On my arrival in Australia, my handsome young journo male friend was waiting to meet me at the airport, carrying a deep,scarlet, red rose in his hand. He was alone, simply assuming he told my parents he would pick me up as he met them at my farewell family dinner before I departed overseas. After our initial greeting, he presented the rose then drove me to my parent’s place. On the road, he asked me to marry him, telling me he loved me and how much he had missed me. I was stunned into silence as we’d never had sex and I certainly wasn’t in love with him. I liked him heaps and he was a really nice guy, but love was not something I had previously countenanced. We had enjoyed intimate moments such as kissing and touching each other, but that was all our sexual relationship had been about. In retrospect I’m unsure as to why we hadn’t ventured further given the other dates I had that ended up in bed, only to rebuff their advances for intercourse. Methinks it was because he never suggested or even tried anything more; indeed, I’m unsure as to whether I even told him I was a virgin and maybe he believed that ‘nice girls’ didn’t indulge in sex before marriage. He was a very polite and respectful young man and at that time, I did wait for males to initiate sex.
His marriage proposal was a complete surprise. After a few reflective moments trying to find the right words not to hurt him (I did really care about him), I said I was far too young to get married and had much to do with my life before I opted to settle down in suburbia, which I didn’t want anyway. Accepting my refusal, he joined me at my parent’s place sharing a pot of tea before leaving, telling him we could still be boyfriend/girlfriend though that suggestion was received indifferently. Writing in my diary later, I did feel I was already “a good catch” and despite many feminist books asserting being pretty or beautiful were intrinsic to ensnaring a man, my looks had nothing to do with my young man’s proposal. My notion of being “a good catch” was more to do with my success as a young journalist, my bright personality and my sex appeal, even if had never acted on it. My idea of myself, even at 20, was in stark contrast to what other women it seemed were contending with. Yes, I still harboured some inferiority complex about my looks, but as I got older, it dissipated into the abyss of adolescence transcended by a far more significant recognition of my worth as a journalist and human being beyond the superficial sanction of being beautiful. My young man stayed in touch with me via the telephone, occasionally going out for dinner, but sex never came up and in some ways, realised it was better that it didn’t. As much as I really cared for him, it wasn’t about rampant sexual desire on my part. For reasons that remain unclear, I imparted his marriage proposal to my mother, who replied sadly in one way: “It doesn’t matter that he’s not Jewish as he’s such a lovely young man.” She continued to elaborate she would be quite happy if I married him, telling her I didn’t love him and was far too young to get married anyway. She was pleased however that he and I stayed good friends.
A week after my return, I received a letter from the male friend in London who had ‘deflowered’ me. It was hand-written and enclosed an aspirin pill as he suggested that instead of taking THE Pill, I should keep the aspirin pill between my legs, his attempt at humouring our abortive attempt at sex second-time around, quite clearly apportioning all ‘blame’ to me for the farce. Without articulating that reality, I laughed at his allusion, though was unable to agree with him as my past sexual frolics attested to an innate sexiness I felt imbued with, understanding that experience would have to instruct me over the next few years. Some men it seemed were incapable of ‘guiding’ me because they didn’t know much either. That was my perspective at 20-years-old.
Recovering from the jet lag which took more than a week, journalism and its intrinsic problems put a hold on my ambitions once more, with completing my university degree overshadowing other career concerns. I did see my previous editor about a job, only for him to offer me a job on the ‘women’s’ pages if I was interested. I turned it down. Why? The women’s pages as they were called in 1970 were an amalgam of fashion norms, cooking recipes and occasional interviews with the social matrons of Melburbia, with no focus on women’s rights, their quest for equality and justice and let alone sex. They were bland and boring. I believed the editor at least knew me well enough to know I would reject that so-called opportunity, wondering at the same time if he was ‘punishing’ me for leaving in the first place. When I resigned at 19, he disagreed with my intent to travel, telling me ‘I was his protege’ and my departure overseas was unwarranted and untimely. Twelve months later, I simply told him I was uninterested in the women’s pages, obtaining a job on the Melburbia Jewish weekly newspaper as a general reporter instead. It was a 9-5 assignation, but enrolled for two more subjects at university and needing time to study, though attending lectures and tuts was irrelevant.
After my experience in Israel, I actually wanted to learn more about the Melbourne Jewish community and see how I felt about it. I found myself a two-bedroom flat and a female flatmate, looking forward to ‘marking time’ only, knowing I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Australia. Travelling inspired me with ideas of living my life as a traveller per se; working and living in countries that offered more challenges, opportunities and richer life experiences.
At the Jewish newspaper, I met Man No 2 – a non-Jewish male who I knew from past journalese days in town. Divorced and eight years my senior, I believed he would be sufficiently experienced to ’show’ me that sex could be really good. Fancying him which seemed mutual, the first night we had sex went nowhere, for me at least, not that we ever discussed it. There was some foreplay supposedly to ‘excite’ me, but then it was just another pretty quick ‘in and out’ routine to be repeated ad nauseum three or four nights a week when he came to my apartment. Too inexperienced to understand why I still felt wanting when it was over, for him, anyway, I was too shy or embarrassed to even know how to broach the issue. Despite the ordinary sex, I fell in ‘love’ with him; hoping the sex would get better over time (it never did) but more importantly, I enjoyed talking to him over coffee, whisky and cigarettes late into the night. Despite attracting me sexually, I never had an orgasm and just ‘faked’ it, even though I wasn’t even sure I was doing that convincingly. A few movies and reading books ensured I made all the appropriate sounds and sighs. Why did I fake it? Was it about making him feel it was ‘good sex’ when for me it certainly wasn’t? At that time, my responses were not calculated or conscious and while I was moved sexually, it wasn’t enough for physical transcendence. In retrospect, I was just so ignorant about how my body could, and/or should feel, that I played it up. I knew he came, seeming to assume I did too as he never asked and we didn’t discuss it. I still didn’t masturbate either and I’m unsure as to why not. I think I thought, or hoped, or believed, that one day, sooner, rather than later, I would meet a guy who could really ‘do’ it for me. Doing it alone in bed never seemed to register as an alternative; it was a man I wanted, not just a self-masturbatory pleasure. The relationship continued for about five months, ‘dumping’ me for a woman he had previously dated. I was shattered, crying for hours afterwards and wondering why he’d lost interest. I knew he was not much of a fuck, but interestingly, I never felt it was my ‘fault’, believing it was my inexperience as well as his easy satisfaction. He was nearly 30 and my teenage frolics had endowed me with a confidence and self-belief in my sexuality that he just couldn’t tap into. I just needed a ‘real’ man to take the lead.
I had also started eating too much yet again, though being ‘plump’ never affected or inhibited my shedding clothes and prancing round naked. Despite being not particularly happy with my weight, a battle I fought for a decade, being naked before men wasn’t an issue for me. In summer, I started sleeping naked too, alone, always feeling good between the sheets or with no bed clothes on my body at all. My body image in clothes however was a different and more complex issue. It took ten years to resolve my psychological conflicts about over-eating, body image and appearance. Food offered solace and comfort.
Other preoccupations notwithstanding, sex was something I was intent on learning about, not just for myself but about men too and as 1971 arrived, so too did Germaine Greer’s best seller, The Female Eunuch. The author’s thesis encouraging women to discover their own sexuality as part of their liberation resonated loud and clear in my psyche as well as my cunt. As she wrote: “Women must learn how to question the most basic assumptions about feminine normality in order to reopen the possibilities for development which have been successively locked off by conditioning.” She continued: “Female sexuality has always been a fascinating topic; this discussion of it attempts to show how female sexuality has been masked and deformed by most observers, and never more so than in our own time.” The Age of Aquarius had really dawned with free love the name of the game, though why it was so called when free sex was really the issue was never explained. It might have been merely a superficial semantic slip, but as I reflected on those words during the 70s, it seemed pertinent that ‘love’ was still shrouding female sexuality in a guise of love with women reluctant to revel in sex as pleasure for its own sake and still needed to camouflage it as ‘love’. I realised later many men deluded themselves similarly. Irrespective of that reality, it did seem however, a licence to indulge, sanctioned by a woman for women, becoming even more significant for me than it had ever been. For me, Greer, along with American journalist, Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote Sex and The Single Girl and became editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in New York around the same time, seemed to approve my sexual desires, wants and needs as not just normal but overwhelmingly, intrinsically female, no different to young males who were already busily sewing their wild oats. Greer affirmed my quest for sexual liberation, writing “it gestures towards the re-deployment of energy, no longer to be used in repression, but in desire, movement and creation. Sex must be rescued….to become a form of communication between potent, gentle, tender people, which cannot be accomplished by denial of heterosexual contact.” Moreover, she reiterated my already understood notion of genuine independent liberation, writing that ‘status ought not to be measured for women in terms of attracting and snaring a man.” Me, and too many other young females, had been ‘retarded’ by puritanical and inimical ideas about sex and young women as if good sex and good women were a contradiction in terms. Expressing my sexuality was a liberating clarion call as the nascent women’s movement denounced the submissive and subservient subordination of women by repressing our sexuality and while this was about women per se, I was aware I had to find my own way sexuality as an individual woman. To quote Greer once more: “The first exercise of the free woman is to devise her own mode of revolt, a mode which will reflect her own independence and originality.”I didn’t need or want to be a member of a gender that gathered for consciousness-raising sessions as my consciousness was already well and truly raised by all the books I read in my adolescence and/or masturbation in a crowded room. Embracing much of the ideology and philosophy of the movement since my teens, at 21 I was unable to identify with many women’s writings that sadly for me portrayed men as the perpetrators of our oppression. While I didn’t have that many friends, my really good ‘mates’ were male and they were not oppressors. Indeed, most of the men in my life had been supportive and respectful and castigating males as the ‘enemy’ was not on my radar. Recognising my sexual repression was ‘unconsciously’ foisted on me and/or absorbed by osmosis, it was not by men per se, but by women moreover and not just my mother. The universal contempt, and/or disrespect for women’s sexuality and their ‘right’ to live as sexual human beings without the social decree of marriage had inculcated into our social milieu through centuries of conditioning about the female sex. Religion, marriage and procreation dictated our destiny as if our intellect and bodies were the exclusive property of men and not our own business. Certainly, I had to some extent allowed the pervasive social, sexual mores to dictate my behaviour and while I entertained many conflicts about exactly how I wanted to live my life, by 1971 it did feel as if the times really were a’changing.
