A long time ago, I made a friend laugh by telling him that Helen Knode had just published a book called The Hypersexualization of Everything
-- a joke that will mean nothing to you unless you lived in Los Angeles in the early 1980s and followed her work in the L.A. Weekly
. Knode was a good writer, but she was also the sort of person who couldn't jot down a recipe for bean soup without describing the ways she wanted to get laid.
want to write a book with that title, albeit for different reasons.
The first chapter might focus on the instantly-infamous New Yorker
cover featuring Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie cuddling on the couch while watching (on a weirdly antiquated TV set) coverage of the Supreme Court's gay rights decisions. At first glance, I thought the image was funny. But this Slate article
by June Thomas articulates one good reason to find the picture unsettling.
That reason has nothing to do with homophobia, although a few knee-jerk dunderheads will probably insist otherwise. Rather, the problem is this:
You see, Bert and Ernie aren’t lovers. Back in 2007, the president of the Children’s Television Workshop said that they “do not exist beneath the waist.” Then, two years ago, the Children’s Television Workshop declared:
Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
That’s not the only lesson Bert and Ernie have to impart. You see, straight America, there’s a difference between same-sex friends and gay lovers. Does America contain households in which lovers pass themselves off as best pals? No doubt. And as prejudice against gays and lesbians fades, more of these ambiguously gay couples will declare themselves. But that doesn’t mean that every pair of cohabiting friends is madly making out on a nightly basis.
Bert and Ernie clearly love each other. But does Ernie suck Bert’s cock? I don't think so.
I am reminded of my great problem with the BBC's Sherlock
series, set in the modern era. In a running gag, Holmes and Watson can't go out for dinner together without everyone presuming that they are on a date. By contrast, in the original Conan Doyle stories, the two men had the freedom to dine at fine restaurants, to attend concerts and to visit the theater. It was possible, then, for two people of the same sex to spend time together without wagging tongues or knowing winks or damnable presumptions.
We have not
made cultural progress since the Victorian era. In fact, things are much worse.
And the shift has occurred within my lifetime. When I told a college buddy that joke about Helen Knode, we were hanging out at a coffee shop -- probably New York George's (a cheap eatery with a big Scientologist clientele, but that's another story). Back then, two guys could grab burgers at a joint like that and no-one would see anything other than two guys having burgers.
Not so now. Go to any restaurant during dinner time: How often you see two guys at a table without a third? The sight is rare. And yet that sight used
to be much more common: Ask anyone my age or older. These days, I simply would have no idea how to ask another man out for a bite to eat without sounding like I'm inviting him on a gay date.
I have not had a male friend in twenty years.
Don't get me wrong: The company of women is very pleasant. But the occasional conversation with another male might be a nice change.
Gay readers, that's your cue to howl a predictable howl: "But what does it matter
if people think you're gay?" I'll tell you why it matters: It matters because truth
matters. It matters because we are social creatures, because we cannot insulate ourselves from the views of others, and because one of the worst punishments this culture has ever inflicted upon itself is the Hypersexualization of Everything.
The Hypersexualization of Everything means that two individuals cannot talk to each other for any length of time free of the presumption that one party is sizing the other up for a fuck. As a result, the Hypersexualization of Everything condemns us all to loneliness
. According to the strictures set by the Hypersexualization of Everything, you get twenty minutes max with another person. Anything beyond that means you're boinking.
The presumption that two guys having burgers must be gay is but one example of how the Loneliness Machine operates. Consider the case of an adult my age interacting with a child.
That last sentence made you feel a sudden sharp sting of ickiness, right? You have just experienced an example of what I'm talking about. That sting you felt is the Hypersexualization of Everything doing its dirty work on your psyche.
I never had children. Sometimes I wish I had. Most adults have the "mentor" instinct, a desire to pass on wisdom about history, technology, the way the world works. Hell, sometimes a guy just wants to toss a baseball back and forth with a ten year old. But opportunities to play that role are limited, more limited now than ever before. The Hypersexualization of Everything means that all such interactions can't last more than ten minutes, unless both adult and child belong to the same traditional nuclear family.
Back in my thirties, I ran into a few older women (and by "older," I mean by a couple of decades) who had fascinating things to say. Could I befriend them? Could I hang out with them just for the sake of spending time together? No. And you know damned well why.
Now I cannot talk to a woman appreciably younger than me without feeling like a dirty old man. We cannot spend time together even if we have things in common -- and even if, honest to God, we just want to talk
The Hypersexualization of Everything is the most inhumane and brutal social mechanism ever devised. It reduces our circles of permissible dialogue partners to ever-tinier loops. It renders us lonelier and lonelier and lonelier and lonelier
Although we were told that gay liberation would free straights from having to conform to stereotyped "macho" behavior, those stereotypes have, in fact, grown far more inflexible and absurd during my lifetime. (Look at nearly any movie from the 1970s and you'll see what I mean.) Although we were told that a more permissive discussion of sexuality would make communication easier, in fact this "open" culture has tossed us all into individual prison cells -- cells which seem to shrink a bit every year.
Thanks to the Hypersexualization of Everything, it has become almost impossible to compose a sentence in the English language that cannot be twisted into a double-entendre. Our entire media infrastructure communicates in an endless series of sniggers. Family Guy
has taught us that the only permissible joke is the fuck joke.
As June Thomas noted above, even Bert and Ernie cannot spend time together without the presumption that they suck each other's little felt cocks.
In the 19th century, the Irish proudly said that a young woman could travel alone from one end of the country to another without fear of violation. Irish culture, inculcated with the despised values of The One Religion That Everyone Everywhere Must Always Hate Hate Hate
, taught young males that accosting a lady was unmanly
. That was the word used. It's in Joyce.
Do you honestly believe that the Hypersexualization of Everything has made us more
Can you honestly say that people are less lonely now than they were before the sexual revolution?