Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking For Pug In All The Wrong Places

Now that you're up to speed, and now that you know how awesome (re: scarily open to this idea) my friends are, I bet you're asking how this really played out.  Well.

Why Do Awkward Things Always Happen When You're Trying To Eat?

Maybe it's just me.  But, this reminded me of the  time Grandma asked me about my sexuality in front of the rest of my extended family at Thanksgiving.  It must be something about the activity that food provides that elicits the need to provoke, I guess.

We were sitting down for dinner two days ago when Woo dragged in her cotton playmate.  At first we thought it was cute.

But soon, we were disquieted.

Woo had decided that playmate or no, this dog was going to become her bitch.  And I mean that in the very literal sense.

When you think about dog sexuality, there is the classic image of a grungy male dog humping someone's leg.  And yet, there is something absolutely surreal seeing your adorable, sweet (and seemingly innocent) female pug dominating a stuffed animal.

There are so many questions that come to mind:  "How does a female dog know to do what she is doing?" "Is she that lonely?  Have we isolated our dog?"  "WHY!?"

I think what made it worse was the fact that she would leap off of the stuffed animal and then proceed to just sit and stare at it squarely in its glass eyes--as if almost to say, "Hellooo.  Are you even there?  I'm trying but you're giving me nothing to go on here."

For me, the issue turned into a revolving door of questions:  What is sexuality?  What is dominance?  What kind of roles do they play in each of our lives?  What does neutering really do to the mind?  Why does my dog hump a stuffed animal?

I'm getting a little overwhelmed just bringing this subject up.  It's awkward and uncomfortable writing about it, particularly with my dog--who until recently I was comparing to David from the Bible--as the centerpiece for discussion.  Then again, a friend currently studying to be a Lutheran Pastor reminded me that the Bible is the farthest from being asexual.  For Christ's sake--literally--it is written that you must ingest the blood and body of your savior.  That's pretty bawdy, if you ask me.

I guess that's where this week has left me--in a place of supposed neutrality, wherein I find myself facing quite the opposite.  In fact, I decided to go on a hunt for the root word "neuter" as it pertains rather well to the root of the confusion at hand.

I went to my trusty OED.  As an added bonus, I've found the OED is about as asexual as a book can get.

Yes, that's an anatomy coloring book alongside an anxiety & phobia workbook and environmental science textbook I stole from school.  It's ok.  UC Berkeley can handle the $160.00 loss.  And no, I have yet to color in all the parts of the body.  I stole that book from my sister (I have a theft problem) and ever since I feel slightly awkward trying to compete with her coloring skills as I know High School Older Sister would probably still beat College Graduate Me.

Life is hard.


I went a-huntin' for some etymology.  Etymology is frighteningly similar in spelling to entomology--remember that, when trying to type it next time.

I love my OED.  It's fascinating.

I try to widen my eyes to focus on the smallness of the type.  Erin & Ben K., you will probably recognize this facial expression when reading your OED's.

It doesn't work, though.

Anyway, after some use of a magnifier, I found that the root word "neuter" is latin in origin, signifying literally "neither," or rather, the  process by which something is made into neither one thing or another.

Neuter/neither, btws, is also another combination of words.  "Ne" signifies "not," and when combined with "uter" ('either') you have created the word for "not either" (of two choices).

Neithered, Not Othered

Not + Either = Neither (of two).  I feel like I just brought back my old math days but this time socio-linguistically.

Obviously today the word "neuter" correlates to the process of making creatures sterile, which doesn't make you cringe really, until it's brought home in the package of a sci-fi movie, like Children of Men.  There are some weird, weird politics about ownership of fertility in that movie--like the fact that it's called "Children of Men."  Somewhat presumptuous, that title.  I want to create a protest sign in response saying, "If women's median annual paycheck reflects only $0.78 cents for every $1.00 earned by men as of 2007 because of maternity-leave discrimination then you GODDAMNED BETTER RECOGNIZE THEM AS PARENTS IN A FRICKIN' MOVIE TITLE."

I might have to get a big piece of poster-board for that.

Life is hard.

