Secrecy in Intimate Relationships

Jan 31, 2018

TAA 0005 – Secrets are an inextricable part of intimate relationships–not only keeping them together, but keeping them from each other. A wide ranging discussion between C. Travis Webb, Seph Rodney, and Steven Fullwood.

C.T. WEBB 00:17 [music] Good afternoon, or good evening, or good morning, whenever you happen to be listening to us. Welcome to the American Age Podcast. Today we have a three-way conversation between myself and Seph Rodney and a new commentator joining us, Steven Fullwood.
S. FULLWOOD 00:31 Hello.
C.T. WEBB 00:32 Welcome Steven.
S. FULLWOOD 00:33 Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
C.T. WEBB 00:36 And today we are going to talk about secrecy in intimate relationships. It’s ethics, it’s consequences. We’re going to have an free-ranging, open conversation about that. And since Steven is a new contributor, why don’t we let Steven begin the conversation.
S. FULLWOOD 00:56 Well okay. So I’ve been thinking about what it means to be intimate, and so I started thinking that intimacy obviously means marriage, partnerships, but it also can apply to friendships, family, and so forth, so I wanted to kind of give– sort of start with that. And what made me think, I think– Travis, you’re married, correct?
C.T. WEBB 01:20 I am, yes.
S. FULLWOOD 01:20 And Seph, you’re in a relationship.
S. RODNEY 01:22 I am indeed.
S. FULLWOOD 01:23 And I am single. And so I was think about just the dynamic of this particular group of people talking about it, and that I have, for me personally, I have a great deal of intimacy, or– I have a lot of intimate relationships with friends and family, and thought about what secrecy meant to me in terms of lying by omission, or what it means to not tell someone my truth, or how I feel about them. And sort of holding back and so I– those things are very difficult for me. I prefer to have difficult conversations with my friends and with my family, as opposed to holding back, but I don’t know if there’s a way to not hold secrets from your friends or your relationships because there’s so many things that make you up as a person, whether or not– and how do you determine a secret? I think that’s what I was thinking about earlier. So that’s a bit all over the place but I really want to establish some kind of noise around–
C.T. WEBB 02:28 Actually, I appreciate that because, of course, when we decided on this topic my knee-jerk response was to immediately to go my relationship with my wife. And of course, so I immediately went to sort of this romantic, intimate place. I mean, I didn’t end there, I did think about intimacy in other contexts and in other relationships that I have. Honesty, in relation to intimate relationships, platonic, familial, etc. So I do appreciate the distinction because for me there are differences, right? The things that I will push myself to share, make myself share, the difficult conversations, I also am inclined to have, to the irritation of some people, is something that I am more faithful to in intimate relationships, those that I would consider close to me, then I might push in other relationships. What about you, Seph?
S. RODNEY 03:32 I think that there is a couple ways to think about this. One is, well, Steven’s pointed out a few. And both of you kind of set the parameters, or extended the parameters beyond merely romantic relationships to intimate friendships, so on and so forth. But I also think there are different ways to think about secrets. There’s secrets that you hold for people, right? Not necessarily secrets that you keep from them, right? Because Steven started off saying he was concerned about being able to tell someone his truth. And I think that that makes perfect sense when we talk about secrets, or what I think initially comes to mind is this notion of holding something within oneself which possibly diminishes one’s stature with an intimate, right? But there are also secrets that you hold for people, right? So you have intimate relationships and they tell you something, they say, “You need to keep this in the vault. This is just between you and me.” And you are–
C.T. WEBB 04:31 We’re either one of you good at keeping those kind of secrets when you were kids?
S. RODNEY 04:39 No–
C.T. WEBB 04:39 Like if someone told you not to say something [crosstalk]–
S. RODNEY 04:41 Oh, I was awful at it.
C.T. WEBB 04:44 Me, too. That’s why I asked. It’s to my shame, actually. I was terrible at it.
S. RODNEY 04:49 You, Steven?
S. FULLWOOD 04:50 Yeah, I was thinking about what you said, the secrets that we hold for other people. When I was a kid, it felt like it really depended on who it was. If it was my family or my sisters or my brother, yes. But then if it was anyone else in class, no absolutely. It was almost like you’re on the Atlanta Housewives, you had to tell somebody something, get it out. And you we’re waiting–
C.T. WEBB 05:16 I was thinking Gossip Girl is [crosstalk]–
S. FULLWOOD 05:18 Oh, I can’t wait to tell this person this [laughter]. But as I got older, I just didn’t like that much drama, so you can tell me something, I’ll hold it. And then people come back to me years later and say, “How come you didn’t tell me that?” But I go, “She told me not to tell you.” And I just stay there. I feel firmly on that. And I try to forget the secrets so I don’t have to be burned by it.
C.T. WEBB 05:40 Right. Seph, I interrupted you, I actually apologize. What was that you were–
S. RODNEY 05:44 Not at all. I think Steven’s kind of frozen so I want to make sure that he’s still–
C.T. WEBB 05:52 He is.
