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

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bad Boys And Good Girls–The Ineffable, Irresistible Allure Of The Sexual Truant

‘Do the right thing”, said Mrs. Shilton to her son, Roger, every day as he was leaving for school, where he would be told to behave, to be good, to fall in line, and to obey, after which he would be reminded by the priests at St. Maurice and the nuns at Sunday school to be moral, righteous, and good. 

For a while he got A’s on his report cards, pats on the back from Frs. Brophy and Mullins, pictures of the Virgin Mary from Sister Mary Joseph, and extra servings of peach cobbler from his mother.

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He was the son that every parent wanted, a model student, and a boy destined for a religious vocation and a place at St. Anselm’s Abbey.  Then, without warning, notice, or intimation, he began to slack off, and little by little and piece by piece, he began to turn bad. 

First was a deliberate indifference to his clothes – school tie loose and askew, khakis dragging, and shirt half-tucked. Then was a more deliberate disregard of propriety and right behavior – snide remarks to the English teacher, refusal to kneel during the Kyrie, bad table manners, and a messy room; and finally downright defiance.  By his sixteenth birthday he had joined a gang, drunk, hung out at pool halls, and cruised for factory girls on the Strip. 

His parents of course had no idea what had gotten into him.  “Such a nice boy”, was all Mrs. Shilton had heard since Roger’s toddler days, and so he was, proper, obedient, prayerful, and respectful.  It was as though he had been possessed by the devil himself, for this could be the only explanation for the sudden transformation from everything good to everything bad.  So convinced was she, a devout Catholic, that she went to Father Brophy for counsel and support.

He dismissed her suspicions, explaining that the boy was simply going through a phase like most adolescents; and she needed only to up her vigilance, trust in the Lord, and be patient, not petition for an exorcism.

Father Brophy was on solid ground here.  Many a parish parent of adolescent boys had come to him suspecting the worst, and he offered the same advice and comfort.  Boys will be boys, he said, and the Lord will watch over them.

By his seventeenth birthday, Roger had become a center of sexual interest, and girls from up and down the social ladder sought him out.  There was something very appealing about his nonchalance, his confidence, and his air of superiority and defiance that was irresistible.  The more their parents tried to keep them away from Roger Shilton, the more desperately they pursued him.  They couldn’t keep their eyes off him, had wild, sexy, exotic dreams about idylls with him in Jamaica and Hawaii, naked, hot, and wet, coming with the thought of his body, his kisses, and his embrace.

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The girls at Miss Willard’s fell the hardest.  Girls who came from the crème de la crème of New Brighton society were sent to private day and boarding schools for the well-off and privileged with the expectations of an Ivy League education, a proper marriage, and a return to the country clubs and social milieu of their youth from which they would carry on into adulthood with grace and aplomb.  If there were any truly ‘good’ girls still around, they were to be found at Miss Willard’s.

The moral and social restrictions, the insistence on propriety, rectitude, and good behavior – all part of Miss Willard’s code of behavior – were enforced uniformly and harshly.  The school was as close to a nunnery as the more liberal modern age would allow; so it was no surprise that its girls, as red-blooded, sexually enthusiastic, and rebellious within as any, wanted release from this punitive environment. 

The name Roger Shilton made the rounds of the classrooms and refectories of Miss Willard’s and soon the most adventurous and sexually precocious girls were seen with him.  It didn’t seem to bother them that Shilton had already had his share of girls from both sides of the tracks, that he bedded and left them quickly and unceremoniously, that he showed no interest in love or a relationship, or that he showed no signs of interest in them as people, individuals, beings of value.  In fact every new report of his dereliction piqued their interest even more.  

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None of this is surprising or new, of course.  Good girls have always fallen for bad boys. Their unshakeable male confidence; their calm, determined sexual nature; their social defiance, and their rejection of the proper and the predictable are Darwinian traits.  The righteous, the dutiful, and the honorable cannot hold a candle to them.  It is their children that good girls want.  They want to pass on to their sons their mates’ irrefutable maleness. 

