Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Glenn Reynolds points to an article about the desire many women feel "to be controlled or dominated in the romantic sphere." The author, Katie Roiphe, writes that such fantasies "seem to be saying something about modern women that nearly everyone wishes wasn’t said." If it's true, though . . .

W. Somerset Maugham, who based his fiction closely on his own experiences, has a Tahitian woman say this in The Moon and Sixpence (1919; p. 269 here):
My first husband, Captain Johnson, used to thrash me regularly. He was a man. He was handsome, six foot three, and when he was drunk there was no holding him. I would be black and blue all over for days at a time. Oh, I cried when he died. I thought I should never get over it. But it wasn't till I married George Rainey that I knew what I'd lost. You can never tell what a man is like till you live with him. I've never been so deceived in a man as I was in George Rainey. He was a fine, upstanding fellow too. He was nearly as tall as Captain Johnson, and he looked strong enough. But it was all on the surface. He never drank. He never raised his hand to me. He might have been a missionary. I made love with the officers of every ship that touched the island, and George Rainey never saw anything. At last I was disgusted with him, and I got a divorce. What was the good of a husband like that? It's a terrible thing the way some men treat women.
That passage startled me when I first read it, but I believed it, and I'm unsurprised that the longing persists.