Written by Dr. Selina Jamil, Prince George’s Community College
In Lolita in the Lion’s Den: From Sexual Abuse to Empowerment Justin Forest –the author’s pen name— examines “dangerous” topics such as “erotic images of girlhood” (186) through the first-person narrator, Glen, who acknowledges his “Lolita fantasy” (vi). Thus Glen’s painful “Prologue” to his account of personal struggles with the petrified mainstream society that labels him a “pedo” (vi) because of his “interest” in the “appalling and taboo subject” (ix) of “sex and kids” (viii), is painfully mirrored in Forest’s “Epilogue” about his being misperceived as “a ‘pedo’” (189) because of his “interest” in “taboo subjects such as over-sexualization of young girls” (186). But as the fragmented and “traumatized” Glen (5) contemplates his human nature struggling in an “anti-social” patriarchal culture that flounders in “witch-hunt ignorance” (45), he enables the “traumatized” Forest (190) to contemplate his human nature struggling in a “clueless” patriarchal society that engages in a “witch hunt” (191). But as he struggles through confusion in the glen-like narrow milieu of his patriarchal culture, the fragmented Glen learns to appropriate his fantasizing imagination to role-play and thus to benefit from the fluidity and flexibility of identity, enabling the author himself to confront his own metaphorical glen and find self-expression through roleplaying, and thus to appreciate the inextricable connection between the “Lolita” of sexual “vulnerab[ility]” (76), signifying the femininity of young girls, and the “Lion” of sexual “predator[iness]” or assertiveness (63), signifying the masculinity of adult men, within himself.
Glen’s struggles begin with his confusion about his identity in childhood, when he starts to suffer as a result of his father’s sexual perversions. Because of the abusive father, a “lion” who is “a flesh eater” (8) of many a “Lolita,” and whose presence at home produces “hell” for all the family members, especially the females (3), Glen learns to feel “lucky” for being “a boy in the lion’s den” (8). In the lion’s den, however, he learns to suffer from a deep sense of inadequacy: “I always wanted to be the hero because I could never save the girls around me who were in trouble. My dick was already cut off at nine; no hyper-masculinity for me” (vii). The toddler, who “learn[s]” suppressive behavior (2) because of “often” having to “stay” in his room and “sleep during the day even though … [he has] slept all night” (1), grows into the child who is unable to be the “hero” who “save[s] the girls” in his stiflingly patriarchal home, or to “save” the family’s pet dog, Shepherd, from the fatal consequence of his father’s “tyranny” (5). As a nine-year-old child, then, Glen, who lives in a home where “your father is screwing your sister” (20), but who begins to “fantasize about women” (40), suffers acutely from agonizing confusion because of his father’s sexual predatoriness. Consequently, he develops a sharp sense of “traumatiz[ing]” self-diminution and loses a sense of wholeness, which loss affects him as a loss of gender identity. But the sense of his loss of gender identity does not extinguish his fantasy of being a “hero,” for he resolutely “pretend[s]” to be “a good little boy” (3).
Glen’s confusion about identity, then, also shows that he first learns to role-play, and thus to fantasize, at a very early age. Unattended by the “exploit[ed]” mother (17), who resorts to “exotic nightclub danc[ing] in the evening” and by a father who engages in dubious “tickl[ing]” (1) while withholding “a sign of love” (3), the toddling Glen, who is already suppressed, “learn[s] to be deceptive” and thus to be self-suppressive in his patriarchal culture of masculinity (1). This self-suppression exemplifies the way in which even a toddler, who knows that he is “a boy” (2), absorbs cultural expectations and puts the performance about his identity that his patriarchal society expects him to: “I began to learn that I should always strive to be something or someone who I am not, and I should hide the things that make me original, albeit a bit ‘out of whack’” (2). As Butler argues, “gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences” (522), and even as a child, Glen, who suffers from the anxiety of “hyper-masculinity,” comprehends that dire consequences await him if he does not “hide” inherent traits, and play the role he is expected to play. As he does his gender, however, Glen feels “out of whack”: “I could always play the hero but only watch those I loved disintegrate in front of me” (5). But, despite this trauma of “disintegrat[ion,]” Glen continues to turn to fantasies, which continue to foster his roleplaying. For, if, on the one hand his fantasies show the influence of a patriarchal environment where the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity leads to self-suppression which is linked with anxious thoughts about “hyper-masculinity,” on the other hand they show the imaginative child’s resilience and energy: “Shortly after [unwittingly hurting Shepherd with a toy truck], I forgot all about the incident and went on to rescue the cows across the street from the mean bull, zapping him with webs from my wrists” (3). The toddling Glen, then, imaginatively connects fantasy with roleplaying, especially to compensate for self-suppression.