S. RODNEY 05:52 Okay, okay. Right, right. Okay, great. So here’s a thing. I had a conversation with someone the other day and she said to me, “You know, I don’t tell my therapist everything.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
C.T. WEBB 06:09 Whoa.
S. RODNEY 06:11 And then I thought about it, yeah, I probably don’t tell my therapist everything either. But I think more, to be completely honest with myself, and with you all–
C.T. WEBB 06:21 That is really interesting, I have to say, that might take us too far afield, so–
S. RODNEY 06:25 Well, well wait. Here’s the secrets that– I think what I keep to myself really is only a matter of timing, in that I can’t give him everything every single session, right? So there’s stuff I’m saying to myself, “Okay, do I really want to tell him that dream this session because it’s going to take something out of me to go there.” But I trust him, and I trust that relationship enough, and of course I’m not worried about being diminished in his sight because I know his job, I mean his profession is really to provide me a safe place. So I’m not worried about the judgment, implicit or explicit. But more sort of like the timing, like, “Okay, so maybe we can get to that the next time.
C.T. WEBB 07:15 Okay. Yeah, to steer it back around to levels of honesty, so in my most intimate relationship with my wife, Molly, I do my best to practice a kind of radical honesty. So–
S. RODNEY 07:34 Uh-oh, here we go.
C.T. WEBB 07:35 –even difficult things I do my best not to keep that from her, because usually in my experience in my younger life, if I was keeping something from an intimate, it meant that I was keeping something from myself as well. I was lying to myself in some way, I was sort of shaping a story in a particular way to make myself look better to myself or not really deal with something that was going on. And so when it comes to my wife, in particular, I try to be as honest as possible. Let me rephrase that: I try to be radically honest. And it’s only a shade less intense for that for me in my friendships, as well, people that are close to me that I consider my friends I do my best to just say what it is, that’s on my mind.
S. RODNEY 08:41 Okay, so Steven, I don’t want you to forget what you’re going to say because you look like you got something to say, but I really need to– God is in the details, right?– so can you give me an example of this radical honesty? One that doesn’t sort of impinge upon your relationship with Molly.
C.T. WEBB 08:56 Okay, so, I know– yeah that’s fine. Well, unless I’m a liar, it wouldn’t be anything that she wouldn’t know. She might not necessarily like that I’m sharing it with however many people are listening–
S. RODNEY 09:06 But this is my point.
C.T. WEBB 09:09 So let me just– I’ll slay a sacred cow. I was definitely less attracted to my wife when she was pregnant. I know that this one of those kind of, “Oh, this is kind of the font of life, and the rotund, zaftig”– and not getting into body shaming, it’s nothing about that, whatever your particular aesthetic and proclivity is, more power to you. I do not judge that at all. I have my own, and I was less attracted to my wife when she was– not like two months pregnant or something, but when she was in her late second and in the third trimester. And we talked about that and I did my best to reassure her within that context because it’s a very temporary event, right? She carries our son for a certain amount of time and then it’s gone, and did my best to be very supportive and sort of engage in all of those good husbandly things that you might want your partner to engage in as far as exercising together and still doing things that made her feel appreciated. But, yeah, that would be an example.
S. RODNEY 10:24 That’s a tough one.
C.T. WEBB 10:25 I’ve literally never told anyone that, so you guys are the first.
S. RODNEY 10:27 Wow. Okay, that’s deep.
S. FULLWOOD 10:29 You told more than us.
S. RODNEY 10:30 Steven, what do you think?
S. FULLWOOD 10:34 Which is great. Thank you, Seph, because you asked the question I wanted to know if I could get an anecdote or some kind of example. And while you were talking it occurred to me that as a writer, and as someone who endeavors to write nonfiction, about my family and friends, I have been in trouble a few times for publishing things without their knowledge. And so now one of my favorite writers, Toni Cade Bambara, wrote in the preface of her book Gorilla, My Love– it’s a collection of short stories– she goes, the last line of her intro is, “I don’t talk about people because mostly I just lie a lot.” And she was tired of people trying to figure out who they were in one of her stories. And I really, really love nonfiction, which contains its own level of fictioning, in terms of how you remember things and make up things and so forth. But my father is one of the most private men I’ve ever met. So if you ever go to his house and he gives you something like a plate of food, because he’s a cook, he’ll put that plate in a bag and then put that bag in another bag. And he would like for you to walk out in the cover of night because he doesn’t want his neighbors to know anything. And he’s very– he doesn’t understand why I’ve elected, one, to be public with my sexuality. He’s very, very– he’s a man who was born in Louisiana, raised in Arkansas. And fortunately I have more people in my life who are willing to tell me stories. I do oral histories and other things related to capturing stories. And so for me personally it has caused me some frustration and pain, but I think of the pain of someone who read a piece of mine online or in a newspaper and I divulged things about them, that’s not cool. Or they felt, “You were getting to close to me,” or “You revealed something I really didn’t want a lot of people to know.” Tell the truth, shame the devil. That’s one of my favorite things. But I’ve been a lot more careful about how I reveal my stories of my growing up with my family and with friends and former partners and so forth. But I’m excited about it and I feel like it makes the writing better. But I just have to really find ways to be careful and respectful of their privacy, respectful of their story.
