Friday, 22 May 2015
A while back Christina Harding interviewed me about my erotica – in particular, my collection of erotic tales; Fetish Transcendence.
(CH) Can you describe your book in one sentence?
(BR) I cannot possibly describe my book in one sentence! Fetish Transcendence is a collection of explicit, fetish themed erotic tales. The fetishes ranged from sexual power and control over another, necrophilia, food fetish – and there’s Sherlock Holmes and Watson indulging in outrageous Victorian depravity. There are 12 stories in all. Some of them are brand new; others have appeared in a few Sizzler Renaissance anthologies, but I must emphasise that none of them have appeared as “Free Reads” on Twitter.
(CH) What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
(BR) Oh, definitely the first story in the collection! “Security” is about a security guard in an exclusive department store in London. Freddie, has his own unique form of justice for the shoplifters whom he catches stealing from his posh store. There is one thief who has always eluded the security guards of London’s West End. They’ve named her “the Shadow” and Freddie would love to catch her. This tale first appeared in Sizzler’s “London” anthology – and it’s my favourite story because I was writing about a part of London I know well. Freddie’s depravity helped too – of course!
(CH) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?
(BR) Well, lots of sex. I hope that they will enjoy my tales – I think that some of the stories will amuse, will certainly bring a smile to their faces. I think that quite a few readers will identify with the characters I’ve created – I’m thinking of two brand new stories here, right at the end of the collection – “The Diary” and “Anastasia,” the protagonist is a woman on the receiving end of a man exerting absolute power and control over her – it’s a situation that I can identify with – I think that some of my readers will too. Maybe not to the extent of the character in my story, but enough to have a resonance of how power and control manifests. And I think that some readers will identify with the character in another way -- the woman in the story is turned on by her situation. Being controlled sexually is, even humiliated sexually, is a fetish for many men and women.
(CH) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
(BR) Just write…and write!
(CH) What made you want to write erotica?
(BR) I’ve always loved Romance novels…I think that the Victorian writers first introduced me to the genre -- Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, I love their work. And more than that, I love their bad boy heroes. Rochester, Heathcliffe and Anne Bronte’s hero, Gilbert Markham. Men who know what they want, and get it, creating the rules as they go. After university, I fell into reading 21st century Romance novels, but they dissatisfied me. I wanted men, and women who are not afraid to be different as to how they express their sexuality. I read a Mills and Boon writer, Samantha Hunter, who was not afraid to call a cock a cock and I realised that there was a whole genre of Romance that I was missing out on. I Googled Erotica – and wow, it was like coming home! I read and read as fast as the post woman could deliver them – I discovered what I liked to read – power exchanges, particularly sexual power exchanges.
Through those books, there was one writer who stood out – M.Christian. I checked out his blog and emailed him about one of his books. He responded, and we’ve been friends ever since. In fact, it was Chris who first encouraged me to write Erotica and he published my first story on his blog. Chris’ work is one of the reasons why I hate 50 Shades so much. There have been so many great writers of Erotica over the years. Not just Chris; there’s Patrick Califia, N.T.Morley…check out his Master/slave anthology, Kristina Wright, her short story, “In the Stacks” blew me away – there’s so many of them and they’ve never really gained much recognition. People who think that E.LJames’ silly book is Erotica should read some real Erotica – where the characters accept their sexual orientation as something special, not something to be “cured”.
And I am not talking about my books, before “Anon” begins penning hate-mail to my blog -- there’s some really great Erotica out there and you don’t have to do a lot of leg work to find it.Just do as I did; type “Erotica” into your favourite search engine and be amazed. But I was talking about 50 Shades; E.L James’ heroine, by the end of the first book, is determined to cure Christian Grey of his Fetish – I don’t know whether she succeeds; the book actually bored me, particularly that turgid contract, which has been duplicated from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, published in 1870. I never got beyond the first book of 50 Shades, one book of drivel is as much as I can take. I think that the reason for E.L.James’ success is her background in marketing – ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know.’
(CH) Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your writing?
(BR) Everywhere! Stories in the media; magazines, newspapers, television. You see power exchanges everywhere. But sometimes I just think, “what if?” What if a couple, who have been married for years are bored with their sex lives? This was the basis for my short story “Dissonance”. The husband tells his wife that he feels suffocated by the dull routine they have slipped in to. And their dialogue is what tells the story – it’s a free read on Twitter.
(CH) What does your writing area look like?