But, clearly, the self-suppressed Glen suffers from a deep sense of alienation and fragmentation. “Sex happens to kids, but it’s adults who cannot talk about it” (9). For “our culture” is fragmented between “desire” and “condemnation for the forbidden” (88). Consequently, as an eleven-year-old child, the son of “a flesh eater of girls” (8) associates his natural urges with the “terribly forbidden” world of confusion and suppression (7). And this acute sense of “mental slavery” imposes a heavy burden of alienation on Glen (ix): “I tell you my story because no one helped me” (ix). Suffering from the acute alienation and confusion that come from growing up in a home where “sex” is in everything (20), and in a society which imposes confusion upon children as well as adults because of its insistence on making it “dangerous and forbidden” (9), Glen develops an internal conflict between “shock” and “tantaliz[ation,]” desire and “shame” (13), “guilt” (13) and “innocen[ce]” (15), etc. Such is Glen’s confusion about his identity that, when he looks at “the mirror,” he sees “[his] dad fighting through … [his] face” (119), and he “hate[s] it” (22). So acute is Glen’s internal conflict that he is periodically haunted by “the Predator dude” (111). As Glen struggles in the narrow milieu of the patriarchal culture of masculinity, on the one hand the burden of “hyper-masculinity” pulls him into imagining the “hero” he cannot be, but on the other hand it pulls him into developing “a Lolita Complex” (119).
Indeed, masculinity plays such a significant role in his patriarchal culture that the fragmented Glen suffers acutely because of his gender identity. He lives in a culture where the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity is so pronounced that “one would think that having a lady show a dude how to fight would lead to the cream of castration and humiliation” (68). Such is the culture of masculinity in Glen’s society that “[f]or boys … [being “invisible”] is to fail at being the hero” (122). And such is the impact of this masculine culture on Glen that even at nine he feels emasculated and castrated in a house where “[f]ather means predator” (67). Hence, even when he grows much older, looking at a dictionary, Glen’s eyes “fall on ‘effeminate’” (178), and he “realize[s] that the little book is trying to speak to [him]” (178-179). On the one hand he is “not the lion” (143), but on the other hand he is one of the “Lions” (181). That is, the fragmented Glen’s masculine identity becomes synonymous with his human identity, which suffers acutely in the glen-like narrow world of patriarchal hegemony. For the point in this patriarchal culture is that “all men are ‘predators’” and “[w]e are hunters by nature” (63). This point of masculinity in Glen’s patriarchal culture is so deeply etched in his mind that he comes back to it as he grapples with “the need for male sexual fantasy” (134): “Men are hunters by nature, and we have been forced throughout time to be the source of violence at the cost of our own mental health. Just ask military veterans. This is where the Lolita Complex comes into play” (134). Not surprisingly, in his patriarchal society which imposes the disease of “hyper-masculinity”, and which “talk[s] about sex or children and sex … [only] when the sex is deviant,” Glen learns to feel troubled by his sexual “attraction” as a teenager (9). In his confusion about his identity the fragmented, suppressed, and alienated Glen has “shirk[ed] the lion” of masculine aggressiveness and “wandered through memory vulnerable and naked” (166). Clearly, exploring the impact of sexuality on human consciousness in a culture that promotes the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity , Forest points out that the more suppressive the culture, the more severe the confusion about sexuality and its unhealthy impact on identity in that fragmented culture.
