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Ian Martin

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Henpecked And…

Back in the 20th century it was called henpecked.  A nagging wife would wear the pants and rule the roost, and treat her spouse with a lack of respect that sometimes developed into contempt. Taken to extremes, a woman’s sadistic delight in the humiliation of her husband could lead to murderous consequences. This is what happened to Tommy Taljaard, his fat wife and their effeminate son.

Tommy looked the part. There was little flesh on him and he suffered from a mild form of spinal curvature of the kyphotic kind. He wore spectacles and was balding, and when he laughed nervously his upper incisors protruded at an angle.

Mrs Taljaard was the same height as her husband but weighed twice as much as he did. When she raised her voice in order to berate and belittle him, it was always in the same high-pitched monotone. Tommy often complained about her to his colleagues at work, calling her a fat cow who was too lazy to defecate. He described his son as a bitchy little faggot. His wife and son had formed an alliance against him and did everything in their power to convince him that he was now in purgatory and would soon be on his way to hell.

When he was at home, Tommy spent most of his time in the garage sitting in his car looking through the windscreen at the paint that was flaking off the wall. This was preferable to the constant nagging and goading he was subjected to the moment he stepped inside the house.

This went on for many years until one day it occurred to him that hell couldn’t possibly be worse than purgatory, and he might as well get on over there. That night, when his wife and son began rolling on the floor and screaming in agony after eating the meal he had poisoned, he called an ambulance.

When his tormentors had been carted away he returned to his refuge, fitted a hosepipe to the exhaust, and then got behind the wheel for the last time. It was in the 1980s that this took place.

Nowadays it’s not quite the same. Instead of being henpecked, men are pussy whipped. There’s a difference, apart from the modern American term that has begun to supersede the older signifier. It has something to do with social changes that have taken place over the past 30 years. Numerous barriers that prevented women from assuming positions of responsibility an authority have been dismantled. There is far more equality between the sexes than there used to be, and as a consequence male and female roles have become less rigidly defined. This has been a largely beneficial development, but there have also been some negative implications.

Take what happened to Eddie Delikat. Born and raised in a small town, he joined the local municipality after high school and rose to the position of Supervisor in the Water and Sanitation Department. He socialised with several friends and a wide circle of acquaintances. He played rugby for a club until a knee injury cut short his career, but he remained a keen follower of the game. He enjoyed getting drunk in the local bars and was happy to participate in a good brawl. Then, in his late twenties, he met Myra.

Yes, Myra was pretty, but she was also a hard case. Eddie only discovered just how hard a case she was once they were married. Her pregnancy was a difficult one and he was required to take on most of the household chores. The birth was also a difficult one, as was everything else that followed.

Eddie wasn’t particularly suited to domestic service and he often tried to shirk his duties by coming home late after getting drunk with his buddies down at the pub. However, Myra soon put a stop to this.

“If that’s how you want to behave,’ she told him, “Then you can sleep on the couch and keep that thing well away from me.”

In order to get that thing anywhere near her, Eddie found it necessary to jump through a whole lot of hoops. Like coming home straight after work, regularly walking the dog, dandling the child on his knee, and putting the rubbish out on a Monday morning.

“We don’t see much of Eddie these days,” one of his pals commented after pouring more of this and that down his alcoholic throat. “I think that poor guy is now so pussy whipped he doesn’t know the difference between a pussy and a soiled diaper.”

Which was a succinct way of putting it, even if it was a bit nonsensical. It also highlighted sex as a major player in this conflict between man and wife. Myra used sex as a weapon to bludgeon Eddie into fulfilling his obligations as husband and father. She made no bones about it. Behave yourself, or else. Mrs Taljaard had probably been playing the same game with Tommy, but the sexual dimension at that time wasn’t out in the open like it is today. That’s the difference between henpecking and pussy whipping.

But back to Eddie. He began to see himself as Myra’s bitch. His masculine self-esteem took such a knock that he became impotent. He tried watching porn on his laptop, but instead of being aroused he merely felt disgusted. It struck him one day at work, like a flash of inspiration, that Myra no longer had any hold over him.

