Aug 10 2011

Spinster aunt casts jaundiced eye at scepter of passion

When Kubrick was making the film “Lolita” he was crabbed out that the prudey production code wouldn’t allow him to enfilthen 13-year-old actress Sue Lyon with all the dude-pleasin “eroticism” in Nabokov’s icky novel. He intimated that the godbag-enforced lack of explicit child porn is what caused the film’s initial lukewarm reception and prevented it from soaring on wings of dudely prurience to the pinnacle of cinematic greatness for which Kubrick yearned. Naturally, because — thanks, Internet! — modern audiences know exactly what to fill in the blanks with, the film eventually became the iconic classic of noble ephebophilia we know and love today!

That’s right, I said ephebophilia. You know how when a practice becomes widespread and established, one of the first things its aficionados do is codify it and quantify it and describe it and assign its variations to categories and invent endless sub-categories for the more subtle variations that increasingly are meaningful only to the experts? Like with wine. Most people can just have a glass of wine, but oenophiles are deeply sensitive to nuancy variables, like the varietal, the region, the chemical composition of the vineyard’s dirt, the amount of rainfall during the spring of its production year, the color, which of 12,687 potential aromas it expresses, and, of course, the vintage.

It’s the same thing with raping children. Because raping children is such an established and widespread practice, PsychiatryNation has devised handy categories describing the various spins its practitioners can put on their “sexual preference”.

When a preference is based on a specific child vintage, it is called a chronophilia. One such chronophilia is crowd favorite pedophilia — raping prepubescent children. Then there’s hebephilia, which is a preference for raping pubescents. Ephebophilia describes a preference for raping post-pubescents. Girls must be 14-16, but for boys it’s 14-19. Spinster HQ concludes that this age disparity obtains because after 16, girls age out into common slutdom (the default state for all women). Once they’re sluts, the desire to screw them is no longer considered a special psychiatric disorder, but rather a normal dudely activity consistent with the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women (see Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and one of humanity’s finest hours: when the entire dudernet participated in that pervy countdown to the Olsen twins’ 18th birthday).

To explain male preoccupation with teen rape, I found this guy on the Internet. He is Frederick S. Berlin, M.D.,PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital; Director of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; and Consultant to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. This eminent upholder of dudelionormativity notes that ephebophilia is the default dudelionormative state.

“Most men can find adolescents attractive sexually, although, of course, that doesn’t mean they’re going to act on it. Some men who become involved with teenagers may not have a particular disorder. Opportunity and other factors may have contributed to their behaving in the way they do.”

Opportunity and other factors? Opportunity, such as when adolescent girls are permitted out in public? Other factors? Such as that fucking Lolita narrative, which has seeped into patriarchal consciousness, been transformed into internet porn and Thylane Blondeau’s fashion spreads, and tells everyone that female children are sexual cyphers just waiting for men to use them as toilets?

Nabokov apologists, do your worst, but this novel isn’t some kind of veiled anti-perv cautionary tale about what can happen when a dude thinks with his dick, or the consequences of acting on desire. Nabokov was totally a perv or he couldn’t have written this huge and convincing paean to pervy desire. He would have made Lolita a person rather than a voiceless toilet, and he would have skipped the gratuitous erotica. The novel is merely an attempt to make art out of kiddie porn. The hero is himself a child molester and murderer who kidnaps, drugs, imprisons, and serially rapes a 12 year old child for chrissake, and then writes a dreamy, poetical memoir about it. Check this shit out (but do it on an empty stomach):

“Her legs, her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half pleasure, half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me her head would bend with a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.”

The scepter of his passion? Gag-a-mag, it makes your boob scars shrivel.

Even though Humbert Humbert may be tormented and an unreliable narrator, and even if Nabokov was himself a paragon who completely pulled this Humbert character and his criminal obsession with “nymphets” from thin air (hah!), Lolita is just an articulate excuse to dudelionormatize the same infatuation with female children that our sexpert Dr Berlin, above, asserts is common to most men.

Is it art? Sure, why not? But it stinks.


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  1. smash

    Blarf. This narrative is so prevalent. Thank you for point it out.

  2. sivr

    Excellent post! I haven’t read lolita yet, but thank goddess now I know it isn’t like what most people described. Love from s.e asia.

  3. Comrade PhysioProf

    Fucken gross.

  4. Mrs. G.

    If I had a buck for each time a fellow male or female English major friend/prof yelled over my insistence that Lolita is child porn that it is ART (said with a not so veiled insinuation that I just am not willing to go as deep as a real literary critic), I might be able to afford health insurance. Dontcha know Nabokov is a GENIUS, a social commentator. Plus everyone knows lepidopterists are never pervs. What perv loves little girls and butterflies?

    Great post. My blood pressure is up.

  5. ElizaN

    Having an empty stomach wasn’t nearly enough. (Perhaps an empty brain?)

  6. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    ‘Twould gag a maggot. ‘Twould puke a hound.

    You can spray a pile of dog doo with gold paint (and I’ve heard that called Art too), but it’s still a pile of dog doo.

  7. quixote

    The amazing thing about that Vogue spread is that there are (so many!) adults who think it’s cool or fun or something. All the adults involved in packaging the girl and then looking at her. What it says about the amount of sickness is boggling. Compared to the normal reaction which is the awful feeling you get when you see a picture of bound feet.

  8. A Ginva

    Frederick S. Berlin, M.D.,PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital; Director of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; and Consultant to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse

    Well, that’s a hella lot of eminencies, phds, studies, high-flying royal titleties and grades just for stating the obvious, duh. Really, what do these dudes get paid for other than embodying male status?

  9. FemDoc

    That particular quote from “Lolita” is actually a scene wherein the pre-pubescent Humbert Humbert attempts intercourse with his pre-pubescent sweetheart, Annabelle (I believe they are both 12 years old in that scene). The failure of his endeavor, and the subsequent death of Annabelle, is Humbert’s rationalizatiion for his future pervy pre-occupation with “nymphettes”. Of course, the book is filled with more grotesque descriptions of his pursuit of Lolita, but the topper is when Humbert insists that Lolita seduced him! She had already been raped by “that famous playwright”, so of course having sex with her, despite the fact that Humbert is an adult and she is 12 (and he had effectively killed her mother in order to have her for himself, then drugged her), is not only ok, but Lolita is the one in control (“at least while I could still stand it.”). Ugh.

  10. Jill

    “That particular quote from “Lolita” is actually a scene wherein the pre-pubescent Humbert Humbert attempts intercourse with his pre-pubescent sweetheart”

    I know, but this detail is irrelevant in terms of the porn quotient, as the passage is being memoired in the language of adult pervs by old Humbert, and was written in the language of adult pervs by Old Nabokov, for an audience of the Adult Perv Brotherhood.

  11. Cyberwulf

    There’s a whole section in the Lolita article on Wikipedia that lists other works by Nabokov that involve middleaged perverts preying on little girls.

    I feel dirty now.

  12. blondie

    Finally. I forced myself to read Lolita quite awhile ago, and I found it disturbing and repugnant. Despite this, lit critics rave about its fineness and try to convince creeped-out readers that they don’t understand — the writer was a genius!!!; it was just the narrator who was a disgusting child molester, and he was unreliable; so if you don’t like Lolita, you’re a philistine (the biggest insult) and kinda dumb.

    I’m so glad to see someone with writing chops come right out and say how icky that story is. Nabokov, when your “lovely” writing is used to describe perversion against innocents, then I’m the opposite of interested in it.

  13. Kyllie Pinker

    I am so glad I found someone who has noted the perversity of Nabokov! I thought I was the only one.

    Interestingly, when a movie like “Harold & Maude” came out, Harold was “of age” — that is, out of high school. Maude also was very nurturing of him. That is, she recognized that he had an inner world and was willing to be an inspiration so that Harold could become who he wanted to be.

    How can we begin to let men know that we women have inner worlds? How can we begin to let men know that when they are in the company of even an eighteen year old girl (let alone younger), they should want to mentor these young women!!! What’s up with wanting to take advantage of them instead??

  14. susanw

    I’m going to defend “Lolita”; please don’t jump on me too hard.
    This novel is disgusting. It’s suppose to be. Anyone reading it should be horrified that this delusional old pervert is justifying his abuse of a child by choosing to believe that she wants it, she seduced him, and she is in control. The fact that Lolita is not the sexpot Humbert wishes she was is evident in the conversations he records wherein she is always letting him down by being a normal twelve-year-old girl. If our culture credited female children with basic humanity, this would be a seminal feminist novel. The irony of “Lolita” today is that men in our culture can’t see that it exposes the ways they lie to themselves in order to do as they please. Anyone who reads “Lolita” and thinks she’s “hot” is doing the very thing the novel condemns.

  15. K.A.

    I never read this because it makes my stomach turn. My guess is that it attempted to get into the mind of a typical rapist-in-denial, in the way that Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie manages to get into the mind of Jeffrey Dahmer. Thus its status as “art” serves as a pretext for all men of a certain class to absolve themselves of their pedomisogyny.

    Ever notice how men do this ceaselessly, in every realm imaginable? Sophisticated dudes with an inflated self-regard don’t go to seedy strip clubs; they go to see ironic burlesque shows. Upper class dudes don’t put pinup spreads on the walls of their rat-filled hovels; they put headless nudes (subject: female form) that cost thousands, showcasing each prize framelessly in their hip modern lofts and if you can’t get on board with that maybe you’re not sophisticated to understand art like us aesthetes!

    Art and porn are frequently the same thing, but with class distinctions. Check out bachelor pads of wealthy young metropolitan fellows and see how many female nudes are everywhere — but can’t complain, it’s ART! Go next door to his gay neighbor’s sweet pad, and he’ll have male nudes everywhere, so if it’s merely “art,” why is their sexual preference firmly entrenched in their choices?

    Male sexuality is hateful and dehumanizing, and men will use any cultural pretext for defending it: art, historical precedent, projecting his own sociopathy onto women under the auspices of his male privilege, etc.

  16. damequixote

    Thanks for the help with my diet.

    I won’t be able to eat for a week. bleah

  17. Phonaesthetica

    Time to create Artphobia! Bingo.

  18. Phonaesthetica

    I meant “Artphobia Bingo”

  19. nin

    Yeah. After I had finished the book, I found the cover of the rather old edition I read was covered with advertisement blurbs like “a brave romance” and “a passionate love story of our times”. … those commentators had not read the same book. Because while there’s the rapist’s smug selfenjoyment and endless pron, there’s also the bits where Lolita’s sadness is very clearly brought out. Hey, “She cried each and every evening”? How about the death remarks? Trying to escape from him? Quite a bit of the end of the book, where even he notices that maybe torturing the girl was not the best idea. Extremely romantic, yes, a great love story.

  20. AlienNumber

    He surely was a great lover (“lover”) of butterflies. That’s why he killed thousands of specimens for his very own personal collection.

    Bonus point: he had a special cabinet where he stored his collection of male blue butterfly genitalia (per Harvard Museum of Natural History).

    Men are such sick fucks.

  21. amrit

    Lolita is a how-to guide for pedophiles, including selection of a child whose mother is impaired or unable to protect, isolation of the family, and grooming the victim through intermittent reinforcement. The truly horrifying passages in this book are those in which the narrator grooms Lolita. The “sex” is just the coda for his desire to obliterate her.

    To anyone who works in the field, and to many others reading it, it is the work of a classic pedophile barely disguised as fiction. There is no art in this, only evil. Likewise, there is no artistic justification for this work. It is the equivalent of a snuff novel, only the murder is that of Lolita’s soul.

  22. Adrienne in CA

    susanw, you didn’t really juxtapose “seminal feminist novel” with the word irony?

  23. pyogenes

    Methinks we might revisit Art Week.

  24. Kelly

    I’m sorry but novels like The Collector (John Fowles), Zombie (Joyce Carol Oates) and Lolita are important works of literature. They push boundaries, they make readers uncomfortable but something that everyone is missing/misconstruing in this conversation is that it’s a book, not reality.

    An author is not what s/he writes.

    Case in point: I wrote a story about a male porn addict. I wrote from his perspective and the story contained some rather graphic scenes. It was also a story, with plot and character development. Some of my fellow writing classmates thought the story was offensive, plain and simple, but what made them pause was the fact that I am female. Clearly, when writing from this perspective, there is no way I myself am a male misogynist douchebag, though my character is.

    A writer (a good one especially) can take what they know and have experienced and seen in the world and transfer it to paper — that does not make it autobiographical. Not in the slightest.

    If you dislike Lolita, that’s entirely your prerogative, but do not say that Nabokov must therefore be a pedophile. It just doesn’t work that way.

    P.S. Here is a quote from Nabokov.

    “Lolita is a special favorite of mine. It was my most difficult book — the book that treated of a theme which was so distant, so remote, from my own emotional life that it gave me a special pleasure to use my combinational talent to make it real”

    Before you jump all over the words “special pleasure” understand that as writers, many of us enjoy writing most what we are trying to examine and figure out, what is confusing or disturbing — all in an attempt to parse out some mystery even if is not something we will ever personally identify with. (Case in point, what if I wrote a novel from the perspective of a neo-nazi. Am I an anti-Semite? Or just fascinated by the ideology of hatred?)

  25. kate

    Holy smokes! This post really snapped some things into place for me. I read Lolita a few months ago and couldn’t stop RAVING about it. Which isn’t to say it didn’t skeeve me out beyond belief, but at that time I had enough faith in Nabokov and my other dudely heroes to rationalize those feelings away. Even when I read about how poor Vladdy (probably crippled by his unbearable genius) never learned to “drive, type, fold an umbrella, or answer the telephone” (per wikipedia) and relied on his wife to do this grunt work for him, I somehow managed to think, “Navokov is most definitely not a fucking misogynist shitstain.”