(BR) A disorganised mess. You’d think with all the sophisticated systems we’ve got these days – files that we can access with a click of the mouse, I’d have everything in order in my Desktop. But not so…I create files, then forget what I’ve called them. But what adds to the disorganisation is that I write things down on pieces of paper. It might be a quote, or a phrase, or an idea – but when I want to get my hands on something, it’s nearly impossible, because of the piles of junk I have to go through.
I’d like to be able to tell you that everything is immaculate at my work station, but it is not, my work station looks like something out of the TV show, Storage Wars!
(CH) We see you on Twitter a lot – some of your Tweets talk about writing to arouse -- are you teasing future readers? Are you hoping that your readers will be turned on?
(BR) Oh, it’s absolutely true – I do write to arouse and yes, I am teasing too. I found out, when I was reading Romance and when I discovered Erotica, I found out what turned me on. And I realised that if I can identify with a writer in that way, well it must be something that other readers want as well. But I’m still learning – I’ve only been a published writer for about 5 years and I’ve got a lot to learn – I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning, and wanting to learn.
(CH) So, do you get turned on by your stories?
Yes, I do! I get very excited too, when I can feel that a story is going really well. Writing Erotica, for me, is about embracing my own kinks and dark, very dark sometimes, desires. Even as a small child, I could relate to masochistic ideas; my first fantasy was about being spanked, hard. I remember watching an old black and white film; I must have been about 8 or 9. I cannot recall the title, but it’s a cowboy western with John Wayne pursuing Maureen O’ Hara around the town. When he catches her, he puts her over his knee and spanks her. That was my first experience of sexual arousal and I would fantasise about being spanked at night when I was in my bed. And there’s an Elvis Presley film, Blue Hawaii, where Elvis puts a spoilt woman over his knee and spanks her. I was a teen when I saw that film and the spanking scene really did turn me on.
(CH) Do you think it is necessary for an Erotica writer to be turned on by the events in a story?
(BR) Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but my own arousal informs my writing. I think that if I didn’t get turned on, my writing would lack authenticity and my readers would see through me and know that I was a fake.
(CH) In your Female Domination tales, where are you in the stories? Your writing is often brutal; the men in the tales are completely turned on by the pain and humiliation. Are you the woman wielding the whip?
(BR) No, I am writing from the submissive’s point of view. That is me in the story being punished and begging for release. Being controlled sexually, like being forbidden orgasm, is a big turn on for a lot of people – men and women.
(CH)Anything you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading me! Thank you for the reviews, for reading my blog and for the support. And thanks to those of you who give me the ideas for the stories – my Twitter followers – you know who you are!
Here’s a review from lovely Dark Scribe at Amazon.
"This was my first read of a book by Billierosie, and armed with the knowledge that this lady pulls no punches I dived in! Each of the stories touch on edgy eroticism, blurring the lines in one or two places in a roller-coaster of a read. For those of you that like your fetish to be dark and dangerous you will LOVE this collection, and I would mark it down as a definite read as soon as you can! It's quirky, riveting, addictive and typical of the lady herself; VERY naughty!!"
billierosie can be found at her blog – www.billierosie.blogspot.com
She is Billierosie author on Facebook and @jojojojude on Twitter.
Where to find billierosie's books:
Fetish Transcendence (a collection of explicit erotica) is at Amazon U.K in paperback and as an eread. at Amazon U.S.
Memoirs of a Sex Slave; the confessions of a submissive woman is at Amazon U.K;and at Amazon U.S.
Enslaving Eli, (A Fem/Dom tale) is at Amazon U.K. as an eread and in paperback.And at Amazon U.S
Rebellious Slave is at Amazon UK as an eread and in paperback. And at Amazon U.S.
Friday, 15 May 2015
Although the Ladies wished to live in "delightful retirement" - reading, writing, drawing and gardening - the fashionable world soon beat a path to their cottage door. Their visitors included the Duke of Wellington, Lady Caroline Lamb, Josiah Wedgwood, William Wordsworth, Thomas de Quincey, Prince Paul Esterhazy and the Duke of Gloucester; their pen-friends included Queen Charlotte, Lord Byron and Louis XVI's aunt. There were many days when the Ladies had up to 20 visitors in relays, entertaining literally morning, noon and night.
Why did two country spinsters become so famous? It is hard to imagine today how sensational it was in the 18th century for unmarried ladies to live independently, whether singly or together. In addition, the circumstances of Eleanor and Sarah's elopement were positively melodramatic.
Eleanor was the youngest daughter of the de jure Earl of Ormonde, of Kilkenny Castle (his titles were attainted, like those of other devoutly Catholic Irish peers). Eleanor's brother, Robert, paved the way for restoration of the Ormonde earldom by converting to Protestantism, and he made a brilliant marriage. Eleanor's sisters married well, too.
