13.69: Reading Popular Culture has a fascinating bit on feral women. Why do we want them? What do they say to us about desire? Does the wildness of these particular women produce a sexually present woman, or another victim? Well, because she’s a complicated reader of such things, 13.69 thinks of this as both – those are the consequences of cultural desire and material limits. Cultural desire dis-locates the desire, of course, folding desire into the “we” and the “our.” And I think that is right, because cultural desire is saturated with ideology in the sense Althusser famously gave it: the reproduction of ideas, beliefs, and values. You know, what we call a “society.” Still, who is this “we” and this “our”? It might make a lot of difference, even if it is all the same, in the end.
In other words, this is all worth revisiting from a particular subject-position, from a particular shade of that subject-position. Namely, what feral women might say about a certain crisis of straight masculinity. What kind of crisis? Let’s assume it takes a generation or two for a social revolution to lodge itself deep enough in the psyche to produce anxieties. In other words, let’s be conservative. And I mean real anxiety here, the kind Freud described as both productive and destructive relations to no longer being master of one’s home.
Nicely put, Freud, because it is precisely a loss of that mastery, literally-which-then-becomes-figuratively, that marks our great social revolution. Straight men are no longer expected or even wanted as masters of their own home. Need I even say that this is a good thing? Of course it is, but you can’t fuck around with ideological reproduction and expect an anxiety-free state of affairs. Remember, again, how Althusser links ideology with the function of the logos in the letters of Saint Paul. It is that in which we live, move, and breathe. You change something about ideology, you produce a different society. You produce a different society, you produce another ideology in which we live, move, and breathe. The human psyche is fickle and slow and fussy and reactive and mean. Thus, the material limits end up looking a lot like the old order: women, y’all have to be the victim, again. 13.69 is right to be a suspicious reader of this cultural moment.
Ideological pro-duction. This certainly changes, or suggests a change, in our desire – both as a culture and as straight men. But I think the case of feral women points at least a little bit to another change in desire: what does this social revolution mean for my desirability? How am I to be made desirable? A paycheck isn’t cutting it (though some suggest that it would at least help: cue “Tyrone” on your iTunes). We have to reinvent ourselves to live, move, and breathe.
So, I think it is noteworthy that feral women are not a threat, really. Feral women are sexy; it’s not just her cleavage, friends, it’s her teeth, her bite. If part of the crisis of masculinity after the women’s movement is the question “what makes me desirable?,” then we shouldn’t be surprised that men start thinking “damn, we gotta starve them so they actually want us!” Maybe a really hungry woman will find me edible. Otherwise, I’m fucked for appearances.
I’m thinking here of a great Seinfeld episode, where Jerry and Elaine talk on and on about “good naked” and “bad naked.” It is really hilarious. At one point, Elaine cracks joke after joke about how naturally attractive women’s bodies are and how men’s bodies are “just so simian!” After this scene, Jerry’s girlfriend sees him naked, and, to dramatize it, Jerry mocks-up an ape in his best girl’s imagination. Very funny. Very true.
What I’m suggesting, if I may be cryptic, is that there may be a connection between these new feral women and these new men without hair. I mean, seriously, if all the women are starving, who wants to be the ape? We skin the animal before we eat it. Remember? That’s what makes us civilized. Maybe feral women aren’t so outside civilization after all…