This article originally appeared in the April 1998 issue of playboy magazine.
Am I the only person on earth who doesn’t love Marilyn Monroe? I know I’m supposed to, because she’s dead and was beautiful and tragic. But she was the embodiment (sorry) of everything I hate about how men regard women.
In every movie, she played a lame-brain. Men constantly slavered in her presence, but she never noticed, because she was too busy playing paddle ball and jiggling her breasts or thinking someone was a woman when he was actually a man with a giant hard-on. She was fresh, she was dewy and she was completely, utterly unconscious. Here is the message she sent to men: “If you play your cards right, you could trick me into fucking you.”
And so men tried. They dissembled, they leered, they smirked sweatily and elbowed one another in the ribs. And Marilyn never noticed; she writhed around, helpless, like a doe caught in the glare of headlights. I hate seeing this.
I hate knowing men act like this. This isn’t about sexuality; this is humiliation, belittlement, and can eventually lead to harassment of women.
There is a Texas saying “The trouble with women is that they have all the pussy.” And don’t we know it. We just don’t know what the hell to do about it. If we show we know we have this pussy between our legs, then we are sluts, we are unnatural, we are not real women who must be modest about such things. That was the thing about Marilyn in movies—here was this gorgeous, luscious broad who acted like she didn’t know she had a pussy.
We have all, through the years, pretended an obliviousness to our sexuality as protection, since this is where we are tragically vulnerable. Men are bigger and stronger than we are, and if we act like we know about sex and like it, we’re asking for rape.
Whereas men are proud of their dicks and will talk about them for hours if given the slightest encouragement. Watch a male comedian in a club, and nine times out of ten, he will talk lovingly of his dick and probably fondle it, too. Do you remember in the film 48 HRS. when Eddie Murphy talked about how he’d been in prison so long his dick got hard in a light breeze? Do you remember the movie where Whoopi Goldberg said, “I haven’t been laid in so long that when I see a guy, I just slide across the room”? Of course you don’t. It never happened.
Women are treated as prey. To be treated as prey is to be treated as an animal.
Because women are treated as prey. To be treated as prey is to be treated as an animal, dumber and less valuable than the predator.
From the viewpoint of many men, there are two stages in a woman’s life: prey and invisible. After a certain age, when men don’t want to fuck you anymore, they don’t see you at all.
I am somewhere between the two and it is an interesting perspective.
For years, I have had to fend off lines from men like “What are you afraid of?” or “What’s the matter with you; are you uptight?” or even the ever-popular “Just relax, will ya?”
This has always infuriated me, because it is insulting to my intelligence to be manipulated in this way, so I’d say things like “No, I’m not afraid of you, I just have no interest in sleeping with you.” This gave me the reputation as a ball-buster, a castrating bitch. So then I’d respond to manipulation with more manipulation: “You’re a lovely fellow, but I’m in love with Rodney. Do you know him? He’s a linebacker for the Bears.”
Now that I am getting slightly long in the tooth, it’s almost worse. Now I have to wait 15 minutes to pay for the milk in my deli, because there’s a young blonde with big tits in the store, and the counter guys just don’t notice me standing there, even though they’re looking straight at me.
This predator-prey mind-set has many creepy ramifications. I was recently at a nightclub and asked my friend Wendell if he’d seen Clair. “You know her,” I said. “She’s tall, funny, a jewelry designer.”
“Oh,” he said, “you mean the girl with the big ass and the fat legs?”
Now, I know that men are a supremely visual species and care inordinately about such things as the length of a neck and the width of a hip, but I wasn’t asking Wendell if he wanted to fuck Clair. Yet to him, and to many men, Clair is defined only by her quotient of sexual attractiveness. She is the girl with the big ass, not the girl who has some interesting ideas about neoromanticism and who can beat anyone at backgammon. This is belittlement.
Not much further down the line is harassment. If a man can convince himself that we are not whole, separate people with feelings and ideas and yearnings, as well as pussies, then he can justify to himself slapping us playfully on the rear as we walk by in the lunchroom with a plate of stew. And if that plate of stew slides to the floor, and we get down on our knees to clean it up, well, of course he’s going to make a coarse remark, and too bad if we blush and feel confused and angry.
My steadfast opinion is that sexual harassment and belittlement are only superficially a product of men’s feelings of superiority. Underneath this is fear and, who knows, possibly hatred. Men who are afraid and insecure become bullies and brutes. Men who are afraid of or angry with women will bully them and humiliate them sexually, where they are vulnerable. Instead of expressing his anger at a woman directly, a man will make adolescent remarks about her tits or write a demeaning sexual fantasy about her.
If we respond to this anger, we are castrating cunts. If we don’t respond, we are cooperating in our own victimization. What would you have us do?
OK, I don’t really hate Marilyn. I just hate the way she colluded with those who were belittling and objectifying her. In fact, I understand her motives all too well. She wanted love, didn’t believe she deserved it and took what she considered the next best thing—lust.
So here’s who I like: Cher. She’s a smart mouth who will appear almost naked on television and just dare you to make something of it.