But for Eleanor - clever, bookish, satirical and already 39 - there was no such hope. What better way, then, to make amends to God for brother Robert's apostasy, than by putting Eleanor in a nunnery? It would be a cheap way to dispose of her, too.
Twelve miles away, at the mansion of Woodstock, her orphaned 23-year-old friend Sarah Ponsonby was suffering the unwanted attentions of her middle-aged guardian, Sir William Fownes. His wife, Betty, whom Sarah dearly loved, was still alive, but her health was failing and Sir William over-eagerly anticipated the day when he could take pretty Sarah as the second Lady Fownes.
Both women felt trapped in an unbearable situation. Clandestine correspondence flew back and forth between Kilkenny Castle and Woodstock, and they decided to elope to England together (elope did not have the same marital connotation that it does today, it just meant run away). Dressed as men, carrying a pistol and Sarah's dog Frisk, they rode through the night to catch the ferry at Waterford, but it did not sail and they were forced to hide in a barn. They were caught and taken home.
Sarah fell seriously ill with a fever, but Eleanor, faced with imminent incarceration in a French convent, ran away again - this time to Woodstock, where she hid in Sarah's bedroom and a housemaid, Mary Carryll, smuggled food in to her. When this was discovered, the Ormondes declined to collect their errant daughter and after 10 days the Fownes family caved in. Sarah and Eleanor were free to go.
No melodrama, however, would be complete without retribution - while Eleanor, Sarah and their maid, Mary, were touring Wales in search of a home, Sir William was struck down with "strangulation of the stomach", followed by a stroke, and after a fortnight of barbaric treatments - "blistered and glistered and physick'd" - he died in agony.
The nature of Sarah and Eleanor's "romantic friendship" has naturally excited curiosity over the years. They referred to each other as "My Beloved" (or "My B"), then later as "My Better Half"; were certainly as devoted as any married couple; slept in the same bed; cropped their hair into short curls and habitually wore riding habits with mannish beaver hats.
So they were lesbians - or were they? Few who visited them thought so. The word romantic simply meant fanciful or eccentric in the 18th century. And it was the fashion for friends - male as well as female - to write and speak to each other in language which we now reserve for sexual partners.
Nor was it uncommon to share a bed with a sister or friend. The Ladies' hairstyles and hats followed a French fashion - besides, they were practical for the country - and they spent their money on books and home improvements, not on frivolous clothes.
My guess, from reading Elizabeth Mavor's excellent biography, is that Eleanor was a lesbian, whether she realised it or not (likely not, as it was unheard-of until an outbreak of "sapphism" at the French court brought it to English society's notice in 1789); but that Sarah - if she had not met Eleanor at the impressionable age of 13, and if she had not needed to escape from her guardian - might have settled down just as happily with a husband.
As it was, she settled down, for 50 years, with Eleanor. They took a five-roomed stone cottage on a hillside above Llangollen, renamed it Plas Newydd (New Hall) and began to extend and embellish it. Windows were gothicised and old stained glass panels inserted into them. A library was filled with finely bound books and curiosities of all kinds, including a lock of Mary Queen of Scots' hair.
They developed a passion for old, carved wood - whether from medieval churches or broken-up Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture. The staircase hall was lined with it, and a bizarre trio of canopies built on to the door and windows. The front porch incorporates, inter alia, carvings of the four evangelists, Latin inscriptions, 17th-century bedposts and lions donated by the Duke of Wellington (visitors soon learnt that to appear with gifts of carvings ensured a welcome).
The grounds became similarly elaborate as time went on and acres were added. Passing through a "ruined" Gothic archway, visitors could cross the rushing stream in its miniature ravine on rustic bridges; visit Lady Eleanor's Bower, overhanging the ravine, and a temple complete with a font stolen from Valle Crucis Abbey's ruins; see butter being made in the circular model dairy; admire peaches, nectarines and melons growing in the ornate glasshouse; and read poetic quotations on boards tacked to tree trunks.
It was all highly, fashionably Picturesque; it was also highly expensive. The Ladies never did learn to manage on a small income. Despite their family allowances and state pensions, they were often in debt - and when this happened, to cheer themselves up, they embarked on new improvements. They drank the best wine and kept several servants, including the faithful Mary Carryll as their housekeeper.
Mary was uncouth and formidable (her Irish nickname had been Molly the Bruiser), but the Ladies were touchingly devoted to her, and she to them. When she died, they erected an elaborate stone monument, under which they later joined her; and she bequeathed them an additional field, bought with her life savings.
