Karen Ireland-Phillips's Reviews > The Mistress Contract

The Mistress Contract by She and He
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's review
Dec 31, 2011

did not like it

The premise is that two consenting adults, thirty years ago, decided to sign a contract –written by “She”, the reader eventually finds - assigning her the role of mistress, obligated to provide sex, and assigning him the role of financial provider. Concomitantly, they begin recording their conversations. [return]Very little of this slim paperback is salacious. None of it was erotic. Much of it was offensive. Starting with the tagline: [return]“He is a successful businessman. [return]She could be any woman.”[return]But could this be any woman? Personally, I doubt it. Not because I have any trouble with the title contract. Certainly, it’s rarely brought up during this couple’s conversations, and never as an actual vs. philosophical issue. It was written in the context of a long-term, semi-committed relationship. (One that we’d call poly today – “He” apparently had another woman in Seattle with whom “He” also maintains a relationship.)[return]Some of these conversations were recorded over meals, some in bed, some over the telephone. The personal isn’t particularly political to these two people. Most of what they talk about is the relations between the sexes and while they use their personal lives as examples, it’s in a casual way. What’s grating and offensive is that “He” is patriarchal, overbearing, and unconsciously sexist - while proclaiming his feminism, in which of course he was earlier and better than “She”. I kept waiting for some sign of personal growth, but that wasn’t forthcoming either, possibly because the conversations may not be in any temporal order. [return]“She” talks about feminism and feminist authors, but not as if they’ve given her any growth or joy. Instead, “She” seems to blame feminist ideas – as does “He” – as the source of some unhappiness or doubt, not empowerment. I say “seem” because it’s just not easy to piece together a narrative of any kind for either of them.[return]Overall, I’m just not sure of the authors’ purpose in committing this to paper. Titillation? Falls flat. Character study? Too abstract. Snapshot of 80’s sexism, or feminism? Well, perhaps, but difficult to tell because the “conversations” mostly lack dates. Pure narcissism? Closer. [return]I think this was an interesting idea, but needs far better execution. Dates? Historical (herstorical) background? Conversations cast in the light of current events, thinking? More conversations, more personal background? [return][eta: I wrote this without seeing the other LT reviews - I'm amused to see that I had similar reactions.
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