    My defense of the book was similar to susanw’s: that Nabokov’s intent was to disgust rather than arouse and that Dolores Haze was supposed to be read as a child and a victim, not a precious sexbot. But do readers really need to be “shocked” into thinking Humbert’s behavior is fucked up? Do we need ANOTHER story in the literary canon told from the POV of a rapist? In short, is he saying ANYTHING interesting? The only people who get anything new or substantial out of this are aspiring Humberts. I can understand why Serious Literary Critics love it and thought it was “groundbreaking,” but from a feminist perspective, it’s just a big pretentious wad that upholds the status quo. And what an expression of male privilege! Only someone with NOT A FUCKING CARE IN THE WORLD would think that writing an artsy fartsy ode to (what appear quite likely to be his own fantasies of) child rape would be a good use of time and resources. Fuck.

  26. Tigs

    mmm, +1 to susanw.

    Art is often separate from the artist’s intentions, and I’d put Lolita in that category.
    Nabokov is certainly a gross fuck for living in the headspace of Humbert Humbert for as long as it took to write Lolita, but it’s also gorgeous and viciously exposes the perverseness and violence in this relationship that is normalized in so many other places in society.

  27. sonia

    it’s just so typical that the psychology mansplainer has absolutely nada to say on the fact that the abnormal concentration of social power in men’s hands leads them to become predatory in their sexual leanings. However, most Glaringly Fuckin Obvious things elude highly educated men..

    who was that feminist author that came out with that book called The Beautiful Boy or whatever a few years ago that was attempting to show that women can totally fetishize adolescents, too? does anyone remember that? I think you may have posted on it, Twisty. anyway, for some reason this reminded me of that. because it’s just not normal for either men or women to look at an adolescent with more than a passing, “wow, he/she is going to be a beautiful adult.” if your brain goes anywhere other than that, you have issues. it’s fucking sociopathic to fetishize the budding sexuality of a person who is so extremely vulnerable. it’s predatory adn gross and if it is art it says a lot that’s already been said on this site and others about how gross art actually is.

    I hate that book.

  28. Jill

    “I’m sorry but novels like The Collector (John Fowles), Zombie (Joyce Carol Oates) and Lolita are important works of literature”

    You know what would happen if suddenly the world had to go without those Important Works of Literature?


    Dude, I’m an English major. I grasp that authors and narrators aren’t the same person. But I also know that when “art” depicts rape from the point of view of the rapist, and gives loving, lyric, cinematic descriptions of the rape, it is pornography, and the audience consuming this pornography gets titillated. Nabokov is a pornographer. Regardless of his views on delusional child molesters, or whether he personally considered Lolita pornography. I’m not some crazy-ass feminist republican for saying this, either. The novel is widely regarded as “erotic” in liberaldude circles. “Erotic” is liberaldude for “porn.”

  29. scrappy

    Kate nailed it.

    I haven’t read this book in years. What I remember is that when I did read it, as an adolescent, it was yet another example of something that I felt I had to embrace if I wanted to be one of the cool kids. Not because it viciously exposed the perverseness and violence in the relationship between Humbert and Lolita, but because it was “edgy.”

    I have yet to see something “edgy” that amounted to anything more than a barfstain of tired misogynistic/kyriarchal/racist tropes dressed up in good production values.

  30. amrit

    Kelly, quoting Nabokov:

    “Lolita is a special favorite of mine. It was my most difficult book — the book that treated of a theme which was so distant, so remote, from my own emotional life that it gave me a special pleasure to use my combinational talent to make it real”

    He’s working awfully hard to convince us (and maybe, himself) that he is not really a filthy pedophile. He’s just an artiste. We can’t really understand him. It’s beyond our ken. His “combinational talent” is pornography presented as literature, and if any woman dares to confront it, she is too stupid, too crass to get his inside joke. Only women who are apologists for the P. get credit for “understanding” the nuanced, sophisticated, work that is Lolita. So, it’s collude with the P. , yuck it up with the boys, or be branded as anti-intellectual. Because we all know that women lack discernment and need it to be mansplained to us.

  31. Ex-Advertising, Now Free

    who was that feminist author that came out with that book called The Beautiful Boy or whatever a few years ago that was attempting to show that women can totally fetishize adolescents, too? does anyone remember that?

    Germaine Greer. Here’s an article about her book, and Larry Clark’s movie Ken Park: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/09/1057430278896.html.

  32. eb

    All you have to do is apply the Homo Test(tm). It’s easy and fun! Simply substitute the sex of the subject in question.

    Would “Lolita” have been hailed a literary masterpiece if “Lolita” was “Carlos”?

    Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee – the Homo Test(tm) is awesome, dude!

    Use it for these Patriarchal approved situations:
    1. Rape!
    2. Sexual harassment
    3. Rape!
    4. Shower ogling
    5. Street harassment
    6. Rape!

    It’s amazing and it’s FREE! Get your Homo Test(tm) today!

  33. hero

    Love the homo test ™. I am going to use it next time I get some rapey justification mansplained to me. I am going to open wide my baby blue eyes and say, “Like when they do that to little boys? Or men?” and watch em squirm.

    Thanks, eb!

  34. geogeek

    I haven’t read Nabokov (no particular reason, just there’s a lot to read out there and I haven’t gotten to him), but I wonder if anyone has comments about “Reading Lolita in Tehran?” My recollection of a review of this book was that the author was teaching a literature class to young women in Iran, and talks about the cultural differences between her American students and her Iranian students.

  35. Jaffa

    Solution: don’t let men read Nabokov.

    Women can get a lot out of the juxtaposition of Humbert Humbert’s bullshit about Lolita with the child’s reality – no matter how hard HH tries to erase her with his fantasies about her, she comes through the cracks, crying, trying to escape, simply being her 12-year-old self (as Nin points out). What is so disgusting is that the narrator clearly *knows* this, as he is the one relating it to us. He just couldn’t care less. Her reality is not as important as his fantasy. There’s just so much there about how predatory male sexuality operates. For the female reader, Lolita is an illustration and condemnation of male desire under patriarchy.

    How do we know that it’s a condemnation? Because it feels horrible to read it. The narrative kidnaps the reader alongside Lolita herself and it feels like shit. But a book about male desire SHOULD be fucking scary.

    Now, the fact remains that dudes don’t get that feeling from the book – they love it. When they read it, they are disturbed not so much by Lolita’s imprisonment but by the obstacles in HH’s way to fucking her: IBTP. Therefore I recommend that the novel be kept in the care of the spinster aunts to loan out to morbidly curious women and those who wish to learn how fucked up desire under patriarchy is. This situation should persist until the revolution comes, when its persual will be of limited value.

  36. shopstewardess

    According to Wikipedia –

    1. The first publisher (1955) had a list of published books which was “three-quarters pornographic trash”.

    2. In Nabokov’s afterword to the first US edition in 1956, he said “there is no moral to the story”. (He also lied about its origins, referring to a non-existant newspaper story rather than to a 1916 short-story by Heinz von Lichberg which was about a middle-aged man becoming obsessed with a pre-teen called Lolita living in the house he was lodging in.)

    3. In 1963, in a Playboy interview, Nabokov said of Lolita “There is a queer, tender charm about that mythical nymphet.”

    4. Also in 1963, in a Life interview, Nabokov said “I would say that of all my books Lolita has left me with the most pleasurable afterglow”. To this he added “perhaps because it is the purest of all, the most abstract and carefully contrived.” (Emphasis on the “perhaps”, perhaps?)

    5. There is no suggestion that Nabokov ever disputed the interpretation exemplified by the book jacket quotes given by nin above: “a brave romance” and “a passionate love story of our times”.

    There’s probably a sociological thesis or several to be written on the responses to the book. But even on a quick reading of the dude-centric Wikipedia entries, the idea that Nabokov didn’t write derivative porn, and didn’t know he was writing derivative porn, doesn’t stand up.

  37. TungstenVirago

    “Would “Lolita” have been hailed as a literary masterpiece if “Lolita” was “Carlos”?”

    If only I had allowed myself to be strong/angry enough to call out the smug male “support worker” who thought that raving about this edgy sexy cool novel was an appropriate subject of conversation during one of our visits.
    At the time I didn’t want to broach/apply the Homo Test in case I offended in any way said support worker, who was gay. Better not mention how that hypothetical alternative would have had a considerably different literary reception. Better not mention that this is personally triggering or something, and could be for anyone receiving this (fucking joke of a) mental health support service – duh. Better just stay silent.
    Suffice to say, I’m outta there.

  38. A Ginva

    The character you are compelled to identify to in a film, book, or song is always normative – it means that the book, film or song wants you identify to and share the values held by the character, wants you to see the way the character sees the world. It means the author thinks it’s the view worth having. He condones that view by letting people identify to it uncritically.

    Nobakav, by writing his book from the mind of a child-rapist, wanted us to share the rapist’s titillation of raping children, his view of children as prey, dehumanised sex-objects. Lolita is an apology of rape.

    Defending porn as art is nothing other than a western cultural defense for male violence and rape, just as any other form of cultural relativism; be it in the guise of tradition, local culture, elite culture, or art.

  39. speedbudget

    I have had it up to HERE with books and movies by men, about men, for men. God. It’s been DONE TO DEATH.

    You know what would truly be groundbreaking and interesting? A book written about a woman (or girl) told from her perspective that treats her like a fucking human being. And by “book” I mean one of these goddamn literary prize novels that every slavers over.

    Yes, I was an English Lit major. I was also a Spanish Lit major. I got to read porn in two languages. Ain’t life grand?

  40. Lovepug

    There’s a simple way to discern “art” from “porn.” If even one dude has masturbated to it, it’s porn. I feel certain Lolita has inspired much manipulaton of many a sceptre of passion.

    And this: “Art and porn are frequently the same thing, but with class distinctions.” is genius and I nominate it for the Blamer Hall of Fame.

    I only read Pale Fire for a class, and it was hell trying to get through that prose. And let me point out that the character in that book has a lot of pervy middle-aged man fanasies about a boyhood male friend. I remember my instructor telling us about how Knobokov’s wife pretty much did all the typing and preparing his manuscripts. So, there’s another layer of patriarchy for all y’all.

    Nabokov in a Playboy interview. Need I say more.

  41. Jill

    “Because we all know that women lack discernment and need it to be mansplained to us.”

    You guys should see the pile of Nabokov-lovin’ mansplaining that has accumulated in the moderation queue. I’m saving them for when, if ever, I need to commit suicide. I’ll just read 3 or 4 of these sohphomore English lit-crit rip-offs and die of boredom.

  42. A. McD

    I’ve picked up Nabokov’s novel (titled Lolita) off and on. I owned a copy of it. But I could never fully read it. There was something about it that bothered me (duh). I would sit there and (try to)rationalize for a moment that it was a “work of art”. That it was a story that existed in and of itself. A lot of literary (and film) enthusiasts seem to operate this way. There’s a push not to judge the content. That the writer or the director is making no particular so-called moral statement. Look at the literary style! Like at that deft wordsmith-ing! They say.

    Then one day I walking the fiction aisle in one of those overlit bookseller franchises in a mall. I always liked Vintage International’s paperback editions at the time. Then I spotted on one of their releases the legs of young woman. Her skirt turning upward. Ankles in bobby socks. I froze at the sight. It was their release of Lolita. The cover blurb:”The only convincing love story of our Century” You know that obstreperal lobe Jill speaks of? It hit the roof, leaving a hole in the ceiling. I just stood there, seething and in shock. It was so creepy that I still cannot even look at anything that has Vintage/Vintage International on it without remembering this utter betrayal of women.

  43. crickets

    “Only someone with NOT A FUCKING CARE IN THE WORLD would think that writing an artsy fartsy ode to (what appear quite likely to be his own fantasies of) child rape would be a good use of time and resources. Fuck.” (Kate)

    Do you know – my brain just went “yeah!”, thanks for this post Kate. I was reading the comments on here and thinking the same thing as all the other people who read Lolita and thought “that was gross…but it’s about how horrible it is that there are people out there like Humbert who destroy people’s lives – it’s about how sick and sad pedophiles are.” But actually – yeah, why write a fucking novel about it? Why not donate time and money to organisations that help people who have been abused instead of writing a novel and sitting back to watch the accolades pour in? I have always felt inferior for not being able to write a great work of art, but actually, the voluntary work i do for rape crisis charities is probably a much better use of my time! Cheers blamers!

  44. crickets

    oh, and maybe “great work of art” in my last post should be in inverted commas.

  45. AlienNumber

    I have had it up to HERE with books and movies by men, about men, for men. God. It’s been DONE TO DEATH.

    “Nothing wastes my time like a dude.”
    Twisty Faster, cc. 2007.

    We really need way more Twisty Faster in the schools and way less (by which I mean, only when we need more proof that men hate us) dude “art.” Dude produced speech (a.k.a. pro-patriarchal propaganda) is at once boring, numbing, terrorizing and suffocating. Did I forget to say stupid? Stupid too! Anyway. I don’t ever want to read another book by a dude.

    Oh, so just in case anybody was doubting that pedophiles work in rings, check out this factoid: Nabokov was the first to translate “Alice in Wonderland” in Russian.

  46. KH

    I hate Lolita. I hate Pale Fire. I think Nabokov is completely over-rated. Hate.

