I really liked this book, though I understand why people who picked it up expecting erotica of the Anais Nin sort, or people who expected the kind ofI really liked this book, though I understand why people who picked it up expecting erotica of the Anais Nin sort, or people who expected the kind of self-involved confessional that often takes place in memoirs published in the US, would not have liked it. Millet writes about her very outsized sex life with a detachment that makes it sound like she is writing about someone else, reporting some kind of clinical research. I also found this detachment off-putting at first, but the more I read, the more I came to appreciate it, because I think anything else would have been a distraction from what appears to me to have been the point of the book: an exploration not so much of the meaning of sex, not an exposition--however erotically done--of her sexual exploits. In this, the book reminds of Sallie Teasdale's Talk Dirty To Me, which is one of the smartest books about sex I have ever read.
I found myself underlining passages in Millet's text. Here are a few, taken at random as I page back through the book. They represent for me the fact that Millet's was an intelligence I really enjoyed following as it wended its way through the subject of sex
Page 8: A dick that is constantly exposed demands to be looked at, it provokes sexual excitement with its smooth monolithic contours, whereas the foreskin that you can play back and forth, uncovering the glans like a great bubble forming on the surface of soapy water, elicits a more subtle sensuality, its suppleness spreading in waves to your own orifice.
Page 27: There are major structural similarities between situations I have lived and those I have imagined, even though I have never actively chosen to reproduce the latter in my life, and the details of what I have lived had little part in nourishing my imaginings. Perhaps I should just assume that the fantasies forged in my earliest youth predisposed me to widely diverse experiences. Since I never felt ashamed of these fantasies, and I reworked and embellished them rather than trying to bury them, they offered not opposition to what was real but rather a sort of mesh through which real-life situations that other people might have found outrageous struck me as quite normal.
Page 65: Those who obey social mores are probably better equipped to confront demonstrations of jealousy than those with a libertine philosophy that leaves them feeling helpless in the face of passion. A person can prove her extensive and sincere liberality by sharing the pleasure she takes with the person she most loves, only for it to be pierced, without any warning, by an exactly proportionate intolerance. Jealousy may have been bubbling within like a spring, and as the bubbles burst it might even have been giving a regular and subterranean form of irrigation to the garden of libido, until--suddenly--it formed a torrent and then the entire conscious mind was submerged by it, as has been described by many people.
Page 70: It is just when I have found my bearings with the body, as it were, when the grain of the skin and its particular pigmentation have become familiar to me, or I have learned to adjust my own body to it, that my attention could focus on the person himself, often to form a sincere and lasting friendship.
Page 92: There must be a fairly general intrinsic link between the idea of moving in space, of traveling, and the idea of fucking, otherwise the widespread expression "getting off" would not have been invented.
Page 105: ...[N]atural spaces do not feed the same fantasies as urban spaces. Because the latter is by definition a social space, it is a territory in which we express a desire to transgress codes with out exhibitionist/voyeuristic impulses; it presupposes the presence of others, of fortuitous looks to penetrate an aura of intimacy that emanates from a partially naked body or from two bodies soldered together. Those same bodies out under the clouds, with only God as their witness, are looking for the opposite sensation: not to make others come into the pocket of air in which their rapid breathing mingles but, thanks to their Edenic isolation, to let their pleasure spread as far as the eye can see.
Page 109: With the intransigence of the newly converted, I believed that fucking--and by that I mean fucking frequently and willingly whoever was (or were) the partner (or partners)--was a way of life. If not, if this thing was permitted only when certain conditions were met, at predetermined times, well then it was just a vacation from values that remained completely traditional.
Page 112: Sex really answered a wider necessity: to carve a smooth path for myself in the world.
Page 126: I leafed through the magazines on display, cautiously turned over the shrink-wrapped one. Isn't it wonderful how you can be aroused so freely, in full sight and full knowledge of all the other customers doing the same thing, even though each behaves as if he or she is searching through the display racks at the local newsstand? Isn't it admirable, the apparent detachment you have in public, contemplating pictures and objects that would certainly make you lose your composure at home? I liked to imagine myself in a mythical world where every shop offered that sort of merchandise, in among other goods, and where, with apparent nonchalance, you were gradually suffused by that warm feeling, absorbed in your perusal of organs reproduced in full color that perfectly depicted their moist surfaces, and you might shamelessly turn and how them to the person next to you. "Excuse me, could I borrow your paper?" "Oh, please do." Etc. The quiet unassuming blatancy that reigns in a sex shop spread to every aspect of social life.
This book was an eye opener for me, not so much because I agree with the prescriptive aspects of what Dworkin has to say, but because her descriptionsThis book was an eye opener for me, not so much because I agree with the prescriptive aspects of what Dworkin has to say, but because her descriptions of traditional male heterosexuality are, I think, spot on. This book really made me take a careful look not only at what I thought about sex, but about how I had sex; and it changed me....more