A few years back, I wrote about how The Joke, Milan Kundera’s great novel of the pitfalls of ideologically unsound gags in Communist Eastern Europe, now applied far more to those of us in the western world. So, for Valentine’s Day, a reminder to the menfolk out there never to fall for that old favorite from the small ads and dating agencies – the woman looking for a man with a “good sense of humor”:
In 2011, Surgery News, the official journal of the American College of Surgeons, published a piece by its editor-in-chief, Lazar Greenfield, examining research into the benefits to women of . . . well, let Dr. Greenfield explain it:
They found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and, of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient.
As this was the Valentine’s issue, Dr. Greenfield concluded on a “light-hearted” note:
Now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.
Oh, my. When the complaints started rolling in from lady doctors, Surgery News withdrew the entire issue. All of it. Gone. Then Dr. Greenfield apologized. Then he resigned as editor. Then he apologized some more. Then he resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. The New York Times solemnly reported that Dr. Barbara Bass, chairwoman of the department of surgery at Methodist Hospital in Houston, declared she was “glad Dr. Greenfield had resigned.” But Dr. Colleen Brophy, professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University, said “the resignation would not end the controversy.”
Dr. Greenfield was one of the most eminent men — whoops, persons — in his profession, and, when it comes to vascularized vaginas, he had the facts on his side. But, like Ludvik, the protagonist of Kundera’s novel, he made an ideologically unsound joke, and so his career had to be ended. No apology would cut it, so the thought police were obliged to act: To modify the old line, the operation was a complete success, and the surgeon died.
In The Joke, Ludvik reflects years later on the friends and colleagues who voted to destroy him. I wonder if, in the ruins of his reputation, Dr. Greenfield will come to feel as Kundera’s protagonist does:
Since then, whenever I make new acquaintances, men or women with the potential of becoming friends or lovers, I project them back into that time, that hall, and ask myself whether they would have raised their hands; no one has ever passed the test.
Who would have thought all the old absurdist gags of Eastern Europe circa 1948 would transplant themselves to the heart of the West so effortlessly? Indeed, a latter-day Kundera would surely reject as far too obvious a scenario in which lesbians and feminists lean on eunuch males to destroy a man for disrespecting the vascularized vagina by suggesting that semen might have restorative properties.
“Give it to me straight, doc. I can take it”? Not anymore.