After their deaths, Plas Newydd had several owners, including one, General John Yorke, who left an indelible mark on the house. Following their enthusiasm for old, carved oak, he elaborately lined their kitchen to form the present-day Oak Room, where all that remains from the Ladies' time is their initials carved into the mantelpiece.
General Yorke also half-timbered the house facade in black and white, with curious, carved decorations between the beams; and he crammed the interiors with oddities, including mementoes of the Ladies and such esoterica as the skeletal head of a sea-serpent.
In 1932 the house was taken over by Llangollen Urban District Council, and it opened to the public a year later. The house is well-maintained but the garden's remaining features are in sad need of restoration - for which a National Lottery Fund grant is awaited.
Plas Newydd is in Llangollen, Clwyd (signposted from the town centre) (01978 861314). Open daily until end October, 10am-5pm (last admission to house 4.15pm). Admission £2.50 adult, £1.25 child.
Elizabeth Mavor's biography, `The Ladies of Llangollen' (Penguin, £4.99), is on sale at the house.
Also available at as an eread at Amazon UK and Amazon US
The article is from The Daily Telegraph, 4th May 2002
by Anne Campbell Dixon
I was lucky enough to visit Plas Newydd only this week, with my friend Francis Potts -- it is wonderful and I felt privileged to briefly the ladies home. The journals are there for visitors to read -- steeped in love, an all consuming powerful love. It really doesn't matter one way or another whether Sarah and Eleanor were lesbians or not-- that they loved one another was enough; quite enough.
Plas Newydd is set in peaceful gardens surrounded by trees and includes the font from the nearby Valle Crucis Abbey.
The house is now a museum run by Denbighshire County Council. The circle of stones, in the grounds of Plas Newydd was used for the 1908 Llangollen National Eisteddfod.
Open Easter to October 10.00-17.00
Telephone +44 1978 861314
Friday, 8 May 2015
How far can you go?
Incest and bestiality are illegal, at least in the UK, but the boundaries aren’t clear. Full sex with my brother clearly counts as incest, and fucking a donkey counts as bestiality, but what about heavy petting, for example?
In Ginger, the toothless cat enjoys licking and chewing Gladys’s ‘thingy’. It’s his favourite, and he prefers it even to mashed sardines. Does that count as bestiality? Gladys enjoys it too, but it isn’t actual sex. A cat licking sardines off a finger is obviously okay, but what about the same cat licking fish sauce off an elderly woman’s ‘boobies’? She tries the sauce on her arm first, to see if the cat likes it, and that’s presumably okay. If I had infinite patience, I could write different versions of the story, with the cat licking a different bit of Gladys in each one, and see where on the scale of finger to thingy Amazon decides to ban it.
If I share a bed with my brother, or my sister, and we just sleep, that’s probably fine. If we kiss each other goodnight, that’s probably also fine. Maybe we can have a bit of a cuddle if it’s cold. However, somewhere along that line we reach the point at which Amazon starts banning things.
Am I allowed to wank my brother with my hand? There’s no penetration involved. What about fingering my sister? Is clit play okay, or do I have to limit myself to kissing her boobs? What about kissing my brother’s chest? He hasn’t got boobs, so that’s presumably all fine, and if I can kiss his chest, surely I can kiss my sister’s chest.
In Butcher And Baker, the brother sticks his finger in his sister’s arse, to see if she likes it. She doesn’t, so it presumably doesn’t count as sex, in which case it isn’t incest. If he were a proctologist, he could be checking her out as a favour, and that wouldn’t be incest. If she likes it, though, does it become incest, or do they have to go further than that? Supposing he were only her half brother? Would he be allowed to go that little bit further before it becomes incest, or are the lines in the same place?
In the UK, first cousin marriages are legal, even if the cousins are ‘double cousins’, who share 25% of their genes. If I had a half brother, though, I wouldn’t be allowed to have sex with him, because we would be too closely related, with 25% of our genes in common.
According to Wikipedia, consensual incest is legal between adults in Spain and the Netherlands, and I haven’t noticed society falling apart in either country. Maybe I should just translate Butcher And Baker into Spanish, and put it on amazon.es, where it presumably wouldn’t be banned, since the brother and sister are both in their fifties, and they want to do it, thereby sitting solidly within the law.
In the circumstances, it’s a lucky thing I don’t fancy either my brother or my sister, and I haven’t got a donkey, or even a cat. Life's complicated enough.
Butcher and Baker
Post Mortem (UK)
Milk Amazon(UK) and Amazon US
Billy and Rosie; a Tale of Innocence and Taboo is here.