    The stupid arguments about it being art overlook that just because art can be made about something, there is always the question of whether it ought to be made. Lolita should not have been made–Art does not need it. It only illuminates baseness and perversion without also illuminating what is wonderful, charitable, revelatory and compassionate about humans.

    A comparable literary example would be the book 1982 Janine, by Alistair Gray. Though he is among my favorite authors of all time, I had to force myself to get through this tale of pornsick perversion. Why this novel is different, and why it was worth getting through is because at the end *major spoiler alert!!* the narrator recognizes that he dehumanized Janine, that he was ill, that it was wrong and a horrible way to be a human–the entire sick mass of the text was repudiated by the character who perpetuated it, in a remarkable way. Obviously, this should not be remarkable. It should not be remarkable that a man repudiates pornsick abusive behavior, but it is. It should not be remarkable that such a text was written by a man, but it was. Nabokov did not do this, and I suspect he would have been incapable of doing this.

    Similarly remarkable is Jose Donoso’s A Garden Next Door, which is about a married male novelist moaning about his dissatisfying marriage and ogling the attractive next door neighbor. He’s a pathetic sack of a pompous intellectual, but at the end *spoiler alert* it turns out that the whole text we’ve read was actually written by his wife. The book is her observation of her sad sack of a husband, and the “twist” of it is that it is also her success which is the triumph of the narrative and her forbearance of him which was the true story, while he keeps being a sad sack. Also written by a man.

    Male novelists are capable of seeing women as full humans, and as writing them as such. They are also capable of writing of themselves as creeps and tools of the patriarchy while also critiquing the same. Nabokov did not. Could not.

    If Lolita is Art, it is bad Art. Lolita lovers–read the two books I’ve mentioned instead, to see just what a failure Lolita was.

  47. Heather

    Garland Grey over at TigerBeatdown wrote a cool piece in where he suggests a name for this kind of writing, Fond Memories of Vagina written by Older Men of a Certain Generation. Goes nicely with this post.


  48. damequixote

    Art imitates life; NYPost story online now entitled “Creep in Jet Stream” tells how a drunk 18 year old dood on a JetBlue flight urinated on a little 11 year old girl. She had been left alone by her family so of course it was an “accident”.

    Little girl; toilet for men.



  49. madeleine

    Recently I was discussing Lolita with some literary dudes. I told them how horrifying I found it that one of the last sentences before the first rape is: ‘You see, she had nowhere else to go.” They had all read the book, and they DIDN’T BELIEVE me that that sentence was there. Because everybody knows that in that book, as in every other rapey situation, it’s always the female who wants it.

  50. Triste

    Eh, I don’t really give a fuck if Nabokov was personally a pervert or if he was jerking off with one hand and writing with the other or whatever the fuck. The man is dead as hell anyway, and we can speculate all we want, but we don’t have any real way of knowing what his intentions were when writing that shit.

    The real question, I think, is what effect has his novel had upon our culture? Overall, did it do more to alert people to the horrifying reality of unrepentant child molestors, or to create the popular mythos of 12 year old girls who are on the prowl for 40something dudes to fellate? I can’t really say that I know enough about Lolita’s impact to say for sure. It sure as shit wouldn’t surprise me to learn that evidence suggested that Lolita was a victory for rape enthusiasts everywhere, that’s for sure.

  51. A Ginva

    @triste: well, to measure the impact of lolita, all you need to do is to is to look at one of dude’s favourite porn genre: barely legal. It’s Lolita all the way. The younger and more vulnerable they are, the bigger the power difference between rapist and victim, the more dudes get off from it. 80% of dude culture is some version of Lolita

    In France, in something like 2000, a song called Lolita inspired by the Lolita book made a national, and international hit


    Everyone was dancing on it at the time, but now I realise the full extent of its pornsickness.

  52. Lovepug

    Not to mention that the name Lolita itself is used as a term to describe a young woman who the patriarchy identifies as sexually agressive. So, hell yes it’s permeated the popular culture and NOT in a consiousness raising way.

  53. speedbudget

    KH, thank you for the books. I have been slowly introducing feminist books to my book club, and the reception has been positive. I can’t wait to suggest one of these books at the next meeting. We are stuck in a WWII rut right now. Ugh.

  54. Triste

    Well yeah, it’s true that there is an abundance of pornography depicting young girls/girls who appear underage. And that shit is in fact often referred to as “Lolita,” but in a magical alternate world in which Nabokov had been hit by a car before he could write his novel, I dunno that we’d necessarily be living with any less fetishization of children. We just might not have as snappy a name for it.

    To be honest I think the real measure would be to look at 1) sexualized depictions of children before and after Lolita and 2) cultural attitudes towards and awareness of the issue of pedophilia before and after Lolita. As I said, I personally just don’t actually know enough about the history of such things to say for sure.

    For me, reading Lolita was an eye-opening experience, a look into the absolute evil that vulnerable girls face on a daily basis. I’m glad that I read it, because I doubt there is any better picture of the smug, self-satisfied demeanor of the sexual predator. But I know that for some readers, this was not a look into the mind of the enemy but a long-winded bit of masturbatory fantasy. I like to think that it was used by more people as the former, but I can’t really say that for sure, and in my gut I suspect that this isn’t really the case.

  55. yttik

    “..we don’t have any real way of knowing what his intentions were..”

    One problem is that “art” doesn’t just reflect reality, it actually goes on to create reality, so somebody’s intentions become irrelevant. Rape survivors themselves often struggle with the issue of how to write about what happened to them without it becoming somebody’s porn, their how to manual.

    Lolita is no more an anti child rape novel then a photo of a naked woman is an anti-porn statement. The artist’s intent is irrelevant. A photo, a piece of art, a novel does not become something completely different than what it is simply because of the artist’s motivations or the labels or the interpretations we apply.

  56. Sarah

    “Dudernet” = my favorite coinage for the day. We needed a word like that to describe Reddit, 4Chan, etc. Wherein even the feminist threads are not safe from fuckery.

  57. allhellsloose

    Heather, that link is worth checking out. Yep, ‘old nobby’ was 54 when the book was first published.

    Wiki describe Lolita as being in the genre: tragicomedy, novel. There’s no novelty here.

  58. Cootie Twoshoes

    I have had it up to HERE with books and movies by men, about men, for men. God. It’s been DONE TO DEATH.

    Thanks for that, speedbudget. For one long minute I was thinking I should read Lolita in order to really be in on this discussion, but it already makes me feel worn out. Probably more than 90% of what I’ve read in my life has been “by men, about men, for men.” Since men are the default human, the vast majority of men don’t see any problem with that, but hackneyed doesn’t begin to describe it for me.

    I made a vow to read only women authors this year with a preference for feminist perspectives. I’ve strayed twice, only to be disappointed, and I don’t think it’s worth my time to stray again for Lolita.

  59. TA

    Kelly, of course a woman can write brilliantly and convincingly from the POV of a male porn addict. That male’s story is basically 90% of the stories we hear (literature, film, TV, even a Woolite commercial I just saw). The best writers write what they know, and women do know the inner life of men, mainly because men never fucking shut up about it. Also, because our survival depends on knowing it.

    I have no idea whether your story is misogynistic or not, but your femaleness does not preclude the possibility. A story about a male porn addict who got struck by lightning and developed empathy and realized what porn really is – now THAT would be original and possibly not misogynistic. It wouldn’t make any money, though.

    The ubiquity of the male story, the porn story, the rape story (collectively, “porn”) is driven by its demand. The same thing that makes you good at telling a man’s story also makes you WANT to tell the man’s story. Fucking Mobius loop of fuckery.

    I don’t judge women who conform to the patriarchy. Electing to ENFORCE the patriarchy is another matter, though.

    “Lolita” may be a lot of high falutin’ things, but it is also the ultimate reinforcement of the patriarchy. It’s a fucking rape instruction manual, however burdened with ridiculous flowery prose. Plenty of non-rapists could write such a manual. You could. I could. But Nabokov wrote it, traded on it, fucking LOVED it – so I don’t care much whether he personally raped children.


    KH, is that true? (General question to blamers, but KH mentioned it specifically). Are there ANY stories written by men which believably portray a woman’s inner life from her POV? The IBTP commenting policy would make an awesome writing seminar: you don’t have to be a woman, just be willing to say you are. I don’t know whether men can write as women, but I bet stripping them of the male POV leaves them with nothing to say.

  60. Heather

    allhellsloose, I especially love Garland’s recommendation in the comments section that there should be an Unfond Memories of Being Stalked genre to counter the Fond Memories of Vagina by Older Male Authors of a Certain Generation where the perspective is that of the victim. Can you imagine what a companion piece to Lolita titled Humbert Humbert would read like where each scene and everything that happens is told from Lolita’s perspective and sympathetic to her feelings?

  61. K.A.

    Thanks, Lovepug.

    The stupid arguments about it being art overlook that just because art can be made about something, there is always the question of whether it ought to be made. Lolita should not have been made–Art does not need it.

    Roger Ebert strayed from the rest of DudeWorld (OMG I JUST HAD A FEMINIST FANTASY OF KEEPING MEN IN GLASS CAGES WHERE WE COuLD MAKE THEM DO TRICKS LIKE ThoSE POOR DAMN CREATURES AT SEAWORLD — but that would be wrong) by going the exact opposite direction in his appraisal of Blue Velvet because the scenes of sadistic misogyny weren’t for any reason; he blitzed what everyone else regards as some supreme masterpiece of art cinema. I suspect people who never could get into art films were excited that they could get into that movie and are heavily invested in honoring so they can congratulate themselves on their refined taste.

  62. Fleur Pillager

    Heather, when I read your reference to Fond Memories of Vagina written by Older Men of a Certain Generation, 80-90% of Philip Roth’s oeuvre came to mind. Doubtless he worships at the shrine of Nabokov. I’m goin all Atwood, Erdrich, Le Guin, and Morrison, all the time, yep.

    Thinking about the ratio of films by and about thinking women vs. the current dudely offerings remains too depressing for articulation.

  63. Cyberwulf

    TA: The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle might qualify. The narrator, Paula Spencer, tells the story of her eighteen year long marriage to her abusive husband Charlo, from how they met to the day she threw him out. In between she talks about her childhood and growing up female in (I want to say Seventies) Dublin, Ireland; her struggle with alcoholism; and trying to make ends meet for her and her children on a cleaner’s salary.

  64. tinfoil hattie

    damequixote, your story literally made me cry, because “I went into the shower with him and showed him how to pee in the shower” is one way a relative-by-marriage justified sexual abuse of my son. It was no big deal, because he announced it himself. It was just dudes in the shower, peeing! Nothing happened!

    He was 72, my son was 8.

    Long story short, I no longer have contact with 3/4 of my siblings because of this. Because I am the crazy person, the shit-stirrer, the hysteric, right? How dare I.

    I don’t want to fucking hear anything more about how BRILLIANT it is that some fucking dude asshole wrote some fucking “artistic” book with loving detail about raping a child, and his resulting “pleasurable afterglow” from teh book – because, y’know, we wouldn’t be able to TELL, from just the IDEA ITSELF, that raping children is a horrendous and sick CRIME.

    No matter how skillfully depicted.

    Fuck Nabokov, fuck male “porn addicts,” and especially FUCK child sexual abuse apologists like some family members I know.

  65. allhellsloose

    Heather, such a book would certainly fit the wiki genre: tragicomedy/novel.

  66. susanw

    There is a larger issue here. Do we condemn Upton Sinclair if some capitalist pig praises “The Jungle” as a terrific business plan? The patriarchy has the power to spoil anything. If we throw out everything to which men wank off, there will be nothing left. The wankers win if we agree that their perverted fetishes are hot and oh so edgy, but they also win if we respond to their pornified interpretations of the world by blaming the things they pervert. Somewhere a man is wanking off to “Intercourse” because the systematic abuse of women turns him on. IBTP.

  67. Kelsey

    Sigh… Lolita is fascinating as a book, to me at least. I stand by the idea that a book can be about something without actually promoting it. Humbert Humbert is hardly a classic hero, he’s a nasty psychopath and I think the book conveys that.

    I also think Kubrick’s films have feminist subtext, and it’s worth look beyond face value. To me, Full Metal Jacket is a critique of military macho that puts boys in men’s clothing and gives them free reign, and The Shining is an allegory for the way the white, patriarchal nuclear family destroys everyone in it, particularly women and children at the hands of their patriarchs.

    I certainly agree with many of the ideas here but I do stand by the “art” defense.

  68. tinfoil hattie

    If we throw out everything to which men wank off, there will be nothing left.

    Yes, because women are not capable of creating anything worth experiencing.

  69. Treefinger

    “At the time I didn’t want to broach/apply the Homo Test in case I offended in any way said support worker, who was gay.”

    Yeah, he wouldn’t have been so easily shut up by you reversing the genders, if he was defending Lolita in the first place. The Homo Test ™ works by highlighting squick in straight men.

    Besides, there are many authors who write about being a gay rapist/murderer/pedophile, like Dennis Cooper (who openly admits his books are based on his own fantasies, and “an attempt to deal with them”. In one of the books the main character (although it’s implied to not really have happened, but the character’s fantasy) rapes, tortures and murders a 10 year old boy).

  70. Treefinger

    “If we throw out everything to which men wank off, there will be nothing left.

    Yes, because women are not capable of creating anything worth experiencing.”

    Of course they are, but men will still masturbate to it, whatever it is.

  71. AlienNumber

    If we throw out everything to which men wank off, there will be nothing left.

