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War Between Her Body & Mind (early 1930’s)

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  • trop_de_simones
    . . . I had not emancipated myself from all sexual taboos, and promiscuity in a woman still shocked me . . . Prudery even characterized Castor s love affair
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2005
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      ". . . I had not emancipated myself from all sexual taboos, and
      promiscuity in a woman still shocked me . . . Prudery even
      characterized Castor's love affair with Sartre. He was stationed now
      in Tours, near enough for her to visit every weekend. Even though she
      always rented a hotel room, they spent most of the daylight hours
      walking the streets awaiting darkness, or, when their passions grew
      unmanageable, finding some hidden place along country roads where
      they could have sex. Going to bed with a man in the daytime,
      especially in a hotel, was out of the question. "Good girls," she
      said in 1982, "did not engage in such behavior." . . .

      Unfortunately for her, sexual passion unleashed torrents of agony
      that all but incapacitated her when she was away from Sartre.
      Masturbation was unthinkable, and any thought of finding satisfaction
      with another man was even more horrifying. There were men, friends of
      hers and Sartre's, who suggested their availability, but she rejected
      them rudely. She and Sartre had made their pact, and even though he
      had not hidden past liaisons from her and continued to write or tell
      her of the women who had flirted with him or (in her word) "worse",
      she kept her side of the bargain and took no other lovers. All her
      life she had been able to reject or discard anything she could not
      control, but now it was her very own body that refused to obey
      her . . .

      Her body preoccupied her, but her mind distressed her in ways that
      made her physically sick. For the first time in her adult life, she
      experienced jealousy and had no understanding of how to deal with it.
      In her memoirs, she wrote long descriptive passages about two women
      who were important in Sartre's life, and to whom he introduced her in
      1930. Both passages are ambiguous, ostensibly describing women with
      whom Beauvoir became friendly despite having little in common with
      each, but like so much of what seems at first reading to be
      straightforward description of personality and situation, they have a
      darker side as well.

      Beauvoir begins in an anecdotal manner, describing the looks,
      personality, habits and attitudes of each woman, especially her
      relationship to Sartre. Each of these accounts ends with Beauvoir
      placing herself in direct contrast with them, analyzing her doubts,
      fears, insecurities and what she thinks are her own physical and
      mental deficiencies. Not once does she list any of her presumed
      strengths. Above all, there is always a strong underlying current of
      fear which can be traced to her insecurity about her relationship
      with Sartre. It is as if she has tried to understand these women only
      as a means of developing and strengthening her importance as the
      central figure in his life; as if understanding and assimilating
      their true inner being would enable her to remain the one fixed,
      constant woman in his world . . .

      Throughout her life, Simone de Beauvoir kept her emotions under
      constant, rigid control until the strain became so great that some
      release was necessary. Despite her quiet, almost solitary existence
      during the past year or so, these episodes usually occurred in a
      public place, generally a café. She would drink silently and
      steadily, consuming remarkable quantities of liquor which seemed to
      have little affect on her sobriety until she started to cry, silent
      tears at first, then audible sobs that grew in strength and volume
      until they racked her body. Suddenly, as if some inner safety valve
      warned her that she had vented quite enough for the moment,
      everything stopped. She would dry her tears, powder her fact,
      straighten her clothes and rejoin the conversation as if nothing had
      happened . . .

      At the same time, she was so dissatisfied sexually (when she and JPS
      were separated by work locales) that she could not read a romantic
      novel or see a movie that was a love story without becoming highly
      aroused. Whenever a man brushed against her on the Metro or the bus,
      the mere touch suffused her with violent physical urges. Once she
      actually got down from a bus before her stop and retched into the
      gutter along the Boulevard Saint-Michel. She described these feelings
      as akin to disease:

      A shameful disease, too. I had emancipated myself just far enough
      from my puritanical upbringing to be able to take unconstrained
      pleasure in my own body, but not so far that I could allow it to
      cause me any inconvenience. Starved of its sustenance . . . I found
      it repulsive. I was forced to admit a truth that I had been doing my
      best to conceal ever since adolescence: my physical appetites were
      greater than I wanted them to be."

      above paragraphs excerpted from:
      Simone de Beauvoir, A Biography
      by Deirdre Bair
      Simon & Schuster, New York 1990
      posted by trop_de_simones
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