S. RODNEY 13:03 Right, but I want to ask the question, and maybe this is very much in line with the topic, because Steven, from what I know of you, and we’ve known each other a few years now, you seem to me to be, frankly, like the rest of us in this conversation, like Travis, who I’ve known for a long time, and myself, who I’ve known most of my conscious life [laughter], we’re rigorously ethical people, from what I can tell. So is that kind of concern for somebody else’s privacy about the ethics or about preserving the relationship? Or both?
S. FULLWOOD 13:50 It’s both. It’s really both. I feel like I’m really fortunate because I have a lot– in my close orbit I have some really amazing friends. And they like telling me things and there are things that they would prefer I didn’t tell anyone else, and I go, “Okay.” And I have this thing where, I don’t know if it actually works, fire something around in my head and then I go, “Forgotten.” And I don’t think about it until that person brings it up or it comes out later, and someone says, “Did you know about this?” and I’ll go, “Yeah, I did know.” But I was keeping someone else’s counsel. I tell people I’m not going to tell them about you, and you’re not going to know about them. It’s as simple as that. It just keeps it cleaner–
C.T. WEBB 14:34 The intimate relationship aspect of it, though, makes that slightly more complicated, though, right? Because if you are keeping things from someone that’s an intimate, the person that you are shielding the information from, assuming that it’s something that would make them unhappy, is the recipient or the object of the harm. So I think about in my younger life if I was dating with someone and I started to get a wandering eye and was interested in someone else, I had this, for myself, this kind of clearly demarcated line, I was not going to be unfaithful. But that definitely did not– I was not rigorous with that when it came to setting up the conditions by which I could leave. And knowing exactly what I was doing in setting up those conditions and keeping that from the person that I was intimate with. I mean, if were making an ethical– it’s just wrong, right? I mean, it’s wrong to use another person in that way. And so I’m curious, Seph, in your own relationships, you’ve sort of been serially monogamous, I mean, for while, right? I mean you–
S. RODNEY 15:55 Okay, you’re being very generous with your description of my sexual/love life, in that I would describe it more as a kind of– what was that really bad battle during the Civil War? Antietam?
C.T. WEBB 16:14 Antietam.
S. RODNEY 16:15 Antietam. Yeah. Sort of like what Antietam looked like the day after… [laughter]. Like waste. Just… [laughter].
C.T. WEBB 16:28 So but I’ve known you to have– and I will use this description very self-consciously– brutally honest with your intimates at times. And so I have a feeling that in the waste that you are describing as your romantic life in the past, there is a way in which it wasn’t by holding back that you– it wasn’t by dissimulating or by keeping things from your partner that made those situations difficult, but by being as open and honest as you were in those situations.
S. RODNEY 17:15 Well, yes and no. I mean, to be completely fair to the question and to be fair to myself, I think part of what made it difficult for me to be present– I like that word, Steven used it earlier, I think before we started recording– and I really like the way he uses it. I think part of my difficulty with being present, in other words, showing up with all of me, all of my intellect, all of my emotional capacity, all of my physical wants and needs and awareness of them, I think what prevented that was really fear. And I think was just really fearful for most of my life. But I do think that part of what, one of the ways I wanted to deal with that fear was to be really honest with people. So you’re right, there were several instances, not in all of my relationships, but several instances in which I said to women I was with something along the lines of, “You know this means we’re not going to make it” [laughter]. Right. Right. I mean, that’s exactly what I did Steven, I went huhhh… It’s tough to say that but in some ways it’s also a relief, it’s like, “Oh, right, so”– not even like that prophecy’s necessarily going to come true but just that, “Oh you’re there. You’re thinking of that. You’re already looking for the exit.” And so that says a lot about my fear about intimacy, which I’ve carried around with me a long time, but I do think that part of the deal with the honesty for me was just not just feeling really profoundly secure in the knowledge that if I pull the Band-Aid off fast, it would hurt less.
S. FULLWOOD 19:16 Okay. You answered that question for me. I was curious about how you defined being brutally honest. Because there are two people there, or more, and being brutally honest means that some people might appreciate being frank and open, and other people may find it really offensive, and so–
C.T. WEBB 19:39 Well honesty can certainly be a weapon, right? It’s not always about being rigorously ethical. I mean honesty can definitely be a weapon.
