Saturday, December 06, 2008

Verbal Taboo

Molly had been made an offer. She was a different girl now, changed since the days when she would not have let a heartbeat pass before saying 'Yes' to such an offer. Rumour has it she had said 'Yes' in the past.

She hesitated this time, called me. What should she do?

Previously, like many young people - hey, many people old and young would still like to be innocent (or not), cheeky and curious - she would answer quickly in the positive to any offer of excitement or challenge, anything that might provoke a bit of outrage and controversy, anything that would draw attention to herself. Then she would rationalize her decision at length, with quite sophisticated arguments, later on.

It's what we all do. We respond instantly with our limbic system (the anatomically lower, central, evolutionarily older parts of the brain) we rationalize cerebrally (with the more recently developed frontal cortex mainly) afterwards whatever the fuck we've just done. It's been proven, it's been written up.

Sure, Freudians, father never speaks to her, but as he has never spoken to anyone why should she feel special about that? I love to read psychoanalysis books and novels and case-studies, but they don’t convince me. The full talking cure doesn’t work as the words we 'choose' to describe a situation are generated so far post hoc, their tenuous links to those irrational motives are way too chaotic to be accurately derived. A meteorologist tries to isolate the guilty butterfly by analyzing a destructive hurricane.

The offer was financially attractive for a poor student, for anyone, it just required a couple of hours in a hotel. Any girl who liked to fuck would jump at it, right? Escorting. Just be an escort. Show them around. Then fuck them. If you never sleep alone, pick up guys left and right, if you like to fuck most days, what's the big deal about getting some cash for something you usually do for kicks? It's essentially the same as getting taken out for dinner and then fucking on a first date. Food and/or money. What's the big deal?

The word was 'escort'. It had a PG rating. Was family safe.

But she said it was the other words that slowed her down.

The other words for the same act, they drew her up to a certain line. That was the line between acceptable and unacceptable. Between SACRED, when everything was - to her rational mind - natural, her choice, her decision under her control (but haven’t I just argued that they are not?), and PROFANE when it was an arranged situation, when it really was a decision, not an impulse.

We had once drunkenly blathered on together over whether people should live life according to their natural impulses or to resist such initial impulses and basic urges and seek to CHOOSE by an attempt at some rational thought process what should be our actions. Surely being spontaneous was the easy way, was my argument.

She disagreed, said it was tough to thumb your nose at public condemnation for acting as you feel, as you know at a basic level was right. Doing what we are programmed to do...

But the first thing that comes to your head is not always the right thing, like revenge, and anger, like invading Iraq when Saudi Arabia is the problem. I loved to quote Katherine Hepburn in 'The African Queen' to her: "Nature, Mr Allnut, is what we were put on this planet to rise above." Our strong reasoning power is not only what separates us from the lower apes, has made us so successful, so powerful in the world.

She loved to kid me for being a old man, with an old man's thinking. Why is it all about power? It's destructive, all this power, too.

I said I like trying to be scientific about things. I know I am not, but I try to be sensible.

Being sensible doesn’t make sense to her.

Yet it does for me. It is a goal to aspire to, like truth. That why I collect all these books, to get enough evidence to make a decision about the truth.

She washed hands of that question… Truth is something we can never find.


Words. Take some of the expressions we use for sexual congress:

Intercourse. Doing it. Vaginal-penile contact. Copulation. Making babies. Naughty weekend. Horizontal tango. Making love. Bonking. Shagging. Screwing. Fucking. (I resist the temptation to get too jokey here.)

They all describe the same act. They all are representative of that same act, of people either inserting or being inserted into, flesh and flesh, juices, muscles, sweat, grunting, pleasure. Basic stuff. The stuff that maintains the population. Sex. Fucking.

Why are some words acceptable to describe or name the copulative act and yet others taboo? Why do we draw a line somewhere along that list and say 'OK', 'Not OK'? Here be PG. Here be R-rated.

Molly doesn't hesitate to call someone a cunt, a fucker. She doesn’t hesitate to say out loud in a crowded restaurant, "I was fucking this guy on the couch the other night when my flatmate walked in…" Doesn't hesitate to talk about big Western cocks and small Asian tits in her public writings.

