T.C. Mill is a writer and owner of a small editing business in the Midwest. Her fiction has recently appeared anthologies like Best Women's Erotica of the Year Vol 2, The Big Book of Submission Vol 2, and Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Vol 3. She blogs at TC-Mill.com.
Written to a lover.
I admit, I debated titling this “(Wo)manifesto,” but have decided not to for two reasons: first, it has more than a few things to do with men as well, and second, perhaps most importantly, the wordplay would be, in my not terribly humble yet honest opinion, far too cute.
I’m already expected to be cute, as a woman—a certain kind of woman: white, lower-upper-middle class. Blonde would be ideal. Petite is nearly mandatory. Not too tall. Definitely not too wide. Young. (And looking younger, trying to hide the fact that I’ve already peaked, for the rest of my life.)
I feel so young yet not enough and already I’m so tired of it.
Tired of meeting expectations almost as much as I’m tired of not meeting them. Then there’s the expectations of mine that aren’t being met.
I’m tired of what feels so clear to me being invisible to everyone else.
Beginning with perceptions of myself, egotistical as it feels to say that. Still, this is my manifesto, my way of making things manifest, so let’s wrap up the portion of it dealing with cuteness: it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but I don’t want to be it.
I went through my closet last week and got rid of everything I hadn’t worn in a year. Lots of pastels. Some floral prints with flowers almost bigger than the scraps of fabric they were printed on. Stuff I can see now I hadn’t chosen so much as let be chosen for me. To enhance the prettiness which is the best I can hope for, beauty being out of reach, though I’m not a fan of being pretty either.
Now I’ve got an empty closet. But I’d rather be naked than soft-shelled. And maybe I will be for a while, because I can’t decide yet what I want to put on my hangers, or on me, this time around.
What I’m trying to do with the parable above (besides explain why I couldn’t see you on Saturday) is make the point that I hate appearing soft, sweet, harmless. But it’s not that I hate softness, sweetness, harmlessness themselves.
Because you’re soft. Sweet. And I’d trust you with my life.
You’re, if you’ll excuse my saying so, pretty fucking cute. And I like it.
For that matter, especially when it comes to you, I don’t hate being harmless. Maybe I do want to be defanged. I want to do things to you that could hurt, without you being hurt. (Please believe me that I never want you to be hurt.) Is that benign, compassionate, or simply unrealistic? Careless, even?
I’d like to write a little more about the things I want to do to you.
I’m writing this while I’m supposed to be writing something else, because I’ll always be supposed to be writing something else. For the rest of my life.
That’s exhausting to think about, somehow less exhausting to write down. Feels better to have it contained on the page. Although writing is also exhausting, and it’s exhausting to think about how much is left to be written—which, according to this writer Cixous I’ve been reading in my downtime (by which I mean reading when I should be doing something else), is almost everything.
About sex, specifically. And this manifesto of mine is about sex, specifically. But you already knew that.
“Almost everything has yet to be written.” I’ve learned not to rely on it being written for me. And I’m ahead of the game; my kind of woman generally is. I even am, for the intents and purposes herein addressed, straight. At least, I’ve never wanted to do to women, however gorgeous, what I want to do to you. But the things I want to do…who’s written about them?
There’s of course the guy who this other guy, Kraft-Ebbing, reviewed by saying, “Whenever he eliminated his perversion from his literary efforts he was a gifted writer, and as such would have achieved real greatness had he been actuated by normally sexual feelings.” The guy who, it turns out, did not also invent the Sacher torte, though we’d been wondering if he had; his gifts to the world are not that considerable.
And anyway, Vanda in Furs isn’t even really into it. I’m kind of sick of women not being into it.
I’ve been reading about sex, a lot more than I’ve been having it. And as the paperbacks pile up, every second story seems the same. A man, tall, wide (in shoulders, not stomach), is dominating or even domineering. He overpowers, and according to the bold back cover text, he claims, which sounds more like a coat check (or a 911 call) than romance. Not that I should talk. So does plenty of what I want to do to you. Which means, I guess, my real problem isn’t with principle but with practice, and narrowness thereof. In that nobody ever seems to think of just…reversing it. (And keeping it reversed, looking at you, Masoch.) The reverse of these stories seems to be unthinkable, or unspeakable—or worst of all, unsexy.
I’m burning with unsexiness right now, by the way, as I write this to you.
(I should digress on feminism here, if only for the sake of my own conscience: it’s not that the women on all sides of these novels’ covers aren’t independent, self-supporting—and how!—or don’t know what they want—again, how!! Shit, they’re probably better at all of that than I am. Not that I don’t expect to one day support myself—I sure as hell don’t expect a man to do it, no offense intended. On the other hand, I feel like they just expect me to manage everything else about my life, and while I appreciate the vote of confidence, I hear the resounding silence in which they don’t anticipate my having, or wanting, any control here. In this most intimate area of my life, my self.)
