The Odd Pairing of Edgar Allan Poe & Virginia Clemm

The women associated with Edgar Allan Poe have been far too many – it would be the best lineup yet if there were, at that time, a 19th century version of “The Dating Game”. Fanny, Annie, Sarah Helen, Sarah Elmira, Mary, Marie Louise, Eliza… I really couldn’t care less how they managed to get involved with the great poet, to be honest. I could only point my interest to the woman he actually married – the young and beautiful Virginia Clemm.

Anyone who has read the life (or parts of it) of Edgar Allan Poe KNOWS for sure that Virginia is Poe’s first cousin, and that she was 13 when he, at 26 or 27, married her. By today’s standards, the marriage was a bit odd but for the time, their relationship was not particularly unusual, though she was slightly young (15 years old was a more common marrying age).

These first-hand witnesses all described Virginia as a beautiful, accomplished, charming young woman of great virtue and integrity, who won over everyone in her acquaintance, and who was clearly adored by her husband. If you read all the accounts given by Poe’s acquaintances, particularly the male ones, the impression is given that, if anything, his “child-wife” was considered a damn sight too good for him. Certainly, she gave him the only happy, stable, romantic relationship he ever knew, and was the only one among his real or alleged sweethearts who loved him wholeheartedly and unselfishly.

Several theories about the Poes still circulate: Maria Clemm (the sister of Poe’s father) may have suggested the pairing and hastened the marriage; the couple may not have consummated their marriage; they may have behaved more like brother and sister than husband and wife (Poe nicknamed her “Sissy”). One theatrical version of the Poes suggests that young Virginia had a sexual fetish for horror stories and sought Poe as a husband (making her the aggressor in the relationship). Friends said they didn’t share a bed for at least the first two years of marriage. By all contemporary accounts, Virginia was beautiful and Poe was devoted to her. He once described her as “a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before.”

Amidst all these, why has she gotten the worst press of them all?

The fastest reply of any random person hearing the story for the first time would definitely include the words,”but they’re cousins!”, or “…she was 13?!”, and <insert spiteful comment here>.

True, some biographers are hard on the poor girl, but the novelists are even worse. The image of a puerile Virginia vacuously coughing in the background, and further burdening her already bedeviled husband with an unsatisfactory marriage, has been a staple of endless piles of bad fiction.

I refuse to see Virginia that way. This definitely included Poe himself. His August 1835 letter to her and Maria Clemm indisputably proves that Poe desperately loved Virginia and was terrified she might reject him – and unlike the round of engagements-a-go-go he was said to have pursued after her death, he could not have had any ulterior motive in seeking her hand.

The love story of Edgar and Virginia ended rather tragically (she only lived to be 24). Regardless of the malice and scandal these two have caused (then and now), how they saved each other from the demons that surround their lives as cousins and as husband and wife is, in my humble opinion, the most selfless kind of love any human has ever shown.

Exhibitionism

In the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, Exhibitionism is defined as, “a mental disorder characterized by a compulsion to display one’s genitals to an unsuspecting stranger.”

I love how the word “unsuspecting” is used to define the term, because it just goes to show that people inflicted with this mental disorder are severely fucked up. Imagine getting caught off guard by a random dude flashing or jacking off in front of you – man, I wouldn’t know what to do. That is both a “WTF?!” and an “ARE YOU OK?” to me.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) files exhibitionism under “paraphilias,” a subcategory of sexual and gender identity disorders.

What the hell are Paraphilias?

This is a collective name for mental illnesses marked by obsession with weird sexual practices or sexual activity involving non-consenting or inappropriate partners, which includes kids (pedophilia) or animals (zoophilia). The term paraphilia is derived from two Greek words meaning “outside of” and “friendship-love.”

Exhibitionism as defined by DSM-IV-TR

DSM-IV-TR defines exhibitionism as the exposure of one’s genitals to a stranger, but with no further intention of engaging in sexual activity with the other person. Because of this, the term is sometimes grouped together with “voyeurism,” (peeping or watching an unsuspecting person or people, usually strangers, undressing or engaging in sexual activity) as a “hands-off” paraphilia. This contrasts with the “hands-on disorders” which involve physical contact with other persons.

What goes on in the minds of these motherfuckers

If you are like me, you’d probably wanna know what these guys are thinking while doing their thing. Well, some exhibitionists are aware of a conscious desire to shock or upset their target; while others fantasize that the target will become sexually aroused by their display. In the case of peeping Toms, the exhibitionist masturbates while exposing himself (or while fantasizing that he is exposing himself) to the other person.

 What makes flashers do this shitty thing?

Several theories have been proposed regarding the origins of exhibitionism. As of 2002, however, none are considered conclusive. They include:

  1. Biological theories. These generally hold that testosterone, the hormone that influences the sexual drive in both men and women, increases the susceptibility of males to develop deviant sexual behaviors. Some medications used to treat exhibitionists are given to lower the patients’ testosterone levels.
  2. Learning theories. Several studies have shown that emotional abuse in childhood and family dysfunction are both significant risk factors in the development of exhibitionism.
  3. Psychoanalytical theories. These are based on the assumption that male gender identity requires the male child’s separation from his mother psychologically so that he does not identify with her as a member of the same sex, the way a girl does. It is thought that exhibitionists regard their mothers as rejecting them on the basis of their different genitals. Therefore, they grow up with the desire to force women to accept them by making women look at their genitals.
  4. Head trauma. There are a small number of documented cases of men becoming exhibitionists following traumatic brain injury (TBI) without previous histories of alcohol abuse or sexual offenses.
  5. A childhood history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The reason for the connection is not yet known, but researchers at Harvard have discovered that patients with multiple paraphilias have a much greater likelihood of having had ADHD as children than men with only one paraphilia.

