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Conversational Castration

Conversational Castration

by Brandon Edmonds, illustration by Jason Bronkhorst / 08.11.2010

Some women are impossible to talk to. Any number of reasons make them so: irresolution, dullness, different values. The woman I’m thinking of won’t be reading this. I’m confident whatever I do doesn’t interest her in the least. She’s an expert at conversational castration. You’ll be telling her something, enjoying her attention, and she’ll drop you, mid-speech, actually turn away – before you’re done. It’s shocking each time. I’ve asked other males in her company and they’ve experienced it too.

Jacques Lacan, a psychoanalyst, asserted: ‘there is no sexual relationship’. He may have meant men and women never get to the bottom of each other – no matter how intimate we imagine ourselves to be. Mutual misunderstanding is more accurate than a term like ‘love’ since there’s a radical experiential discontinuity between the sexes. Walk in on a garrulous group of the opposite gender and feel the beat of silence at your arrival confirm that chasm. He also wrote ‘desire is the desire of the Other’. I want you (to want me). My desire is fired by imagining yours. Reciprocation is happiness. Consent is all. Zuma’s multiple wives transfixed the British tabloids earlier this year because the hyper-virile figure of a man sustaining that much desire riles the orthodoxy of Western gender equality. How can so many women be sincerely committed to one man? It was a post-imperial opportunity to outline yet again an exotic strain of ‘untamed’ African customary difference. Carry on Polygamy!

Trapping and enticing the desire of the desired has material effects. Real consequences. Tangible outcomes. Babies. Cars, clothes, haircuts. Rhinoplasty. The Taj Mahal. Contracts like marriage. Even murder.

In the proto-John Waters B-picture The Honeymoon Killers (1970) an Italian lothario seduces and marries (then kills) aging widows and spinsters who are revitalized by the fantasy of winning a stud’s desire – blind to the unlikelihood, to their own lost looks and sagging bodies, all too eager to succumb. It’s a honey trap. Take the more recent/much celebrated Pixar indictment of late capitalist waste and under-employment Wall-e (2008).

A clunky Crusoe-like bachelor robot spends the movie heroically trying to focus the gaze of a sveltely superior vastly advanced sublimely indifferent feminine robot on himself. Earning her desire, no doubt a metonymic stand-in for ‘saving Mother Earth’, becomes synonymous with returning humanity to ethical agency.

Masculine anxiety around being worthy of her desire abounds in contemporary film from Wes Anderson’s self-doubting Salinger knock-offs, to ‘bromance’ comedy (which tries its best to shirk her entirely), to The Social Network (2010) which almost convincingly suggests the urge to develop Facebook was a way for Mark Zuckerberg to prove what a mistake a girl made dumping him!

We’re now in a better position to explain why our ‘conversational castrator’ discontinues her interest. Or are we? On one level she’s clearly refusing to be seduced. If desire really is ‘the desire of the Other’, she’s saying, ‘uh-uh, no thanks Other, I refuse to be taken in by you. I will not listen. I will not allow myself to be surprised, charmed or enlightened. I’m not interested’. She is pointedly exempting herself from the play of desire. Which really got my attention of course. And suggests another level.

It’s entirely possible the look-away, the interest-drop, is an extension of the game. A way of provoking desire. Seeming unattainable etc. I don’t think so though. This seems incidental. Having a man interested in her is probably no longer novel. She’s so steeped in the mechanics of seduction, being attractive and often hit on, that she may be short-circuiting interaction to pronounce her own erotic fatigue. Which makes her even more alluring! And the plates keep spinning.

I’m assuming she has an attention span. That the abrupt disconnect isn’t involuntary. Or just plain rude. Which could well be the case. I’m also tempted to go on about ‘post-feminism’ and gender slippage – the sexual adoption of traditionally masculine behavioural traits: how young women apparently party with the reckless abandon imputed to young men these days. Binge drinking. No strings coitus. Is she just aping a dude? Has she simply adopted habitual male indifference to female expressiveness? Does it make her a pioneering post-feminist, or a bitch? Ha!

