I love America. Especially when I am there, where the good things about the nation are more in evidence. Simply because you are physically connected to place and people. The main thing is that the USA does everything bigger and in brighter colours – even the sleaze and squalor. Of course, being white and speaking English makes life easier; possession of money even more so.
Long before my most recent visit it had struck me that, apart from showing how to be rich, America does porn better than any other part of the world. Apart from a seemingly endless supply of performers, it is the general cheerfulness of the female participants that impresses. Grisly stuff can be found – but in the generality of sites and subjects US generated videos offer the prospect of positive and energetic women whether amateur or professional getting on with the job at hand: or more often, other parts.
So it was no surprise to me that at a cocktail party in one of the stylish apartments common to both Sarasota and US porn films (though the latter are probably made in California), I found myself being harangued about sex and feminism by a successful entrepreneur I can only admiringly describe as a MILF. It was a great piece of polemic. She had no time for #Metoo. Her thesis was simply that women should be more confident in their own femininity, express it as they chose, and use it to control the men they selected as partners.
Lindsay Goldwert, a successful journalist and author of Bow Down would probably agree with her. It may be a marketing ploy or a reflection of her own interests, but her start point is BDSM as practiced by professional dominatrixes. From her dialogues and, on occasion, experiences with a number of these professionals, she has created a curiously erotic smorgasbord of reflections and advisories about how women can better manage their roles and relationships.
While she offers a brief glimpse of her own exploration into (submissive) sensuality, the main narrative urges women to take charge of their own goals and desires. In the office or the bedroom. She is clear that women should say what they want and not take shit from anyone.
This is nothing new in feminist writing. Surprisingly, Goldwert is somewhat weak on the workplace but much better on the personal relationship and self-presentation issues.
In discussing these her discourse is differentiated from other texts of this kind by its lively good humour. As with my interlocutor in Florida, she doesn’t hate men; she likes them and wants to go to bed with them but would like them to be better informed about women. This, she argues, will be best achieved by women getting on top of the relationship and being more assertive about their expectations. Thus relieving men of the anxiety about their assumed role in making decisions or providing pleasure; men don’t give orgasms, she reminds us, but they can spoil or – ideally – enable them.
Quite how the much the dominatrix theme matters isn’t obvious. It is an intriguing analogy, a metaphor in the way of showing how women can act powerfully and establish authority. I much liked the section on clothes and the importance of their selection: not to please others but to express the wearer’s self-confidence.
A book for women, it’s true. But men would be rewarded for paying attention and possibly punished for ignoring the message.
Lindsay Goldwert: Bow Down – lessons from dominatrixes on how to get everything you want – Tiller Press ISBN 978-1-9821-3046-6