On the internet you can pretty much say whatever you want. Any idiot can get themselves a social media account and some free space on Tumblr and spew empty brain farts out into the ether at will. To read something really crazy on, say, Twitter isn’t a big shock because expressing yourself on Twitter requires no writing skill or social graces. Put simply, there are plenty of places you can go if you want to rage pointlessly or read someone raging pointlessly (this column, for example).
Slate, however, isn’t Tumblr or some other site that exists solely to aggregate the various “feelz” of melodramatic 19-year-olds. Slate is, for all intents and purposes, a serious politics and culture outlet. True, there have been times over the past couple of years when, along with Salon at its nadir, the site has felt like its goal is to troll sane people. Overall though, Slate still has a stable of excellent writers creating thought-provoking content and taking stands that can’t always be politically pigeonholed. In the past it’s even called out internet outrage, in one of the most sweeping indictments of the phenomenon ever published, and it’s featured highly critical examinations of the campus rape and revived Woody Allen controversies.
You’d think that if you put these two things together (that any idiot can write something stupid online but that Slate isn’t a stupid outlet), that Bryan Lowder’s piece decrying “spooning” as problematically sexist wouldn’t exist. At least not as it was published at Slate.
Lowder, who reportedly writes and edits for “Outward,” the site’s generally good LGBT issues section, posted the column that is without a doubt one of the most painfully absurd descents into self-important cultural criticism and general internet madness ever conceived by a seemingly sentient being. Lowder’s thesis is that spooning, the act of curling up directly against your lover from behind in bed and holding that person or being curled up against and held, is a “terrible idea” that’s “fraught both physically and ideologically.”
At first it seems like Lowder just might, hope against hope, be joking. But then comes this kind of thing:
Big spoons are manly and will take care of you (provided you let them use you to take care of themselves); little spoons are fragile, passive creatures that need to be held and kept safe. This, of course, is fundamentally a sexist arrangement, one that casts the big spoon as ‘the man’ and the little spoon as ‘the woman.’ To say that this power imbalance is built into all acts of spooning — whichever the sexes engaged — is not, I think, an overstatement. Indeed, I would argue that spooning is always already a power play, a perverse strategy by which we nightly enact the unjust relations of ‘big’ and ‘little’ privilege that plague our society on every level.
Hey, remember when it was the liberal position to not concern yourself with what consenting adults do in private? Those were the days. Look, keeping religious fundamentalists out of my bedroom is already a full-time job, I don’t need to also box-out glorified Tumblr snowflakes.
Lowder, needless to say, has an alternative to spooning at the ready that he would rather you do in the privacy of your bedroom:
What we need is conscious cuddling, cuddling that takes into account the realities of our bodies, so easily taxed, and the pressures of a fallen social system that unnecessarily sorts us into limiting categories of big and little. Luckily, there’s a solution at the ready: Cuddle sitting up. It’s bracingly simple, I know, but it is the balm we need. Vertical cuddling—whether with an arm loosely paced around the neck, or a head freely reclined on a shoulder, or just sitting cozily side-by-side—removes much of the risk of physical discomfort and all of the semiotic violence that spooning conveys. It also allows for intimacy we actually experience because we are, you know, awake.
The internet has allowed anybody to post whatever he or she wants, no matter how far up their own ass but Slate has editors, ones you’d hope would be in a higher position than the delicate snowflake that is Bryan Lowder. You would also hope that those editors would read something like this and send it back to Lowder with a series of laughter emojis emblazoned across the top and the words, “No, seriously, what are you writing today?” typed underneath.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that this lunatic nonsense, literally telling people how to sleep, is designed merely to troll, but if that’s the case you get the impression it’s Slate doing it. Bryan Lowder seems pretty sincere in his quixotic fight against the villainy of spooning (between straights, gays, or anything in between or beyond).
If Slate is genuinely trying to cultivate and continue its reputation as a relatively serious site, it has it’s work cut out for it if continues to let Lowder (or anyone) write ridiculous horseshit like this.
As for the rest of us, one day we’ll all look back on this period in our culture and laugh.