Anyway, my dog is neutered.  She is neithered.  She is not either (of two choices).  When I put it like that in my head, I started to think of what the two choices were for Woo--fertile or sterile, mother or just daughter, mated or single, sociable or introverted.  I started to think of what the "two" choices were for me--out or closeted, dominant or submissive, masculine or feminine--and also, for everyone else out there.

Going back to two nights ago, my family and I tried to understand, we tried to eat, and we tried to laugh it off--all of which ultimately failed.  What really solved our dilemma was that we realized that Woo wasn't exactly having fun, either.  The whole process of trying to dominate something that wouldn't respond was just as frightening to her as it was to us.  So, for her sake (and most definitely ours) we took away the toy and have made a new rule:  take her out to get to know real dogs in real life.  She can still sleep & platonically play with the toy, if she so wants.  But, forcing sexual advances on a stuffed animal, whilst simultaneously freaking herself out at its lacking response--no.  Not necessary.  She deserves better than that, not-eithered or no.

I wish it could be that simple for humans, sometimes.  Don't you?



  1. ....I can't believe you stole a library book. From our library.

  2. You know, it actually was from Ned's I believe. Or maybe the ASUC--I just remember a bookstore and having it for rent and being like "Whatevs" about the class so I didn't return it. So sad. But, I still read it--so it's LIKE I'm still renting it.

  3. First, Lutherans have "pastors," not "priests." Priest implies a spiritual hierarchy, which Lutherans don't have. Also, pastors get to have sex (though so do Episcopal and Orthodox priests).

    Second, comparing Woo to David and then noticing homosexual behavior is actually very Biblical. Many Biblical commentators think David had a homoerotic relationship with Jonathan, King Saul's son ( You can decide for yourself who was dominant.

    Third, Woo's reaction to successfully dominating the stuffed animal may be elucidation by Hagel's master-slave dialectic and the concept of recognition. Basically Hagel says that a master is only a master when a slave recognizes the master as such. This recognition is ultimately unsatisfactory however, because in dominating the slave, the master has objectified the slave, making the slave's recognition meaningless. This leads to all sorts of problematic dynamics, but basically the relationship is unstable and will eventually be destructive. Perhaps in realizing that the stuffed animal could not recognize her as a dominatrix, or even as a dog, Woo realized the one of the cores of Hegelian philosophy, that we only recognize our own existence in relationship to the other.

  4. Ah! Ben. I love you. Shall I convert the word to Pastor? I shall. One moment, please. There we go. You know what's hilarious is that I actually typed "pastor" and thought to myself, "Wait...wait... no, I could be assuming that title. Better go with priest as that's universal, right?" Ah. Next time, I google.

    After coming away from Jonathan's instant love of David I distinctly remember thinking, "Man, Jonathan and David reminds me KIND of Antonio and Sebastian re: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night" know what I mean? I feel as though I want to say it was a deep-seated love of awesome gayness, but to be fair 2,000 years ago there wasn't even a word for "gay love." The first known use of the now antiquated word "homosexual" wasn't even until a german pamphlet in 1869, so I feel any cultural reference to male-love was inherently assumed to be straight, and therefore I cannot inherently assume sad.)

    Lastly, I totally agree. In fact, I was thinking of that very same dialectic but couldn't remember who wrote about it or where it came from. Not to get too shakespeare-y on you but I was first introduced to this paradoxical relationship in a class that discussed the Caliban/Prospero relationship in The Tempest. If Woo is my Prospero, then this would explain her discomfort with her lacking mastership having no fixed subordinate. Oi vey if Woo only knew how much philosophizing humans have done for hundreds of years, and to little avail, on this very subject...

    That's why (for now) we just took the toy away. Makes life easier.

  5. Oh yeah, totally no concept of "gayness" in the Bible. And considering David also had a man killed in order to hook up with his wife, I'd say he was a fan of the ladies. Doesn't mean he didn't have some hot same-gender action. Greeks did it all the time. Which goes to show that dichotomies like gay/straight only work if there are two parts to be in opposition. You can't have a concept of "straightness" without a concept of "gayness."

    You know, I think this whole conversation about the master/slave dialectic goes to show the importance of a safe word. A safe word allows for domination while maintaining the trust and humanity of the dominated. Perhaps that's why Caliban was so frustrated with the language that Prospero taught him. Prospero forget to teach Caliban a safe word that would signal when Prospero should "break his staff."