(I took the header picture of a Common Loon resting on a pond in Utah on its way north in June of 2015. It was in transition from winter to summer plumage.)

Translate - I dare you. Then make a comment on the funny errors the translator made.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Short story: Pakt

 I wrote a short story, a little LDS romance.  It turned into a gesture of remembrance for the September 11 attacks, just in time for the 20th anniversary.  Here it is.


We lie side by side, silent.

In love? No. In fear then?

I feel her body heat and I hear her breathing.

Together but not touching.

Could these work as song lyrics? A poem?

Footsteps approach and I feel fear. She probably feels relief.

Well we all agreed to this.

I take these kinds of things much too seriously. But I should feel relieved, like I expect Sherry does. I don't think she expected that I would be the first to find her. I know I didn't. And I almost turned away when I did, meaning to avoid the others in their search and come back later when a couple of them had joined, but she told me to get in here, and for the past couple of minutes I've been trying to figure out what she meant by her tone of voice.

Right now she almost sounds like she could be sleeping.

The footsteps draw nearer and stop. Now another voice:

“Well well well, what have we here?”

Torgersen crouches and looks in. “Hola, Macmillan.” She pronounces the double-l Castilian fashion.

“Torgersen.” I pronounce the g Castilian fashion too.

Not “Hermana,” not any more.

“Oh that's right,” murmurs Sherry, “the mission buddies.” She clears her throat. “Get in here April, and everybody keep quiet.”

Torgersen clears her throat too, sits down while she puts her hair up, and then lies down and slides over to my side.

A man lying with two women, in the dark. I can hear the polygamy jokes now.

“Comfy?” whispers Torgersen.

“Sh!” hisses Sherry.

“Okay.” And we're lying still again, no moving, no talking, waiting to see if Torgersen's voice carried enough to bring any of the others.

Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry . . .

These are the kinds of things that come into my head: frequently distracting and unhelpful. How can I take control of them? I might tell myself something happy, like:

At least nobody is talking about Afghanistan. I’ve had to bite my tongue plenty of times with this bunch. Invade Afghanistan? Have they not learned from history? No, I’m not a History major, I’m an English major. We’re the liberals around here.

So much for happy thoughts. But come to think of it, I haven’t heard Torgersen talk much about Afghanistan either. I wonder what she thinks, how she feels. I know how I feel, I’m still trying to compose my thoughts and opinions. It seems that many of my peers already have these firmly set.

It would be nice if Torgersen and I were alone here, just for the chance of talking about this, and other important things. Come to think of it, maybe Sherry would be up for that, if we weren’t hiding.

Right now the air feels like a blanket smothering all speech. Maybe I’m the only one who feels that, maybe I’m the only one who thinks of the weight of the building above us, of dark cramped spaces under buildings . . .

But besides all that, I’m a 21-year-old man who has the insane and useless luck to be laid out on the floor between two pretty women on a Monday night at BYU. At other universities people like us would be getting drunk – and laid.

You know what? I'm proud of this: that instead of all that we find enjoyment, excitement, meaning, in these games that others might find childish. Torgersen was there when I heard the talk about enjoying simple things as a mark of spiritual refinement. Having since read the Tao Te Ching I believe that even more, also since babysitting my young nephew. I never saw myself as likely to be good father material until recently.

What are the draft rules for married men? Fathers?

See where my thoughts are drawn, lying here between these two women – next to this particular one.

I keep re-directing my thoughts. I am so glad to be in a culture where single adults' idea of a good time is to play childhood games. Just three weeks ago we played Capture the Flag in a park, in the sparse snow. It was the first time I'd done it since I was a Boy Scout, the first time with girls. Torgersen and I were on the same team and she freed me once with a touch on my shoulder. I haven't been at peace since. Continuing to refer to her by her surname is a defense mechanism, for me at least, in my own mind at least. I tell myself she just called me by mine to be funny.

I think I can smell her perfume. Might I ever be fortunate enough to smell her sweat?

Can they smell me? Are we picking up each other's pheromones?

Now she's chuckling, very quietly, and Sherry shushes her again, for we hear more voices echoing in the corridor leading to this hiding place. I know these voices and I know why Torgersen is chuckling. If any two in our group were to defy the rules and pair up to look together, it would be Tim and Darlene. Now I do turn my head to the left and look at Torgersen's dim silhouette, and I take a chance and speak.

“Esos dos se casan dentro del año.”

“A lo mejor.”

“Keep it down, you two!” whispers Sherry. She really is taking this game seriously. But whether it's our noise or just the deductive reasoning of Tim and Darlene applied to the finite space of this building, here they are, and we hear Darlene whisper:

“See? I told you.”

“That’s quite the tight spot.” Tim's vocal cords are vibrating but he’s almost quieter than Darlene.

“Well get in here then, and cozy up.”

“And stop these two from speaking Spanish,” whispers Sherry.

“There are secret combinations everywhere,” says Tim, and Darlene giggles.

“What are you guys talking about?”

“World domination,” says Torgersen.

I'm feeling foolish for what I said to her. Was it useful – that is to say, did it serve a purpose of endearing me to her? And so I don't mention out loud how I notice that she used exactly the same words I would have.

“Scoot over.” Sherry's elbow nudges from my right. I scoot over. Sherry has spent time in big cities where rubbing shoulders with strangers on bus and subway is an everyday thing. The pressure of her shoulder on mine is impersonal. I think she's drawn her hands onto her chest, mummy-fashion, and I've got mine like that too, even though I want to have my left one down, and I want to clasp April Torgersen's right hand, secretly there in the dark. I want April Torgersen to roll onto her right side and nestle in and I'm not going to keep thinking about this right now.

“Tim, you get in here next to me. That way I'll know you two aren't getting up to anything.”

“Boy girl boy girl then,” murmurs Tim, “the natural order.” And with scoots and shuffles, Torgersen is right next to me, with a touch of shoulder and hip that I'm telling myself is not personal, and then we're quiet again, none of us getting up to anything.