After falling ‘out of love’ with man no. 2, I once more curbed my eating indulgences, losing weight within about three months to restore my slim, trim and terrific body. There were a couple of one night-stands with man no.3 and man no. 4, but those sexual encounters were equally as frustrating and unsatisfying as the previous ones. I wasn’t at all intoxicated, but I can’t even remember their names, where I met them or what they looked like. I didn’t care either, just nurtured a strong hope that I would ‘get lucky’ soon, deciding at this time to have sex with my handsome young man as we still wined and dined at least once a week. Hoping sex might swing him into my sphere of serious contenders for a really good encounter I did fancy him and was aware he was still really interested in me. The sad reality however, was that the sex was really affectionate and warm, but without a passion I so desperately wanted. I didn’t ‘fake’ it, and while he never asked me anything, he knew it wasn’t that crash hot for me. I wasn’t sure how he felt, except that he did come and that was it. I continued seeing him for a few drinks and dinners, but we never had sex again. After a few weeks, he told me he was having an affair with a woman eight years his senior, ending of our liaison though we stayed ‘friends’. I also passed my uni exams, and once more, contacted the editor of my old paper for a job, but not on the women’s pages! After nearly eight months working full-time at the Jewish newspaper, the editor offered me a graded position with an added bonus in general news again.
I moved apartments and signed a lease with a university girl-friend but would be living on my own. Why? She took the flat with me in ‘name’ only; a pretence to her parents that she was living with me when indeed she was going to live with her boyfriend. Such were the times in January 1971; her middle-class parents, not religious at all, would not accept the idea of her ‘living in sin’ as it was labelled too often even then or so she explained to me. It suited me well; I paid the rent, the bills et al and could now really ‘test’ my independence on my own.
I soon re-met man no 4, a married man almost 20 years older than me who I had oft shared copious drinks with in various alcoholic haunts during my cub reporting days. At that time, he was a deputy chief of staff on the newspaper I worked on and while we kissed each other, our sexual behaviour went no further, telling me I was a ‘cadet’ and he didn’t want to indulge with me. Moreover, he told me I was too young to ‘sleep’ with and I had told him (one of the very few men I worked with and dated) that I was a virgin. Now, just two years later, it was a very different story. I started drinking with him again, inviting him to my apartment when he de-toured en route to his home. It was coffee, cigarettes and lots of conversation until we went to bed. He was also now chief of staff; my immediate boss. How did I feel about that reality? While part of me believed I was living out the free sex without the love attached, it all went haywire too, not sexually, but because I soon ‘fell in love’ with him and he felt likewise or so he said, though we both acknowledged we didn’t want to marry each other. The sex was the best I had experienced and although it started off conventionally, I soon became more confident about myself, climbing on top of him to test out yet again, whether it really was ‘better’ if I was fucking him. It certainly was in many ways; all sorts of ways, his cock going deeper and reaching parts of me that missionary sex never seemed to. Although I was really enjoying myself and discovering more about my body, as well as his, I didn’t feel I’d had an orgasm. I just didn’t know what ‘that’ felt like and could only ‘compare’ how I felt to what I’d sometimes read about with a gap in those feelings. I didn’t feel frustrated or unsatisfied exactly, rather, a yearning deep inside to feel even ‘more’; sensing within me a greater capacity for pleasure than I’d experienced. Greer writes about the “female orgasm…(as) more and more of a mystery, at the same time it has been exalted as a duty.” Certainly, it was a mystery for me and as much as I really loved him (as I could) and he loved me, too, we didn’t talk about sex per se and I still couldn’t articulate how I felt and wanted (needed?) to feel. I was also doubting what I’d read about orgasms and sex, pondering if what I’d been enjoying was all there really was. I didn’t know and there was no one to discuss it with.
I didn’t think much about him being my ‘boss’ because as work went well there were other senior men appreciating my good journalism and effort. I didn’t feel particularly ‘favoured’ by him, often the converse, as he refused to let me ‘cover’ the Germaine Greer press conference for the launch of The Female Eunuch and also disallowed me from reporting on one of the biggest anti-Vietnam moratoriums staged in Melbourne. His justification on both accounts was I would be ‘too biased’ and despite contesting his claims, my logical rationale proved fruitless. I just had to accept it, but conveyed my disappointment and anger nonetheless. He stood firm in his refusal. Despite our affair and his marital status, I dated a few other guys on my nights off, working on a morning daily which involved five nights a week. I had sex with about four or five other guys (I wasn’t counting then) and some of it was pretty good, but having an orgasm proved elusive, though I couldn’t articulate what I was missing out on as I still didn’t know how it was all supposed to feel. I didn’t masturbate, either. The sex was varied and interesting and not just quick ‘in and out’ and while I liked these guys, I never fell in love again as a pretext for having sex, overthrowing that idiotic, female madness with all its limiting proscriptions about sex and young women. It felt fantastically liberating, enjoying the sex and the good company of these males without any unrealistic expectations by them of me and vice-versa. Yet, I oft wondered whether other guys who knew what I was getting up to were privately calling me ‘promiscuous’, and/or a slut. I was far too aware that this double standard was still extant among some of the conservative men I worked with, but dismissed it as their problem, not mine. I didn’t care.
One of my journalistic colleagues I dated and bedded was sadly unforgettable, not for me per se, but because of what transpired about him. He was about four years older than me and from a very wealthy, Brisbane family who had attended elite boys’ private schools in both Brisbane and Melbourne. He had not been to university. We dated many times and he was an intelligent, thinking individual with left-leaning politics and open minded attitudes to sex, certainly for me as a female. I didn’t know whether he knew I was ‘fucking’ our boss and I certainly didn’t tell him. The reality was I didn’t really fancy him though after a few dates, we ended up in bed together. I’m unsure as to why I agreed, perhaps still looking for that ‘elusive’ great fuck and I did like him. However, Greer wrote: “The implication that there is a statistically ideal fuck which will always result in satisfaction if the right procedures are followed is depressing and misleading. There is no substitute for excitement: not all the massage in the world will ensure satisfaction, for it is a matter of psycho-sexual release.” I temporarily forgot these words. This colleague and I shared lots in common, though our backgrounds were diametrically opposed. After a few minutes of touching and kissing (which failed to turn me on), I decided to touch his cock and have him fuck me as an ‘end’ to the proceedings. At that point, there was an unbelievable turn of events. He started sobbing, saying he had such a small dick and he couldn’t have intercourse. It didn’t even get hard as I played with it and I was also aware that it did feel small. I don’t remember his exact words of course, but I do remember what I said: “It’s alright; it doesn’t matter” putting my arms around him to try and stop him crying. The sad truth was I was stunned into silence as I didn’t have a clue what to say, not just to make him feel better but what his feelings were really all about. I certainly didn’t understand as that had never happened to me with any previous males, and of course, I didn’t have a dick. As I embraced him, his tears only flowed more, telling me how he had tried to commit suicide when he was 18 with carbon monoxide in his parent’s garage in Brisbane. His father had found him before he was dead. Soon after, his father obtained a job for him as a cadet reporter on Brisbane’s morning daily newspaper as he was extremely well-connected with Brisbane’s Establishment. While we had imbibed a few wines, neither of us was drunk. I didn’t delve into the why and how of his suicide attempt and after holding him as he cried he soon stopped. Suggesting the best thing he could do was go to sleep, I told him I’d call a taxi and go home as we were at his house. I dressed, kissing him gently on the forehead goodnight and returned to my apartment. We never discussed it again. I don’t know why but I never raised the conversation and neither did he. We never went to bed again, but continued to see each other for dinner on a regular but informal basis. We stayed platonic friends for another few weeks. On re-reading Now You’ll Think I’m Awful as I’m writing this, I had forgotten the author’s reference to male dicks. She wrote: “I know of no better way..(than the idea of being well-hung as to) how the Australian male begins to define himself.” If this was my friend’s sense of identity, it seemed nothing short of tragic, but at 21, I had never contemplated what masculinity may have evoked for some men. For my friend, the size of his dick was patently a very serious and depressing issue, unable to even appreciate why he may not have become ‘hard’, as ignorant about men as I was about my own physiology and sexuality.
The affair with my boss continued and as I flourished at work was shocked one night to receive a phone call at home from a very famous, former footballer and then coach who penned a column for my newspaper. Not only was he coach of my team, but he had recently coached them to a premiership and a few nights before the phone call, I had espied him in the office talking to one of the football reporters. Walking over to him I introduced myself, telling him “I’m a mad-team anonymous-supporter and you made me the happiest girl in the world when we recently won the flag.’ Or words to that effect. I also thought he was pretty damn gorgeous, sexy and exciting, not just on the football field where I’d seen him play many times, but in person and close-up he seemed that much more attractive. However, I knew two things about him courtesy of office gossip; that he was married but fucked around. He replied thank you when I spoke to him, smiling at me as I returned to my desk about 20 feet away. I didn’t see him again.
When he called a few nights later, he introduced himself and I nearly dropped the phone, asking me if he could come over to my apartment. It was about 7ish at night and I’m assuming I must have been working day shift. I replied what did he want to come to my place for? He replied ‘to talk’ and I then responded ‘if you want to talk to me you can take me out for a coffee.’ He then uttered the predictable excuse of many famous and not so famous married men: “I can’t be seen out with you.’ I said ‘I’m sorry, but you can’t come to my place’, saying goodbye and hanging up. Why did I reject a guy I thought so sexy and who I’d fancied as a fantasy as a football fan? There were a number of different reasons; first and foremost, I knew he fucked around and didn’t want to be just another ‘fuck’ to add to his tally. He was also married and as I was already having an ‘affair’ with my married boss, I certainly didn’t need another complicated sexual scenario in my life. Thirdly, I felt I could ‘fall in love’ with him, knowing at the same time it was sex he was after when I suspected I’d want more than that. I didn’t see him again for more than 10 years. I don’t know exactly how he obtained my home number as he never asked me. I didn’t tell anyone about his call at the time. On one level, it was flattering that such a famous person would be interested in me; albeit even just for a fuck. Some sense of inferiority about my appearance still resided within me and to be ‘wanted’ by this man was indeed reassuring. On a more realistic level however, I intuited he just wanted to ‘fuck me’ knowing his claim that he wanted to ‘talk’ was no more than arrant nonsense. What did I make of it all? I was glad I’d said he couldn’t come to my apartment and even writing this now, I’ve never regretted that choice. Lost opportunity? Maybe, but I didn’t dwell on it and six months later, a new man, number irrelevant, came into my life.
