Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Marie Claire

Dear Marie Claire Magazine,

Thank you for publishing Pamela Druckerman's, "How I Planned a Menage à Trois."  For all the shock-value usually attributed to sexual exploration, Druckerman's focus on negotiating with potential partners over coffee is greatly refreshing.  She resists the sensationalist cliché that threesomes are invariably traumatizing and the opposite sensationalist cliché that threesomes are as glamorous as they look in porn, and instead reports her honest experience.  More of this, please.

However, I'm frustrated how Druckerman glosses over, "In practice, I was shaken up," in the last couple sentences.  Up until that point, planning and having her threesome feels either fun or banal, and then she's "struck by how emphatically [she] want[s] [her] husband."  Why then suddenly shaken up?  Is she feeling jealous?  Or does she feel that N or her husband have violated any of her boundaries?  Or is she shaken up by others' judgments that she's "supposed" to feel shaken up?  Druckerman shows so much introspection up until that point, but as soon as she decides that actually her desires are "conservative" (and therefore "normal"?), she quits analyzing.  That strikes me as lazy journalism.

And since Druckerman has decided against having any more threesomes in her life, why doesn't Marie Claire feature any of the many women who have more - and more positive - experiences to share about their threesomes?  Or any of the many women who have initiated them, as opposed to acquiescing to a man's fantasy?  I respect Druckerman's choices, but there's also a huge community of polyamorists and swingers who could provide better insight into why some women really, really like group sex.

Yours sincerely,
Annabelle River 




PS If you too would like to write the editor of Marie Claire, the email address on their website is joannacoles at hearst dot com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Graphic Sexual Horror and the Ambiguity of Consent

Last Friday I too had the chance to see the documentary Graphic Sexual Horror at the Leather Archives and Museum.  The film explores the story behind the now-defunct hardcore BDSM pornography website InSex.com, with an impressive lack (or mix) of glorification or condemnation.  I'd like to thank Arvan for the detailed review he's already posted - as well as of course Barbara Bell and Anna Lorentzon for making the film, and Clarisse Thorn and the Leather Archives' Jennifer Tyburczy for hosting.

While Arvan's post touches on many fascinating aspects of InSex and of Graphic Sexual Horror, the one that I left the museum discussing was the ambiguity of consent.  InSex's trademark was hyper-realistically torturing women to the very edge of their limits.  The documentary asked whether these women had given fully-informed, empowered consent, and left the audience with the answer, "Some of them, some of the time."  Which is almost more unsettling than "No," because it calls into question our sacred differentiations between sadomasochism and exploitation.  But then, any strong differentiation has to withstand occasional questioning.