But when we discussed the power words of her conflicted decision, she spoke quietly.

Which words? Hooker. Call-girl. Prostitute.


Let me look at something I feel is related.

Why does one of my friends insist on me taking my shoes off when I come to his apartment, even though he knows I have bad feet that require support? (He gets me some indoor slippers.) I haven't been dancing in dogshit, I haven't been sloshing through sewers. His floor gets cleaned often enough, fuck knows his maid has nothing to do most of the day. What difference does it make? It's common thing in Asia of course, a sign of 'respect', not so much in Australia except maybe on a farm, and even then...

'Outside' is one area, where certain things are acceptable, where certain shoes are worn. 'Inside' is another world, where those shoes are not acceptable. Here sacred, there profane, same shoes. Literally 'clean' or 'unclean'. Even though the shoes may be genuinely clean in the bacteriological sense, they are 'unclean' in the moral, religious sense. The conditioned response to a broken taboo is a sense of revulsion, or disgust. In many religions breaking such a taboo requires a cleansing ritual of some type.


Was it merely words that stopped Molly from agreeing to the offer? Was she happy to be an escort, but wasn't that the same as being a hooker, a prostitute-for-a-day? Did those words make her feel unclean, whereas 'escort' didn't?

What essentially was the difference? she asked.

Control, I said. Control. A prostitute may be trafficked in illegally, coerced into it through drugs or criminals. No choice.

Or poverty, she said. That's why I would be doing it, because I am fucking broke.

But, you have the option of not doing it or not. A lot of the girls in Orchard Towers have no other option, if they are to break out of their poverty, but to hook. You are just looking for a short-term bit of cash. Shit you know I'd lend you money if you really needed it. But if you decide you want to do, then you can go ahead - I've been to OT a few times, I'm not in a position to criticize or moralize.

She thought for a moment. Thanks, but I'd ask the parental unit if I was really desperate for a loan.

Then ask them.

It's not the money. I'd like it, but I want to be outrageous. I've been so boring lately. I want to do something to stimulate my life a bit.

Is it just the words then, not the act? I asked.

Yes, perhaps. It's the concept of being labeled a prostitute, hooker, escort: whatever, it's the same thing. She had decided against it, to turn the offer down.

I wanted to call 'the arranger' - the word 'pimp' upset her as well- to say I'd be happy fuck some lady for that price. Any guy would. As for her, it's her decision for her to make.


I am still uncertain about why she turned it down, I have been thinking about it for a while. I agree that the truth is something we may never find. A truth that is scientific must be dispensable, tossed out when a better truth comes along. Was it really just the words?


To the old (younger) Molly, a decision made rationally was taboo. And here, she didn’t act irrationally. Uncharacteristically, she didn’t say 'Yes' the minute the question was asked. She stopped to think about it instead. She held off and rationalized.

Maybe that rationalization by this older (still young) Molly, the cerebration she used to explain a refutation of the limbic urge in this case, was just a convenient excuse. Those unpleasant, value-laden words were what she decided after the event that had caused her failure to take up the offer.

She wasn't spontaneous, and that wasn't the Molly she thought she knew, wasn't the image she had of herself.

So, to maintain integrity, she had to evoke a verbal, public taboo to explain why she broke her more personal, inner one.

She did a Katie Hepburn. She rose above nature, but would she admit that? Maybe.

Or, as she would say, 'Whatever.'



Skippy-san said...

Great Post-although now I need a cold shower............

The whole time I was reading it, understanding the logic, there was a part of me that rooting for her to "go for it".

Which is just not right............

At least you get talk about such things-my world is not so much anything but where to go buy gas these days............

Sigh, which brings me back to thinking about Molly and the various terms you mentioned.....and that's why I need the shower.

expat@large said...

Skip, you sound like you're on a hair trigger!

dibabear said...

I've often wondered much the same thing. How is it that it's taboo for a woman to ask for money for sex when trading sex for baubles, furs or expensive shopping is much the same thing? Well that and how men who partake of such pay-to-play women are looked at as pathetic losers. Color me cynical but I think the dance between sexes would be a whole lot clearer if such dichotomies didn't exist.

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