Stop us from speaking Spanish to each other? I want to whisper something to April but I can't think of anything in any language. By rights it should be Torgersdatter, or however it goes in Danish or whichever language it is. I haven't asked her which one it is yet. That would have been a good sort of get-to-know-you question when we met out there in the field, but somehow at the time it would have felt like flirting. In truth we barely spoke, and the one time when we exchanged more then polite greetings it was all about how long we'd been out, what areas we'd been in, how the people were there and so on. The only personal question I ever asked her was where she was from and her answer of Perry, and my calculation that she would go home six months after me - and therefore is almost exactly a year older than me - those thoughts were constantly at the back of my mind for the next year. They never quite left in the year since I've been home, but somehow I figured we would never see each other again, and so those thoughts faded into background dreams . . . until that Sunday, in the new year: there she was, her face and arms still tanned from the tropical sun. Bienvenida Hermana. Glad you made it back, after the attack.

I actually said that, and she laughed, and I’ve spent the following weeks telling myself I should have hugged her. I know I’m still recovering from that shock, those towers collapsing. Right as it was happening I heard someone quote from the hymn: “Babylon the great is falling, God shall all her tow'rs o'erthrow.”

In a moment of shock I cast about for security and grasped at moral superiority, but then we saw and heard all that happened. Now? Again, I know how I feel, but how do I think? Nothing is certain. I don’t like the country involved in another war. Pray for our troops, they say. One of my companions is over in Afghanistan now. Here’s a prayer for all of them:

For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard

All valiant dust that builds on dust

And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word –

Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!

With this world the way it is we should all be hugging each other, touching each other more.

The first time I saw April Torgersen in jeans was that Capture the Flag game, and even after being home for six months and going out on dates and walking around campus surrounded by pretty women, I was not ready for that. Those jeans looked like they'd been tailored.

I guess it made it easier to call her by her first name though. We've used first names with each other about half the time since then, back and forth, I haven't figured out what's making the rhythm yet.

I remember the rhythm, oh, the rhythm we made . . .

No, I don't need that song in my head right now. I want to turn my head, put my right hand on her face and kiss her, so I think I ought to dispel the tension by elbowing her in the side and saying something chummy. But nothing's coming. It's not like we were old pals, we were just in the same mission and saw each other a handful of times, that's all. There was that time I heard her speak and didn't tell her how it impressed me. I told my companion: I turned to him and said: wasn't that a great talk?

I loved Elder Harner: he just nodded, no smirk, no eyebrow quirk.

I worked with several sister missionaries, and I felt comfortable saying I loved several of them. I spent two years in my sexual prime focused on dividing out the different kinds of love, sifting them out of carnal appetite. Sure, Torgersen had a nice face and voice, but like all the hermanas she wore roomy, utilitarian jumpers. Tonight she's wearing those jeans again.

Should I try to write songs? I'm an English major after all. You know, the people who don't know what to do with their lives. What is April Torgersen going to do with her life? I haven't even asked her about her major. Would she find an English major good enough? Would I change it if she asked?

And now more footsteps approach. How many more can we fit in here anyway?

“After years of waiting, nothing came. And you realize you've been looking, looking in the wrong place.”

“Is that Radiohead?”

“Shhh!” hisses from all around, and now it's Torgersen's elbow in my ribs.

“Sorry,” I whisper. “Was I really that loud?”

When I was a boy I played hide and seek at my friend’s house. His older sister, who was about 10 years older than us, came into the room where I was under the bed. She was eating something and she made such loud smacking sounds I burst out laughing and gave myself away. I’m not very good at games like this.

I read somewhere in one of those motivational philosophy books that God’s more of a Sardines player than Hide and Seek.

The guy who just found us crouches, still humming. I know his face but forgot his name. I didn't know he listened to Radiohead: “Pakt like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box,” from their latest. I'll have to talk to him more.

“Hi guys, looks like you've got a good crowd already. Should I stand outside and point?”

“No,” whispers Tim, “get in here.”

“Everybody roll onto your left sides,” whispers Torgersen.

“Ooooh,” croons Darlene.


“Okay, I hope we all like each other. Sherry, are you okay back there?”

“Yeah, I wanna snuggle Luther.”

I did not expect that.

“Come on then, don't be shy.”

Sherry's hands press on my spine, her knees touch the backs of my thighs.

A whisper from in front: “Ready, Luther?”

“Come on in, April.”

What else is there to do, except to keep my hands in front of me, no matter how badly my right hand wants to stretch out and encircle her waist as she snuggles in? And now is that her bra strap pressing into the backs of my hands? What's going to happen with knees and thighs? Her figure is generously curved, particularly behind.

“Oops! Sorry.” She shifts forward an inch.

“'Ta bien.” I grit my teeth. How much more can I adjust my own hips? Now I'm ready for this game to be done.

“Can't you guys make any more room?”

“Not unless you want us to break the Law of Chastity,” says Sherry from over my shoulder.

Darlene laughs: a full-on peal of echoing mirth, and then it's all up: each of us is laughing and the sound must carry through the whole building.

Also when I was a boy, my family used to make laughing lines, heads laid on bellies. It only took a little chuckle to start us off. For the moment I can forget anything specifically about April Torgersen and imagine we’re all in the huddle of chicks under God's own wings.

And I know I'm laughing from equal parts humor, tension and grief.

Of course it's not long before the rest of them show up, and with more laughter and jokes they start pulling what's-his-name and Darlene out of our hiding place.

“Clever hiding place, Sherry!”


In the hurly-burly, April pushes her back more firmly to my hands for a good three seconds. Then after scooting toward the entrance, she rolls over to face me and extends a hand.

“Make a chain. Grab my hand and Sherry's.”

We make our way out and it still feels like family. Except, when we've stood up, April grabs my shoulders and turns me around. “Let me get the dust off you.” Swat, swat. I'm a suspect and an officer is frisking me, or my big sister is dusting me after playing outside.

No, April Torgersen is using her hands to remove dust from my clothes. The movements of her right hand are precise and efficient, but some are targeting my backside, and her left hand is planted firmly on my shoulder, with no hesitation.

After her deft task is done and proper, she lets go my shoulder.

“Now you do me.”

There are pivotal moments in life that don't come announced with fanfare – this is another bit of wisdom from our mission president – nor do they give much time to decide. You have to be ready when they come, so you can just act.

Maybe time is slowing down, like song and story says, but however it is, I don't hesitate, I don't even think twice about her words. Brace hand on shoulder, then . . .

Of course the dust is not only on the side but on the back too.

So my world narrows: in this moment, my task is to move my hands with such precision that the unavoidable contact with that ample bottom is utilitarian, above reproach.

“Hey, is that allowed?” I don’t remember this one’s name either.

“Come on Tim, dust me off too!”

