Our man Marlowe comes home from a sexually charged confrontation with Vivian Sternwood to find Carmen Sternwood, Vivian's sister, giggling and stark naked in his bed. Marlowe notes that "The Sternwood girls were giving me both barrels that night." He then orders Carmen Sternwood to get dressed and get out.
It's so hard for women—even nice women—to realize that their bodies are not irresistible.
The problem is that men can be hurt. Men can be rejected. More, men have no right to what they are raised to consider simple sustenance. In effect they must live as some approximation of what they imagine the weaker half to be. Women must live with sexual vulnerability, with the threat of rape. This makes a kind of sense when the whole society says you are weak. But how do you live with vulnerability when your identity is rooted in impossible strength? Being raped and being refused are not the same thing. But the tyrant's gaze must be absolute, or it must not be at all.
Marlowe is forever slapping some woman, or seducing somebody's wife within minutes of meeting her, or declaring his sexual invulnerability to still another woman, or berating some man for being gay—and thus being a woman. At all events, Marlowe triumphs with his unhurtable manhood intact:
She looked at me under her long lashes. This was the look that was supposed to make me roll over on my back.
If she's as beautiful as you claim, Marlowe, and if you are the man you claim, then you dream of her rolling you over on your back. It's not up to you.
I've consumed art like this all my life--men claiming invulnerability, against all I know of maleness and human attraction. Misogyny is not merely a moral problem, but a problem of art. It takes half the world and caricatures it. And then it caricatures the other half by proscribing the exploration of weakness.
I don't recognize a single one of these dudes. It's a kind of pornography, a humiliated boy's idea of what manhood must be. I wish more of the art I loved, the art rendered by dudes, did not take sexual vulnerability as something to be defeated, but as an actual fact. You do not get the girl. More directly, you have no actual right to get the girl. Most times, she just don't want you. And when she does, your reply is, very often, to pine after some other "her."
Some of us really do go there—Ricky Gervais's David Brent does it in the extreme. But I'm hunting for more. In the end, we don't just hate women. We hate ourselves. There's a lot of juice in confronting not women, not the object, but the subject; in honing in on that part of our makeup which seems bent on our humiliation.
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