Rose is @rosew007 on Twitter and her blog is http://roseworms.blogspot.co.uk/
Friday, 1 May 2015
Bernini was the first sculptor to realise the dramatic potential of light in sculpture. This is fully realised in his famous masterpiece Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1645-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome), in which the sun's rays, coming from an unseen source, illuminate the saint and the smiling angel about to pierce her heart with a golden arrow.
Saint Teresa was a nun who was canonized (made a Saint by the Church) in part because of the spiritual visions she experienced. She lived during the middle of the 16th century in Spain—at the height of the Reformation. Saint Teresa wrote several books in which she described her visions.
Here is Saint Theresa’s description of the event in her own words.
“Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form.... He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire.... In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.”
To a contemporary viewer, Saint Theresa is a woman on the very verge of tipping over into orgasm bliss. The ecstatic expression of her slightly parted lips; the tightly closed eyes, shutting out superfluous sensation. The angel’s spear, with the flame at the tip. Bernini presents us with a sacred image; it is profane too.
You can see Bernini’s fabulous (fabulous in the truest sense of the word) in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.
Friday, 24 April 2015
Eric Keys’ book; “For the Glory,” will shock and disturb you. It is meant to. It’s a bdsm story; it’s hot, it’s very, very sexy – it also has a 19 year old protagonist with a vile attitude. Ilsa is violently, irrepressibly anti-Semitic.
“Ilsa was driven by rage when she met Saul. He was everything she despised, but he saw something more in her. But does he have the determination to break through Ilsa's defenses? And more importantly, does Ilsa have the strength to let him?”
Eric Keys puts words in Ilsa’s mouth; words that will make you cringe – people don’t say such things…do they? Not now; not in the second decade of the 21st century. We don’t have bad thoughts like that anymore; we are enlightened, charitable; we have learnt how to celebrate difference. Well, if the attitude of Soccer fans is anything to go by, they most certainly do – news reports tell us that anti-Semitism is rife within the Soccer fans world. Both here in the U.K. and across Europe – particularly Eastern Europe.
I think that Ilsa’s profanities are doubly shocking, because she is so young – she is also very beautiful. The impact is the same as when we hear a 3 year old say the “F” word.
Why is Eric Keys giving Ilsa such a terrible, terrifying ideology?
So when Ilsa is seduced into being a submissive to the Jewish, Dominant Saul, it comes as a surprise for the reader – she begins by insulting him – I’m not going to tell you how it ends – all I will say is that if you don’t believe that you can be aroused by the written word – think again.
But it’s the anti-Semitism that intrigues me. Why has Eric Keys put it there? What’s the point?
A friend of mine, Anthony, went to Austria on a skiing holiday earlier this year. He took a taxi from the airport to his resort. He has spent time in Germany and wanted to practice his language skills, so he talked to the taxi driver in German. Taxi drivers love to talk – and this one certainly did. How everyone hates the Jews, how the Jews lost the First World War for Germany, how there is a banking conspiracy for Jews to take over the world. Fat Jews, Jews with big noses – every stereotype you can think of.
And that’s why, I think, Erik Keys has put anti-Semitism into his book – he knows that it is still there; lurking like a cancer – over the centuries, over the millennia – stepping stones of hatred that almost made Hitler’s “Final Solution” a reality.
Genocide – the total extermination of the Jews – it almost happened in the ovens of Auschwitz and Belsen. Could it happen again? What do you think?
Here are some extracts from email exchanges with Eric Keys…
(billierosie) I get hatred but I don't get racism...particularly anti-Semitism; how a whole race of people can be so hated, that they should be wiped off the face of the earth..
(Eric Keys) It is hard to get your head around racism or anti-Semitism. For years it was all a mystery to me. Then I saw a documentary about the Nazis - I think it was called Architecture of Doom - and it all started to gel. Up till then Nazism was scary but alien. But after seeing this film I saw it as even scarier because it started to make sense to me. The Nazi propaganda machine worked by getting people to think they were involved in this giant drama. At the time they thought of it in terms of opera, but we might see it more as a gigantic cycle of novels - Song of Fire and Ice or the Hunger Games or something. Or maybe movies - Star Wars? Anyway, it was only then that I saw the appeal and it scared me a million times more than it did before.
But it also fascinated me. So, I read lots of articles about white supremacy, etc. Scary, scary stuff...
I tried to exorcise it through Ilsa.
(billierosie; talking about my review) ) I hope it's okay that I concentrated on Ilsa's anti-semitism..I know it's inextricably linked to the bdsm..in your book, but it's the hatred of the Jews thing that stood out to me...particularly as you'd told me about your own ethnicity.
