Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sexual Life of Catherine M

I saw Catherine Millet at the Writers’ festival last week.

I should confess right up front that I am a huge fan and that the next three posts will be all about her and some of the things she said at the festival.

For those of you who don’t like her - I apologise and promise in a few days all will be back to normal.

For those of you who don't know how she is, she is a French art critic / analyst who is very famous for her influence on the modern art world in France.

However, and here comes the part where I fell in love with her, in 2002 she wrote a memoir called The Sexual Life of Catherine M. This is a frank, tell all description of her love life as a libertine. Catherine describes a libertine as a person who has no belief in God and therefore they create their own morals. For many libertines, this plays out in their sexual life. For Catherine, it meant taking many lovers, sometimes many at one time.

At the time this book was written, Catherine was fifty-four years old, writing about a time in her history when she sourced her self esteem from being sexually brave. I was a woman of thirty-five years old experimenting heavily with her own sexuality. I was engaged in the BDSM lifestyle and learning a great deal about myself and others in the process.

In 2005 Catherine came to the Sydney writers festival to talk about her book and about how difficult it was to write such a frank account. She was very honest in saying two things prevailed. 1) it was an easy book to write because there is a subliminal admiration for women who are courageous about this sort of thing. 2) Everyone was interested in her and in the sex, rather than in the quality of the writing.

Catherine has said that in order to write about her own experiences, she had to step out of herself and see herself as object. She looked at herself as she would a work of art, and used the art critics voice to tell her story. The way the book was written is a significant part of why this book is so shocking. It is written without emotion. Catherine is very detached and separate to the woman described in the book, and yet one can't help feeling Catherine may have actually have been like that, observing herself in the act of living, taking mental notes as she watched herself have sex with so many different people.

However, what I learnt at the 2010 Sydney Writers festival is that all was not well with Catherine later on and that leads us to tomorrows post.


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