Friday, 4 September 2015

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey




Sometimes, something snaps inside our heads. We become disconnected; we can’t find our way. We are lost. We may be confused, babble, see visions. Sometimes, people take us away. The world whispers about us; around us. People say that we are mad.
And it is madness that inhabits the world of Ken Kesey’s novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Not just madness, fear inhabits that world too.

I can’t claim, by a long way, to have read every novel written in the twentieth century, but I’ve read a helluva lot, and I really do believe that Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, published in 1962, is one of the finest. It’s startling in its originality; Kesey’s use of language is stunning in his poetic prose. He twists metaphor until it strains like tortured metal, and threatens to snap, and all the while, instantly, the reader knows exactly what Kesey is talking about. His novel deserves its reputation as a classic work of literature.

The narrative takes place in “the Big Nurse’s” ward in a mental institution. It sounds as if you are in for a tough read, but you’re not. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is funny, Kesey’s sharp sense of humour rescues the book from bleakness.

The novel is also poignant and ultimately heartbreaking.

The two main players in Kesey’s novel are McMurphy and “the Big Nurse;” Nurse Ratched.

Kesey has gravitas. His writing has dignity. Our emotions may be miniscule, set against the great profundities that human beings have to pit themselves against, but any writer who can make us think; “yes, I have felt like that too,” is worthy indeed.

Kesey demonstrates this understanding after McMurphy observes in the group therapy session, how the residents turn against Harding. “Pecking at him, like he was a wounded chicken”, all under the eye of Nurse Ratched and the doctor. McMurphy says that Nurse Ratched is a “Ball breaker” -- she sits with a small smile on her face as Harding is emotionally castrated.

The Chief describes Nurse Ratched;

“Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh coloured enamel, blend of white and cream and baby blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils -- everything working together except the colour on her lips and fingernails, and the size of her bosom. A mistake was made somehow in manufacturing, putting those big womanly breasts on what would otherwise been a perfect work, and you can see how bitter she is about it.”

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is told in the first person, by Chief Bromden. The Chief is a patient on the Big Nurse’s ward. He has been there the longest of all the patients, and despite being considered a hopeless case, he has learnt to carve out a life for himself. He knows how to survive. The staff and patients all think that the Chief is mute; deaf and dumb. He isn’t; he can hear as well as anyone, and if he chose to, he could speak. Through the Chief, readers are treated to a cynical look at society and its rules. He refers to the authority figures in the book as “The Combine”, in reference to the mechanical way they manipulate individuals. The story is really a modern day parable about the abuse of power.

The Chief introduces us to the ward. We immediately understand that this is a domain of lost souls. People with no power, who at some time in their lives have had their grip on sanity slip, never to regain their footing.

Enter, Randle P. McMurphy.

Faking insanity to get out of prison for a battery charge, McMurphy immediately begins upsetting Nurse Ratched’s routines, embroiling the two in a power struggle. As an upbeat character, McMurphy easily convinces the other patients—including the stuttering Billy Bibbit, the effeminate Dale Harding and the germaphobic George Sorenson—to gamble, to vote to watch the World Series on TV, to take a fishing trip and to start questioning the demands of the hospital staff. McMurphy is a strong, but flawed character; one who, at times, struggles with the expectations he has manipulated and the consequences he has brought about. 

McMurphy represents the freedom that the patients have voluntarily given up – and it is McMurphy who shows them how to find the courage to reclaim their place in the world.

When McMurphy first enters the ward, the thing that immediately distinguishes him, aside from his lack of fear, are his jokes. He laughs out loud at everything, and makes fun of everyone. Laughter is very rarely heard in the ward, and by not taking anything too seriously, McMurphy is able to exert power over it. He manages to avoid any sort of insult or invasion by making a joke of it. And laughter is something that men do. McMurphy’s gut wrenching belly laugh is absolutely male. The Chief notices McMurphy’s calloused hands; his sunburnt skin. McMurphy is a man; a concept that the men in the ward have forgotten. Even through the pervasive odour of hospital smells, the stench of incontinence, the Chief scents on McMurphy;

“…the man smell of dust and dirt from the open fields, and sweat, and work.”

McMurphy, having bet the rest of the men that he can get the Big Nurse to crack within a week, makes his first step by the use of a long joke. The Big Nurse is unable to fight back because it takes her by surprise. By making fun of her, he subverts her authority, and eliminates any power she might have over him.

McMurphy tells the other men jokes in an attempt to get them to laugh, but such an act smacks of rebellion, and the other men are unable to accomplish it. Laughter is equated with strength and an ability to not take everything seriously. It also means having an emotional reaction to something that isn't fear, an idea of which the men of the ward are terrified.


When for the first time, the men take part in the joke, pretending to be dangerous mental patients, they frighten the people around them into treating them with respect, giving the men a feeling of power. They become a team against the world, which they always were, but a team with an ability to actively fight back. For the first time, the joke is at the expense of the society that has terrorized them.

McMurphy laughs at seeing the men the way they are, both laughing at them and with them. He is able to survive for so long against the world that has destroyed the rest of them because he can laugh at it. He takes everything seriously by taking nothing seriously. He doesn't deny that there is pain and hardship, but he refuses to let that define and ruin him.

But McMurphy misunderstands the enormity of what he has taken on. He is playing a dangerous game. These men, really are people who are very ill. They are emotionally frail and while McMurphy reminds them of what it is like to have fun, there is danger ahead. And Nurse Ratched is a formidable foe.

