Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the Top Shelf - 9 1/2 Revisited

Since you all enjoyed the short excerpt from 9 1/2 Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill, I have more passages for you. When I first read it in the late 1970s I was astounded by the variety of erotic and often painful scenarios the lover invented. But on rereading the book now, 30 years later, I find that even though I had always thought of it fondly as a spanking book, the actual descriptions of spankings are few and far between, tangled and intertwined, and not easily extracted for the purpose of sharing with you. So what I have selected instead are the short chapters that contain the woman's thoughts about the things they did, and her progression through their increasingly intense relationship, as he gradually exerts more control over her. When read consecutively they have an interesting continuity.

The first time we were in bed together he held my hands down above my head. I liked it. I liked him. He was moody in a way that struck me as romantic; he was funny, bright, interesting to talk to; and he gave me pleasure.

The second time he picked my scarf up off the floor where I had dropped it while getting undresses, smiled, and said, "Would you let me blindfold you?" No one had blindfolded me in bed before and I liked it. I liked him even better than the first night and later couldn't stop smiling while brushing my teeth. I had found an extraordinarily skillful lover.

The third time he repeatedly brought me within a hairsbreadth of coming. When I was beside myself yet again and he stopped once more, I heard my voice, disembodied above the bed, pleading with him to continue. He obliged. I was beginning to fall in love.

The fourth time, when I was aroused enough to be fairly oblivious, he used the same scarf to tie my wrists together. That morning, he had sent thirteen roses to my office.


So it went, a step at a time. And since we saw each other every night, since each increment of change was unspectacular in itself; since he made love very, very well; since I was soon crazy about him, not just physically, but especially so, it came about that I found myself -- after a time span of a mere two weeks -- in a setup that would be judged, by the people I know, as pathological.

It never occurred to me to call it pathological. I never called "it" anything. I told no one about it. That it was me who lived through this period seems, in retrospect, unthinkable. I dare only look back on those weeks as on an isolated phenomenon, now in the past; a segment of my life as unreal as a dream, lacking all implication.


Nothing had prepared me. Some years back I had read The Story of O, intrigued by the beginning, horrified after a few pages, repulsed long before the end. Sadomasochists in real life were black-leather freaks, amusing and silly in their ridiculous getups. If a friend, a peer, had told me she had herself tied to a table leg at home after a full day's work at the office--well, it has never come up. God knows I would not have believed it.


Sometimes I wondered abstractly how it was possible that pain could be this exciting. Once during that time I stubbed my toe, in sandals, on my bottom desk drawer. I swore, hopped up and down, and couldn't concentrate for the next fifteen minutes. But when he was the one inflicting pain, the difference between pain and pleasure became obscured in a way that turned them into two sides of a single coin: sensations different in quality but equal in result, equally intense, one stimulus as powerfully able as the next to arouse me. Since pain always came as a prelude and only then--sometimes hours earlier but always eventually leading to orgasm--it became as longed for, as sensuous, as integral to lovemaking as having my breasts caressed.


Nobody saw my body except for him. Sometimes in the bathtub or when I caught my reflection in the mirror, I would regard my bruises with the unfocused curiosity reserved for looking at snapshots of other people's cousins. My body had nothing to do with me. It was a decoy, to be used whichever way he decided, toward the end of exciting us both.


For the past two months I've been in the process of being taught about myself, something new every night, the undercurrent getting stronger by the hour; hands pinned down above my head, shallow gasps, "This is new" ticking in my brain. A conscious new power: vulnerability, perverse if only because it is total, natural as grass nonetheless. Abandon. Take me, anything, do it to me, anything, take me, anything, kill me if it pleases you. But try tying me down, first. Look at me, my eyes closed, your fingers outlined on my cheek, damp hair lying where gravity makes it land as my head falls back against the pillow. Better yet, talk about striking me first, in a low voice, and handcuff me to the table leg and feed me, crouching low. I'm not accountable. Wine dribbling down my chin, no one wiping it off, first, and God surely knows what next: thick welts and a stifled scream for the first time.

Weeks later, stifling is no longer possible. Maybe later yet a trickle of blood, what would it feel like to be struck so that one bleeds? If you've never screamed, out of control, you can't imagine how it feels. Now I know how it feels, it's like coming. There is a sound, far away, having to do with me and surely not having to do with me, no responsibility. My body giving up, giving in. No bounds. Foreign sounds far away, I'm not accountable...

After three days, I've gone beyond my limits. For two months now I've been out of control... Thick welts and a stifled scream for the first time. I've been with him only nine weeks and we've long moved beyond stifled screams...

From Hermione's Heart


Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Hermione, what's your general assessment of the book vis a vis the movie? Is it as good. These excerpts you post certainly seem well worth reading, and put the book in a somewhat different light, as perhaps a "lite" version of the book. I think in a book it's easier to "get away with" more edgy stuff than in a movie for mass consumption, even if it is restricted.

I see a connection between the ending of the movie and the following lines from Leonard Cohen's song "No Cure for Love":

"I see you on the subway, I see you on the bus,
I see you lying down with me and I see you waking up.
I see your hand, I see your hair, your bracelets and your brush,
And I call to you, I call to you, but I don't call soft enough..."

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

I meant the movie is a lite version of the book.

Hermione said...

Karl - The movie is a very pale imitation of the book. It skirts around the whole BDSM thing, in my opinion, although it's been a while since I saw it. The book is a great deal better. I believe you can find it through Amazon, used.

The end of the book? Well, I censored the final passage of my excerpt a teeny bit. It seemed that as they went farther and farther each day, it was implied that the end would be death. She had her breakdown the morning after he finally drew blood.


Salvia said...

Hiya Hermione:)
I enjoy your excerpts :) Thanks so much for sharing! Hot steamy stuff!

ronnie said...

Thanks Hermione. I enjoyed reading the excerpts you picked out and look forward to more.

I read the book along time ago but I think the movie was a disappointment but isn't that always the case.

The sexual chemistry between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, I thought was excellent.

I'm still trying to find a copy of the book.


Hermione said...

Salvia - It was my pleasure.

Ronnie - I think I found my copy on Amazon. I had disposed of my first copy years ago.

I will try to find a few more good excerpts for you.


OTKROB said...

Amazon has both new and used copies for $10 (new) and as low as $3 used. Below is the link


You can also scroll through the first few pages on Amazon.

The movie can be viewed in 9 sections on sevenload.


DJB said...

I read 9 and half weeks years ago and was astonished that would make a manistream film out of it.

Then I read that Kim Bassinger reneged on her contract and refused to do any spanking scenes and teh whole movie was watered down.

But there was not that much spanking per se in the book.


Hermione said...

OTKROB - Welcome. Thanks for the links to the movie. I must check that out. It's been a while since I saw it.

DJB - Welcome also. So that's why it was erotic but not so very spanky. And you're right - not really much spanking in the book, but lots of innuendo.

DJB said...

By the way talking off Books - did I miss your Sharon Green Diane Sante post?


Hermione said...

DJB - Yes, I guess you did. This link is the third installment, and contains links to the first two.

DJB said...

Thanks Hermonie