Indeed, Forest is so emphatic about Glen’s fragmented identity that he uses multiple literary devices to highlight it. One obvious example of fragmentation comes in Chapter Twenty-Two. For this chapter of Glen’s/Forest’s “genre-crossing novel” (184) is divided from the other chapters because it is a poem that fragments the novel; and a part of it is about a twelve-year old beach-walking girl who is first identified as “Venus” (167), and subsequently as “Liberty” (170). The poem provides haunting descriptions of the young girl, symbolizing “Liberty” (170), but whose “throat is cut,” and whose “head” is “dead” (169). These haunting images of the fragmented body are symbolic of the haunting condition of the repressed Glen’s fragmented identity. Earlier, Glen is so deeply traumatized by the sudden violent death of his childhood friend, Kelly, that “[e]verything stop[s]” in his world when he learns that she is “decapitated by a tractor trailer on her way home from school” (23) and that she “slowly burn[s] to death” (106). Because Glen internalizes Kelly’s literal fragmentation, Forest suggests that it symbolizes Glen’s fragmented identity, which is further mirrored in the fragmented “novel” because this novel consists of fragmentary episodes that show the alienated Glen’s fragmented storytelling. Furthermore, in Chapter Twenty, Glen breaks off from first-person episodes to make third-person stories.
But, despite his own sense of fragmentation, which is so acute that he is torn between writing a “memoir” (187) and a “novel” (184), Forest demonstrates how he highlights multiplicity through fragmentation, and thus how he transcends fragmentation through multiplicity in his “genre-crossing” work. The “genre-crossing” work is like a rhizome: “The rhizome … assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers” (Deleuze and Guattari 7). For Forest/Glen writes multiple episodes, instead of developing one linearly-structured narrative that generates the multiple “on the basis of a centered or segmented higher unity” (Deleuze and Guattari 16). Shattering linear unity, these multiple episodes show that this memoir/novel is made up of multiple stories, none of which takes precedence or works as a climax over the others. Further, Forest role-plays as and thus makes a double of himself in Glen, just as Glen appropriates roleplaying and makes a double of Kelly in the beach-walking girl who is herself doubled as “Venus” and “Liberty,” suggesting the Deleuzoguattarian claim that “each individual is an infinite multiplicity, and the whole of Nature is a multiplicity of perfectly individuated multiplicities” (Deleuze and Guattari 254). Thus the self gets fragmented only to multiply through roleplaying. Division then is inseparable from multiplication.
Thus Glen/Forest shows a sense of flexibility and fluidity, which enables him to move from a sense of fragmentation to a sense of connection in his “genre-crossing novel”. Both Glen and Forest are community-college professors who emphasize their professional identity as a “bus driver” early in life (41, 187). For, as Glen/Forest suggests, bus driving is symbolic of his flexibility that enables his journey from the intensity of fragmentation to the intensity of multiplicity. As Forest demonstrates the connection between fragmentation and multiplicity, just as Glen moves from his fragmented identity, so he moves from an intensely self-conscious first-person voice to a disembodied third-person voice that tells stories of other “protagonist[s]” (148). Thus, in making this movement from fragmented first-person episodes to third-person stories and then back to first-person episodes, Glen makes a circular movement from the self to the other to the self, experiencing his own “phoenix[-like]” emergence from “ash,” like “Alena” who is one of the protagonists in Chapter Twenty (147). Clearly, as Forest highlights the connection between division and multiplicity, and thus between self and other, in Glen’s return to first-person episodes in the next chapter, Forest shows his/Glen’s sense of fluidity. Further, as the role-playing Glen internalizes Kelly’s literal fragmentation, he shows that he has connected with Kelly, whom he associates with a ”miracle” (107), in a profound way, which shows how he benefits from fantasy: “Kelly, too, is a fantasy for me because our time together as friends was brief” (26).
