Impotence is really antithical to rock: from its name to the climax release so typical of its song structure, impotence is like death in Disneyworld: something to be hidden even as a subject matter. Look at Dylan, he has written about everything, everything but the nihilism and nothingness of going soft. How can you sing softness and rage. “The Onion” mention PJ Harvey and that is all well and good but women (mostly) are the victims of this. men go from premature to prebubescent and women are stuck without it.
So the male is the more interesting case. The result would be in musical terms: soft, softer, hard. And except maybe for grunge (but grunge is soft, hard, soft, hard) it isn’t right for rock. In the excerpt below the structure is: hard, soft, softer, softer, hard, softest but then again that’s prose not literature.
For all those reasons and more I find impotence an interesting subject: the very definition of anhedonism and dystopia if you will. I wrote about it during a review of Old 97’s song “Barrier Reef” in my 2006 novel (yet to be published naturally) “Me In Honey”. I am including the excerpt here:
Barrier Reef by Old 97’s Considering that rock is rife with booze hounds and junkies you would’ve thought that impotency would be a natural subject matter but honestly this and McCartney’s rave-up “I’m Down” are the only two songs that come to mind. And the Beatle obscurity (or at least as obscure as you’re ever gonna be with the Fab Four, it’s the “B” Side of the single “Help”: get the feeling stardom was wearing on em?) is pretty much encoded info (“You tell lies thinking I can’t see, you can’t cry because you’re laughing at me and I’m down” –well, infer your own concerns but those would be mine) is about all I can think of off the top of my head.
“Barrier Reef” isn’t a break up song it’s a broken down song. The serial lady killer himself, Rhett Miller, picks up a girl at a club and fails to do her justice. “My heart wasn’t in it,” he admits. “Not for one single minute” and then concludes that “It didn’t do no good, well, I didn’t think it would.”
Which leads me directly to my own sexual failures with Julie.
It isn’t a wish not to embarrass myself that makes this difficult to write about, it’s squeamishness about being too explicit. However, to put it bluntly, I couldn’t maintain my erection during intercourse. Why? I don’t know though why though I’m sure my non stop drinking wasn’t helping and I am sure we were not sexually compatible but still maybe it was hubris? The gods having a good laugh at me? Sexual dysfunction? Perversion? It wasn’t Julie. She could be snide but she gave me every chance in the world and (obviously, since I got her pregnant) it wasn’t a constant problem. I claim it was the booze but maybe it wasn’t just that.
In early February of 2006 I saw Julie for the first time since she got back from Paris. I had called her and called her and she wasn’t quite blowing me off but she was working in Farmingdale and never really coming to the city and yeah maybe the weekend but again no and any way I finally caught her interest again with a favorite band. We went to catch Weezer at Roseland and I took her home. Julie was living with her parent’s and her folks were away for the night and her house was cozy and homey and I could imagine Julie never spending a night anywhere else through out her youth: it was such a family house and such a home house and I can’t remember if my parent’s house was as alive at all. I looked at the walls and her bed and her piano and the toy car I bought her and her clothes in a mess on the floor and each object seemed to glow with her.
And if finally seeing her natural habitat wasn’t giving me much insight into the real Julie I wasn’t looking for any insight because I thought, for better or worse, I knew her as well as I knew myself.
Julie was making spaghetti Marinara and I was standing behind her as she cooked and we eat at the kitchen table and went into the living room and looked at old pictures of a family life well spent and then we went to the basement and I was on top of her and it wasn’t happening and she said “Is this the first time you’re doing this?” and then it really wasn’t happening.
Everything seemed to well up inside me and like so many men before me I reacted to impotence with violence. One moment she was pushing me off her and walking away and the next moment I was taking her arm and turning her towards me with one hand and stepping back and slapping her hard against the face with the other. It was like a movie, like “Straw Dogs” or “The Wild Bunch”, an intense otherness seeming to compete with itself in futility: I watched her stagger backwards and fall on the ground, her lip cut and blood gushing from it, her mouth already swelling ugly and accusingly. I flexed my arm and my muscles bulged and I went to slap her again and Julie cringed and tried to hide and her fear stoked the flames of my vicious bullying and I wanted to make her bleed in payment for my humility, I wanted her to beg for mercy since I couldn’t make her beg for more sex. I was bending down and ready to really hurt her and just as suddenly it was over: the rage had lifted and waves of shame upon shame rushed over me. I fell back on the sofa.
Julie must have known the moment had passed and she fell upon me pummeling my face and shoulders with her fists, biting my shoulder till she drew blood. “I hate you, you fucking bastard how I hate you,” she screamed hitting me and hitting me with more pure passion than she had ever shown before and I let her hit me till my face was pulpy and messy and Julie was all hit out.
Then she put her arms around me and put her legs on either side of me and pushed her face deep into my neck so the blood from her mouth and my neck mingled and she held me so close and held me so sure hindsight sure helps here but I think she was holding me so tight because she was getting ready to let me go and a part of her didn’t want to do so and never wanted to do so and so she held me and tore at my skin. I’ll always remember the moment: her heat, her anger and rush of need all the same thing. This one last time Julie and I seemed to be going through the same thing at the same time and it seems to m
e this is a side of violence between the sexes which is ignored. It might not be nice that couples communicate through violence but it is more complicated than a Feminist version of battered woman syndrome. The warmth of the radiator, the warmth of her body against mine, the loss and the gain and my deep regret and my lack of comprehension and her precise understanding all together, all at once, I just wanted to stay there, Julie, I knew as well as you did when it was over it would be gone.
We were never closer and we were never further apart and we sat together for a long, long time.