Purity and Danger and Foreskin

Posted by Madam Bubby

 

I was born into a world where baby boys were routinely circumcised, whether they were Jewish or not. Hygienic purposes. (These were also the days when nurses wore caps, which were later deemed to be unhygienic. Go figure.)

These were also the days when women at least in middle class white America were knocked out in order to give birth. Babies were kept in rooms behind windows, often in incubators even if they weren’t under five pounds, held up for viewing like specimens by nurses in crisp white caps. (I am remembering the episode of the birth of Little Ricky on I Love Lucy, which corresponded to Lucille Ball scheduling a caesarian section for the birth of her son, Desi Arnaz, Jr.)

 

Ricky in the hospital waiting room, from I Love Lucy
Ricky in the hospital waiting room (Source)

 

It's like anything that resembled the nitty gritty raw materials of sex and blood and birth and death was hidden, sterilized as much as possible. Dirt was disorder. Sex was dirty unless it produced babies, but giving birth to those babies was a disordered process that required forceps and scalpels and anesthesia to control it, get it out of the realm of actual living.

 

Scalpel

 

And of course any type of sex other than what took place behind closed doors in a missionary position for procreative purposes was generally deemed dirty and disordered. Thus LGBTQ persons themselves were deemed by the general population as irredeemably dirty, unless they could cleanse themselves and rejoin the pristine world of Father Knows Best, itself but an idealized fantasy.

Mary Douglas in her seminal book Purity and Danger explored this primal desire to contain dirt and disorder, like the way we still keep our basic bodily functions of urination and defecation in a toilet which is supposed to be sparkling clean and in a room that is also supposed to be sparkling clean. The toilet itself is an image that contains in itself this fraught tension which informs our attitudes toward sexuality and even to parts of the body that one uses to express that sexuality.

 

Purity and Danger cover
Purity and Danger cover

Scrubbing a toilet

 

Thus, that foreskin had to be brutally cut off, to cleanse, make pure, the member of an appendage would make its appearance and its role sexual act even more exciting, promising deep, dark, rich scents and that pungent but also enticing smegma.

It revealed the mystery in order to contain it. When I experienced sexually a man who was uncut for the first time (in the bathroom, and in the shower, ironically), which could imply he was somehow more complete, even “holy” which word can also mean complete, I experienced mystery. And in that mystery, glory, and by glory, I am thinking of not a vague disembodied entity or feeling in the clouds, but physical reality itself charged with an energy that creates and propels the orgasm but also encompasses it.

 

Images from The U.N.C.U.T. Club of L.A. & Club Mandom 1: Blue Collar Cheese Factory
Images from The U.N.C.U.T. Club of L.A. (top) and Club Mandom 1: Blue Collar Cheese Factory (bottom)

 

His phallus contained on it a boundary, and it’s through crossing boundaries one grows, changes, lives, dies. I could experience at that time a fullness and as I said above, a mystery that transcended the rigid binaries which result from treating sexual, in fact, all human experience as something we have to dissect with scalpels and pull apart with forceps.

I’m not advocating for an end to circumcision, as it is a boundary-crossing, consensual ritual of initiation for males in many cultures, but, significantly, also a source of horrific pain and suffering for so many, especially women and girls who are circumcised in order to completely suppress their sexual desire, eliminate it like it is indeed something dirty and thus disordered. They in essence are forced into becoming objects only defined by what the culture deems as purity, but at the same time depriving them of living as full, complete persons.

Yes, there’s dangerous realities we do need to contain, as a virus plagues the world and we must first try and control it, then eradicate it, by amplifying up to the nth degree our bathroom rituals of cleansing and purifying. But our complicated, messy, exciting and ultimately glorious sexuality can and should become for humans both dangerous and pure, exploding the tension in that binary if only for a moment. A holy moment.

Rate this blog entry:
1178 Hits
0 Comments

Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy: A Criminal!

Lucy Ricardo

I so hope I am not outing myself even more as an “eldergay” with the topic of the blog this week, but I do like to think Lucy, especially as Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy, will remain always funny, even as broadcasts of that show are now making their way into interstellar space.

Situation comedies, like most art forms that move in time, require suspension of disbelief, but after some inspiration from the inimitable datalounge website (which bills itself as “serving up this steaming pile of Gay celebrity gossip, politics and pointless bitchery since 1995 (were you even born in 1995?) Go ahead. You know you want to..."), this idea really hit me … if one pretty much voids the suspension of disbelief required for Lucy and (in most cases) her accomplice Ethel to get involved in so many zany madcap predicaments, plus interpreting their antics through a fear-ridden mindset characteristic of so many 21st century persons (especially helicopter parents) … Yikes!

