Saturday, March 15, 2008


Turn and turn, the subject once more returned to the film "Chocolat" tonight (and I had nothing to do with it). We talked about Lent and my husband pulled out the movie as I was putting the boy to bed. He only lasted half way, though, and Cathie and I stayed up past 12:30 to watch the rest and the making-of bit behind it. "We should measure ourselves by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include," says the young priest in his Easter sermon at the end. Amen.

Juliette Binoche is lovely, and if I were three inches shorter, she and I would share the identical figure. Short waist, big hips, and a rounded ribcage. In a few of her scenes I can absolutely feel the foundation garments she must be cinched into, in order to contrive an hourglass figure with a three-inch-wide belt around her waist -- she holds herself so carefully, and barely breathes. Ouch. Pretty, but not so comfortable.

Less romantic than Binoche or Alfred Molina (whom I adore), the conversation turned at one point to Elliot Spitzer and his $4000 transaction. C. wondered what in the world a woman could give a man that would be worth such a sum. R. speculated on prowess and possibly an all-night illusion of happiness. My theory is that he's turned on by the fact that he can drop four grand on a hooker, if he wants -- he has money, power. It's a material yearning as much or more than a physical one. R. and C. didn't seem convinced -- but they share some temperament and opinions on the subject that I don't. We all disagreed for a while on the real question -- is it What can a woman give a man that's worth so much cash, or is it What kind of man wants to spend that kind of money on such a thing? I go for the latter, and it bothers me that the inquiry might just affirm the assumptions of the premise -- that a woman can be paid for sex, and therefore her service is of quantifiable value, and any question of the man's behavior merely comes back to the "worth" of the service provided. It's a consumer society! The first question they ask is, Wow, did he actually get what he paid for?

Now, I have a weakness for the material -- shoes, clothes, art. I'm a sucker for the aesthetic, self-indulgent, always game. So I know about excess, like I know about quality. And I know it's easy not to get what you're paying for, because the ability to shop often outweighs the desirability of the thing I'm shopping for, when it comes to pleasure. I assume sex for trade is similar -- it's because you can, as the man. You want to, and you can, and you don't have to play a lot of games to get it -- like buying a soda from a machine. I don't say every woman in the sex trade is being ruthlessly exploited -- only that it's very, very likely.

I used to think something quite different, back when I advocated for legalization of the sex trade. Back when it was cool to do so, before straight white kids knew what AIDS was, before I learned about drugs. Not so black-and-white anymore.

But back to Lent, and Chocolat. I think of LeCompt with his lemon and hot water, and try to imagine a fast that lasts not three days (the longest I've ever fasted), but 40. No wonder he goes face down in the caramels and granache and bitter chocolates, at the end. Oh, what we embrace. I'm a sensualist at heart -- indulge, indulge, and save your guilt for the love you deny to others.

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