Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I left off my last blog post promising to talk more about the end of chapter five and Constance's disillusionment with men and sex, so I'll do that now before I read any more.

In chapter five, Constance's affair with Michaelis is intensified when he asks her to marry him; she maintains that she's already married and doesn't really give him an answer, and at the end of the chapter the affair ends rather dramatically.

One of the remarks Lawrence has made frequently is that men finish too quickly, without a thought for their female partners. Luckily for us women of the real world, this is a broad generalization, often incorrect; but for Constance, it is a truth she lives with. She has somehow found a way to use men/Michaelis after they've come to achieve her own orgasm by holding them inside her and rubbing her clit against their base. She does this every time she has sex, because she deserves her satisfaction too.

At the end of chapter five, after they've had sex, Constance as usual finishes herself after Michaelis has already come, and he responds with this outburst: "You couldn't go off the same time as a man, could you? You'd have to bring yourself off! You'd have to run the show!" (page 56)

To Michaelis, Constance is the one with the power in their sexual relationship. Though he is the man, the phallus, the conquerer who sticks his flag in the sand and claims the land, he is essentially left behind while Constance pleasures herself in a place he can't reach, a summit he can't climb. Of course he feels emasculated and resentful. Constance, meanwhile, is completely baffled: "Because after all, like so many modern men, he was finished almost before he had begun. And that forced the woman to be active" (page 57).

Michaelis places all the blame for his bitterness on the women he's been with: "I never had a woman yet who went off just at the same moment as I did" (page 57). If she doesn't reach orgasm, it's like she's "dead in there," and if she comes after he does it's a struggle for him to hang on. Constance doesn't blame men for finishing too soon, because she's still able to go on and come; she has resigned herself to things in this order. Michaelis, however, is bitter about it; yet, he doesn't take any responsibility for being the one who finishes first. He thinks about a woman's sexual experience in terms of a man's, and that means a woman's orgasm should come on a man's schedule.

Michaelis' reaction to what Constance had thought of as the natural way of things has a disastrous effect on Constance: "It killed something in her. [...] There was nothing now but this empty treadmill of what Clifford called the integrated life, the long living together of two people, who are in the habit of being in the same house with one another. Nothingness! To accept the great nothingness of life seemed to be the one end of living." (pages 57-58)

Connie's sexual life is tied to the rest of her life, rather than being separated; each influences the other. Now, with the dismantling of her sexual knowledge--that is, the revelation that men expect women to come just as quickly--the rest of her life is become pointless and routine: an empty treadmill.

More on this as we read the next few chapters!


  1. "Though he is the man, the phallus, the conquerer who sticks his flag in the sand and claims the land, he is essentially left behind while Constance pleasures herself in a place he can't reach, a summit he can't climb."

    Metaphor worthy of it's own novel!

    Lawrence seems to do an incredible job of creating characters that manifest the honest, yet oft hidden, sexual perspectives of real people. Though the terminology may be different among centuries, the intrapersonal struggle to define what sex means to oneself is a constant of human nature.

    I'm really enjoying vicariously learning about Lady Chatterly and the others. You have me invested now in what becomes of Lady Chatterly -- I fully expect Lawrence to have this character overcome the "death" of her sexual perspective.

  2. Exactly! That seems to be his entire goal: to show honest human characters who think about sex (because we do, in fact, think about sex), and how it fits into their lives now. Sex used to be simple: reproduction. As our species matured emotionally, sex gained all these romantic and intimate considerations which complicate things.

    This is the era in which Lawrence is writing, a time when sex is crawling out of the underbelly and into modern conversation, and I think he is trying to address the complicated new sexual dynamics.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the book vicariously, haha. Constance is definitely an interesting character; I for one found her naivety about male stamina really fascinating. When Michaelis snaps at her, she's really, genuinely confused about the problem.

    Anyway, there will definitely be another post sometime tonight. :)