I don’t know where on the library shelves they keep the grown-up women’s versions of the stories I grew up reading. The mythology—Prometheus bound, Loki too, lots of heroic suffering and immobilization for that matter. Men sure take pride in their ability to withstand pain, and seem to have since the dawn of time. Maybe women have taken pleasure in the same for about as long. Oh, and the Hardy Boys! The moment I realized that every book would have at least one scene of them captured by the bad guys, tied up or imprisoned…
The Odyssey’s another great one. Our wily hero—let’s not forget all the paintings of him bound to a post before those Sirens—and his brave, if significantly dumber, crew keep getting waylaid, enslaved, befuddled, possessed by sorceresses and goddesses. Meanwhile women, on the back covers and inside the covers of other books, keep simply becoming possessions. No magic required.
So much is yet to be written.
There’s a theory that the author of the Odyssey was a woman.
Although Cixous also thinks there’s almost everything to be written by men about their sexuality, a new one that isn’t active, invading. But I can’t do that myself. So I’ll work with what I have: my own.
My single voice, repetitive, insistent, strident—shrill? About what I want, I want, I want.
Until I start to think I’m kidding myself.
And everyone else knows it. They’re just waiting for me to return to being actuated by normally sexual feelings. Maybe I’ll even be great at it.
Some wait more patiently than others. Talk from the pulpits preaches and scolds: Let him feel like a man. “Man conquers, colonizes. Woman surrenders.” “Woman’s greatest sin today is a self-centered, egotistical urge to control her own body, which the Bible tells us belongs to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:4: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Well, that got interesting in the second half.)
People have made a religion out of this shit.
They’ve had to. So much is at stake. Whatever would happen to society if we had to redefine the very meaning of what it is to be a man, or, God forbid, a woman?
(God-dess forbid? Sorry. Hard to resist.)
If we found out there weren’t any definitions, or even such categories to define? That we could make any definition our own?
Nous ne savons plus aimer, ni croire, ni vouloir, as the intriguingly named author Constant says. We wouldn’t know how to love, or to believe, or to want.
I tell myself this as if to make my peace with it, as if I don’t have a lot at stake too.
That time in which we both dated other people, it was something of an experiment, and I’ll lay my results out here—almost everything:
Which is yet to be written, says Cixous, about our (women’s) interior and complex sexuality… There’s a lot I still have to figure out. Like where my sex is even located. What it means for someone to touch me there. If it can be touched at all. If these are orgasms, the shaking-out relief I get with myself and manage, just barely, with certain men. And if not, what the word is for an anticlimactic climax, and if that’s the word to use instead for the rest of my life.
So I’m a coward after all and instead of giving you juicy details connected to faces, bodies, I have a quote from one more French writer. Beauvoir: “If his desire is violent and brutal, his partner feels changed into a mere thing in his arms; but if it is too self-controlled, too detached, he does not constitute himself as flesh; he asks woman to make herself an object without her being able to have a hold on him in return. In both cases, her pride rebels; to reconcile her metamorphosis into a carnal object with the demands of her subjectivity, she must make him her prey as she makes herself his. (This is often why the woman remains frigid.)”
Well, there’s me and my body, in that last sentence.
Cixous, again: “Men still have everything to say about their sexuality, and everything to write. For what they have said so far, for the most part, stems from the opposition activity/passivity from the power relation between a fantasized obligatory virility meant to invade…”
I can’t be aroused when I’m constantly on the defensive.
(I think it’s awesome that you can, though. And God, Goddess, fuck, how you are.)
I’ve wanted: to want someone, if not more than, at least with more force than he wants me. To be in pursuit. To be desperate, hungry for anything you’d give, anything I could claim. To be willing to go to my knees after all, to beg, to bargain, to demand, to act out of sheer and wholehearted wanting. To be spurred on by my own desire instead of reacting to someone else’s.
So after managing to evade a few men (mythology is full of that, too, poor Daphnes with their branches quaking in the breeze) and determining to only take the ones I could pursue…I seemed called to chastity despite myself.
I started to doubt myself. My shrill, single voice. My empty wanting that seemed more a matter of not-wanting. Had I successfully evaded my only chance, cut myself off from the only sexuality that was possible?
I doubted myself, until I put my hands on you, and something bloomed beneath them. Until I shoved you against the door, kissed you, pushed you on the bed. Until I put my arms around you, my mouth on you, my teeth on you. Oh God, my nails on you. When you asked for them harder. And I gave what you asked, and it wasn’t like giving in, like doing what I was told. It was finding someone who wanted what I wanted, who gave me what I needed to want it. To pursue it. To do it.
You waited for me, didn’t evade me, and knew better than to chase. You let me come.
My manifesto is: it feels so good to do things to a gorgeous man. It feels so good to want and go after what I want. It’s unthinkably good but not, it seems, that unspeakable.
Sexy? Let me know what you think. I’m not sitting still as I write this, that’s all I’m saying.
I’m here, writing it. And you’re here, wherever you are, reading it. Thank you for that. Thank you.
I thank you.