Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Orangutans, Whores, and Massage Therapists

Touch me, touch me not. I can't get the subadults out of my head. Orangutans go through the jungle in a grand procession, you see. A dominant male, huge and fully-flanged. (Males keep on growing: they just get bigger and bigger.) A coterie of females with their infants, spread out like a disciplined soccer team. And tagging at the corners, out of reach of the king, the subadult males, hoping for a shot at raping one of the king's consorts.

Subadults, because they're not flanged. But fully capable of siring children. And desperate to fuck. But no female orangutan wants anything but a flanged, full adult. So, among the dimorphic orangutans, even subadult males much bigger than females, that means rape, a lot of it.

(All great apes, I once heard an anthropologist say, are obsessed with sex -- by primate standards, by mammalian standards.)

Subadults. Usually, “adult” means “capable of reproduction.” So it's odd that the name “subadult” should stand. Because, weirdly, there's no telling how long it will be until a subadult flanges. Anecdote says that they won't, as long as they're in the orbit of a flanged adult. It can be as long as 25 years, or half the life-span of an orangutan. Maybe the name stuck before people knew that. Or maybe it sticks because we buy into orangutan culture, because it's so close to our own.

Now, I'm supposed to be indignant because some people call us massage therapists whores? Because we touch people who haven't earned it by status? I glory in it, bucko. Call me a whore. Call us all whores. The 4th of July is when we celebrate the overthrow of kings, remember? Blow out your flanged jowls and hoot all you like. I don't play by your rules: never did, never will. Maybe I can't fix the system, but I'm damned if I'll ratify it, damned if I'll believe in it.

No, but seriously. We're talking about real people here, trying to make a living, the whores and the licensed massage therapists alike. I care about people being able to clear space for doing touch therapy without being molested, being able to offer massage that's clearly not sex. It's what I want to do myself. My calling. But when somebody calls you a nigger, you can get mad for two different reasons: because they're calling you a nigger, and you consider yourself white, or because they're calling anyone a nigger. This is a society that makes prostitution inevitable. We're supposed to despise the prostitutes and the subadults who frequent them, reserving our (scarcely covert) admiration for the dominant males who don't have to pay for multiple partners. I'm just not interested in keeping up the game, frankly. I don't believe in any of the ground rules, I don't believe the virtues are virtuous, I don't believe the vices are vicious. I just want people to stop hurting each other.

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