing them. When he smiled, the bushy curtain of his moustache showed his teeth to be an off-white that went quietly along with the rest of his appearance. He reminded me of a light and sweet coffee stain on a napkin.

“You … you weren’t outraged by what I said?” he asked. 

“No, you were just joking.”

“Yeah. But most people studying Women’s Issues would get offended, even outraged, at those comments.”

I shrugged.

“I could tell you weren’t studying,” he said. “You read the pages like someone eating up a great action scene in a novel—and I saw you flipping to the good parts.”

“The good parts?” 

“Yeah, you know—like fast-forwarding through a porno tape.”

“But you publish these kinds of books.”

“Yes, and I’m interested in finding out what men think about them—not sociologists and cultural critics but men, if you know what I mean. Me? I think a particular type of man might find them … stimulating in a way.”

“What about you?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?” I pushed.

“Yeah, I do find them exciting. Can you keep a secret?” he asked, knowing full well that nothing is more enticing to the pornographic mind than the prospect of soiled laundry.

“Sure.”

“Some of the accounts have actually been touched up a bit, made more explicit. Say eighty-percent true, twenty-percent embellishment.”

“But this book (I pointed to the volume with his imprint on it, Defenseless/Offenseless: Women and Rape in the Inner City) contains a forward by a well-known Feminist professor, and essays by several intellectuals who I’ve certainly heard of. You’re saying it’s fake?”

“No, not fake but touched-up. Most of the first-person accounts are absolutely true. Four or five were written by me. The ‘well-known professor’ is real, and she wrote a truly heartfelt and incisive essay to open the book. A pornogomena if you will …  She has a regular column in Ms.  All the other commentators in the book are also real, and their reactions to the rape survivors’ stories are completely in earnest.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying there are hundreds of Feminist slash Women’s Studies books out there that are actually an elaborate form of porn for a certain kind of man.”

“Me?”

“You.”

“And …”

“Yes, and me too.”

“Hidden porno, right in women’s faces. I think I picked up on that on some level,” I said, recalling early turn-ons in my high-school library.

“I knew you did. That’s why I stopped to talk to you.”

“But what do you want to know?”

“If it’s working. If you plan on buying any Women’s Studies books in the near future; if you’ve expressed an interest in taking some classes on the subject so you can imagine assfucking the girls who you’ve had such understanding conversations with in class. I can’t exactly put the word out, asking men to send in a questionnaire about this, now can I? So I try to talk to guys like you.” He laughed sarcastically, baring his old stucco teeth. “You know what I mean?”

“How can you fabricate stories without getting caught? What if someone were to go public on you?”

“Impossible. Identities in first-person accounts are always concealed to protect the victims, so there’s no way to get caught. And if you were to tell, nobody would believe you—hey, most of these sluts are so emotionally wrapped up in proclaiming the degradation of women, they would never believe you even if there was proof. I mean, they’re all over Disney for portraying Minnie Mouse in a sexist light—a fictional character! They want to feel that they’ve all been victims, even the women who don’t exist. And…  they’re not evil like we are.”

“Evil?”

“A woman would never conceive of the idea. It would never cross Susan Faludi’s mind that some guys like us would be whacking off to one of her books. That we love Feminism like killers love war.”

“Maybe you’re right. I don’t have any idea what women are thinking, so I don’t know,” I said.

“More proof that you don’t study these books, then,” Morris grinned.

Evil is a very big word, and it made me uncomfortable. Suddenly he was talking like we were on the side of Hell versus Heaven. Sure I was scum, slime, twisted, keeping my conscience alive just to whip me like a dominatrix. But evil is so clean, simple as black or white. I was mutated trash, not a demon. That four-letter word, and Morris’ satanic smile, brought back the original feeling he gave me of being a dolphin caught having sex in a fisherman’s net.

“I should be going.”

“Of course,” he said sweetly. “Amy Tan is reading at Borders uptown. You must be headed that way. Lots of tits in that room, exactly double the cunts. It’s a beautiful scientific equation.”

I got up and began to walk away, but an idea occurred to me that made me turn round and go back to the table where, like a stain, I’d left him.

“What can I help you with?” he asked warmly.

“I was just thinking. Suppose that this ‘secret’ is all a ploy to get men who are into pornography to buy books on Feminist Theory, to support the publishers and increase their demographic. In terms of business, it wouldn’t really matter what the men do with the books as long as they drop their cash on the table.”

“Are you suggesting that Otis Books is sinking?”

“It could be bigger than your company. It could be an industry-wide thing. I’m just being hypothetical, of course.”

He scratched his uneven nose. “Well, hypothetically, then, if you discovered that my story was a ruse to get you to support the little Cottage Industry of Women’s Studies, that these book are not actually porno in disguise, wouldn’t you, hypothetically, get even more pleasure subverting an innocent text to your rapist fantasies?”

“What are you saying? That jerking off to a book that is not designed to be pornographic is closer to … say …  sodomy than jerking off to Playboy, and that sodomy, being unnatural, is more exciting to a pervert than vanilla sex?”

He looked up at me with happy eyes and I really thought he was going to kiss me and grab my crotch. 

“Thank you very much for your time,” Morris said, putting on a pair of oversized sunglasses. “You’ve been very helpful.”

He stood up and put out his hand. Without hesitation, I put out mine and shook his. For one long second, we shared a pleasant moment. Most of my life I’d felt like a work of modern art, constantly needing to explain my motives to myself. Here was someone who understood and helped me to understand. I felt clear and defined, simple, clean as a four-letter word.

Morris was wrong about his equation. One woman at Amy Tan’s reading had a mastectomy, and I wound up calculating a fraction. I got home with numbers in my head and was surprised to see my calendar read April 1st. Again I wondered if he’d been fooling me. Again I told myself that it didn’t matter. There is no such thing as fooling when it comes to desire. Even if Morris was lying, every desire is true and beautiful no matter it’s purpose. 

And even if I’m lying to you, some student out there will see these words and learn from them. Maybe you’re even in this class with him. This is the class I don’t teach at the university. The first lesson is: Every first person account is as good as true, whether here or in a book on sexual abuse.

For the record, I don’t think Morris was playing a hoax. Besides, lots of things happen on April 1st besides tricks and deception. Not too long ago, my mother spread her legs on that very date and I was born while she died. 

She might have prevented it from happening.

She might have stopped me from making you think about all this. All this modern muck. All this talk of cum-stained, ass-ripping, dick-throbbing forced-entry fucking that’s dressed up here in a shabby cloak of intellectual literary musing. If you think about it, none of this is really any of your business. 

But then, that’s why you like it.

Don’t feel guilty. I like it too.

  

©2001 Erik Johnson

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