“Someone needs to get Sherry, she bore the brunt. Look at her!”

“Oh, you're looking at my butt, are you?”

“Stacy, you do it!”

Darlene's sudden loud cackle startles me as I'm finishing April's left calf, and I stumble. Her hands are up, letting her hair down, and her reaction syncs with my balance correction to make a scene I wish I could see. I get an elbow on my head, some softness that I'll be thinking about in boring classes and late nights . . . The confused tangle ends with us holding each other's forearms, and as I look in her brown eyes I see the laughter that I hear from the others.

“Oh, just hug already!” says Sherry. “Here! Stacy?”

I don't pay them any attention: I'm watching April, so I see the split second where her mouth quirks, she drops my arms and starts moving in. I still get my arms around her first.

We hold each other for a moment amid cheers; I feel her body relax and lean in. I look over: Stacy the Radiohead fan and Sherry are locked as tightly as Tim and Darlene, though instead of kissing like those two, they're looking our way and grinning.

“Gracias, MacMii-yan.”

“Gracias, hija de Tor-kher.”

She laughs and squeezes hard for a moment, then we draw apart and April says all right everybody let's go get hot chocolate.

Maybe the Castilian was a retreat, as is her taking the lead of our group now. But I keep pace as we walk out of there and I remember the squeeze and the flash in her eyes, and I'm not going to let myself doubt what they meant.

Coats on and out into the frozen night, the talk turns to the Olympics up in Salt Lake. Stacy and Sherry aren't walking together, neither are the other two, but of course Tim and Darlene are holding hands.

I look over at April and see her breath steam in the night. She looks at me and our eyes meet again.

“Come on Luther, I'll race you to the car.”

Thank you Sardines: you’ve done your job.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

One take: Objectification

 I wrote this in one sitting.

People talk about objectification like it’s a bad thing.

In order to understand it, first make it value-neutral.  Then you can see how it’s everywhere – how human society depends on it.  Then you can start judging the ethics of objectification with some competence.

To objectify a person is to make that person into an object.  The definition is apparent in the etymology: again, let go of your emotionally-charged moral embellishments to the meaning (if I as an INFP can do this, so can you).  Speaking of etymology, “person” comes from a word meaning “mask,” an object.

What do we do with objects?  We admire them, we may collect them, but we use them, and rely on them.  Think of all the objects you rely on throughout your day, from clothes to utensils to vehicles.  Imagine human beings living in ancient or prehistoric times, crafting their tools with care and detail lacking in mass-produced consumer goods.  Think of how a peasant would use his hoe or ax: strike too harshly and you might starve.

What do we do with each other?  We use each other.  Whenever we relate to another human being in a limited and directed capacity of that human’s being, we are objectifying.  To objectify a human is first to require the human to affect a persona.  Countless well-meaning people pushed English into using “person” in a way that hides the objectification at the root of the word.

Think of the service personnel you rely on, personally and impersonally: servers at a restaurant, mail carriers, plumbers, construction workers, farmers, factory workers (who made your clothes?).  You’re objectifying them: you depend on them to fulfill functions, as a prehistoric human depended on tools.  Do you have a job?  Then you are being objectified.  You’re getting paid for it, but you’re not getting paid to be yourself.  You’re compensated for the time in which you condescend, in which you set the totality of your self aside to fulfill a function to others, most likely through the means of a system that regards you as a replaceable tool, even if the other human beings you work with would like to relate to you as a human being.  Human Resources will put some definite limits as to how far that can go.

I mentioned I’m INFP.  We do poorly at objectification: after all, we’re the ones who are notorious for talking to inanimate objects!  This is why we tend to be so useless to society: we can easily develop value systems and ideals that insist on relating to other human beings in their totality as the only moral way.  And we attach jealously and stubbornly to our value systems – maybe more so than anyone else.  During the past six years or so as I’ve seen and heard reports of institutions and mob mentality growing more dogmatic and unforgiving (in other words, “woke” mentality and “cancel culture”) I’ve half suspected some conspiracy of INFPs behind it all.

So I repeat: if I can strip value judgments from my understanding of objectification as a starting point to competent understanding, anyone can.  Maybe even feminists.

This post was inspired by a conversation my sweetie and I had after she read a narc-med (that’s my term for social media) post about objectifying women.  The OP was enlightened enough to recognize that a man admiring a woman for her beauty is not necessarily objectifying her.

I am glad to see people refuse to shame men for admiring the beauty of women.  But I wonder.  It seems to me that saying “attraction is not objectification” relies on a value judgment which insist that objectification is malevolent and harmful.

If we understand objectification as value-neutral, then we can recognize that to admire a woman for her beauty, or to be attracted to any person because of how that person looks, is objectification, and we can remain at ease.  No need for hand-wringing or sounding the alarm for patriarchy or misogyny.

If we understand objectification as value-neutral, and as a practice that human society depends on, we can make competent ethical judgments about it, and not least that includes considering the degree.  Consent too?  Sure.

If you followed this very far – like into the conceptual mindscapes INFPs inhabit constantly – would it make you more uncomfortable about how our society is structured now, economically?  I expect it would.  Seeing a bigger, messier picture of how humans and our societies function tempers idealism.  When idealism is tempered by an acceptance of the grief of resignation to the inevitable, then a human being has achieved some maturity.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

One take: No, vulnerable men are not sexy

I wrote this in one take.  I post it here with no edits other than one spelling correction.


  If a woman can get her man to show him the innermost parts of his emotional world, he is no longer an immediate sexual influence on her.  No longer a threat, maybe.  He loses power of attracting her sexual interest at the most sincere and natural level.  She might want that, because the presence of his sexual influence over her feels dangerous, threatening, or disruptive: maybe she's trying to do other things with her life and the presence of a man who gives off the kind of energy that can turn a woman on is a distraction to her.  Or maybe she feels flustered by the arousal of sexual attraction, from programmed shame or suspicion or antagonism or whatever.

As a man might wish to impose dress standards on a woman working closely with him, because otherwise the sight of her will draw disruptive thoughts and feelings of sexual awareness, interest, desire, arousal: so might a woman want to make a man "safe" to be around by laying bare to her perception his secret feelings.

Make someone safe by securing a level of control over them.

A woman who has sexually neutralized a man by getting him to be vulnerable with her now has more power to take the lead, take the initiative sexually.  Or to keep the sexual part of their life under her supervision.  To control or to lead - maybe she thinks they're the same thing?  Do you think they're the same thing?