S. RODNEY 19:48 Yeah it can be a way of keeping the person at arm’s length.
S. FULLWOOD 19:51 True, and it’s how you say it. And it’s how you present it. It can be weaponized, absolutely. So I was thinking about what you said about being present. I was thinking about what it feels like or what it means to be intimate with someone. For me, then, I have to be present. I have be present with my partners or with my friends, and that’s why it can be exhausting to be around people because it’s not my natural state. My natural state is to be foggy and to think about stuff and to write things down and walk down the street, take pictures, just kind of be out there, right? So when I’m with people, you guys are holding each others’ stories, all that’s led up until that point, the things you want to tell each other, the things you want to keep from each other, all of that, what have you. And so that intimacy, for me, it means looking folks in the eye and it means a certain kind of fidelity to the building of that relationship. So it’s like, “Seph, How’s school going? Travis, I know that you’re busy doing all this stuff. The last time we met– the only time we met– you were telling me–” and so forth. And so that for me, it feels incredible, it feels demanding, it feels very challenging at times. And so it’s difficult enough to do that, and then to add on holding things back. Or, like I said, lying by omission. And I also wanted to find out a little bit more about that. How do you feel about lying by omission? You know something might hurt someone, or you’re not ready to tell them, and so you’re pregnant with this idea or this feeling for a week or two weeks, possibly longer. How do you guys deal with not saying something, but the implication is that you are lying? Travis?
C.T. WEBB 21:49 Seph, you want to [crosstalk]. Okay I guess I’ll take that one. So to me that’s still a lie. And unless it’s not your secret, right? I appreciated the description earlier in the conversation about, “That belongs to someone else.” Someone’s letting you borrow some piece of themselves or some piece of it seems their story and I think that’s incumbent upon– now in my adult life, even though I was really bad at it when I was younger, as an adult I feel like it’s incumbent upon me to keep that, with the proviso that the radical honesty with my wife trumps that. If someone tells me something the assumption has to be that I would share that with Molly, because I don’t keep anything from her. That being said, it’s not as if she’s a journal for me or something, so of course there are things I don’t necessarily share with her because she doesn’t– she’s not really involved in that context or that story or whatever so I don’t try to overburden her with that. It’s not a point of pride or ego for me, at least not consciously. It’s something I do to have a healthy marriage. So your initial question about– I’m sorry, can you repeat your initial question? Because I started to get off on a tangent on, “Is there anything I’ve kept from Molly?” I started cycling on that for a second.
S. FULLWOOD 23:16 It was lying by omission and how you guys felt about that. Initially you did that.
C.T. WEBB 23:18 Yeah, so to me that feels like a lie. I mean, if it’s something that I am holding back from someone that their choices would alter in relation to me if I shared that information, I consider that a kind of lie. Now there may be reasons to do that, and I can think of a lot of reasons as a parent, for example, to maybe not be entirely honest with your eight, or nine, or ten-year-old child. And because that’s going to fuck them up. You have all kinds– I mean, as a kid, listening to a parent, you are the ultimate authority figure in a healthy parent-child relationship. In an unhealthy one that may not be the case but in a healthy one that’s the case until a certain age. And they haven’t quite figured out yet that you don’t know as much as it appears that you do. And so your judgments or indictments have far more weight than maybe they should. And so it’s again, I would want to bracket it, in relation to a parent and a child, no, probably not. I would consider those lies, and I would willingly commit them. So I don’t know. What do you think, Seph?
S. RODNEY 24:41 So, yeah. Lying by omission. So I can think of relationships, intimate relationships, with both friends and romantic partners, in which I’ve done that. I do think that when I was younger I was really just shitty at being– sometimes– at being a friend and shitty at being a lover. I just was. I think I was rather self-involved. And it’s weird. To be self-involved and be un-self-aware is a really bad combination.
C.T. WEBB 25:16 It’s not a good one.
S. RODNEY 25:16 No. I mean, it’s what the fuck is Agent Orange’s problem, right? He’s incredibly self-involved–
C.T. WEBB 25:25 It’s pretty common.
S. RODNEY 25:26 Right, and really profoundly un-self-aware. So I was there, in that slough of despond. But one of the things that I remember doing, lying by omission, was when– Oh man, I have a thing for dancers. And I was dating a woman named Leslie, back in like 90-something. And we went to a performance of someone. It was, I want to say, Ailey– but it wasn’t Ailey, it was like Dance Theatre of Harlem or something– no, it actually may have been something at the Joyce that wasn’t either of those companies. But there was a woman, a dancer, who came out– I don’t think she had performed but I think she was more friends of friends. When dancers perform, all their friends show up. And she’s beautiful. And beautiful in a way that’s like, if you see someone like this walking down the street, and you stop and you turn, just to make sure you got it right.
C.T. WEBB 26:34 Yes, that’s what you’re doing.
S. RODNEY 26:36 Right. But I’m not one of those heterosexual men who do that that often because I am more self-aware now. So, seriously, the times I will stop and look at a woman like that, is like maybe twice a year. Maybe. And I live in New York City, to give you context. Right? This woman was stunningly beautiful. And I was with Leslie. Leslie was feet away from me. And I chatted this woman up and I was like, “Yeah. Can you give me your phone number? La la la.” And Leslie was right there.
C.T. WEBB 27:10 Wait. Wait wait wait wait. So you didn’t turn and do a double-take. You picked up on this woman while you were with your current partner, am I getting that story [crosstalk]?
S. RODNEY 27:19 Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. Yeah.
C.T. WEBB 27:22 That’s worse.
S. RODNEY 27:23 No, that’s awful.
C.T. WEBB 27:24 You framed that story a little bit generously for yourself.
