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Our Great Lost Sexual Anxieties

If you’ve read A Moveable Feast, you are aware that the book is much more than a dreamy take on being a writer in 1920s Paris. That’s the story you come for—but you stay for stories about small penises.

This delicious fact and the constant wondering by men if they are as sexually ravenous as they need to be is an ongoing theme between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, two men who you assumed were sexually infallible, that their wives were never not plugged up with coital happiness. Not the case and, as The Paris Review has dedicated time to this week, this was a point of anxiety for the men.

Thanks to my bud Alec for sending this along, the story outlines how these two men are undeniably queer, how their works are laced with performance of gender and sex as a means of covering up. These are things we all know but don’t actually know, stuff we read between the lines of but never stopped to question the cultural narrative of these two men being infallible. In fact, closer inspection shows that their narratives and stories enforce queerness, from over-performing masculinity with Hemingway and the theme of being upended by a woman with Fitzgerald.

Both men had strong perceptions of what it meant to be gay, and set ideas of how to interact with their gay friends—most notably Gerald Murphy, Gertrude Stein, and Cole Porter. Fitzgerald saw homosexuality as a weakness—less a sexual predilection than something one undergoes in times of emotional distress. Hemingway used fiction to broadcast his virility after a sexually confusing childhood. Both were more sexually fluid than their contemporary reputations suggest.

You could say that a lot of their skipping around gaiety has to do with fear of the self, fear of that which you don’t understand within you. As the article points out, this is probably why they both escaped to Europe, to experiment and be outside of the Puritanical social trappings of America.

This is all very funny to think about, to imagine great stories like The Sun Also Rises and This Side Of Paradise rewritten as gay narratives. More so, it’s just fabulous to imagine the many times that these two men got freaky with each other because you know something had to have happened more than once in le water. The story is a hoot of a read that is perfect for a Friday. And, clearly, it’s great fodder for sexual fantasies because Hemingway was a total babe.

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