a bad case of reflectionitis.
15 March 2006
  S&M and Sock Drawers
I’m not sure I can watch Secretary with other people in the room. I remember feeling this way about movie scenes as a child. My Mom and I watched Dirty Dancing, and I pretended to be thirsty during Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me.” Some things are just too personal for watching together. Even as a kid I wished I could be the smart, awkward girl in the bad boy’s cabin after hours. When Baby asks Patrick Swayze to dance within inches of his bed, I personalize it. I think I would do that. Fall in love with the unsuitable dance instructor then demand that he let me stay the night despite appearances.

But watching Secretary is on a completely different level. It’s not that I don’t want anyone to be in the room when sex scenes are on because of the general discomfort of viewing then looking at each other like “Haha. You’re thinking about sex right now.” It goes deeper. I know that other people would watch Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader experience arousal through harsh commands and red Sharpies and laugh. They’d say “God, how weird.” I’d blush and think “God, how romantic.”

People think S&M is kinky. I think it’s nature. Friends have said things like “You would be into that, Pellicori.” And I just smile, demure, unenthused by the jokes. I mean it; it’s not that off the wall. The pure politics of being possessed physically or possessing another physically entertain more romance and true love than is ever noted. S&M turns the lights on and speaks and demands and receives the way most people hate. Most people want the lights off, the intimacy to be unspoken and the moment to be separate from the world. Sex is supposed to be in a vacuum. It’s supposed to be this little thing couples do with the door shut and the blinds drawn.

Well maybe sex is everything and everywhere. I’ve often wondered how it is that more people aren’t turned on by the world. By being alive. I see that in the movie Secretary. I imagine that the ideal sex life doesn’t revolve around a woman wearing something lacey for her husband to get him into bed. I imagine that it revolves around the most human aspects of our lives – our behavior. I often am caught up in the little things, like the way a man holds a bottle of beer or jingles the change in his pocket. That turns me on. I need someone who’ll watch me do the dishes and want to scoop me up because he can’t resist his attraction to my routines. We are more real, more alive when we see the way others are truly illuminated.

Many cultures argue that one cannot live until he dies. That we aren’t attached to the reality of our lives until we experience and accept that we are not here for long, that we are not always going to be grounded in the reality of planet Earth. I feel the same way about pleasure. It may seem odd to incorporate strange pain and into the intimate, loving, close activity of sex; I argue that we cannot be truly pleased until we are submitted to absolute trust. The beauty of S&M is the undeniable trust and lack of shame that support it. Two people (or more than two, depending on your particular taste) can enjoy each other without the limitations of insecurity or secret fantasies hidden under pillows. Two people can admit their desire to be controlled, to control. Two people can experience kinds of pain. Pain that reminds them of their life, their attachment to the physical world. Pain is important to embrace and fuel. Pain makes pleasure the sweetest kind of dessert.

I’m most influenced by the idea of being possessed. Being a control freak, I suppose I admire the idea of a man telling me what to do. Because typically, I’d feed anyone trying to dish out commands a knuckle sandwich. I guess I want to love someone enough to want them to know I’m his. All the way, no questions asked. In Secretary, James Spader (aka Mr. Grey) takes a dominant role in Maggie’s life and at one point, she calls him to ask what she can eat for dinner. She gives him the menu, and then he tells her she can have a half spoonful of potatoes, four peas, and pauses. She has an anxious and livened look on her face. Then he says a line that really puts the icing on the cake: “… and eat as much ice cream as you want.” I like to think that real love is like this. Even though he has all the power in the world, he takes it to a point of his own personal satisfaction then wants to make sure she still has hers. When Maggie’s character, Lee, eats her dinner, she appears completely affected by her senses, by the simplicity of being possessed.

I guess I want that. And when I watch Secretary, I pine. I’m sure I even glow. Because I know what it’s like to be turned on by the world and to want someone to be turned on by it with me. I’m not sure I’m advanced enough to admit that the limitless S&M toys and chains and leathers toot my horn. Even in the organic, fleshy sense – two people (or more, as previously mentioned), knowing that there is a place to be fully affected and alive with another person at the helm is completely ideal. I don’t want sex to be the thing I do before bed every night, I want it to be the way I fold his clothes and apply mascara in the morning. I want it to exist, and I want to share it.

But I don’t want to share it with another person sitting one couch cushion away. I don’t want them to be in my vision or my scope as I grin and bear it. I can imagine this is why men stash their porn under mattresses and behind socks. Their wives and girl friends wouldn’t understand their desire to experience different angles in different locations with different kinds of people. It’s a matter of being accepted. I don’t fear my fantasy; I just don’t want to invite anyone into it that doesn’t belong there. If someone sat next to me throughout the Secretary experience, I’d have to excuse myself for a glass of water every five minutes. Either that or I’d have to cover my face to hide the excitement. Where’s the fun in that?

Someday, when I get into the right kind of relationship with promising momentum, I’ll sit him down in front of the TV, tell him to watch my movie, then leave him to think about what he’s getting himself into. And if he doesn’t like it, I guess I’ll have to be turned on by the world with somebody else. Because fantasy is reality, and I refuse to hide it in the back of a sock drawer.
This is a really insightful and interesting post. I'm a first time visitor and really like what you are doing.
Can't say I feel the same way. I do remember having to cross my legs while watching certain scenes of that movie. It made me very shifty in my seat.
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