Archive for June, 2009

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California Unemployment Hits Men Hardest

23 June 2009

Men Filling out ApplicationsThe bottom has yet to reached in California.  The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that the unemployment rate for May was 11.5% (“Jobless Rate Sets New State Record,” Los Angeles Times 20 June 2009).  While this increase in joblessness follows patterns, a trend now being noticed is that men are the ones being laid off.  Men and women suffered the same rates of unemployment until December 2007, when three out of every four jobs lost were those of men.  The Times softened the data by graphing the twelve-month average: men averaging 9.6% unemployment versus women’s 8.2%.  In any case, the paper claims, California is in a serious “man-cession.”

Two reasons f0r the trend are suggested.  First, men account for most of the skilled trade labor, largely associated with the housing industry.  Since building has crept to a halt, it’s no surprise that men, who do the bulk of building, plumbing, electric work and repairs, are on the hunt for other work.  The other reason the Times glosses over, but I think is significant: the average female worker earns 78% of what a man gets in a similar occupation.  This wage-gap estimate is exagerrated in my opinion, but even if the number is more like 90%, it makes sense why men could be fired more easily and hired more difficultly.  They just demand too much money.  The male unemployment trend will be one of the long-term trends in white collar sectors during recessions as men catch a nasty side-effect of pay wage privilege.

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British Aristocrats on American Women, ca. 1890

15 June 2009

A conversation from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, between Lord Henry Wotton and Lord George Fermor: 

“It is rather fashionable to marry Americans just now, Uncle George.”

“I’ll back English women against the world, Harry,” said Lord Fermor, striking the table with his fist.

“The betting is on the Americans.”

“They don’t last, I am told,” muttered his uncle.

“A long engagement exhausts them, but they are capital at a steeplechase.  They take things flying.  I don’t think Dartmoor has a chance.”

“Who are her people?” grumbled the old gentleman.  “Has she got any?”

Lord Henry shook his head.  “American girls are as clever at concealing their parents, as English women are at concealing their past,” he said, rising to go.

“They are pork-packers, I suppose?”

“I hope so, Uncle George, for Dartmoor’s sake.  I am told that pork-packing is the most lucrative profession in America, after politics.” 

“Is she pretty?”

“She behaves as is she was beautiful.  Most American women do.  It is the secret of their charm.”

“Why can’t these American women stay in their own country?  They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women?”

“It is.  That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it,” said Lord Henry.

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Adultery as Religion

1 June 2009

The most disturbing religious song I have ever heard comes from the despondent singer-songwriter David Bazan, a.k.a. Pedro the Lion.  Entitled “Rapture,” it describes an adulterous sex scene of the album’s tragic character, a man plummeting into a whirling pool of self-destruction.

     This is how we multiply
     Pity that it’s not my wife
     The friction and skin
     The trembling sigh
     This is how bodies move
     With everything we could lose
     Pushing us deeper still
     The sheets and the sweat
     The seed and the spill
     The bitter pill yet undiscovered

The raunchiness of the scene can’t be stopped, however.  The dissonant chords drive on, paving over any possible voice of conscience along the way.

     Gideon is in the drawer
     Clothes scattered on the floor
     She’s arching her back
     She screams for more

The Bible left by the Gideons remains untouched.  In its place is the illicit affair, raised to the level of religion.  The throes of orgasmic passion are not unlike that of an ancient sex cult:

     Oh, my sweet rapture
     I hear Jesus
     Calling me home

Even after the song rises into a climax and collapses, the whole thing begins again, as if to emphasize the wallowing in depravity. 

darkbedA digression: I remember hearing a presenter at the Men & Masculinity Conference from over a decade ago, claiming that men, having been told to restrain emotional expression in so many areas of their lives, turn to sex as the sole outlet for their passion.  Making love – nay, fucking – for men has been baptized as the emotional activity par excellence.  Sigmund Freud came a similar conclusion a century before, that the anxiety of men built up by self-suppression needs a release, and in that release one experiences the (feminine) religious sensation of oneness with the universe.  I wonder if there isn’t an analogue to the male experience in Christianity, that with a subtle prohibition against forms of religious intimacy with God or anyone else, Christian men go looking for release elsewhere.  Whole new bastard religions get born.  Remember how Bishop J.A.T. Robinson testified at the “Lady Chatterley trial” in 1960, claiming that Christians should be able to appreciate the sacredness of sex, even if that erotic awareness is found outside marriage? 

For Pedro the Lion’s adulterer, the voice of Christ is lost in the demonic act.  The thrill of Christian marital fidelity has been supplanted by the idolatrous drama.  Or has it?  Bazan concludes the song with a final, surging refrain:

     Oh, my sweet rapture
     I hear Jesus and the angels singing
     Hallelujah
     Calling me to enter the promised land