 

Why the sudden interest in Exhibitionism

In my continuous conquest to post something extraordinarily fucked up as often as I could, I would read the weirdest books and Internet stories that I could find. Just recently, I’ve come across Chuck Palahniuk’s short story entitled Guts, and I was overcome with this intense need to further explore masturbation in an essence.

By the way, the short story involves a carrot in one’s asshole and a foreign object inserted in a boy’s pee-hole all for the sake of “taking jacking off to the next level” (read the story, I double dare you). So I did my research until I’ve reached the offensive side to jacking off. The gods of the Internet love me so much that they bestowed upon me this mind-opener, originally published in 1961.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE TRAGEDY OF THE EXHIBITIONIST

 

By B. H. Leveret, Ph.D., LL.B.

Sending a man to jail for indecent exposure is psychologically useless and socially unsound.

MY young secretary came into the office very much upset one morning and said to me: “This morning as I was coming in on the subway with several of my girl friends a terrible thing happened. We were standing near the door of the subway car. A man got out. Just before the train pulled out of the station, this man stepped up to the door and placing himself in front of the win-daw of the door, he proceeded to unbutton his trousers and show himself to us.”

“Poor fellow,” I said.

“Poor fellow, indeed,” she replied. “How about us? I was nearly frightened to death. And the other girls were very much disturbed also. One of them was very young. She may not get over it so easily.”

“I did not mean to suggest that what he did was condonable,” I replied. “I think it was reprehensible. I think it certainly deserves to be punished. But you know, in the law today we also recognize another side to a situation of this kind.

“We realize today, owing to the advances of modern psychiatry, that a man who does a thing like that may be committing a terrible offense and may be causing shock and injury to girls before whom he displays himself, but also that this man is probably a quite sick man.

 

So you see where I’m heading at?

If peeping, flashing, jacking off in public, and other lewd acts done publicly stem from a strain of mental illnesses, why are these very sick people arrested and thrown into jail instead of getting psychiatric help?

Here in my country, these acts are seen as merely something that’s so disgusting, inappropriate, “bastos”, perverted, “manyakis,” and a whole lot more insults in our native tongue, and I bet not half of my own people realize that these lewd acts could be caused by an illness, something that the “offender” has no complete control of.

I am a female, and I would sure be traumatized and really fucked up to death if somebody did try to jack off or flash right in front me; but on the other side of things, I’d like to think of myself as somebody who would consider to get this very sick man a fucking doctor before even deciding of detaining him.

Online and in the heaven-sent libraries, there are a whole lot more cases of mental disorders that most people aren’t completely aware of and if the fucking government and other related sectors would put their attention to these things then maybe we could somehow control the instances where exhibitionist freely roam the streets.

Exhibitionists should be placed in a mental institution and not inside a cell, wherein there’s a bigger chance of them getting more fucked up than ever than getting better. The complete lack of systematic approach (at least in the country I am in) also applies in the case of drug addicts, which most people would rather shun and push off to oblivion instead of sending them to the nearest rehab facility.

In the case of the victims of these “offenders”, a debriefing process should be carried out; not only to treat the mental and emotional trauma, but also to inform and make them understand the existence of such mental disorders. With this, I think they’d be more willing to (what B. H. Leveret has implicated) “deal” with the unfortunate case by way of psychiatric treatment, rather than seek to “penalize” the apprehended.

 

Death and the Maiden (La Jeune Fille et la Mort)

Death-the-Maiden-by-Marianne-Stokes_-web

Painting Title: Death and the Maiden (La Jeune Fille et la Mort)
Artist: Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)

I was skimming through my really sad Facebook account months ago when this painting caught my eye and upon reading the title, I knew I had to blog Death and the Maiden one way or another. It had taken months, yes, because I slack a lot plus my plate’s always full. I am much obligated to work and rarely have time to delve into the dark abyss of the Internet.

The title alone is enough to give you goosebumps. If I hadn’t seen the image first, I would have imagined a young girl (a virgin, of course) getting raped by Death; or a maiden snatched by a malevolent creature of darkness (think Hades and Persephone).

In an unexpected turn of events, Death in the painting is depicted as a woman, dressed in black, with dark wings I am quite infatuated with. The young girl across her appears to have suddenly awoken – the sight of Death obviously scaring the shit out of her. Her face is a cocktail of fear and “what the fuck?!” – curiosity looming over her in a why-am-I-seeing-this fashion.

Now there are two ways I’d like to interpret this masterpiece:

  1. Death and the girl could be the same person. Something really fucked up happened while she was sleeping and she “woke up” face to face with her own “Death” self. Notice how Goth chick holds her hand up like, “Chill, it’s just me – I mean you, but dead.”

The painting kinda suggests the sudden death of the girl, but in a dreamlike sequence.

  1. Maybe Death is a girl… all this time. The maiden, unable to absorb the unexpected plot twist, holds the blanket to her chest and whispers, “NOOOO SHIT.”

Between the two I kinda like number one. The latter sounds more fun but the former seems to me makes a lot of sense.

How would you interpret the painting?