Leaders vs. Managers.

To control is to keep from deviating from the course you've set, or to keep from escaping from the boundaries where you've put it.  A woman who does not wish to be very sexual herself is glad if she can control the sex life in her marriage: it's a way of keeping safety.  And telling her husband she would feel more inclined to be intimate with him if he were more vulnerable with her is a perfect way of doing this: it keeps him working hard to get her approval, it puts him in the position where he is more likely to be called on to be apologetic for failing her - compounding even more the uncertainty and passivity that neuter his sexual magnetism.  It gives her that safety and control over the use and expression of sexuality in the marriage, and it justifies her in helping herself to his emotional presence and attention.  What's not to love?

And after all isn't this the higher law of marriage: to be a communion of emotional intimacy rather than a crude license to fuck?  Is she not more entitled to his emotional attention than he is to her sexual attention?

Now maybe a women is more sexually awakened herself, and she still would rather be the one to set the pace, call the tune and shots, lead in the sex life of her marriage.  She might have an even easier time persuading her husband that she finds his vulnerability sexy.  After all, female sexual desire is not spontaneous but reactive.  Maybe she unlocks her own secret door to her solipsistic female sexuality and finds the pleasure of shared expression worthwhile enough to turn herself on and give signals of invitation regularly.  I'm tempted to think that in such a situation a husband might as well go along with her manipulation, allow her to take the lead in the sexual part of their marriage.  As I've written elsewhere, if she isn't going to start the fun out of a sense of generosity, maybe her own selfishness will produce the side effect of enough sex to please him.

But I'm still suspicious: I suspect that the woman in our second example, the one who's awake to her inner vastness of self-generating pleasure, will not really wish to control her husband's sexuality by making him a toy - unless she's a psychopath or narcissist or something.

I rather suspect that a woman who really owns her own enjoyment of sexual pleasure and knows how to turn herself on would rather be married to a man who she can feel safe with, meaning she can look to him, respect him, trust him to keep himself together around her.

Maybe she will feel safer with him if he is vulnerable with her?  She might tell herself that: that's a showing of an urge to control I say.  As in: I wish I could peel back all the layers of this human being and find he is no mere human being but so extraordinary, so super-human that I can count myself blessed among women: I got the best one, I got this incredible superman!  How safe I feel now, to know that he is mine and strong and gentle through and through.

If you say you want your man to be vulnerable, what do you mean?  Do you want him to come to you for comfort?  Cry on your shoulder?  Act as if he's a little boy and you're his mommy?

Don't you know?  Vulnerability is not just admitting to someone that you felt scared, alone, uncertain (as much of a turnoff as those alone may be).  Vulnerability includes full-on panic, inconsolable weeping...

and temper tantrums.  Yes: the loss of control that makes children lash out in such frightful fits of rage - which the discerning adult can well see are only bluster to make up for their feelings of helplessness - well, that's just it.  A fit of shouting and trying to do damage is the most primal expression of vulnerability there is.

Don't call for it unless you're prepared to welcome all of it - including this.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Writing groups and classics

  In 2015 Buzzfeed published "If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy In A Writing Workshop" by Shannon Reed.  "Tim," a caricature of a young man with a goatee and fedora (not quite a neckbeard, I don't know if that stereotype had emerged yet), pompously lays out what Pride and Prejudice needs to make it a better book.  It was meant as a denunciation of mansplaining but really that's hardly relevant: this is a brilliant satire of the problems with writing groups in general, regardless of the sex of either the writer or critique partner.

I've been in three writers' groups in the past decade, so I don't feel qualified to make general statements about what they're like from my own experience.  But I will point out that two of these have been organized under the auspices of statewide writing organizations, the kind that host conferences and publish anthologies.  I have heard from other writers I know about their experiences in groups.  This Buzzfeed piece reinforces my hunch: my experiences - my frustrations - in writers' groups are typical of the whole institution.

My writers' groups have helped me: mostly they've helped me get over the fear of sharing my work that had me paralyzed for far too long.  Fresh perceptions and perspectives of words I had come to take for granted from long brooding helped me see my tendency toward laziness and guard against it.

Maybe the most valuable lesson I have learned from writers' groups is how subjective judgments of quality can be.  Sifting through critique, I've learned to tell between diagnoses of faults in grammar and clarity, and confessions of wide divergences in taste between the reader and me.  This all has been indispensable exercise in critical thinking.

I thought of all this as I read Anne of Green Gables last year.  It was my first time.  After a lifetime of loving the Canadian TV adaptation from the 1980s with Megan Follows et al, and being moved by the purity of the story and the characters under the surface glamour of the cinematic medium, I decided to go to the source.

I loved it.  And I wondered: could it get published now?  The style has become dated, almost archaic, and I expect that those who have their fingers on the pulse of the book market hold today's writers to standards far removed from any of Montgomery's concern.  But it wasn't any extraordinary refinement of the craft of her writing that held me, though as a writer of that era her craft was of course solid.  What held me was my identification with Anne and other characters.  Montgomery drew me into the setting effectively, agreeably; I was able to make myself quite at home in there through my own skill as a reader and my own life experience.  I would not ask more of her.

What about a typical writers' group today: how would critique or beta readers respond to the first pages of Anne of Green Gables?  I can imagine: "This is a really slow start.  I don't know what's going on.  Look: if you want to grab the reader's attention you have to let them know who the characters are, what they want, what the stakes are.  This just takes too long to get there.  Who has time to stick with your story through all this meandering?"  "Why is this important?"  And so on.

My last writing group felt firmly oriented toward writing stories that would have the widest calculable market appeal.  Tastes have changed greatly in the past century.

    Taking part in the group was an exercise not only in my critical thinking but my morals as well: what are my motivations for writing?  Whom do I serve?  Market?  Self?  Muse or Divine gift?  What is my purpose?  What hardship am I willing to bear with in pursuit of it: rejection, misunderstanding, going without the validation that I crave?  What to make of this advice I'm getting: do I follow it out of a conscious decision to improve my craft or from people-pleasing?  I have long known that to be one of the reigning weaknesses of my character.

In one group meeting, another member mentioned Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: a Pulitzer winner, "but I hated it."

As for me, of Stegner I've only read Mormon Country so far but I loved it, and if I could put out something like that I would call myself a writer.  I knew when I heard that dismissal that that writers' group was not the best place for me.