Call him Richard and he turned my life around; about sex, love and the whole damn thing! He was the great fuck I’d been hoping to find as well as the most adventurous, exciting and interesting man I’d ever met. He was single, unattached and just a year older than me. When I first met him, I was not consciously thinking sex, but over a drink in a club in town late at night after work, I invited him to my apartment. What was in my unconscious is another matter altogether, remaining locked away in someplace inaccessible and even now 40 odd years later, I’m unsure as to what I was really hoping for and or expecting. Was he another handsome, young man and did I fancy him? On a conscious level, that thought never crossed my mind when we talked at the club, nor was it an issue when I gave him my address, not even thinking about what he looked like. Sitting on the floor of my apartment, drinking coffee, talking and smoking, I started looking at his face more closely, enraptured by his beautiful, blue eyes and mischievous and sparkling smile. He was very tall, holding himself proudly, if not even arrogantly, exuding a confidence I related to. In the fashion of the hippie 70s, his fair hair was shoulder-length and his olive skin was far more appealing than my pale winter complexion. He had something of a beer gut even as a young male and while that didn’t particularly appeal, it disappeared into my unconscious over our stimulating conversation. At that time, I was slim, trim and looking terrific. Handsome was not part of his attractiveness as it was his ostensible interest in me and ‘wicked’ eyes, but he didn’t make a pass at me. After a couple of hours, he left as the sun was rising, walking out the door with a quick goodbye kiss on my cheek. For the next two weeks, I saw him nearly every night after work as he rang me, but still there was nothing sexually. By then, my conscious mind had taken over, starting to wonder what he was playing at. We hadn’t talked about sex at all as our rapport focused on politics and journalism as he was a journo on the same newspaper. As one of the crime reporters stationed at the city headquarters of Victoria Police, I never met him in the newsroom before.
Between seeing him, I was still seeing and having sex with my boss, who was also of course, Richard’s boss. Our affair had been on-going for nearly six months, and if people in the office knew, or even suspected, no one ever said anything. Indeed, we were mostly discreet as I maintained my composure and he maintained his. During work time, it was always about work. After an intensive fortnight, Richard asked me to go away with him for a weekend when we were both not working. At that time, I told him about my liaison with our boss though to this day am unsure why except that I added I think I’m in love with him, Richard replying nonchalantly to ‘break’ it off. I agreed and assented to a weekend away with him.
We were both stone, cold sober (most of my other sexual frolics were indulged after a few drinks, but not that drunk however) when we first had sex and it was the most amazing sex I’d ever had. I had a clitoral orgasm for the first time, struggling even now to find the right words to describe the feelings. Then, thrusting inside me, it felt even more ecstatic in a way I just can’t write about (can anyone?) except to say my whole body was transported to another physical realm; unbelievable pleasure and sensations I had never before experienced and just wanted to continue feeling that way. I’m not sure how long it all went on, except that I lay there afterwards feeling just so satiated and beautiful in a way I never had before. The feelings of clitoral/vaginal orgasms were different; both lifting me into another sphere and I’m not sure there are the words to write it. But it was as if at last I found a sexual partner to fulfil my wants and needs as I hoped, though without being conscious that that was what I was expecting from him. While Greer writes that “the acts of sex are themselves forms of inquiry, as the old euphemism ‘carnal knowledge’ makes clear; it is exactly the element of quest in her sexuality which the female is taught to deny.” Other women might have denied it, but I never did, Greer calling that denial a female eunuch. She quotes Freud as claiming that “it would also be possible to maintain that libido is invariably and necessarily of a masculine nature, whether it occurs in men or women, and irrespectively of whether its object is a man or a woman.” However, over lunch afterwards, where Richard and I talked for the first time about our previous sexual experience, he dropped this bombshell; asking me to marry him! I’d known him exactly two weeks and while we shared lots in common about politics and journalism, I was aghast. I didn’t even have to wait until the right words popped into my mouth, saying ‘no’ instantly and telling him I was far too young to get married (which I really believed) and that marriage wasn’t on my agenda. He told me he was in love with me, while I replied I hardly know you. We left it at that, as I added I’d just play it by ear and see what happened. Was he too dressing up ‘good sex’ as love as he told me he was ‘in love with me’. I didn’t feel like that at all and didn’t respond. We spent the rest of the weekend in bed, exploring each other and marriage never came up again, at least for the next 18 months. What did happen was not at all what I expected.
Discussing our first sexual experiences that weekend was interesting and enlightening, as although he was only a year older than me, and I’d been with older men, he knew and appreciated my sexuality (or that’s how it seemed at the time) more than any other man ever had. I imparted my past sexual history, while he told me his first sexual encounter had been with another male; a bit older than him. He was 12-years-old. It didn’t register as unusual or homosexual or at all strange, also telling me he learned what he knew from an affair he’d recently had with a much older woman. I was too naive and/or embarrassed methinks to ask about intimate details of his encounter with the male, saying only it was enjoyable though without imparting what they actually did together. I didn’t ask. He also didn’t divulge what transpired sexually with the older woman and I didn’t inquire about that scenario either. I wasn’t that interested in his past or mine either as the present with him was alive and sexually thriving and that’s what mattered. I soon fell in love with him, too.
For three months, the relationship was enjoyable, exciting and energetic full of late night dinners after work, great and interesting sex and stimulating and challenging conversation, about a myriad of issues involving politics, books, ideas and journalism. Without doubt, the sex was the best I’d ever experienced; enlightening me not just about the different ways of sex, but also learning about myself and what made me feel good and satisfied as well as learning about him as a male. He would play and move my body in ways I had just never thought about, my feet resting on his shoulders at times and my body contorted in so many positions I never knew it was capable of as gymnastics passed by me in my youth. Sometimes, the sex lasted for a few hours and at other times we indulged for a classic ‘five minute fuck’. Mostly, I always felt excited by his presence, needing little foreplay, though that was a bonus we oft indulged in. We didn’t talk that much about what we individually enjoyed, but I did discover, much to my surprise, he was turned on by my sucking his nipples as well as putting my finger up his arse. It was a whole new world about not just myself, but him, too, learning more and more about what excited him as the weeks became months in our relationship. It was also my first experience of anal sex, agreeing to try it as he suggested. Initially, he massaged my arse gently but firmly as if to make m muscles soft and more relaxed and as he entered me, it felt tight but unbelievably amazing. I could feel him thrust inside me so differently than in my cunt with my body reacting so pleasurably yet again. It was an even more acute and intense pleasure but didn’t last that long before he came. I felt a bit sore after he withdrew, but then, I’d often been sore after hours of intercourse, sometimes even unable to walk. The pleasure overwhelmed the pain. After the first few minutes of feeling sore, my arse returned to normal. We had anal sex a few times after that, but he was the only man who ever suggested it. On a couple of occasions, I masturbated myself clitorally too, only heightening the intensity of my pleasure. I didn’t engage in anal sex again until 13 years later. Richard’s constant adventurous sexual spirit only enlivened my interest further as we toyed with bottles and a vibrator that he played on me for hours, coming, resting and then coming again and again until he fucked me and I collapsed gloriously satiated. The insertion of ice cubes up my cunt as he fucked me engendered feelings so amazing and incredibly deep I just can’t find the words to describe them. Indeed, do they exist? I never cared what I looked like having sex, my hair in disarray and sometimes, even in large, unattractive rollers that I sometimes slept in to ‘straighten’ my wavy kinks. Make-up was brushed off without any conscious awareness as I simply indulged in feeling the moment, really living the sexual revolution with my body and emotions completely free of the shameful sexual mores I had grown up with just a few years before. It felt so liberating, so physically and emotionally reassuring that I never questioned ‘falling in love’ with him. I used to play the Carole King song ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ from her Tapestry album and inevitably think of him. That was how it registered as so wonderfully and inspiringly ‘natural’ as if this was what I’d been hoping for most of my adolescent years. Indeed, our sex also included intercourse during menstruation, something he suggested as I was feeling randy but explained I had my period, thinking, albeit ignorantly, we couldn’t indulge. Telling me it didn’t matter (I had to wash the sheets!), I enjoyed the sex even more than I could have imagined, the intensity and pleasure greater than I could imagine, except on one occasion later during a passionate embrace, I completely forgot I had a tampon inside me. We had intercourse to then espy blood spots on the sheets, remembering Oh fuck, I forgot to take the tampon out. Trying to find the string inside me, I just couldn’t locate it, thinking I’d have to go to an emergency hospital to have it prised out. Fumbling inside myself for about five minutes, and laughing at that same time until I realised it wasn’t funny at all as I still couldn’t ‘feel’ the string anywhere inside me and by then alarmed at where the tampon might have moved to. Richard tried and fortunately his fingers were far longer than mine and able to locate it somewhere inside, greeted by relief as I wouldn’t have to go to a doctor to explain. After that fright, I never forgot I had a tampon inside me before sex. Natural woman indeed! Moreover, I was fortunate that having periods never engendered too much discomfort or pain, only accompanied by bloating and mild cramps.
My menstrual problems were mild compared to some women, including my mother, who during my teens would take to her bed for a couple of days in great pain and bleeding profusely. Indeed, one of the girls I was friends with at school also suffered excruciating agony during menstruation, having to miss school for a day or two because of her periods. On one night, at home with my female flatmate and without Richard, it also happened to me, deciding to take a taxi with my girlfriend to the emergency department of a nearby public hospital because I thought I might be having a miscarriage as I’d been on and off The Pill. My stomach and groin were turning over with severe cramps and I was bleeding more than I ever had, lumps of thick, clotted blood pouring out of me which was frightening. Seeing a doctor almost straight away as it was in the wee hours of the morning, he told me it wasn’t a miscarriage, just an intense period, giving me a cup of tea and some aspirins for the pain as I stayed lying on the bed in emergency for about an hour, the pain abating and the bleeding flow ebbing slowly. Going home in a taxi, I slept for a few hours at home till I went to work in the afternoon. It never happened again. Going on and off The Pill also affected my periods, as despite the negative side-effects of The Pill such as bloating and some weight gain, it did regulate my menstrual cycle, ensuring I knew when I would start bleeding. Off The Pill, it made my cycle unpredictable, though as I was older, my periods settled down to some kind of predictable monthly pattern. In the early 70s, the notion of PMT (pre-menstrual tension) had not been recognised, at least in journals and books that I read and continued to read, reassessing some of my emotions in the mid 70s in England when PMT hit the headlines.
While I felt like a ‘natural’ woman with Richard, I was oblivious to the warning at that stage of our relationship latent in his theme song about me. In my apartment, I had a vinyl record of the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and one of the songs featured is ‘I don’t know how to love him’ including the words: ‘I’ve had so many men before…’ Later, Richard often ‘threw’ these words in my face; as if my past liaisons were inimical to our shared togetherness. Maybe I should have recognised his ‘lament’ for the jealous control it turned out to be, but in the nascent days of our relationship, I just laughed about it, telling him as I often did he was the best fuck I had ever experienced. For him however, my other men, however past history, loomed in his psyche, regarding our ‘relationship’ very differently.