    What about we throw out men who wank off to anything/everything?

  72. Heather

    Fleur Pillager, Ha! Philip Roth is the first author he targets in the post. Too funny.

  73. anonymous please

    Horrible trigger for me. I was my father’s fuck toilet. I learned this shit when I was 5 years old. It continued until I was 13, when it stopped only because my parents feared getting caught if I got knocked up. My mother knew and told him to stop. It took 2 decades of therapy before I could function in a semi-normal way. Soul murder is not an option since it’s my only revenge. Do you want to hear gorey details so that you understand this is not abstract art? I can freak out seasoned therapists. I won’t because some wanker would get off on it.

  74. Jaffa

    tinfoil hattie, why do you think men will not jerk off to something created by women? I’m sadly positive there’s at least a good handful that get off on this blog.

  75. MissCherryPi

    If we want to judge “Lolita” on only the content of the story and not the artistic value of the prose, I can accept that. However, think of how the story ends. Humbert dies in jail, alone, after witnessing first hand how miserable he made Lolita and how he ruined her life. This doesn’t sound very patriarchal to me. If the story ended with Lolita rushing into his arms and falling madly in love with him, then I could agree that it was a entirely misogynist work.

    Like Heather, when I read the novel, I really wanted to know more about Lolita and about her point of view, what she was thinking, feeling. It’s one of the reasons I read “The Kiss” by Kathryn Harrison, a memoir of a woman who was abused by her estranged father. I was entirely saddened and depressed by the story. But I would agree that these narratives are needed as a foil to all of the “Fond Memories of Vagina.”

  76. nails

    “The irony of “Lolita” today is that men in our culture can’t see that it exposes the ways they lie to themselves in order to do as they please. Anyone who reads “Lolita” and thinks she’s “hot” is doing the very thing the novel condemns.”

    SusanW, that is exactly how I felt about american psycho. It really screwed my plans for writing a book because even when you beat the audience over the head with your conclusion they just draw whatever one makes them feel best instead. I met a few tools who thought Patrick Bateman was worth emulating, even though in the book/movie he is consistently portrayed as being completely unlikable. Even his friends think he is a tool, and he is, he is an unbelievably foolish criminal. The same demographic seems to not understand the ending *at all*. It is damn hard to portray a rapist dude as a repugnant piece of shit in this culture without making him totally one dimentional. Okay, it is easy to portray them that way but it is difficult for the audience to see the dude for what he is, all their previous programming gets in the way. Dudebros and their supporters will always project something onto the rapist character that makes them not-so-awful.

    The horrible descriptions of torture committed against women in that book made my stomach turn, but at least the author never tried to make it seem like they wanted it or that abusers have something romantic in mind when they hurt us. I don’t think I could stomach reading lolita, based on the passage quoted here, and my tolerance for gnarly horrible shit is much higher than average.

  77. yttik

    Something to keep in mind about “the art defense,” the art that really does need to get made never gets off the ground, it is sentenced to obscurity. For example, if Lolita had fought back and won, there would be no “great” novel. The movie, The Shining, is successful because it portrays torture, isolation, murder. Had Shelley Duvall simply kicked Jack Nicholson in the nuts on the way out the door when he first got drunk and hurt her kid’s arm, there would be no story to tell, nothing to see here. Or so says the art world.

    Producing something that empowers women is damn near impossible because it isn’t viewed as “art,” certainly not as great art. If you want to see something empowering, something that doesn’t portray women as victims, as cowering in fear or as sexual commodities, you’re left with something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Farrah Fawcett’s, Extremities. Both empowering in their own way, but certainly not viewed as “art.”

  78. Josquin

    I see American Psycho and Lolita as being in the same trash bag. Artfully done, masterfully evoked, perhaps. But it’s simply a more refined form of snuff films. Watching something awful and perhaps intellectually knowing it’s awful and yet, somehow, yes, inexorably and inevitably, getting a hot guilty charge off it. I remember the shame I felt when my highly literate, “feminist”, intelligent, forward-thinking college boyfriend went all rhapsodic on me about Lolita. I just KNEW he was getting an erotic charge off of it, which lay steaming under all the elevated literary analysis. It somehow made me feel sick and jealous in a very shameful way. I myself have never gotten past the first few pages. No matter what might follow, those first few pages damned it in my eyes.

  79. nails

    I did not get a hot guilty charge off of reading American Psycho. What I got was insight into the kind of men our culture produces, and what privilege lets men get away with. It wasn’t beautifully written at all. It was banal and repetitive.

  80. Ashley

    Even if the dudes who write stuff like Lolita personally are not pedophiles, rapists, etc., they write these depictions in a social context, and they are aware of that social context. They KNOW that there are a lot of people out there who will get off on this crap. “Pushing the boundaries” (sure, whatever) of people who don’t rape children is not reason enough–never ever–to encourage the rape of children in a rape culture. The movie American Psycho is actually a perfect example, because it was made by two women who say they are feminists, and who I’m sure do not approve of rape and murder. But rape culturey dudes everywhere love that movie, and they interpret all those scenes of killing and humiliating women as they choose to. When you make art that does not consider the interpretation that is most likely given the social context (i.e. patriarchy), you generally make art that supports existing power structures.

  81. susanw

    “What about we throw out men who wank off to anything/everything?”

    That works for me!
    And yes, I did use “feminist”, “seminal” and “irony” in the same sentence. It was imbedded (imbedded) irony.

  82. tinfoil hattie

    You have a point, Jaffa. You have a point.

  83. Kali

    The character you are compelled to identify to in a film, book, or song is always normative – it means that the book, film or song wants you identify to and share the values held by the character, wants you to see the way the character sees the world. It means the author thinks it’s the view worth having. He condones that view by letting people identify to it uncritically.

    Absolutely right. If a writer makes a rapist a protagonist, it means:
    1. The writer is promoting the rapist’s view, and/or
    2. The writer doesn’t understand how human psychology works.

    In Nabokov’s case, based on his quotations, it is safe to say that he is promoting the rapist’s view.

  84. Mary Tracy

    I was reading this post, and got to the dirty quote part, and had to skip it due to its sheer creepyness.

    However, I let a huge LOL! when I got to “Gag-a-mag, it makes your boob scars shrivel.”

    Cheers for bringing up humour, even when writing about the darkest of topics!

  85. Anne

    eb and hero – Misogynist Dan Savage was on misogynist Bill Maher’s weekly talk show the other week when a couple straight dudes on the panel were guffawing about their desire to “hate f*ck” Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann or one of them. Dan Savage piped up up to offer that he’d like to “hate f*ck” Rick Santorum or some male Palin equivalent when the heterodudes on the panel suddenly became very quiet and squirmy. Fucking hypocrites.

  86. Melinda

    What is the basis for the statement that “The character you are compelled to identify to in a film, book, or song is always normative…. It means the author thinks it’s the view worth having.”?
    I call bullshit on that.
    I’m also absolutely baffled about the various contemporary reviews of “Lolita” that called it a love story. I read the book and thought it was very clearly a tragedy. And no one I discussed it with thought that Humbert’s view was presented as “worth having.”
    In “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” the author presented a strong parallel between Humbert’s treatment of Dolores (Lolita)–suppressing and damaging her real self in favor of his fantasy–and the religious regime in post-revolutionary Iran, which ignored the reality of women’s individual desires and goals in favor of draconian “one size fits all” rules for their behavior.
    It’s very disturbing to me that the “Lolita” notion has been perverted from the true character depicted–a victim–to the cliche–a vixen. I think that might be because so few people who use the term have actually read the book.

  87. Killerchick

    I have written a novel that charts the intertwined lives of three female friends from the age of 12 until the age of 35. One of the three characters is the daughter of a prostituted woman from an impoverished North-of-England council estate who is raped and made pregnant at the age of 16. By the end of the novel, the character is a lesbian feminist and the most socially aware and fulfilled of the three friends, even though she has faced the toughest social odds and been subject to the cruelest humiliations.

    Despite receiving praise from most of the editors to whom my agent has sent the MS along the lines that it is ‘well-written’ and ‘moving’, they have all turned it down because it ‘just isn’t saleable’ and it ‘falls between genres’. I quote directly from one editor: ‘it looks like a popular women’s novel but the political message is too heavy-handed to appeal to our female readership’. I wanted to write a kind, compassionate book that told the truth about us. I wanted to write a book that shows how girls are abused, undermined, and used as toilets by the patriarchy, but how our spirits are strong and how sometimes we emerge more or less intact.

    I’m a previously published, award-winning non-fiction author. But the message is clear: writing fiction about the details of women’s lives, women’s victimhood at the hands of vicious men, the evolution of our political consciousnesses, and the tensions we face every day is simply not marketable. It is not sufficiently sexy. Where is the classic romance narrative? Why all this talk about power and the tensions inherent in heterosexual relationships? The thing I’m most proud of having written is unlikely to be read by any readership other than a handful of my friends.

  88. Ottawa Gardener

    After the end of the third paragraph, I was afraid to read more. They have named the categories of child abuse? Yuck.

  89. Killerchick

    Shorter me: books written from the point of view of raped girls, unlike books written from the POV of the rapists of girls, are not ‘works of art’. They are ‘unsaleable’.

    (NB: I don’t mean to suggest for a moment that I’m the only, or the most deserving, feminist writer to be in this position. I’m guessing there are loads of us out there. If only we could meet somewhere and drown our sorrows with a consoling round o’ Margs.)

    I’m still amazed that Alice Sebold’s ‘Lucky’ was ever published.

  90. allhellsloose

    Perhaps Killerchick you should use a male pseudonym and resubmit. And for this suggestion IBTP. George and Currer would, I’m sure, be disappointed that nothing has changed.

  91. sonia

    really? that was Greer? then that’s the only thing she’s done that I dislike. semi disappointing, but I got her point..

  92. Noshoes

    I’ve read “Lolita” 5-6 times and I have never found it to be even slightly “erotic.” I am surprised that blamers hate it so much, because it helped explain to me the corrupting, pervasive and poisonous influence of patriarchal culture. I don’t think Nabokov was unaware of this when he wrote it.

  93. greynose algebra

    “Are there ANY stories written by men which believably portray a woman’s inner life from her POV?”

    Some reviewers on Amazon thought Wally Lamb did a terrible job, but “She’s Come Undone” was pretty convincing to me at 17–I’ll have to reread it.

    As for “Lolita”–there’s no question–it IS the ultimate romance. As such, it highlights the ways in which the idea of romantic love is fucked up, disgusting patriarchal bullshit that obliterates the romanced person i.e. the raped female. Patriarchy defines and celebrates romance, which is as objectively sick as the patriarchy itself. Lolita is the logical conclusion.

    Blame, blame, blame.

  94. Kea

    I must confess that Nabokov was one of my favourite writers when I was a teenager, precisely for the awareness of the depths of depravity.

  95. Kelsey

    I’ll have to disagree that Shelly Duval’s character in The Shining is “yet another victim”. She doesn’t get killed sexily, first of all, but more importantly she is -physically trapped- and yet gets her kid and gets the honk outta dodge. She’s pretty badass.

    I like the scene where she explains how her husband only hit the kid “the one time” because it shows how the model of the patriarchal nuclear family causes people in her position to have to make excuses because it’s easier to believe them when society makes leaving the marriage so difficult socially and financially.

  96. Ex-Advertising, Now Free

    24-year-old woman beat up a 12-year-old girl because, she says, “the 12-year-old girl was eyeing her 30-year-old boyfriend.”

    I’ll bet.


    There’s only justice for 12-year-old girls when women beat them. When men rape them, whether in the US or the UK, it’s just business as usual.

  97. nails

    “Are there ANY stories written by men which believably portray a woman’s inner life from her POV?”

    Delores Claiborne

  98. anne

    “Are there ANY stories written by men which believably portray a woman’s inner life from her POV?”

    Michael Cunningham’s pulled it off okay a couple times. He wrote The Hours and Specimen Days.

    Kelsey, I’m going to credit any feminism in the character of Wendy Torrence to Shelley Duvall, because no way Stephen King or Stanley Kubrick had a clue.

  99. Bon

    I am usually an avid reader but not a commenter on this wonderful blog and though it pains me to say, this is the first post I have had real difficulty agreeing with. Certainly, I understand and strongly agree with Twisty’s extra comment:

    “…that when ‘art’ depicts rape from the point of view of the rapist, and gives loving, lyric, cinematic descriptions of the rape, it is pornography, and the audience consuming this pornography gets titillated. Nabokov is a pornographer. Regardless of his views on delusional child molesters, or whether he personally considered Lolita pornography.”

    But there is a greater issue at stake here: that of censorship. I am fully aware of the sickening fetishisation and violation of a vulnerable prepubescent girl that takes place between the covers of this novel. Yes, it does make me feel sick and yes it is pornographic, but that is not what I wish to take issue with.

    It seems to me (as a gross simplification) that the main pro-Lolita argument is centred on the defence of its qualities as an object of artistic beauty and that it holds great scholastic interest as a work, which explores, but does not collude with, the mind of a paedophile. While the main anti-Lolita argument is that it is purely pornographic, it serves only to gratify patrio-centric desire, and that its very existence only perpetuates the already staunchly fixed sexual power structure of the patriarchy. My point here is not to pick a side of the argument, but rather to wonder at what it would mean for us to say, ban Lolita and other texts like it as a means to stop the perpetuation of patriarchy we live in? Are all the attacks that have been launched upon Lolita in this post and its comments, whilst perhaps not explicitly having said so, calling for the annihilation of this novel from existence? If or perhaps when, the great Revolution comes, will it be coming at the cost of the utter annihilation and total censorship of all dudelyMcgodbag works that came before it? Maybe this is not a bad thing, I can’t quite make up my mind. But I do know that I have never been in support of censorship of any kind. Or is it the case that the Revolution will simply renegotiate the very terms by which we could conceive of a work such as Lolita, and thereby de-eroticising it altogether? Any thoughts, Twisty?

