To Be Fucked: An Essay by Natasha Stagg
In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, "Sleeveless," the author examines how the internet changed everything, but mostly sex.
If we have no gender, we have no women. Lately, we like the idea of obsession. Straight men are obsessed with sex, gay men are obsessed with form, women are obsessed with themselves, the internet is an obsessive habit. To catch a predator is to catch us all: we become what we least like about obsessives and narcissists when we spend “too much time on screens,” although, like calling out a drunk for becoming “too honest,” we can decide that this habit has made us our true selves.
I want life to keep going and refreshing and updating, and I want it to all stop and wait for me. When I got a phone with the internet, every single thing in my life changed. When I think about the internet (which is impossible), I feel similar to when I have a crush. I feel crushed. I feel like I have a crush on something, not someone, or maybe like I have an infatuation with everyone at once, but no one individually. I want to organize the people I know. I feel simultaneously like I miss every person I’ve met, and like I could go without seeing any of them again.
We don’t want to feel like we’ve been advertised to and that it worked. So we say that we hardly think about it. We say that the internet and literature are separate, except that one can be found on the other. To ignore certain impulses that dictate our lives, and to write in earnest about living: Is this disingenuous? Is your relationship with the internet masochistic? Do you feel like it drains you of money, time, and dignity? Me too, and when I am trying to write, it taunts me, existing in the same space as the one in which I write, and choking my thoughts like a hangover. Maybe that’s why it will be hard to write about how high it makes me feel when it does.
Is your relationship with the internet masochistic? Do you feel like it drains you of money, time, and dignity? There have been some good examples of what I have such a hard time explaining, but I’m drawing a blank now, even though the internet is here and trying to help me. I’m thinking about Japanese coming-of-age movies, but from years ago, when the internet was a different place. Do you think that because I have no tattoos and have actually tried to delete contributions I have made to the inter- net that I do not understand the concept of permanence? Do teenagers scare you because they think of privacy in a different way?
The desire for success is intertwined with the desire to overcome, to establish, to become a fully formed person—in short, to come out. Will announcing a gender defeat you? Will you be burdened by your ordinariness? The desire for interaction becomes the desire to retreat. You need to be in a relationship to know your relationship status, which will deem you conservative, dependent. The desire for acceptance and love will be hard to separate from the desire for money, or, in its stead, online-notoriety. And this, too, has to be defined by a sexual preference. What do you like: to fuck, or be fucked?
The first thing you are taught when earning a teaching certificate is pedagogy. As a teacher, you must understand the teaching of teaching. How one imparts knowledge must be clear and challenging to a student. When learning about pedagogy you realize that you are being taught by teachers and their methods must be structured, but somehow they are not structured like the ones they are describing. The teachers tell you to teach in a student-centric environment, but you and your classmates have not been able to respond all hour.
In order to be recognized as an artist, one should make art, and this often involves attending an MFA program. In order to get into graduate school, though, one must prove he or she is an artist. It’s like in the suburbs where you can’t get a car if you don’t have a job, and you can’t get a job if you don’t have a car. All anyone can focus on clearly is commercial success: Should you want it or reject it? Reject, obviously, if you have any integrity at all, but, professors tell you, you can have it if you’d like, and they know the people who can get it for you (they don’t).
Is your relationship with the internet masochistic? Do you feel like it drains you of money, time, and dignity?
First, we discovered that women, all of them, felt under-appreciated when given the tools to analyze their surroundings. Later, we learned that each woman has her own experience to recognize as devalued. Feminism, arguing for the understanding of every possible female trait and/or the proactive reconditioning of every young girl, rushes in and trips over itself, the fast-talking blowhard. The cultural reaction is to revert back to gender roles of another century, dreamily striding away from the debate arm in arm. The passive actors are not getting away with anything, though, and gender is less tangible than ever.
Describing a woman is impossible. I can say that a woman is different, but different from whom? I am not only speaking in a male voice, but in the voice of a male writer. The male writer is outspoken because he can be—his audience is listening, and in a male writer box, the echoes are even more meaningful than the cries. It is not anger he expresses, but sympathy for the female, the other. It is the future, he says, and we should not be afraid to look back.
In What’s Your Number, a movie I’ve never seen, it looks like Anna Farris’s character ends up dating only losers even though she’s pretty and smart. The guy she needs is under her nose and he is criticizing her. She writes down the amount of men she has been with while sitting in a circle of other women and her number seems to be the only double-digit (nineteen). When everyone starts to read off their numbers, she tries to tear hers in half because she’s so embarrassed.
On my way to a class I took on Czech literature at Charles University in Prague, I climbed a hidden staircase that led to a hall- way full of empty cabinets squeezed abnormally close to one another. The classroom itself was an office filled with books about and by Kafka. There was a table only large enough for half the class to gather around, and the rest sat in chairs along the edges of the room, which was as hot and unventilated as the painter’s “atelier” in The Trial. Our professor spoke about hierarchy when he saw us go for the table seats first.
I develop an accent through osmosis. Even when reading silently about a foreign country, one hears an accent. It is okay to say some words in the language from which they derive, but not others. An accent is much less committal than a dialect, but more offensive if used improperly. One cannot develop an accent abroad and later use it in their homeland for a longer period of time than the time spent abroad. One cannot use friends as an excuse but they can use parents as one. Often, people who have suffered severe trauma to the head or who have had a stroke develop an accent shades different from the one they grew up speaking. A new accent, the non-accent, is spreading: children who board in global village-like schools have a slow, careful tone and no recognizable origin other than tendencies towards certain words.
