I am a turd, a lowly abject turd.
This is what Valerie Solanas, in SCUM Manifesto, states is the only appropriate way for any man who is not deserving of execution to begin any public statement. His public statements, if and when he must make any, should only be declarations of his own lack of value, his own pointlessness and uselessness and gross incompetence.
SCUM is an acronym (possibly made up after this manifesto was written, as Avital Ronell states in the very informative (though, to my taste, a tad too cerebral) introduction) for Society for Cutting Up Men. And SCUM Manifesto is an angry, violent, visceral series of ideas and ideals, all of them about how trash men are, all of them written by a woman who spent much of her life is psychiatric wards and would go on to embody her violent principles and shoot (not fatally) Andy Warhol.
SCUM Manifesto is anti-man. SCUM Manifesto is the archetypal piece of prose that misogynists lean on when speaking about the “true motives of feminism”. This isn’t a manifesto that advocates the creation of a society where men and women live in equal harmony, it is one that advocates the utter destruction of all men and, eventually, of life itself. This is a nihilistic dream, an aggressive, revolutionary piece of stark, pointed, writing that is regularly so shocking it becomes ludicrous, and often so ludicrous that it becomes funny.
Then again… I’m not certain it is right that I smiled and grinned and laughed as much as I did while reading this. Maybe that was my prejudice, maybe that was my privilege. Maybe being able to laugh at Solanas’ violent intentions is a bad thing. Or maybe I’m laughing because they scare me. Maybe I’m laughing because they worry me. Maybe I’m laughing because they kinda turn me on (who isn’t a bit of a masochist sometimes?) and that kinda proves some of the things she’s saying.
So, what is SCUM Manifesto about? Well, it is a manifesto purporting to explain the ways in which men have ruined society and the ways in which it can be fixed, all of which amount to: kill all the men. Like, all of them, eventually, but let those who help ease the destruction of other men persist for the longest. Men, Solanas writes, are base creatures motivated by little other than their need to fuck, and this is something they do without any kind of sensual or spiritual pleasure. According to Solanas, the performance of sex is – at most – a signifier of status, something which they can brag about to impress other men and thus get more sex and more status. Men crave women’s bodies not for a physical pleasure, rather for a sociological one: male sexuality is about subjection and power, not about enjoying touch. For men, in this model, achieving sex creates more respect which can be exchanged for more sex which can be exchanged for more respect and so on and so on. Nothing is enjoyed, nothing is final, nothing is ever of or for itself. She also writes about how shit male art is and how lame it is that so much of it is centred on personal psychological exploration (lol she’d hate this blog) when thought should instead be used to advance everyone.
Men are toxic and incompetent, Solanas posits, they require mothers and then wives to look after their emotional and practical needs, they are unable to take care of their health, their homes or their children without women, and unenlightened women are fools for not seeing this. Solanas writes about the importance of spreading an awareness within women, internationally, of the power that lies within them to overthrow men. Men need women in a way that women do not need men. She writes about the possibilities of artificial insemination and sperm banks removing the need for men for procreation, she writes about the rise of automaton in industry rendering men unnecessary for physical labour (pretty prescient tbh) and she writes – this, alas, the bit that has aged least well – about how the fact that women have no sex drive means that without societal pressure to fuck men, those who have been used to needing men for sex will no longer need them for that either. Thus I, as man, ask in response to Solanas: when the world no longer needs our dicks, our balls or our muscles, what use are we? Don’t worry, SCUM Manifesto responds, some of you – drug pushers, pornographers, blustering politicians, corrupt clergy – have uses. Some men will drag other men down: a male populace addicted to porn and smack will be a lot easier for the women of SCUM to take out and destroy. Because that is, alas, the only solution.
When one considers the realities of male violence on the world (your average warmonger is male, your average rapist is male, your average murderer is male, your average abuser is male, your average Twitter troll is male, your average bad confessional poet is male: this is the truth, MRAs, your two counter examples don’t change that), there is a very real basis to Solanas’ assertions, though her response to the issue is one that is not necessarily more palatable than the facts.
