Régine Desforges and Pauline Réage: O m’a dit

RD – One feels that the only sexual initiative left to O is homosexuality.

PR – Why, do you want her to use small adds?

RD – No, not at all, I mean that her activity, her ability to decide in these matters, find shelter in homosexuality. With a man she’s passive, or seems to be.

PR – Yes, regarding O, you are right without any doubt. Probably because her behaviour derives from a concept entirely obsolete, and which has always been so, I mean there have always been people who thought that it was not up to girls to take initiatives. But I know many girls who take the first steps. O does not for I have always thought this to be humiliating. One has to come back to this, I dislike being humiliated.

RD – You dislike being humiliated but you can cope with humiliating O?

PR – Yes, as I find absurd this refusla to be humiliated, since if one really wants to be detroyed, one has to accept any means.

RD – You have just said “one”, as if you made yours O’s attitude who walks to self-destruction. Do you agree with her?

PR – Of course, this is what she desires.

RD – What she desires?

PR – To escape from her life, I imagine. I have tried to understand why, there must be a reason, a deep reason, I don’t see any other.

RD – But do you think O is betrayed when her lover abandons her to Sir Stephen, or before that?

PR – No, I don’t think it’s at that level, she’s not betrayed.

RD – In René’s and Sir Stephen’s case do you see a homosexual relationship?

PR – Yes, not effective, but real.

RD – René is submissive to Sir Stephen.

PR – It’s the old anglo-saxon “hero-worship”, which dictates one always admires the older man. It’s no father-son relationship at all, it’s older-younger brothers, war comradeship, almost a military relationship.

RD – In this case the military relationship is homosexual, as in Sparta?

PR – Perhaps. They say it used to be frequent in the Foreign Legion. Many entirely innocent male relationships are probably homosexual deep down, more often than female ones. Colette spoke of the shy female homosexuality and of the “imperial” male homosexuality, she did not say “imperial” but something similar: triumphant or universal. She’s right.

RD – Yes, because male homosexuality is superb and triumphant in the sense that virility is, as a projection of itself.

PR – I really believe that most men have a small part of it, even unconsciously. Those friendships, in the army, at college, all those friendships that are on display, that manifest themselves, satisfy themselves in only male meetings, political friendships even, draw from the pleasure men have to be together, as men, and away from the troublesome women. That is much less apparent in women.

RD – A friend of mine said: “O does not even masturbate. She likes women, she should masturbate.”

PR – She should? A funny way to express this. Maybe, I don’t know. Don’t you think she was kept busy enough without having to rely on herself? When I was  achild, in girls school, homosexual stories were very rare, there were some, but not many. There was not that closed side, the side of satisfaction at being between girls, to the contrary, one wanted to have boys with us. As to masturbation, one did it, I suppose, but no one talked about it. Why masturbating when dreaming is what it takes? Caressing oneself, giving caresses to oneself, is this not merely a mean to get closer, to amplify the awake dream?

RD – It depends. Yes, if dreaming leads to climax, to talk as a “specialist”…

PR – But why this claim, what will end up being called: the right to orgasm?

RD – Oh! But this is it, already: there is a movement for this [1975]. It is after all something very enjoyable!

PR – Indeed. Although female pleasure is often more diffuse, distributed wonderfully over the whole body, rather than in the sole explosion of orgasm. Masturbation and that liberating burst, that is something I see as essentially masculine. Maybe not.

PR – There are surely as many different cases as there are women. The liberating burst, the explosion, do not appear to me as especially masculine. It is much less uncommon than I thought. Many women masturbate too.

PR – And why not? Among the girls I have known, there were very few. Or they were not talking about it.

RD – Do you think that love for a woman is of the same nature as love toward a man?

PR – Of course, love is love.

RD – But aren’t the sexual relations one has with a woman necessarily narcistic?

PR – It always seems to be that there is no general case, and is an individual matter. For many women, for a very long time, one called that “boarding school games” [jeux de pensionnaires], not serious, uncommitted. To give oneself to a man, one took a big risk, and hence it was much more serious. With a girl one took no risk at all.

RD – And those erotic images, those phantasms you had as an adolescent, when did that start?

PR – I can’t remember, maybe when I was fourteen, fifteen, or even later.

RD – And nothing provoked them? Nothing you read? Wasn’t there a discovery of Sade?

PR – No, I read Sade at thirty, not twenty. Like everyone else I read the “Chansons de Bilitis” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Songs_of_Bilitis], it’s intriguing how bad books, I mean literarily bad, can be influential, Aphrodite and the Chansons de Bilitis moved me deeply.

RD – You said earlier you read Boccace, Crébillon and a few others when you were fourteen or fifteen, even more brutal others?

PR – I have forgotten who. So-called “gaulois” tales, kind of fables, with monks and maids, statues and donkeys, all that with drawings and rather crude. But it was not from those that my phantasms started, my phantasms are much more sef-contained. My phantasms of underground caves, inhabited by girls who may be prisoners, there is in that a kind of middleage flavour, of Walter Scott, of the English black novels, which I read ingenuously without knowing what it was, or that it was called black novels. I suppose there is in those imaginations echoes of Ann Radcliffe [http://www.litgothic.com/Authors/radcliffe.html].

RD – In Ann Radcliffe’s books the heroines are imprisoned, there are creatures lurking in darkness, and then one realises there nothing fantastic. “Udolpho” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysteries_of_Udolpho] is a model of that genre, even now.

PR – That’s what I was experiencing in this story of underground I had mysteriously located under the garden of the house I was then living in. The terraced garden looked over the road, and the foundation walls were covered with ivy: I ws convinced that behind that ivy one could have built windows, invisible from the road, but through which one could see. And under the garden, as now people build car parks, one could have built rooms, dwellings. It’s where I lodged my first heroines.

RD – But for what purpose exactly?

PR – I no longer know…

RD – Abusing their bodies?

PR – No, perhaps just for hiding. Besides, now, I can reconstruct those phantasms: since I have used them, I have destroyed them utterly. I cannot remember how it was. Other than telling a story, always the same, someone one loves takes you to that sort of place.That I recall very well, it’s the beginning of Histoire d’O, exactly. The start of the story, the first sixty pages, are literally, copy of these phantasms, I would not say dictated, transcripts of them.

RD – Yes, dictated. Many people have said: “This book is in two parts.”

PR – If you want. From the point where the situation is in full day light, how to live it? So, I tried to see what the different possibilities were for those human being who were part of it, that is I tried to write a novel. After transcribing a dream, from that dream, I tried to build something else. People are right to think there are two parts. One is authentic, given, and the other is invented, thought through, built.

RD – When you made them alive, you thought then of different possibilities.

PR – Of course, some fell by the wayside, and I have forgotten them.

is continued here

6 thoughts on “Régine Desforges and Pauline Réage: O m’a dit

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