Archive for the ‘She Doesn’t Come’ Category

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Worst. Sex. Advice. Ever.

April 3, 2011

Loose Change

Loose Change is Sara Davidson’s autobiographical novel, or minimally fictionalized autobiography. She and her friends were students at Berkeley in the midst of the Free Speech Movement.

In 1963, Candy went to a gynecologist who “informed her about the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasms and advised her to practice having the vaginal kind.”

Candy herself is quoted:

My mom told me it took years for her to have vaginal orgasms. This doctor said you could practice by putting a plastic shampoo bottle in you and pulling it out fast.

Wouldn’t that cause, like, a ruptured uterus or something? Plus, the opportunity for infection. I’m guessing there are several excellent reasons to not do this.

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Le Bonheur (1965) and Belle de Jour (1967)

December 23, 2008

Forty Million Frenchmen Can Be Wrong

forty_million_frenchmen

Filmmakers are as interested as anyone else in the problem of “frigidity” in women – “frigid” being a man-made term for “non-orgasmic in missionary-position intercourse with a heterosexual male.” A more reasonable way to say it would be, Less Than Optimally Orgasmic Women. We’re talking about a condition shared by more than half of present-day American women. How can a number that constitutes a majority, be considered abnormal?

Leaving that aside, we go on to look at how the subject is treated by two directors – one male, one female – in two works created in France at about the same time.

One is Belle de Jour, directed and co-written by Luis Bunuel, a man who was the product of an almost medieval Spanish upbringing which included Jesuit school. All his work expresses rebellion against this background. Bunuel was one of the original Surrealist group, whose philosophy was founded on Freudian notions. It embraced an attitude of intelligent compassion toward the difficulties caused by the ubiquitous influence of sexuality upon all human activities.

Belle de jour translates as “beautiful woman of the day.” It’s a play on words, since belle de nuit, “beauty of the night,” is another word for hooker. In this film, the character Severine works during the day.

Le bonheur is, of course, happiness. The film titled Le Bonheur was directed by Agnes Varda. The backgrounds and circumstances of Varda’s character Therese, and Bunuel’s character Severine, are significant in their own time and society, though not strikingly different when placed within a larger context. The main difference is economic: In Belle de Jour, which opens on the childless couple’s first anniversary, Severine and her husband are of the bourgeoisie. His income supports them both comfortably in a large and costly house. Severine’s idle lifestyle provides her with large stretches of free time to get into mischief.

In Le Bonheur, Therese’s husband is a carpenter and she must contribute to their income if ends are to meet. This couple occupies a cramped apartment with their two children, and they appear to have been married at least five years. Therese is always busy – besides the children, she has plenty of other tasks and interests.

Indeed the lively and affectionate Therese gives every indication of “normality.” Her life is full not only of duties but of friends, family, warmth, outings to the country. We are aware of Therese’s “problem” primarily through her husband’s dialog with a third party, when he states that Therese is not erotically highly charged enough for him, not sexually aggressive, doesn’t have fun in bed (that old story.)

We are given one clue to Therese’s own view of the matter – after they have made love, when her husband says something to the effect of, “There, wasn’t that relaxing?” she replies, “It was?” Otherwise, Therese seems unaware that anything in their love life is amiss – she does not “own” the problem, and therefore does nothing about it. It is her husband who takes action and copes with Therese’s alleged problem by seeking excitement elsewhere, setting off the chain of events that culminates in Therese’s death. Suicide is a passive way of dealing with upsets, particularly suicide by drowning: one simply goes under and neglects to come up.

Severine is a bird of a different feather: she begins as the Ice Maiden with an unvarying blank, almost vacuous expression, her face the perfect tabula rasa. Her life is empty, her relationships sterile. She does not work and play well with others. We are given hints of her repressive upper middle class upbringing in her fantasies of being thrown out in the rain; of being pelted with mud while wearing a white dress; of being tattled on; of Marcel finding her body inexcusably flawed.

Most of all we become attuned to Severine’s mental state through her numerous masochistic fantasies. She shares with an astonishing number of otherwise sane women, a fondness for visions of bondage, coercion, slavery, rape, and in Severine’s case some exotic twisted scenario that even her exceptionally fertile imagination can’t bring itself to visualize, involving an injunction to “Bring in the cats.” This type of fantasy is unfortunately typical of the female libido when choked by guilt, and is based on the premise, “If he forced me, it wasn’t my fault, so it’s okay to enjoy it.” Strange are the workings of a mind shaped by Judeo-Christian morality.

Be that as it may, Severine’s masochistic tendencies do not render her totally passive. On the contrary, once she has realized that a “problem” does exist, she is quite assertive in seeking relief. She does not look for a lover, perhaps realizing instinctively that she would only end up with another man of the same type as her husband. Instead she goes to work for a madame who is tough enough to help Severine overcome her fear and loathing.

Severine’s sexual relationship with her husband is non-existent. She finds the idea of him repulsive and can’t bring herself to try. In her fantasy life she has another man shoot him; she visualizes him blind and paralyzed. Only when the threat of sex is removed can she feel tender towards him. The husband treats Severine with delicate understanding, not pressing her to assume her marital obligations. But another of Severine’s fantasies features this same husband abducting, binding, and raping her. Their relationship coasts on a downward spiral: the more understanding he is, the more she despises him, and the more she despises him the more understanding he is. Even after being “cured” by her whorehouse experiences, she still finds him repellent.

Therese adores her husband. Their intimate relationship is, on the surface, irreproachable. She is compliant and ungrudging, and willingly accepts his advances. As he himself admits, “She’s always there for me.” Therese seems not to know that she’s missing anything, and is certainly unaware that he finds her lacking. But as he explains to his mistress, “Therese is a plant ” – albeit a “vibrant” plant – while the other woman is an “uncaged animal”, and he is more zoologist than botanist.

Therese’s reaction on learning of the affair is shock: she is taken completely by surprise, off guard and off balance. Of course she wants to know how long it’s been going on. In the face of the husband’s gentle explanations and assurances of love, Therese seems to accept the idea of sharing him. But although she admits that his behavior to her has not changed during the past month, and although he has offered to give the mistress up if necessary, Therese cannot ultimately be reconciled with his infidelity, and finds life so unbearable that she must escape it.

Severine’s reaction to her husband’s affairs is the opposite. One’s marriage is not threatened by prostitutes, and she probably wouldn’t mind anyway if it were threatened. In taking his business elsewhere, he provides her a direct benefit by acceding to her wish to be left alone. In fact, Severine is quite interested in his cathouse wanderings though he responds to her queries with denial, embarrassment, and avoidance.

The Oriental gentleman with the mysterious lacquered box may or may not be another fantasy – in any event, something momentous happens to Severine in the course of her professional career. By the end of the film she has improved so greatly that her face has become capable of registering expression.

There is no pain compared to that of loving a woman who makes her body accessible to one and yet who is incapable of delivering her true self – because she does not know where to find it.……..Lawrence Durrell