Not being able to turn to “horrid” (169) or “little memories” (166) for sustenance, the role-playing Glen, then, turns to the fantasies of his fluid and flexible imagination to make connections and move forward. Just as Glen/Forest uses the symbol of bus driving to represent movement and flexibility, so he uses water, which is usually found in a glen, as the symbol of the fluidity of his imagination. Glen’s poem, in which the young beach-walking girl “loiter[s] … between earth and water” (167), and in which “the water bring[s] her to life again” (170), water clearly symbolizes the fluidity of identity that Glen demonstrates. In the poem renewal comes because of fluidity, and in the girl’s renewal, the imaginative Glen finds his own renewal: “the lion bec[o]me[s] the lion again” (169). Because making meaning is inextricably linked with imaginatively finding connections, in developing a fluid sense of identity, the Glen who explores his own “disturbing qualities” (116) has learned to find the meaning of “integrity” in himself (180): “[F]inding meaning makes us ‘whole, sound, and honest.’ There is integrity in just being me after all because I genuinely love things and life and all that’s beautiful” (180). Thus when Glen talks about “act[ing]” a “role,” he shows how he learns to create his identity through the role (22): He becomes the father who is determined to protect the “sexual rights” of his own “kids and the world” (116). Clearly, Glen’s sense of self shows how he transforms the confusion of sexuality into meaningful multiplicity as he ponders the way “books” create multiplicity of ideas through connections (179): “What if books could copulate and reproduce?” (179). When books “copulate” with other books and “reproduce,” they do not imitate other books but continually stir passion into words and give birth to new ideas through new combinations, and thus they enable the articulation of the intensity of multiplicity. Books are rhizomes in that they establish “connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (7).
Thus Forest’s book shows the intensity of connections through his ability to role-play as Glen. Despite the merging between Glen and Forest, who both have a PhD and teach “literature” (108, 188), or who both have been awarded a Fulbright (vii, 188), and are successful as professors (viii, 188) Forest is not Glen: “We share truths but are not the same people” (192). Although both Glen and Forest contemplate studying “sexology” in a psychology program (121, 186) and explore the “dark” and “dangerous” world (186) of “child pornography” (192), like Angela Carter’s “moral pornographer [who] might use pornography as a critique of current relations between the sexes” (Carter 22) in an alienating society that suffers from “panic” about sexuality (76, 99,100,187,191), and both feel “vulnerable” and suffer intensely for not being able to “save” their mother or “sister” (122, 198), or even their “dog” (198), all of whom the patriarch victimizes (19), Glen is indeed a “fiction” that enables Forest to role-play, just as the author himself role-plays as Forest, showing his own sense of the multiplicity of identities through the connection between roleplaying and the flux of identity (181). While Glen, who suffers from the trauma of “see[ing}” his “father” when he looks in the “mirror” (22), and who thus focuses on the trauma he suffers in his personal, private world, Forest, who suffers from the trauma of receiving “no support from … [his] institution” (188), focuses on the trauma he suffers in his public, professional world. But while Glen contemplates “becom[ing] a “gymnastics coach” (61), and loses several “job[s]” (33, 41), Forest focuses on his “mission” (187, 190) in his “academic” environment (188) and becomes a successful “sex researcher” (190). While the alienated Glen feels overcome by the sense that “the workload would truly be too much” (121), the alienated Forest has the “gift” (190) to “study” sexology on his own (186). That is, while Glen feels the vulnerability of “know[ing] so little about our sexualities” that he highlights the need “to explore these in a … responsible way” (88), Forest explores them with the confidence of “a sex researcher”. Thus, while Glen feels vulnerable and exposed in his “fishbowl” (ix, 181), Forest is not simply inside but also outside the fishbowl. But the bus-driving Forest appropriates the fishbowl because he role-plays as the bus-driving Glen, who is himself a role-player who turns to fantasies. Roleplaying as Glen enables Forest to develop a protective armor that comes with catharsis. Because of the fluidity of roleplaying, the “pretend[ing]” and fantasizing Glen moves on to develop multiple identities which show the “honest[y]” (104) of a seeker of “truths”. Forest, then, heals a wound and develops his self-identity (a professional teacher who becomes a sex researcher, and thus a sexologist) because his book enables him to use the art of roleplaying through Glen. For, in roleplaying as Glen, Forest shows the flexibility and change that he accrues because of the flux of identity.
