"Since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon": Forced-Masc Fantasies in Anne of Green Gables
Previously in this series:
Enter With Your Master: Forced-Masc Fantasies in Georgette Heyer
A Nasty Man Like Me Coming: Forced-Masc Fantasies in Daphne DuMaurier
The entire remit of Anne of Green Gables is “Why aren’t you a boy?” And on the one hand, the answer generally seems to be, “Why, she’s better than any boy – she’s Anne,” which is very sweet, but there’s also a real back-and-forth that mirrors the horror-push-pull-desire-repulsion-coercion-resistance-humiliation-immersion of forced-masc pornography: A boy? Me? Never — boys are so horrid — rude — frightening — ill-mannered — strange — foreign — the smell — but wouldn’t you like me if I was one? — I know I’d be the best there ever were, there’d never have been a boy as good as me — all the other boys would improve just from knowing me — the sea of boys would swallow me up and I’d absorb them and they’d absorb me and I’d be disgusting and horrid too, but then they’d sweeten and gentle from me — we’d trade back rudeness and loveliness in constant, relentless exchange — moving and reading and studying as a body, spreading over the farms, laying out our cloaks for one another to step over, gentle, courteous, mindful, boys —
“Matthew Cuthbert, who’s that?” she ejaculated. “Where is the boy?”
“There wasn’t any boy,” said Matthew wretchedly. “There was only her.”
“No boy! But there must have been a boy,” insisted Marilla. “We sent word to Mrs. Spencer to bring a boy.”
“Well, she didn’t. She brought her. I asked the station-master. And I had to bring her home. She couldn’t be left there, no matter where the mistake had come in.”
During this dialogue the child had remained silent, her eyes roving from one to the other, all the animation fading out of her face. Suddenly she seemed to grasp the full meaning of what had been said. Dropping her precious carpet-bag she sprang forward a step and clasped her hands.
“You don’t want me!” she cried. “You don’t want me because I’m not a boy! I might have expected it. Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful to last. I might have known nobody really did want me. Oh, what shall I do? I’m going to burst into tears!”
Burst into tears she did. Sitting down on a chair by the table, flinging her arms out upon it, and burying her face in them, she proceeded to cry stormily. Marilla and Matthew looked at each other deprecatingly across the stove. Neither of them knew what to say or do. Finally Marilla stepped lamely into the breach. “Well, well, there’s no need to cry so about it.”
“Yes, there is need!” The child raised her head quickly, revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips. “You would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a place you thought was going to be home and found that they didn’t want you because you weren’t a boy. Oh, this is the most tragical thing that ever happened to me!”
“Well, don’t cry any more. We’re not going to turn you out-of-doors to-night. You’ll have to stay here until we investigate this affair. What’s your name?”
The child hesitated for a moment.
“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.
“Call you Cordelia? Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”
I’m sorry I’m not a boy! I wish I had raven-black hair and nine boyfriends who bought me chokers and I’d like to change my name at once! I can only resolve the pain of not being a boy by becoming the most bizarrely elegant and impractical type of woman I can possibly imagine — how is a person supposed to go about being a girl? Are girls named Cordelia? I can’t stop experiencing being unwanted as the same thing as being not-boy and I don’t know what that says about my relationship to desire — if you can’t make me a boy, at least make me a decent girl, whose name sounds nothing like mine —
“Anne Shirley, since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon,” he said sarcastically. “Take those flowers out of your hair and sit with Gilbert Blythe.”
The other boys snickered. Diana, turning pale with pity, plucked the wreath from Anne’s hair and squeezed her hand. Anne stared at the master as if turned to stone.
“Did you hear what I said, Anne?” queried Mr. Phillips sternly.
“Yes, sir,” said Anne slowly “but I didn’t suppose you really meant it.”
“I assure you I did”—still with the sarcastic inflection which all the children, and Anne especially, hated. It flicked on the raw. “Obey me at once.”
For a moment Anne looked as if she meant to disobey. Then, realizing that there was no help for it, she rose haughtily, stepped across the aisle, sat down beside Gilbert Blythe, and buried her face in her arms on the desk. Ruby Gillis, who got a glimpse of it as it went down, told the others going home from school that she’d “acksually never seen anything like it—it was so white, with awful little red spots in it.”
To Anne, this was as the end of all things. It was bad enough to be singled out for punishment from among a dozen equally guilty ones; it was worse still to be sent to sit with a boy, but that that boy should be Gilbert Blythe was heaping insult on injury to a degree utterly unbearable. Anne felt that she could not bear it and it would be of no use to try. Her whole being seethed with shame and anger and humiliation.
OH NO — NOT THAT — ANYTHING BUT THAT — DON’T SUBMERGE ME IN A SEA OF HUMILIATING BOYHOOD — DON’T DROWN OUT MY GIRLHOOD WITH GUILT, INSULTS, OBEDIENCE, AND FLOWERLESSNESS — DON’T RUB MY FACE IN IT — DON’T TELL ME THERE’S ONLY ONE BED AT THIS INN AND I HAVE TO SHARE IT WITH MY MORTAL ENEMY, WHOSE BODY HEAT KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT — DON’T SURROUND ME WITH BOYS UNTIL I VANISH OVERWHELMED WITHIN BOY-FLESH —
There was no silly sentiment in Anne’s ideas concerning Gilbert. Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one’s conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison. Not that Anne could have put her feelings on the matter into just such clear definition. But she thought that if Gilbert had ever walked home with her from the train, over the crisp fields and along the ferny byways, they might have had many and merry and interesting conversations about the new world that was opening around them and their hopes and ambitions therein. Gilbert was a clever young fellow, with his own thoughts about things and a determination to get the best out of life and put the best into it.
All I want’s a chum. All I’m looking for’s a chum. If that boy treated me like a boy, we’d be better boys than any boy who ever was. But I’m not thinking too hard about it! I’m staying purposefully vague, and sticking with what I know; a perfect genius for girls and not trying to take a class I don’t already know I’ll get an A in.
“I have not hope of the Avery,” said Anne. “Everybody says Emily Clay will win it. And I’m not going to march up to that bulletin board and look at it before everybody. I haven’t the moral courage. I’m going straight to the girls’ dressing room. You must read the announcements and then come and tell me, Jane. And I implore you in the name of our old friendship to do it as quickly as possible. If I have failed just say so, without trying to break it gently; and whatever you do don’t sympathize with me. Promise me this, Jane.”
Jane promised solemnly; but, as it happened, there was no necessity for such a promise. When they went up the entrance steps of Queen’s they found the hall full of boys who were carrying Gilbert Blythe around on their shoulders and yelling at the tops of their voices, “Hurrah for Blythe, Medalist!”
For a moment Anne felt one sickening pang of defeat and disappointment. So she had failed and Gilbert had won!
THERE’S NOTHING SEXUAL ABOUT THE HOT STING OF HUMILIATION AND DEFEAT AS YOUR ONE TRUE FRIEND (WHOM YOU HATE) DEFEATS YOU AND IS LIFTED ABOVE YOUR HANDS IN TRIUMPH, GENTLY CRADLED BY THE HANDS OF EVERY BOY WHO LOVES HIM (IT’S ALL OF THEM)