S. RODNEY 27:28 No no no. Oh, did I? No, I didn’t mean to, because I know I’m the bad guy. You don’t need to tell me.
C.T. WEBB 27:33 Steven, did you get the impression that he looked and she kept walking? Did you get the impression that he was talking to her to get the digits?
S. FULLWOOD 27:40 No, what I got was, because I’ve seen it so often with men– and a few women, but mostly men– that it doesn’t matter what the object is, who the object is, is that all that matters is the gaze and the desire. And so sometimes it comes with, “Hey, baby, where you going?” Or it’s just like, “Oh my God. Did you see that guy? Did you see that woman? Oh my God.”
C.T. WEBB 28:04 Wait, wait. Okay, wait wait, Seph, I have to ask for clarification. Did you claim that the gaze is the equivalent of asking for the woman’s number?
S. RODNEY 28:17 No no no no no.
C.T. WEBB 28:17 In front of your significant other. No, I’m asking Steven. Because he was saying– I thought he was parsing it that way. Because one definitely seems worse to me.
S. FULLWOOD 28:26 I don’t know. I mean, it kind of depends upon– so what I was getting at was, it’s that person’s desire that I find to hard to– that feels very necessarily messy. And I mean that in the most generous possible way. So right now, during– have you guys seen the Saturday Night Live skit where everyone’s trying to talk about the Aziz Ansari story, so they’re all sitting around–
S. RODNEY 28:56 Oh, God no.
S. FULLWOOD 28:56 So just in short–
C.T. WEBB 28:57 Please share that. Share.
S. FULLWOOD 28:58 –in short. So it’s a bunch of people sitting around, they’re having dinner, Will Ferrell’s the special guest, and what they’re trying to do is, they’re all trying to talk about it but also be very careful about how they frame things. So it’s like, “As a woman–” “Watch it” [laughter]. “I was just thinking, a thing we haven’t brought up here is race,” and then the lights go out and all these images– Oh my god, nuclear war images and all this sort of thing. Because people are trying to figure out how to talk about things. And it’s passion and desire and a bunch of things just sort of mixed up. When I see guys look at other men or women and when I do it myself, I’m almost unconscious of it until I’m snapped back. Because that thing is, I’m just looking, I’m just looking. And for me personally, it doesn’t feel completely comfortable. It feels like I should know better. I’ve been brought up right and I should not let my desires be public like this. Do you know–
C.T. WEBB 29:57 I want to say two things and then I want to get back to Seph. Super brief. So I think that animal desires are unruly, and we all have them. And I definitely think it’s worse, I don’t care how unruly the desire is, to indulge it in front of your significant other. Which I love.
S. RODNEY 30:19 No, no–
C.T. WEBB 30:19 Oh, it’s a great story, Seph. I actually appreciate it. I’m not indicting you, because I’ve definitely done really awful things, so, but anyway, please continue with your story.
S. RODNEY 30:29 Right, I hadn’t gotten to the omission part yet. And the thing was, I realized– I mean, there was a part of me that was looking at me and thinking, “This is awful. This is shitty. What are you doing?” [laughter]. Doing it anyway. And then having her, well, we broke up later for other reasons, but having her, I think, write to me, or tell me– I think we had a conversation about this, we had a conversation either an epistolary one or one in person– and she said something about, sort of acknowledging that that happened, that I was attracted to this other person and I wanted to try to get to know her. I mean, what I failed to do at that moment, and this the thing that I was deeply ashamed of, more so than even the act of trying to get this woman’s information to hook up with her later, was that when the chance came to just confront that situation, I backed down. I just didn’t deal with it. She said this had happened and essentially gave me an open door to talk about why it did and what it meant. And I didn’t take the opportunity. And I think that’s a lie by omission. I think that one of things about secrets is that when they are outed, right, you do have an opportunity to be a real adult human being. And say, “Okay, this thing is out here in the world. It may not be what I wanted to be.” Or maybe not even out here in the world. It’s out here in the ether between these two people. And we can just deal with it. We can actually come to some kind of clarity. We can be present to each other in the midst of this thing that makes us both tremendously uncomfortable. And I didn’t take–
C.T. WEBB 32:33 When you say you backed down, how did you back down? Did you just avoid it?
S. RODNEY 32:36 I just avoided it.
C.T. WEBB 32:38 Change the subject?
S. RODNEY 32:38 Yeah, yeah. I just didn’t deal with it. And those are the times, those are among the times in my life that I most regret because I want to be answerable to myself. Like you said, Travis, about keeping it really real with Molly– I’m paraphrasing– you do so because you want to keep yourself honest. And you recognize that giving that opportunity, that those things that are sort of the hidden dark places in you, to someone else, and say, “Okay, I’m sharing this with you so you know.” You’re able to look at those dark places through Molly’s eyes and maybe they’re not so dark, right? If I’d just been able to man up. Okay, that’s not fair. That’s gendered. But if I’d been able to person up, show the hell up, right?
C.T. WEBB 33:46 Human up.