(Eric Keys) That's fine that you concentrate on Ilsa's anti-semitism. It's part of what fascinated me about her. I've had this crazy fascination on and off for years. I seriously considered not putting it in there, but she's the heart of the story and her hatred is such a deep part of who she was and where she came from. I sort of expected people would not get over that, but since the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so I guess people were willing to either stick it out or they haven't been bothered enough to write a review.
Visit Eric Keys’ blog here
For the Glory is at Amazon US And at Amazon UK
Check out also; Mstislav: Vengeance and Glory – also by Eric Keys. At Amazon US and at Amazon UK
Friday, 17 April 2015
Félicien Rops was a Belgian artist, specialising in printmaking, etching and aquatint. He lived from July 1833 until August 1898. He trained at the University of Brussels and his work was part of, and complimented the literary movement, illustrating Symbolism and Decadence.
Although the movements of Symbolism and Decadence can be considered to be similar in one respect, the two remain distinct..
Decadence was the name given, originally by hostile critics, to several late nineteenth-century writers, who valued artifice more than the earlier Romantics naïve descriptions. Some of them adopted the name, referring to themselves as "Decadents". For the most part, they were influenced by the tradition of the Gothic novel and by the poetry and fiction of Edgar Allan Poe.
In Britain the main person associated with Decadence was Oscar Wilde.
Rops’ forté was drawing, more than painting in oils; he first won fame as a caricaturist. He experimented with a distinctive printmaking technique called "soft varnish" which resulted in an image that was very close to drawing, eventually mastering the technique after years of experimentation. He sketched incessantly and feverishly.
Like the works of the authors whose poetry he illustrated his work tends to mingle sex, death, and satanic images.
Rops met Charles Baudelaire towards the end of the poet's life in 1864, and Baudelaire left an impression upon him that lasted until the end of his days. Rops’ created the frontispiece for Baudelaire's Les Épaves, a selection of poems from Les Fleurs du mal that had been censored in France, and which therefore were published in Belgium.
Rops’ association with Baudelaire and with the art he represented, won his work the admiration of many other writers, including Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Joséphin Péladan.
But let’s look at the art and see if we can fathom what critics and supporters of Rops’ were talking about.
Pornocrates by Félicien Rops.Etching and aquatint.
The etching has a defiantly pornographic tone. An almost naked, blindfolded, curvaceous woman, is led by a fat swine from somewhere, to nowhere. Cherubs flit like butterflies in misty blue. It is an image from a dream, tipping over into a nightmare. The erotica is explicit. Yes -- the woman is almost naked, but the few clothes she wears emphasise the helplessness of her situation.
Yet, she is dressed in garments that suggest that she is in control. Heeled shoes, long, opera gloves and sexy stockings. The silken blue sash emphasises her nudity. It is a work of art for the voyeur; there is a feeling that it is staged, that the subject wants to be seen in her decadent glory. Perhaps she is saying; “look at me!”
Or is this a pornographic fantasy that the woman is determined to see through, despite stepping into the realms of the taboo? The little tipping hat that she wears, suggests that she is someone of consequence; the dream symbolism is perhaps telling us something about ourselves. she has given up control, but she is in control.
It seems that Rops is illustrating the theories of Freud and Jung. No matter how hard we try to suppress our darkest thoughts, no matter our place in the social scale, our darkest desires will surface in art, fantasies and dreams; the stories that we tell.
In a letter to his friend Henri Liesse, Rops described the painting:
"My Pornocratie is complete. This drawing delights me. I would like to show you this beautiful naked girl, clad only in black shoes and gloves in silk, leather and velvet, her hair styled. Wearing a blindfold she walks on a marble stage, guided by a pig with a "golden tail" across a blue sky. Three loves - ancient loves - vanish in tears. I did this in four days in a room of blue satin, in an overheated apartment, full of different smells, where the opopanax and cyclamen gave me a slight fever conducive towards production or even towards reproduction". --Letter from Rops to Henri Liesse, 1879.
Whereas many artists of the time might hint at a fashionable blasphemy or satanism, Rops’ dealings with these subjects were unequivocal, as was the blatant, pornographic tone of many of his drawings.
In this parody of the crucifixion Rops is being deliberately shocking to the lecherous edge of perversity. The contorted body of the Christ figure, has goat’s legs and feet. He looks down at the woman beneath; his expression is agonising. There is pain, and something else; depravity. More than decadence, the work expresses a raw, rapacious lust, that doesn’t know where to stop. The creature’s phallus rests upon the woman’s cheek; she is bound to the figure by some sort of strap. Her pose reflects that of the crucifixion, more so than that of the figure on the cross. The scarlet backdrop signifies corruption.
“Calvary” is brutal; insolent. Rops does not care about the viewer’s sensibilities; and why should he? He is being deliberately provocative. You don’t have to look, but he dares you to. If you were to challenge him, I think that his response would be; “well so what”! He is in the business of shocking and here he takes the sentimental, traditional view of the Passion of Christ, and shows it for the blasphemy and obscenity that it is.
It still has pathos, you can see it in the tortured grimaces. But it’s a work about sex and death; sex and religion. In particular I think that it is an exposition of the Roman Catholic tradition of faith and sacrifice. The life of dedication that Catholicism exhorts from the blindly faithful.
THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY
Saint Anthony kneels at the lectern, one bony leg outstretched as if in preparation to flee. He needs a place of security, far away from the horrors of blasphemy. His hands attempt to shield his ears from the raucous din. The figure on the cross compounds the blasphemy; it is the figure of a young, voluptuous woman, her soft, yielding breasts thrusting forwards towards the baffled saint. “Eros” replaces “Inri” at the pinnacle of the cross. The banished Christ is on her right, on her left, a ragged demon, behind the cross a swine stares intently, his forelegs raised. Tiny skeletonised demons flit like bats in the darkening sky. Can Saint Anthony resist the allure of the image? The image that so brutally usurps the Christian message.
The violent image seems to have occurred as the Saint turns the pages of the scriptures. Looking closely, I think that I can see the banishment of Adam and Eve, the first sinners. Perhaps this is encouraging Anthony to hold fast to his faith.
The earliest paintings to employ the scene were Italian frescos of the 10th century. The later European Middle Ages saw accumulation of the theme in book illumination and later in German woodcuts. About 1500 originated the famous paintings of Martin schöngauer (ca. 1490), Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1505) and Mathias Grünewald (ca. 1510). In the modern era the theme has been treated by the Spanish painter Salvador Dalí and the French author Gustave Flaubert, who considered his 1874 bookThe Temptation of saint Anthony to be his master work.
PIC "La Buveuse d Absinthe"
“Félicien Rops drew "La Buveuse d Absinthe" (meaning specifically the female absinthe drinker) in 1865 at the age of around 32 and frequently afterwards drew the same subject over the next 30 years. The picture always shows a slender woman leaning against a pillar outside a dance-hall, her low neckline and fine dress showing she is part of the nightlife. Her insouciant attitude, accompanied by her staring eyes, slightly opened mouth and haggard expression suggesting that she is a prostitute. She became the archetype of the female absinthe drinker.”
“Joris-Karl Huysmans, writer of A Rebours (meaning 'against the grain'), often said to be the supreme expression of the decadent spirit, described Rops’ absinthe drinker:
“M. Rops has created a type of woman that we will dream of, dream of again and be drawn back to, the type of absinthe drinker who, brutalised and hungry, grows ever more menacing and more voracious, with her face frozen and empty, villainous and hard, with her limpid eyes with a look as fixed and cruel as a lesbian's, with her mouth a little open, her nose regular and short ... the girl bitten by the green poison leans her exhausted spine on a column of the bal Mabille and it seems that the image of syphilitic Death is going to cut short the ravaged thread of her life.”
“On exhibition of his absinthe drinker at the International Exhibition of Fine Art in his home town of Namur in Belgium, Rops felt himself "spat upon": The picture outraged the critics and the local civic establishment issued an official rebuke to the artist, who 'far from consecrating his talent to the reproduction of gracious and elegant works, prostitutes his pencil complacently to the reproduction of scenes imprinted with a repellent realism”.
With unconcealed glee at this notoriety, Rops wrote to his friend Jean d'Ardenne how his La Buveuse d'Absinthe blew the minds ('les têtes... s'epanouissaient') of his bourgeois countrymen.'
Two women rage in an orgy of carnal lust. Cunnilingus, tongues, lips, teeth, juices. The image tells a story of how women are able to feel about sex, there is the potential for women to feel earthy, feral, rather than the sanitised presentation of the erotica in the tradition of Ingres. Women can be active, not simply passive recipients. The image is raw, primal and urgent. Their need is overpowering and overwhelming. There is nothing about making love in this drawing and it is as far away from Gustave Courbet’s tender image of “The Sleepers” as you can get. Rops’ depiction of women having sex is about possibilities; the possibility for women to indulge totally in the dark side of desire.
Well, to me, it’s a celebration of life, of sexuality in all of its guises. The woman has an erect penis; or does the man have voluptuous breasts? It doesn’t matter; contorted figures writhe in blatantly sexual poses at the base of the picture. Is the artist saying; “It doesn’t matter what your sexual proclivity is, just do it?”
In his prolific body of work, Rops demonstrates that posterity favours the forthright and the unique over uniformity and compromise.
Like the works of the authors whose poetry he illustrated, his work tends to mingle sex, death, and satanic images in a way which shocked many of his contemporaries and is sometimes disturbing even today.
There can be no doubt that Félicien Robs adored sex and he adored women; their taste, their scent, their texture. His adoration is reflected in his work. In a poignant letter to Louise Danse he opens up about his personal insecurities.
“ Each time autumn arrives with its austere intoxications, I suffer as if every hope that I carry within me and which are the same as those that illuminated my twentieth year were going to expire forever along with the dead leaves. I am so afraid of being old and of no longer being able to inspire love in a woman, which is a true death for a man of my nature, and with my needs for madness of mind and body.”
Thanks to Jan Vander Laenen for introducing the artist to me, and suggesting this post.
Friday, 10 April 2015
My husband looks at pornography while he’s taking care of our baby girl...Annalisa Barbieri advises...
I can’t understand how he could do this – should I seek a divorce? Annalisa Barbieri advises a reader...
I have been with my husband for five years and we have just had a baby. He has always used pornography and he has quite specialist sexual tastes. At the start of our relationship, he was very honest and we tried to incorporate this into our sex life quite successfully.
However, over recent years, his use of pornography and masturbation has come at the expense of our sex life. He rarely instigates lovemaking yet masturbates and uses porn daily. He will look at it on his phone when I am in another room.
He also confessed recently that he had been masturbating to porn at work.
Things came to a head with our new baby; he would hold her and still have his phone with him. I asked him not to look at porn when he was with the baby. He said of course not, but over the following weeks would still constantly have his phone with him when looking after her. Last week, he admitted he was looking at porn while he was looking after our daughter.
I was horrified and there were rows and tears. He was very sorry and ashamed and I have pushed him to go to counselling. I cannot move forward until I understand how he could do this.
I am angry and ashamed of his behaviour. We did have a very good relationship outside of his porn problems; it was loving, respectful and supportive but now I fear I can never see him in a sexual way again as I am haunted by the image of him making himself sexually aroused with our sleeping daughter feet away from him.
He disgusts and sexually repulses me and has shown himself to be a very weak man; he either knew it was wrong and yet did not have the strength of character to stop or he did not think it is wrong, in which case he does not have the same moral code as me and thus I am wary of co-parenting our daughter if our moral values are so far apart.
I do not want to be a single mother but even with counselling I think I can never see him in a positive sexual way again. He has tainted our child by bringing the adult world into her innocent life, even though she was unaware of what was happening.
Should I seek divorce or try to save my marriage? He refuses to give up his porn collection completely but since this came to crisis point he has at least cut down on his daily use.
Annalisa Barbieri’s response
I’m taking it for granted that his “specialist tastes” don’t involve child abuse images (nothing you said in your longer letter led me to believe this), because, obviously, my advice then would be completely different.
In cultures where parents co-sleep with their babies/children, people do have sex with sleeping babies in the same room. But that’s not what this is about. I understand how you must feel, not least because you are in that new mother “babymoon” stage, and your husband has introduced something very adult into it.
I consulted Vanessa Oliver, a psychotherapist who works with people with addictions. She thinks it sounds as if your husband has an addiction. “Sex addiction is known as an intimacy disorder and can be very, very isolating,” she says. “Addiction is often used to anaesthetise feelings that may have been repressed for years. The addict may not even be aware of what they are any more.”
Addictions are powerful, compulsive and complex, and it really may not be as easy as your husband simply promising not to do something any more. He needs specialist help.
The worry – in the short term – is not so much what your husband is looking at/doing but that he is doing it to such a degree that his attention isn’t focused on the baby when he is in sole charge of her. I would address this first. Your main priority is you and your baby’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Oliver has worked with couples in very similar situations to yours and she emphasises not to do anything drastic.
“You will be in shock. Don’t panic, don’t do anything reactive. You need time to come to terms with this.”
Oliver also suggests getting individual support, as well as joint support. (But if your husband doesn’t want to get help, please don’t let that stop you.) In therapy, a specialised counsellor will work with your husband to find out what is behind his addiction.
Article from the Guardian newspaper; Friday, 13th March 2015
The image is one of an actor.