People have called me a good writer.  One of Ursula K. Le Guin's many rejection letters told her "You write well."  Two reviewers of my fiction have compared it to Le Guin, and I have to work hard not to cling to that, since it's about the sweetest praise I've ever received.  One of these readers also called my story "bucolic," and that put me on Cloud Nine.

I wonder what that writing group would have done with Le Guin.  If I join another writing group I think I'll bring a piece by Le Guin or Samuel R. Delany for my first session and try to pass it off as mine, see what they do with it.  See if anybody even catches the deception.

For that matter, I wonder what the average Utah writers' group would do with the first five chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring if it weren't already a classic.  I think they'd rip it to shreds.

Maybe that's unfair.  But one thing I have noticed over the past 25 years in my involvement with the formidable LDS SF/F subculture is an impatience to the point of dismissiveness with writing that is too difficult.

"Literary Fiction" is that pretentious stuff that nobody reads.  They look down on our genres as substandard but we thumb our noses back, because our stuff is better, because it's actually fun to read.  So if you want to write good fantasy, you'd better make it exciting!

Well I don't want to write exciting stories.  I want to write bucolic stories.  I would rather not call my fiction fantasy, but I don't know where else it could come close to fitting.

I fear that the advice an aspiring writer most often finds is nothing more than a weathervane of current trends, in taste, in genre convention, in social norms.  I hope I'm wrong, but...

Back to that Buzzfeed article: it didn't just imagine Austen in some local homebrew writers' group, it imagined her in a graduate program.  You know, the kind you pay tuition for (that you probably have to spend years paying back).

I went to graduate school - in something even more arcane than Creative Writing, but much more practical.  I'm annoyed enough as it with the debt I had to take on; I'm glad I didn't go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for the risk of a Master's Degree in Creative Writing.  I can imagine my younger self doing it though, if I had been in a place where I "believed in my dreams" more strongly.  Maybe I would have been fortunate enough to get in a program that aimed (let alone knew how) to draw forth my vision and gift, gave me the space and support to develop them to their best expression with training of technique (maybe through a classical Trivium model?), and struck the right balance of rigor and inspiration, neither flattering me for work below my ability nor stifling my creativity by forcing me into a mold.  Maybe the more expensive the program I enrolled in, the greater chance I would have had of receiving such quality.  Those who get paid by such teaching have every reason to try to convince us of that.

Maybe I'm being unfair.  Maybe I should take on a regimen of, say, a year of reading the best fiction to come out of MFA Writing programs.  Surely there's a list somewhere of good books produced by these programs that merit such ruinous expense: surely their graduates, trained with such consummate skill, must boast a high rate of success in drawing respectable, comfortable incomes through their writing.  They must produce most of the bestsellers and the Pullitzer Prize winners, right?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Temporal Hours

  Let’s talk about temporal hours.

In the winter I have trouble making a good start to my day. The main reason for this is that during the time when I try to get up (between 5:30 and 6:00 am; most days I do at least manage to get out of bed by 6:30) it’s still dark. I have a much easier time getting up earlier in the summer, when the brightening of the sky makes it easier.

Well, obviously.

Yes: it’s obvious that our bodies, attuned to the natural rhythms of the earth and the length of days, should tend to follow those rhythms most comfortably. And leaving aside the requirements of some livestock, for most of human history this arrangement worked and could be followed – without shame.

Recently I read The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin and the first part of the book concerns the divisions of time that people have devised, from keeping track of seasons to days to mastering the flow of time during the day by cutting it into hours. I learned more clearly about the scheme of hours that prevailed before the division of a day into 24 regular hours of equal length, that march along mechanically with cold indifference to the positions of the celestial bodies: what state of light or dark prevails outside. The pairing of regular hours with reliable and ubiquitous means of artificial light “liberated” humanity from living in the dependency on natural day length that kept our poor benighted ancestors in lower stages of civilization…

Which means that, living at about 40 degrees latitude, during December and January I not only have the privilege of coming home from work in the dark, but of feeling guilty for lingering in bed after my alarm goes off, and shame for the weakness of my flesh that is so reluctant to keep in tune with the stricture of a regimen of self-improvement I’ve imposed -

which in turn is necessary to fit with the schedule of my paid employment, locked in along with the rest of the world to the ruthless synchronization of regular hours.

Meanwhile those who live in the arctic region are “free” to order their economic activity (and govern their bodies’ natural rhythms along with it) according to the same structure of time that would make more sense in the tropics.

I take for granted my privilege of being granted some semblance of natural normalcy: the daylight for work and leisure, the night for leisure and sleep. Of course in the earlier days of industrialization the promise of squeezing out every drop of productive capacity from a workforce independent of the old limitations of day and night was so exciting as to wholly win over the affections of the owners of the new machines and those who collected the gains from others’ toil, rolling over the gentle wisdom of humane values with the crushing indifference of a steamroller.


There are few greater revolutions in human experience than this movement from the seasonal or “temporary” hour to the equal hour. Here was man’s declaration of independence from the sun, new proof of his mastery over himself and his surroundings. Only later would it be revealed that he had accomplished this mastery by putting himself under the dominion of a machine with imperious demands all its own.

Through long struggles, those who held onto humane values in some measure succeeded in restraining the hunger of Mammon sufficient to allow enough of us a package of eight or nine hour days with lunch breaks and paid time off and even for some of us yearly salary rather than hourly wage, with all sorts of additional perks distributed here and there so that we feel ourselves making up a fairly stable class of ordinary people who have it better than our ancestors could have dreamed.

And yet, after learning more about the revolution in timekeeping that laid the foundation for all of this, I found myself wishing for a lifestyle marked instead by temporal hours.

In brief, temporal or temporary hours are units of time that divide the day and the night separately. Even if you divide the periods of light and dark – between sunrise and sunset for day, sunset to sunrise for night, say – into exactly equal periods, even if you do this anew each day (and pioneering clockmakers were working towards this), this will still give you “hours” that vary in length through the seasons, if you live outside the tropics.


The “hours” of their daily lives – their temporary “hour” was one-twelfth the time of daylight or of darkness on that day – were more elastic than we can now imagine.

To a modern mind this seems inconvenient, imprecise, messy. But I found myself wondering: if a civilization, if the societies of an entire world, developed sophisticated mechanized means of production, yet kept a scheme of temporal hours, would that have provided enough of a check to prevent the worst excesses of an industrial revolution?