The next time I see her I’m going to try and hold her attention. No matter what it takes. I’m convinced there’s a subject out there that’ll captivate her. Maybe it’s as simple as firing questions. When was the first time you brushed your teeth with your finger? Have you ever driven with your eyes closed? Maybe it’s courtship rituals in early Florence or the back catalogue of Maria Callas. Maybe it’s physics or Glee. Who knows?

Tell us your suggestions. We’ll make a game of it. I’ll try the best ones on her and see how long it takes for the guillotine to fall!

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RESPONSES (23)
  1. Captain Lombard says:

    Welcome back Edmonds!

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  2. damndemons says:

    indeed, about time!

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  3. Lizzy says:

    there is a way to get and hold her attention, and that is to blatently ignore her, or treat her exactly the way she treats you. although i suspect you have already wasted more time on her than she deserves…

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  4. JM Koet$ee says:

    Could help the reader to sketch in the scenario that culminated in the convo interruptus. What were you talking about, what was the setting, is it someone you know, or were you rtrying to make conversation with a stranger, etc.?

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  5. Roger Young says:

    Next time she does it, grab her by the shoulders and say “I’m talking here, bitch.”

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like the myth of Medusa…

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  7. Andy says:

    take off your clothes, item by item, while you’re talking to her, until you’re standing naked in front of her. Then sit back and continue as normal

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  8. vuyo seripe says:

    Lovely ilustration, Jason…

    Maybe she just doesn’t like you… and you might annoy her even further if you keep trying to grab her attention.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Judging by this article, I wouldn’t want to talk to you either.

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  10. wipneusie says:

    usually it is quite the other way around: my attention flagging, her incessantly prating as if she is so full of words she would burst if she did not let them out…

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  11. brandon edmonds says:

    ouch @anonymous.

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  12. Eros says:

    Stick to the girls who actually want to hear what you have to say – or stop being so earnest.

    The girl you’re speaking of is going to end up marrying an international cricketer, who will hump around on her, he’ll get caught out publicly, fake a suicide attempt and then she’ll end up doing coke and be a sad, if wealthy, bottle blonde single mom addict with 3 kids and tiger print stockings.

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  13. Anne Bogart says:

    I think Roger Young is a dick!
    He is the reason I’m turning into a very influential lesbian gangster who will then gather all girls, straight and gay, to meet somewhere secret and underground, where we will discuss how creepy and rude Roger is and we will eventually come to the conclusion the entire male population is dirty shitheads.
    Then, my dear Mr. Edmonds, no girl will ever talk to you again because eventually all my groupies will become lesbo too and BAM!
    Before you know it, we will take over the world!
    All because of Roger Dickhead Young.

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  14. Lance Armstrong says:

    Hey, did you guys get the memo about my Livestrong bangles? They make great cock rings for the exceptionally well-hung. Nobody ever turned away from me when I was talking.

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  15. Roger Young says:

    Hey Anne? I’m talking here, bitch.

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  16. Jason says:

    Rog, how do you get women to hate you so goddamned feverishly?
    Some of us would kill for that kind of attention, eh Brandon?

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  17. Rico says:

    Cool illo, Jason.

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  18. chai wallah says:

    Another good piece. I’m impressed.
    Yes, we do desire to be desired, and subsequently obsess about finding the reasons why someone wouldn’t be interested in us. But we don’t have to make everyone and anyone like us? What was it about this girl that made you initiate the conversation in the first place?

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  19. brandon edmonds says:

    She was in the room. Beauty has a kind of onus.

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  20. chai wallah says:

    Yea, it can be a gift and a curse. And people first and foremost crave it. Funnily enough, I’m reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty at the moment. Have you read it?

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  21. Anne Bogart says:

    Fuel to the flame Roger!
    You make it so easy…

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  22. Anonymous says:

    I just had a fanny wable. whoops

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