The Chief muses;

"I thought for a minute there I saw her whipped. Maybe I did. But I see now that it don't make any difference.... To beat her you don't have to whip her two out of three or three out of five, but every time you meet. As soon as you let down your guard, as soon as you lose once, she's won for good. And eventually we all got to lose. Nobody can help that."


McMurphy slips up and shows the danger of constant jokes. The Big Nurse warns him of the possibility of a lobotomy, but instead of taking it seriously, he turns it into a joke about his testicles. McMurphy has no intention of backing down at this point, but by turning the warning into the joke, he increases the chances of it being acted upon.



Friday is the day that the men go to the X-Ray room to get checked up. While they wait, McMurphy notices another door and asks where it leads. Harding tells him that it goes to the Shock Shop, and explains the theory behind electro-shock therapy. Once again, it is revealed that the Big Nurse has the power to order such treatment as well as lobotomies. McMurphy realizes that it's the system that's behind everything, and tries to explain this to the rest of them; how even if they got rid of the Big Nurse, things wouldn't change, really. The men don't understand, and Harding finally admits that they've noticed that he's stopped fighting against the Nurse. McMurphy agrees, and tells them he realised he had as much to lose as the rest of them. Harding tells him no, McMurphy has more to lose, since all the Acutes are there voluntarily. McMurphy can't believe this, and he starts accosting all of them, until Billy Bibbit breaks down.

"'You think I wuh-wuh-wuh-want to stay in here? You think I wouldn't like a con-con-vertible and a guh-guh-girl friend? But did you ever have people l-l-laughing at you? No, because you're so b-big and so tough! Well, I'm not big and tough.'"


It’s the beginning of a downward spiralling tragedy, that for the Chief culminates in triumphant liberation, and ends in disaster for others.

McMurphy gets the doctor on his side, and they organise a fishing trip. It’s a chance to remind the men of who they are, outside the confines of the hospital. On the fishing expedition the patients laugh and feel complete humans again. This happens with McMurphy's guidance, his laughter booming in the face of chaos.

But later, all the men who went on the boat trip have to take a special shower, because Nurse Ratched thinks they might have caught some sort of bug. While they're in the shower, the black aides attack George, trying to get him to put on salve. George refuses, because of his neatness obsession and pathological fear of germs. McMurphy steps in to defend him, and he gets in a fight with the aides. The Chief helps throw them off, and the two of them get strapped down and sent up to “Disturbed”.

Things are dangerously out of control for McMurphy. This passage, where they are driving home from the fishing trip, stands out for me. The Chief narrates;

“Then -- as he was talking -- a set of tail-lights going past lit up McMurphy’s face, and the windshield reflected an expression that was only allowed because he figured it’d be too dark for anybody in the car to see, dreadfully tired and strained and frantic, like there wasn’t enough time left for something he had to do…While his relaxed, good natured voice doled out his life for us to live, a rollicking past full of kid fun and drinking buddies and loving women and barroom battles over meagre honours -- for all of us to dream ourselves into.”

This is a story of sacrifice. While the Chief and McMurphy are waiting for Electric Shock Treatment, Kesey sprinkles his prose with Christ images.

McMurphy arranges himself willingly on the table in a crucifix; arms outstretched, his ankles clamped together, he’s clamped down at the wrists.

“They put graphite salve on his temples. ‘What is it?’ he says. ‘Conductant.’ the technician says. ‘Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns?’”

Electro Shock Treatment is an obscene ritual and Kesey tells it so casually and that’s what makes it so horrifying. It is only when the Chief describes McMurphy’s body arcing, as the volts slam through him, that the reader offers up a silent scream.

“…light arcs across, stiffens him, bridges him up off the table till nothing is down but his wrists and ankles…”

The Chief is brought back to the ward, and the rest of the men greet him like a hero. They ask him all sorts of questions about what's going on with McMurphy, and when he responds, no one thinks it odd that the Chief is talking now.

The Big Nurse sees that McMurphy's legend is growing, and while he's away he's just getting bigger and bigger, so she starts making plans to bring him back down. The men anticipate this, and work out a plan to get McMurphy out of the ward that Saturday, forgetting it's the day that McMurphy has set up for Billy's date with Candy. They tell their plans to McMurphy when he returns to the ward, but he refuses to leave until after that night. He says to consider it his going away party.

McMurphy bribes the night aide, Mr. Turkle, with the promise of “booze and broads“, in order to get him to open up a window that night. Candy is late, but when she arrives, she's got a friend with her, the woman, Sandy, who was supposed to be with her earlier at the boat trip. The group hides from the night supervisor, and proceeds to get drunk on the liquor the women brought with them, along with whatever medication Harding can get out of the cabinet. Billy and Candy eventually sneak off for some privacy, and Harding tries to get McMurphy to leave. McMurphy asks why the others don't come with him, but all of them need a little more time. He asks Harding what made them so scared. Harding isn't able to say, exactly, just that they were beaten down by the rest of the world for the things they did, and who they were, and that they didn't have the strength to fight back. McMurphy says that he's always had people bugging him, and it's never brought him down that much. Harding admits that this is true, but that he's figured out who drives strong people like McMurphy to weakness.

"'Yeah? Not that I'm admitting I'm down that road, but what is this something else?'
'It is us.' He swept his hand about him in a soft white circle and repeated, 'Us.'" 


It's five am, and McMurphy decides to get some sleep before leaving. He says goodbye to Harding and the Chief, then settles into bed. All of them fall asleep and don't wake up till the black aides come on the ward at six-thirty.

Harding tries to get McMurphy to leave in the morning, but he claims that he's too drunk too move. When roll call shows that Billy is missing, the aides and the Big Nurse do a room check. They find him and Candy in bed in one of the rooms. Nurse Ratched is shocked, and keeps telling Billy how ashamed she is for him, but Billy doesn't seem to notice, just gets his clothes together and comes out into the hall. He responds to her questions without a stutter. However, the Big Nurse knows what buttons to push in the end. "'What worries me, Billy,' she said- I could hear the change in her voice- 'is how your mother is going to take this.'"  Billy immediately panics. He begs Nurse Ratched not to call his mother, and when the nurse refuses, he starts to blame the fact that he was in bed with a woman on everyone else in the room, saying they made him do it. He is taken away to wait alone in the doctor's office.

All the men sit down in the day room, and they tell McMurphy that they don't blame him at all, they know it wasn't his fault. He just relaxes and looks like he's waiting for something. The doctor yells for the nurse from his office, and she and the aides go running. She comes back alone, and speaks directly to McMurphy. She tells him that Billy cut his throat with some instruments in the doctor's desk.

"'First Charles Cheswick and now William Bibbit! I hope you're finally satisfied. Playing with human lives- gambling with human lives- as if you thought yourself to be a God!'"

She goes back into her office. The Chief knows that McMurphy is going to do something, and at first he thinks to try and stop it; but then he realises that he can't stop it, because he and the rest of the men of the ward are forcing McMurphy to do it. They force him to get out of his chair and go over to nurses' station. He rips open the Big Nurse's shirt, revealing those too large breasts, and tries to strangle her.

When the doctors and aides rip him off her, he cries out. The Chief describes it as;

“A sound of cornered-animal fear and hate and surrender and defiance, that if you ever trailed coon or cougar or lynx is like the last sound the treed and shot and falling animal makes as the dogs get him, when he finally doesn't care any more about anything but himself and his dying.”

McMurphy’s fate is sealed. When he is returned to the ward, he has had a lobotomy. The mythology of McMurphy lives on. The men on the ward discuss whether this ruined spectacle is really him.

“After a minute of silence, Scanlon turned and spat on the floor. ‘Ah what’s the old bitch tryin’ to put over on us anyhow, for craps sake. That ain’t him.’”

“‘Nothing like him,’ Martini said.”

“‘How stupid she think we are?’”

The chief knows it is McMurphy and he tries to think of what McMurphy would have done.

“I was sure of only one thing: he wouldn’t have left something like that sit there in the day room with his name tacked on it for twenty or thirty years so the Big Nurse could use it as an example of what can happen if you buck the system. I was sure of that.”

Nurse Ratched may think that she has won the game, but the Chief’s final actions before he leaves the ward, make it a hollow victory.


The title of the book is a line from a nursery rhyme.

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest.


Chief Bromden's grandmother sang this song to him when he was young, and they had a game about it.

The inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest came while working on the night shift (with Gordon Lish) at the Menlo Park Veterans' Hospital. There, Kesey often spent time talking to the patients, sometimes under the influence of the hallucinogenic drugs, with which he had volunteered to experiment. Kesey did not believe that these patients were insane, rather that society had pushed them out because they did not fit the conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. Published in 1962, it was an immediate success; in 1963, it was adapted into a successful stage play by Dale Wasserman; in 1975, Miloš Forman directed a screen adaptation, which won the "Big Five" Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), Best Director (Forman) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman).

Kesey was originally involved in creating the film, but left two weeks into production. He claimed never to have seen the movie because of a dispute over the $20,000 he was initially paid for the film rights. Kesey loathed the fact that, unlike the book, the film was not narrated by the Chief Bromden character, and he disagreed with Jack Nicholson being cast as Randle McMurphy (he wanted Gene Hackman). Despite this, Faye Kesey has stated that Ken was generally supportive of the film and was pleased that it was made.

Thanks to Jan Vander Laenen, for suggesting Gustave Courbet's Le Désespéré to head this post.

Friday, 28 August 2015

BDSM & THE LAW


I love you and I trust you. Of course to the uninitiated it’s horrifying -- whoever wants to make love to the sounds of their lover’s cries, screams and sobs. But to those involved, it’s intoxicating.

I’m talking about BDSM; Bondage and Sadomasochism, particularly, BDSM and the law.


Like all fetishes BDSM has a long history and for some people, sexual arousal is achieved through humiliation and pain.


It’s not just about inflicting and receiving pain and humiliating the submissive. It’s a negotiation, between adults, capable of making their own decisions in a simple and loving way. It’s a two way compliment and commitment from one to another. It’s a relinquishing of power, an exchange of power.



An online friend tells me:

“The person who gets a thrill from having someone else control him/her is simply enjoying an aspect of themselves not everyone has. A spanking can be the most sensuous act between two people who enjoy it. The feeling/shock of being spanked at the instant of orgasm is amazing. Having someone offer up their bodies for you to play with is such a rush.”

So why am I bringing the law into the mix? Why does the law have to have an opinion on what people do in the privacy of their own homes or in a private member’s club? The law states quite clearly, that you cannot consent to your own assault.

But we have the right to do as we wish to our own bodies; don’t we? And surely we have the right to give consent to someone else to do things to our own bodies?

Well, apparently not.



As far as I can see, the only way the law can begin a prosecution is if you end up in the Emergency Room, or A&E as it is referred to in the UK. So if you are going to Brand your partner for example and the session goes horribly wrong, the authorities at the hospital will call the police.

But there is an irony in that I can visit a tattooist and have tattoos all over my body. I can have my clitoris, my nipples, or any other part of my body pierced. Of course I can. Even if the procedures go horribly wrong and I have to go the hospital, no one is going to call the police on me.



In 1990, the news in the UK was all about the infamous Spanner case.

In December, 1990, in the UK, 16 Gay men were brought to trial and given prison sentences of up to four and a half years for engaging in consensual S&M activity. This followed an investigation, by the police called “Operation Spanner” prompted by the chance finding of video tapes of S&M activities.

During a raid in 1987 the police seized a videotape which showed a number of identifiable men engaging in heavy SM activities including beatings, genital abrasions and lacerations. The police claim that they immediately started a murder investigation because they were convinced that the men were being killed. This investigation is rumoured to have cost £4 million. Dozens of gay men were interviewed. The police learned that none of the men in the video had been murdered, or even suffered injuries which required medical attention. However the police may well have felt that they had to bring some prosecutions to justify their expensive investigation.

The convictions have now been upheld by both the Court of Appeal, the Law Lords in the UK and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

1987 is quite a long time ago, but the Spanner case has set a precedent; I don’t think that the laws have been challenged since then. If the police discover that you have engaged in S&M activities which have caused injury, you and your partner could be prosecuted for assault.



So why, if I have a piercing in my mouth, it becomes infected and my tongue starts rotting away, why will I not be prosecuted? And why again, if my new tattoo begins weeping revolting pus will the doctors not report me to the police? But if a guy, in a relationship, that just happens to involve S&M, why, if his partner brands his right buttock and they have to seek medical help, why are the police called and the matter goes to Court?

Let’s not be shy about this – in the 1987 Spanner investigation, a guy had his penis nailed to a plank of wood. Some men have a desire to be castrated – I’m talking about castration as a sexual fetish, not as Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Could it be because sex is involved – well, it’s just something that the authorities cannot cope with? It’s easier to be shocked and disgusted than have a mature, grown up discussion. Fifty, or so years ago, the law was shocked and disgusted by Homosexuality – reasoned argument, and some high profile prosecutions changed forever the way people think – thank God.

I don’t get why S&M is anyone else’s business.

A submissive guy I know from Social Media has been discussing with his Dominant partner about having her Brand him. They will do it – their resolution is solid.

“I fail to see how the law can intervene in something that consenting adults agree to? I always understood that there has to be a complainant, and if there isn’t one what does the case rest on?? Curious!!”

“The historical origins of BDSM are obscure. During the ninth century BC, ritual flagellations were performed in Artemis Orthia one of the most important religious areas of ancient Sparta, where the Cult of Orthia a pre-Olympic religion, was practiced. Here ritual flagellation called diamastigosis took place on a regular basis. One of the oldest graphical proofs of sadomasochistic activities is found in an Etruscan burial site in Tarquinia. Inside the Tomba della Fustigazione, (Flogging grave), in the latter sixth century b.c., two men are portrayed flagellating a woman with a cane and a hand during an erotic situation. Another reference related to flagellation is to be found in the sixth book of the Satires of the ancient Roman Poet Juvenal (1st–2nd century A.D.), further reference can be found in Petronius’ Satyricon, where a delinquent is whipped for sexual arousal. Anecdotal narratives related to humans who have had themselves voluntary bound, flagellated or whipped as a substitute for sex or as part of foreplay reach back to the third and fourth century.” Wiki.

If you want to investigate further about bdsm and the law click here.


For information about Branding click here.

This blog post has been compiled using sources from the Web.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Orgasm and the Enlightened Mind by A. Aimee





An excerpt from "Good Pussy Bad Pussy in Captivity"

We were sitting on his couch in front of the crackling fire and Anton was explaining to me, “According to Buddhist philosophy, there are three moments when it is particularly easy to attain, or at least get a glimpse of, the enlightened mind – and that is when we sneeze, have an orgasm, and at the moment of death.”

“Really!” I exclaimed, surprised that orgasm could have anything to do with enlightenment. “When we have orgasm?”

“Yes,” he replied, “or at least that’s what the Buddhists say. They say it is because when we have an orgasm, we experience the complete release of all thought processes, at least for a moment. And this gives us a chance to experience what they call the Clear Light of Rigpa, which is our original nature.

“Rigpa?”

“Yes, and by that they mean the field of pure consciousness, which is our true nature… The highly trained practitioner is able to consciously experience this when he or she goes beyond the thought processes, beyond thought or thinking… “
He paused and the fire crackled and leaped before us.
“And the connection to orgasm?” I asked.

“Well, just think about what happens when you have a really good orgasm…” he replied softly. “It’s like everything is gone – just blown away… forgotten… and all you feel is this incredible bliss. There is nothing else… the whole world has disappeared… everything… every thought, every worry, every care is completely gone… at least for a moment or two… or maybe even three… if you’re lucky.”

He was so right.
Everything disappears when you have a good orgasm…

I sighed and giggled softly at his words… and when I did, he said gently, “Rachel, will you let me tie you up and make love to you?”

His words really caught me by surprise, considering what we were just talking about.
“What?” I gasped, feeling chills run up and down my spine.
“Will you let me tie you up and make love to you?”

His voice was husky in that special way and even though he wasn’t looking at me, I felt the intensity of his desire.

Tie me up and make love to me?
I felt my whole system reacting with shock.

The restful calm was broken; I just couldn’t get my head around what he just said.
His hands had already found my breasts and I was sighing softly at his touch.
“May I,” he said again, insisting that I answer. “I need to know because I need to see you like that, Rachel.”

I trembled at the intensity of his words. There was just something about the way he said it that made me shiver all over. It was like we were suddenly entering another realm, another energy field. I had the feeling that if I let him, he would take me to a place I’d never been to before – that was how intense he was.

“You know you can trust me. I would never do anything to hurt you.”

I trembled at the thought of being wholly in his power, at his mercy.
He had unfastened my bra and was pinching my nipples with just enough pressure to make me want more… much, much more.

“Will you let me, Rachel? Will you?”


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Friday, 14 August 2015

THE BODY OF CHRIST by Jan Vander Laenen



“Sauveur à l'hostie et au calice (101 x 63 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Budapest” de Juan de Juanes (1523 – 1579).



The Body of Christ
A short story by
Jan Vander Laenen


"Ce qu'il avait fait de mieux
contre l'infâme de M. de Voltaire,
ç'avait e'te' un jour
dame! on fait ce qu'on peut-
de donner un paquet d'hosties a' des cochons!"

(Barbey d'AUREVILLY, A un dîner d'Athe'es)


The number of communion wafers that I have ever partaken of must be roughly the same as the number of men with whom I have hitherto made homosexual love, or so I concluded last summer. It was the eve of World Gay Pride in Rome, and I lay on the bed in my hotel room, somewhere in the district of the Campo dei Fiori, thinking about my own little life in general and the unusual event of the previous day in particular.
My own little life ­ I am now forty ­ can be fairly schematically split into two halves.
The first half was characterised by a very middle-class, Catholic education in a small village in the Kempen region and a boarding school near fascist Antwerp. From age 6 to age 20, about twice a week I attended Mass there and consumed a Body of Christ, which with a little arithmetic adds up to somthing like 1,456 communion wafers.

Add to that a conservative fifty of these sacred items that I, together with other blasphemious pals, went one night and pinched from the pyx in the chapel in order to supplement our poor boarding-school fare, and we reach the round sum of 1,500. During the second half of my life, I have virtually entirely lost my interest in the Body of Christ, although I have nonetheless developed a most overwhelming passion for the bodies of less holy men.

Dwelling on this passion here is of little profit: I have probably experienced a career in love similar to that of a good many of my libertine brothers and it therefore seems to me acceptable to estimate the number of bedmates I have had at something like fifteen hundred.

And whilst in virtually all Catholic regions the Body of Christ has pretty much the same taste and consistency and in principle can only be taken in a church and in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist, the range of tastes of the bodies of other men and the places where one might sample them are naturally much more extensive and varied. The same goes for the emotions that go hand in hand with performance of the two aforementioned activities.

To the best of my recollection, I have always downed my communion wafers somewhat indifferently, or perhaps with a hint of devotion, in short a very nondescript emotion in comparison with the feelings of passion, lust, loving and subservience that my many horseplay partners have been able to wrest from me.

So much for that: these mullings are my foreword to the unusual event that happened to me last summer. I was strolling through the centre of the Eternal City and having walked past twenty-or-so monuments without regard, I was suddenly taken by an unexpected mood of devotion.

Yes, I wanted to confess, I wanted to pray to God and the Holy Virgin and to have myself cleansed by imbibing a Body of Christ. Happily, Rome ­ as everybody knows ­is just riddled with basilicas, churches and chapels, and about a hundred yards up the street I located a small, Baroque house of God in which I could assuage my religious hunger.

And so I set foot into the little church, made the sign of the cross with a few drops of holy water and went and sat on a pew at the back, as the Mass had started. And after first casting my gaze over the interior's sculptures and paintings, my eye suddenly fell on the priest, who was just magicking a chalice of wine into the Blood of Christ. He wore a chasuble. He had a full beard and a serious expression. I reckoned he was about forty. He struck me as familiar, although at that moment I could not remember at all where I might ever have met the man, and I immediately then dismissed this thought as one of those crazy notions that had frequently occurred to me in recent times.

Ten or so minutes later, as I was shuffling up the queue for my portion of Holy Bread, however, I got a clearer look at the man, and as I eventually stood plum in front of him, looked at him and stuck my tongue out, I thought I could read something akin to amazement in his eyes. Indeed, he was staring at me in wonder, wafer in hand, and for a long moment he stood in this position, as though turned to stone.
'Hello, Jan, how's things?' he eventually said to me in Dutch, at which he gathered himself, murmured 'body of Christ' and with trembling hand laid the wafer on my tongue.

I went and drank a Campari after the Mass, and it was at the pavement cafe that, having racked my brains for ten minutes that the priests' name suddenly dawned on me: Paul Van Gelder.

Well I never, Paul Van Gelder, it was a long time ago, in Brussels, both of us twenty and gay and each not daring to admit it to the other. And all the trouble we went to all those evenings in the student bars round Sint-Gorik's Square to avoid the subject, whilst we were both head over heels in love with one another.

And so on until that evening, that dark November night when you stood unexpected before the door of my study. I let you in, you took me in your arms and changed my mind with a French kiss as passionate as it was long. After this, you took your leave of me and with wavering voice told me that you would be going away from Brussels the next day to start training as a priest.

And so, Paul Van Gelder, you really did become a priest and, as fate had it, twenty years later our paths momentarily crossed again, in Rome, and in a church to boot, in the Holy Year and the day before World Gay Pride. Thanks, Paul Van Gelder, you gave me the most cleansing Body of Christ ever in my sinful existence.

Jan Vander Laenen



“Matthew 26:26-28: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”



Jan loves to hear from his readers. You can email him at jan.vanderlaenen@skynet.be;


"Transubstantiation" is the official Roman Catholic concept referring to the change that takes place during the sacrament of Holy Communion (Eucharist). This change involves the substances of bread and wine being turned miraculously into the substance of Christ himself. The underlying essence of these elements is changed, and they retain only the appearance, taste, and texture of bread and wine. Catholic doctrine holds that the Godhead is indivisible, so every particle or drop thus changed is wholly identical in substance with the divinity, body, and blood of the Saviour.

Friday, 7 August 2015

THE FORSYTE SAGA, JOHN GALSWORTHY




I love the Victorians. Those generations of restrained, repressed men and women, that have provided writers and thinkers with such a wealth of material. I don’t supposed the Victorians recognised that they were repressed; we just see it now with the clarity of hindsight. I guess we are the backlash to the Victorians’ discourse of silence, with our counsellors and therapists. And if we can’t afford those, our friends are usually willing listeners.


Soames Forsyte doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He doesn’t even want to talk to Irene, his beautiful wife. He just wants to consummate their marriage; he wants his conjugal rights, that are his by law. He wants her not to shudder when he touches her. It’s not too much to ask, is it?


Through Soames’ character, John Galsworthy gives us the central theme of his Victorian novel, THE FORSYTE SAGA. The theme is ownership; particularly ownership of property. Property is everything and anything touched with the Forsyte name, therefore Irene is property. Soames embraces the creed, body and soul. If the theme is ownership, it is Soames’ and Irene’s relationship that drives the plot of the novel.


The family saga opens at a gathering of the Forsytes, in 1886. They are celebrating June Forsyte’s engagement to Philip Bosinney, a flamboyant architect. One by one, Galsworthy introduces us to the central characters.


Galsworthy published the first book; THE MAN OF PROPERTY, in 1906. Galsworthy would have been aware of the laws and the mood of that time; he was writing about his contemporaries. This is an erotic novel; not in the sense of where erotica takes us today -- the sex, here, is in the sub-text. It’s hinted at and explored through the characters’ relationships, the constraints of Victorian times and the constraints members of the family, place upon themselves.


I think that this shows how forward thinking and brave Galsworthy was in publishing his book. Freud had only published THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS, in 1899. The FORSYTE SAGA, was published just seven years later. I don’t know whether Galsworthy would have been aware of Freud’s theories, he would certainly been aware of the stringent laws constraining women -- I don’t think it matters whether the reader is aware either of Freud, or the legal position of women in Victorian England; the story of this up-tight family is so cleverly woven by Galsworthy, that the novel is pure pleasure to read. As is always the case with great fiction, the reader keeps turning the pages. What happens next? We want to know.


Soames has pursued the beautifully, enigmatic Irene, with the relentlessness of a stalker, for two years. Finally, she capitulates and agrees to marry him. Irene was young, only nineteen years old, when Soames finally wore her down. She was naïve; ignorant of the physical relations of a man and wife. Within a week of married life, she knew she had made a big mistake. We join Galsworthy’s novel at the point where Irene is asking for separate rooms.


"The fact that Irene never agreed to a union with Soames seems
inconceivable to contemporary readers as her reluctance is obvious from the beginning. Scholars have tried to explain in various ways Irene’s acceptance of Soames fifth time he proposes, but none of their explanations is ultimately convincing. Irene herself when asked responds only with a “strange silence”. (Linda Strahan).


The mysterious Irene haunts the pages. She is both charismatic and enigmatic. We never know what she is thinking; we only ever see her through the eyes of other characters. She is always placed in situations where her alluring beauty can be displayed. Galsworthy arranges her as if she is continually posing for a photograph. She is seated like a goddess, in a green woodland setting. She is stylishly arranged at the piano. In both Old Jolyon and Young Jolyon’s thoughts, Irene is Venus.


Galsworthy introduces us to Irene in a passage that is pure poetry.


“ A tall woman with a beautiful figure, which some member of the family had once compared to a heathen goddess…Her hands, gloved in French Grey, were crossed one over the other, her grave, charming face held to one side, and the eyes of all men near were fastened on it. Her figure swayed, so balanced that the very air seemed to set it moving. There was warmth, but little colour, in her cheeks; her large, dark eyes were soft. But it was at her lips - asking a question, giving an answer, with that shadowy smile - that men looked; they were sensitive lips, sensuous and sweet, and through them seemed to come warmth and perfume like the warmth and perfume of a flower.”


Irene is hypnotic; desirable. She has an ethereal, sublime, other worldly beauty, that is all her own.


I don’t know whom I would cast as Irene, in a new adaptation. Gina Mckee in the ITV version didn’t cut it for me. Nyree Dawn Porter was convincing, in the much earlier BBC adaptation. There certainly aren’t any actresses around today that have Irene’s class. Anyway they’re all far too skinny. Their sweet little faces have been cosmetically modified to all look the same.


Soames Forsyte is a funny little man. Funny in the peculiar sense -- definitely not ha ha! You don’t get a laugh, or a joke, from Soames. He’s cold; indifferent to the feelings of others. He doesn’t care about the effect he has on other people. I’m trying to think of a counterpart to Soames, for today’s world.


I can’t.

Soames is the worst kind of creep. You see him today, reconstructed in photo fits for CRIMEWATCH; he is usually wanted for sex crimes. Galsworthy describes Soames’ movements as “mouse like.” Soames doesn’t walk; he “mouses.”


Soames, is the character whose head we get into the most, and Galsworthy allows Soames' own narrow thoughts to speak for him. Soames’ only passions in life are the Forsyte name, his art collection and his beautiful wife Irene. All of these things Soames owns.


Irene is a wife and therefore a possession, both in the eyes of the law at that time, and by Soames.


"Irene’s unhappy marriage to Soames Forsyte has become a metaphor for the plight of women in nineteenth century England before the passage of the Woman’s Property Act (1881) and the agitation for further reforms." (Linda Strahan)


Irene is repelled by Soames.


Much has been made of the rape scene, both in the ITV 2002 adaptation of the novel and in the 1967 BBC adaptation. I can only imagine how it would be written today, writers scrabbling around for lurid metaphors, to convey the repulsiveness and violence of Soames’ violation of Irene. It would go on for pages. Galsworthy simply says;


“The morning after a certain night on which Soames at last asserted his rights and acted like a man, he breakfasted alone.”


There is no contrition; no regret. Soames has decided that his act will be a step towards reconciliation for him and the wife that he owns. Irene’s smothered sobs haunt him throughout the day. He simply reads the newspaper; he hears again and again the "sounds of her broken heart." Soames keeps himself busy. Even in the final pages of the book, Soames is still justifying himself. It wouldn’t have happened if Irene had been a good wife.


Damian Lewis played the part of Soames in the ITV version of Galsworthy’s book. Eric Porter, in the BBC much earlier version. I think both actors captured the essence of Soames.


“Funnily, Lewis does very little indeed. One scene has him manipulating events to his way of thinking without actually saying a word.
But there is a smouldering power to him and you correctly fear for anyone who tries to confront him.” (from the web).


And of Eric Porter’s performance;


“Among the most famous scenes were one in which the hapless Irene, unloved by her cold and possessive husband Soames, was brutally raped by him as their marriage fell apart. The scene was rendered even more convincing by bloodstains on Irene's dress (Eric Porter had inadvertently cut his hand on her brooch when tearing off her bodice).” (Wiki)


Read THE FORSYTE SAGA as a Victorian soap. Read it as a false construct of the bliss of the family; the spoken lies, the unspoken truths. Read it and analyse it, if that’s what you want to do; or read it as a great story -- but, oh, please do read it.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Milk by Rose W. Erotic Lactation Fetish

If you are one of the thousands who read Rose W’s short story “Post Mortem,” you will understand that Rose’s writing is something very special. Rose has an amazing feel for pathos; making something deadly serious into something uncomfortably amusing. Rose also has an uncanny intuition for hitting the reader with tragedy when you least expect it. Rose has no fear of the taboo. In her tale, “Milk,” Rose illustrates an alluring fetish – Erotic lactation. Here is an extract from Rose’s new tale “Milk” available now at Amazon UK
and Amazon US.






There were six of us in the maternity ward, but only four babies. I was in a bed next to the door, with a woman called Tracy on my left and a woman called Faith opposite. Tracy’s son Ashley was with Michael, upstairs in the Special Care Baby Unit. She’d had a caesarian, and wasn’t supposed to climb the stairs, so we went up in the lift together, wearing dressing gowns over our pyjamas. She had to hold onto the rail, looking weak and pale.

“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. It hurts, but I’m okay. You?”
I tried to smile. “I hope so.”

Our babies were in aquariums, with tubes up their noses, like small mauve creatures at the zoo. We were allowed to reach in though a hole in the side, ‘to hold hands’, which meant that we could extend a finger for the baby to hold. Ashley obligingly wrapped his tiny hand around Tracy’s fingers, but Michael just lay there, no matter how many hints I dropped by nudging his palm with a fingertip.

We had to continue to express milk, too. Tracy squirted white jets into the funny contraption, but I was about as good at it as Michael was at holding hands, dribbling only a meagre trickle into the bottle, but at least it looked like a bit more like proper milk, and not the yellow stuff. We laughed about it together. I said I’d never make a dairy cow, and she asked me what I thought of her udders. However, pretending that the little bottles were cocktails, and clinking them together, changed my life.

“Cheers,” said Tracy.
“Cheers.” I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t see whether Tracy drank any from her bottle, but the sip I took from mine was like my first square of chocolate all over again. “Bloody hell.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” With my insides quivering, I looked at the puddle that was left in the bottom of the bottle.
“Come off it. That looks like nothing the way Kylie Minogue looks like Dolly Parton.”

I glanced at Michael in his aquarium, and downed the rest of the milk. It was sweet and slippery, and it didn’t taste any more like cow’s milk than bitter chocolate tasted like the horrible carob stuff from the health food shop.

Tracy was aghast, seemingly talking with her mouth wide open. “What did you just do?”
I licked my upper lip. “Nothing.”
Tracy laughed. “You just drank all the milk you expressed.”
I looked into the top of the bottle, wondering if I could get my tongue inside to lick out what was left. “There wasn’t very much, anyway.”

She laughed again, and held out her little bottle. “Do you want a swig of mine?” She might have been joking, but I didn’t care. She still looked amused as I took the bottle from her. Her milk tasted different, but just as delicious, the way Dagoba doesn’t taste the same as Green and Black’s, and I got the same quivery feeling inside.
“Jesus, Jan.”
If the nurse hadn’t turned up to see how we were getting on, I’d have drunk the rest. “How are we doing, ladies?”

Recovering my composure, I held up the two bottles and busked it. “We were just comparing notes. Tracy’s not doing too badly, but I’ve hardly managed to wet the inside of mine.”

Tracy sniggered as I handed her bottle back to her. There was milk still beading her nipples, like tiny white pearls, but she didn’t get to express any more, because the nurse took the bottles from us. When we were on our own again, Tracy asked, “What was that about?”
“What was what about?”
“You and the milk.”
“It’s to die for.”

Tracy squeezed a few drops from her nipple onto her finger, and licked it. “Don’t see it myself.” She repeated the action on the other nipple and held her finger out for me. “Here. You have it.”
I sucked the milk from Tracy’s fingertip. There wasn’t much of it, but it was still worth having. I tried squeezing my own nipples, but they didn’t even ooze.

When we went back down to the ward, Faith was trying to feed her baby, but the milk squirted everywhere whenever the baby took its mouth from the nipple. Tracy caught my eye and shook her head, as if she’d read my mind.

The other four had regular visits from their partners, but Tracy seemed to be as much on her own as I was. I didn’t like to ask, so I was quite pleased when she brought the subject up. “Aren’t you married?” she asked. “You look respectable.”

“I’m a maths teacher, so I suppose that makes me respectable, and I’m theoretically married, though my husband ran off with another woman six months ago.”

“The bastard.” That was starting to look like a consensus. “Is it his?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“And he still hasn’t come to visit?”
“He’s in Australia, working. Presumably on his way back by now. I wasn’t due for another fortnight. He had intended to be here. What about you?”

Tracy shrugged. “I don’t know where he is, and he didn’t know I was pregnant. He’d probably be a useless dad, anyway.”

The next time we went upstairs to express milk, I didn’t even manage a single drop. I tried for about ten minutes, but all that happened was that my nipples swelled. Tracy managed almost an entire bottleful, and she obviously saw me staring at it. “Do you really like it?”

I nodded, speechless, afraid to ask.
I didn’t have to. “Here. Just don’t drink it all. Leave some for Ashley.”

Hoping it wasn’t a tease, I reached out for the bottle, hardly believing she was handing it to me. Leaving some for Ashley was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do, but I managed to limit myself to less than half. “Bloody hell, Tracy. That is so delicious. Thank you. I’d never have believed it would taste like that.”
Tracy laughed as she took the bottle back from me. “Lucky thing you’ve got a friend like me then, since you don’t seem to be able to deliver the goods yourself.” She applied the pump to her nipple, and more milk squirted into the bottle.

“You don’t mind?”
She laughed again. “Course not. I think it’s funny.”


The links for "Milk" by Rose W at Amazon UK and Amazon US


"Post Mortem" a debut story from Rose is at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Friday, 24 July 2015

WALTZING EROTICA



For the younger generation there is nothing so entertaining as shocking their parents and grandparents. This, they always do with a flourish; if they get a reaction, that is wonderful and is definitely worth the effort. In the years of George, the Prince Regent’s rule over London’s fashionable elite, the younger generation, shocked the older generation in a bold, extravagant gesture, with a brand new dance; the Waltz.

The year was 1815, the ending of the time of the Napoleonic wars. The government, led by Lord Liverpool, negotiated a peace settlement. The king had nothing to do with the details. Poor King George III had descended into madness and George, his son, the Prince Regent was too intent on going to licentious parties and generally having a pretty wild time, to be bothered with the politics of foreign policy.

Within the rural and urban counties of England, there was a mood of social and economic malaise, yet the Prince Regent and his entourage of the young aristocracy, exuded a mood of confidence, exuberance and expectation. There was an explosion of outrageously expensive design on an unprecedented scale. New styles were embraced. And then there was this decadent new dance craze.



The Waltz was a couples dance, as opposed to the traditional group dances. The gentleman actually clasped his arm around the lady's waist, giving the dance a dubious moral status. The Waltz was a dance born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It was foreign, that in itself was enough for the parents of the young, English  aristocracy to view it with suspicion.

The shock of the new. Each generation thinks that they are the originators of this phenomenon, but it has been done so many times before.



Before the scandalous Waltz came along, dancing had been civilised. You danced in large groups, only occasionally touching each other. Flirting would be done with eye contact. In the Waltz, you held your partner in an embrace for a whole dance. Touching, whispering to each other; social rules were broken. A strong arm around a slender waist. Long, delicate fingers cling to a firm shoulder. Warm rounded flesh beneath fine, creamy lace, or translucent muslin. White thighs pushed apart with an insistent, probing knee. Breasts, yearning for urgent caresses, crushed against a broad chest. Waltzing was dirty dancing for the Regency teens. The impact of the Waltz would probably have had the same effect on the older generation, as any sweet grandmother today stumbling into a full on swingers party.




The waltz was criticized on moral grounds by those opposed to its closer hold and rapid turning movements. Religious leaders almost unanimously regarded it as vulgar and sinful. Continental court circles held out obstinately against the waltz, seeing depravity in every swaying, graceful move.

In July of 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent. A blistering editorial in The Times a few days later stated:"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last ... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."  (Source: The Times of London, 16th July 1816)



Even as late as 1866 an article in the English magazine Belgravia stated: "We who go forth of nights and see without the slightest discomposure our sister and our wife seized on by a strange man and subjected to violent embraces and canterings round a small-sized apartment - the only apparent excuse for such treatment being that is done to the sound of music - can scarcely realize the horror which greeted the introduction of this wicked dance."



Reportedly, the first time the waltz was danced in the United States was in Boston in 1834. Lorenzo Papanti, a Boston dancing master, gave an exhibition in Mrs. Otis' Beacon Hill mansion. Social leaders were aghast at what they called "an indecorous exhibition."

I thought that the 1960’s generation made a pretty good case for shocking the older generation. It seems that they had nothing on those wilful teens of Regency England.