Dear Ms.

6 01 2009

I’ve always liked the Terry Southern piece “Dear Ms.,” which can be found in the collection Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern (2001, Grove Press), edited by his son Nile and Josh Alan Friedman. I’m hoping to circumvent any laws prohibiting its posting by not sharing it in its entirety, but the excerpt is enough for anyone to get the picture. I made my brother read this once, and he said, “I don’t see what the point of this is except to piss women off.” Personally, I like the precise italics.

The Magic Christian is one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read, sly yet infantile; there’s something in Southern’s deadpan I’d never try to duplicate. Is it as funny to be a smart man playing the philistine now that the philistines are winning? Or are they always?

Anyway, enjoy!

Editor 20 November 1972

Ms.

370 Lexington Ave.

New York, N.Y.

Dear Ms.:

Since the letters you see fit to print are so flagrantly and one-sidedly selective (“self-serving” is, I believe, the expression), I doubt this will find its way into those columns; we shall see. In any case, during your own innermost and private (and, needless to say, unpublished) quest for the truth, libbywise, you might consider the following suggestion: namely, that it is naive in the extreme for women to expect to be regarded as equals by men (despite all lip service to the contrary) so long as they persist in a subhuman (i.e., animal-like) behavior during sexual intercourse. I’m referring, as you doubtless know, to the outlandish panting, gasping, moaning, sobbing, writhing, scratching, biting, screaming conniptions, and the seemingly invariable “Oh, my god. . . oh, my god. . . oh, my god” all so predictably integral to the pre-, post-, and orgasmic stages of intercourse. Surely you’re aware that such extremes of “expression” cannot fail to produce an ultimate and profound sense of alienation in the partner, and/or witness, to same.

I would further suggest to you that until women are able to exercise a modicum of self-control and restraint, and to maintain a semblance of human dignity during orgasm (clitoral, deep-vaginal, multiple, or whatever), they shall never gain from men the sort of respect they desire (again, the abundance of lip service to the contrary notwithstanding). Can you seriously imagine a man placing his confidence, his vote, or indeed any measure of real responsibility in the hands of someone he has just seen or heard (or felt) engaged in a nail-digging, teeth-grinding, eyes-rolling, toes-curling, half-

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