The Unfulfilled

The other day I found myself trying to explain to an African woman in my poor French, how when I was young nobody ever spoke of the female orgasm by that name. They used euphemisms, some of which I – and perhaps half my generation – failed to understand, thus possibly creating a divide between winners and losers. For example, women back then talked a lot about “fulfilment”, wanting us to believe that this meant being loved and cherished in security and sitting under their fig tree with children and grandchildren. (I think the word would be “réalisation” in French, which sounds like the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.) Women were fulfilled in and by marriage, they claimed, but this was never linked to something as unmentionable as the sexual lives they enjoyed, or failed to enjoy, within that marriage. The whole issue was spiritualised beyond recognition, or even comprehension.

In 1978 Michael Moorcock wrote a fantasy version of the court of Elizabeth I, perhaps with a sidelong glance at Catherine the Great, called Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen. Here it is made entirely clear that Gloriana was unable to climax, though not for lack of trying. By the time I got round to reading this, however, it was too late for my psychosocial development; I was stuck with the belief that “fulfilment” meant something vague and emotional, rather than concrete and neurological.

Perhaps forty years later another African woman told me that the only way to a woman’s heart was through frequent orgasms, all that sentimental stuff reflecting only a refusal to put the right name to her needs. This refusal in turn must be motivated by the Prime Directive, namely to pose as better and “more spiritual” than men. Men want orgasms, women want fulfilment, which sounds so much better. We are accused of putting women on a pedestal, whereas in reality they climbed up there all by themselves, so as to have a better screeching-perch. Similarly, the Madonna/Whore dichotomy is something that women did to one another.

This smokescreen caused men of my generation a lot of damage, if they tried to satisfy the woman with the psychobabble they overtly demanded. What effect did it have on the women of that generation? If you muddle up the categories of orgasm and love under the rubric of a word that can mean either, it becomes fatally easy to believe you have the latter when you only have the former. Perhaps the entirety of world literature should be rewritten with this in mind.

Posted on January 10, 2011 at 19:30 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?

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