Several of you recently commented that while the Story of O had its drawbacks, it was in essence your first introduction to the eroticism of domination and submission. Although I remember a certain prurient curiosity about the book, even way back when I first read it I know it never tweaked me to an appreciable extent.
The author I do recall is Anais Nin.
At around the age of 12 I first came across her Delta of Venus and I was lost. I pulled her prose around me like rich, velvet ... soft, caressing and deliciously sensual. The stirrings of a still naive prepubescent selkie were in part provoked by her surrealistic, intimate writings, with their unapologetic sexuality and tantalising glimpses into an exotic lifestyle foreign to me.
Years later, D. gifted me with volume after volume of her diaries, her poetry and more of her prose and I found myself even more entranced as my own burgeoning sexuality felt a commensurate pull from the intensity and intimacy of her confessions. The dynamic flowering in rich red tones, all encompassing and urgent, between D. and I provided a counterpoint to her drowning submission to the men in her life and I found in her (I thought then) comprehension and understanding of the dark urges which drove me.
It would be a lifetime before I revisited her; perhaps around 2 years ago I rediscovered her books when cleaning out our back room and delighted, stacked them beside my bed, eager to reacquaint myself with remembered delights. D. had recently brought me home her autobiography and I had, amongst the thin volumes of her words, a biography, to that point never perused.
Curious to know the person behind the words, I read both before launching myself onto the visceral sweetness of remembrance of her thoughts.
While one can argue that art must in a moral world, be removed from the artist, the reality is that this is almost impossible to accomplish. While rationally one can argue that the “work” is separate from the hands that created it, there is a certain reality which precludes most of us from being completely capable of not allowing our insight into authors to colour the words they create.
Or, perhaps I do a lot of people a disservice, and admit plainly, I find it difficult to do so.
Because having read both her autobiography (and finding myself continually astonished at her blindness to her revelations about self), and her biography (kinder indeed than her OWN words), I found myself in the end incapable of igniting the same enjoyment from her work as I once revelled in.
The reality is that Anais was in every conceivable way a narcissistic, self-absorbed and shallow individual, whose single minded pursuit of stimulation and preoccupation with ‘being a name’ renders her words hollow. While she had provocation to a certain extent for her damaged psyche as it is clearly admitted that her father sexually used her when young (and she, later in life in her late 30s returned and deliberately had a further affair with him to alleviate her “emotions” about the early abuse), her blind sense of justice about choosing the paths she chose is off-putting and (in my opinion only) contemptible. For ultimately it is ALL about Anais..
Her pursuit of sensuality, of “exploring” her psyche, of seeking lovers to expand her thought processes and sexuality are in themselves negligible and in no way deserving of contempt. Her narrow minded tunnel vision on the other hand left me incredulous.
For god’s sake, she somehow managed to completely ignore World War II!!
She talks at length and fulsomely about her “need to submit” and in so doing deceives many into perceiving her as the ultimate submissive. You have to look long and hard to find a submissive blog on the web that doesn’t at some point quote one of her very ‘quotable’ utterances on surrendering her will to another.
The reality, however, is that Anais is one of the worst kinds of submissive. The type masquerading as submissive when in actual fact the entire power base and choices were in her small hands. The type who bleats how much she “needs” to be mastered, to be dominated and subdued when in fact it is she who controls every nuance of the relationship.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with females wishing to dominate – at all. More power to them! What I do have an issue with are individuals who claim loudly and passionately they are sheep, when in fact they are the wolf.... ultimately it comes down to a perception of a personality.
The end result is that I find I cannot engage myself in the same delicious mind space I used to enter when reading her material – overlaying it is my insight into the true measure of her personality. For in the end, after reading both books, I realized that should she exist today, Anais is not someone I would care to know.