I direct your attention to the photo on the right. It depicts a real scene in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in which Carrie and Mellors crown each others’ “maiden-hair” and “man-hair” with wildflowers, pretend that their genitals are named Lady Jane and John Thomas, and have them speak to each other. If you thought the animal cracker scene in Armageddon was bad…
I enjoy D.H. Lawrence because his novels are old and well-crafted enough to be classics but new enough so that his characters do more than wander around in fancy dress and pretend that sex doesn’t exist. Far from it, in this case: the sex in Lady Chatterley’s Lover is explicit and regular enough that the book was banned. I wouldn’t call these sex scenes titillating, but I would call them the funniest thing I’ve read all year. A third insightful, a third horribly awkward, and a third extremely hilarious–for example.
Connie, the protagonist, kind of half-knows that sex is better when she’s aroused, but doesn’t quite understand where the burden falls on the issue. “And when he came into her… she felt herself a little left out. And she knew, partly it was her own fault… That slow-subsiding thrust of the buttocks, surely it was a little ridiculous! Surely the man was intensely ridiculous in this posture and this act!” She later coldly observes “the wilting of the poor insignificant, moist little penis.” Her detachedness disturbs her, but her sensible lower-class lover reminds her, “It’s once in a while that way.” As in, it’s hard to make you orgasm, so chill out.
But sometimes she wants it: “Whilst all her womb was open and soft, and softly clamoring, like a sea-anemone under the tide, clamoring for him to come again and make a fulfillment for her…”
And sometimes she does orgasm: “The quick of all her plasm was touched, she knew herself touched… she was gone, she was not, and she was born: a woman.” I thought the stuff I had to say in The Vagina Monologues was bad. But no.
Sometimes she is super childlike and weird: “The strange weight of the balls between his legs! What a mystery! What a strange heavy weight of mystery, that could lie soft and heavy in one’s hand!” I mean really, who last saw balls and thought of mystery?
And sometimes she lovingly listens to her lover talk complete bullshit: “She’d [my ex-wife] never come off when I did. Never! She’d just wait… And when I’d come and really finished then she’d start off on her own account, and I had to stop inside her till she brought herself off, wriggling and shouting… and then she got worse… she’d sort of tear at me down there, as if it was a beak tearing me… She got no feeling off it, from my working. She had to work the thing herself, grind her own coffee… as if she had no sensation in her except in the top of her beak, that very outside top tip, that rubbed and tore. That’s how old whores used to be.”
Excuse me? Read that again if you have to. The not-so-subtext of this passage is, “Why can’t women just magically orgasm when I do? Also, vaginas are beaks and I’ve heard of the clitoris but I think it’s a whore thing.” Mr. Mellors, the lover, then goes on about women who won’t let him come inside them. Of course it is no surprise when Connie ends up pregnant.
Three cheers for the twenty-first century?