The problems that exist in the world in relation to gender, a topic which is being explored and written about hugely rn by people far more eloquent than me, boil down to this:
As much as we wish it wasn’t true, the sad fucking truth is that the problem IS all men, and the fact that this is considered an extreme opinion indicates its validity.
It is ALL MEN who perpetuate and cause these problems, whether consciously and happily, in ignorance or with regret, but we – men – all do. It is the things we do without thinking, it is the behaviours we don’t notice or acknowledge that underpin most weightily the preservation of privilege. It is men repeating the opinions of other men more than the opinions of women, it is men giving other men preferential treatment, it is the fact that it’s normal for most men’s closest friends to all be men, for the word “guys” to be used in reference to a mixed gender group when it is, at root, a gendered word. There are many others, add your own.
Maybe, y’know, the solution would be to kill all of us, because we’ve ALL done bad things. Every man I know – myself included, of course – has done things he regrets, certainly things he should regret. I only realised about three weeks ago that I’m definitely heterosexual, so now I need to work out how that knowledge affects my behaviour and make sure any changes it causes are positive for others as well as myself. Tbh I think that this knowledge in itself will make my life a lot easier.
I didn’t have sex sober for many, many, years; I didn’t want to admit to myself that I ever felt desire. But I do feel desire, and knowing that, and writing about that while sober and undepressed, is a significant step for me. I used to fantasise about how amazing it would be for my libido to totally evaporate. But even if that ever does happen to me, due to the effects of age, that is literally decades away, so fuck living in denial, fuck wishing I’m asexual, y’know, and – to be blunt – fuck.
I am trying to be good. I have been trying to be good for a long time, but until recently I was lying to myself. No, there is not a happy gay man deep inside me (metaphorically), there has been an unhappy heterosexual man deep inside me, and acknowledging that he is there means I can start to form a healthy relationship with him, with myself, with sex.
ANYWAY, I’ve made this book review all about myself again (but isn’t that what you come to Triumph of the Now FOR, readers???), and maybe my attempts to grow an unrepressed, self-aware, kind, heterosexuality are doomed to fail. Only time (and this blog) will tell. I’d like to prove Solanas wrong, and help other men and women and non-binary people create a world and a community where we all feel comfortable being the person that we are, who and whatever that is.
If we can’t, though – and maybe we can’t – Solanas has a pretty flawless solution. And, tbh, those near-end-times that she writes about, where all us men are goaded into intoxicated, masturbatory revelry before being violently killed as we wallow in our own filth, that sounds kinda fun.
So, I enjoyed SCUM Manifesto, but maybe for the wrong reasons. What I need to learn, though, rn, is how to live out this newly claimed sexuality. I hope I can do it. And, if I can’t: CUT ME UP.
This is one of those posts I’d regret if I wasn’t on masses of antidepressants. Let’s end with my pro-equality poem:
All poets ARE dicks
All poets HAVE dicks.
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Sorry, but you won’t be taken seriously (as a writer) until you learn what a comma splice is.
Who wants to be taken seriously??? Grammar Nazis are still Nazis, bud
The book is great, actually. She went through a lot and at the hands of men so I understand her disgust and her rage. Considering the amount of misogyny in the world just when you step out of your front door, to be the target of a book of rage is a very tiny price for any man to pay.
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I loved it! An excellent book and I think one that continues over and over to be proved wise, even within its violence. Solanas responded with violence to a violent world; she was perceptive, not “insane”. “Sanity” is, essentially, being too ignorant of the world’s inequities to have an emotive response to them or being so devoid of emotion that the knowledge of oppression and cruelty and violence makes you feel nothing. Three years on from writing the above, I am much more radical. Also I would retract the blunt assertions I made back then re: gender and sexuality. Thank you for reading!
I read bits of the SCUM Manifesto 30 years ago. I also definitely read somewhere she wasn’t serious.
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