First posted February 2010.
We decide to watch the first two films on a Sunday afternoon seduction. The set-up alone is an undertaking: we go for the full cinema experience, wiring up my digital projector and screen in the front room with the curtains drawn and cushions scattered over the floor. With the log burner going, this makes for quite a nice little den. I have enormous fun doing Tales of the Unexpected-style dances with my shadow projecting on the screen. Perhaps I don’t even need the films.
A friend calls just before the start the first movie, asking if she can come round for tea. ‘Erm, sorry,’ I hear Herbert say, ‘we’re going out this afternoon.’ I hope she doesn’t ask him where; he’s an incompetent liar and I know he’ll cave. He comes back into the room with a bottle of wine. ‘I feel so guilty,’ he says.
We’re bad at making time for ourselves like this. It’s interesting just to remark on that alone: no wonder we haven’t made time for sex if we feel obliged to accept every request that comes up. Normally, we’d drop everything. We are also compulsive inviters – if we’re planning something fun, we invite all our friends along. We don’t save enough moments for ourselves.
9 ½ Weeks first. H takes the armchair and I sit on the cushions, leaning against his legs. He reaches down and strokes the back of my neck. I feel rather giddy about all of this: the curtains drawn against a grey afternoon, putting aside several hours to become aroused. In all honesty, I don’t think we’ve ever done something like this before, both watching something with the shared intention of being turned on.
I’m a bit worried about 9 ½ weeks, to be honest. H is allergic to the 80s, and I watched it once a long time ago, but didn’t finish it. I have a feeling that I found it a bit creepy.
Oh. Right. It is creepy. From the first time I clock Basinger’s downcast gaze and Rourke’s weird frozen-cheeked smile, my stomach starts to fizz. Not in a good way. In a ‘there is absolutely no way I would even start a conversation with that man’ way. He is utterly, utterly sinister, even before he starts to work Basinger like a puppet. I feel as though I am watching the Hannibal Lecter of sex. With my husband. On a Sunday afternoon. For fun.
It just doesn’t work for me. I don’t relate to Basinger at all. I would have walked out on that relationship when he started feeding me wine from my own glass. I just can’t see why she’s compelled by him. I wonder what H is thinking. I wonder, also, if it would be okay to pick up my knitting. This succession of games gets boring after a while. I have lost all sympathy for both characters. The actual sex is surprisingly polite. Most of the time we are treated to a flash of Basinger’s stocking tops, and then the camera averts its eyes.
By the end of the film, I’m feeling considerably less likely to have sex than when it started. ‘What did you think?’ I ask Herbert.
‘Awful,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to watch someone being so horrible to a woman.’
I am relieved. We both agree we’ve lost all carnal feelings. We go to the kitchen and regroup, putting dinner in the oven and making coffee. It’s a necessary break. Not for the first time, I wonder if being a middle class liberal is fundamentally disruptive to sexual desire. We just disapprove of too much; it’s all too politically entangled. Sex must be a lot easier if you maintain the old ‘man on top’ ideology.
Thank heavens for Secretary. It’s not hot so much as reassuring. The tale of a broken young girl who finds power via a boss who spanks her (really), it is an absolute tonic. It is un-PC, funny, wise and wonderful. If we’re honest, it’s only really a little bit sexy, but it’s about sex between two consenting, thinking adults. The funny thing is, the subject matter of both films is the same: the man who likes to control, the woman who toys with the extent of her submission. The difference is, Secretary isn’t interested in identifying victims.
At Herbert’s suggestion, we watched Secretary in our underwear, which was chilly but worthwhile. H loves skin contact, and it was nice to be stroked and kissed. We were having sex before the film even finished; after, as the credits rolled, I got him to stand up in front of the projector’s beam. I thought he’d find it erotic to watch me take him in my mouth in silhouette on the big screen. I think, however, that the blowjob may have been enough.
Afterwards, I bend over the table so that H can watch himself go in and out of me. H has better ideas. He runs his hands over my bottom and thighs for a few moments; then there’s a pause. Two stinging slaps follow, my left buttock cheek and then my right. I collapse in giggles. ‘I didn’t think this was going to be a re-enactment!’
He enters me and slaps again. I can’t say it gives me the raging horn, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s appreciative, playful. The forth slap is really quite hard, and I say, ‘Ow!’
‘Oh god, sorry,’ giggles H. ‘That was a bit hard, wasn’t it? Did it hurt? My hand stings.’
He strokes my bottom for a while, but he’s not deterred. The spanking starts again after a minute or so. I want to know what he’s thinking when he does it.
‘You quite enjoy smacking my bottom, don’t you?’ I ask.
‘No,’ he says, sounding flustered, ‘I thought you liked it.’ Inwardly, I sigh. That liberal fear getting in the way again. If I like smacking a woman’s bottom, what am I? If we are to get anywhere with this, one of us has to concede some ground at some point. It doesn’t stop him though. He carries on smacking right until the end.
Later, apropos of nothing he says, ‘perhaps we’ll have to try smacking my bottom some time.’