Although the other side of the brain tells them to be sensible, to marry a good provider, a family man, a man of principle and caring, they cannot resist the allure of bad boys.  Most women fall prey to the inevitable social pressures of a good, profitable marriage, and a solid roof over their heads; but will always regret never having at least tasted the wild seed of the likes of Roger Shilton.

Those who do marry bad boys soon realize what they have done, for they never change.  Their irresistibility to women and their desire for them remains as much a part of them as it did before marriage.  The very traits that led to a marriage with a good girl lead to the beds of hundreds of others.  Ironically but not surprisingly, this male irresistibility is part of what keeps these women married.  They hate the idea of such an attractive, virile mate sleeping with other women, but this sexual insistence is why they married him.

D.H. Lawrence, perhaps more than any other writer understood sexual determinism – sex is not simply an act of pleasurable procreation, nor one of intimacy and consolidation; but one of almost epiphanic importance.  Men and women seek each other for the possibility of a uniquely powerful, if not transformative sexual experience.  Lady Chatterley and Mellors seek each other out despite the great differences in social class because of this instinctive, irresistible attraction. 

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Flaubert’s Madame Bovary wanted nothing to do with her pedestrian, dutiful, and insufferably boring husband; and looked to men of physical beauty, sexual allure, and social prominence.

Sinclair Lewis’ heroine in Main Street grew  increasingly impatient with her rural doctor husband and his patient dutifulness.  She wanted  more than a man of principle and good intent, and she eventually left her husband to find her own way. While Lewis brings her back to reality and to her husband, he has created a female character of vitality and sexual energy.

Tennessee Williams’ Alma, the main character in Summer and Smoke was brought up in a rectory by a censorious, disciplinarian father, and has for most of her youth followed his precepts and good counsel; and yet she is ineluctably attracted to the bad boy next door, the ‘wastrel’, womanizer, and libertine.  He is the one, not the schoolmarmish, bookish young man who seeks her company.

Blanche and Stella, main characters in Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire both are attracted to Stanley, an unashamed male who likes women, who understands them, and in his irrevocably powerful sexuality attracts them easily and often.  In Williams’ mind, like Lawrence’s, this primitive, inexplicable, but captivating sexuality is the central point of male-female relationships.  It is no surprise that women like Stella, unpretentiously feminine in her wifely and motherly role; and Blanche in her sexually promiscuous way are both attracted to Stanley.

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Because good girls always fall for bad boys, the boys have no reason whatsoever to reform, to repent, or to apologize for their ways.  They understand the indefinable but inevitable captivity of sexual bonding.  The wives who have married them for their untrappable ways, and who have voluntarily agreed to this particular marital contract will bear up, conciliate, draw some of their own lines in the sand, but be satisfied.

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is about one of these improbable but very decipherable marriages.  Kate, the shrew, is ‘tamed’ by Petruchio not because of some timorous desire to be dominated, but because her shrewishness has been a result of her sexual and social frustration.  Once she meets Petruchio who loves her for her defiant and indomitable character, she loses her sharp edges, her hostility, and aggressiveness.  It is a perfect match.

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Today’s feminists and their male coterie make automatic assumptions about such relationships.  Tennessee Williams’ ‘fragile’ female characters – Blanche, Alma, Laura – are, these progressive advocates insist, are all oppressed and dominated by the men in their lives.  They are victims, sufferers, and in no way independent from the predatory male.  Williams of course thought just the opposite, and put social assumptions and environment aside.   Sexual attraction at its best and worst is primitive, and at the heart of both epiphany and disaster.  In either case it is not an affair of misogyny, abuse, or oppressive domination.

The political-social climate in America today is censorious, presumptuous, and unrelenting in its righteousness.  Progressives are intent on neutering sexuality, removing all traces of a Lawrentian, Williams-like heterosexual power, and replacing it with a passionless gender spectrum.   One hopes they will not be successful and that the pendulum will swing back to dead center between sexual poles; but the news is discouraging.

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