Tang (a single name), the clinical psychologist, and Vesta Clotilde, the philosopher anthropologist, live across the hall from each other in studio apartments. The building is run-down and will no doubt be gentrified, but it’s too early to worry about that yet. They are old and enjoy talking occasionally.
Tang’s specialty is boys with HIV-AIDS, especially those who are suicidal, and Clotilde’s is working out the conceptual structures in people’s minds. The two things are related, though one is urgent and personal, embodied by the boys, while Clotilde analyzes in an abstract but not arithmetical way. She is working with the symbolic systems of sensory and ecological experience. Her own reality is recently informed by the collapse of one of Tang’s boys; she literally has had boy blood on her hands. One of her favorite thinkers is Roy Rappaport, a anthropologist. How does the dangerous blood of infected boys symbolize and operate in the contemporary urban environment? What are the dyads: in New Guinea they would be hot/dry/male/top v. cold/wet/female/bottom.
She sat at her library table, an island of well-lit order, a threshing floor, even maybe a cooking surface, holding in her hands a photo of a boy who had just delivered fellatio for money. He has semen on his face. To her, it looks like android blood. (One of her secret vices is sci-fi movies and she has a special affection for the “Alien” series.) He’s a beautiful boy, just out of childhood but not quite to manhood, so that he has that androgenous quality that seems to be the peak of sexuality in our society. That is, non-threatening. Tender. Unmarked. (She had read somewhere an analysis of Michael Jackson’s appeal among the pre-teen girls that proposed he was most loved by those who wanted to know about sex but also wanted to be safe.) The men who would want this boy would neither be attracted by a mature man -- particularly one with muscle, money or political power that might endanger them -- nor the mature woman whose otherness, fertility or demands might make trouble. The individual who would be an appealing paid sexual provider to the men who wanted boys would be what? Low testosterone. Vulnerable. Childlike or feminine? Is that half the dyad? Then what’s the reciprocal quality?
Are such men equivalent to androids? (It is not the boy who has android blood.) Near-machines, emotionless, capable of abusing children without disturbing their own consciences? What do the boys mean to them? The boy’s face is terrifying: he looks into the abyss. How can he keep from using drugs now? What does this do to his sense of himself? Can he wall it off from the rest of himself?
Her thinking is interrrupted. There’s a tapping at the door. It’s Tang with scones, which means it’s late in the afternoon. She sets the kettle to boil for tea. It’s Tang who gave her the photo. He knows a lot about the boy, but won’t tell her anything. She doesn’t want him to. She wants abstract. She does not want to be haunted by the need to go find this boy, to hold him, feed him, and resist her own temptation to control him. There: is THAT the reciprocity to vulnerability?
She has been reading Rappaport’s “Ecology, Meaning and Religion” which contains his theories about a New Guinea tribe of swidden agriculturalists who have developed a coherent sensory-concept understanding of how their world fits together. Her head is full of pigs, taro, Smoke Woman, the gods of Rot. She says to Tang, “It’s clear that one of the keys is the relationship -- I should say INTERrelationship between death and sex. I think this is a universal and reciprocal binary that is deeply hard-wired in human brains.”
“I agree. And I think that’s always what binds war into the equation -- war is both sex and death. Killing people is arousing. The urge to have it all, to own, to control, is both sex and death. To rape is to kill.”
“What does it mean that we used to only send boy-soldiers and now we have girl-soldiers as well?”
“The minotaur ate both boys and girls, but only the cream of society, the best. We’re sending youngsters who might or might not be high status. But we’re not enlisting the worst. The stupid, the illiterate, the defiant, the elusive, go to the street, where the minotaur waits for them. Or is it another beast?”
“Now we economically ‘eat’ both boys and girls but still there’s always an excess to be used up in order to preserve the value and interests of those who want not only to control but also to BE the culture. The admired ones.”
Tang finished a scone. “In the past no one admitted that we destroyed boys, that we expected them to survive either by their wits or sheer vitality. But in antiquity boys were used sexually. So they say.”
“The effect on them shapes them into a certain kind of man. How is an abused boy affected by being used sexually or, if you reverse it -- I always try to reverse everything -- to use his customers sexually by getting money and exerting a certain kind of seduction control. I should think such a boy would become very clever at figuring people out and manipulating them.”
Tang buttered another scone and sipped his green tea while he thought. “I suppose it’s dependent on the origins of the boy, his physical vitality, and the chances he has along the way to grow and learn. Some tricks are fairly protective and bring their boys along with them to the theatre, the gallery, the library -- buy them iPad IIs and discuss esoteric movies with them. Even some porn along those lines is pretty sophisticated. It has a political dimension. Against war and authority, usually.”
Clotilde opened the marmalade. “You’re saying being such a man’s whore would be the equivalent to being his apprentice? That finding a mentor might be a path to survival?”
“Could be. Most often not, from what the boys say. But the boys educate each other. Mostly mistaken stuff that leads them back into trouble. Now that they have so much technical reach through electronic stuff . . . that helps.”
“I wonder whether it works to think of the boys as pigs.”
“WHAAAAAAT!!! AT YOUR PERIL !! These boys are quick to take offense at everything. Their souls are sun-burned. They are super-sensitive, ecorché, flayed Even I, who am very careful, can hardly keep from offending them, making them scream with pain.”
The kettle was boiling. “For Rappaport pigs are wealth. There is a liturgical cycle that calls for the sacrifice of all pigs older than a certain size. It’s a way of keeping the economy going without creating a glut. What if there is a glut of boys willing to service tricks?”
“I guess there are. And girls. I guess it’s not underground the way it was once. People talk about it. There are jokes. It’s in the movies. It’s in the perfume and wristwatch ads. But it’s becoming boring. The end result of a glut is that the value goes out of whatever it is. It is no longer the “precious.”
“My precious!” She poured hot water on the tea bags in their mugs and the fragrant steam rose through the lamplight. “Gollum. Doesn’t Gollum look like a boy to you?”
“What is the difference between “The Lord of the Flies” and “The Lord of the Rings?”