  100. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Thanks, Nails, for mentioning Delores. She is one a my personal favorite role models.

  101. speedbudget

    Killerchick, can you use one of those self-publishing houses on the internet? Just the fact that your manuscript has been denied so often makes me WANT to read it.

    And don’t you love the little pats on the heads of us little ladies? “Too heavy-handed to appeal to our female readership” my ass. He should try living one day in the life of some of his female readership and see how much heavy-handed shit we deal with on a daily and hourly basis. He wouldn’t survive.

    anonymous please, I just want to reach out my hand in solidarity and let you know I am so glad you are surviving and seemingly doing all right. My heart aches for you and others in your situation. I can’t even imagine.

  102. Jill

    Bon wrote: “But there is a greater issue at stake here: that of censorship.”

    1. There is no greater issue at stake than the liberation of women from patriarchal oppression.

    2. It is not censorship to advance feminist critiques of dudeliocentric art-porn. Radical feminism doesn’t say “you can’t write child rape fantasies and call it art,” it says “if you make pornography you’re a douche misogynist rape apologist, so grasp this gist and cut it the fuck out.”

    The revolution will render all graphic representations of rape obsolete at the root by smashing the domination/submission paradigm. At which point 99.9% of the beloved literary canon will start to look dated, corny, and bigoted, because it was all written in support of, from the point of view of, and under the auspices of patriarchal oppression. By bigots.

    In other words, no censorship will be required. Since oppression will cease to be fetishized by the enlightened survivors of the revolution, pornography will cease to exist all on its own.

    The degree to which the idea of a world in which Shakespeare and Proust and Dickens are considered quaint relics of a barbaric age makes you uneasy, it is precisely to that degree that you are imbued with and invested in and brainwashed by patriarchal mores.

  103. Jaffa

    Killerchick, your book sounds awesome and just like what I’m lacking. Is there any way to read it while it’s held back from publication? Maybe you could write to me? I have a g mail account and the username is k a k o d a i m o n.

  104. Bon

    Thank you, Twisty, for the detailed response.
    By all means bring on the total subversion and re-orientation of the dead white male canon through radical feminist critique! Such critique is not what I understood by censorship. I suppose what I meant was the total silencing of a patriarchal site. Is it not after all against these sites in all their manifestations that an attack on patriarchy has to be launched? How can feminist subjects revolt against an absent object? No shit, Sherlock, I guess.
    I do think that the questions of art are, or should be subordinate to basic female autonomy. As a new member of the blameotariat I guess I’m just having trouble reconciling the limits to which this blog entreats me to think and, well, The School of Patriarchy, in which I’ve unknowingly been a model student all my life.

  105. Laughingrat

    LOL, “censorship.” As if Jill has the power to magically eradicate dudeliocentric books. If freakin’ only.

    Also, the idea that freedom of speech is more important than freedom from violation is an idea originated by dudely dudes, whose experiences ensure that they have no serious reason to be afraid that their rights to bodily autonomy and freedom from physical and emotional violence will ever be violated.

  106. tinfoil hattie

    anonymous please, I am so very sorry.

    I absolutely agree with you. Your hell is not “art.”

    Fuck that shit. I don’t know why it’s so hard to understand that reading about the rape of a child is NOT ART and it’s not enlightening.

    Nabokov was a freaking child rapist, in creation if not in deed.

    “Censorship,” my ass.

  107. Unree

    “My point here is not to pick a side of the argument, but rather to wonder at what it would mean for us to say, ban Lolita and other texts like it as a means to stop the perpetuation of patriarchy we live in?”

    Nobody said anything about a ban, Bon. Are you reading the wrong blog?

    Twenty-five hundred years ago the Athenians staged hi-larious comedies containing slave characters. Funny, playwrights and screenwriters today don’t include characters they call slaves. Is that censorship?

  108. Killerchick

    allhellsloose: I wonder if using a male pseudonym would have made a difference? I guess it might have done. Men who write about women’s lives and concerns are certainly often lauded as extraordinarily imaginative and sensitive geniuses in ways that mere women representing our own experiences and circumstances never would be.

    Speedbudget and Jaffa, thanks for the suggestions/ support. If the MS is also turned down by the small, independent, non-commercial publishers who are currently considering it (without the involvement of my undermining, dude-bro agent who is only interested in those houses that offer advances big enough to make his 15% fee meaningful), I think I’ll go the web-publishing route as you suggest. If I do decide to do this, I’ll be able to edit it first and take out the few sops to the malestream that I had originally included in order to make it even *vaguely* commercially viable. And Jaffa, if I end up doing that, I’ll definitely send it to you at your address.

    Bidisha writes some great pieces on the way women are treated in literature and the arts, e.g.:



  109. stacey

    I don’t want to censor Lolita, but I do want to censor the reviewership that calls it erotic, moving, best love story of our time, etc. Like wtf?

    Totes late to the party because I was on a bourgeois holiday, but I must have my share in the conversation.

    @Cootie Twoshoes: I gave myself a challenge to read only women authors about five years ago, and it stuck. I’ll read the occasional relic from my old reading list, like Ian Rankin or Jasper Fforde, but it’s certainly not a hardship for me to find and enjoy women writers. I made a digression last year to read the Steig Larssen trilogy, because a woman whose opinion I respect recommended it, and I was bitterly disappointed. BITTERLY.

    @”Art Defense”: I think Jill says, “it may be art, but it’s bad art.” Or steaming pile of shit excuse for art. It’s art that allows art-wankers to feel superior to non-art people for spurious reasons, i.e. the more transgressive it is, the more important it is. Bull fucking shit.

    And back to censorship: how about all the book publishers in the world who are still denying women a voice? It’s “unsaleable” because a) they’ve never tried selling it, and b) they can’t imagine buying it. IBTP. I hope you get published, Killerchick. (Sumach Press is a favourite of mine. Just sayin’.)

  110. buttercup

    @Stacey, sorry you got suckered into the Larsen tar pit. The one I read pissed me off so bad I nearly threw it across the room before remembering it was a library book. No more after that.

    Men who write convincing internal lives for woman characters? I agree Stephen King manages more than once. Dolores Claiborne. Rose Madder. Lisey’s Story. Carrie, even, mostly. Several novellas/shorts including one in the most recent compendium, “Full Dark, No Stars” called “A Good Marriage”. Really interesting story, wife of xx years finds out unassuming, harmless dorky hubs is a serial killer. Maybe he only gets it through sheer volume of writing but he usually does OK on women. As much as I hate most of his BIG novels.

    I’ve never read Lolita and I don’t plan to but I did read American Psycho and it was the only book I’ve ever read that made me physically ill. Although by the end I was pretty sure all this was only happening in Bateman’s head.

  111. Jill

    If you want to be made queasy by gripping novels that suck you into criminal brains, and you wanna keep it Y-free, look no further than Patricia Highsmith. That first Ripley novel squicked me out for days. There’s no blood, really, just major creepiness. I got hooked and read her entire oeuvre.

  112. buttercup

    Ooh Jill, yes. Creepy!

  113. Arsepolitico

    WT??! re: Lolita apologists and “desire”?? Wow, it’s funny how basic literary analysis skills disappear when the subject is something that would otherwise affirm one’s view of the world.

    Lolita is pretty explicitly about OBSESSION. The writing wouldn’t make sense otherwise. It’s just bad prosetry if the style doesn’t reflect the state of mind of the narrator and the plot is almost exclusively defined by inappropriately and intentionally breaking boundaries in the name of obsession. Lolita’s age and/or perceived place in manipulating that obsession (which is intentionally shaky or else the writing is again, crap and the book is about nothing and why not write it in third person???) doesn’t change that without unwriting the novel or at least bumping it down several shelves on Ye Olde Gentleman’s Hierarchy of Acceptable Literature.

    Again: WT?

  114. Kristine

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Killerchick’s publishing problem a form of censorship in itself? I mean, we may not have laws demanding that certain ideas must not be made public in any form, but the works and ideas of women and minorities are effectively censored by a capitalist profit-driven society that just doesn’t give enough of a shit to listen to us/them.

    To give an example, images of fat women in the media are heavily censored, even though there is no law against them. They don’t make a profit, so they’re either publicly ridiculed or ignored. Really, it’s more effective than setting up laws, because it governs the people’s minds (through manipulation) instead of their actions. And it works the same way with books written by, for, and about women.

    I guess I’m just wondering why I should care if Lolita is censored when much more meaningful works of literature are routinely crushed by the patriarchy.

  115. humanbein

    It’s not necessary, but I have to second the whole idea that our literary canon may someday seem ridiculous and distasteful for many reasons, and the happiest reason I can think of is that dominance and submission, as a way of looking at life, becomes obsolete.

    I think, from some of the comments, that this idea is a little difficult to grasp, since I remember reading comments subsequent to Jill’s that seem to interpret this as something that would happen by banning or destroying prior human thought because it is so irredeemably misogynist and full of hierarchies characterized by all kinds of dominance and submission.

    I imagine that in a world so advanced and free from oppression, these works would still be preserved, but would no longer be as popular or beloved. Indifference would be a more appropriate projection, or mild regret at how terrible the world used to be that makes it seem distasteful and hard work to bother to read. With a newer world literature of pure beauty and truth to enjoy, only scholars will even try to extract the many gems from our past.

    The very real wounds these works and the actions they represent that we now suffer and feel so keenly will have healed by then. I know I’m projecting a beloved and much wished-for fantasy, but my dreams of a better world are the only things that keep me from degenerating into a hopeless hell in my life today.

    Someone mentioned Dworkin’s Intercourse, which is full of excerpts from the long history of blood curdling misogyny in literature. This thread reminds me of the strong feelings that book tore from me.

  116. GMM

    The movie 9 and 1/2 Weeks was described to me by an older female relative as a film about a man who plays sick mind games on his girlfriend, who eventually wises up and leaves him. My brother described the exact same movie as ‘romantic.’ I asked him how could see it as romantic when the man treated her like shit, and he just chuckled.

    I would think that even the most obnoxious woman haters would at least draw the line at child abuse, but apparently not. Women may see it for what it is, but I don’t think I need to put myself through reading that shit for any reason. A close friend of mine who was molested as a child told me that the man who kidnapped and abused her acted as if he really believed what he was doing was completely romantic, tender and loving. Obviously she had a different take on it.

    I didn’t read the book but did see the movie version of American Psycho, and the only reason I did was because of a review I read that said it was adapted for the screen and directed by feminist women, and they completely turned the story on it’s head. Which they did, quite awesomely actually.

    Tiger Beatdown does an excellent critique of both the book and the movie, and how all the great satire in the movie come from the screenwriter and director, and not the original novel (which seems to have really miffed Bret):

  117. Carpenter

    My friends and I all read Lolita around the same time when we were in our early 20s. It seemed to me at the time that there was no way the audience was supposed to sympathize with the main character; even his name seemed to be making a mockery of him and convey the idea that he was a major creep. However, every time I have run into someone who read it as a romance it has always been an old guy. The worst example ever was John Derbyshire who wrote a review or Lolita so disgusting that Amanda Marcotte had to write a three page double drop kick take down of it. I had always given Nabakov the benefit of the doubt, but considering the old -guy reaction and the the fact that I know Nabakov was kind of nuts I really want to do some non-Wikipedia digging on his statements about the book.

  118. Carpenter

    @GMM, that Tigerbeatdown piece was awesome,

    “to get the full effect, imagine what would happen if someone ate a copy of Rolling Stone, a copy of Hustler, and a copy of GQ, then puked them up all over a Saw IV DVD”


  119. Jill

    Carpenter says “I had always given Nabakov the benefit of the doubt, but considering the old -guy reaction and the the fact that I know Nabakov was kind of nuts I really want to do some non-Wikipedia digging on his statements about the book.”

    Not me, mang. I’m 52 now. I’m gonna spend my twilite years not giving a shit about Nabokov. Starting … now!

  120. Ruby Lou

    Anonymous please, thank you for your post. Thank you one million times. And congratulations on a stellar victory.

  121. angie

    I’m a day late on this discussion which I think I inadvertently started on the other thread by not making myself clear the first time. And while I replied in that thread just now, I’m going to say it again: the discussion about what Nabokov’s intent was in writing Lolita is irrelevant, IMO. The actual effect of the novel was that people believed Humbert Humbert that Lolitas exist. In short, the effect of the novel was to validate pedophiles’ desires. Do I think that was probably Nabokov’s intent, despite his statements to the contrary? Yes, but again, irrelevant because I think that regardless of Nabokov’s intent, anyone who reads the book should not believe Humbert Humbert &, in fact, should realize that 12 year old girls who seduce 40 year old men do not exist outside of a pedophile’s fantasy. That is the *effect* the novel had on me, but it is not, in fact, the overwhelming effect that the novel had on the rest of the world. People who have never read the book know exactly what a “Lolita” is — a young girl who “seduces” other men. And I’m not defending Nabokov, (in case I’m not clear) because even if I give him the benefit of the doubt that he intended the novel to have the same effect on society in general as it personally had on me & some others here, then he FAILED.

