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No effin feminist?
At one time some men used to call themselves feminists as a way to pull the birds. "Cor, look at the mind on that," or words to that effect. Now the tables are turned, and some women are paying lip service to feminism as a cover for being trashy slappers. And they seem to be French. Rod Liddle nails it in The Sunday Times:
It is vitally important, if you are a woman writing bodice-ripping, moist-patched, ultra-explicit porno erotica, to give it a bit of a feminist slant if you wish to be taken seriously. If you do that, you can write pretty much any old rubbish and the critical plaudits will burst through the soft, yielding . . . well, on second thoughts, let’s not do the simile. Instead of being condemned as a cheapjack book slut pandering to male fantasies, you will be profiled in the serious press, with a photograph of you dressed demurely, and women will not be ashamed to be seen reading your book on the Tube. Feminist websites will praise you for “provoking debate in intellectual circles” and claim your book “does not intend to function as porn” (even though it sort of is porn).
You don’t even have to make it very feminist, just a quick nod in the general direction of Andrea Dworkin and Erica Jong, or, better still, Valerie Solanas (she of the short-lived Society for Cutting up Men).
I'd forgotten about SCUM - how did they get on, I wonder?
It’s a compelling formula, however: explicit sex, followed by some misbegotten, gory revenge, still sells well and is still capable of generating positive press, as you will see by the success in France of Virginie Despentes’s nasty little novel Baise-Moi. (That’s “F*** Me” in French, which is useful to know if you’re planning a booze cruise to Calais in the near future, although I always think it is polite to add “s’il vous plaît”.) This is Thelma & Louise as rewritten by a semiliterate psychopath, an orgy of explicit sex and indiscriminate violence. Despentes was sure to tell all the interviewers who came knocking that she had once been raped herself. Ah, right, we understand, love — that’s awful. Hence the extreme violence: we get it. That’s all okay, then.
I head this dozy French bint on the radio. I have every sympathy for her as a rape victim, but being a rape victim and being a dozy bint are not mutually exclusive. She said she had worked as a prostitute because it was "empowering" and paid better than working in a supermarket. "Empowering" is no less silly a word for being said in a French accent. Liddle continues:
It is not absolutely necessary actually to kill the men: you can simply dehumanise them and treat them as sex objects. That commends itself to the critics just as well. Those quotes up above about “provoking debate” and not functioning as porn were taken from a radical-feminist website in its review of Catherine Millet’s The Sexual Life of Catherine M, a huge porno succès de scandale in France (and later here) at the turn of this century. This tiresome, boring and very French drivel was praised for its bravery, for its candour, for its “exploration” of female sexuality, whereas in reality it was simply a rather strange lady shagging her way through the whole of Paris and mostly enjoying it. The men here were simply incidental creatures, sort of cartoon penises on legs
Catherine Millet was interviewed not long ago in one of the colour supplements. A more po-faced, humourless, self-indulgent woman it is difficult to imagine. Still, she seems to have gone down well in France. Returning to our mutton - dressed as lamb, perhaps:
It was, as you might expect, French women who, with a willingness for the time that seemed quite remarkable and refreshing, first got their kit off in print. Pauline Réage’s Story of O, published in 1954, led to an obscenity trial against the publishers. Even in France, the notion of a woman writing about sadomasochistic sex — and, indeed, much, much more — was not met with universal approval. Even today, one might add. This was another case of girl lag: Story of O owed a lot to Georges Bataille’s earlier compendium of pretentious French filth, Story of the Eye, but was even more shocking because of the gender of the writer. Perhaps wisely, Réage kept herself hidden and anonymous, ’fessing up to having written the book only 15 years ago, not long before her death.
Only five years after Réage went into print, a French-Indochinese woman called Marayat Bibidh published an entertainingly explicit account of her own sexual inquisitiveness, which stretched to oral sex with pubescent rickshaw wallahs in Bangkok and the first literary evocation of what it meant to be in the “mile-high club”. Bibidh adopted the name Emmanuelle Arsan, and her book, Emmanuelle, was made into a predictably exploitative film in the mid-1970s. I still remember Emmanuelle, the book, being passed feverishly around the sixth form back in the late 1970s, with nudges and sly, knowing winks