I’ve written about the work of Lewis Parker and his publishing house, Morbid Books, before. He’s a man who approached me via the internet chasing “hot indie reviews” (my words) of his book of haikus about haemorrhoid cream (titled 100 Haikus About Haemorrhoid Cream), something which I was more than happy to oblige him with. This isn’t a review of more “crazy” poems, though, but instead a pamphlet (or chapbook, whatever you wanna call it) titled Sex With Theresa May And Other Fantasies.
Sex with Theresa May And Other Fantasies was a special publication brought out by Morbid Books as an accompaniment to the UK’s recent general election (June 2017). It is fully written by Parker himself (his – now three – haiku collections are collaborative) and comprises ten short pieces – all a single page long – detailing [sexual] fantasies involving a range of public figures. Some are relatively straightforward, some are very bizarre, some don’t really involve much sex, but all of them feature very famous people in unexpected situations, with a strong, constant, narratorial “I”. This is the angry, horny, aggressive, voice that links all the pieces, a voice, attached to a cock, that is connected, entitled, elite, strong. This voice belongs to the fantasist, which we are going to presume is not the writer.
These ten stories are “fantasies” in the way that literal dreams are; what is believable shifts without explanation, we do not perceive our movements from reality to fantasy, because we are always, from the first word, amongst the fantastic.
The first line of the collection’s titular piece is this:
After a month of encrypted emails, the secret service agreed to give me a ten minute meeting with Theresa May
Which in itself is an idea rooted in fantasy. A prime minister would not be allowed alone time with anyone who wasn’t seriously important or personally connected to him/her, so when the sexualised element of the story kicks in it is kicking into a scene where fantasy has already been established. The sexual fantasy, however, is an aggressive sexual assault, even though Theresa May – in Parker’s story – turns out to be a lizard person, a la the beliefs of David Icke. Perhaps this revelation is intended to legitimise the sexual violence – “rather than being committed on a human woman, it is being inflicted upon a sinister lizard” – but it still made me uncomfortable. One could argue that this is the collection’s aggressive, antiestablishment, point, as there is an implied bonhomie with the fantasist as he rapes individual members of the elite. However, this bonhomie continues even when the violent sex – as in the Prince Harry story – is against people of a lower “class”. The fantasist is not an innocent class warrior.
With these stories, these fantasies, we are simultaneously somewhere we both know and do not know, we are not quite awake and not quite asleep; we are in distant possible futures and terrifying impossible nows; reality slaps in and out of these pieces like a stained sheet flapping from a first storey window.
These are pieces where nothing is real, it is only the names of the figures concerned that have any connection to reality. None of these pieces detail anything that has happened or anything that will happen. The narrator, the voice, the fantasist, is invited to parties hosted by President Trump (eurgh, never typed that before and hope I never have to again) on his private plane and to parties hosted by Prince Harry in the grounds of Buckingham Palace; he is Scarlett Johansson’s date (and then lover) at a glitzy film premier; he’s part of a group of disgruntled homeowners seeking revenge on Bob Diamond; he’s hanging out in Paris in the era of Andre Breton; he’s getting booty-called by Kevin Spacey; he’s been taken to sea for sex by Pamela Anderson; he’s in the same gym as Vladimir Putin; he’s getting easy face time with top Tory totty, both May and fan favourite Boris Johnson.
What I wondered reading this collection is thus: for the fantasist, is being able to gain immediate and often camaraderieish rapport with global elites as much a fantasy as the fucking that comes after? Possibly. Because the rage felt towards these elites – other than in the Scarlett Johansson fantasy, where the only rage is presented towards an animal – is huge, is totemic, and seems to only be remotely affected or diminished following Sex.
The fantasist sucks off a version of Putin in a communal shower, and this is probably the most straightforward of the pieces and one of the few that seems fully and mutually consensual. The fantasist attends a druggy garden party with a Prince Harry where they gang rape some female servants. He ties up and rapes a Boris Johnson. He cooks and eats a Bob Diamond. He tries to wank off a Kevin Spacey who is too intoxicated to maintain an erection. He has passionless sex with a Pamela Anderson who seems to die mid-shag. He plays humiliating sex[yish] games with a Trump and a version of the Clintons (very much the Hilary who comes off worst). He watches a Breton waggle his willy through a letterbox instead of using the doorbell. He has a night of pleasing fuck with a Scarlett Johansson, but then the two of them are transported to a fantastic landscape where a talking animal points out to the superstar how much of a “downer” the fantasist is and she rejects him, so he kicks the bird to death.
The anger is directed towards elites, and in some ways – as a political statement – it has justification. The actions of May, Johnson, Bob Diamond, Putin, Trump and the Clintons have directly and negatively affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and subverting these power structures to humiliate – or humanise, in the case of Putin – these elites has an understandable explanation from Parker’s near anarchist perspective (expressed more directly elsewhere). As protest, these pieces perhaps excuse their violence.
Outside of the political figures fantasised about, the Spacey piece works as salacious brat-pack type celebrity-starring fiction, and the Scarlet Johansson piece evokes the kind of dream one can imagine a hetero man having: sex with a Hollywood actress, then temporal displacement, talking animals and rejection. The Breton piece, likewise, is an entertaining little vignette, but anachronistic in this collection which – otherwise – is aggressively contemporary.
I don’t like violence, and – as I’ve expressed elsewhere – I disapprove of the casual way rape is discussed and believe it contributes to the maintenance of problematic societal structures. Any depiction of consequence-free rape is troublesome, and I don’t think narratives that focus on victims who “deserve” humiliation is justifiable, either. Also problematic for me is this collection’s title, conflating “rape” and “sex”. However, parts of this short collection are great, and Parker is strongest when he is most salacious and most unexpected. Eating Bob Diamond like a pig is funny and unfamiliar, anally raping a middle aged woman – even if she is a lizard – not so much. The Putin piece is excellent, the Scarlet Johansson story doesn’t especially worry me (though maybe it would in another context), the Kevin Spacey one is great and the “BoJo” one plays with shifts of status in a way that makes it more palatable. However, the stories about Prince Harry, Pamela Anderson and the titular one all veer aggressively close to aggressive misogyny, and I can’t condone that.
So, yeah, an interesting experiment, some good stuff, but it’s too tainted by remorseless violence for me to feel comfortable reading it. As protest, that is its purpose: to MAKE me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if I want to feel uncomfortable in this way, though. If you’re looking for contemporary lit about sexual assault, I’d highly recommend Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li, which deals with the real and wide reaching effects of rape.
Parker’s fantasies are fantasies. They are shocking and unexpected and sometimes funny, but I’m too much of a wishy washy hashtag feminist to love them all. The Spacey/Putin/Johansson/Breton/Diamond, possibly Johnson, ones are definitely worth an unproblematic read.
As a politicised indie publication made on a tight budget, it’s got some merits, though the violence it contains doesn’t sit right.