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As a child I thought about numbers a great deal. The memories we have of solitary thoughts and actions from the first few years of life are very clear-cut: they provide the first opportunities for self-awareness, whereas events shared with other people can never be isolated from the feelings (of admiration, fear, love or loathing) that those others inspire in us, feelings that, as children, we are far less able to identify or even understand. I, therefore, have particularly vivid memories of the thoughts that steered me into scrupulous counting exercises every evening before I went to sleep. Shortly after my brother was born (when I was three and a half), my family moved into a new apartment. For the first few years we lived there, my bed was in the largest room, facing the door. I would lie staring at the light that came across the corridor from the kitchen where my mother and grandmother were still busying themselves, and I could never get to sleep until I had visualized these numerical problems one after the other. One of the problems related to the question of having several husbands. Not the possibility of the situation, which seems to have been accepted, but the circumstances themselves. Could a woman have several husbands at the same time, or only one after the other? In the latter case, how long did she have to stay married to each one before she could move on? What would be an “acceptable” number of husbands: a few, say five or six, or many more than that—countless husbands? How would I go about it when I grew up?
As the years went by, I substituted counting children for husbands. I imagine that, in finding myself under the seductive spell of some identified man (in turn, a film star, a cousin, etc.) and focusing my wandering thoughts on his features, I perhaps felt less uncertainty about the future. I could envisage in more concrete terms my life as a young married woman, and therefore the presence of children. More or less the same questions were raised again: was six the most “acceptable” number, or could you have more? What sort of age gap should there be between them? And then there was the ratio of girls to boys.
I cannot think back to these ideas without connecting them to other obsessions that preoccupied me at the same time. I had established a relationship with God that meant I had to think every evening about what he was going to eat, so the enumeration of the various dishes and glasses of water I offered him mentally—fussing over the size of the helpings, the rate at which they were served, etc.—alternated with the interrogations into the extent to which my future life would be filled with husbands and children. I was very religious, and it could well be that my confused perception of the identities of God and his son favored my inclination to counting. God was the thundering voice that brought men back into line without revealing him to them. But I had been taught that he was simultaneously the naked pink baby made of plaster that I put into the Christmas manger every year, the suffering man nailed to the crucifix before which we prayed—even though both of these were actually his son—as well as a sort of ghost called the Holy Spirit. Of course, I knew perfectly well that Joseph was Mary’s husband, and that Jesus, even though he was both God and the son of God, called him “Father.” The Virgin was in fact the mother of the Christ child, but there were times when she was referred to as his daughter.
When I was old enough to go to Sunday school, I asked to speak to the priest one day. The problem I laid before him was this: I wanted to become a nun, to be a “bride of Christ,” and to become a missionary in an Africa seething with destitute peoples, but I also wanted to have husbands and children. The priest was a laconic man, and he cut short the conversation, believing that my concerns were premature.
Until the idea of this book came to me, I had never really thought about my sexuality very much. I did, however, realize that I had had multiple partners early on, which is unusual, especially for girls, or it certainly was among the milieu in which I was brought up. I lost my virginity when I was eighteen—which is not especially early—but I also had group sex a few weeks after my deflowering. On that occasion I was not the initiator, but I was the one who precipitated it—something I still cannot explain to myself. I have always thought that I just happened to meet men who liked to make love in groups or liked to watch their partners making love with other men, and the only reaction I had (being naturally open to new experiences and seeing no moral obstacle) was to adapt willingly to their ways. But I have never drawn any theory from this, and therefore have never been militant about it.
Excerpted from THE SEXUAL LIFE OF CATHERINE M.
© Copyright 2001 by Éditions du Seuil, Translation copyright © 2002 by Adriana Hunter. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-8021-1716-3
Posted November 5, 2003
There are many who will be shocked with this book. Ms. Millett provides very explicit details on her sexual soirees. Her thought process is very extensive and graphic. Europeans, particularly the French, have no sexual hang-ups like Americans, who will be very disgusted and turned-off by this book. I myself enjoyed this book thoroughly. I have an open mind; those who don't will not enjoy this book. I commend Ms. Millett for her views.
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Posted March 30, 2007
Over the last few years, there have been a number of bestselling books written by women about their sex lives. Books like this and Abby Lee's Diary of a Sex Fiend are fun to read, because they take you into the sex life of a smart, sophisticated, and sexy woman. Really hot reading!
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Posted November 12, 2003
I found this book dissapointing. Rather than feeling she was a liberated woman. I felt as if she was a prisoner of her own sexual compulsions.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2003
I think that this book is wonderful. It shocks you around every corner and pays great attention to detail. I think that she has had an eventful life and sometimes i am in envy......ANAIS NIN is my favorite, she is worth checking out as well!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2002
This book challenges cultural norms and maternal expectations! Catherine's book broadens horizons by offering a TOTALLY different view of things- a neat thing in a world so controlled by Puritan expectations and the hypocritical implementation of them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
It appears that she did not have enough parental guidance. She appeared 'smart enough' at an early age, but misdirected! I can't associate a 'normal little girl - or a normal grown woman to her. Sorry!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
An insightful provocative read that while not only liberating can also be depressing at times. But it does capture the ups and downs and emotional pitfalls attached to such a lifestyle.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
Some have termed this book courageous for its inside look into the free (of responsibility and emotion) sexual life of a woman. I plunked down $16 hoping to gain some unique insight into the emotional consequences of such a lifestyle and perhaps learn something I could apply to my own life. Instead, I felt like a voyeur who was only treated to the mechanical/physical side of a strange wanderlust with no insight into emotion or inner transformation. It provided neither insight nor erotica if one is looking for that. I have read novels such as Shade of the Maple by Kirk Martin that force a more thoughtful examination of one's relationships and self-concept, and which hit home very personally. Save your $16 and invest $10 into a riveting novel that will also leave you challenged, changed and inspired.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2011
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Posted April 24, 2009
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