If you’ve been longing for some scholarly discussion of sperm, welcome, this is your lucky day. I have come upon the mother lode, so to speak: an essay by Camille Paglia in which she reviews three new books about male sexuality. If you’re pressed for time, here is the essence of the piece.
“Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluids” is the work of some lesbian professor who not only directed a sperm bank but had two children by artificial insemination. Camille loves the book’s first sentence, which begins… “It has been called sperm, semen, ejaculate, seed, man fluid, baby gravy, jizz, cum, pearl necklace, gentleman’s relish, wad, pimp juice, number 3, load, spew, donut glaze, spunk, gizzum, cream, hot man mustard…..” It keeps going on, but I think you get the picture. Camille likes this book but regrets its overuse of worn out terms like ‘hegemonic masculinity.’
“Images of Bliss: Ejaculation, Masculinity, Meaning” is by some foreign dude with a funny name, who is simply too pretentious for Camille’s taste. His ‘juxtaposition of gay porn, and semen art with Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, and Marcel Proust is buried in a labyrinthine poststructuralist prose…’ Here, I misread Leonardo Di Caprio for da Vinci, and perked up, momentarily. But no, there was just more crap about Aristotle and Jacques Lacan. Camille was particularly annoyed by the chapter called “Significant Discharge: The Cum Shot and Narrativity,” which failed to correctly appreciate Bruce LaBruce’s gay-porn classic, ‘Hustler White.’ I’m with Camille, here. I don’t know a thing about Bruce LaBruce but he certainly deserves a more thoughtful analysis.
“Impotence: A Cultural History,” written by a professor of history in a ‘lucid, urbane’ prose style, was a welcome relief for Camille. She loves the chapter about Kinsey and Masters and Johnson. She loves the critique of Viagra and the American pharmaceutical companies. But the book has its shortcomings. She complains about the author’s over-reliance on ideological gender-studies books, and she gives us the following sentence, which will live forever in the Pseud’s Corner Hall of Fame:
“Hence he has absorbed their manifold errors – missing the fertility symbolism in the ithyphallic Athenian herms, for example, which were apotropaic vestiges of the agrarian past (rather than a sexist parading of male power), or treating Pompeii, a small, hedonistic resort like Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, as if it were Rome itself.”
I fucking love Camille Paglia, who never ceases to entertain. Her essay is a nice counterpoint to a documentary about the movie Deep Throat, that I watched on TV last week. Apart from innumerable reasons to be depressed, the movie does offer a couple of lighter moments. There’s an old clip of Helen Gurley Brown, looking like a thousand year old mummy, cheerfully noting that sperm makes a wonderful facial and neck treatment. Her own skin wasn’t too persuasive on this point, but maybe it only works for the first hundred years after menopause.