Indeed, I even believed in sharing my sexual ‘good fortune’ with a girl-friend who had recently been diagnosed as a manic-depressive 18 months before. It was the same girl-friend who I’d known in my teens that I’d written in my diary that wasn’t interested in boys for the same reasons as I was – sometimes. She had never enjoyed good sex, and I naively, worse, ignorantly, believed what she needed was ‘a good fuck’. I told her as much, suggesting she could have sex with Richard to enrich her experience as it had mine. Indeed, I was ‘in love’ with him, but sex was not about love for me at that time, initially countenancing no problem in ‘sharing’ him with her. Leaving the decision to her, she agreed as did Richard. Almost tragically, it all went pear-shaped. In my apartment, all three of us sober, Richard suggested we both get undressed as he was. My girl-friend started disrobing, but I didn’t as he suggested both of us we could ‘play with each other’. I wasn’t interested in any sexual indulgence with my friend, who finished undressing and got into bed with him. Still dressed, I started watching, then unable to ‘cope’ with their sex, took my keys and opted to go for a walk outside. I was away for about 10-15 minutes, walking back into the apartment to find my girl-friend dressed, crying and on the phone. Richard was lying almost mute in bed, his chest naked with the sheet wrapped around him. Hanging up as I appeared, my girl-friend told me it was her mother and she was coming to pick her up. She went outside to wait for her. I was shaken, asking Richard what had happened. It transpired, according to him, that she just ‘freaked’ out as he started playing with her, that she didn’t get wet and that she was ‘frigid’. He had tried to have intercourse with her to no avail. She didn’t want it, then started crying, got dressed and called her mother. I muttered ‘I’m sorry’ without actually knowing what else to say. ‘Why didn’t you stay and watch as she might have felt better if you’d been here?’ he asked. I told him I just couldn’t and that I’d made a mistake. He then suggested we have sex. We did and it was as great as all the previous times. The next morning, after Richard left to go home and to work (I was working the afternoon shift), the phone rang. It was my girl-friend’s mother, letting fly with a torrent of abuse, screaming at me: “What did you do to my daughter?” She then told me how my girl-friend was once more in a psychiatric hospital as I quietly put the phone down. I was so upset and didn’t even bother asking her what my girl-friend had said. To this day, I don’t know. I realised in some ways what I was doing; projecting my need of ‘good sex’ on to my friend, although she had accepted my suggestion and agreed to it. I knew I’d needed good sex, but I didn’t have a clue about mental illness or what her problems were. I saw her some weeks later at her parent’s place after she had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. She was in a very deep depression that I’d never witnessed before and almost comatose. Her mother didn’t say anything to me either, offering me a cup of coffee which I drank and then departed. Many years later, my girl-friend accused me of ‘manipulating’ her into the situation and was very angry with me. I felt very guilty but it taught me an extremely valuable lesson I never forgot throughout my life: the danger and easy tendency to project onto others our own issues, sometimes consciously but also unconsciously. I lived with one guiding motto ever since: to each their own and I don’t know about anybody else but me.
As far as my boyfriends were concerned, I never divulged to my mother, or for that matter, my father either, who they were. The only male friend they had met was the handsome young man and all those that followed were strictly my business only. My mother however found out about Richard through one of her female friends whose hairdresser was surprisingly the ‘older’ woman who had taught Richard about sex. It was a small world I surmised, as my mother warned, and then berated me about who I was going out with. The hairdresser had experienced violence by Richard and understandably, my mother was rightly concerned. Trying to allay her fears I told her Richard had never been violent to me and never would be, adding that he loved me and I loved him, too. Certainly, I never imparted to her how great the sex was as that was still a taboo subject which I never raised. My liaison with Richard remained a source of increasing tension between us.
After that night, Richard and I still engaged in much sex, sometimes with intercourse as part of our rituals and sometimes not. We ‘played’ so many games with each other that included my first fellatio experience. It too had its own learning curve, as when I first placed his cock in my mouth I nearly bit him so it hurt. Wincing loudly in pain, he gently told me how to do it without biting, using my tongue and my lips not my teeth. It was truly ‘amazing’ for me never having seen a cock close-up actually go from lying short and limp on a bed to straight upwards, so hard and long that it seemed truly extraordinary. He wasn’t Jewish, but was circumcised as most of the men in my life were, explaining their parents thought it a healthy practice in those days. Indeed, I preferred ‘sucking’ a circumcised dick, also believing they looked more inviting and aesthetically interesting.
The sexual apparatus of a female is concealed, certainly female vaginas, but a man’s is in full view if you want to look. I caressed Richard’s dick first before putting it in my mouth, and at a touch, it just ‘metamorphasised’ into a whole, different appendage. Men seemed intriguing in a way women were not as their sexuality, at least physically, was obvious. Women’s sexuality is more hidden and out of sight. I didn’t discuss the ‘fellatio’ much with Richard, though he did tell me it was ‘beautiful’ after doing what he suggested. It wasn’t that difficult to push my teeth out of the frame of reference and it felt good for me, too, though as he ‘came’ in my mouth, the taste of semen left much to be desired, a salty mix of thickish, creamy stuff that didn’t whet my tastebuds. There’s a first time for everything. Hm! Moreover, when he performed cunnalingus on me, then kissed me on my mouth, tasting myself felt amazing. I had never put my fingers in my mouth even when I washed myself in the bath or had a shower, having no idea what my cunt tasted like. When he kissed me on the mouth after kissing my cunt, I loved it. My mouth and whole body tingled with what seemed almost sweet and tangy, another dimension of my sexual landscape. While Greer wrote “if you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your menstrual blood- if it makes you sick, you’ve a long way to go, baby” but this was not one of her dictums I related to or even thought much about, jettisoning it as not sickening particularly, but irrelevant. Far more liberating and intoxicating was tasting my own cunt which she apparently didn’t ever consider. It’s not an idea she writes about, but for me it welcomed yet another new sexual horizon to embrace. Moreover, the smell of ‘sex’, my own as well as Richard’s, was stimulating too, arousing and exciting me with a sensual experience I’d been unaware of previously. It was a new beginning for me later asking him on a few occasions to put his fingers in my mouth if he had just played with my cunt. I still do it to myself. I didn’t elaborate with him about the fellatio or cunnalingus except to say I really loved it. Did I need to say anything else? Interestingly however, we didn’t discuss these practices much. The focus was on ‘doing it’, rather than discussing it, and at the time, it seemed just how it should be.
What we did however discuss was my ‘enjoying’ a bottle up my cunt. Indeed, while it was his initial suggestion, he later told me “You like the bottle more than me!” That was impossible for me to explain at the time as I was appallingly ignorant (in retrospect) about my vagina and what was inside me, let alone the A spot and G spot I read about decades later. I’d never heard about these spots at all then, but it seemed my vagina had amazing ‘potential’ to feel sensations I couldn’t even imagine. Certainly, I had never read anything about them, taking a few more years to really start ‘exploring’ myself. I simply told Richard the long and thin head of the bottle felt ‘amazing’, seeming to reach parts inside me his cock couldn’t. Other than that, we didn’t discuss sex per se, except that we both got off on each other. He did tell me he loved ‘watching’ me and I too, enjoyed that, as well as watching him, whenever I could keep my eyes open, that is. Curiously perhaps, I was still thinking about other men and what more they might show me, though I’d stopped my affair with my boss as I agreed. Despite the great sex Richard and I enjoyed together, my thoughts were still about exploring my sexual limits and boundaries to discover even more about myself sexually as Greer had suggested. I had never philosophically adhered to a notion of sexual fidelity and enhancing my knowledge of myself sexually was of paramount importance, interested in pushing my body as I could, believing my sexuality was as much part of my female essence as my intellect. My desire was to live life exploring and developing both my mind and body in synchrony as they interacted and interlinked. I refrained from indulging with others as there was no immediate need, but after those three months, I experienced another aspect of Richard that made me question and examine our relationship and my own sense of myself. It changed everything and our relationship was never the same again, at least not for me.
One night, after he’d imbibed too much red wine (he always drank far more than me, though I had drunk quite a bit too), he suggested playing with myself as I fucked him on top. Initially embarrassed, I started to masturbate for the first time ever, finding it an amazing combination with feeling his cock inside me at the same time. I started to feel ‘ecstatic’, for want of a better word, with physical/sexual sensations I’d just never felt before as the clitoral stimulation and intercourse simultaneously ‘took’ my body to another pleasurable level, without comprehending ‘why’ I felt so ‘amazing’. The why didn’t seem to matter as I had never had simultaneous clitoral and vaginal orgasms; indeed, I still wasn’t sure what these ‘orgasms’ were really ‘supposed’ to feel like as my reading and previous experience had not included that, leaving me wondering what was happening to me. The only thing I was consciously aware of was that I felt ‘transported’ physically to a realm I had never reached before. Looking back in retrospect that was part of the problem than then ensued, realising that Richard was probably ignorant too, and even more saddening, was that as a chronic asthmatic, my physical exertion engendered an asthma attack. I had never been able to play sport in my youth as running for more than ten minutes made me wheeze, gasping for breath. It had sometimes happened before during sex that I lost my breath and started wheezing, but there was no ventolin in those days and this night I’d forgotten to take my asthma medication before the sex which I usually did. That night, as my feelings took over my body as I was still fucking him, too, I told him I had to stop to catch my breath. While I was feeling ‘high’ physically, he hadn’t come at all (not uncommon when he’d had a lot to drink), and didn’t want me to stop, pinning me down by my shoulders and repeating aggressively ‘fuck me’. Upset by his behaviour, my asthma became worse as I struggled to breathe with the room full of smoke from too many cigarettes smoked before. There were no open windows as it was the middle of winter, realising I had to get out of my flat for some fresh air. As I kept trying to make him stop which became increasingly difficult as I could hardly breathe, he kept holding me down despite me telling him I couldn’t breathe, repeating ‘fuck me’. I couldn’t. Somehow, I fought my way out of his clutches and stood outside my front door to try and breathe. The flat’s entrance on the ground floor was relatively secluded and within a few seconds, Richard was outside with me, starting to bang my head against the brick wall of the flat. I cannot remember what, if anything I said, or he said, but blood started streaming from my nose covering my naked body and I started crying. I don’t recall how long this happened for but I then remember going inside and sitting on the toilet, crying. He followed me into the bathroom washing the blood off my body with the towel I had placed under my nose to stop the blood flow. My head was aching and I felt absolutely wretched. I went back to bed with the towel still under my nose, telling him where my tablets were as I was still unable to breathe. Finding the tablets in the cupboard (I didn’t keep them in my bag in those days) I then said I wanted to call my mother, adding I know I’ve been a bitch to her, but I want her now. Having had asthma all my life which was terrifying as a child as I felt like I was dying many times, the only person who could help calm me during an attack was my mother. She would hold my hand, tell me not to panic and just wait till the tablets started working, or with more severe attacks, until the doctor arrived, albeit in the middle of the night to give me an adrenalin injection. Richard seemed to ‘freak’ at my mention of my mother and it took nearly an hour for the tablets to work so I could breathe again. Meanwhile, he’d made us both a cup of tea. My nose had stopped bleeding and saying I was tired, I told him to go home. I don’t know what time it was. He left. I fell asleep for a couple of hours, then woke up and went to the bathroom to see my eye blackened and swollen with my nose bruised, too. Luckily, it didn’t feel broken. Horrified at the whole night as my mind retraced the pattern of events, there was a knock at the door. It was about seven o’clock, some three or so hours later, and calling out “who is it?” was shocked to hear it was the police! Scared in some ways to open the door with my black eye, I opened it only a few centimetres to see a male and female police officer standing outside. They asked me if I was alright, replying “I’m ok” and telling them to go away. They didn’t ask to come in (in retrospect they certainly should have wanted to know what happened) and they departed. I didn’t know how they’d arrived and I didn’t bother to ask. About ten minutes later there was another knock at the door, again asking “who is it?”, thinking the police might have come back or even Richard. Stunned to see two, youngish males, both short, and apparently homosexual I had never seen before, they were holding a round bunch of pale pink roses which they presented to me, asking me if I was alright and telling me they’d seen what happened (maybe they said heard too – I can’t remember exactly) as they lived somewhere across the garden of the block of flats. They told me they called the police. I said the roses were beautiful and I was alright. I didn’t ask them in and I never saw them again.
