Salacious Readers: the Work issue is coming. Meanwhile, have a taste:
Dear Salacious Advisors,
My newly-transitioned trans man is headed back into the world after surgery and hormones. He’s understandably stressed. Yet it weirdly seems that everything he needs for me to do to support him reads like some 1950s family TV show. He’s even said that I need to make sure I have no evening commitments past 4 pm, nor any weekend commitments, so that I can ‘focus on the family’ (we have a kid). We’re not christian conservatives, btw. And furthermore, he’s not having sex with me because he’s too stressed out. How do I support him without reproducing every sexist script I’ve spend my entire feminist life resisting?
Dear so-called “Marabel Morgan,”
This is a great letter for the “Work” issue of Salacious because it sounds like you’re experiencing a classic if queer case of all work and no play. You’ve been with your “newly-transitioned trans man” through surgery, stress, and, no doubt, a lot more that involves work. For example, if your relationship newly has a him and a her—or a him and a him, a him and a hir; a him, hir, and her, or whatever—the social, political, and erotic effects can be vast. Heterosexual privilege comes or goes. So does queer visibility. Fantasies, bodies, and possibilities may change or match up differently.
Some of that involves work for sure. But there are also pleasures, satisfaction, excitement, intimacy, and joy galore available for the giving, taking, and sharing. If you’re just “doing the work”— in the double-shift, support-staff, or therapy-speak senses—that’s a problem.
But oddly enough, while it’s your problem, it wasn’t the real Marabel Morgan’s problem, which is how we know that you’re not really her. For people not yet into their 4th decade of reading sex advice, Marabel Morgan wrote the 1973 bestseller The Total Woman, the handbook for her Total Woman movement. It advises women that if a wife treats her husband as the boss that Christianity says he is, and manages her household efficiently, then good things will come her way, from the new refrigerator she’s been craving to romantic gifts to orgasmic sexual satisfaction, which Marabel believed was a key to physical, marital, and spiritual health.
So here’s where hating Marabel gets the tiniest bit complicated. While her belief that sex belonged only in the hetero marriage bed was bigoted and foul, she insisted on women’s right to sexual pleasure and offered Bible verse to prove that sex isn’t sinful because it “was going strong before sin ever entered the world” (106).
Besides, some of the sexual suggestions that critics ridiculed and derided her for could be interpreted as refreshingly kink-friendly, like a fondness for costumes that her disciples famously went wild with. One woman greeted her husband at the door wearing nothing but Saran Wrap and a big red ribbon. Meanwhile, according to People (April 7, 1975), “[a]n NFL player, whose wife had taken the Total Woman course, decided to reverse the game plan and met her at the door wearing only a hair ribbon, an apron and galoshes.” Fetish-wear, gender play, not bad!
Marabel also advised wives to recognize and honor the particular masculinities that matter to their particular guy. Sound familiar? I know of at least one radical queer femme who—while reading The Total Woman for research—shuddered to remember her own hand on a butch bicep or two (or more) when she read the anecdote Marabel recounted that involved the payoff of admiring muscles. But she needn’t have shuddered. While Marabel had an array of traditional guy-types in mind, the advice could also be useful in relation to people who do not conform to dominant expectations and who struggle to have their gender identities and expressions respected and valued.
So can Marabel’s advice be tweaked for you? Maybe so, if you can happily—and we emphasize happily as in pleasure for you—eroticize some components of the traditional life and relationship he envisions. If he’s too stressed out for sex, maybe you can entice him back toward your erotic connection by fingering his tie as you offer to help him relax after his hard, hard day at work. If it does the trick sexually you might find that, as Marabel says, he’ll become receptive to suggestion. Then suggest that he learn to stop being a sexist jerk. Marabel can’t really help him do that, but help is not far to seek. Direct him to the internet, the bookstore, and live human interaction where trans men with feminist politics, among others, can help him identify, wrestle with, and resist male privilege with all its appeals and benefits—as, of course, they are amplified or compromised by race, economic status, and other matters. While you need more than “doing the work” for yourself, he’s definitely got more work to do.
Sex. Romance. How-to. How not to. Queer Etiquette. Fuck etiquette.
Anything else you want to throw at us. Salacious Advisors lust for your questions. EMAIL US.