Chapter 6: Playing Heads or Tails with My Diaphragm

In 2008 I wrote a creative piece for Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion called: “Playing Heads or Tails with My Diaphragm: Drinking Lattés with Hélène Cixous.”  In this short essay, I get to imagine myself having a conversation with John McCain and Hélène Cixous about gender, politics, and identity.  I am reworking this essay to be included as a short piece in my memoir on sex and sexuality.  Here is a pieced together preview of some of the dialogue.  I call the McCain approach to sexuality “Viagra politicking.”  We have a lot of Viagra politicking in Washington as of late.


“And so it still goes . . .” I sighed, while sipping my double-shot latté.

“What still goes?” said John McCain coming up behind me—grinning brightly, and sandwiching my hand between his.

“Politics as usual. Empty rhetoric. Careless sexism.”

“My, my dear girl!” Pat, pat, pat came his hand on mine. “It can’t be as bad as all that!”

it? You who champions Viagra over birth control,# stagnate, ‘calm’
courts over equal pay for women.# ‘My, my dear man,’ can you smell the

“Don’t you mean patriotism!”

“Hum . . . Yes, presently they do smell the same.”

“So then,” he said grinning once again—his shark tooth smile reflecting the sun, “I can count on your vote?”

tell you what, let’s play heads or tails with my diaphragm and leave it
up to chance. Can you guess which side is heads . . . is tails?”

“Why the part that sticks up like a dome, that’s the head.”

“Ah yes, I figured you’d say as much, no more Viagra for you.”

“You know, you shouldn’t think of a corset as a jail, but as a thing of beauty,” said the
press-deemed maverick, while fruitlessly reaching for Hélène’s hands.

“John,” I said, “I did not invite you into my skin. I would have remembered addressing the invitation.”

Enough now” said McCain, who was backing away from Hélène’s Mona Lisa
smile. “You look lovely in the corset, enchanting. Let me lace up the
back for you.”

“Goddamn it! That’s too damn tight!”

a bit more. There, now turn towards me. Yes, that is what I like to
see. As Rousseau, that great defender of democracy liked to say, a woman
‘ought to make herself pleasing in [a man’s] eyes and not provoke him
to anger; her strength is in her charms, by their means she should
compel him to discover and use his strength.’”

“To please you? I didn’t even invite you.”

you did, my dear. Or why would you have let me play with that diaphragm
of yours? I think it landed on heads.” John McCain smiled.

“Stop calling me ‘dear,’ I’m Lilith.”

“Would a rose by any other name . . .?”

unlacing myself—I’m untangling myself from your words. I did’nt invite
you. I will not become you. Now give me back my diaphragm, I saw you
slip it into your pocket, next to your Viagra.”

Watch him run.  Can you see him? Limping forward, legs close together,
protecting himself from possible castration—run, sir, run to Freud …
comfort each other the best you can as time for both of you is linear
and short. I live in the circular realm; it goes around and around,
never to stop.

“Hélène, do you think he saw in me the Medusa?”

“You’re Lilith, and I’m Medusa.”

“A rose by any other name …”


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