Instead of hurrying home after his day at the water and the sanitation, he drove directly to the nearest bar and started drinking. When his old buddies arrived he had already downed three double rotguts. At 7pm he fell off his stool. At 8 o’clock he threw a punch at a man who was only half drunk and easily able to smack Eddie in the mouth and kick him in the stomach when he fell over. With split lips and loose teeth he staggered out to his car. The needle was touching 140 when he left the road and rolled five times. Now he’s in a wheelchair, speaks with a slur, drools from the side of his mouth, and thinks he’s Christopher Columbus.

Myra is casting about for another man to replace Eddie, but she looks only ten years younger than her mother, and she needs a handful of happy pills to get her through the day. Sometimes she thinks it would have been better for all of them if Eddie had poisoned her and the kid and then gone and gassed himself in his car.

 

 

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://www.ianmartintheauthor.com" rel="nofollow">Ian Martin</a>
    Ian Martin
    September 7th, 2013 @18:57 #
     
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    Hi Ian

    I hope all is well. We've had a few complaints about the language that you use in your latest post. I know you like to push boundaries, but this needs to be balanced with respect for our community's general standards.

    I'm going to change the post title to 'Henpecked and...' and remove it from our community feed, though I won't delete the post, which I thought told an interesting story.

    Please consider this a notice to post with more circumspection. It would be a pity if we had to ask you to leave the community.

    Thanks

    B

    Censorship and threats, Ben? Alright, I’ll go quietly. No need for rough stuff. The prudes will be mighty pleased, I’m sure.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 9th, 2013 @16:09 #
     
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    Tough call this, Ian and Ben. For the sake of argument, I'm assuming Ben did send you the above message, Ian, and I'll leave aside the issue of posting a personal message as a comment.

    That said, however, I feel that Ian's story and the title (I assume "pussy-whipped" was deleted) are well within the limits of what I deem acceptable. If someone takes offense to a post, I feel they should simply skip it or express their opinion as a comment, so that others can respond in turn, hopefully prompting a worthwhile discussion.

    The fact that Ian does indeed seem to "push the boundaries" in his posts and sometimes expresses opinions that make others feel uncomfortable shouldn't be a reason to censor his work.

    To the best of my knowledge, Ian has not made any ad hominem attacks on other bloggers and does not launch his barbed posts from behind a pseudonym. In short, I feel his posts deserve an equally open response.

    Again, I don't have all the facts, but I felt I should defend the principle.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 10th, 2013 @09:38 #
     
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    Thanks Richard, Ian.

    Agree it's a tough call - one I've had to make only rarely in the last several years, and always reluctantly.

    Whether what I did is censorship - removed a word from the title and removed the post from our front page (but didn't delete it or alter the post text) - is debatable, I suppose. We still host the writing on our platform; it's still discoverable in all ways except through our front page; Ian's next post (should there be one) will appear again on that page.

    We've always been sensitive to reader feedback at Books LIVE, more so since we became part of Avusa/Times Media and took on extra editorial rules and supervision.

    At any rate, I always notify the writer when we have to take action on something they've written.

    Happy to have the debate here, if the community wants it.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 10th, 2013 @11:16 #
     
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    You're right, Ben, "censorship" is perhaps too strong a term in this instance. But I must admit your para on "reader feedback" and "extra editorial rules" makes me more than a little nervous.

    I firmly believe there is nothing to be gained from suppressing posts that are misogynistic, racist or homophobic. Having such opinions out in the open - where they can be questioned and subjected to debate - is vastly preferable, mainly because this presents an opportunity to steer the author and readers to new insight.

    I prefer to be part of a community that welcomes all voices - even if they express uncouth and unpopular opinions - rather than one that filters my content for me on the basis of editorial rules or the sensitivity of some readers.

