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

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Shakespeare, Hermaphroditus, And The Elegant Sexuality of Jennifer Parsons

Jennifer Parsons wanted love, the head-over-heels, can’t-sleep-at-night, breathless variety.  She had read True Romance, Young Romance, and Romantic Secrets as a teenager, but found them unsatisfying – treacly, cloying, and a bit unsettling.  She wanted less to be taken than to take, and as she got older wondered why she looked at the chiseled, muscled boys of her home room empathetically rather than desirously.  

In other words, she wanted to be them – tough, confident, and pursuing – and not the frilly, girly-girl classmates they pursued. She found herself dressing more like Randall Cobb, the football captain, copying his moves and great attitude, and hanging out with the team.

Truer Than True Romance: Classic Love Comics Retold!: Martinet, Jeanne:  9780823084388: Amazon.com: Books

The boys knew that something was up.  The girl was too butch for a groupie, not butch enough for the locker room, and so she was given no truck or space.  She was betwixt and between, neither here nor there, a wannabee without direction, a sexual wanderer without a place to hang her hat. 

So, she decided to go girly girl – low cut blouses, tight cutoffs, high platforms, eye shadow, perfume, foundation, and rouge – but ended up so tarted up that Serena, Elizabeth, and Janet sniffed and sneered.  This was not the way into the class harem by any means.  She had a knack for looking more like Randall Cobb that Felicity James, and shouldn’t that tell her something.  At last she faced the question.  Who am I? 

She felt cheated, somehow.  Everyone else in her class went merrily along kissing and fondling and having sex in the barn behind the school, and here she was unsure about what to do with whom. A conundrum at best, an ironic twist for a girl who had started off on the right foot - romance novels, prettying up in Mommy’s dresses and high heeled shoes – but for whom nothing had taken hold. By now she was supposed to be well on her way to love, sex, and happiness with the boy of her dreams when all she could think of was Brandy Marshall.

This identity crisis came just at the right time – or wrong time depending on your perspective.  The whole transgender thing was blowing up, and the most susceptible –or, again, given one’s perspective, the most sensitive and aware – girls and boys were considering it.  The whole idea of sexual transformation was a bit off-putting to say the least, and she had no intention of doing that; so why not compromise.  

But compromise how? Should she remain as is, but show her affection for Brandy – or any one of the other girls in her class.  That would be sweet, in keeping with her biological destiny but emotionally spare. 

She could go butch and pursue a smaller, more selective number of wavering girls, and could have it both ways.  She could be a seducer, but as a girl identify with the seducee.

In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 the poet’s lover is a man who was created a woman who could love and be loved as both – a gender mix that allowed for every possible sexual combination.

A woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion:
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

The Queer Narrative of Shakespeare's Sonnets | The Mary Sue

This was more than just swinging both ways, AC-DC sexuality.  It was a sophisticated, elegant, infinitely natural way of being.  Jennifer saw herself as Hermaphroditus, marvelously confected by the gods.  According to legend Hermaphroditus was the child of Aphrodite and Hermes, born a remarkably handsome boy whom the naiad Salmacis attempted to rape and prayed to be united with forever. The gods answered her prayer and merged their two forms into one.  Or Ardhanarishvara, a form of the Hindu deity Shiva combined with his consort Parvati. What could be better? The sublimity of it all!

Statue of Hermaphroditus from Pergamon (Illustration) - World History  Encyclopedia

Jennifer was a sexual chameleon, perfectly adapted to changing circumstances, neither this nor that but all things at once, together, or to be spun and confected sur minute.  How anti-establishment! How perfectly ironic to throw the identity meme out the window and claim a new wardrobe, suits and ties, blouses and dresses, grease paint and flair. She was a versatile comedienne who could play both Hamlet and Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, Kate and Petruchio on a virtual stage. A one woman show where sexuality was a matter of perspective and application – who better than a Greek hermaphroditic throwback to play men and women simultaneously?

It was not a matter of ying and yang, lingam and yoni, or Tantric coupling.  Nothing was at odds.  There was no Lawrentian struggle for sexual equilibrium, no Lady Chatterley and Mellors, Gudrun and Gerald.  In perfect hermaphroditic form, every desire was fungible, plastic, and encompassing.  With any luck Jennifer would find another like her.

Yoni And Lingam Are The Symbols Of Lord Shiva And Ma Shakti | Divine Matters

Easier said than done, for America was still in a frenzy about individual identity - as if that could possibly make any difference to true sexual evolution.  Typically American, this Linnaean attempt to classify and then to splice and hybridize ended in an incomplete sense of false accomplishment, a fictitious recasting identity, an imagined reconfiguration.  

It was a time of drag queens, engineered queers, divas, broad-shouldered décolleté, fairy tales, and pharmaceuticals – all of which fell flat, unsatisfying for those in sexual camouflage, laughable for most others.  It was a side show of two-headed babies, bearded ladies, and dwarves, a made-for-television soap opera, an insubstantial, distracting spectacle. It was the trash talk of the town, a brutal come-down for those taken in by the cant, an elaborate runway extravaganza, a sexual Sturm und Drang without denouement.

it would take time for this and the he/she/they fol-de-rol to pass by, and a real understanding of sexual being to come. Jennifer would have slim pickin’s but since everything in life is on a bell curve – the few on the asymptotes would eventually find each other.

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