Shortly after I posted my last piece, a friend took me to task a little for not mentioning tenderness - which was, after all, Lawrence's original title for Lady Chatterley's Lover. She was right to have done so, and my only defence is that I was writing in passion, not in any considered way, as a reaction to the idealisation of sex.
I think, when I originally wrote about the "interplay of vulnerabilities" it was tenderness I had in mind, but this was not exactly made clear. In an intimate relationship each partner reveals to the other(s) certain aspects of her or his self which would otherwise be kept hidden. It is in the acceptance of these aspects that tenderness emerges. We are all vulnerable, for we are all mortal and there is, I believe, a dread of annihilation deep within all of us. So we look for the tender touch of someone who accepts us in our frailty. Or we over-compensate in games of power and despair in which we hide our vulnerability behind a facade of mastery and performance.
I am aware that this needs a little expansion so I will try to explain what I mean by that. I have, over the years, watched quite a lot of pornography. However, I have found very little that i find truly erotic. For it is all about mastery and performance. Erections never fail. Women always reach orgasm - or, very badly, pretend they have. Never do any of the participants suddenly realise that their muscles have cramped - never does a clumsy movement of elbow or knee result in the abrupt disappearance of desire. Never, above all, in all the detailed and energetic genital stimulation does tenderness enter. Never do they laugh. It is all taken so bloody seriously. It is the inverse side of the abstracted, idealised, non-physical sexuality that the men in the video were lauding. In neither case is the full humanity of the participants recognised.
For we are not just bodies and we are not just spiritual beings, we are human. We may aspire but we often fail. We have fears and insecurities that can manifest at any time. Erections fail and desire can vanish. This is a fact. Gay or straight, we need comfort and reassurance when the night seems just too dark. We need to know that we are loved when our bodies fail to perform as we would like. We need to laugh and we need to cry at our frailties. We need to be loved as we are and not as we would like to be or, worse, what we imagine the other would like us to be. We exist not as angels or demons but as a mixture of the two with one or the other being dominant at any one time. I feel that it is not for our perfection that we can be truly loved but for those myriad imperfections that make us human.
I think that all this was in Lawrence's mind when he wrote. In many ways he failed for he had his own unresolved issues, but this is not really relevant. The intent and the attempt was honest, sincere and revolutionary. Connie and Mellors are human beings, meeting and loving in a space of vulnerability. In a space of tenderness. In the rain and under the sky.
Weekly round-up and open thread
4 days ago