Masculinity & failure

Magnolia

[LL]

I want to include a few excerpts from things I have written over the years; about my desire, my fantasies of masculinity and my failure in trying to embody them as a physical manifestation. I seem to keep hitting against a brick wall in my attempt to give form to an intangible ‘thing’ that always existed within me. In the moment of my desire, and only within this moment of desire, I would swing back and forth between girl and boy, penetrated and penetrator, a constant push and pull; an in between-ness that is manifest within the whole visceral body of my work.

From ‘A summary’:
‘My main character the Detective; explores my fantasies of masculinity and of coming to terms with my own femininity. The only ‘male’ in the story, although his lack is substituted with a bulging cock-sock lest his true gender be displayed, and his apparent masculinity called into question.  Girls swoon in his presence, he only has to adjust the curve of wadded material and they moisten in anticipation.  He is the super stud of my pubescent dreams, with the swagger that I always wanted to possess.  [Growing up] I began to develop a kind of simulated hermaphroditism, where I could be at once both male and female, existing in a constant state of in-between. I did not feel as if I was born into the wrong gender per se, nor did I feel I wanted to become a boy.  I was a girl, but the freedom of masculinity and its ideals seemed to appeal to me more than what I perceived as femaleness. As puberty encroached, and I [b]loomed toward womanhood, the balance began to shift as my interaction with the world as a ‘female desired by men’ took on shape. I no longer held the masculine gaze, I was in the male gaze, where men do the looking and women are looked at. Images to be consumed. The make-believe  characters within my hyperbolic narrative explore this journey, trying to order and make sense of what is it is to be fe-male, or anything in-between.’

From ‘[Seduce and Destroy?] Notes on masculinity and failure#1’:
‘I am finding it difficult to visualise my detective character, it is something that I have been trying to bring to fruition for some time now. I don’t understand it, perhaps I am not focussing enough, perhaps I do not want to give him a face, maybe he has too many. He is within me, I can feel him. He is the stuff of my pubescent dreams. He is me. And yet, he does not want to come to the surface as I try to re-imagine him. An imaginary friend, he never needed to have a self. He came out through me. Perhaps that is what is more important. I have been trying to make myself a parody of a man, but it didn’t quite fit. It seems to keep rejecting. For me, it is not about a certain look, more of an attitude, a demeanour. As a child without the restrictions of societal morals of which I had not yet learned, and with a basic need to satisfy desire, I was able to ‘act out’ the man of my dreams. This masculinity was a part of me, with no need to separate.’

From’[Seduce and Destroy?] Notes on masculinity and failure#2’:
‘In my search to define my detective character, I have begun to think about the notion of masculinity of which I aspire. The more I dwell upon it. The more I see that it is almost like a caricature of manhood. A childish demonstration. He is a strange mixture of sexualised rogue and asexual Oxford don. The serious, stalwart gentleman whose authority never falters, and never succumbs to failure and the serial womaniser (an exaggeration of my father) who’s every swagger exudes sexual prowess, like a lion in his cage stalking the meat on the floor. “I can have any woman I want” he utters. […] I want to be that man, to possess that kind of arrogance and power. Tom Cruise’s character in the film Magnolia exemplifies this ridiculous parody of manhood, which I find simultaneously revolting and horribly seductive. I am seduced by the way he moves, cock first. I love the opening sequence of the ‘seduce and destroy’ clip, he is illuminated, grandiose and inflated with sex. It’s like an exaggeration of masculinity, and I want to gulp it up.’

This collaborative residency period feels absolutely integral to the expansion of my female masculinity, being able to talk about these ideas and desires have really opened up the scope for these characters. Taking them out into public, on film, caught static in images, suspended in the husky echo of my lowered voice – they are finally coming to life.

We spent the first five days trying to don the guise of ‘men’, trawling charity shops and watching with hawk-eyes the languid poetry of the male body on the streets of Amsterdam. I have been a bit fixated on this notion of trying to ‘pass’ in public as a real man, longing for the bristly brim of facial hair, and the broad shoulders of my imaginary protagonist, I would sigh in frustration as I caught a glimpse of my skinny legs sheathed in baggy jeans reflected in the window of a passing shop. It took me right back to adolescence, that gawky uncomfortable stance where I would sit in ill-fit nameless clothes, unsure as to who I was, or what I truly desired. An overwhelmed sense of self-consciousness, down to my very walk, my eyes undressed without years of make-up, and my hair short with ears poking out like radars. Who the fuck I am? Just someone trying to fit in, watching for cues of where to step, which foot forward, how to move manly hips, stand tall and don’t cross your legs. I seem such a long way from my Detective.

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