Richard had informed me about his previous violent outbursts, but inexplicably perhaps, I dismissed them as irrelevant for me. Making myself copious cups of coffee, I dressed, rang work and told them I had food poisoning and needed the day off. I never called my mother, either. Spending most of the day home alone thinking about what had happened, I was trying to make sense of it in between sleeping. Partly in shock, too, I was unable to get my mind around what had transpired and why it had, unable to grasp my own sexual capacity and Richard’s obsession with sex as that’s how I understood his behaviour at the time. It wasn’t until thirteen years later those same ‘ecstatic’ feelings took me over when I had a ‘relationship’ with another man. My reading at the time suggested clitoral orgasms only as the focus of female sexuality, occasionally mentioning vaginal orgasms, but with no details and no understanding. Certainly, there was nothing I ever read, even in Cosmopolitan et al about how a woman could feel if she experienced both at the same time; or certainly, in quick succession. That night with Richard should have been the end of our relationship, but I still couldn’t completely accept he was ‘sick’ for behaving as he did. Part of me too just couldn’t reconcile that ‘madness’ with all the good times of the previous three months, feeling bedevilled and confused by it all. Understanding my own sexuality also eluded me, but I did start questioning how Richard’s behaviour could be about love? My perspective loudly proclaimed it wasn’t. Deciding I needed help to sort it out, I asked my oldest doctor sister if she knew a psychiatrist I could see. She never asked why I wanted to see a ‘shrink’ and I ensured she and my mother never saw me with a black eye. Certainly, I wasn’t going to tell her either, as we were never close and never had a conversation about sex. She gave me the name of some guy she knew; a Jewish man, no less. I made an appointment for two weeks ahead, returned to work the following day and never told anyone what happened.
Despite understanding to some extent at least, that my family was ‘a violent one’, it was psychological, not physical. No one had ever hit me and I just couldn’t fathom why Richard had not only ‘bashed’ my head against a brick wall, but had virtually ‘raped’ me, too. I had asked him to stop and let me go, to no avail. It seemed nothing less than ‘sick’, but I still felt I was ‘in love’ with him, unable to comprehend his behaviour. A few years later in 1985, reading a book titled “Real Men Like Violence”, by Glen Lewis, an Australian communication studies academic , he theorised that ‘men who rape are suffering from complete sexual alienation…There is no official toleration of rape, yet public attitudes still often blame the victim.” The link between sex, violence and love is articulated even more lucidly in a book written by a 1970s German urban guerrilla, Bommi Baumann, called ‘Terror or Love’ who writes: “-it was only the fear of love, from which one flees into absolute violence. If I had checked out the dimension of love for myself beforehand, I wouldn’t have done it…sexual oppression or repressed sexuality- (called ) love…” Was Richard frightened of love and in some way, repressing his sexuality? But then, I had a problem, too, as how could I ‘love’ a man who treated me in this way? Or was it really all about sex, for me, too? Had I ‘fallen in love’ because of the sex per se, still unable to disinter love and sex? Furthermore, how much did the good sex count for? What part did the so-called ‘free love’ of that time play in it all? In the book The Art of Loving by American psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, which I first read in my late teens, he conceives the concept of erotic love, describing it as “perhaps the most deceptive form of love there is.” He adds that “this experience of sudden intimacy is by its very nature short-lived…(and that) intimacy is established primarily through sexual contact, “ and that this kind of love’ is an illusion “greatly helped by the deceptive character of sexual desire.” What he clarified for me so succinctly in my perspective about Richard was that he articulates how people, including Richard and I, too, could be “easily misled to conclude that they love each other when they want each other physically.” Moreover, he adds “A feeling may come and it may go.” Similarly to Glen Lewis, Fromm recognises that ‘modern man is alienated from himself…and not being different in thought, feeling or action…to the herd…human relations (reduced by) alienated automatons.” Did this explain Richard and what of myself? In writing about self-love, Fromm says “Genuine love is an expression of productiveness and implies care, respect, responsibility and knowledge…an active striving for the growth and happiness of the loved person, rooted in one’s own capacity to love….my own self must be as much an object of my love as another person.” While I was not totally consciously aware that these words read just a few years previously applied to Richard or I, some of the philosophy in these words resounded loud and clear with me, realising Richard had a problem of one kind and I had one, too, albeit a different one as I still felt I was ‘in love’ with him. Indeed, Fromm calls it “pseudo-love, which (is) in reality (a form) of the disintegration of love.”Re-reading Fromm’s words again as I write this book, they are indeed apposite. In the meantime, I wondered whether the shrink would be able to help, understanding enough to seek it.
I only saw him once, imparting the truth about it all including the asthma attack and that Richard couldn’t come, no longer able to remember whether I told him Richard had bashed my head against the brick wall. Why? Maybe I was partly ashamed to admit or acknowledge that, but in another perspective I considered his physically violent behaviour as more of ‘a mind problem’ as was my problem for still feeling I was in love with him. I’d read plenty of psychology books over my teens, trying to understand my parent’s ‘problem’ relationship and my two sisters. Indeed, as I read a decade later in a book ‘Prone to Violence’; author Erin Pizzey and Jeff Shapiro, (Erin initiated the first women’s refuge in England in 1971,) wrote: “(Our political theory) recognises that the basis of the problem is a human one: violence occurs in both men and women. This is not a politically fashionable view in certain quarters…” Many feminists, including The National Federation of Women in America who Pizzey writes about earlier “(insist) that all women were simply victims of male oppression.” Certainly, I already appreciated something of my mother’s emotional violence against herself as well as myself at that time in my life, but I still adhered to a notion that it was my father’s temper that engendered her response to him. A few years later, it all became crystal clear to me as I elaborate later, but then I just kept trying to understand why Richard had ‘pinned’ me down and wouldn’t let me go when I had repeatedly told him I had asthma and couldn’t breathe. That to me was the real problem, for him and for me, too. It was as if he just didn’t care about me; the sex and ‘coming’ was what was important; not my inability to breathe. I had previously nearly died from asthma a couple of times in my life and I had told him I was an asthmatic as he saw me take my medication before sex many times before. His behaviour wasn’t I believed about power and/or control, but something far more alarming including a total lack of respect and care for my life, epitomised by ‘bashing’ my head against the brick wall. In some ways, Richard reminded me of my father that night, as my mother had told me when I was only twelve or thirteen that my father had ‘forced’ her to have sex when it hurt. I started wondering if I was ‘attracted’ to a man like my father; stuff I’d read about all too often before. At that time, still just 21 and six months, I had not sufficiently worked out my mother’s ‘psychological violence’ against me. The family violence was more to do with my father’s explosive, bad temper, oft screaming and yelling loudly and aggressively, but he had never put me down intellectually or abused my intellect or life. It was my middle sister he abused and sometimes my mother. I never forgot the ‘forced’ sex my mother told me about and it all sounded too depressingly familiar. How on earth could I still be in love with someone who had ‘raped’ me? Indeed, the book Prone To Violence poses the question I asked not just about myself, but of my mother, too in those days: “Why did all these…women choose to return to their violent and often deadly relationships?” Indeed, in my own diary at age 16, I wrote about my mother: “’wondering why she had allied herself with the belligerent neighbour and why she never broke the alliance. I asked her once, but her eyes assumed…coldness, so I told her to forget it and I walked out.” The shrink told me I was very aware of my problems, adding that he could make it ‘easier’ for me if I continued to see him. I made another appointment for two weeks later, even though we had not discussed any of the issues on my mind, the book’s question being pertinent to me, but mostly talking about my father as I didn’t want to betray my mother’s confidence. Fromm wrote about neurotic love describing it “one or both of the ‘lovers’ have remained attached to the figure of a parent, and transfer the feelings, expectations and fears one once had towards father or mother to the loved person in adult life; the persons involved have never emerged from a pattern of infantile relatedness and seek for this pattern in their effective demands in adult life.” Men, attached to their mother, want “mother’s protection, love, warmth, care and admiration…such men frequently are quite affectionate and charming if they try to induce a woman to love them…but their relationship to the woman….remains superficial and irresponsible. Their aim is to be loved, not to love.” I knew Richard had many problems with his mother, as I too still reflected about my father, but what I also recognised very clearly was I also had problems with my mother, too. Were we both so needy of love and screwed by our parents we couldn’t genuinely ‘love’ each other? Were we indeed both ensnared in “neurotic love?”