I have staked the history of my fictional setting on that proposition. This was a crucial link to add to the economic history of Koth. Now I have a better idea of how my characters work, how they use their daylight and nighttime hours, how their institutions work, what those institutions demand -

and what they don’t. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: a review

 Out of woman comes a man,

Spends the rest of his life getting back when he can.

- Peter Gabriel, “Humdrum”

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is the star of the LDS sex therapy scene. I first encountered her work over five years ago and was impressed by her enlightened and progressive views on human sexuality and the problem we have with it in the Church.

As a rising star, JFF as I like to call her (because it reminds me of a nickname of an ancestor of mine) has been building up an impressive online presence. If you’re curious I highly recommend browsing the ample archive of media available from her well-kept website:


Her demeanor is both calming and vivacious, professional and patient. She radiates an aura of confidence, helped, I am sure, by her age. (I would earnestly caution people against trusting any sex therapists under the age of 40 – or who are not parents.)

JFF has helped countless women in the Church and in conservative religious cultures generally to take ownership of their sexual desire and agency, and in this I commend her for doing God’s work. But I am not here to introduce her for a lecture or interview. In fact, because so many of the interviews I have heard with her feature interlocutors whose manner too often is downright obsequious, I have written this essay here to lay out some of the sticking points I have run into as I have spent more time listening to her. Mormons amplify the human tendency to cathect to authority figures and follow them with blind devotion; this is my brake to that when it comes to Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and her philosophy -

especially as it concerns men and our sexuality.

One of JFF’s main talking points is to diagnose – and lament – a particular problem with our cultural conditioning: men feel like our wives have to validate or legitimize our sexuality by their desire. Every time I’ve heard this I’ve been confused: what does she mean? Especially since I’ve heard her launch into it hot off the standard lamentation of the ills of male sexual entitlement.

I have come up with three hypotheses.

1. Most pessimistically: this is doublespeak. She is just continuing her denouncement of the stereotypical male villain: the husband who feels entitled to slake his lusts, barges into his poor wife’s time and space and overrides her autonomy by selfishly demanding that she accommodate his “needs.” Maybe he’s a really archaic “patriarch” and expects her to accommodate his whims whenever he gets them, whether she wants to or not, maybe he’s a bit more sophisticated and thinks that her will should be subordinated to or dependent on his as an appendage (lacking her own agency) so that she should be glad to serve him thus. This is the kind of man we love to hate.

2. Less pessimistically: this is lazy language, amounting to the same meaning as the first hypothesis, but without the conscious intent to disguise it in words that don’t fit. In fact, taking the words at face value I hear the opposite:

3. Men believe that our sexuality is validated or legitimized by our wives’ desire. JFF truly sees this as unfortunate.

But why?

I confess I still doubt what she really means. Putting the “she has to” in there obfuscates, allows a plausible deniability, leaves open the quick escape of “that’s not what I meant” and keeps the previous two interpretations close at hand to step into and between when we’re not looking. But I don’t want to believe she is guilty of either of those. Let’s say that simply calls out a doctrine that a man’s sexuality is made valid and legitimate by his wife’s desire, and that she charges that it is a false doctrine.

Stop, and look closely: a man who believes this doctrine is the exact reverse of the stereotypical male villain sketched above. Instead of the man making demands, this is a man being afraid to make a move unless he gets a clear signal from his wife of her desire, because he feels that to do otherwise is an act of aggression, an invasion, a predatory threat.

Does JFF admit that this is a feminist idea?

Disapproval of male sexuality, making men’s sexual attention and advances predatory and criminal by default unless the woman clearly signals not only her consent but her enthusiastic consent – which amounts to her sincere desire – this is a cherished feminist goal which activists are trying to write into policy and enforce legally. Does JFF admit this?

Does she truly deplore men’s submission to this feminist false doctrine? I hope so. But it opens up a view of the wider issue:

What does make male sexuality valid and legitimate? Is our sexuality really valid on its own, something we should not feel ashamed of or apologize for?

Who really wants to see us LDS men throw off the shackles of our shame and guilt, stride comfortably in our resplendent sexuality without apology? I reserve a great skepticism as to how acceptable that would be: to our wives, to the women who watch our behavior, to the men who watch our behavior, to the standards we have promised to live by.

(I’ll give you a hint: you know those insufferable, creepy men in the Church who like to fantasize about the reinstatement of polygamy? Or is that only what JFF calls the indulgent state of sexuality, not the integrated state?)

I call out two false doctrines that restrict the sexuality of men in the Church:

1. Feminist insistence that men’s sexuality (henceforth by this I mean heterosexuality) can only be validated by women’s desire.

2. Romantic insistence that men’s sexuality can only be validated by depending on and reinforcing emotional intimacy.

They work pretty well together, really: men’s sexuality is made moral by serving women’s wishes. But that’s not the only yoke we men have taken on. Another one is maybe even more important, and maybe here is a cause for the misunderstanding that makes us such attractive targets for accusation.

Before getting to that, I ask: does JFF really want to rock this boat?

She sounds like she does. She has called out feminist inculcation of female hypoagency. She sounds like she does not want to let women get away with using sexual refusal to put their husbands in their place. I hope she is sincere in all this.

Still, I do wonder how many LDS sex therapists who are more or less feminist really are willing to go the distance in:

1. admitting the role of feminism in shaming men for our sexuality,

2. recognizing that as a bad thing, and

3. truly helping men free ourselves from sexual shame, if by doing so we turn away from their feminist ideas – as I have.

I think I ought not hold my breath: part of the standard doctrine of feminist LDS sex therapy is that our sex problems in the Church come from the centering of male sexual experience as the standard, against which women are seen as deficient; and the entitlement men feel to insist on our “needs” being met at our poor wives’ expense. Rigorous diagnosis of whether this is caused more by culture, tradition, policy or doctrine would not be particularly helpful to the feminist LDS sex therapy project: it would weaken the ambiguity and plausible deniability that keep therapists safe in their aura of special expertise whence they are free to throw shade while dispensing their wisdom.

Of course conservative religious culture does place shame on human sexuality, for women and men. Men’s sexual shame is compounded by feminism, but traditional Mormon culture already laid a huge burden of it on us. As an example: women rightly deplore the inhibitions placed on them by the “chewed gum” or “licked cupcake” object lesson (which still has an undeniable grain of truth in cases of extreme promiscuity.  But like so many moral directives, in trying to prevent extreme behavior this analogy catastrophizes common behaviors and human weakness.)