Indeed, as Glen articulates the intensity and fluidity of multiplicity, he shows his sense of an emotional connection with young girls. Glen, who has been “bitten by [the lion]” (143), and has “fail[ed] at being a hero,” sees “the same vulnerability” in himself that he sees in “girls” (122). Having grown up in a home where he helplessly watches his father preying on girls and women in a society that “hate[s]” girls “but want[s] them,” and that turns them into “perfect prey,” Glen is deeply troubled by the way girls are made to feel “ashamed and vulnerable” because they are reduced to their bodies and thus made to feel that their “bodies” are “offensive” (76). As the sympathetic Glen reminisces the incident of seeing a “Lolita” who, on a packed school bus, shouts that she wants to “fuck,” while she jumps “up and down” in her seat, he understands that she is only “trying to figure out sex” (40) in all her innocent vulnerability in a society that condemns “girls” as “criminals if they show any interest in sex before eighteen” (48). Glen makes an emotional connection with these girls because, as a teenager with a “troubled upbringing” (37), he experiences the acute pain of sexual vulnerability when he, who silently suffers not only at home because of a predatory father, but also “[o]n the bus” because “a dude touche[s] … [his] ass repeatedly” (40), is agonizingly humiliated as a “deviant” (40) for “masturbating” to his [brother’s] Playboy (12).
But, because of his fluid imagination that makes connections, Glen learns to turn his pain into the art of roleplaying a Lolita, and thus to see the inextricable connection between masculinity and femininity. Watching young female gymnasts, Glen, who starts to “understand” himself (68) “in martial arts” (67), feels that he is “in the presence of great martial artists” (60). And “watching [the gymnastic performance of] the girl from Ukraine,” he feels he is “a part of it, no longer just the spectator” (60). For Glen turns roleplaying into becoming: “I started to imagine myself as a girl but with the male-gazed modification of a girl that could play at being Lolita” (24). In roleplaying a Lolita he turns his “fantasies” (88) into a creative act of becoming: “There I was a kind of child/woman with flaring pigtails and skimpy leotards, on the screen” (25). Glen, then, learns to transform his “hyper-masculinized failure” (122) into self-renewal with his sense of flexibility and fluidity of imaginatively “play[ing]” multiple identities (60): “From … [the time of watching the Ukrainian gymnast], I had this kind of identification with female gymnasts in that I would pretend to be them in competition” (60). Roleplaying, then, enables him to move from sexual abuse to empowerment: “Yes, I want to be the girl, the Lolita, but an armed one that would bring power in a silk suit—the white-collar or gold-collar man to his knees” (25). Clearly, Glen’s appreciation of feminine beauty suggests his absorption of this beauty: “I see someone beautiful. I want to see me in her and maybe what I wish to be, beautiful” (176).