S. RODNEY 33:48 Human up, and be there and say, “Okay, yeah, I had this desire for this person. I have a thing for dancers. It’s ridiculous to do this in front of you. I don’t know how else to work around this. I’m not sure–” Because I’ve struggled with that my whole life, what to do about desire. How to mitigate it, when to let it go, when to pull back. My whole life. I just still don’t know.
C.T. WEBB 34:19 I actually want to– this made me think of something, and actually it’s a question for Steven, with a slightly a prolonged intro. So one of the things– sort of the #TimesUp and #MeToo and the kind of the social moment that we’re in, and the way that heterosexual men maybe, I almost want to say white, but probably not just white, heterosexual men–
S. RODNEY 34:39 No, no it’s the same issue as [crosstalk] too, yeah.
C.T. WEBB 34:42 Yeah, yeah, so I mean heterosexual men have–
S. RODNEY 34:43 Among others, yeah.
S. FULLWOOD 34:45 [inaudible]
C.T. WEBB 34:46 –have felt their desire and expression of desire circumscribed. And kind of the push back and the reflex against that– which I’m sympathetic to some of those arguments, as you both know. But that being said, and I want to hedge this a little bit because obviously I know that there are a lot of other factors involved, but it strikes me as it’s heterosexual men experiencing what all non-heteronormative men and women have had to deal with for a very long time. Usually worse, right? So the fact that your desire and the expression of your desire is being circumscribed by the society and the discomfort that that brings up for you and the way that that’s reacted to or dealt with, pretty unsympathetically on the other side, I think. And I’m not talking about the Weinsteins and the Kevin Spacey, I’m talking about–
S. RODNEY 35:47 No, you’re talking more like about Aziz Ansari. Like what happened–
C.T. WEBB 35:49 That’s exactly right. And so, again, I don’t want to go too far with it because it’s not as if just because it’s all over social media means that these power structures have flipped, right? It doesn’t.
S. FULLWOOD 36:01 Of course not.
C.T. WEBB 36:02 It doesn’t mean that at all.
S. RODNEY 36:03 Right, clearly.
C.T. WEBB 36:04 At all. The maid service that supplies house cleaners in major metropolitan cities are probably not all that worried about the #MeToo or #TimesUp movement because these people, the women that are in these positions don’t the kind of voice and social power to speak out against that. So I don’t want to go to far with that. So let’s just kind of play in a small sandbox. So Steven, does that at all seem analagous to you? Do you buy that analogy? Is that something you think there are too many other factors involved for it to be relatable?
S. FULLWOOD 36:41 So I need for you to repeat that, just a little bit more, describe it, in terms of [crosstalk]–
C.T. WEBB 36:47 I’m saying the ways in which, in this very circumscribed social space, of privileged men, heterosexual men, and the way that that desire is being circumscribed and the way that the language is being policed, amongst the gray areas, not the very obviously ethically terrible, morally reprehensible choices. Is the way that that behavior is being circumscribed in the social sphere right now at all seem analogous to you to the ways in which non-heteronormative behavior has been circumscribed in the past?
S. FULLWOOD 37:25 Historically.
C.T. WEBB 37:25 If you kind of bracket things like violence and things like that, I mean obviously it’s way worse if you live in certain areas of the country currently and certainly in the past.
S. FULLWOOD 37:35 Yeah, I think so. I think it is analogous. I just feel like they’re all ways that added things that make each and every intersectional moment unique for its moment. And so it’s hard for me to speak about it generally but I think that what really– when you were talking about, the first thing that came to mind was when I was growing up and I would notice the way my sisters were treated or the way my mom was treated at times or even other girls my age and how much I hated that. And how much that bothered me. And so when everything broke about Weinstein, I mean, what’s funny is that for people who are relatively conscious, they know this stuff already. They see it happen. Sometimes they are participating in it. So I was feeling very very, not;– what was the feeling? The feeling was I was happy that it was being discussed and there seemed to be some action moving towards justice or some kind of restorative justice. I think Dan Harmon, the creator of Community and the creator of Morton– co-creator of Mort–
C.T. WEBB 38:49 Sure, sure, sure.
S. FULLWOOD 38:51 What is it? Rick and Morty. Yeah, so recently there was a woman who accused him–
C.T. WEBB 38:54 That guy’s crazy. Brilliant, but crazy.
S. FULLWOOD 38:57 But I really enjoy the fact that, at one point he didn’t seem to remember. He did that sort of vague apology that someone somewhere was hurt by me, blah blah blah. That he went in. He was like, “I was attracted to you. You didn’t respond, and I made your life hell.” And I thought the way he responded was something I haven’t heard of yet other than somebody– Louis C.K. And he kind of said it and then disappeared for a moment, too. So I was thinking about what you said earlier, Seph, about had you, at that moment, because you were aware of what you were looking at, you were aware of what you were doing, but you made a choice in that moment to deflect or to not be truthful, completely truthful. And so to get back to what you’re saying, though, Travis, I do feel it’s analogous to the communities I’m in, I just feel like there’s special circumstances because the notion of desire is so, like I said earlier, it’s messy, it’s the one thing I think you can’t lie about. I think it just breaks you out if you like about it, you become insane with it. And I think we are taught to police our desires no matter who we are. It’s just that some of us obviously are a little bit more– I’ve come through a really interesting time in the last 40 years by looking at the ways in which people, queer folk, have gone from the early 70s with the breakout moment in modern-day civil rights, where people are starting to talk more about these things and I’m starting to see more people on television and they’re just not– what do you call it– they’re not the person you laugh at, they’re not–
