Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: '2 X Double' (1973)

A wife finds out she and her husband have a lot in common in Ed Wood's "2 X Double."

NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Ed Wood in Party Time.
The story: "2 X Double," also known as "Two Times Double," originally published in Party Time magazine, February/March 1973, Gallery Press.

Synopsis: The marriage of Jimmy Hare and his shapely wife, Donna, seems to have hit a snag after only two years. The couple argue frequently about their sex life, with Jimmy unable to achieve and maintain an erection and Donna cold and unresponsive in bed. During one particularly violent argument, Jimmy hits Donna, throws her across the room, and beats her backside until her buttocks are raw and bruised. While her husband is at work, Donna goes to the bathroom to urinate but dreads sitting on the toilet with her still-sore buttocks. When she does, the pain is excruciating but also exhilarating, and Donna achieves the greatest orgasm of her life. Later, she finds a semen stain on her bed sheets and realizes that Jimmy must have brought himself to orgasm, too, while thinking of the violence he inflicted upon his wife. In the past, he was always "too soft" with her, which was a turnoff. Now she realizes that they are both into rough sex. When Jimmy comes home from work, he's brought something for his wife: a whip, which he says he'll use if she refuses to satisfy him sexually. She feigns horror and directs her husband to follow her into the bedroom, where she disrobes.

Wood trademarks: Arguing heterosexual couple (cf. Orgy of the Dead, Necromania, many of the stories in this collection); man unable to maintain or even achieve an erection (cf. this collection's "Come Inn," "To Kill a Saturday Night"); woman nagging man about his impotence (cf. The Snow Bunnies, Necromania, "Come Inn"); the word "lovely" (one of Ed's favorite adjectives); combination of sex and death ("You lay just there like a stiff... and just about as cold."); mechanical nature of male lovemaking (cf. The Class Reunion, The Cocktail Hostesses); feathers (in this case, in a pillow); multiple references to prostitution (a common motif in these stories); threat of divorce court (cf. Glen or Glenda?, The Cocktail Hostesses); soft things (in this case, a "soft towel"); reference to snakes (Jimmy buys a "blacksnake whip"); satin (Donna wears a "pink satin housecoat"); extremely heavy use of color pink (in addition to Donna's pink fur mules and housecoat, there is a bathroom where literally everything is pink, including the toilet); alcohol (repeated references to "a couple of drinks").

Excerpt: "She bounced her ass harder and harder on the pink toilet seat. Everything in the room was pink... the toilet, the sink, the tub, the shower, the rugs, the curtains, and the pink glow which sent such beautiful pictures, such beautiful fantasies rushing through her mind's eyes was something she had never before experienced..."

Reflections: First, let me make clear that there is no obvious moral justification for a story like "2 X Dobule," in which a horrific act of domestic abuse, resulting in what the writer specifies as "purple" bruises, leads to a consensual and mutually pleasurable sexual experience for a married couple. I acknowledge that sadomasochism (or S&M) plays an active and healthy role in the lives of many couples, straight and gay, married and unmarried. I, however, refuse to acknowledge that anything good or positive can come from a situation in which a husband lashes out violently at his wife because of his own sexual inadequacy. This seems to be, on Ed Wood's part, an example of rationalization, i.e. "Sure, I beat the hell out of my wife, but it turned out to be okay because she actually enjoyed it." In the marriage depicted in "2 X Double," loud arguments seem to be so commonplace that the threat of police intervention, based on complaints from the neighbors, is very real. This is much, much too close to Ed Wood's own life, in which he physically abused his wife, Kathy Everett O'Hara Wood. The infamous "It's a Kind of Glow" chapter from Nightmare of Ecstasty is littered with harrowing anecdotes, like this one from friend and actor David Ward:
When they'd start fighting, oh boy, you should have heard the names they'd call each other. And then Eddie would take Kathy's head and bang it against the wall! Then she'd be quiet for a while.
Here's one from Kathy herself:
We were fighting one time. He dragged me over the floor for a couple of minutes, and my left hand, it's pretty well gone now, it doesn't go straight out. It's not Eddie's fault, but it's half his fault...
And another from actor John Andrews:
He called me one morning. We talked to each other, three, four times a day. He says, "I nearly killed O'Hara last night. I..." "Oh no. What happened now?" He says, "She was mouthing off in the kitchen, and she wouldn't shut up. I told her to shut up, and I told her to shut up, and finally I went in there and I let her have it." And -- he knocked her cold.

Those unflattering details were echoing in my head as I made my way through "2 X Double." I tried to make sense of this story by placing it in its proper sociological context and remembering for whom these magazine articles were written. Ed Wood's early 1970s stories for Gallery, Pendulum, and Calga appeared in pornographic magazines intended for white, male, middle-aged, middle-class men. That was the target audience for X-rated material in the Free Love era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, which was presented to then-President Nixon in 1970 and which played a key role in Ed's script for The Undergraduate in 1971. In general, these porn consumers would have been straight, though Eddie wrote for some gay magazines, too. While the kids were out there doing it, the adults were just reading about it and watching movies about it, presumably because their own sex lives at home were dull and unsatisfying.

A publication like Party Time, which was mostly a delivery system for pictures of naked women, provided a little fodder for fantasy in the minds of its frustrated readers, the hard-working Joe Lunchbuckets of America. In a lot of these stories, Ed Wood provides his male readers with surrogate characters with whom they can identify. Generally, these are regular, "manly" guys -- very often endowed with enormous penises -- who have boring office jobs and want their wives to be ready with a strong drink and a hot meal at the end of the day. (Jimmy Hare of "2 X Double" has a fondness for pork chops.) Even the gourmet cannibal of "Breasts of the Chicken" is firmly established as a run-of-the-mill businessman with an otherwise-unremarkable life (and the prerequisite monster penis). I can't claim to fully understand Ed Wood's motives as a writer, but my tentative diagnosis is that "2 X Double" was a power fantasy for middle-aged men more so than it was an apologia for domestic abuse. It's okay to read and fantasize about this stuff, I guess, as long as you don't actually put it into action. If you want to experiment with S&M, it's crucial to get your partner's approval in advance.

Next: "Craps" (1973)