  122. Carpenter

    Only recently did I learn the depths of Nabakov’s egomania. He published a translation of Eugine Onegin with 1000+ pages of rambling annotation. He also translated it without putting it in meter or verse, then spent years writing vitriolic takedown of people that did translate it into meter and verse which cost him at least one friendship. This isn’t really busting any stereotypes about old art dudes and their narcissistic antisocial ‘genius’ temper tantrums.

  123. tinfoil hattie

    “Long Island Lolita.” Remember that little s***, Amy Fisher, who “seduced” a 34-year-old man? What a b**** she was!

    Never mind that she was sexually abused as a child, and then raped at age 13 by a contractor working on the family home.

    It was all her fault for starting an “affair” (ate age 16) with a 34-year-old married man. The hussy!

  124. Frumious B.


    Vladdy [snip] relied on his wife to do this grunt work for him, I somehow managed to think, “Navokov is most definitely not a fucking misogynist shitstain.”

    Wait, what? Relying on your wife to do the grunt work of life is part of the definition of fucking misogynist shitstain. At the very least, it’s an expression of supreme privilege, and expressing privilege when one has the option not to sure as hell is shitstain behavior.

  125. Kelly T.

    “But I do know that I have never been in support of censorship of any kind…”

    Any kind? Really? So child rape, snuff films and torture are okay with you? How about censorship when it’s about respect for victims of crime, especially when they are underaged? Or how about censorship when the material is a direct call to violence? You’re all for desecration of corpses, depictions of rape and calls for lynchings? I guess that’s what passes for art these days.

  126. Jezebella

    Amy Fisher is currently on Celebrity Rehab. Her whole life was wrecked by what was done to her as a child. And people are still giving her shit about what she was manipulated into doing almost twenty years ago. Hey, and guess what her crappy life has led her to do to make a buck: porn! And a massive quantity of pills and alcohol. What a fucking surprise THAT is.

  127. ivyleaves

    @Ex-Advertising, Now Free:

    That article was very puzzling. It seemed to want to make pedophilia a baby boomer phenomenon and blame everything on one generation of people. I don’t know about any of the stuff it was talking about, but the ageism was very disturbing and I don’t trust it on that basis.

  128. ivyleaves

    I just now read Tiger Beat on American Psycho and I am so glad that I never read the book. I had watched the movie, and started laughing when the creepy, overly fake, stylized blood running down the screen turned out to be raspberry sauce being “plated” for a dessert in a restaurant and found the film one of the best comedies I had seen. Now I am saved from ever making the mistake of looking in on the book.

    Looking back on the themes we have been pursuing, I wonder why Patrick Bateman never got around to murdering children, or maybe he did in the book?

  129. Mildred

    I read this book when I was 18 years old, I read it because it was on a stack of other classics and I knew it had a saucey (not rapey) reputation. As I was reading it I thought it was a book about the sick mind of a pedophile and at the end when he meets Lolita again and she’s obviously pissed off and messed up and he realises on the last page that he’d ruined her life I thought, “What a great book, it really shows that children are not women or sexual beings and that this awful man robbed her of her childhood through his disgusting actions.”
    But it seems that absolutely no one I have ever spoken to had that perspective. I was wondering why people were giving me a funny look like I was a perv every time I said it was my favourite novel. Twisty and all the blamers seem to be the only people in the whole world who have the same perspective as me, and yet it all seems so painfully obvious, I mean, just substitute Lolita with a boy child, that’ll get everyones knickers in a twist!

  130. Mildred

    Sorry Blamers, I wrote my comment without spending almost the whole afternoon reading the thread.. Time well-spent mind you, I never even realised that Lolita was seen as pornography until I read Anti-Climax by Sheila Jeffries, since then I’ve been looking for more feminist perspectives on this book.
    What I wanted to ask the blamers was this….
    There are two readings of the book Lolita, the feminist version where an adolescent is manipulated, kidnapped, raped, then there’s the liberaldude version where it is just good clean sexy fun. Lolita is often depicted as tearful, reluctant, he even manipulates her by telling her that if she ever told the authorities that SHE’D seduced him she’d be sent to some prison-like foster home. Liberaldudes gloss over these parts because it ruins their fantasies and they’re groomed from birth to not see females as humans.
    But then why , if Nabokov really were just a porn-sick knob, would he constantly portray Lolita as an unwilling victim? Why wouldn’t he just play up to the stereotype that she really were some otherworldly sex fairy like Humbert wanted her to be?
    Either Nabokov wanted her to hate the abuse, thus adding another level of dominance, thus making it “sexier” for all those people who get off on all that disgusting power play shit OR (and I really hope this is the case) there was more to it .

  131. Fictional Queen

    I say,why should we care,men’s way of ruining everything is jerking off to EVERYTHING,even the most radical feminist things?
    If women object to something,nothing changes,it doesn’t matter,no one stops praising it as art or whatever,wouldn’t their gross little weapon become useless if nobody simply gave a shit? If d*ck=/=power…

  132. Cootie Twoshoes

    I’m with Fictional Queen on this. Why should we give a shit about men’s perspectives? We are constantly instructed as to what is important to men, what kind of “statements” they’re making with their art/porn, how hurt/enraged they are at being left out of feminist conversations. I don’t give a shit what Nabokov intended. It matters not in the greater discourse of radfem revolution.

  133. anne

    When women object to something that thing becomes even artier, because then dudes can claim their trite crap is all daring and controversial and shit.

    “even when you beat the audience over the head with your conclusion they just draw whatever one makes them feel best instead”

    This is what drives me up a wall about practically all commentary on Mad Men. The writers couldn’t be more clear that the male characters are spoiled rotten and clueless, but most of the Monday morning commentators take the male characters’ interpretations of things as correct.

  134. tinfoil hattie

    Liberaldudes gloss over these parts because it ruins their fantasies and they’re groomed from birth to not see females as humans.

    But then why , if Nabokov really were just a porn-sick knob, would he constantly portray Lolita as an unwilling victim?

    Because that IS the fun. The more unwilling the victim, the better the getting-off of the knob, liberal or no. I think even some hard-core blamers here are missing the point. It is FUN to torture women; it is a TURN-ON to hurt and dominate them. Hence: patriarchy.

  135. buttercup

    Ugh, don’t even get me started on Mad Men and that wagonload of shit it pulls behind it.

  136. Jill

    “I think even some hard-core blamers here are missing the point. It is FUN to torture women; it is a TURN-ON to hurt and dominate them. Hence: patriarchy.”

    Yup, there ya go.

  137. lizor

    I read that book a couple of decades ago, while swimming in a social mindset that this was an Important Erotic Book. (Being a teenager in the early stages of recovery from rape by a much much older man, it really did a number on me – trying to understand how I was supposed to relate to that story). Important, yes – in the canon of dudely literature that frames rape as some lofty metaphor for some gobbledygook about truth and human nature – like Last Tango is and “Important work of art”, not just porn/propaganda/hate literature with higher production values.

    And WTF with the inevitable cry of “censorship” every time a woman labels hate speech accurately. Did anyone here talk about banning the book? I didn’t see that in the post or any of the comments before the aforementioned inevitable red herring. Kind of like framing Warren Jeff’s crimes as being an issue of the constitutionality of polygamy.

  138. AlienNumber

    Jill, if I may so suggest, would you make your reply to Bon above a separate blog post, because: a) it’s so good and perfect and b) it would be more easily accessible to the hungry (for more and MORE radical feminism) masses if it were a separate blog post.
    Maybe if you use the words “censorship” and “p0rn” enough times in the post and if enough people on the web link to it, every time somebody googles any of those words, it will be the first link on Google (I can dream, right?).

  139. KittyWrangler

    I read Lolita maybe the first year of college, so age 19. I wrote little three-paragraph essay about it “exploring” how H.H. is an unreliable narrator, how mid-century US had certain sexual mores and the book pointed skillfully at sexual undercurrents, etc. I got an A. However I did not write what I actually thought of the novel: that H.H. was still too strong a character to REALLY identify with the object of desire; that the only reason Lolita was more celebrated than other books that deeply explore sexuality was because it so gingerly dipped its toe in the waters of truly subversive writing and was basically mainstream ‘romance;’ and that H.H.’s real triumph was starring in a book that is ‘important’ enough that thousands of teenage girl students will have to slog through a full novel of child rape pornography, to participate in old-man-masturbation-fodder, as part of their education and be subjected to (or participate in!)a full-throated pedantic celebration of such an exercise.
    It simply did not occur to me to write what I actually thought! I had become so accustomed from grade school onward to noticing misogynist crap in our assigned reading, knowing instinctively that pointing it out to anyone would be received as if I were speaking in tongues, and then seeking out the generally acknowledged benefit of said reading, that this process was second nature. In fact I don’t think any of my hard-hitting deep-thinking (for a child) book-reports and essays from high school EVER reflected what I actually thought of what we studied. For example I probably got A’s on papers I wrote during that interminable Hemingway/Steinbeck/Hawthorne* Symbolic Loss Of Innocence semester without even once considering writing what I actually thought: that they devoted books to the complex and varied ways in which male characters lose innocence but women just had sex and boom, innocence lost. I privately wondered what business anyone so profoundly ignorant of half of humanity had writing about the human condition, much less getting published, but I simply accepted that I was reading Great Wise Writing.
    It finally occurred that these thoughts in my second private brain might be legitimately written down when a fantastic teacher assigned the one-two punch of Edward Said’s “Orientalism” and the chapter from W. E. B. Du Bois’s “The Souls of Black Folk,” where he explains the veil metaphor. I still need so much practice at expressing those other, true thoughts, so thank you, thank you! to Twisty and the commentariat for always flexing your truth-telling muscles and giving my real self room to breathe.

    *I could be mis-remembering a little, I read this stuff a long time ago.

  140. stacey

    Anecdote Alert – general blameatariat, please feel free to skip.

    Good for you KittyWrangler. By 3rd year uni I was so sick of “canon” that for my American Lit term essay, I wrote about how much I’d hated that course’s reading list, and I tore William Faulkner to pieces. So my mark didn’t get posted on the door; I had to go see the professor – a kindly Southern gentleman who greatly resembled Faulkner, actually.

    I was petrified. But he says to me, “I don’t hear a peep out of you all semester long and then you hand in this essay. It’s FABULOUS.” Then he set me up with a grad student supervisor, enrolled me in an independent studies course, and let me design my own reading list. Best. Essay. Ever.

  141. Treefinger

    The American Psycho movie didn’t turn the book on its head, since Bret Easton-Ellis has always claimed he was trying to do what the directors of the film did himself (he claimed it was a “feminist work” years before the movie arrived). The movie was just more successful since it got to the point without repeating everything five thousand times* and leaving out the more lovingly rendered violent scnes in the book. Easton-Ellis has repeatedly shown himself to be a misogynist asshole since then, though, so I have no doubt that he enjoyed writing those scenes on a creepy “erotic” level, even though his main aim may have been to criticize yuppie culture. The movie is infinitely better, most likely because the women who directed it knew those parts were unnecessary (the best scene is undoubtedly the “women philosophy” one, where Bateman’s friends discuss their misogynist views, but are shocked when Bateman starts talking about killing women. They fail to realize Bateman has just made the connection between misogyny and violence, having as he does a stunted view of social norms that grasps the essentials of patriarchy but fails to perceive the “difference” between casual sexism and violence in the popular mindset).

    Not that I don’t agree with the commenters here though, that sadly the audience is 95% comprised of people who just get off on the violence and think Patrick Bateman is a role model.

    *I know the banal repetitive nature was supposed to be analogous to Bateman’s life, but still, annoying.

  142. Roving Thundercloud

    So sorry to come late to this thread, because it made me feel a lot better! And I am also smiling because the quote below–

    “Nothing wastes my time like a dude.”
    Twisty Faster, cc. 2007.

    –made me think of how much I hate the musical “South Pacific”, which, not at all coincidentally, features a sensitive nice guy macking on a teen native girl with the full approval (of course) of her mother, cuz you know those exotic chicks are so sensual that it’s okay if they’re barely pubescent….arrrgggghhhhh!!!!

    Anyway, there’s a song in it that really makes me want to retch, “There is nothing like a dame.” I like Twisty’s statement better and would like to replace the original song with that:

    There is nothing like a dude, nothing in the world…
    Nothing bores like a dude
    Nothing snores like a dude…etc. etc.

    Sorry to be on a tangent, but I had to sit through “Oklahoma” last night and I still need some brainbleach.

    PS At the time I read it, I thought “The Ginger Tree” by Oswald Wynd was very good. It’s a fictional diary of a woman who goes with her military husband to China, suffers greatly, but keeps surviving…I remember being amazed that a man could have written it. I wonder if it would hold up to my later Blamer Training?

  143. vitaminC


    Margaret Atwood, “The Blind Assassin.” Award-winning literature that actually deserves its hosannas, and probably my all-time favorite book.


  144. kate

    @Frumious B
    This is kind of late, but just in case you’re reading:
    I completely agree! This time around, I was being sarcastic. But I really did think something along those lines the first time that cute little factoid popped onto my radar a few months ago. “Oh, how quirky of Nabokov! What a wacky guy!” BARF.

    Just for funsies, let’s imagine what would happen if Vladimira Nabokov had her husband type up her manuscripts because she couldn’t (or rather, refused to learn how to) type. I guaran-fucking-tee you that 1. she would be considered something of an idiot instead of a “wacky genius” and 2. everyone would say that her husband edited/improved/really wrote everything. Of course, it seems unlikely that Vladimira would ever get published in the first place, so problem solved!

