Monday, April 11, 2016

The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by, Catherine Millet

The Sexual Life of Catherine M., by Catherine Millet, deploys in its title the subterfuge of the Victorian sex novel, or perhaps a case history by Freud. But the book was written under her real name, informing us that rather than concealing her sexual life, she is really putting it on full display. And she certainly does so, without the least inhibition.

This books contains a number of interesting contradictions and paradoxes. At times, it is simply pornography. Millet relishes titillating her readers, and admits she is excited herself by writing of her exploits. But at the same time as she skims the surface of sexual encounters, she also digs deep into the motivations and drives which brought her to a life of nearly pure, unquestioning sexual acceptance. She will do nearly anything, with anyone, at any time. She venerates this stance as a form of ultimate freedom, even as she often describes it as a kind of subjugation.

Her kind of adoration of the flesh is akin to mysticism. Several times Millet explains how her encounters with the flesh of men help her leave her sense of being a fleshed-being. Yet there are dark sides. She tells us she was once beaten into a ditch by a jealous lover. She had an abortion. She contracted a sexually transmitted disease. She admits to not exploring her own pleasure in sex until she was at least thirty – when she had already had scores of sexual encounters. She explores this dark side of pure sexual freedom, but only lightly. For the most part, she has few qualm about her robust drives.

This odd memoir is hard to categorize. Millet reveals much but also conceals a great deal; at the end, it is difficult to form lasting conclusions about this elusive book.

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