Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

by Catherine Millet

Judging from the Amazon reviews, a lot of readers took an offense at (a) the book being dull (as in “I read this book twice, it is so boring, why did I even buy it?” dull) and (b) our sexually liberated Ms M. being there for no other reason but to please her men.

I know. The modern reader wants to see the heroine being strong, independent and having plenty of orgasmic sex on her own terms. But that would be fiction. This is a memoir, and I applaud Ms Millet’s honesty. If you find this book dull, try memoirs of British politicians, or their wives.

When you write a book in the first person the latter becomes the third person. The more I describe my body and my actions, the more I leave myself behind. Who recognises themselves in those magnifying mirrors which show cheeks and noses as vast fissured landscapes? Because sexual pleasure brings you outside your own limits, it can impose the same sort of distance. Perhaps there is even a structural relationship, and the distance governs the pleasure as much as it is governed by it, at least for the category of creature to which I belong. Because, and this is the point I wanted to make, the same woman whom I described as uncomfortable under someone’s insistent gaze, and who hesitated to wear suggestive clothes, the same woman in fact who partook blind in sexual adventures with faceless partners, this same woman, then, takes indisputable pleasure in exposing herself on condition that the exposure is distanced at once, by a narrative.

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