  145. Paine

    I just went on wiki and read a summary of the book (which I, thankfully, had not previously encountered). I feel like I’m going to puke.

  146. LS


    There is a famous calligrapher in Japan who actually has that arrangement with her actor husband and they both seem successful/happy… So, that is my tiny hope that husbands whom do housework exist

  147. Former Blamer

    It warms the hollow, mirthless cockles of my heart to know that my 14-year-old protofeminist rage at Nabokov and his slimy ilk have inspired a post here at IBTP. That anger began when old dudes in cars started hitting on my obviously 14 year old self in front of my school and has never abated since.

    I may be a Former (lurker who is now a sporadic) Blamer online, but rest assured I loathe the patriarchy and all its minions 24/7.

    Currently I am trying to persuade a sweet 22 year old girl I know to at least consider radical feminism. She is smart, but comes from a very traditional country, and full of pretty privilege. She gets that something in the milk ain’t clean, but when I tried to explain to her that the waiter was slobbering over her while looking daggers at me because he belongs to a group of violent oppressors who hate women, she thought I was just imagining things.

    I’d give her some feminist literature but her English skills aren’t really good enough for something academic. Any other blamers have ideas for a simple, but effective feminist primer for a non-native English speaker? (Forget finding a translated version of a harder book; her native language is too obscure).

  148. Former Blamer

    Angie, my reply to your post in that thread wasn’t meant to be a personal attack on you. I hope it didn’t come across that way. Whenever anybody even mentions Nabokov in any way that sounds even remotely apologetic, I go off. The rage is at him and the P, not at you.

    I wish I had had access to feminist literature at 14. What a difference it would have made in my adolescent life to know that my anger had a name and a reason for existing. And that other women felt it too.

  149. Former Blamer

    The most likely explanation to me is that Nabokov was in fact a child rapist, and reporting his lived experiences. He may depict accurately the damage done to the rape victim, he may be moved to regret what he has done, but the fact remains that he immortalized child rape in book form for others to vicariously enjoy. Even if it has some kind of moral tacked on at the end. Rape is still rape even if the rapist feels remorse about it.

    Even if he didn’t actually rape children in reality, he did so in his mind and in his books. And millions of other men get to relive those rapes. Millions of women and children have suffered and will suffer for it.

    Sue Lyon, the 14-year-old actress from the film version, had to leave the film business because of all the sicko attention she got and she is still living in hiding today.

  150. Fictional Queen

    Former Blamer,I’m curious,what’s her native language?

  151. mearl

    Recipe for a Patriarchal “Great Work of Art:”

    1) Author must either be a male, or occasionally a female who toes the status quo line (by either trashing and objectifying other women, or trashing and objectifying herself). Examples of the latter would be Pauline Reage or Anais Nin.

    2) Cast must include fully developed male characters – most notably a male protagonist – whose inner thoughts, opinions, struggles, desires, personal past, memories, career aspirations, and interactions between friends, coworkers and family are extensive and detailed.

    3) Cast must then include one or more sexy female characters whose appearance and/or sexual characteristics are repeatedly described in detail. The female characters should not be allotted any of the human attributes bestowed upon the male characters (such as REAL thoughts or opinions) but rather, the only indication of a personality should be recorded as direct words/actions as seen/heard by the male protagonist/characters. The female characters must be masochistic to at least some degree, even if they pretend to kick ass or exert any measure of control over or rejection of the male characters. Said ass-kicking/control/rejection can only be done in a SEXY manner, and must not in any way threaten or obliterate the males.

    4) The plot must “push boundaries in a provocative and controversial manner.” What this means is that the business as usual of patriarchy must be set down in the narrative in a way that the collective audience (usually males) can relate to. The only critiques of the plot’s inherent patriarchal normativity/ misogyny will be the extremely SUBTLE portrayal of the male protagonist as an “unlikeable person” or an “unreliable narrator.” This gives everyone something to argue endlessly about in literary circles, but no real deviation from the accepted norm is allowed.

    5) The plot must revolve around a “taboo” subject – but again, only in a way that is acceptable to male readers and critics. Radical feminist writers with work that turns patriarchy on its head need not even apply for Great Work of Art status.

    6) While critiquing the male-approved “taboo” subject, the author should include plenty of long, detailed, sexy passages in order to ENHANCE the critique of the sexiness of the taboo. Said passages should be written in skilled, time-honoured, flowery prose so that they are difficult to pin down as porny male mental vomit. See: Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Henri de Montharlant, Philip Roth.

    7) The Great Work of Art in question should be vague enough about its statements/societal critiques that it can be used as wank-fodder for the entire male population, while at the same time be defended by those in the know (i.e., English majors and art aficionados) as having elusive LAYERS that must be examined in order to gain a TRUE UNDERSTANDING of its Deep Artistic Merit.

    8) It is of no consequence to its Deep Artistic Merit that the Great Work of Art does not deviate from the status quo, that it further entrenches the objectification of women, and that most male members of the patriarchy approve of it (mainly because of its pleasing wankability factor and affirmation of the male sense of entitlement). Anyone who objects to its offensiveness or unoriginality is simply a plebeian.

    Et voila!

  152. Anne

    Whenever I watch American Psycho, I get the feeling Mary Harron is making fun of Bret Easton Ellis. And Gordon Grecco and Tony Mantana while we’re at it.

  153. Ayla

    Lucky for Sue Lyon, it doesn’t look like the attention got quite that bad since she continued to act into the 1980s.

  154. Bushfire

    This comment thread deserves 11 000 literary awards of the highest level for outstanding contributions to artistic discourse.

  155. Jill

    Mearl, as an English major and ex-protegee of dude artistes, I salute you.

  156. speedbudget

    I read about 100 pages of a Philip Roth book once. I couldn’t grok what was so awesome about it. I thought the writing style was horrible and I couldn’t stand the constantly masturbatory writing style. I really felt like the dude was standing over my shoulder wanking off to the fact that I was reading this garbage. I threw the book in the trash.

  157. mearl

    Thanks, Jill. As an English major trapped in a department chock-full of liberaldude strawfeminists and sex-poz funfeminists (none of whom, thankfully, forced me to ever read Lolita), I ran screaming from the endless circus of DECONSTRUCTION that had extended to Harry Potter books and Danielle Steele (I kid you not – Steele was on a pop-lit course reading list). If there’s one thing that makes me want to stick a fork in my eye, it’s the notion of taking the most blatant of misogynist shite the world has deemed “art” and “re-interpreting it through a feminist lens” or “using it in ways that were unintended.”

    REALLY? That’s all you’ve got in the way of activism? Keep the same patriarchal garbage, but spend your graduate degree looking for some hidden nugget of reinterpretive merit in a centuries-old sea of crap? Continue producing crap in the traditional vein? Take up the mantle of misogyny and tell me it’s feminist and edgy because you have a vagina? (I’m looking at you, Cindy Sherman).

    How about just seeing misogyny for what it is? How about busting up the same old boring tropes, how about creating storylines that satisfy women and freak men right out of their chairs? I’m so sick of the fucking art apologists. It might be well-written misogyny, but it’s still misogyny. Now can we move on?

    Sadly, the only truly subversive material out there isn’t likely to ever see the light of day in its unfiltered form. Anything that reaches widely-read status has gone through the Patriarchulator (similar to the enpoopulator, but evil), where hetero-male-approved sexayness is piled on, deference to men and male dominance is present, and male critics can read it without their testicles receding into their abdomens.

    When I wanted to see something SORT OF different, edgy, and innovative, I read a lot of the books mentioned above by other blamers: Derek Jensen, Wally Lamb, King’s Dolores Claiborne, Michael Cunningham, and – believe it or not – Irvine Welsh. Haven’t read Roddy Doyle or Oswald Wynd yet but they’re now on the list.

    As for feminist writers, I continually refer to this blog’s reading list. It’s the only way to maintain my sanity.

  158. KittyWrangler

    Former Blamer: What about a short Barbara Kingsolver book like “The Bean Trees” for your friend? I have no idea what Kingsolver herself believes about radical feminism but her collected stories in “High Tide in Tucson” could function as radfem primers.

  159. GMM

    The Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi, now that’s an edgy and innovative novel. Haven’t read the P’s review of it, but it’s a deliciously naughty feminist read.

  160. Bushfire

    Today I saw Lolita in a bookstore, on a table with a sign that read “Books That Will Change Your Life”. Also on the table was Atlas Shrugged.


  161. Dani

    This isn’t directly related to the discussion, but there’s a fantastic book called “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi, who’s an Iranian former English professor. She uses the oppression in Nabokov’s works as a metaphor for how her and her female students are treated in Iran. It’s an interesting perspective on the works.

  162. stacey

    I’m a mystery genre fan, and it’s probably the same situation as SF – not enough women writers. There are a few I really like, however: Dorothy L Sayers was innovative for her time, although her characters don’t overtly smash the patriarchy; Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, despite its smugness; and my absolute favourite, the Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin, the most enjoyable of the lot.

  163. Jill

    Dorothy L Sayers was innovative for her time, although her characters don’t overtly smash the patriarchy

    True, but least she has a female protagonist who isn’t stupid. Sayers herself was a patriarchy-smasher, as the first woman to take a degree at Oxford.

  164. shopstewardess

    I’ve just seen an ad for “The new fragrance for women” by an design outfit called Marc Jacobs. It features an unmistakably young female model (I checked: she’s 17, and even for 17 she’s styled “young” in this picture). She is wearing a mini-dress that looks as though it started out as nightwear. Between her thighs she is holding a large perfume bottle with a pink-petalled stopper that looks like the bastard offspring of a rose and a vulva.

    The name of the perfume? “Oh, Lola!”

    Effing patriarchy.

  165. Mildred

    @ shopstewardess

    I saw that poster just two days ago! It really jarred me, I thought she looked incredibly young, vulnerable, and afraid, like a still from a pornographic film before two or more men seize upon her. I get that same feeling when I look at posters for American Apparel, the models all have that young, abused and drugged look about them. That’s probably why it looks like porn.

  166. kiuku

    “Male sexuality is hateful and dehumanizing, and men will use any cultural pretext for defending it: art, historical precedent, projecting his own sociopathy onto women under the auspices of his male privilege, etc.”

    Exactly. You can’t cultivate that. We have to realize it’s essential, inherent, male and it’s disgusting; do we make excuses for any other disgusting thing, especially in large groups? Why are men and women trying to cultivate males? It’s inherent and it’s disgusting, and it needs to be destroyed; when Feminism wakes up to this dire need it will be too late.

  167. Anne

    kiuku – Doesn’t arguing that it’s inherent absolve men of responsibility? They’re just like that and can’t help themselves?

  168. Dana

    I hate Kubrick and will always hate Kubrick and it is not because Kubrick did a Lolita movie (though that doesn’t help his case) but because he fucked up The Shining so bad. I saw his version on TV one day and I only lasted half an hour. Anyone who thinks Shelley Duvall made the character Wendy in any way strong or feminist has not read the goddamn book and has apparently turned on their Whiny Weak Girlbot audio filter because holy *damn*, I wanted to slap her.

    Turns out Kubrick was abusive of her the whole damn time they were filming. If I’m not mistaken, and I may be misremembering, I seem to recall hearing that Duvall wasn’t upset enough for at least one scene so he walked up to her and yelled at her and slapped her. No excuse for generally crappy acting otherwise, but no one deserves that, not even when they’re being paid for it.

    And let me not even get started about Jack Nicholson. That movie made me *hate* him for a while. He totally got the character *wrong*. What a nasty, mean little piece of shit.

    Seriously? Read the book. Please read the book. It even explains why Wendy didn’t leave. And why that was difficult in a psychological sense as well as the physical. Jack Torrance had issues with his temper when he had been drinking, but what he got up to in the Overlook Hotel was so far out of character for him as to be ridiculous. He was *possessed.* It really wasn’t him.

    These situations are never cut and dried even when you don’t bring the supernatural into them. At the end of the day what sucks so much about the big P is that the group oppressing us is a group we really can’t avoid if we want to live like natural human beings. We’re human, we’re social animals, we’re supposed to be able to care about those closest to us and it’s the worst sort of betrayal when they turn on us. Difficult thing around which to wrap one’s brain–or, from which to disengage one’s heart.

    And it doesn’t help when everyone’s saying “why didn’t you just leave, you stupid bitch”–especially other women who are supposed to be on your side! I mean, if that’s what they think of you, where are you supposed to go? Where will you be safe?

    Anyway. I think Stephen King has a bit better handle on gender relations than you might have believed. I don’t think he is perfect about it and for that IBTP. But he tries harder than, say, Mister Scepter Of Passion ever did.

    As for Reading Lolita In Tehran, whatever you think of Islam or hijab or anything in that vein, I’m pretty much over the whole non-Muslim tendency to fetishize Muslim women and try to make them over into non-Muslim sexbots. (Note I didn’t say “Western.” Islam is just as much Western as it is Eastern, in my not-so-humble.) I don’t CARE how much skin a Muslimah’s allowed to show. I don’t CARE what kind of surgery she’s had on her genitalia other than to work toward the outlawing of those types of procedures. I don’t CARE whether she has an open mind about all the fucked-up things we do to one another in non-Muslim society in the name of “healthy sexuality.” I care whether she is where she wants to be, doing what she wants to do, with nobody threatening to kill her if she strays. Most of us can’t say we’re there yet either. The veil is just a distraction. Pay no attention to the dude being serviced behind the curtain.

  169. Sputnik

    Re Prof Dr MD blah-blah Berlin, please see:

    but then adjust this brilliant Semyonova comment, for example, substituting the word ‘men’ or ‘male human’ everywhere she writes ‘pit bull’.

  170. Occasional Expositor

    Via boingboing:

    Apparently some feminists are fighting the good fight on Wikipedia over the Lolita entry (as well as non-feminist pedants).

    I don’t have the energy, but I salute those who do.

  171. Occasional Expositor

    Dang, the link didn’t come through.

    Let’s try again with an anchor tag:

    Link to article about Wikipedia edits

  172. KH

    I’ve been away from IBTP/SDI for about 10,000 years, so forgive me for the less than speedy response to two folks who addressed my own comments.

    speedbudget, I’m not certain I’d actually call the books I mentioned feminist. I would vouch that they can be successfully be given a feminist reading, that is, that they will be successful novels when seen through the lens of feminism. Part of my reluctance relates to the following.

    TA, who asked me about whether a man could believably write from a woman’s POV, I must tell you that neither of these books actually does that. Sure, A Garden Next Door does, toward the end–at that point, it is obviously the woman’s POV, but the tone hasn’t changed, only the circumstance. This is not a problem for me, as I feel neutral, as a woman, neither masculine nor feminine, and when I describe my womanhood, I describe that sense of it, the circumstance (as we all do, I think). Donoso did a good job of convincing me, but I read his own words as a neutral. They may not be! So I would suggest that it may be convincing for some women, but not all.

    Both of the books I mentioned were definitely by men, and definitely had men as the pro/antogonists for the majority of the text. I don’t know whether or not the authors wrote the from a feminist impulse, but I suspect that they did. Whether or not it is as sophisticated an understanding as a Savage Death Islanders, I doubt but wouldn’t rule out, especially in the case of Alastair Gray. Similarly, neither of those authors is N. American, so their own cultural understanding plays a role in their presentation as well. I don’t mean to toss them cookies, but I do mean to shame the ghost of Nabokov.

    Back to reading the rest of the comment thread, now.

  173. Fictional Queen

    From what I understand,it’s a ground breaking book because it pushed the tolerance of public misogyny to include girl children?

  174. Natalia

    So here’s why Lolita is one of my favourite books, actually.

  175. amrit

    Natalia: “So here’s why Lolita is one of my favourite books, actually.” “Lolita is still a book that takes an extremely ugly story and makes it extremely gorgeous”

    I’m nearly speechless, actually. I keep remembering a woman I knew at university. We were dating. She kept waking up in the middle of the night saying “Something is missing.” I finally asked her what was missing and she said, in all seriousness, “The Phallus.” I sat there in the dark. Finally, I said, ” No, it’s right here. The Phallus is in your brain.” That’s how I felt reading the review linked to the above comment. The P’s mind-fuck of women, even really smart women, is endless, insidious, and self-reproducing. There is nothing gorgeous about it.

  176. amrit

    Okay. I’ve had some coffee and re-read Antonova’s review of “Lolita.”

    It’s awfully noble to try to makes sense of one’s childhood violation and to try to find some solace and beauty in what is left of you afterwards. It’s really the work of healing. So my heart goes out to Antonova. Most women struggle to find some meaning and beauty inside of the P., and I believe that it is possible to do that. I just don’t think the locus of that beauty lies in depictions of violation, however artfully crafted or packaged.

    Childhood rape exists in a larger context than the individual; it is part of the mythos of the P. Without the mass rape of girls, there would have been a revolution already. Incest and other forms of rape of girls undermine female autonomy and create a climate of fear and self-doubt.

    Antonova sums it up nicely:

    “It didn’t matter that I was seven years old and couldn’t fully grasp what was going on, what mattered were the feelings I had to live with.”

    And she does a great job of describing they way memory is encoded during a violation:

    “One of the things that always bothered me most was how my awful recollections could come back to me in exquisite wrapping: how I could recall overripe apples thumping to the ground in the night, a shooting star, or Bach being played on the piano in an adjacent room. In attempting to make sense of what happened to me, I seized on those moments as “evidence” of the fact that I “liked” what had occurred. If I could focus on the loveliness of Prelude No. 1 in C Major as something disgusting and illegal was going on, wasn’t I just reveling in that which was disgusting and illegal? “

    But I don’t agree that Antonova was “reveling.” I think what she is describing is a girl’s desperate attempt to hang onto something, anything, rather than be obliterated. The beauty may be in the attempt to preserve anything at all from the experience of annihilation. It is an act of utter defiance. But it ultimately yields nothing, because when she gets up out of that bed, the truth is that she has been utterly violated and she alone has to clean up the mess, however artful, however stylized the narrative.

    And here’s is her ultimate question:

    “And does anyone have the right to marvel at the one that shows the glistening, freshly raped Lolita with her vacant eyes?”

    That we even ask this question reveals the extent of the penetration of the P. That we are trained to be so complicit in our own degradation is the ultimate rape by the P. If we are to resist being undone, if we are to recreate ourselves by any means, we have to first take the pornographic trappings away from the discourse of our own rape and its retelling as “beauty.”

    Off to work now.

  177. Natalia

    Dick for brains? You’re *almost* as clever as Humbert. Try harder.

  178. Amrit

    Natalia: That’s not what I meant at all. I think my friend was referring to the lack of the male gaze. She was a brilliant feminist theorist. It was not a literal remark. I posted a longer response to your review and it is in moderation. I’m holding out the olive branch. I have a different view of Lolita and similar attempts to beautify these narratives. I think I understand what you were trying to do in your review and I respect your efforts. I just reach a different conclusion. I share your experience and your efforts to construct a narrative of survival.

  179. Jezebella

    Natalia, thank you for that review. I have stayed out of this conversation until now because I can read Lolita and see the beauty of the writing and the cruelty of the story, and what is literature for if not to show us both good and evil, beauty and cruelty? Your take on it is powerful, and although this word is not strong enough, it is valid. Entirely, entirely valid.

  180. Kali

    Natalia: That’s not what I meant at all. I think my friend was referring to the lack of the male gaze.

    I think the problem is a lack of understanding of the male gaze. I’ve seen this in liberal feminists who think confronting the rapist and explaining to him how much he has hurt is victim is a good idea. Yeah, right! He’s probably getting a boner while you explain all the pain in detail. Liberal feminists think that the problem is that the rapist doesn’t know how much he has hurt his victim. If he knows, he will be remorseful. The reality is that the rapist enjoys the pain he has caused. That’s part of his motivation.

    From Natalia’s review it appears that she is confusing Nabokov’s acknowledgement of the victim’s pain with empathy for the victim’s pain. In fact, I think Nabokov is enjoying the victim’s pain through his alter-ego Humbert. The acknowledgement of the pain is a part of the enjoyment. Also, to the untrained eye it appears that Nabokov’s description of Humbert’s devious manipulation of the victim is an implied moral judgement against him. In fact, advanced blamers know that sociopaths are proud of their machiavellianism.

  181. Natalia

    Amrit – thanks. I think Twisty may be on hiatus again, so I don’t know when I’ll see it.

    Jezebella – I like the word “valid.” Because I think there is no wrong response to a book like “Lolita.” Horror and indignation is obviously one response.

    Kali – I don’t believe Nabokov was empathetic, and, as a reader, didn’t need him to be empathetic. There’s something else going on here, I think. “Lolita” is a very unforgiving book – and as such, I think, it represents a hefty slice of reality.

  182. amrit

    Natalia: It came through moderation. It is posted at 8:52 on August 31.

  183. Natalia

    That we even ask this question reveals the extent of the penetration of the P. That we are trained to be so complicit in our own degradation is the ultimate rape by the P. If we are to resist being undone, if we are to recreate ourselves by any means, we have to first take the pornographic trappings away from the discourse of our own rape and its retelling as “beauty.”

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m having a busy week, but wanted to say that I don’t think that Lolita is a pornographic book at all. Pornography is fairly uncomplicated, imho. Lolita is a mind-fuck (for lack of a better word).

    Even a phrase like “scepter of passion” is both grotesque and hilarious at once.

  184. j

    stacey, thank you for recommending the book Mistress of the art of death. Spinster aunt main character for the win!

  185. Amrit

    Natalia: The plotline and staging of most pornography appears to be “uncomplicated” but that is not the problem with “Lolita.” The delivery method in “Lolita” may differ from some other pornography. If you think it’s a mind-fuck, that’s likely why.

  186. Natalia

    I was thinking more about purpose. ‘Lolita’ is a mind-fuck first and foremost to a scholar (lover? Sometimes, the two really are mutually exclusive) of literature.

    Obviously, some people get off on it – but people get off on lots of things. Because this is the internet, we can be assured that someone is currently masturbating to the header of this blog, for example.

    I’m generally a big fan of trusting the reader. I think it’s very hard to have the “wrong” kind of response to a book like this. Unless you’re a child rapist to begin with – but in that case, your problems are a little greater than being able to relate to a certain text.

    On a sidenote: I recommend “Speak, Memory” to people who are on the fence about Vladimir Nabokov and would like to find out more. He was more than just an excellent writer. I’m not ashamed to admit that his post-exile poetry still makes me blubber – because it so vividly reflects what people like him went through when they had to leave Russia behind.

  187. AlienNumber

    “Once again, the male experience, irritating though it may be, is not the focus of IBTP.”

  188. Natalia

    I hadn’t realized that my readings of Nabokov made me into a dude! Cool! As my first order of business as a dude – I’d like to request a donation for a *proper* bomber jacket. And aviators. And can Gerard Butler help me out with the whole unshaven look? I could totally rock that. As a dude.

  189. AlienNumber

    I recommend “Speak, Memory” to people who are on the fence about Vladimir Nabokov and would like to find out more. He was more than just an excellent writer. I’m not ashamed to admit that his post-exile poetry still makes me blubber – because it so vividly reflects what [dudes] like him went through when they had to leave Russia behind.

    Sure sounds like you were recommending that we read a book about the [great white] male experience.

  190. Natalia

    And if the qualifiers don’t apply, then one can probably relax.

  191. Natalia

    … Unless of course there is something altogether dudely about being on the fence about a writer like Nabokov. I suppose that if you don’t expect women to have opinions about authors – it’s entirely possible.

  192. AlienNumber

    No, I completely expect women to worship at the altar of male authors and dress it up as “taste” or whatever. It’s called fun-feminism.

  193. Natalia

    AlienNumber, I realize you’re kinda young – younger than I am, at the very least – so I’m going to go ahead and be ageist and *grin* in response.

  194. Jill

    Quote Natalia:

    Because this is the internet, we can be assured that someone is currently masturbating to the header of this blog

    Well, thanks for that charming visual. Now I’ll have to change the banner again.

  195. Natalia

    While I apologize – I must say I speak from bitter experience. A few years ago, I posted a picture of a blue bunny toy (I bought it in Dubai. It was pretty). A few weeks later, a comment showed up that, mistaking the bunny for an elaborate sex aid (apparently some kind of device that looked vaguely similar was being marketed in Japan at the time…?!), proceeded to list the different ways in which the commenter would have his way with my bunny.

    Poor bunny and poor me.

  196. GMM

    Lolita the movie is on Turner Classic Movies right now as I type. The description is: Movie, Comedy, Drama (1962) James Mason, Shelley Winters. Professor Humbert Humbert marries a widow to be near her nymphet daughter.


  197. Fictional Queen

    I am so horrified at what passes as comedy!If that’s funny I’d rather be humorless.

  198. Citizen Taqueau

    Fictional Queen, it really is horrible. There’s a movie by Spike Lee called “Girl 6, the story of a young, beautiful, African-American actress (played by Halle Berry) who can’t get roles because of her race. She ends up working for a phone sex line, discovers that she must pretend to be white for customers not requesting a stereotyped “Black Girl.” Eventually she ends up being stalked by a caller with snuff “fantasies,” who makes it clear he intends to rape and murder her and knows where she lives. I saw this movie when I was about 18 and it gave me nightmares. And of course, it’s filed in the video store under “comedy.” I’m convinced that most dudes become filmmakers because it gives them (further) license to torture women, first-hand or vicariously.

  199. Fictional Queen

    I saw a little bit of that movie but stopped watching because it would give me nightmares too.That’s more horror than comedy.
    A man is bad enough as he is,give him a camera and…

  200. Lisa J.

    “Would “Lolita” have been hailed as a literary masterpiece if “Lolita” was “Carlos”?”’

    Actually, there is a novel by Thomas Mann which depicts a middle-aged man’s obsession with a pre-pubescent boy: “A Death in Venice”.

    And yes – it is highly regarded in literary circles.

  201. ptittle

    Killerchick, if this makes you feel any better…:

    “You are clearly a writer of considerable talent, and your special ability to give expression to so many different characters, each in a uniquely appropriate style, makes your work fascinating and attractive … . The pieces are often funny, sometimes sensitive, always creative. But they contain an enormous load of anger, and that is where I have problems … . I know at least one feminist who would read your manuscript with delight (unfortunately she is not a publisher), who would roar with laughter in her sharing of your anger … ” rejection letter from a publisher, 1980s

    Clearly, mainstream publishers are not going to publish feminist stuff. Not back then, not now, not tomorrow. Don’t waste twenty years of your life, like I did, knocking on that door. If the feminist publishers don’t accept it (and they may not, since one, there are too few of them and so many of us, really, and two, many focus now on identifiably lesbian or non-white women), publish it yourself. It’s easy. (Marketing/promotion’s the hard part.)

    As for dethroning Shakespeare, may I recommend chris wind’s Soliloquies: The Lady Doth Indeed Protest

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