HAVRE DE GRACE -- The wind blows, the season begins to turn, the leaves come a-tumbling down. This week we'll examine the cows for pregnancy. I assume most of them are expecting. If they're not, I'll be distressed and our new young bull will be in serious trouble. Bovine reproduction is our main business here, and his role is important.
As it happens, though, I'm fairly confident. The behavior of the cows suggests that they've been settled, as cattlemen say. Back in the spring and early summer, I worried more, because I never saw the bull, well, doing it. He seemed interested in the cows, but I hoped it wasn't just an intellectual interest. Now, with the breeding season behind us, I think he probably just wanted more privacy, and preferred to do his intimate work at night. We've had other bulls with a similarly delicate sensibility, but they still settled the cows.
Years ago, when standards were different, country matters of this sort were off-limits to newspaper writers. But now old editorial taboos have been abandoned, and graphic descriptions of the most mechanical details of sex, human or otherwise, are commonplace in all up-to-date papers.
Farmers knew it already
Naturally, not everyone has found this liberating, and a reaction has set in. Some of our greatest contemporary thinkers now dare to suggest that there may be more to sex than mechanics. Farmers knew that already. Anyone who spends much time with livestock soon learns that with animals as with humans, there are psychological as well as physical obstacles to successful reproduction. A bull's preference for privacy is only one example.
Consider impotence. This is not a common problem on farms, but it occurs. In the horse business, stallions that take a long time to become aroused are known as "shy breeders."
I remember some years ago taking a mare to be bred to a stallion like that at the Pons family's Country Life Farm near Bel Air. The process should have taken a few minutes, but it seemed to take forever. The mare was willing, but the stallion, whose name as I remember was Traveling Music, was infuriatingly indecisive. He would look at her brightly, take a step forward, and then change his mind. His body language, you might say, was far from ardent.
Country Life is where Cigar, 1995's about-to-be Horse of the Year, was foaled, and the members of the staff there, under the direction of horseman-lawyer-author Josh Pons, have seen all kinds of equine behavior. This was nothing especially unusual to them. They counseled patience, and eventually nature, or hormones, took charge.
Pity the poor porn star
This week, as I was reading a very long article in the current New Yorker by Susan Faludi, and learning in the process more than I ever needed or wanted to know about California's pornographic film industry, I was reminded of Traveling Music. According to Ms. Faludi's report, there are film stars who share his difficulties.
Once it would have been difficult to write about making dirty movies without either expressing moral outrage or sounding sniggery. But Ms. Faludi has been editorially liberated, and avoids those traps. She makes the sex-film business sound like heavy industry. The grimy studio she visits might as well be a manufacturing plant, full of great thumping machines doing the same thing over and over again, shift after shift after shift. Her account is as titillating as a shop manual.
Part of her theme concerns gender roles in this particular industry, and especially the exploitative way male actors are treated -- as sex objects. She finds that the men, even the most successful ones, don't get the money or the respect the women do. Some porn-flick actors find this demeaning and complain about it. One is so upset that he shoots himself on his girl friend's front step.
Of course, all this is simply more evidence that our society is dynamic and continuing to evolve. The social scientist Joe Bob Briggs, who writes a column out of Grapevine, Texas, has observed that many highly paid and successful women now want Trophy Husbands -- younger fellows who don't have to do much but perform their connubial duties, keep their tummies trim, and hang out by the pool.
Societally speaking, Dr. Briggs can see where this is leading. Once men have perfected the task of being sexy, supportive and supported househusbands, what's the logical next step for them? Maybe real jobs, like the ones their wives have. Maybe law school. Some ambitious males may even try politics, perhaps starting with the garden club or the community association. It'll get them out into the world where they can make a difference. I am Man, they'll be able to say with pride. Hear me roar.
Peter A. Jay is a writer and farmer.