S. RODNEY 40:42 Right, they’re not the dancing bear.
S. FULLWOOD 40:47 [crosstalk] we’re starting to develop more complex narratives about their lives.
S. RODNEY 40:47 Not the pathetic character and not the dancing bear, right.
S. FULLWOOD 40:52 Right, exactly, it’s laughing with versus laughing at that kind of person. Or point of reference, where it’s like, “Don’t be like that.” So I’m starting to see a little bit more but it’s still very slow. It’s much more prevalent in the books and sometimes even the films that most people won’t see. But there’s still, I think of European movies and French movies where there’s all this desire for someone, and that’s the whole movie. The whole movie. It doesn’t necessarily even have to change. That’s what I love about it, too, it’s just that that’s the whole thing. And in the US or whatever we’re taught to police our desire and to shape our desire for things, for capitalist purposes and so forth. So I’m kind of going around the block here, but I want to say I do see the moment as being analogous because people are starting to look at and name sexual abuse and name rape and other things. And in the best of scenarios it’s more nuanced. The worse of scenarios everything is just one thing. And so I hope that kind of answers what you were, a little. I do see it, yeah.
C.T. WEBB 42:03 You covered so much good stuff I don’t really feel the need to clarify what I was asking, because I didn’t figure out exactly what I was asking until I had finished asking it. So it was a pretty circuitous route. Seph, you look like you’re about to say something.
S. RODNEY 42:19 No, I just thoroughly enjoyed that little vignette, that little conversational bit. I want to get back to Aziz Ansari because I think there is something there that is germane to our conversation about secrets. I think it’s not a great leap to define, for the moment, in this context, what Aziz Ansari carried on with a woman, Grace, named in the Babe article, described as their goings-ons. It’s not unreasonable to find out there’s a secret. I think that that’s a secret that in some ways Aziz wanted Grace, that’s her real name, a nod, Grace, to keep. I think there’s a way in which sexual encounters sometimes are– they’re not always, but to a great extent, I mean there’s a reason why porn sites are, we prevent children from going to them, right? There’s a reason that they are held off to the side of sort of polite culture and not deemed sort of publicly consumable. I mean, and bracketing aside, this sort of inherent misogyny that’s often or always been part of that industry for heterosexual stuff and bracketing aside the sort of the ways in which– well, I can’t really talk about gay pornography because I don’t know it, but the ways in which desire is kind of commodified in maybe other forms of pornography. But bracketing all of that aside, there’s a way in which I think Aziz’s encounter with Grace was something that he didn’t want known. And–
C.T. WEBB 44:35 Of course not.
S. RODNEY 44:36 And she publicized that, right? So she didn’t keep that secret. And maybe she had good reasons for doing so, I don’t want to get into that conversation, but more it’s like, isn’t that kind of a secret? When we actually get down to it, when we are fucking someone, or getting fucked by someone, fucking with someone, isn’t that kind of always a secret?
C.T. WEBB 45:01 Yes. I actually, I agree that it’s a– it would be too much of a side-show to go too far into the Aziz Ansari, because there’s a lot of things at play there. I definitely think race is in play in the– but I’ll just throw that out there, if we want to have a podcast on that at some point we can.
S. RODNEY 45:25 Wow.
C.T. WEBB 45:27 But on just the glaring, glaring inequity and double-standard of that situation, is just offensive to me. So as if there is something demonstrably different between his physical desire and her social desire. She didn’t go up to Aziz Ansari because they met at a coffee shop and their eyes met over an unfinished screenplay. Her ass went up to him because he’s a multi-million dollar celebrity and she wanted the social cache that goes along with that. What the fuck? So somehow her motivations are more pure–
S. RODNEY 46:09 Pristine, yeah.
C.T. WEBB 46:10 And so if he had published a piece in Dude that said, “Hey, this ridiculous girl tried to bond with me over a camera, and her sort of stupid, slight, white bod–” He would be crucified, crucified if he called her out for her less-than-admirable desires. So I really–
S. RODNEY 46:37 Yeah, fair enough.
C.T. WEBB 46:38 So maybe we should talk about this another time. But the secrecy and the intimacy, you’ve actually taken it in a really interesting direction, towards the end of the podcast, unfortunately, because there really is an assumption of propriety in intimate relationships.
S. RODNEY 46:56 At least sexually intimate, well no, actually friendships as well, yeah.
C.T. WEBB 46:58 Do you think that’s generational, though? Yeah, absolutely. It’s so funny. We have this whole conversation but there’s a whole other side of this that we didn’t discuss that you just brought up which is that, so keeping secrets in intimate relationships can also mean keeping secrets within the intimate relationship. The things that are between the two people, or whatever group of people–
S. RODNEY 47:18 Keeping them from everybody else.
C.T. WEBB 47:20 Yeah, that isn’t broadcast or used or leveraged against them.
