Interpretive Incest: The Brother-Sister Dynamic in Action

Despite the physical/mental abuse from my mother to my brother, our father’s abandonment, my brother’s failed marriage, and my struggles with relationships- we’ve retained that important brother-sister bond. And, logically we would make it inappropriate, weird, and –again- mildly incestuous.  I’m OK with this, and I fully embrace the absurdity. Although there are still –understandably- more elements to consider, I’ve gained so much insight just from writing this.  I don’t know how, or even why, I despised writing all these years; it’s wonderfully therapeutic.

Do any of you have siblings?  Ideally the answer is “yes”.  Why else would you care to read this?  How many of you are close to at least one of your siblings- I mean, pretty close?  Are there ever any sexually awkward moments between you two?  Now, I don’t mean incestuous sexual elements…well, maybe I do. All our day-to-day interactions with others contain loads of sexual tension, whether individual or combined.  It would only make sense that interactions with our siblings are even more privy to that. No, I don’t mean legitimate sexual desire between siblings (though it does happen), but that weird, unspoken awkwardness when saying anything around your siblings that involves your- or their-  love life. Just that little twinge you feel when your brother or sister says something that you immediately internalize. I think this type of dynamic is more common with siblings of opposing sexes. It gets a little awkward when  these siblings discuss things pertaining to their relationships and sex in general.

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This is sort of what it feels like….sometimes

Freud proposed that any incestuous tendencies or implications could be traced to childhood sexual abuse, specifically from the relative being discussed. While truthful in many cases, I oppose the notion that the abuse needs to be sexual in nature. The same is often said of those with eating disorders and I’m certainly an exception to that. Furthermore, that the abuse must have been caused by the sibling/relative in question is far from being a blanket statement. My brother and I rapidly bonded from mental and physical abuse/neglect from our parents- much like a relationship spawned from mutually experienced grief. I’m pretty sure I’m on to something- something personal, yet extremely common.

 I’d like to think that I’m close to my brother.  Not everyday communication close, but…enough.  We’ve had our long bouts of distance – physical and emotional- and we don’t live very close anymore.  However, he’s so much like me that I can’t help but feel that we’ll always be close.  “Well, duh! You’re brother and sister!”  Right. Unfortunately, sibling rivalry is extremely common and can last long into adulthood.  I’d like to think- though perhaps wrongfully- that any of our residual anger or bitterness is directed at our parents as opposed to each other.  It may not even be consciously acknowledged, but is likely there.  With this mutual “enemy” we have gotten closer in recent years, hanging out a bit more and talking about more personal subjects. These discussions leads right into this weird, awkward, mildly incestuous place- not willingly, but often hilariously.

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Part of this recent closeness can be attributed to a decline in my brother’s marital status.  He’s divorced now, but the past year or two has been increasingly difficult for him. Perhaps he drifted – only naturally- to his more empathetic sister instead of his unstable mother for support.  Maybe it was subconscious, maybe it was conscious, maybe it was Maybelline.  I don’t know; I’m not a damn therapist.  At any rate, this drifting towards me was a result of failings within the realm of marriage and sexual tension with his wife. Even now, many of the times hang out are often during some type of relationship issue.  When he needs to forget or distract himself from these issues, I’m pretty sure hanging out with me is one of the preferred method.  It’s even an ego thing, it just…is.  So, there’s the sexual dynamic from his perspective – in the midst of sexual and relationship tensions, the natural gravitation is towards his sister?  I mean, I’m legitimately asking; I have no fucking clue..

But, that's OK...

But, that’s OK…

On my end, I’ve always had a slight envy towards my brother.  He had a lot of the qualities that I wish I could integrate into my persona and he was always the type of person whom I wished would be my friend. In our earlier years ( I was about 12/13, he 15/16) I experienced jealousy towards some of the girls he “dated”.  I don’t think it was that weirdly desirous type of jealousy -no Ferdinand/Duchess dynamic here. But, some elements of sexual confusion were certainly there.  I was just heading into puberty, he was on his way out, my mom was cheating on my dad every night, they were “separated”, yet living in the same apartment, I entered new school, no friends/peer harassment on my part- all of these elements came out in this time.  And, although we were on two entirely different paths at the time, we grew so much closer than we ever had been.  Mind you, he used to try to kill me- yes, legitimately- in our childhood, so any improvement would have been smashing.

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This was about the time my battle with food began.  At this phase of my life (and until I was 18) I was a compulsive and emotional over eater   I filled the void left from my peers and my parents with constant eating/snacking, books…and my cat.  The formation of an eating disorder coupled with a blossoming sexuality led to so much damn confusion.  Oddly enough- or maybe not so odd considering the nature of this post- my brother was the only one I had close to me during these years.  When I was finally coming into , um, womanhood it wasn’t my mom (or awkwardly, my father) who was there for me- it was my brother.  I can never thank him enough and, although I am frequently unable to express it, he is very close to me. Although, I think that’s one of the more brilliant elements- we don’t need to express it because it’s simply understood.

Reminiscing aside, it’s actually much clearer now why I have this distant –yet remarkably close- relationship with my brother.  We embrace the awkwardness when we discuss sexual frustrations, find comfort in the blatant innuendos, revel in our inappropriateness, and enjoy the discomfort that all of this brings others.  As I have read, quite some time ago, in some dank corner of the internet: “Incest is WIN-cest!” I embrace the nature of our relationship, and the interpretations it can incite with others.  What could be better than questioning preconceived notions of society?

