My Blog Week: June 13 to June 19
A Word on the Week
I’ll begin, moving forward with the War on Self-Control, by sharing a couple of nineteenth century jokes, that I found repeated in several newspapers of the era. The first goes like this [Ebensberg Alleghenian, March 29, 1866]: “We have been asked the question, what material makes the best bed comforter? Being inexperienced in such matters, we refer the querist to the committee on domestic manufactures of the Hudson County Fair, who put what may be styled an answer to the question in this wise: “Best bed comforter, Miss Jane Van Buskirk”. Another: “In the report of a down east agricultural fair occurs the following: “Best bed comforter, Miss Mary Hall.” A third has it: “Miss Mary Hill”. The naughtiness depends not only on unsuspected double-entendre, but that the woman impugned is a “Miss”—an old-time example of virgin-baiting.
The other joke usually appears with the church news, and has a clergyman explaining that “orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is your doxy”. Dirtiness, in both cases, is introduced slyly, to/from a person who is expected to be innocent. And that foundation for joking hasn’t gone away (probably the doxy joke hasn’t gone away, either).
Now let’s consider a person who designates someone a “prude”. She seems to bridle at his dirty language or wisecracking. His response to this version of her (which we’ll bear in mind is in his head; he has not had the conversation with her) is to launch into a campaign, prod her with as much dirtiness as he can get away with, four-letter words, jokes and comments he makes to others within her hearing, etc. The twenty-first century view is that a person’s truth is to be respected, and that we don’t pick and choose other people’s truths for them. So, if she likes, the woman can be a prude and proud of it. At the same time, she may be the victim of abuse (possibly in the workplace) and has a sensitivity, which equally deserves respect.
Assumption (the man’s head-version of who she is) is a form of impositional behavior. All impositional behavior is on the predatory spectrum, though not all predation is sexual. We’ve seen the phenomenon popularized by Fox News, of predatory diagnosis—just this week, the foolishness of Republican senators demanding Joe Biden take a cognitive test. But predation includes coercion, taunting, bullying, harassing, badgering, peddling, soliciting…
When predation has a sexual theme, however, even if the predator hasn’t physically assaulted his prey, it is sexual.
The reason I cite the nineteenth century is that our culture is plagued by an ancient entity…actually, just an outdated one. Why can’t we let go of it, the idea that naughtiness is cute and clever and a necessary “hitting back” at that terrible old finger-wagging prude who doesn’t want anyone to have sex?
Who is she? Why is she she?
Nineteenth-century attitudes really didn’t come from a nebulous “prudishness”; they came from a scourge, called syphilis, that did terrible things to people. Children born of infected parents had a host of problems, often surviving only as wards of the state, and states wanted as much as possible to avoid wards. Charity subscriptions were the means of funding the almshouses, orphanages, and “homes”. Babies out of wedlock were often born, also, with what we recognize today as fetal alcohol syndrome.
That combination of terrible problems with no medical treatment, and lack of taxpayer-supported institutions to alleviate poverty and suffering (which we don’t provide especially well today), made people frown on activities that caused more of those things. But nineteenth century people knew what sex was, and had it. The prude had no overriding authority to prevent behavior…
And yet this imaginary person somehow persists as an unexamined premise, and in the twenty-first century, causes behavior.
Next week: Premises, and pop psychology.
On Monday, a new Eight, “suggested proof”, the penultimate piece in the penultimate series. Tuesday, a new Hammersmith, with Aimee and her niece somehow drawn into Mossbunker’s web. Wednesday, The Sword Decides!, an unsatisfactory triumph for the King of Naples. Thursday, “Bad Counsel”, and the unhappy job history of Andrée. Friday, Shine!, the novel’s final part, finding Annie at the end of the First World War. Saturday, a reissue from Beast, “Caught Alone”.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: June 13 to June 19