S. RODNEY 47:25 That’s right. That’s right.
C.T. WEBB 47:28 I mean, if we like, we can pick up on that flip side of the conversation next week, if we’d like to do that.
S. RODNEY 47:36 Yeah. You know what? I’m kind of interested in– I just want to throw out something provocative perhaps for next week. So thinking about, and this is following on the #MeToo, #TimesUp kind of thing. Thinking about Russell Simmons, probably you both know having read the kind of things I’ve read, was that he’s accused of having a tryst– no, no let me not be mealy-mouthed about this– of sexually assaulting someone with his pal Brett Ratner, so apparently they would team up and Brett would either get the girl or Russell would get the girl and he’d go back to his place or the other person’s place, and the other person would either run interference or facilitate things, and just facilitate the whole sexual encounter. And I’m like, “That’s a–
C.T. WEBB 48:31 So like tag-team pimps for each other?
S. RODNEY 48:32 Well, kind of thing, kind of thing. Right, for each other, but that’s a kind of secret, right? They’re bonded over that, right? That’s some shit that you really can’t let go because there are legal repercussions.
C.T. WEBB 48:46 That’s right. Absolutely.
S. RODNEY 48:46 So, talk about radical– where’s the radical honesty in that relationship? I mean I’m really interested to know, to talk about that.
C.T. WEBB 48:55 A conversation between those two, as they’re setting up this cabal to– that is, that’s really interesting.
S. RODNEY 48:58 Right? Right? Oh my God. How–
C.T. WEBB 49:05 Russell Simmons, please don’t sue us.
S. RODNEY 49:08 But it is like a Todd Solondz film, right? It’s that level of gruesomeness, right?
C.T. WEBB 49:15 Right, right, right. So we’re pushing up against the time limit, but I’d like to give Steven the last word.
S. RODNEY 49:20 Indeed. Indeed.
S. FULLWOOD 49:21 Wow. The last words. So, enjoyed the conversation. There were a few things that came up for me while we were talking. And we talked a little bit about them but I was curious about keeping this– really thinking about humans learning what being intimate really is. And really kind of rethinking that because earlier when we were talking about keeping a dalliance or a sexual experience secret between those two people, I immediately went, “Generation?” We’re talking about, we’re living in a digital age where people have had sex on camera before they were really conscious of the implications of doing that kind of thing meant. So I feel like, in particular with social media where people are constantly talking about each other and revealing things that are really personal that get a lot of hits or even become TV shows, and whatnot. So I was thinking about how the generations feel about secrecy, and I began talking about my father. And about he feels about keeping things behind closed doors. My former fiance told me once where he worked at an amusement park, that was behind-the-counter talk, so you didn’t say this in front of everyone else. And so I just feel like we’re in a very murky time and probably we’ve always been in murky times when it comes to secrecy in relationships, intimate relationships– very very murky. But it’s become more clear to me because I do read the comments section on almost everything I watch on or read on the Internet, because I’m always curious about how people receive something. I’m like, “Well how’d you receive this article about Trump or about Aziz Ansari?” And there’s some interesting things that go from saying things like, “It just seems like a terrible sexual experience that both people had culpability” to “He shouldn’t have used his star power to blah blah blah,” which goes back to what you were saying, Travis, earlier about the framing. The framing, which I think is really critical right now. And so I argue for a more complicated and more nuanced way of reading things. And also going, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” But if given the evidence, or given what we’re getting, let’s look at this. But not to be too sure. You’re can only be too sure when you’re with that person. Even then.
C.T. WEBB 51:57 Right, right, right. And on that note, we may or may not continue this conversation this week. The three of us will talk and see if we think it will be a fruitful discussion. But in any case, please join us next week and pick up the conversation on the American Age podcast. Seph and Steven, thanks very much for joining.
S. FULLWOOD 52:15 Thank you.
S. RODNEY 52:16 Yes, thank you.
C.T. WEBB 52:18 Good afternoon, everyone [music].

References

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Gorilla, My Love

by, Toni Cade Bambara

In these fifteen superb stories, this essential author of African American fiction gives us compelling portraits of a wide range of unforgettable characters, from sassy children to cunning old men, in scenes shifting between uptown New York and rural North Carolina.

First referenced at 28:26

Saturday Night Live

America’s premier sketch-comedy show returns for its 43rd season LIVE from Studio 8H in New York City. Check out these selected sketches and segments from each of this season’s episodes, so you can make every night a Saturday Night.

First referenced at 38:51

Rick & Morty

Welcome to the world of Rick and Morty, a genius inventor grandfather and his less than genius grandson. Missing for nearly 20 years, Rick arrives at his daughter’s doorstep looking to move in, but her husband isn’t too thrilled. Rick converts the garage into his lab and involves Morty in his insane adventures.

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