"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Why Good Girls Fall For Bad Boys - Madame Bovary And The Irresistible Scent Of Male Power

Emma Bovary, trapped in an unhappy, frustrating marriage to an ordinary, unremarkable man, wants out - not only a liaison to satisfy her sexual thirst, but an affair with a man of breeding, taste, wealth, and confidence. As a young girl she had dreamed of a man like the Marquis d'Andervilliers, a knight, a charming courtier, a man who understood women profoundly; a man whose sexual instincts were both finally attuned to a woman's needs and without bourgeois remorse.  

Women knew who the Marquis was and still wanted him.  They were fascinated by what made him so alluring and irresistible to so many women and excited by the chance that they might solve the riddle of his love, make him love only them, forever. 

The Marquis had no feelings of guilt about his shameless seduction of women.  He could no sooner become a sensitive, compassionate, and caring lover no sooner than a lion could lose his taste for blood.  He and the lion were predators, at ease, in control, and lords of the veldt and the sitting room. It was natural for him to hunt women, and natural for them to come to him in heat.

Emma was hopeless drawn to the Marquis.  Nothing - not his cavalier indifference, his masterful but transparent seduction, nor his reputation - could keep her away. Caution, circumspection, measures of prudence and wariness were irrelevant when one came up to such a man.  Liaison, even epiphany was possible if not inevitable. Not only is Emma taken by the obvious expressions of his wealth and breeding, she understands what lies beneath - that ineffable confidence of privilege and the contentment with its amoral, defining nature. 

Their clothes, better made, seemed of finer cloth, and their hair brought forward in curls toward the temples, glossy with more delicate pomade. They had the complexion of wealth, that clear complexion that is heightened by the pallor of porcelain, the shimmer of satin, the veneer of old furniture, and that an ordered regimen of exquisite nurture maintains at its best...In their unconcerned looks was the calm of passions daily satiated, and through all their gentleness and manner pierced that peculiar brutality, the result of command of half-easy things in which force is exercised and vanity amused - the management of thoroughbred horses and the society of loose women. 

She would be the one to pierce the armor of such a man, turn him from dalliance to devotion.  She would be the one for him. 

The Marquis was not an unusual man.  That particular combination of breeding and natural instinct in men is well known if uncommon; but that same particular conviction on the part of women that they can corral the sexual truant, collar him, break him, and ride him is as common as wheat in a field. 

What makes women fall for bad boys, the sexual truants of nature? They know - they have to know - where such truancy will lead, but better judgment is never an issue.  Sexual epiphanies, Tantric singularity, Oriental ying-yang complementarity will always trump routine. Emma Bovary wanted nothing to do with her pedestrian, dutiful, and insufferably boring husband; and looked to men of physical beauty, sexual allure, and social prominence.

Sinclair Lewis’ heroine in Main Street grows increasingly impatient with her rural doctor husband and his patient dutifulness.  She wants more than a man of principle and good intent, and she eventually leaves him to find her own way.  Fran Dodsworth, Lewis’ character in his novel of the same name is fashioned after Mme. Bovary in her scorn for her pedestrian, limited husband; for her adolescent dreams of royalty and the charmed life; and for her potent sexual desire.

Tennessee Williams’ Alma, the main character in Summer and Smoke was brought up in a rectory by a censorious, disciplinarian father, and has for most of her youth followed his precepts and good counsel; and yet she is ineluctably attracted to the bad boy next door, the ‘wastrel’, womanizer, and libertine.  He is the one, not the schoolmarmish, bookish young man who seeks her company.

Blanche and Stella, main characters in Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire both are attracted to Stanley, an unashamed male who likes women, who understands them, and in his irrevocably powerful sexuality attracts them easily and often.  In Williams’ mind, like Lawrence’s, this primitive, inexplicable, but captivating sexuality is the central point of male-female relationships.  It is no surprise that women like Stella, unpretentiously feminine in her wifely and motherly role; and Blanche in her sexually promiscuous way are both attracted to  Stanley.

Because good girls always fall for bad boys, the boys have no reason whatsoever to reform, to repent, or to apologize for their ways.  They understand the indefinable but inevitable captivity of sexual bonding.  The wives who have married them for their remorseless ways, and who have voluntarily agreed to this particular marital contract will bear up, conciliate, draw some of their own lines in the sand, but be satisfied.

Savvy men today are no different from the Marquis.  They understand women, not in the political sense of civil rights, suffrage, and the glass ceiling, but in the sense of women’s tears, jealousy, mothering, and guilt.  A savvy man knows that even the youngest generation of women has grown up as daddy’s girls, in love with their fathers, the first and only men in their lives, men who can do no wrong, who are quickly forgiven when they do, and returned to their former place of admiration and respect. 

The sexual calculus has not changed in millennia and the last few decades of militant feminism have only chastened a few men who, still rooted in the days of civil rights, feel an obligation to give women their long awaited due, to let them have their lead, rule the roost.

Savvy men have grown up in the light of Lawrence and Flaubert for whom sexual relations were never a social matter, governed by status, money, and power – but will, emotional strength, and sexual dynamics.  Lawrence suggested that such sexual dynamics is a two-way street – that no prescriptions of dominance and submission exist; and that water will always find its own level.  Emma Bovary, doomed to emotional ruin because of her sexual and social naïveté, nevertheless had the courage to try for epiphany.  

The fact that this primal urge was discolored by her vanity and hopelessly venal social ambitions is irrelevant. Even as a sexual pawn of the Marquis, in Lawrentian terms, she could still achieve sexual finality.  Today’s women automatically dismiss Emma as an emotional adolescent, seduced by impossible, empty dreams of social success; and losing all perspective and feminine instinct in the face of the Marquis.  To them the Marquis is reprehensible, an amoral misogynist with no restraint or sensitivity  

Yet these feminists miss the point on both scores.  Emma is right in her pursuits and desires for sexual completeness.  There is no shame nor censure in her attempts to lure the Marquis to her bed, nor his in accepting the challenge. 

Today’s censorious, closed, and Puritanical ethos is behind this sexual myopia.  Only the most respectful, attuned, intelligent relationships are worth notice.  Yet the reverse has been the rule for millennia. Women and men have not changed since the first human settlements and never will


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