“The first time you f--- me in the a--, my face smashed against the cement floor of your dank and charming bachelor pad (…) What’s your pleasure? you asked, then stuck around for an answer.”
““I am not interested in a hermeneutics, or an erotica, or a metaphorics of my anus. I am interested in a---f---ing. I am interested in the fact that the clitoris, disguised as a discrete button, sweeps over the entire area like a manta ray, impossible to tell where it’s 8,000 nerves begin and end.”
“The point wasn’t that if the outer world were schooled appropriately re: the characters’ preferred pronouns, everything would be right as rain.”
“A friend says he thinks of gender as a color…indeterminacy.”
“Oppressive and painful gender norms”
“…the prevalence and criminalization of pornography and media coverage of child sexual abuse and pedophilia as some of the leading reasons for this cultural unease. Concerns for the safety and wellbeing of children are all valid; yet, unintentional consequences of these concerns, such as the silence and repression of a mother’s erotic pleasure…”
“I liked playing Fallen Soldier because it gave me time to learn about your son’s face in mute repose: big
almond eyes, skin just starting to freckle. And clearly he found some novel, relaxing pleasure in just lying
there, protected by imaginary armor, while a near stranger who was quickly becoming family picked up
each limb and turned it over, trying to find the wound.”
These quotes are from Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, a book published in 2015.1 The book explores eroticism regarding LGTBQ+ lifestyles, gender transition, and the maternal-child relationship.
West Point hired Dr Mollie Kervick as a post-doctoral Assistant Professor of English in 2022. Dr Kervick’s bio is posted on the www.westpoint.edu website. While she teaches EN101 English Composition (basic West Point freshman English course), she lists ‘Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies’ as one of her 4 areas of research focus. Her official list of publications on the site includes, ““Embracing Maternal Eroticism: Queer Experiences of Pleasure in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts,”2 a glowing review and praise of Nelson’s The Argonauts.
In the review, Kervick states, “The ‘neo-traditional family configuration’ as the basis for mothering in a neoliberal order results in the reproduction of the patriarchal institution of motherhood instead of providing women with opportunities to practice empowered mothering and care.” This appears to be the “empower[ment]” Kervick advocates.
Kervick’s review joins Nelson in criticizing whiteness, cis-genderism, two parent households, religion, American democracy, and capitalism. Both denounce anything and anyone that doesn’t whole-heartedly embrace Nelson’s life choices and lifestyle. “Beyond ‘a—f---ing,’ ‘fisting,’ and other sexual pleasures, The Argonauts include scenes of erotic pleasure that go beyond physical sex (2016: 85, 86). For example, much of the text includes Nelson’s reflection and experiences of her partner’s process of transitioning from female to male.”
The purpose of this analysis is not to question the substance of Nelson’s work nor of Kervick’s choice to indulge in this genre or work (except for the discussions of pedophilia). It is also not a judgement of sexual identities or interests. At a liberal arts school such as Berkley, this is likely a normal academic pursuit for those who seek human sexuality/eroticism degrees (and perhaps then demand forgiveness of college debt as they have an unmarketable area of expertise). Surely Elon Musk doesn’t send Tesla recruiters to colleges to find experts in human eroticism to build his high tech cars. However, West Point is not a liberal arts college. Its purpose is to create Army officers to win our wars. Taxpayers contribute over $200,000,000 per year to fund a school that produces merely 1,000 army officers per year and should demand justifications from West Point for its spending habits.
The Argonauts and Kervick’s review are admittedly outside of my comfort zone for reading, but I did read both and encourage others to do the same to see how West Point’s curriculum is evolving. It is worth asking if LTG Steven Gilland (USMA Superintendent) has read these works and if he stands by them.
Do professors whose focus is on eroticism and pedophilia belong at West Point? Further should West Point be teaching sexuality and erotica to cadets? Is this the best use of time and money?
Reminder – the new Woke military is 0-1 after the Afghanistan debacle. Kervick was hired in 2022, the year after the epic Kabul fail. Surely this isn’t West Point’s answer to fix the military’s obvious leadership problem that prevents it from winning wars. I don’t recall a lack of knowledge of eroticism and pedophilia as reasons for the US failure in its longest war.