Sunday, November 16, 2014

KINK FACTOR: ELIZABETH MCNEILL'S "9 1/2 WEEKS"


In light of this week's release of the extended and rather nauseating '50 Shades' trailer I decided to revisit a much more interesting and truthful account of a BDSM arrangement between two strangers. The events of 9 1/2 Weeks took place in 1978 and were published the same year. In 1986, the story was made into an erotic film starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. While the more "sexy" aspects of sadomasochism infused the screen adaptation, most of McNeill's really frightening accounts of relinquishing one's body and mind to another stayed on the page. To be clear, 9 1/2 Weeks is not some third rate fan fiction of a middle aged woman who sounds like she never even took a whiff of BDSM culture, much less actively participated in any of it.  This one's a memoir, and it reads decidedly as such. 

There is starkness to it with details so intimate; you feel you shouldn't be privy to them. It greatly raises the stakes for sexual self-revelation. The love affair is extreme. What makes it more shocking is that both parties are powerful people. It isn't a mousy, inexperienced girl and a man of power, no, Elizabeth (pseudonym) was an executive for a large corporation in New York - a single, educated, professional woman, the kind we'd later see on Sex and the City. And yet, she relinquishes all of it almost immediately to "John", the Prince Charming who would spend the next 9 1/2 weeks dressing her, feeding her, washing her, fucking her, beating her, and making every single decision for her. And, to her own surprise, she would love every minute of it.

This is all to say - if you genuinely want to plunge down that rabbit hole, read the memoir. It's short (a mere 110 pages) and concise. It will thrill, but likely won't titillate - unless you already have an acquired taste for this sort of thing. There's no cheesy concoction of a happily ever after or even a mutual, civilized parting. The affair ends just as passionately and tumultuously as it began. The passion doesn't linger for long, but the tumult leaves a permanent scar. Physically, Elizabeth needs months to recover.

If you're in the mood for a lighter, and deliciously trashier adaptation, watch the film. Yes, it has little in common with the memoir aside from a title and a thin plot, but people you actually want to see having sex embody the characters. 80's Rourke was sex on legs. There's your real Christian Grey.  As for the women… 

Kim Basinger or Dakota Johnson? Sounds like a rhetorical question, no?

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