For two weeks, I worked, returning home alone at night, drinking more coffee and smoking cigarettes, without hearing from Richard. I decided it was over. I also ‘blamed’ alcohol in some ways for his behaviour, having read enough about its possible violent effects on some people. Certainly, I was a bit pissed too, but nowhere near as intoxicated as he was as I remembered that night and after about two weeks, he called. Unable to remember exactly what happened, and even more sadly, unable at all to understand any of it, he was genuinely remorseful so I agreed to let him come to my apartment to see me. An apology and a promise it would never happen again was about all I received. He was still in love with me, he said, while I replied I didn’t know how I felt, reminding him of what happened as I recalled it. He didn’t really want to face it, except he knew I had a black eye because I’d gone to work with it and everyone else knew, too. I still didn’t tell anyone what happened. I never did. No one even asked. I didn’t care what others thought as what was far more important for me was that it never did happen again, and in my idealistic naivety believed Richard’s promise. I never should have, but such was my ignorance about domestic violence at that time and the problems of its participants. I knew nothing. I realised too the shrink didn’t either, though as the appointment with him was just a couple of days after I’d ‘taken’ Richard back, I asked him to come with me. He flatly refused, telling me he didn’t need a ‘shrink’. I should have realised the warning signs, but was simply too young and ignorant to make sense of any of it. I cancelled the appointment and made another which I never kept. I had to work it out for myself and deep down, knew I would.
Suffice to say the relationship was never the same for me again, not that I consciously felt frightened though in retrospect, I wish I had been. I just didn’t have any inkling about the imminent danger I put myself in, without any clue what to make of any of it. Prone to Violence also states: “For it was not a case of either liking or not liking violent behaviour; it was much more complicated than that…” The shrink’s apparent ignorance, even disinterest in violence, is epitomised by the book when the authors write (it was published in 1982 and at this time, it’s only 1971), “…nobody seemed to genuinely want to find out why violent people treat each other the way they do…I could not give my personal support to the…notion that violence was a strictly working-class problem….I had seen enough middle-class women in trouble to convince me that doctors, dentists, solicitors and Members of Parliament also indulged in bouts of violence against their women..” I was only too well aware even then of my own middle-class family’s inclinations to emotional violence and the book continues:
“In fact emotional violence is extremely common in middle-class and upper-class families and just as damaging as physical violence…” But there was another perspective for me in that physical violence was but a manifestation of emotional violence within the self projected on another. Middle-class families such as my own perpetrated just that but Richard’s background was working class. I never found out if his father and/or mother were physically violent.
We resumed our relationship as if that night had never happened for a few more weeks. The sex was great again, though interestingly, he never suggested I play with myself again and I never did. Our conversations were still stimulating and interesting and I continued to cling to some notion of ‘love’, however deluded it might have been. Having read the book, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, its words about love resonated strongly with me, buying a copy for Richard to read. Handing it to him in bed one morning after a night of great sexual indulgence, I pointed out the words I really appreciated: “When love beckons you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you, believe him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden…Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love”. His response was shattering as he almost threw the book back at me, saying “I don’t want this crap” or some such euphemism for his total disregard for what Gibran had written as well as my attitude to it. I cannot explain why I still did not end our liaison.
Despite the increasing emotional and spiritual chasm between us, our relationship resumed its warmth and intimacy, even laughing together as we ‘farted’ in bed. Maybe I considered that was ‘real love.’ Moreover, he enjoyed fucking me when I had my period too, as menstruating seemed to enliven my libido. We also started indulging in sex with marijuana as one of the guys we worked with smoked dope, deciding I would try some again, now smoking ordinary cigarettes and able to do the ‘draw back.’ I bought a little dope from him, smoking a couple of joints with Richard at my apartment. The sex felt even more ‘transcendental’, sensitively touching every nerve in my body to reach even greater feelings of heightened ecstasy and emotion. Just touch seemed to engender a whole new vista of intense sexual and physical reactions. Despite the ‘high’ of this great sex, in my private moments at home alone, I never forgot that night, trying to work through it for myself when I had the space and time on my own. It was as if I knew then it would really end one day, sooner rather than later I countenanced, believing another comment in Fromm’s book, borrowed from another psychoanalyst, H.S.Sullivan, who understood a ‘strict division between sexuality and love,” in contrast to Freud who maintained that “ love, hate, ambition, jealousy were…many outcomes of various forms of the sexual instinct.” At the same time, I rekindled my affair with my boss who I really appreciated loved and cared for me in a way Richard never could. Indeed, I told him some of what had happened as he’d seen me at work with the black eye, but I omitted the ‘rape’ and fabricated much of my story. He told me in no uncertain terms to end it. Embarking on a different agenda of dating other men to see if I could find a ‘replacement’ for Richard, I indulged in sex with them without caring about any notion of sexual fidelity. The problem was the sex was so ordinary that I continually thought about Richard, my sexual frustration with these men taking precedence in that I ruminated why it was so ‘ordinary’. What was there between Richard and I that enriched my sexual pleasure in a way no other man could or had previously? At the same time, I entertained notions that my ‘mind’ and ‘body’ were not as interlinked as I thought or believed. Or were they, not just for me, but Richard, too? Was there some intrinsic essence of love between us that enhanced our sexual behaviour to a level I didn’t experience with any other men? Or was it, I considered, that the other men were even more ignorant than Richard about female sexuality or at least mine? Richard seemed able to appreciate my sexuality at least most of the time in ways these other men were just not interested in or plain ignorant about. I knew emotional distress could sometimes trigger an asthma attack, but that physical exercise was also a significant factor and was only too well cognisant that as Richard became aggressive, I became more upset. Despite the asthma and Richard’s apparent disinterest in my life as such, I couldn’t get my head around my ‘amazing’ sexual feelings with Richard’s reaction seeming to heighten my distress. What was going on in our heads?
On one hand, I knew intellectually Richard and I were not on the same wavelength and while he was certainly intelligent, he oft told me I was ‘too heavy’ and ‘serious’. Life for him too often seemed all about fun and sexual frolics and on that hand, we were in unison as despite my forays with other men, Richard remained the ‘best fuck’ I enjoyed. That ‘mind’ and ‘body’ split as it increasingly seemed to be to me was a source of continuing confusion and angst and was ‘love’ part of it? I just couldn’t work it out. Fromm quotes Sullivan again who articulated that “Intimacy is that type of situation involving two people which permits validation of all components of personal worth.” The intimacy Richard and I shared just didn’t compute with this understanding, creating a conundrum for me to comprehend that involved long hours of contemplation and even more book reading over the next few months. Richard and I had a sexual intimacy, but my heaviness and seriousness about intellectual issues were not at all validated as my personal worth, indeed quite the opposite; disparaged and dismissed with disapproval. I certainly shared some intimacy with my boss and while he ‘seemed’ to validate my personal worth professionally and intellectually, the sexual nature of our relationship left me wanting. Would I ever meet a man to fulfil both my intellectual and sexual my needs? How realistic was it to even hope to meet such a ‘man?”
I didn’t tell Richard at the time about the other men in my life as he was often working late when I wasn’t, but he found out anyway as the journo scene in Melburbia was pretty incestuous and all the promises of a violent-free zone went out of the window. He also confronted me whether our boss was on my agenda again, telling him the truth. That time he tried to justify hitting me with my infidelity, except that he too, had started fucking around, suggesting it was different for men than women. He was drunk once more and I hadn’t had a drink. I didn’t even have to think twice about the ‘insanity’ of his ‘double-standard’ perspective and unfortunately for me it wasn’t the only double-standard he entertained.
Our mutual infidelities however caught up with both of us when we discovered we had genital warts; small, hard blisters on my vulva and his cock. Surprisingly, they weren’t painful but a visit to a local doctor who burned them off was indeed very painful and sore, with sex off-limits for a couple of weeks. At the time, I hadn’t heard of herpes nor had I read that female genital warts could be a pre-cursor to cervical cancer. Reading about these medical matters later in my twenties in England it did perturb me, but lucky to say as I’m writing as a 66-year-old, I never contacted herpes nor had cervical cancer. Neither Richard nor I knew from whom they were transmitted, both realising that we had to take more care with whom we jumped into bed with. I never had warts again.
As my first experience of an STI, it still didn’t ensure I engaged in ‘safe’ sex despite trying to be more careful about choice of a sexual partner. I hated condoms and feeling them on the man’s cock inside me and I was taking The Pill on an irregular basis. Irregular because at that time it made me feel ‘bloated’, uncomfortable and fat, affecting not just my belly, but my fingers, thighs and legs. Richard and I certainly both loved eating and drinking, putting on weight during our relationship, but the ‘bloating’ felt altogether different. I would go off The Pill at various intervals, taking a risk of getting pregnant before abortion was legal (Later on, new scientific developments ensured The Pill had less bloating side effects and condoms were made even thinner so a woman could hardly feel them so I was told. I still don’t like them).
Having had a girl-friend only three years before at university who had an unwanted pregnancy, I knew too well the urgent need to decriminalise abortion. As she was a full-time student, she had no money for a ‘doctor’ to perform the termination. Certainly, she didn’t want the baby as she wasn’t in love with the ‘father’ and was in no space to have a child. Asking for my financial help, I was the only person she knew who was working and accrued some savings as she was unable to tell her parents, needing the money to go to Sydney and hopefully find a reputable abortionist. I gave her $200, a substantial amount in 1968, believing it would cover the cost of a safe abortion. A few days later after leaving Melbourne, I received the most harrowing letter from her; crying as I read about the “wire coat-hanger” a woman had used in the ‘backyard abortion.’ In excruciating agony, she bled profusely for a couple of hours. She recovered and the foetus was gone and on returning to Melbourne the next week, it was as if it had never happened. We never discussed it and I am unsure whether she ever refunded the money. It was irrelevant and I was simply glad I could help, though aghast at how much that kind of abortion had cost. Her experience should have frightened me with its innate dangerous practice to ensure I never fell pregnant without wanting to, but maybe because I was working and earning good money, somewhere in my mind was the thought I could pay a ‘real’ doctor for a safe abortion. I knew there were doctors who performed abortions at that time as the women’s movement was campaigning about a woman’s right to choose and some doctors, including Dr Bertram Wainer was a fierce advocate of decriminalisation. It was known he also performed abortions. The issue was extremely controversial and at that time in 1971, a young male journalist who wrote advocating decriminalisation too, who I knew on the media circuit, was found dead in very suspicious circumstances. Rumours swirled he was murdered to ‘shut’ him up. No one ever discovered the truth. Moreover, a female cousin whose husband was a doctor also had an abortion as my mother then told me. With three children, she did not want anymore. According to my mother, she paid a large sum of money to a registered obstetrician to procure the abortion. She was well and there were no repercussions. These disparate realities didn’t really justify my flirting so carelessly with fate, but I never fell pregnant. I was lucky.
The crazy saga of my relationship with Richard continued for another few months and despite a few weeks of close and loving togetherness, there were more black eyes over my infidelity only to hear his continuing declarations of ‘love’ with the same promises and apologies that proved empty and hollow. However our relationship was not the only one where domestic violence reared its ugly head appeared on my radar in 1971.
