Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Story of O

When I first started on my journey as an author I attended a weekly creative writing course, run by the local university. I was the youngest student by decades, the eldest being ninety one.

The teacher was vibrant and enthusiastic and a bottomless well of knowledge all things literature. One day I expressed an interest in writing erotica and he told me that a good place to start would be Pauline Réage.

I dashed home and ordered Reage’s classic tale of female submission The Story of O.

I expect many of you have come across this book, and I know full well scholars have spent hours studying it and writing thesis on it. I'm not one of those people, I just read it one day, several years ago. So please don't mistake me for an expert on its plot lines and intricacies :-)

The book follows the sexual journey of O, a young French woman who seeks to be submissive to her lover Renee. He takes her to a chateau, Roissy, where she undergoes ‘training’. This section of the book is heavy on the BDSM, full of humiliation, pain and sexual perversions. O is forced to share her body with a large group of men, being viewed and treated only as an object and left strung up in a dark, cold corner of the chateau.

I thought there were bits of this section that were extreme but O constantly gives her permission despite her discomfort. 

After this initial ‘training’ O lives as Renee’s slave, never allowed to cross her legs and always available for him to take her whenever, however he wants. Renee encourages his elder step brother, Sir Stephen, to also use O – I say use because that is very much how it is written. Renee tells Sir Stephen that he will reserve her anus just for his use, kind of like a gift.

I remember this bit of the book standing out for me. The way the two men talk about O as she is pushed over, her rear in the air. It is as if they are talking about a horse they can share or a piece of clothing, not a human. But O laps it up, she feels that this is her next great test; to be able to be a sex slave to a man she doesn’t love.

Just when you think love is lacking it happens. I won’t spoil the story for any of you that haven't read it but there continues to be lots of whipping, blindfolds, ménage, piercings and sex, sex, sex.

The Story of O was first published in 1954 in France, the English edition 1965. Pauline Reage is the pen name of Anne Desclos though she did not reveal her true identity until forty years after publication. She then claimed that the book was a series of love letters to her beau Jean Paulhan. I have to say, that it is one hell of a love letter by anyone’s standards.

A sequel Return to the Chateau, Continuing the Story of O was published in France although it is seems up for debate as to whether or not it was written by the original author.

The fact that O has a single letter for her name is significant. It is claimed to be short for Odile, but also could signify O as in orifice, or O for object or even as the symbol of a hole. In O’s case, any hole her master saw fit to penetrate. You can buy pieces of jewelry with O on it that specifically represents the book and female submission.

Anyone else read it, enjoyed it, seen the DVD??? I'll be around to natter - time zones permitting.

Lily x


SusieJ said...

I haven't read it I'm sorry to say - it does sound fascinating. I came to BDSM books through modern memoirs such as "Subtext" by Kate Marley. xx

Edith DuBois said...

Dammit! One more book to add to my MUST READ pile. MUST WATCH pile too...

Love this post!

Lily said...

Thanks for stopping by Edith and Susie.

I'm kinda grooving those earrings - I wonder how many people would comment on them or have any idea of their meaning. Could be a little experiment :-)

Lily x

Juniper Bell said...

The Story of O was the first piece of erotica I ever read, and it blew my mind. It's an amazing book, so well written, a work of art, really. Thanks for bringing it up, Lily! I haven't seen any video/DVD versions, and I found the "sequel" very inferior. I don't believe she wrote it. I've read that she wrote The Story of O to get her boyfriend's attention -- he was thinking of leaving her. And it worked. ;-)

Peter Hill said...

Not got round to it yet, but it is our my tbr list,

Lily Harlem said...

It's a golden oldie Peter. Worth getting round to at some point if erotica is your genre :-)