BY ED SIKOV | “Do not watch. I cannot go when you watch.”
Fans of David Fincher’s brilliant “Fight Club” (1999, from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk) will recognize these paruretic lines delivered by Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to the unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) as Tyler attempts to piss in the soup — a huge vat of steaming broth destined for diners’ tables in a restaurant.
What’s that you say? What does paruretic mean? It comes from the word paruresis, the clinical term for the all-too-common inability to urinate in a public place under the real or imagined gaze of others. You’ve heard the slang terms many times before — pee-shyness, stage fright, problem public pissing (ppp — which is exactly what paruresis sufferers’ minds are screaming in those panicky moments), and my personal favorites: the slow dribbles and creeping pee-pee.
Shitting has its own inhibition and the term to go with it: parcopresis. (A related condition is marcopresis — the inability of Marco Rubio to let anything meaningful come out of his mouth.) These conditions are quite familiar to many people. Two psychologists surveyed 1,419 college kids in 1954 and found that 14.4 percent (almost exactly 204) had experienced paruresis at some point in their young lives. Given millennials’ documented — and tragic — fear of getting buck naked in a locker room, the problem can only have gotten worse.
I mention these psychiatric issues because a particular iteration of them runs diarrhea-like through certain strains of American culture. The bathroom is a contested site in this country, a space fraught with anxieties that go well beyond the urine and feces the rooms are designed to get rid of. They have come to include an exaggerated fear of lewd exposure, sexual intimidation, and even rape. As I’ve written before, Alfred Hitchcock knew in 1960 that a shot of a flushing toilet in “Psycho” would jangle the audience’s nerves by revealing what previously had been totally unmentionable, let alone invisible, before ripping those nerves to pieces with the shower scene that soon follows. In those days, toilets were the site of cultural as well as personal repression; now they’ve also become the locus of intense reactionary political and pseudo-moral phobias.
What else can one conclude now that yet another inane Crapper-Scare-O-Rama has erupted after a trans-friendly nondiscrimination law went before the public — again — in Charlotte, North Carolina? Franklin Graham — son of the ancient Billy Graham, to whom presidents of both parties have paid regular fealty, including Barack Obama — recently posted the following overheated, dirty-minded rant on Facebook:
“The so-called ‘Nondiscrimination Ordinance’ was defeated last year in Charlotte, NC, after public outcry and tens of thousands of emails from concerned citizens. But now it has been brought back to life at the urging of Charlotte’s new Mayor Jennifer Roberts, and reports say that two new City Council members are also supporting it. There’s no question, this is a dangerous idea. This literally opens the doors — the bathroom doors — to predators and sexually perverted people. Each section of the proposed ordinance has wording to include ‘gender identity.’ Gender identity is what an individual ‘feels’ their gender is regardless of the biological reality. So any man can say they feel like a woman that day and enter the women’s restroom at any public facility or the showers at public gyms by mandate of law. That’s absurd!”
No. What’s absurd is Graham’s gutter mentality — his idea that a significant number of straight men would immediately rush into ladies’ rooms the instant a trans-inclusive civil rights law was in place. He must know some truly scuzzy straight men to come up with a scenario as sick as that one.
In the spirit of inclusivity, Graham — who hasn’t yet endorsed a presidential candidate but who has spoken most admiringly of Donald Trump — didn’t limit his hate to trans folks. No, he despises us all. And it’s all about anti-Christianism. In Graham’s warped mind, it’s the haters who are the true victims:
“In reality, this type of so-called ‘non-discrimination’ law is being used to discriminate against Christians. Just ask bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, florist Barronelle Stutzman, and others who were shut down or face fines for following their faith. Where sexual orientation and gender identity laws such as this have passed in other places, florists, bakers, photographers, adoption agencies, and T-shirt printers have been punished by the government for not wanting to use their artistic talents to celebrate and participate in same-sex weddings, not wanting to promote the LGBT messaging in Gay Pride events, or for not wanting to place an adoptive child with two men.”
Never mind that Christians are themselves legally protected from exactly this kind of discrimination — they cannot be fired or refused service on the basis of their religion.
I’m fond of the way Graham puts things he doesn’t like in quotes, to distinguish them from the supposed reality represented by Grahamworld: “gender identity,” “feels,” “non-discrimination.” Graham also includes a helpful hashtag to facilitate uniting the troops: #dontdoitcharlotte. Given that Graham and his kind are drawn magnet-like to the law’s filthiest implications for toilet-goers, a more-to-the-point rallying hashtag would be #dontgoincharlotte.
On the lighter side… I just caught up with Ed Smith’s article “The Scientific and Personal Benefits of Not Masturbating” on Vice.com. It’s written for men; Smith says nothing about the benefits of abstinence for women. So guys: the rest of this column is just for you.
‘”In the three weeks that I abstained, I wrote 20 articles, built a bed, started work on a book, and began eating salad, like any proper, functioning adult with a fear of imminent heart disease should. As soon as I started going at myself again, all that productivity disappeared, shot up the wall in a long, thick arc of lost potential.” “Up the wall?!” Dude! Aim for your chest! Seriously, fella. If you ever plan to invite someone else into your bedroom, face the fact that nobody — nobody — wants to see the dried trails of your past record-setting achievements staining your wall like a grown-up version of some kid’s height measurements.
Twenty articles, a bed, a book, salads… All that creative energy exploded simply by virtue of seminal build-up. Impressive. But wait — there’s more!
“For the first time in your adult life you’ll wake up in the morning and not want to cry… Each new day felt immeasurably less shitty.”
Me? I’ve gone in exactly the opposite direction. Fighting depression with a good, productive wank has been the backbone of my self-medication regimen since I was 11.
Smith continues: “Wrestling control back from your penis catapults you out of a grubby little world where you’re always looking to steal a few moments to rub one out. And that, objectively, is just a nicer place to be.”
Maybe, though as Woody Allen says in “Love and Death,” objectivity is subjective.
“You might get a bit sexually frustrated,” Smith allows.
No shit, Sherlock! And he warns that you’ll likely be walking around with an unrelenting hard-on. Duh! As a way of managing the constant state of arousal his abstinence program provokes, Smith advocates using adhesive tape to secure your dick to your leg. Frankly, I don’t see how running the risk of suddenly punching your face with your knee is going to help matters.