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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

GRADING ON THE CURVE

"A friend of mine once said, 'Nerdy women like fantasy guys with emotional problems. Nerdy guys like fantasy women who are strong enough to kill them."-- reviewer Jason Bradley Thompson in OTAKU USA Vol. 8. #4 (2015).

Thus, when fictional action-heroes do their kickass thing, they are in essence "going with the flow," conforming to an archetype of male behavior based in both culture and physical nature.  When fictional action-heroines kick ass, they are in essence "swimming against the current." This current is best incarnated by the literary trope of "what women want," which in Chaucer and elsewhere is nothing less than "sovereignty over their husbands." In the real world this can only be done by manipulation of the "force that gives," by persuading the man to do her will through "dissimulation" or sexual attractiveness. 
Action-heroines, however, work their own will.  They align themselves with a reverse-archetype that describes not real experience but a gesture toward desired experience.  That implies a greater level of conflict in this reverse-archetype in that it contravenes (albeit in fiction, where nothing is impossible) both physical law and cultural experience.-- WHAT WOMEN WILL (2011).

I'd been giving some thought to the proposition in the title of a 2002 film, "Real Women Have Curves." This was hardly the first time in pop culture that attention has been given to the strategic distribution of adipose tissue upon the female of the species homo sapiens. But if one states this homily as a serious proposition, it raises the question, "If real women have curves, do real men have straight lines?"

An anonymous adage avers that "nature abhors a straight line," though I don't know whether or not that abhorrence precedes nature's dislike of vacuums. In any case, men's bodies are no more "straight" than women's even at the peak of physical development. For instance, men's "washboard stomachs" evince more definition, and hence curvilinear surfaces, than do similar stomachs on women.

So it's not true that women's bodies are "more" curved than men's. Rather, it's that the curves *mean* something different with women's bodies than with men's.

To me as a heterosexual, the sight of women's curves "means" something akin to the Chinese concept *yin,* insofar as *yin* connotes sexual receptivity. And though I am not a poet, the quasi-poetic thought came to me a while back that the difference between women's curves and men's curves is that the former "lead inward" while the latter "lead outward," I know that this is not a "scientific" viewpoint of the physical realities, but I consider it to have reality, at least in an intersubjective sense.

Now, the above statement from the OTAKU USA reviewer strikes me as having some interesting ramifications for pop cultural treatments of gender relations. I've maintained in the WHAT WOMEN WILL series that men can assume a passive/receptive role in society while women can assume an active/assertive role, but that because these roles go against the grain in most cultures, they are more often realized through fiction than in actual practice. I'd go further than the reviewer and his unnamed friend, though, by stating that I think these fascinations are far from limited to the fantasies of nerds. They may be more concentrated in "nerd-readers" than in the fantasies of "regular readers." Yet though there may many examples of "best-seller fiction" in which dominant social roles are wholly validated, I find it interesting that a novel like GONE WITH THE WIND--  published in 1936, prior to many though not all of the major *femmes formidables* of 20th-century pop culture-- nevertheless focuses on a heroine who is constantly "asserting" herself and a leading man whose greater physical strength belies his emotional vulnerability to her charms.

I cannot guess exactly how if at all these ruminations would play with persons attracted to the same sex. If your own curves "lead inward" as much as your partner's, then "receptive curves" can't be the factor that determines who plays "butch" and plays "lipstick lesbian," But then, it's not written in stone that the dominant social roles are inevitable even among heterosexuals. In all likelihood. "assertive will" and "receptive will" work themselves out via psychological factors that are far more subtle than the lineaments of the physical body.

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