Thursday, January 13, 2011

Conversations with Other Penises

Well! I read three chapters of Lady Chatterley's Lover today whilst sitting in a Panera Bread. They went very quickly, and I only made a couple of notes; while I'd like to say I could fit it all into one post, knowing me, the chances are not high.

So, in chapter fourteen, we get something really exciting: backstory from Oliver! He spills the beans on his former relationships and their effects on him. Oliver's difficulty has been finding a woman who wants and enjoys sex, and more specifically wants him as much as he wants her. He lists off types of women on page 223:
  • most women want a man, but not the sex; "but they put up with it, as part of the bargain"
  • "The more old-fashioned sort just lie there like nothing ... the actual [sex] itself is nothing to them"
  • sly women who "pretend they're passionate and have thrills. But it's all cockaloopy."
  • "the ones that love everything, every kind of feeling and cuddling and going off [...] except the natural one", who "make you go off when you're not in the only place you should be, when you go off"
  • "the hard sort, that are the devil to bring off at all, and bring themselves off"
  • "the sort that's just dead inside"
  • "the sort that puts you out before you really 'come,' and go on writhing their loins till they bring themselves off against your thighs" (aka, lesbians.)
That last one there leads him to comment that "It's astonishing how Lesbian women are, consciously or unconsciously. Seems to me they're nearly all Lesbian." Hmmm. Save that one for the comments.

Oliver is of the firm opinion that real sexual satisfaction is impossible without two engaged and enthusiastic participants who come at the same time: "I wanted to have my pleasure and satisfaction of a woman, and I never got it: because I could never get my pleasure and satisfaction of her unless she got hers of me at the same time. And it never happened. It takes two" (226). Even with his wife, who wanted sex and wanted him, their marriage collapsed because of power dynamics. They couldn't work together, in sex or in life, to come off together in anything. They each used sex to have power over each other.

One morning after Connie and Oliver have slept together at his cottage, with the sunlight streaming in the window, Connie observes Oliver's penis, "So big! and so dark and cock-sure!" (230). And then, Oliver proceeds to have a little conversation with John Thomas.
"The man looked down in silence at the tense phallus, that did not change.--"Ay!" he said at last, in a little voice. "Ay ma lad! tha'rt theer right enough. Yi, tha mun rear thy head! Theer on thy own, eh? an' ta'es no count o' nob'dy! Tha ma'es nowt o' me, John Thomas. Art boss? of me? eh well, tha'rt more cocky than me, an' tha says less. John Thomas! Dost want her? Does want my Lady Jane? Tha's dipped me in again, tha hast. Ay, an' tha comes up smilin'.--Ax 'er then! Ax Lady Jane! Say: Lift up your heads o' ye gates, that the king of glory may come in. Ay, th' cheek on thee! Cunt, that's what tha'rt after. Tell Lady Jane tha wants cunt. John Thomas, an' th' cunt o' Lady Jane!--"
Firstly, see what I mean about reading the dialect? Second, Oliver has personified the genitals as "John Thomas" and "Lady Jane." It's an interesting reminder of the difference in their classes (common John Thomas/Oliver Mellors and aristocrat Lady Jane/Lady Chatterley) from a man who seeks sexual equality.

He also, unsurprisingly, gives his penis its own consciousness, which I've heard as part of many, many apologies in the past.


  1. I can't believe that we can officially trace back the penis alter ego almost a hundred years.

    And as for the lesbian thing, that's totally unfair. It's rare for a woman to be able to get off without some type of clitoral stimulation. You have to get the right angle and keep the right angle...I don't think guys understand how tricky it can be. As long as their dick's inside of you, they have all the friction they need. It's totally sexist. Saying a girl is a lesbian because she wants to rub up against your thigh is like saying guys are gay if they want a handjob.

    Super cool blog, Caitlin. :)

  2. Thanks, Heather! :D

    And yes, I completely agree about the lesbian thing. Oliver's comment shows an ignorance of female anatomy that seems to be characteristic of the generation (and the men wonder why women just lay there or finish themselves afterwards?). Women, obviously, know what's up with the clitoris. Oliver is assuming that if a penis isn't enough and other stimulation (of what, he can't understand) is required, the woman's at least partially lesbian.

    It's a simple mistake, I guess, but it's a wonder his partners haven't set him right.

  3. What was connie's response to his "sorts of women" list?

    The lesson that there are different sources of stimulation that satisfy a woman (and, as I've been told, there is a significant difference between a vaginal and clitoral orgasm) and, more importantly, that different women prefer (or primarily experience) one over the other is a lesson that generations of men have to learn over and over again. It's unfortunate that no one has set him right, but consider that there are many women today who don't tell their lover(s) what works for them - it doesn't surprise me that Oliver, in his time, didn't meet anyone who did.

    I don't mean to sound as if I'm defending Oliver outright, but also consider that conversation he had with his penis. The ego - the psychological phenomena - that men apply to their penises is part of a hormonally-fueled mindset that blinds them to most anything but the penis's basic function. This attitude generally (though not always) prevents men from not knowing that there's something about women that they don't know - so they don't ask (like Oliver). It's unfair to place on women the responsibility of introducing men to reality, but it does make unfortunate sense that Oliver is clueless.

    Excellent post.

  4. She doesn't really respond, she just asks if Oliver minds women being almost all lesbians, haha.

    I agree with you too--even in modernity, genuine sexual communication is much rarer than it should be, but it's understandable. Vocalizing what you want can be risky, embarrassing, and can totally ruin the mood if poorly handled, but completely worth it when successful.

    The phallus-centric psychology you refer to makes a lot of sense, and it's actually (I think) part of Connie's sexual struggles so far. Just like Oliver/men don't recognize the multiple layers of female sexual experience, Connie/women don't recognize the sort of tunnel vision caused by men's prominent single layer of experience--which is why men don't ask and women don't tell, and no one's happy.

    Thanks for weighing in on the man side, Luc. :)

  5. Haha, I almost used the term "tunnel vision."

    Happy to contribute.