Today, I’m delighted to have a guest post by Mike, Linda, and Louisa Carey, talking about gender politics, and their new novel The Steel Seraglio. There’s a free sample of The Steel Seraglio available here, and the book is available in paperback or as an e-book from ChiZine Publications. If you’re the visual sort, there’s also a lovely trailer for The Steel Seraglio, which you can find here. Now, without further ado, welcome, Mike, Linda, and Louise!
“Did the earth move for you?”
This phrase from Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is a comment that could never be made with a straight face, these days – raising the bar for sexual performance to an ironically impossible high, the better to handle the disappointment when the experience falls short.
In that novel, when Robert puts the question to Pilar, he is anxious to find out if their lovemaking had the same impact on her as it did on him. The character’s concern is amplified in Hemingway’s behaviour towards his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Papa is our poster boy for a certain tendency in human behaviour: the overbearing and possessive side of romantic attraction. When they lived together in Paris, Hemingway is said to have resented Hadley’s few friendships fiercely, and tried hard to shake her free from any attachment that wasn’t to him. (We’ll get back to the whole earth-moving thing later.)
Possessiveness in love is probably a universal human trait. Different people feel it and express it in different ways, and give in to it or resist it to differing extents, but it tends to be there, in some form, in every relationship, however it may choose to disguise itself. Along with all the other intense emotions that romantic/sexual attraction brings, there is usually somewhere in the mix this sense that the bond between you and the person you love is special and unique, that you have a stake in areas of that other person’s life that may not even directly concern you: that you’ve got a right to speak up if your lover is spending too much time with friends, or not sitting next to you all evening, or wearing clothes that are too revealing. There are an infinite number of gradations, from the unexceptional and banal to the obsessive, controlling, perverse and indefensible.
What’s even more disturbing, though, is when the relationship is over and one or other of the two former partners feels unable or unwilling to let go of that sense of possessiveness and entitlement. We have a good friend whose marriage collapsed after she discovered that her husband was having an affair. Inexplicably, when she finally went back to dating, the ex-husband felt entitled to discourage potential wooers by slashing their car tyres and in one case administering a beating.