"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Men Who Are Irresistible To Women - A Post-Feminist Tale

Littlejohn Parker had been born to wealthy, sophisticated parents – the kind that wintered in St. Bart’s and Gstaad, summered on the Vineyard, and spent the rest of the time between homes in the Berkshires and Carmel. Yet the Parkers financial ease came only partially from private incomes; for Littlejohn worked as hard as his father, expanding the once fledgling Montana mining operation into one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States.  By the time environmentalism and foreign competition had depressed the value of the company stock, Emory had amassed a small fortune, only a small portion of which he had placed in trust for his son, preferring that he make his money through the fruits of his labor just as he had.  Much of the flintiness of his father’s New England upbringing had gone by the time Littlejohn became a man – schooling and camaraderie with like-minded, fortunate, wealthy offspring of the region’s captains of industry had encouraged a more Mediterranean sense of pleasure and enjoyment – and while he had lost none of his father’s persistence and ambition, he was more relaxed about money, its stewardship, and the way it was spent.

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Not only had Littlejohn inherited the family genes of intelligence and good looks along with his portion of its fortune, he had inherited the sense of supreme confidence which comes with wealth, influence, and universal respect.  While not always the case – Billy Thornton, the heir to a steel fortune and the child of an equally well-placed family, was a bumbler, shy, and  lackadaisical – more often than not privilege begets privilege and a sense if not noblesse oblige then noblesse a ses droits, the assumed right of the upper class to lead, attract, and influence.

So it was no accident that Littlejohn – by now ‘Johnny’ – was irresistible to women and had been ever since the eighth grade, a time well before sexual maturity, when girls were still in pinafores and boys were interested only in cars and football.  Girls, without their own sexual maturity to know why, were attracted to him.  They wanted to be with him.  They looked at him over their schoolbooks, followed him up the stairs, brushed against him in the coatroom.  He was aware of this attention, and always acknowledged it.  He was never shy, nervous, or impatient.  His directness was never demanding but understanding.  He knew that these girls – like all the women in his later life – wanted acknowledgement, interest, and affection. 

By the time he had reached high school – or rather an exclusive New England prep school, feeder to Harvard and Yale to which, well-before the age of inclusivity, boys of the best families matriculated – his premature sexual awareness had become mature, physical, and seductive.  Girls were just as attracted to him as they were in eighth grade, but now it was a physical and emotional.  They wanted him, not just to be with him.

Littlejohn was as aware of these new sexual dynamics as he was in middle school.  He intuitively understood women and the nature of his attractiveness to them.  More than good looks, physical ability, intelligence, and social grace, it was confidence – an absolute, irrevocable sexual promise.  No matter who the girl, and regardless of their looks, allure, or vivacity, he was theirs. 

Not surprisingly he was attracted to women of the same ilk – women who were irresistible to men and who understood the nature of their allure.  “What I am is sexy”, says the Scarlett Johansson character in the Woody Allen movie Match Point, not as beautiful as her sister or as elegantly poised as her mother, but irresistible to men.  Marilyn Monroe was not classically beautiful like Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr, or Vivien Leigh, but had an unmatchable sensuousness and sensuality.  She had allure, an immediate, unmistakable and undeniable sexual appeal.  She  embodied sexual desire.  Men wanted her not for her beauty but to make love to her.  Nabokov understood this well when the wrote Lolita. There are some young girls – ‘nymphets’ – who are sexual long before they are aware of their sexuality or sexually mature.  They are born sexual.

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he theme of sexual harmony is not new.  Every man and woman hopes for a mutually satisfying sexual relationship and at least some intellectual, physical, and emotional satisfaction if not all three; and if one can believe popular romantic fiction, not an insignificant number of women hope for the best of all possible worlds, a spiritual union, D.H. Lawrence’s epiphany.  Serious fiction and drama are no different.  The brutal bloodletting of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is all about finding sexual equilibrium, stripping pretense down to the marrow and starting over.  The Taming of the Shrew is perhaps Shakespeare’s only real love story.  Kate and Petruchio need each other,
complement each other, and form a perfect equilibrium.  Kate’s long soliloquy about adoring and respecting her husband has often been misread as Shakespeare’s angry misogyny; but it is just the opposite.  Petruchio has liberated Kate from her patriarchal father and abusive sisters, and she has given him the  strong, determined, willful, sensual woman he has sought for years.

Especially in this gender-sensitive, feminized age, the Lawrentian vision is looked at with some criticism.  There is no such thing as sexual mutuality, say feminist critics.  Male misogyny is deeply-rooted, hardwired, and inescapable.  The Idea of mutuality and equilibrium can only be a fiction in a patriarchal age.  Lawrence, they go on to say, is only feeding his own immature male sexual fantasies.

Lawrence’s conviction that such sexual epiphany can only come from a heterosexual union is also against the progressive polemic.  There is no such thing as sexual bi-polarity, only sexuality on a gradually defined gender spectrum. Matching any two of the hundred possibilities of sexual identity has nothing whatsoever to do with Lawrence’s insistence on heterosexual orgasm.   Lawrence is irrelevant to today’s woman, so the polemic goes.

A woman reader who, after reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover thought differently when she said, “I’ll have what she’s having”.  While she may have dismissed some of Lawrence’s more far fetched notions of Tantric union and spiritual epiphany, there was no doubting that he had struck a very resonant chord when he wrote about female ecstasy and Connie’s profound appreciation of manhood.  The reason why Lawrence is relevant is because he never doubted the Tantric and spiritual nature of sexual intercourse.

Romantic Love

To complicate matters further, millennial women are not that far removed from the influence of Daddy.  Even D.H.Lawrence’s incredibly strong and independent Ursula and Gudrun (Women in Love) struggle with issues of dependency begun in childhood.   Ursula, as Lawrence explains in The Rainbow, the story of the women’s early years, was desperately attached to her father, put up with his abuse and indifference, but dependent on his quixotic but passionate love for her, could only achieve distance and autonomy with a struggle. Both women feel they need men, but are unsatisfied with any of them.  The entire story of these women is not one of love, but love sought – a love which could only be the result of the exhausting struggle of wills between them and their partners.

Littlejohn Parker might have been an anathema to feminists – a retrograde, chauvinist Lothario with no respect for women – until they met him.  Except for the lesbian fringe of the movement, many women, while suspicious of men and unwilling to give them the benefit of the doubt when it came to sexual seriousness, were as susceptible to male charm, confidence, and pursuit as any.  His reputation, his success with women, his many lovers, and his untethered sexuality was no bar to their interest.  In fact, they were even more attracted to him.  His obvious sexuality, his clear and unmistakable interest in women as women, his respectful pursuit, and his irresistible emotional openness was irresistible.  Their heads and political agenda were turned after meeting  him.  They could no longer accept the received wisdom of the movement that men were universally hormone-driven throwbacks, apes to women’s sensitive, intelligent heroines.

Littlejohn never met his Lady Chatterley, a fictionally impossible character more expressive of Lawrence’s own frail sexuality than anything more real or reasonable; but he was never as compulsive as Lawrence was.  He simply enjoyed women, loved how they looked, behaved, and felt.  If there was to be no Lawrentian sexual epiphany in his future, there certainly would be many happy love affairs with attractive, sensuous, sexual women.

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