Describing a woman is impossible. I can say that a woman is different, but different from whom?
Czech natives, and Praggers especially, feel worldly because most of them have met so many tourists. They move to Prague because it is a big city. They are still intimidated by my Americanness, but I got the feeling that they knew they had a better sense of history. My country is young, and theirs has suffered more. “History repeats itself ” is a warning for future generations, and it is one taken more seriously than religion. In Czech literature, each huge political movement was in reaction to the previous, seemingly more atrocious one. Which could do more damage: the aristocracy, or the proletariat? Which was more hateful: America, or Germany?
Czech writers love metaphors, and if what they believe is that people can only swing in one direction or another, hoping for a long break between reaching the hilts, the metronome in Letna Park (where Stalin’s statue once stood) works perfectly as a metaphor for the whole city. In both directions there is cruel precariousness, but each extreme can be weighed out by its opposite. I learned that the statue of Stalin was blown up with dynamite and replaced by the red metronome, which illustrates not only the recursive nature of history, but the dependability of the passing of time. Czechs analyze each incredibly old artifact in their country in the same postmodern and cynical ways they do the new. They say the metronome is often broken. They also say that they considered replacing it with a statue of Michael Jackson.
First, I don’t know how I can get so wet when I am this drunk (and I usually am). Second, I don’t know why guys I sleep with tend to mention it. Possibly, they are frightened by it. I have even had complaints: “It makes for less friction,” a guy once said. “There should be a perfect medium.” This is something I didn’t want to hear, but I asked him to continue. “A guy gets off on the fact that he is pleasing a woman, so he likes that he’s getting her wet, but not necessarily the wetness itself.” The wetness itself.
Both violence and the mundane are always coming up in Kafka’s stories, repeatedly swallowing every other part of existence.
“This city makes me horny, and I hate it,” said a fellow student who had cheated on his girlfriend with both a married woman and a Russian stripper. We were having beer and goulash alone together, but only because the rest of the group had left the restaurant to finish their final essays. I didn’t know what to tell him because I knew that with this attitude, it was the beginning of the rest of his disappointments. Sex itself is almost recursive: a self-similar action that seems to transcend time and repercussions when it is happening, but only then. It is an act that creates a shared interest between people and a distinct self-image. Sometimes one does not want to see himself so clearly.
Teenagers are always a focal point in art and so we see recycled representations of adolescence, experimentation and failure in their freshest stages. Melancholy versus erratic behaviors, substance abuse versus fame obsession; all forms of angst are valid, and yet none are genuine or original. A fashion sphere informs each personality disorder, down to the language. As consumers we are in search of the most sincere of these faultily weighted emotions, because when we were teenagers, we felt like our childhoods were being taken away from us. The media had too much control over us, so we missed something, but we can find it in art.
You must appreciate the past for its simplicity, and you must look forward to the future when equality happens.
A popular feminist troupe from the nineties gave a lecture about what every feminist lecture has been about since the nineties: The lack of female representation in the art world. They have had huge exhibitions in huge museums, and those exhibitions have criticized the very museums they were placed in. And the audience laughed at this fact, as if to say, “Those silly men, agreeing to put up your work. They have no idea.” Attempting to create a movement that takes on inequality in the art world is farcical at this point, since the art world depends on the one percent. This new movement becomes part of the world, and it must, if it is successful, fall off the map and into history.
It is paradoxical to like the age you live in. Either you are told you are not seeing enough of the wrongs that are occurring, or you don’t care. You must appreciate the past for its simplicity, and you must look forward to the future when equality happens.
“I tend to be attracted to large personalities,” “I love gossip,” “I’m bored,” are supposed to mean you’re a boring person, with nothing to offer the world. I am bored, though. My best friends are unbearable.
Narratives float towards the surface, using second or third person to tell a first person story, one about failure. Post a meme that points to the hypocrisy of everyone around you, and then post about the father of your child, about alcoholics in general, about how many places you’ve been today, how many games you’ve played, what achievements you’ve earned in this world, in a world that cares for you, you who are expected to care for so many who are careless.
The superhero is a popular metaphor for the outcast or minority, as is the diva. She is marked by her powers and she must stand alone, and therefore she is alone, and she must protect everyone else from their powerlessness. In the end, the more visceral, the more inexplicable, the more objectifying, the more passionately objectless something is, the more resonant.
The hero is worshipped, applauded, but also envied. Jealousy is the most poisonous emotion, and admiration is always laced with it. Wall Street is sacred territory to be protected, not a corrupt symbol of a system to be occupied. The terrorist and his minions—anyone who will listen to new doctrine, anyone who is ready for a change— creates a new effort towards chaotic violence. The garb of American train hoppers, a skinny brat crashing the climb of a big fish. We relate? We are not the libertines, nor the patriots. We are the critics. We grew up poor and hate the very poor; we want to be rich and hate the very rich.
Women sit in circles, we feel circular, we come around, we talk in circles, we don’t get anywhere. A male orgasm and male genitalia: a line, a narrative. Female stuff: a circle? This line of thinking is getting me nowhere and I feel I need to start over.
I always liked Catwoman more than Wonder Woman, even if she is trouble, especially because she is trouble. Women are trouble, either because they have to be, or because they are. Batman sees something familiar in Catwoman. The difference between them is the difference between marginalized and not. Catwoman acts in a way that is more personal, intimate, and manipulative. This could never save the city. This could only save her.