    The branding of people as misogynistic, racist or homophobic seems to have become something of a sport in South Africa, but I seriously doubt that suppressing those opinions will bring about any change, mainly because it effectively nips discussion in the bud.

    Here's a great example demonstrating how such opinions can be dealt with most effectively: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/australian-prime-ministers-on-air-response-to-anti-gay-pastor-becomes-international-sensation/politics/2013/09/06/74558

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  • Anne Townsend
    Anne Townsend
    September 10th, 2013 @11:39 #
     
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    I agree with Richard. And I have found this forum at times resembling a Schmooze Convention of the Inner Circle and Ian clearly is outside of that and that makes his voice worthy of being heard.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 10th, 2013 @12:52 #
     
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    Nice link, Richard, thanks.

    Anne, Richard, in my experience, all small platforms like Books LIVE have the following in common: editorial standards (written and unwritten) and community momentum that favours fewer voices rather than many.

    Hence Anne's Schmooze Convention, for instance. The only way to break the convention up is for those who don't consider themselves members of the schmooze to add their voices. This seldom happens, however, for reasons that I don't fully grasp. (There was more of it when Facebook was less popular.)

    Hence, too, the need for moderators, because what's good for some geese ain't great for other ganders, and community opinion is to be valued alongside individual expression. If we had a free-for-all, we wouldn't have a community.

    I am the final moderator on Books LIVE and take full responsibility for what I do. I also try to keep "interference" to a minimum, because I lean toward individual expression at the slight expense of community coherence.

    I wouldn't have changed Ian's post title, in fact, had I not expected comments on this thread. (When published, comments cause post titles to re-appear on our front page; the object was to remove the post title from the front page.) Similarly, I wouldn't have written to Ian to alert him to my actions had I not thought there was room for debate. (If I'd had his phone number, I would have called to try and fashion a compromise first.) I expected Ian to chafe at my intervention and respond, which amounts to a check on my power as a moderator, and helps our platform recover from what will seem to some as arbitrary action.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 10th, 2013 @14:37 #
     
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    Thanks for the explanation, Ben. I fully understand and it's nice to have contributed to a worthwhile debate once more. I do sometimes yearn for those long-threaded days of yore!

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  • Anne Townsend
    Anne Townsend
    September 10th, 2013 @15:58 #
     
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    Ben, you do an excellent job in many ways - I often imagine you as a high-flying diplomat navigating your way with elegance and kindness in some Very Tricky Situations.... (PS: I can schmooze too!)

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 10th, 2013 @17:03 #
     
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    The image I have is of ungainly pirouettes on the edge, with occasional pitchings off into the abyss. But thanks for engaging, Richard and Anne. More comments from all quarters welcome of course.

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  • <a href="http://www.ianmartintheauthor.com" rel="nofollow">Ian Martin</a>
    Ian Martin
    September 10th, 2013 @17:55 #
     
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    After your principled comments, Richard and Anne, it’s a pity you have chosen to let Ben off the hook. I still don’t know why my post was censored. “A few complaints about the language you use” is hardly an explanation. Pussy? For fuck’s sake! It’s laughable, except that it leaves me with no other option than to shut up. How could I possibly write another word if I’m wondering whether I might be offending some faceless prigs whose notion of what constitutes ‘offensive’ hasn’t even been spelt out?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 10th, 2013 @18:47 #
     
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    Well, Ian, I was going to suggest a public whipping for Ben, but I thought it might raise eyebrows here and there, so I decided against it. The post is still up, our comments are here, so I reckon "censorship" is too harsh a term.

    But I've already covered that ground. Allow me to change tack: What drives your writing? What do you hope for when you post your pieces? I suspect that "rubbing people up the wrong way" is not your sole objective.

