I never really had an inclination to be a feminist until I lived awhile in LA. Before I get going, let me say to all my Chicago Theatre Boys (not the bullshit lawyers who bought their way into theatre companies to play at acting), but to the real Windy City Male Theatre Artists – you guys have your problems, but archaic, over sexualized views of women is not one of them – at least not as a general rule.
I did not know how good I had it back in Chicago. I took for granted being taken seriously as an artist just on the merits of my work. Or, in regards to the ridiculous standard of mediocrity that was often in play within a pretentious theatre scene, where nobody made any money – God love you, you Chicago Theatre Folks applied it equally, across the board, waylaying the careers of great male and female performers alike!
Here in Los Angeles, I have been sexually harassed on at least half the projects I have worked. I have had a director step into a scene for my fellow actor and use it as an opportunity to grab my ass and to kiss me. I have had a producer hire me to direct a show, then make remarks, while we are on a conference call to another producer, that I was there “sitting on his lap.” Male actors often thought it was ok to greet me, their director, with a wet kiss on the lips. I’ve taken a dinner meeting with a creative executive to discuss a spec script that I had written, only to discover that I was on a date and would be expected to put out by the end of the evening. That was especially true, if I ever wanted that script to go anywhere. Ah, Los Angeles…
So, on Monday, I fasted from sunrise to sunset. (No, not to be thin and therefore more sexually desirable to men). It was the last day of winter and I wanted to clear everything out, so I’d have some nice fresh soil to plant new seeds for Spring. By the morning of the Vernal Equinox, I felt almost like a different person. Five days ago, I was the kind of woman who would lie in bed all day and into the wee hours of the morning, watching the entire first season of Game of Thrones. Today, I am the kind of woman who will probably not even watch one episode of the second season, though it is one hell of a Fantasy Medieval Soap Opera.
In reflection, the well-acted though over the top series, was better therapy than I might have given it credit. There is something about the borderline misogynistic view of women that seems to pervade LA culture that I saw reflected in Game of Thrones, though it is set some hundreds of years ago in a time where women were considered personal property.
In the story, one of the many plot lines, follows Daenerys Targaryen. She is betrothed to Khal Drogo by her brother, Viserys. Drogo is the warlord of the nomadic Dothraki, undefeated and whom I begrudgingly admit is pretty freaking sexy, in a barbaric warlord kind of way.
On their wedding night, we see an awful, yet kind of hot, sex scene between the warlord and his princess bride. In reality, being taken roughly from behind the first time you have sex by a seven foot tall, ripped warrior who is hung like a bear, is not going to be pleasant. It is going to be painful, degrading and probably bloody. They were wise to cut away the second before penetration. It is like never seeing the actual deaths in The Matador. The brutal images would prevent the audience from later sympathizing with the character.
And, as the series progresses, we do grow to have some affection for the barbaric Drogo, when he falls so deeply in love with his new Queen. Daenerys recovers from the early sex, and literally, figures out how to get on top. Thanks to some advice from a Pleasure House Gal turned Hand Maiden, the soon to be true Khaleesi, gives old Drogo something in their tent that he had no idea ever existed. She ends up with a lot of power in the relationship and, to her credit, she also genuinely loves her Khal.
It is a love story that could not exist in modern times, well, not in this part of the world. Ok, so she wasn’t technically raped as it was a marriage and she was consenting, but she was clearly treated as property and as having very few rights or options in a world of men. WARNING: BIG SPOILER ALERT: That is why I am hoping my little Khaleesi, (who literally rose from her husband’s funeral pyre in the season finale, with three baby dragons clinging to her naked, yet un-charred, body), will win the game of thrones. END SPOILER.
What I guess all this really brought up for me, was that I have made the mistake my entire life of NOT manipulating men with sex (other than the time I got pulled over for committing three moving violations in four seconds, and I played the lost damsel to the big strong officer of the law). I find it to be rather the social norm here in LA to jump in bed first and figure out if we like each other later. The idea is that, as a woman, you get a man into bed, knock his socks off with how amazing you are. Then, when he wants to keep screwing you, you use that to force him to get to know you. You get him really into you and then you deny him sex, until he gives you what you want.
