Wanton Hussy - Column for 1/16

Sex and LOTR

What with the whole male-centric Tolkien world and the bonding moments, and the HOT HOT HOT manflesh in the movies… well, there's a lot of us watching these movies and thinking about sex. And some of us are thinking less "Hey, I'd give my firstborn for a night with Aragorn" and more "I'd pay good money to watch Aragorn snogging Legolas." (1) It's those moments that aren't on film (or film we got to see in the theater, anyway), that we want to see. The moments we hope for. The moments that make us giddy with delight to imagine. The moment just after "You're late."

But why?

Well, there's that whole "gay men are hot" thing. But who said the characters were gay? In fact, doesn't the author specifically indicate that they aren't? Well, I guess if you want to get all technical, yes, they are given female love interests. But it's my job to look at the sexual aspect of things, and there's just not much to go on in FOTR or TTT. So in the absence of good female characters for the majority of the two movies, and all the aforementioned hot manflesh, I think I'll go the DoubleMint™ route and double my pleasure, double my fun.

But why are you taking such a nice story about wholesome male friends and perverting it, I hear someone shouting. Because frankly, I honestly do not believe that any pack of nine healthy, normal men could spend several high-tension, dangerous months in exclusive company together and never ever entertain any passing thoughts about the others in a sexual way. Sure, they probably wouldn't act on it in our lovely homophobic culture, but I think somewhere, in the dark recesses of their minds, a slight feeling of attraction or desire for physical comfort would eventually creep in. Maybe that's just because I'm bi. While I don't believe that "everyone is a little bit bisexual," I do seem to recall Kinsey indicating that not that many people were in the 100% straight or gay categories. (2)

The whole topic just makes me ponder about our cultural ideas of masculinity and friendship and homosexuality, especially regarding the military. (I know I just bit off more than I can chew in that sentence there, but bear with me while I choke on it a little while.) And what I ponder makes me angry. I truly think it's a shame that male sexuality is so sublimated and restricted in our culture. Men are to be reserved, not sensual. To be gay is perceived as being less manly than being straight. Male friends must be purely platonic, with never a touch of physical attraction. Sexual expression must be furtive and hidden, and those who are deviants must hide their perversions least they be ostracized. (3)

Yet we insist on throwing large groups of men with normal sex drives into all-male environments and requiring that they never ever act on any lustful urges, whether in just a friendly tension-relieving way or in a lustful way or even, God forbid, an emotionally loving way. I think the Spartans has the right idea by recognizing the facts of life and working with it to build bonds, instead of pretending it doesn't exist and forbidding it. And I do wonder how much homosexual activity really happens in the military, especially "default sexual expression," my term for otherwise straight-thinking guys who don't have access to women and just want some sex. I would guess rather a lot. I would also guess that the amount of sex increases just before or after life-threatening situations. Adrenaline can be a wonderful high, and sex is a great release; nothing like proving you're alive before or after cheating death.

So that's why I think the possibility that the LOTR companions were boinking like bunnies is extremely high. Sure, Tolkien was writing based on his thoughts about men in war, stuck in the trenches during the Great War. And do you really think he never did or saw anything slightly homosexual as they all sat waiting to die? I'm not saying anything one way or the other, just asking that you think about it.

So why am I insisting that all close friendships always have a component of attraction, or at least physical non-repulsion? Aren't I just distorting the pure and innocent Victorian non-sexual world view into the modern sex-focused, "sex is always there and sublimating is denial" perspective? Hell yeah. Because that's the perspective I buy into. I am a product of my culture. I DO think sex is a vital and motivating force in people's lives. I think ignoring that is denying one of the fundamental things that makes us human. Not to mention one of the FUN things about being human. We get to have sex for fun, not just perpetuation of the species! Yae us!

Furthermore, I think we have ALWYS been this way, and I think 2000+ years of Judeo-Christian thinking has finally been evolved past a little bit, and we could be on the edge of overcoming our notions that sex is bad and wrong and doesn't exist outside the marital bedroom. I think sex is everywhere. And damnit, I dare you to prove me wrong. Especially if you can honestly remember for a moment what it felt like to be a teenager, and be honest about it. Sex was everywhere. Wasn't it great? Wouldn't you occasionally like to go back to that, sometimes, just to revel in your own lust for everything that moved? So yeah: sex everywhere; denial bad.

Back to the movie. We've got nine guys, walking across a lot of land, for several months, with no chicks in sight. Frequently almost-dying. One of them dying, in fact, thanks to Mr. Balrog. Young men. Men with libidos. Hot men, despite the apparent lack of water for bathing.

And there are these LOOKS. In both movies, but especially in TTT (or maybe it's just fresher in my memory). They look at each other, and they look like they're about to start seriously smooching. Frodo and Sam do this all the damn time. Sure, they're close friends. But dude, I've never seen any close male friends look like that at each other. And those soliloquies about how great each other is… Sounds like love to me.

And then there's the whole elf-boy/human thing… Legolas is a wonderfully poncy elf and Aragorn is deliciously filthy, and whooie!, they give each other rather a lot of LOOKS as well. Arwen must be a beard, I swear. I won't even go over the whole "You're late" scene again. I get chills. Or the Boromir dying scene. *shiver*

Plus, the heterosexuality in the movie is just so unsatisfying, I'm forced to go gay just to keep my brain interested. Arewn and Aragorn are just so… melancholy and sappy and obvious. BORING. Plus, she's an elf, so you've got the whole inter-species thing. Maybe she wouldn't mind watching Aragorn and Legolas go at it, either. Perhaps I'm projecting…

And the only other sexual things we get at all are a few moments in the Shire with Sam and that chick, which goes nowhere, and with Eowyn. Eowyn lusting after Aragorn (at least she has taste), but I was so icked out by her not pulling away when Grima makes lascivious remarks and touches her face. Ew! Just… ew! And wasn't the dead guy her fiancée or something? Grima seems straight enough, though, I suppose. Anyway, unsatisfying heterosexuality.

So there you go. My thoughts on sex in LOTR. Purely just my own opinion. But… if you're interested… there's ton of slash out there in the genre. Whether you're into that or not, I fully recommend the absolutely hysterical Very Secret Diaries at http://www.livejournal.com/users/cassieclaire/ , starting with December 31, 2001. They're just fucking fantastic.

1. I know I'm not the only one; there are a million of slash fangirls/boys out there (and this isn't even the genre I'm into).

2. So there; I even remembered a socioscientific reference to back up my ranting.

3. Sadly, in my opinion, these are all opposite behaviors of how women are expected to be; women are sexual objects, first and foremost. They enjoy things of a sensual nature, art and food. All men secretly hope that female best friends might be interested in having sex and letting them watch. Women who advertise their sexuality are rare but venerated as liberated women.)

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