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  • <a href="http://www.ianmartintheauthor.com" rel="nofollow">Ian Martin</a>
    Ian Martin
    September 10th, 2013 @19:41 #
     
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    Nice of you to pat me on the head and offer me a piece of candy, Richard. Same reason as why you wanted to write about visiting your old father. Fine piece of writing.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 10th, 2013 @20:14 #
     
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    Thank you, Ian. But I'm not sure if all writing comes from the same place. There's an undercurrent of misogyny in almost all your writing. What do you hope to achieve by putting it out there? Is your chief intention to shock readers? I'm simply trying to understand where you're coming from.

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  • <a href="http://www.ianmartintheauthor.com" rel="nofollow">Ian Martin</a>
    Ian Martin
    September 11th, 2013 @11:06 #
     
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    Misogyny? I had a warm and close relationship with my mother, right up to her death at the age of 83. I get on well with my sister, we remain supportive of each other, and our families get together regularly. I have been married for 30 years, and when my wife tells me to jump, I usually jump, because I believe she has more strength of character than I do, and her judgement is generally better than mine. She indulges my fruitless literary pursuits, and she keeps the wolf from the door. I like her and I respect her. My daughter might find me irritating at times, but I see her often and we talk a lot. So why should I hate women? It’s a ridiculous suggestion.
    On the other hand, I’m not going to pretend that women are any less flawed than men. In everything that I write I try to tell it as how I think it is, and not avert my eyes from what I consider to be the ugly truth. Some men are weak little shits who can’t face up to the responsibilities of married life. Some women are driven to using sex to get their men to cooperate. This is the way of the world as I see it. If people don’t like what I see, they can either engage me in discussion, or not bother to read what I write.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 11th, 2013 @12:38 #
     
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    Thanks for clarifying, Ian. It is, of course, entirely up to you how you approach your chosen topic, particularly in the realm of fiction. However, problems can arise when you don't fully detach yourself from a first-person narrator, thereby inviting the reader to assign the actions and opinions of the narrator to the author.

    I take it you are familiar with the columns of Ben Trovato, who also expresses views that could easily be construed as misogynistic, racist and homophobic. However, (most) readers know that Ben Trovato is a pseudonym, a caricature, created to offer a satirical, no-holds-barred perspective on modern life and relationships. This keeps the reader guessing and allows the author behind Ben Trovato to detach himself from the caricature he has created.

    In my own writing, I also have characters who express very unsavoury opinions, but they do so alongside characters expressing entirely different opinions, allowing the reader to absorb and interpret them as they see fit. I feel no obligation to tell readers what they should think, I merely try to present as many angles as possible on the same topic, theme or incident, allowing readers to decide for themselves.

    Judging by your comment above, you have a far broader and more nuanced view on gender relationships than that expressed in your original post. Having re-read the piece, I think the problem lies in paragraphs 1, 7 and 14, which leave no room for reader interpretation and clearly espouse a misogynistic viewpoint that is so in contrast with the fictional accounts of Tommy and Eddie that the reader is compelled to conclude that this can only be Ian Martin expressing a rather one-dimensional opinion.

    I'm no expert on these things and perhaps my analysis is a little shaky, but I felt the piece, the ensuing discussion and your open clarification deserved further comment.

    I'd be interested to hear/read what others think.

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  • <a href="http://www.ianmartintheauthor.com" rel="nofollow">Ian Martin</a>
    Ian Martin
    September 11th, 2013 @22:47 #
     
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    We still have got an unresolved problem here, Richard. What if I am happy to be mistaken as a genuine misogynist? Or a coarse buffoon? Or a callous bigot? What if I don’t care if I offend some readers, and actually go out of my way to provoke them? What you seem to be suggesting is that a writer should make it quite clear that they are politically correct and that the reader is in safe hands. How boring! This is writing to rules. The moment you break the rules you are told to get in line, or get out. This is what Ben has done at the behest of ‘a few’ anonymous members of the BooksLive community. As I am not prepared to obey the rules, it looks like I must go. Do you see any alternative?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    September 12th, 2013 @00:11 #
     
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    This reminds me of a man I once saw standing at a bar shouting: "Why the fuck do none of you arseholes want to talk to me?"

    No one really wanted to hear what he had to say, Ian.

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