I’ve never been able to do that, although I think guys have expected it. There are a few reasons that I fall short. The first being that, when I am into a guy and we start getting busy, I usually love sex so much that it is hard for me to deny myself. Since I have no will power, I can’t use it against the guy.
Secondly, I don’t want to believe that my only real power as a woman is sex or that sex is about power at all. As I am getting older and losing my attractiveness, one does begin to see signs that one finds disheartening, though. In addition, I’ve always tried to give a man some credit for having a certain degree of control over his own genitals, so that if a situation were truly bad for him, he would not put his prick into it. In this regard, I have generally given men way too much credit. Well, the men with whom I have been involving or trying to involve myself as of late, anyway…
It always amazes me when I go to the supermarket and I glance at the covers of magazines like Cosmo. I read all these headlines about how to drive a man crazy in bed, in the middle of these beauty articles and various advice on how to hide who you are long enough to trap a man. There are all these do’s and dont’s that involve pleasing a man’s ego and giving him a false sense of how you will be in a long term relationship, so as to secure a commitment. I am sure in Men’s Health or GQ, there are articles that basically are teaching men the same kind of manipulations, though probably with a different outcome in mind.
I am pretty much a “what you see is what you get” kind of gal. Now, granted I have good days and bad days, so what you’re seeing and getting may be opposite things on different days, but it’s usually honest. I’ve tried to be truthful and open. On a hopeful note, men are drawn to that. It’s just that we are so conditioned to be something for someone else, in order to get what we want, men never really know what to do with me. Add to that, the complication of great sex and you’ll get a man telling you a lot of lies, if you don’t have one doing that already. That is how I learned NOT to sleep with men who are filled with fear, no matter how much pity they might illicit.
I have found that a lot of LA men expect, if you show them any interest or are remotely friendly, that you are pretty much ready to get down. It is later, as Daenerys does in Game of Thrones, that you get your lover to acknowledge your humanity. For me, even if the sex is hot, there is still a nasty psychology kick back, if it is anonymous – if I could be any open pair of legs in the situation and it wouldn’t matter.
It leaves me in a tough spot, because I feel a man needs me to be nothing for him in order to feel secure. Then, if I am lucky, he will decide that I have worth – only after, of course, I have proven myself satisfactorily as a sexual partner. In the mid 1970s, there was a really great episode of All in the Family utilizing a storyline with the Stivics to intelligently deal with this issue.
Like Gloria (who often proved brighter than her educated husband), I have no tolerance for the brutality of nothing. In life, you don’t get to cut away before the shitty stuff happens. Even if the sex is not physically rough, being nobody for me is too painful, especially when I am naked and there is someone inside me. You end up absorbing a man’s pain, frustration and fears with no way to release it, because there is no real relationship within which to put a context on anything. When a woman is open and spiritually connected, screwing someone who is filled with fear turns the womb into an anonymous dump for masculine emotional sludge. Trust me, this causes physiological health problems.
It doesn’t take you long in this life to realize that men and women do terrible things to each other. Hollywood has been a huge contributor to the kind of socialization that has led to our modern version of accepted romantic cruelty. Anymore, so many plot lines of movies and sitcoms rely on men and women wildly deceiving each other, or, people equating sex as the only validation for love. Women get message after message from the entertainment industry and the media that looking good and being sexually desirable should be their number one concern. To be fair to men, in these modern times, they are starting to hear that same tune – LOUDLY!
Even though I reside in the heart of the beast, so to speak, if I can keep outside of it, laughing at it all, maybe I’ll hear someone else on the outside laughing at the same things. Maybe it will be a man. Maybe he will be straight. And maybe, he will see me as a human being…Regardless, I will keep laughing. What else are you going to do? Other than figure out how to raise three baby dragons…
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee.