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jzarate's picture

Active and Passive Roles

First, I wanted to rewind back to the in class discussion concerning incest and the social, biological, and other reasons why it is taboo. I discovered a biological study that could offer an explanation of why Cal/lie’s grandparents were attracted to one another. “In laboratory studies, women who sniff men's sweaty T-shirts find them more attractive when they come from men whose MHC genes don't match theirs. It's not that certain MHC genes smell better to women -- it's the difference that counts.”( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/13/health/webmd/main4347457.shtml). Why is being attracted to a male with a different MHC gene important? “That difference is actually a survival benefit: The combination of two individuals' different MHC (major histocompatibility locus) genes gives their offspring an advantage in beating back disease organisms.” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/6/l_016_08.html). So usually women are attracted to the gene that is different from the one they have inherited.  Desdemona may have been attracted to Lefty because of a different hormonal balance, because studies showed that women picked men with a similar gene after taking oral contraceptives. Another thing suggested by some studies is that this differentiation also applies to queer relationships. Why is it that we discussed the taboo of heterosexual incest but not queer incest? Is it because this kind of incest is much less common?

            Alright, back to this week’s reading. I noticed Eugenides uses “Calliope” (Cal referring to his/her self in the third person) to allow Cal to create distance between some of his female experiences. “Calliope appeared poolside, that first day and every day thereafter, in an old-fashioned one-piece with a skit…I found it in an old trunk” (342). The sexual encounters in the shack are very effectively contrasted through Cal/lie’s first person experience of both. Cal/lie’s passive female interaction is extremely different from Cal/lie’s and Rex’s active male experience. I found it interesting that we don’t find out Cal/lie’s lover’s name. In some ways it protects Cal/lie’s private experiences from our prying eyes. But it also objectifies the Object, which echoes the separation of Cal/lie’s friendship with the Object and their sexual relationship. 

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