Returning to work at my old newspaper, there were now more female reporters than previously with two of them becoming my friends. One female about my age, was a country girl and devout Catholic, attending mass nearly every morning before work and always objecting to my use of four-letter words at the typewriter when I miswrote something and had to rewrite the whole page. She couldn’t understand my liaison with Richard until it all happened to her, too. Richard and I were both non-religious, but this friend’s boyfriend was also Catholic and both of them were strongly committed to sexual fidelity though as devout Catholics they had sex despite not being married. Living in the suburb next to mine I was surprised one Sunday afternoon when we were both not working by her visit. Sporting a black eye and some bruising on her cheek, she arrived to talk to me about the altercation with her boyfriend. Imparting that it wasn’t over sexual infidelity, it seemed he was unable to control his temper about an issue she considered insignificant and I cannot now recall the salient details. Maybe I conjectured privately, it was that her boyfriend could not ‘control’ her as he really wanted? Suffice to say their relationship continued for months after too as the same old story or real life?
Another girlfriend on the newspaper from a traditional working-class suburb in Melbourne, had told me her father used to ‘beat’ her up (her word, not mine) when she was in her teens on a regular basis, for reasons of disobedience and defiance. Furthermore, she was now living with a married man whose wife wouldn’t divorce him because she was a strict Catholic. So was the husband. Moreover, some three years later, my friend imparted the tale that this ‘husband’ was also violent towards her. Domestic violence seemed so prevalent and pervasive I had no idea where to start to try and understand it, but that’s exactly what I was trying to do about Richard. It was futile as he wasn’t interested in understanding himself and I was left to confront it all on my own. At that time, nobody of course even acknowledged domestic violence existed, not in the media or elsewhere and I was so ignorant then about how pervasive it was across the socio-economic spectrum. I had told Richard about my father’s bad temper and how frightened I was of him as a teenager, but asking him about his family he wouldn’t impart much at all, telling me only his father had died when he was 16 from cancer developed as a miner in Broken Hill. He had then left school to begin work on the local Barrier Miner newspaper, later moving to Sydney to work on a morning tabloid daily and after a few years, made another move to Melbourne. Our backgrounds were worlds apart, realising the acute differences when he drove me for a holiday over summer to Broken Hill, showing me the corrugated iron house he’d grown up in and explaining that as an adolescent, married women were not allowed to work in the town due to Barrier Council laws. There was an older brother who he didn’t really get on with well as he was a pilot in the Air Force responsible for bombing South Vietnam in the war. Indeed, I had already met him only to vehemently argue with him about Australia’s role in the war. Moreover, he also informed me he had a very difficult if not surly relationship with his mother and couldn’t learn anything more except that my middle-class environs, my university education and background in literature and the arts as well as sport were not shared by him. His ‘cultural’ background was about fighting with boys at school, drinking, girls and sex. Despite these glaring differences, I believed we shared a common thread in both in that we had unhappy familial experiences. While married women could not work in Broken Hill as he grew up, my father’s attitude to my mother working before it became an economic necessity, were based on similar tenets about the status of a woman in marriage; namely, that the male husband was socially anointed and approved as the only breadwinner.
In pure sexual terms, Richard’s attitudes were shaped by knowing, without understanding, there was ‘a town bike’ in his environs; a girl he knew who fucked everybody and anybody as he told me. I knew the terminology, but never knew any girl who behaved that way and even sluttish didn’t seem as derogatory, degrading and disrespectful as labelling a female as a ‘bike’. What became apparent later in our relationship was while he intellectually applauded my sexual and economic independence, he was, albeit unconsciously I conjectured, psychologically and more profoundly nurtured by sexist stereotypes he couldn’t divest. It was a source of constant angst between us. On our trip to Broken Hill, we had stayed with his mother who had since moved to Adelaide and was co-habiting with a man she met but hadn’t married. Meeting me for the first time, she seemed completely unfazed by showing me a bedroom Richard and I would sleep in, complete with a double-bed. My mother, on the other hand, still adhered to marriage as the culmination of a ‘good’ relationship, seeming weirdly ironic that on a sexual level, both Richard and I were bundles of contradictions absorbed from a changing social sexual landscape at that time in the early 70s. His mother embraced it while my mother couldn’t jettison traditional conformity and convention. Both Richard and I seemed caught in the web of it all, albeit very differently.
During one of our now ‘boringly repetitive break ups’, Richard fucked one of my girlfriends who just happened to be sharing my apartment at the same time. She had sex with him at his apartment, but had arrived home early in the morning and told me what transpired, adding she was very drunk and very sorry. I replied we had split up and it didn’t matter. A few hours later the phone rang to hear Richard tell me my girlfriend had left her wallet at his apartment and would I mind if he came over to return it. I said okay. Suffice to say it was summer and a glorious sunny day without being too hot and ‘pretending’ to be sane and sensible adults, the three of us decided to go out for lunch. We discussed their night together and agreed to let it pass. After finishing lunch and drinking much white wine, my girlfriend then said she was tired and returned to the apartment to sleep. Richard and I thought we would visit the colleague who lived in the same suburb as the restaurant to smoke some dope. As he was home, we sat around getting stoned and continued to drink. It was then late on the Saturday afternoon and I had to work that night to attend a poetry evening with 60s beat poet, Allan Ginsberg. I was starting to fall asleep too. Announcing I had to leave, Richard, who had driven us in his car, was not working and said he would stay. I don’t remember what was coursing through my addled brain cells but all pretence of sane maturity was buried with the dope as I got up to leave, feeling angry and/or jealous about the sex with my girlfriend. Telling him to fuck off as I stormed out of our colleague’s house, I held an almost empty glass of white wine in my hand and tipped it over his head. No one said anything as I kept walking and slammed the front door. Finding a taxi outside, I went home and fell asleep for a couple of hours, managing to just make it to the poetry evening in the city. Richard and I stayed apart for another week before he rang again. It was the first time, and the only time I’m glad to say, I ever reacted like that with a violent flourish, thinking about it the next day home alone in my apartment. What was I doing and why? Of course, there were only a few drops of wine in the glass but it was the ‘symbolic action’ that was significant; my hurt spilling over him. I didn’t approve of my behaviour realising ‘sexual infidelity’ was not just based on some intellectual rationale, but encroached into our emotional albeit covert unconscious. I didn’t plan to tip the glass over his head as it just happened but I didn’t want it to ever happen again. His violent reactions however became even more alarming.
One night he raped me again, calling me ‘a fucking whore’ because I’d had sex again with another man, not my boss. That time he remembered. Why didn’t I call it quits? The sad truth is that despite loving my boss too, I still believed in pushing my sexual experience as I could with other men and Richard and I were once more ‘a non-event’. The reality was that Richard and I had a sexual relationship that went far beyond what I experienced with any other man. And I couldn’t break it. I tried to tell him many times what it was for me, and probably for him, too, but the reality I learned later was that he just couldn’t accept it. Still enjoying talking to him too I knew he was unable to accept me the way I was at that time in my life as much as I couldn’t accept him and his violent outbursts. There was an impasse which I came to realise would run its course, accepting that the sex between us would eventually no longer ‘justify’ or counteract his violence. One reality I also considered was why he didn’t call it quits with me. If my behaviour, attitudes and even my ‘serious’ personality were causing him angst and displeasure, why didn’t he end the relationship? I cannot answer that question.
His violence became even more significant, if it wasn’t already, during a holiday I took after my exams to complete the two university subjects I was studying in my own time. Accompanying a couple of non-journalist girlfriends and my male cousin who had once lived in my apartment to a house in Rosebud for a few days, I told Richard where I was going and gave him the address as he’d said he might join us if he was not working. It was a hot, summer Friday night and around midnight we were all asleep when Richard knocked on the front door. I went to answer it. He was drunk. Letting him in, I told him it was too late and he shouldn’t have driven all that way in his drunken state. He said ‘well, I’m here.’ We fell asleep without sex and the next morning, had a fuck. I was unimpressed. He decided it would be a good idea to have a bbq lunch starting to prepare it for us all outside. We didn’t have breakfast. It was about midday and the meat seemed to be taking too long and I was hungry. My friends and I made salads and we weren’t drinking anything other than coffee. Wearing shorts and a skimpy top while I watched Richard bbq the meat, I took a piece of bread from the table outside to eat. My friends were inside in the house. As I ate the bread, Richard lunged at me, kicking me hard in my inner thigh. He was stone cold sober and I just stood there in shock. He then screamed: “You’re already too fat; wait for the meat!” While I had put on some weight since I’d met him, I wasn’t fat as he was and this was just yet another issue where his ‘double-standards’ reigned sacrosanct. I can’t recall what I replied, if anything, but my male cousin came outside, apparently seeing what happened. Asking me “are you alright” (he knew about Richard’s violence), I looked at my thigh which started turning blue, purple and yellow and was the size of a large potato. It was painful. I went inside with my cousin. What transpired next is a blank, presuming I ate lunch and as we were staying on for another couple of days, I told Richard to return to Melbourne. He did. I don’t recall whether he apologised. It was irrelevant. What was relevant was that I was forced to confront a really ugly truth about him, realising he was probably aiming for my cunt, but had missed. It was even more disturbing than him hitting me on the face as he hadn’t had a drink and it wasn’t about infidelity. He was sober, sleeping his alcohol out of his system, or so I believed. It was horrifying. I didn’t discuss it with my friends (we weren’t that close anyway) returning home within a couple of days. The bruise on my thigh deepened to black and dark purple but this time of course no one could see it except me. I returned to work, staying away from the pubs where I thought Richard and his journo mates could be drinking. The bruise took a couple of weeks to disappear and I didn’t see Richard during that time, now having to contend with a whole new and even more challenging problem. His violence was not just about too much alcohol and sexual misdemeanours, but beyond all my comprehension, believing he had serious mental health issues and I didn’t know what to do.
On one level, I started to feel really sorry for him as well as myself for being involved in a relationship I couldn’t extricate myself from. Predictably a few days later, he rang again with more apologies and promises and inevitably, I took him back. Was I ‘sick’ too for continuing to delude myself that his promises and apologies were sincere and that he did indeed ‘love’ me?
Thinking more and more about love and sex, I understood it just couldn’t be ‘love’, at least not by my understanding of it, asking him to live with me to clarify one way or another if it really was about ‘love’ or just plain sex. Our on again off again liaison had continued for just over six months and while it may have seemed a crazy ploy to others, I had to find out the truth about him and living together seemed the only way to do it. I decided to break off my relationship with my boss who I was still seeing and end our relationship permanently. Call it my own madness perhaps, but I wanted to see if Richard and I could become closer and more trusting of each other or whether it would dissipate into nothingness. We shared my flat for a couple of months reasonably amicably, until he opted to go overseas as he was sacked for a violent outburst against a male colleague; sober, too, at the time, while I stayed in Melburbia to complete the last subject of my university degree. It seemed fortuitously beneficial and positive as six months apart would either cement our relationship or fracture it completely.
