To Bed Without Shame

Simon Cropp

In Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music, the reader is likely to ask significant questions about the moral quality of Deborah. Here resides a married woman that not only sleeps around, but she seemingly has no true interest in her child except as a tool to further her conquests.

to-bed

The issue with demonizing a character like Deborah comes from a very real place of shaming those who are not in line with society’s modern moral views. And morals, while often believed to be divinely inspired, are more often self-imposed, culturally created constructs used to control.

The woman who cheats on her deployed husband.. Women still have been assigned terrible labels and stereotypes if they play to this trope. Just scroll down and read some of the [warning: explicit] comments at the bottom of that linked post. The responses to the person who wrote that post aren’t, I can’t think, truly protecting a divinely inspired sense of morality.

But a culturally imparted morality used to keep certain segments of our population in control.

I wonder then if Friedrich Nietzsche, when he writes in Geneology of Morals, “Morality seems bound up with obligation, with codes and rules, and somehow I don’t see the ‘blond beasts of prey’ kowtowing to rules (any more than to a social contract),” speaks of how the blond beast of prey, is that next step is breaking free from moral contracts. How women like Deborah are treated in real life, in the novel, is cruel and sickening, and to say it comes from a place of morality is merely a perversion of morality. If Deborah sees herself as unfit to be a mother, a Wife, then she has that right to be who she is without the constructs of a puritanical society shaming her into a place of isolation. Isolation, namely, from all relationships except those of a sexual nature.thou_shalt_vs_i_will_by_shton-d853mhw

Morality is a cultural code. And I wonder, looking at Nietzsche’s quote again, if he believed in not morals (or better morals), but this evolution of the metaphor of the lion (the blond headed beast), and ultimately the child–which makes us better people. Not better moral constructs.

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2 thoughts on “To Bed Without Shame

  1. Simon,

    The essay from the “cheating military wife” was a great think piece – nice find.

    It seems to me that Deborah crosses two lines that allow the vitriolic comment section to bloom. One, as you say explicitly, is puritanical morality – an artificial construct that is easily preached. It is accepted by society, and as such is not often looked at directly but instead trusted implicitly. This allows a society that can dismiss 100% of an individual’s feelings and sadness and personal narrative in one sentence. As one commenter graciously puts it, “The bottom line is that you are a selfish, self-centered, immature, cunt that honestly only cares about herself.” The woman in this essay has crossed a clear black and white line – she has broken her marital vows. Mob mentality kicks in and the brain tunes out.

    The second point, which you construct but don’t delve into, is patriotism via being a military wife. We don’t really think about it until the line is crossed, but the cultural expectations of a military wife are extremely high. A military wife is expected to perform flawlessly and selflessly despite a lack of basic marital cooperation. Sure, the military husband is out making a living for the both of them, but he is also spending all of his time out away from the family. The military wife is always at work for the family, whether working at her job or working to keep the home fires burning. Society places these two statuses – military husband and military wife – at an equal point with equal sacrifices. But they aren’t. The husband deals with combat and death while the wife deals with abandonment, loneliness and high public expectations. And troublingly, the wife’s identity is entirely linked to her husband, who in this case is an absent man but also a perfect one, as he is “fighting for our country”, a narrative that is extremely strong in American culture. One commenter stated that it was the woman’s fault for letting her husband’s title consume her, but is this fair? Is she in charge of how society perceives her?

    A point that stuck with me in this article how the woman tried to save the marriage by valuing the institution which separated them: the military. She emails her husband that he is a hero, that he is making a great sacrifice, when what she really feels is that he has abandoned her. As someone who has had several friends in the military, I know that yes, at times my soldier friends were doing scary, brave, risky work. But they also spent a lot of time sitting on their asses, waiting for orders in a system that operates at a funeral march tempo. And even during actual battle scenarios, the line between doing good and doing harm is blurry – my friends are often conflicted about their actions abroad. When patriotic overtones are removed, teenagers killing other teenagers has a predictable lack of positive feelings associated. Kurt Vonnegut didn’t give his wartime novel “Slaughterhouse V” the alternative title “The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Peace” for nothing.

    On the husband’s end, being called a “hero” might have actually made him uncomfortable – further widening the gap between them. Here we have both a husband and a wife who are unable to talk honestly about what is going on in their marriage – a sure recipe for dysfunction.

    – Eric

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  2. Simon-
    These are all very good points. I am interested in your final paragraph because I do not completely understand it, but I am pretty sure I agree. There is something beyond these constructed “morals.” I could not help but think of how dangerous ideologies and moralities can be while reading this. Just today I watched a video where a woman is being publicly shamed for being raped. Her father disowns her, the interviewer condemns her, and she is eternally shamed because of the “morality” put in place by whatever culture or government this was. I am also interested in this concept of the blond beast. Maybe I should go get my ass kicked by Nietzsche and try to read through this section again. Thanks for your post!

    -Timmy

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