Culturally speaking, this week was a real raunchfest. It began when feminist author Naomi Wolf unleashed a massively unpopular new book about everyone’s worst nightmare: the vagina. Then, before you could say “vulva,” we got news from England that a pair of Elvis’ unspeakably dirty underwear was going up for auction. Add these two stories together and you have enough bodily secretions, mysterious holes, and forbidden odours to fill half-a-dozen Cronenberg movies. Allow me to lead you through this Labyrinth of the Grotesque.
They say you should write what you know, and Naomi Wolf seems to know her own genitals pretty darn well. Her latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, is a guide to, of all things, vaginas. My favourite thing about it is that it answers the Five Ws. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but before reading this biography, I didn’t know who vagina was, what she was doing, where she was going, when she’d be back, or why she never wanted to see me.
The reviews for Naomi Wolf’s Vagina have been brutal, and I empathize with her. I faced similar hostility from the press and the Academy when I published my 1,200-page flop, Ding Dong: A Poetic History of the Thingy back in 1999. Turns out, no one wanted to read about my crotch or complete the penis crossword I included at the end. Well, I’m still standing, and so is Naomi Wolf.
One man who knew a lot about vaginas was Elvis Presley. He was the undisputed King of Rock N’ Roll. What he wasn’t, however, was the King of Not Making a Mess in his Underwear. We know this because last week a pair of underwear he soiled during a 1977 concert went up for auction in England (where else?). Though his southern-fried briefs got bids of £5,000, no one was willing to pony up the £7,000 the auction house wanted. Turns out, one man’s soiled underwear is not another man’s treasure.
My question is: what song was Elvis singing when he dropped a “Memphis bombshell?” “Jailhouse Rock”? “Blue Christmas”? Please don’t tell me it was “In the Ghetto.” That song is about social inequality. Doesn’t that mean anything to you, Elvis? Shame on you. And good riddance!
There have been tons of books about vaginas over the years, but, as far as I can tell, this is the first time a pair of underwear featuring Elvis’ skid marks has been offered up for public consumption. For that reason I’m going to have to hand Elvis’ disgusting undergarments the win for this week. Let’s hope this is just the tip of a disgusting Elvis iceberg. Who knows what other repulsive Elvis memorabilia lies in wait for music fans? Bloody tissues? Jars of pee? Vaginal swabs? Only time will tell!