Close your Eyes and Think of England

Please note that the post I had planned (a short description and historical context for the phrase above, and then a classy segue into talking about The Gay Adventures, did not end up happening. Instead, it became a rather long segment about gender inequality, and my experience as a trans person, seeing gender bias from both sides of the fence.

***

Close your eyes and think of England is an old “reference to unwanted sexual intercourse – specifically advice to an unwilling wife when sexually approached by her husband.”

To me, this is horrifying. I was socialized female, and I honestly don’t believe I’ll ever completely get over the multitude of misogynistic and often conflicting messages I received about how women apparently feel (or “should” feel) about sex, sexuality, and specifically sex with men.

  • I learned—in a thousand subtle and not-so-subtle ways—that women did not or should not like sex or pleasure…and if she does, she is a slut.
  • I learned that men cannot—and should not be expected to—control themselves around women.
  • I learned that a woman dressing or dancing a certain way—or even existing—makes unwanted sexual advances, or even RAPE “understandable” or “excusable.”
  • I learned that women want to have sex with men
  • I learned that, during sex, it is the woman’s job to please the man, first and foremost, and if he has time he might try to reciprocate
  • I learned (mostly from women) that many men either don’t understand, don’t care to understand, or believe they already know how a woman’s body works or what she likes
  • I learned society and our legal system is set up to be distrustful towards women who come forward about sexual abuse
  • I learned that it was the wife’s “duty” to lie back and think of England if she doesn’t want sex but her husband does
  • I learned that women don’t necessarily know that they “want it”
  • I learned that saying “no” is somehow not clear communication that of discomfort with the sexual situation. In fact, shouting “no” and actively struggling and fighting back is often not enough
  • I learned that a woman should feel grateful/special to be “claimed” by a man
  • I learned that it’s somehow romantic when a man simply “can’t keep his hands off” her. Or when he follows her, grabs her roughly without her consent, watches her sleep without her knowing, or peruses her relentlessly dispute constant rejection.
    • This, of course, communicates a deeper message that women don’t know what they want, and therefore women are unintelligent, foolish, flighty, and apt to change their minds at the drop of a hat.
  • I learned that women love that chase, and verbal or physical rejection is merely an invitation to try harder
  • I learned that women’s bodies are not their own, but are owned by men, through:
    • The origins of marriage as the woman becoming the man’s property, including forsaking her own name for his, and wearing white to symbolize her virginity
    • Men thinking it’s fine for them to just come up and touch you

…and so much more. If many of these ideas seem old-fashioned, perhaps we should be asking ourselves why they are still so prevalent in our culture. Just musing here, but maybe that’s a PROBLEM. close-your-eyes-and-think-of-england

“This is recorded in the 1912 journal of Lady Hillingdon:

‘When I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, open my legs and think of England.’ “

Lady Hillingdon, I’m sorry.

So why am I posting about this? First of all, because it’s important. In relation to The Gay Adventures, however, the phrase ‘close your eyes and think of England,’ got me thinking about Captain Hook. The phrase was born in the era of Queen Victoria, (and often attributed to her), and James Hook would want nothing more than to be a loyal subject.

quote-just-close-your-eyes-and-think-of-england-queen-victoria-91-90-74To Hook, the equivalent of unwanted sex would be sex with a woman. Pretending to be straight. Pretending that was what he wanted, what he was attracted to…and trying to shut out the unwanted thoughts which disclosed his true desires.

I’d like to write a Scene with Captain Hook and Smee, where Hook uses this phrase in his own way. However, Smee is unfamiliar with the saying, gets confused, and then he and Hook attempt together to understand it.

One of the ways I get inspired to write is by taking something simple that already exists (like a phrase, a Patron Saint, or Pickleball), and then take it and twist it into a different context or meaning.

The way I currently have The Gay Adventures written, the cast is primarily male. I believe I wrote it that way because I identify as male and crave the a male community. But I often reflect and think about the disproportionate representation of men within media, and what my role is within that.

For the longest time I was running from all things ‘female.’ I didn’t want to hear about it, I didn’t want to think about it, I even harbored a resentment towards women for a while, somehow blaming them for my being socialized as the wrong gender.

Now that I’m working through those thoughts and feelings, I find my anger towards what women have to go through on a daily basis growing exponentially, and I hope to become a very strong ally. I’ve grown to deeply appreciate my unique perspective into what it feels like to be treated as a woman from birth, and on a daily basis. I believed I was less intelligent and competent that those around him. I was dismissed more easily. I wasn’t listened to. I found it harder to speak up. My space was invaded regularly.

It’s an ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless, that a privileged group is more likely to listen to someone they perceive as one of their own. Part of the reason it’s so fucking annoying to be female is because when you try to tell men what you’re up against, they tend to pat you on the head and inform you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know your own experience. They know what you go through better than you do. All that pesky gender inequality is over and done with now. Men saw to that. Men saw that women were being fussy about “rights” and silly things like that and they stepped in and fixed it for the girls.

Essentially, I plan to use my “passing” privilege to talk to men as a man, and tell them that gender inequality is NOT in women’s heads. Of course, I shouldn’t attempt to speak for women either. But I can speak truthfully about the experience of being seen as female, treated as female.

So I implore all those who believe that gender inequality is either “over,” or “not as bad as women think,” to no longer lie back and think of England. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

So sit up, and open your eyes.

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