Meanwhile, as women face the prospect of being seen as damaged goods for engaging in certain acts with men (another need for clear and consistent distinction: acting on her own desires or giving in to his predation?), men face the prospect of being seen as damaged goods for what we do in the privacy of our rooms: indulging in masturbation and especially pornography. More than that: an LDS man who looks at porn risks being seen as unholy, an evil-doer … a threat to the safety of women. So again: yes, traditional Mormon culture, the clumsy ways that leaders, teachers and parents (in, I propose, ascending degrees of influence) have taught and tried to preemptively enforce doctrine and policy, that has given men a burden of sexual shame that is unfair, unhelpful and unnecessary.

Feminism is not the antidote to this because it opportunistically misdiagnoses it as patriarchal oppression. Feminism is not an escape route for men from sexual shame in the Church. It has presented itself as such, and I charge that many men have gone through that proffered escape hatch, only to find themselves burdened with a different kind of sexual shame, which is another of JFF’s talking points: the sense of our sexuality being damaging, destructive, corrosive, dangerous to women.

This works to feminist advantage: as men feel more shame, feminism can keep putting the blame for all of it on the religious culture with its supposedly male-centric view, and keep promoting more feminism as men’s salvation. Question this and you can be told off as part of the problem. Every sensitive and enlightened LDS man proves his quality by accepting his share of the collective guilt: until the speaking docket in General Conference has been at a solid 50/50 for a generation, every husband is an oppressor by default, and is under an obligation to solicit more ways to serve his wife in atonement.

I reject that, and I say: if women need to be freed from cultural messages that their sexuality should only serve their husbands’ desires, then men also need to be freed from messages that our sexuality should only serve our wives’ desires.

Now to the more legitimate yoke on male sexuality.

Religions are largely social mechanisms for regulating sex to prosocial ends. Safe reproduction, stable environments for child-raising: these are requirements for a peaceful society. The family (in its variations) is the basic unit of society because it is suited to provide these social needs.

Human sexuality is made moral – is legitimized and validated – by serving prosocial ends. Religious sexual repression can be understood and ameliorated only when it is acknowledged as collateral damage from religion’s essential role of making and keeping the space in which sex builds society – and therefore giving it its meaning. JFF is fond of bringing up her golden question: what are you creating with your sexuality? Societies and civilizations exist because religions have been trying to answer this question for all of human history on this wise: you should be building a family and a social order with it.

Male sexuality is made moral when it is sacrificed, or consecrated, to serve those things.

Do we want to rock that boat? The sexual revolution already capsized it. LDS sex therapists act like they can afford to talk about sexual fulfillment and satisfaction and (most irresponsibly) freedom because our lifestyle in the Church is allegedly still so backwards or insulated from the sexual revolution and its aftermath. But in the Church we do partake of and are shaped by the secular societies we live in. Comic caricatures of homeschooling and no R-rated movies obscure just how beholden First World Latter-Day-Saints are to First World culture. And look at the state of it. As tiresome as it can be for a progressive sensibility to hear about how The World keeps getting wickeder, it does not do to ignore the sexual chaos that prevails in affluent societies: norms of casual sex prevail throughout the secular First World, with a Babel of slut-walks and “rape culture,” praise and condemnation of pornography as liberating and oppressive, liberals and radicals clashing with remarkable hate under the same banner of feminism that continues to proclaim itself as The Way to equality.

Sure, our stubborn stance on sexual sacrifice to marriage has insulated us from all that to some degree. That just gives therapists all the more responsibility to analyze and understand the complexity of influences on our sexual beliefs, practices and problems. It may be only due to time limitations, but I have to report I hear a lack of that in JFF’s talks.

I repeat: feminism insists that male sexuality can only be validated by conforming to women’s desire. The romantic marriage model insists that male sexuality can only be validated by serving emotional intimacy between the husband and wife – the extra-special Best Friend relationship that should make all other friendships obsolete (especially for the husband, who should be getting vulnerable with his wife instead of contaminating himself with sexism by hanging out with the boys).

These two doctrines can and do work together quite well in LDS culture. Let men reject both.

Reject them, I say! We already submit ourselves to a yoke that our sexuality is loath to accept at first. To stay within the Church in any meaningful way we accept a heavy restraint – as JFF says, we domesticate our sexuality. To be sure, I think the guilt laid on young men for masturbating is misguided and harmful: that pressure-reducing mechanism is the most useful tool for helping us resign ourselves to living the Law of Chastity, in other words, bridling our desires to prosocial service.

There’s a third doctrine, which I think is a product of the two I named above. It finds elegant expression in JFF’s words on the romantic idea of marriage in an interview with Greg Reynolds:

“… precisely what would be disgusting to many other people to do with me, to her or him they find it exciting, that I am being welcomed, that I am being received, accepted: we all want that.”

Here she betrays astonishing credulity in subscribing to some of the most incredible wishful thinking promoted by liberal feminists: the conceit that male and female sexual desire really are basically the same, and the obvious differences are due to social conditioning.

In other words, by making her assertion in that gender-inclusive way, JFF implies strongly that normal male sexuality recoils in disgust at the prospect of casual intercourse. I find this hilarious. But the humor evaporates when reflecting on the doctrine implied: male sexuality naturally conforms to feminine reticence and romantic exclusivity. Deviation from this is pathological, a result of patriarchal social conditioning, and it can and should be rectified by feminist intervention.

Is it any wonder men feel their sexuality is dangerous and corrosive? (Is it any wonder men flock to female sex therapists to fix themselves?)

Men should not feel any responsibility to be restricted by such an outrageous delusion. Our sexuality is not validated by its conformity to female sexuality with its radically different (if not opposed) biological warrants.

But this does get pretty close to the truth.

Male sexuality (again, I mean heterosexuality) is defined by an awe of the female body, and the male fascination with the female body far surpasses the reverse. Ask a million married women how they would feel if they woke up in the middle of the night to find their husbands masturbating. Then ask the same number of men how they would feel if they woke up in the middle of the night to find their wives masturbating. I am confident in my prediction that by far the husbands would be more excited, delighted and eager to watch.

Look at the explosion of DiY porn venues in recent years, populated by enthusiastic women entrepreneurs who strip and play with themselves in the comfort of their own homes – paid for by offerings from men they will never meet. Where’s the patriarchal male-centric exploitation here? Men enrich these entrepreneurs by spending money they can’t afford. There’s a word for them: simps. Women don’t simp for men like this. And despite the scorn in the label of “simp,” this continues to grow, because it is an expression of male sexuality in its honest simplicity.

I’m reminded of a famous Patrice O’Neal comedy routine where he imagines women being tempted to throw away a marriage for a chance at Brad Pitt, versus men being tempted by a woman passed out behind a dumpster. I’ve heard a quote that men can get aroused by a chalk drawing of a single breast on the wall of a shed. I’ve got a better idea: just scrawl a capital letter Y.

Do feminist LDS sex therapists have the nerve to confront this unpleasant truth? Do they have the grace to trust any of us to figure out on our own how we can take this raw energy that is the background radiation for our lives and refine it into something that works for good?  How about you keep from pathologizing it, discourage the infamy that our love of the female body is dehumanizing and oppressive, then let us men take it from there?

This is what validates and legitimizes men’s sexuality: that we express and use it in service of loyalty and commitment to … our wives? Better said: to our marriages. We consecrate our sexuality by dedicating it to feed the marriage, as a third entity between husband and wife. This is hard work, this is ruthless pruning.  It belongs to us.  If you're not going to be of help, stay out of it.

This is not the same as subordinating our sexuality to female desire: I should clarify that I mean spontaneous female desire, or in other words, waiting until your wife is in the mood. Maybe this quote by my beloved Camille Paglia will help explain what I mean: “There is such a thing as seduction, and it needs encouragement rather than discouragement in our puritanical Anglo-American world.” (“No Law in the Arena,” 1994)

It’s not the same as emotional intimacy either. JFF acknowledges that men commonly (I dare say typically) express love through sex. “Making love” is a euphemism that turns out to be spot on here (pun intended); maybe “intimacy” as a euphemism for “sex” isn’t entirely misleading either, after all: the kind intimacy of the body's greatest pleasures is the kind we most deeply crave.

Now I believe that emotional intimacy often smothers sexual desire: I believe that the romantic sentimentalization of marriage as the Arch Best Friendship has hobbled the sexual dimension of marriage, and has especially hamstrung wives’ sexual attraction to their husbands. I believe it has set up unrealistic expectations that cause as much resentment as sexual disappointment, if not more. When therapists tell married couples that the way for the husband to get more sex is to be more emotionally vulnerable with his wife, it reminds me of one of those “Demotivator” posters: “If you’re not part of the solution, there’s great money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

Deep emotional connection? Where in the scriptures is that condemned as a grave sin outside of marriage? Think of examples of hearts knit together in love between people of the same sex: David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, entire righteous utopias. Emotional intimacy should be cultivated in several relationships to secure a person more stability and happiness. But if sexual relations are only allowed in marriage, then let’s keep them as the definitive and expected expression of the marriage commitment and covenant. Let’s honor the male act of making love through cherishing a woman’s body. Let’s encourage women to receive that desire for their bodies without laying guilt trips about objectification or crypto-prostitution.

Let me give JFF credit here: I have heard her advocate for such recognition and reception.

Instead of holding teenage boys under suspicion that they’re fantasizing about inflicting their ejaculations on their inert wives (even if we admit they might feel guilty about that), let’s encourage teenage boys to fantasize about pleasing their wives, about becoming expert in blessing a woman through his sexual attention and technique. I’m sure there’s some porn for that – probably feminist porn, in fact. So it’s good for something.

How many men in the Church have arrived at this point already? Do we care to imagine? Do we care to investigate?

A man thinks his sexuality is only validated by his wife’s desire – or her pleasure?

Is his solicitude for her pleasure really just a cloak for his own egotism? Oh, what better way to keep men on our toes than to charge us with that? And I have heard JFF do so.

No wonder men get confused at the diagnosis and advice these women give. Women are so complicated after all. Or, if that’s too patriarchal an idea, maybe it’s just that we men are deficient and need intervention by feminist therapists to think right.

What, do you men not like that? Well that’s what you get for implying that your wife is broken for not serving your selfish so-called needs.

The ongoing contention is sad to see, but I happen to believe that conflict is the natural state between the sexes. I fear it will not be assuaged unless both men and women sacrifice, or dedicate, our sexuality to serve the third party: not feminism, but our marriages.

Let men reject the manipulation of our wives saying “I feel like you only want me for my body!” Let us reject the manipulation of “I feel like sex is a chore!” Women’s right to sexual agency entails the responsibility to share their sexuality in their marriages in generosity; men’s responsibility to attend to our wives’ sexual pleasure entails the right to expect our wives’ willingness to share the blessing of the experience regularly and frequently. I call that fair.

If women feel they need to get more in touch with their authentic sexual desires in order to get better at sharing their sexuality within their marriages, I guess that’s their business. Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job, right? As for men, we learn pretty early on that our authentic sexual desires are not fully acceptable if we want to be seen as righteous, safe, worthy and eligible.

Maybe it’s different for women after all: maybe the reason women need the affirmative action of therapy is not because their desires have been kept down by social conditioning but because their desires don’t press with such natural urgency to penetrate through so many restraints on their own.

I refuse guilt for any social conditioning that repressed the sexual desire of young LDS women, and I call on any LDS man who hoped or hopes for a wife who likes sex to join me in this refusal.

In any case, I’m glad JFF and others like her are working to encourage women to accept sexual relations as essential to the marriage covenant by claiming their female birthright to sexual pleasure, which is obviously superior in the female body.

What if we do judge a man’s sexual validity by the peculiar virility of how well he pleases his wife?  Yeah, you know what? Challenge accepted!

Men thrive on challenge, after all.

JFF has emphasized that her mission is not one of succcor for those “poor husbands” suffering from sexual deprivation, and I believe her.  I remember the dismissal in her voice when I heard her say it. Our comfort is not her priority. I think men should keep that in mind when she undertakes to teach us about our sexuality. Still I applaud her work with women and hope that it prospers. I trust that she won’t begrudge any dividends of sexual gratification that happen to fall on us men. If devotion and generosity are intolerably oppressive motivations for our wives to welcome our attention, then selfishness will do. I for one will not be shocked. Come, women, let’s see just how horny your selfishness makes you. Hit us with your best shot.