Yes, Lucy Ricardo is pretty much a “serial criminal,” with Ethel (usually) as her accomplice. Now, Ricky and Fred were also involved in a some of the business, but Lucy was the mastermind.

Some examples, mostly from memory (oh, I hope, dear reader, you are impressed), which may make you recall some of your favorite episodes:

Lucy often, quite often, commits white collar crime; for example, she purposely wrote a postdated check to pay for the costumes and props for the operetta her women's club is putting on. She does get caught (the check bounces), but not by the cops, but by the company she wrote the check to, who hauls and rips away everything as the performers continue to try and save the show.
 

Lucy the Operetta

I do remember her doing the whole postdated check thing in another episode, and even more brazenly, she charges exorbitant amounts at a grocery store (including the neighbor's groceries), after Ricky, weary of her financial crimes, hires a business manager. Lucy thinks the business manager will take care of it at the end of the month when he goes over her monthly grocery allowance (well, not really, it does end well, but not in the way one expects it to).

More variations of white collar crime: And in Monte Carlo, when she is in Europe, she gets in trouble for passing counterfeit money. (And she also tries to get across the France-Italy border without a passport, but that's another category.)

And to get to Europe financially, she and Ethel concoct a raffle for a fake not for profit, Ladies Overseas Aid. The FBI and the cops are really on to her in this one …
 

Lucy and Ethel's fraudulent raffle

Lucy is guilty of assault and imprisonment: for example, in one episode, with the typical theme of Lucy trying to get in the show, after losing the required weight under much duress, she ties up the woman who was supposed to be in the chorus line at Ricky's club in a broom closet so she can be in that show.

Lucy is guilty of property damage: ah, so many instances, but I remember one specifically. After a falling out with Fred and Ethel, she and Ricky try and purposely break the lease so as not to have to pay it off. After purposely making noise and even making prank phone calls to Ethel (another crime), they decide to have Ricky's band rehearse in the apartment late at night; the noise and stomping causes the ceiling to collapse on Fred and Ethel.

Lucy is guilty of theft: ah yes, the infamous let's steal (with Ethel) John Wayne's footprints from the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame by Grauman's Chinese Theater. She is pretty much out of control in Hollywood trying to meet celebrities, and her crimes include much breaking and entering, including leaping over a fence to steal a grapefruit from Richard Widmark's yard. She also tried to sneak into Cornel Wilde's hotel room.
 

Lucy and Ethel attempting to steal John Wayne's footprints

Lucy is guilty of creating public a public disturbance: many others, but in this case, the act was a stunt to get some money (they landed a job advertising some movie called “Women of Mars”) because she and Ethel lied about the amount of money they could give to a hoity-toity acquaintance's charity, but they go to the top of the Empire State of Building, scream at people in gibberish, and point what looks like stun guns at them … oy veh!
 

Lucy and Ethel as Martians at the Empire State Building

Lucy is guilty of threats to safety on public transportation: On the train home from Hollywood, she keeps pulling the emergency brake, for various reasons, but it turns out that this criminal act is not as horrible as the jewel heist going on.
 

Lucy pulling emergency brake

Lucy is involved in the Mob (not really but … ): And, right before she and Ricky (and later Fred and Ethel) move to Connecticut, she, Ethel, and Fred disguise themselves as mobsters in order to keep the deal from closing (because Lucy and Ethel don't want to separate) and end up terrorizing the owners of the house to point where the husband gets out a shotgun. Yet it is implied by Lucy at one point earlier that Fred is “packing a rod.”
 

Ethel, Fred, and Lucy: 1950s Gangsters

And I am not recounting all, yes, all the episodes where her crimes occur.

Yes, I know it was a comedy show, a parallel universe, but I just wonder if someone in today's angst-ridden culture (I am not denigrating the valid concerns persons possess about gun control, terrorism, property rights, public safety, and white collar crime) watched some of these without knowledge of the show's context and genre, what they might think.

Lucy Ricardo, I do love you, but even in the 1950s, you might have gotten locked up (which did happen a couple times on the series … oh, I could go on and on).

But in that parallel universe where problems become miraculously resolved in half an hour with commercials, the deus ex machina (in Lucy's case, often her husband) descends to make everything kiss and make up/all right/and all manner of things shall be well.

Some of our retro studs in the world of Bijou Video weren't exactly perfect citizens (and not only because they were having gay sex, illegal in many United States jurisdictions when they appeared in their movies)… check out some of our flicks where they, at various levels, bend and break the law, including Drive, Boynapped, Star Trick, Greek Lightning, The American Adventures of Surelick Holmes, and Crime Does Pay.

(For more specific information on the I Love Lucy episodes, I highly recommend The I Love Lucy Book.)

Rate this blog entry:
2317 Hits
0 Comments

Contact Us | 800-932-7111 | Join our email list

Go to top