Thus, in learning to connect his masculinity with femininity, Glen shows self-healing and self-renewal through an androgynous sensibility. As Deleuze and Guattari claim, “[t]he only way to get outside the dualisms is to be between, to pass between” (277), and having developed the sense of “harmony” that comes from the “coming together” of “contrary elements or forces” (60), Glen develops an androgynous identity and transcends the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity in a culture where, even when “[g]irls and women are doing better than they have in our history,” they suffer because of “the general tendency of Judeo-Christianity’s positioning of girls as second-rate human beings” (161). With his androgynous sensibility Glen appreciates the “roar[ing]” Katy Perry (183), and through his androgynous identity Glen moves beyond the restrictive world of traditional gender identities: “I feel bad for women and gay men, and … for all other men because they are so bound by a dick and balls” (2). And through his androgynous identity he finds harmony between the Lion and the Lolita within himself: “I like girls because I feel like them. I, too, am a victim, but I have traits of the lion” (122). Because of his androgynous sensibility, Glen appreciates the merging of “muscular[ity]” and “prett[iness]” (57) and sees in his baby daughter, Zoey, a “Lilliput female” who is also “the soldier” (178), with no hint of “effemina[cy]” (180). As he overcomes the sense of conflicting contrasts and transforms sexual abuse to sexual empowerment, then, Forest/Glen journeys from the agony of a fragmented identity to the fluidity of an androgynous sensibility. Indeed, Glen identifies with the “gentle lion” (170) just as he identifies with an “armed” Lolita because with his “creative imagination” (88) he juxtaposes the Lolita-like gentleness with the Lion’s assertiveness and fierceness.
For Forest focuses on how Glen, who learns to connect the Lion with Lolita, moves from a sense of fragmentation and alienation to a sense of connection between entities and feelings that are considered opposites but that are in “juxtaposition” (7). This sense of juxtaposition shows how the bus-driving Glen/Forest moves from the intensity of trauma to the intensity of longing because of his realization that he, who experiences an intensely passionate longing for “visual beauty” (9), cannot separate the “erotic” from the “beautiful” (8). That is, Glen can move himself “away” from his “divided hell” (176) because the intensity of his longing makes him realize that the things he is drawn to are simultaneously “beautiful and dangerous” (8), for the force of the longing makes them so. The “beautiful” is inseparably connected with the “dangerous” because of the force of an intense longing which makes Glen turn to his imagination and quest for “an imaginary place” of “humane” practices (9), enabling him to realize that “good” and “evil” are not in opposition but in “juxtaposition” (v).
Indeed, Glen takes to writing about his struggle to understand his sexual attraction to young girls because writing enables him to comprehend the inseparability between “good” and “evil,” and thus to convert a weakness into a strength (117). Because he has a “fantasy” about “sex with kids” (119), Glen acknowledges that “[t]he dark world is my world,” but that he has “the mental fortitude to lurk there” (117). In his self-expression through “writing,” then, Glen finds “therap[y]” (122). For he finds the “fortitude” that enables him to explore his human complexities with his “creative imagination” and thus with his “fantasies”. The act of writing then is the creative act of self-renewal, for it is the fortitudinous act of laying bare his “fishbowl” to contemplate the complexities he shares with other humans, and to transcend the biological, sociological, and psychological legacy of his predatory father. And the courage of his honesty demonstrates his need to turn the weakness of his “self-centered” thinking (106, 120) into the “wisdom” of self-knowledge (117). This is the “good” that comes only because of and that thus is inseparable from the “evil”: “Good and evil reside in the same place, and good can come from bad. In fact, that is the only way good happens” (117). As Baudrillard explains, “Good and Evil advance together, as part of the same movement. The triumph of the one does not eclipse the other – far from it. … Good does not conquer Evil, nor indeed does the reverse happen: they are at once both irreducible to each other and inextricably interrelated. Ultimately, Good could thwart Evil only by ceasing to be Good” (12-14). As Glen articulates this inextricable connection, opposition is transformed into multiplicity: “Shepherd, God, the devil and Jesus are the same entity. They manifest as needed” (110).