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“Down With the Dick!” or: The Power of Female Sexuality in Literature

What does the phrase “true love” mean?  No, really.  I don’t mean the all-encompassing, sweeping, romantic type of love.  I mean just the particular word combination.  True and love are both positive things. Truth implies honesty, as does love…Love is truth.  To love is to reveal some part of yourself, even if it’s just a personal revelation.  Using the phrase true love is much like the concept of free will.  It’s a double-positive, and it’s unnecessary.   Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, but these types of word phrasing just irritate me now.  They don’t mean what many think they mean, and they’re much too restricting. Just a thought to consider.   I first came upon this realization while looking at a shirt that I own.  It has a quote from A Midsummer’s Night Dream: “The course of true love never did run smooth”. It just stood out to me for some reason.  Anyway…

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Since this post is about female empowerment it seemed only logical to add as much male homosexuality as necessary.

On to the main reason for this post: male progression as a result of female intervention by way of their sexuality.  Specifically I want to address this theme as it appears in literature or myth. I have a few images I’m excited to delve into. But, there are  countless others;  It’ll probably be better to breeze through a few general ideas and then later get into the denser material. First up is the classic tale of King Arthur.

Primarily, I’m interested in how Arthur got his power.  His power essentially came from finding and wielding Excalibur.  Now, if that’s not a symbol for male sexuality I don’t know what is.  I mean, he can only rightfully rule his kingdom when he possesses his, um, sword?  His sword is his manhood and, in turn, his divine right to rule.  Pretty patriarchal message, eh?  But, wait, there’s more!  His sword, dominant though it is, was given to him by none other than the Lady of the Lake.   Essentially his power- his sexuality- would all amount to nothing without this mysterious woman. Even within this myth –written in a very patriarchal, religious time-period- has feminist implications. It does warrant consideration.

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Looking back on this story after all these years, it’s baffling…and hilarious.  It gets more interesting when his “true love”, Guinevere, has an affair with Lancelot, his closest companion.  According to common lore and translations, this results – perhaps indirectly- to the fall of Arthur’s kingdom. So, I suppose that Arthur’s kingdom, his “manhood” is taken from him by a woman.  Not just that, but his closest male follower was seduced by this same woman.  Never mind this subversion of the concept of “true love”, but the situation amuses me to no end.  So much power is wielded by these women- these mysterious, background women that grasp Excalibur at the hilt.  It’s just plain weird looking back at this and realizing all of these subtle – or not so subtle- elements of feminism in literature that is often regarded as male-dominated. Arguably this is a myth, and one that has been re-told countless times throughout the centuries, the earliest versions contain these elements.

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Not this

Likewise, in The Duchess of Malfi the tone is overtly feminist.  The Duchess, widowed at the beginning if the play, is just now coming to terms with the ability to finally enact her own will. This assertion of her will is the driving force of the play.  All the men around her are reacting to this assertion of womanhood.  Her newfound lover, Antonio, is strong-armed into becoming her husband. Although, it seems like he is more the bride than she.  In awe, Antonio obeys her and agrees to be her lover.  Just this simple act of dominance- of going out and acquiring what she desires- is progressive in the extreme. Likewise, her brother -Ferdinand- is forced to act because of the Duchess’ assertiveness.  Ferdinand – other than having a deep, incestuous love for his sister- cannot comprehend that a woman is capable of taking control of her body and mind.  His thoughts are anti-feminist, but his actions are affected by his sister’s womanhood. The “dagger” that he threatens her with if she were to re-marry is just another facet of this desperate struggle to, uh, dominate her womanhood. Although all of his actions are an attempt to subdue his sister, he is ultimately a victim to her power.  Yes, she is killed near the end, but he was the one who truly suffered.  Obsession is weakened and possession cannot be achieved in the face of a strong enough Will.  And, in this case, it happens to be a woman’s Will.

Furthermore, the short story “The Storm” by Kate Chopin further embraces these feminist concepts. Calixta, the protagonist, is the embodiment of female empowerment. Her passionate –yet brief- affair with Bobinôt is a protest of the societal restrictions of her time.  Allowing herself to suspend her fear and embrace the desire. If her desire, if anyone’s desire, is so great that the culmination of said desire leads to the storm that Calixta is feeling- why the fuck would you not act upon the desire? Bobinôt is a paper sailboat in Calixta’s storm- entirely subject to her power.  This whole story is just that!  It’s an obvious protest against convention, commanded morality, and brutally imposed male sexuality.  And the result is an expression of sensations- physical and emotional- too powerful to be contained in a bland, literal context.

Maybe...

It very well may be

I don’t fucking know; maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing.  But damn, there just so much there!  I mean, I know these are just summaries, but I feel like I’m getting so much out of it.  That’s what really matters, I suppose. I’m definitely going to come back sometime, maybe add a paragraph on Paradise Lost, some more Shakespeare, and some Rumi….yet, there are so many stories, so much that I would love to write. Maybe I could just churn out a few pages, just going off on some weird tangents….not that I don’t do that already…  Hell, I may even do that. Spring break is next week and I have will finally have free time to breathe and to think.

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…and sleep

Anyway, that’s the whole thing about relationships, isn’t it? The women wield the power more often than not.  Women are designed by nature to be more selective in partners.  This discerning nature is a biological necessity that has become deeply-rooted in our culture. Women choose to whom they give their love- the most important, sincere thing to give.  The willing gift of her body and mind, the sheathing of the sword, is more beautiful an expression than she could otherwise falsify. Obviously all of these authors realize this since it’s so painfully prominent in literature.  And it is because this power has been recognized, that women have been so subdued for hundreds – if not thousands- of years.  Women have more restrictions and taboos placed on them men ever have.  That’s just how it is.  Those who have this power are doomed to either totally seize it or relinquish it entirely.  Medea, (from the Greek play) , The Lady of the Lake, Guinevere, Duchess, Calixta, Eve, Titiana, Adrianna(A Comedy of Errors), Hermione: all of these women had, and implemented, this power. Their Love, their desire, and their Will were too great to be repressed or marginalized.

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