Thus Glen lashes out against the suppressive society, whose morality is “a form of immorality” (Nietzsche 172). As Nietzsche claims, “[t]he victory of a moral ideal is achieved by the same ‘immoral’ means as every victory: force, lies, slander, injustice” (171). As Glen lashes out against the immorality of “’moral panic and cultural propriety’” (150), “The lawmakers and the police seem to be the pedos now, obsessing over such stupid panic, and destroying peoples’ good memories and families in the process, because the “law is the law” and that makes people not people” (99). The panic and ignorance lead to the immorality of suppression, for they lead to the sexual perversion that is inevitable in the culture of masculinity, where men “have been forced throughout time to be the source of violence at the cost of … [their] own mental health” (134): “the pornography industry represents our sexual selves screaming out for attention in a culture that has severely compromised sexual expression and sexuality, especially for girls and women, but also ‘perverted’ it for men and boys” (77). Because of its hypocritical “mask” (88), the mainstream society “moralize[s] too much” (86) and suppresses what it simultaneously “desire[s]” and fearfully “condemn[s]”, and it punishes Glen for comprehending that, with all the “sexual variance” in the world (85), “we are all interconnected” (53) and for claiming that “[i]n the end we are all deviant” (88). But Glen is not going to ignore what the patriarchal society wishes to suppress: “Every man I have ever asked or got to say it has said, ‘I have to admit that I like young women’” (133).
Glen’s awareness, then, is the “good” of self-knowledge that comes from the “evil” of suppressing or ignoring natural human complexities. Because desire is productive, fantasy has the potential to develop into “Art” (61): “Maybe taking a photo is better than having to give a blowjob” (139). For Glen, who indulges in “fantasy,” is drawn to the “beauty of the human experience as it is represented in the human form, through human expression and through artistic principle” (60). Thus Glen is drawn to the “art” of gymnastics (59): “When … [girls and women] are photographed in a state of action and beauty, I feel elated, happy, and at ease” (59). Like other bus-driving “lions” whose masculinity draws them sexually to the femininity of “little girls” on the bus (51), the role-playing and fantasizing Glen too is drawn to those girls so strongly that he cannot “wipe … off [their femininity from his] fantasy list” (52). But, as Glen’s fantasizing also shows his roleplaying, his “inappropriate” fantasy (52) about the “ring” he gives the ten-year od “Suzie” on their “future wedding day,” grows into and is inseparable from the “reality” of his conscientious and responsible act of returning the ring that the little girl loses on the bus (54): “I have a conscience, and I want to give back to girls and women” (64). Likewise, Forest, who “argue[s] for … freedom of speech and expression” (189), engages in a “mission to do something for the greater good” (190).
Because he understands the fluidity of multiple identities in his “interconnected” world, where those who “survive” do so because they imaginatively “relieve” themselves through their “fetishes” and sexual “variances” (87), the Glen who has a Lolita fantasy learns to role-play as Lolita, and thus he cannot even “imagine anything sexual with a kid” (175). Because he is mindful of his “’meltdown time’” (47), the fantasizing and role-playing Glen learns to understand his “triggers” (143), and even to “like them” (123), for they help him “to move forward” in “the most responsible way possible” (47): “I can walk the line of the predator, but I choose not to” (173).Through roleplaying, then, he, who knows that he “think[s] like a dirty slob” (126), has come to terms with the “disturbing qualities” of his human nature: “I am a Lion” (166). He thus learns to overcome his “guilt” (123) and “denial” (143): ”I don’t hate my father, my Lion” (172). Consequently, Glen develops a fortitudinous sense of identity: “[Y]ou cannot expect me to stamp out part of who I am completely” (143). And role-playing as Glen, Forest learns to “g[e]t over being a wimp,” and to accept the lion in his metaphorical forest (187). Clearly, the toddling Glen’s fantasy about magically potent “webs” moves through the young man’s Lolita “fantasy” (119) and ultimately to the reality of Forest’s fortitudinous understanding that “we are all in this web [of natural human complexities] together,” which understanding enables him to transcend the forest of confusion and find his place in a forest of “together[ness]” in a world where Lolita is inseparably connected with the Lion (193).
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Forest, Justin. Lolita in the Lion’s Den Or, Pre-Tween Juxtaposition: From Sexual Abuse to Empowerment. North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace, 2014. Print.
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