He rang many times from overseas, still declaring his love and proposing marriage yet again. Hesitating before saying anything even though I was sure I didn’t want to marry him, I was concerned to voice my refusal painlessly, but he quickly followed up his proposal by asking me if I’d slept with anyone while was away. Telling him the truth that yes I had (not my boss but a real footballer) resulted in him slamming down the phone. At least he wasn’t there to hit me, I thought, his action only convincing me I was glad I was going to say ‘no’, again. He rang back the next morning, telling me to ‘hold with the marriage proposal’, replying ‘that’s fine by me’. I asked him if he had sex with anyone telling me he had without any sense of guilt or wrong doing. It was quite the opposite for me from his perspective, not my own. He added we could still travel together when I finished my degree which was only a couple of months away and as it was always my plan to return overseas on completing my degree, we duly resumed our relationship abroad and went to London together, meeting him in Hong Kong where he had been working. Knowing in my heart it would probably not work out, I opted to take another chance and/or yet another risk as I wanted to travel again. If I’m really honest with myself, and I’m unsure whether it’s about honesty or self-delusion about him, I wonder if I just wanted someone to travel with rather than go alone. I had my own money and can’t really answer that question I pondered even at that time. Maybe the real delusion we both couldn’t confront was about ‘love’.
In London, it was just two weeks later when I walked out on him. Developing bronchitis and asthma in what was the beginning of winter in London I was ‘bound’ to a journo friend’s flat for a few days while Richard took the opportunity of my illness to go out drinking with an Aussie journo mate. Both of us had already dispatched several job applications to various Fleet St newspapers and meanwhile we were ‘camping’ at a friend’s apartment until we obtained employment and money to secure our own apartment. The friend was away. A week after sending the letters, I received a phone call from one of them, the editor of a London evening newspaper, The Evening Standard. The editor was Charles Wintour, father of Ann, who later became editor of Vogue in America. Securing an interview with him, we didn’t talk along as he referred me to the Features Editor, calling him internally and explaining he would send me to see him. That editor and ZI engaged in conversation for about 30 minutes whereby he offered me three days a week work on the paper at standard National Union of Journalists’ award of $22 a day. Richard failed to receive a response from any newspaper. On that night, a Saturday and feeling unwell, I stayed ensconced in the apartment as I was starting work on the newspaper on Monday. Spending some of the night writing on my typewriter for a potential column to show the features ed on the Monday morning, Richard returned to the flat a few hours later completely pissed, asking me what I’d been doing all night, his tone of voice aggressive and angry, for reasons I don’t even now understand. Replying ‘I’m trying to write a column’, he went to the typewriter, ripped out my paper, screaming at me ‘you can’t write!’ immediately passing out on the bed, asleep. The column was in shreds on the floor and picking it up and throwing it in the kitchen rubbish bin, retired to bed deciding our relationship was finally over. Without sleeping much and getting up early at about 8am while Richard was still soundly asleep, I packed my suitcase then rang my sister in Australia. Before departing to meet Richard overseas, I left $400 in my bank account in Melbourne with her signature registered to send it to me in London if I requested it. Talking to her briefly, I asked her to send me the money also asking if she had received notification about my passing my degree as I had left before the announcement of results and had provided the university with her address for notification. She would send the money and imparted the good news I had finally completed and passed my degree. It had taken five years working full-time and studying part-time and I put the phone down and burst into tears. There was no one to share my good news with. Moreover, my sister didn’t even congratulate me. Leaving the apartment without waking Richard, I went to stay with some other friends, not his, though he had met them with me. They weren’t journalists..
It was Sunday morning, and for most of the day I shed tears and told my friends I was now on my own and it was over. Why now and he hadn’t hit me, either? It was the first time he had put me down about my work, my talent and abilities and that was enough for me as I’d already realised how my family had belittled my journalism too. Richard’s tragic irony was that he often regarded me as ‘an intellectual’, telling me how clever and bright I was. This attack was a ‘shock’ and while I might have erroneously ‘forgiven’ and/or excused the black eyes etc over my sexual behaviour and infidelities, copping this put down was totally unacceptable. It was the last straw for me.
I went to the newspaper on the Monday, wrote my story which the features ed was happy with, never finishing my effort at a column. Returning to my friend’s flat at around 6pm, the phone rang and who else of course but Richard. Deliberating about talking to him for a few seconds after my friend’s told me who it was, I agreed to speak to him as he explained that he wanted to meet me for dinner and we needed to talk. As he was sober and sounded very upset, we arranged a rendezvous nearby at a local restaurant. As I imparted that it was really over this time, he burst into tears, telling me he couldn’t remember saying what I’d told him he’d said, but if he had, he didn’t mean it. Why then did you say it? I don’t know was his response. Feeling sad and sorry for him, without then understanding what that sadness was based on and embarrassed too about his crying in public, I agreed to try again. Perhaps I was too scared to be on my own in a strange town with few friends. In between his tears, he repeated what a good writer I was and that he was so happy for me that I had some work. I fell for it all. In between my working days, I said I would find a flat, taking me just a couple of days to rent a suitable and affordable apartment. We moved in with me paying the rent and the connection fees for the electricity and phone. He stayed at home writing more job applications, this time to a local suburban newspaper at my insistence as we couldn’t live on what I was earning. He was somewhat depressed as I was too though I didn’t really understand it except to appreciate our good lives in Melbourne had gone astray.
After about a month Richard managed to get a job on a suburban newspaper which he felt was far beneath him, ‘mickey mouse’ he termed it, while I repeated we couldn’t live on what I earned as three days’ work paid the rent but not much more. On one level, I could understand how he felt ‘put down’ professionally as I always recognised he was a good journalist though his attitudes to the profession were very different to mine. At the same time, I began to consider whether he was just a tad jealous of me for my position on a Fleet St newspaper. Nonetheless, the sex was still good, both of us agreeing that we would no longer ‘fuck around’. In the months apart, I decided to remain sexually faithful when we resumed our togetherness as well as curb my drinking and hoping he would do likewise. On one occasion, my period was more than a week overdue and as I still hadn’t been taking The Pill wondered if I was pregnant. Feeling bloated and uncomfortable, I consulted pregnant a GP near our abode. After a negative urine test and informing him about my dislike of The Pill and condoms, he asked me a pertinent and perspicacious question: “Do you want to get pregnant?” to which I replied “what do you mean?” He then said “It seems you do by not ensuring you won’t.” Departing his surgery thinking deeply about his question and comment, I reflected that maybe unconsciously I actually wanted to get pregnant. Despite all our past problems, I did feel I loved Richard and for the first time in our relationship, I went home to broach the subject of having a child. He was aghast as I hadn’t imparted my late period and he hadn’t realised, but he told me very ‘tragically’ that if we had a baby, he would probably kill it because he wouldn’t cope with its incessant crying. Stunned into silence, if not even horror, I never raised the issue again. Always remembering his words, I went back on The Pill with all its bloating side effects and discomfort. For a couple of weeks, I mulled over his attitude to having a baby, deciding to try and discuss his violence more analytically than I had previously attempted, now even more worried and disturbed by what he had replied. Without elucidating my aims to him, I asked him various questions about his past as he recounted too many brawls and fisticuffs with other males that he regularly ‘beat’ because he was so much bigger than they were as he was 6’4” tall with very broad shoulders and a physical strength that outweighed his opponents. Sadly, what he then imparted was that he hoped some guy would actually ‘bash’ him one day so he could know what it felt like to stop him lashing out at people he believed he loved, especially me at that time. He added that maybe he should buy a large boxing bag to hit when his uncontrollable urges took over. Still unable to understand any of it, I decided I had to start reading about violence to understand his problem and whether I could indeed stop it. Such was my naivety in retrospect and it nearly cost me my life.
In the five months we were apart, I also faced my reality that I didn’t ‘need’ to fuck around as sex with him was the best I’d had and didn’t want anyone else. What I did want was more money to go to the movies, to concerts, to the theatre and enjoy all the riches London offered. Liberation I started to realise wasn’t about ‘free love’ or ‘free sex’ as neither was free and only engendered excess and jealousy. It had all left me wanting with a big price to pay for the so-called, albeit erroneously, ‘zipless fuck’. Still feeling I loved Richard, I wanted and hoped the good times would re-establish themselves as our way of life; albeit a different life without the self-indulgent drinking, eating and sexual shenanigans. At just 23 years old my whole life was ahead of me and wanted to share it with him. I had also realised sex with other men was part of my self-exploration, but as the sex with Richard was still the best I experienced, I changed my attitude to sexual fidelity. I didn’t want, moreover need, ‘flings’ with other men as he was sexually all I desired. In our ‘supposed’ new understanding of togetherness, he opted to quit his job on the suburban paper taking his chance in the famous street once more, suggesting we sojourn to Paris for three days before embarking on more job seeking. He also had espied an advertisement in a journalese magazine for a feature writer on The London Sun, a Murdoch paper I considered a ‘rag’ of sorts but as our lack of money was still a big issue, I opted to apply for it on his suggestion. Subsequently, I obtained freelance features to work on at home for a week in my own time, earning more money in a week than I earned in a month in Melbourne. Our trip to Paris was my financial treat, finally travelling to the city for a ‘romantic’ interlude with the man I loved; a fantasy made real.
Finding exactly the type of hotel I had envisaged in the Latin Quarter of the city, it was beautifully and tastefully furnished with French windows and a small balcony with delicate, iron-lacework around it. The bed was a large double, laughing when I saw a bidet in the bathroom alongside the toilet. Never having seen one before, I realised I was really in “France’, swishing my arse with the fine spray of water that emerged from the bidet’s basin. Oh, how the French loved their cleanliness, before and after sex, I conjectured. Visiting all the renown tourist haunts such as The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre (the Mona Lisa was a disappointment as it was so small), I had to ‘pinch’ myself that I was really in Gay Paree. Sitting on the bank of the River Seine with baguettes, brie cheese and an assortment of cold meats and red wine, we bathed in the spring sunshine and indulged our culinary appetites to then adjourn to satisfy our sexual hunger. It was gloriously romantic as I hoped for, but returning to London after three days, the love I felt and enjoyed over a croissant and latte soon dissipated. My notion of our togetherness was mine only, a one way street with him walking in the opposite direction as it didn’t take long for the rot to set in. This time it was all so different; worse on one level, though the physical violence was minimal. Putting on about four kilos in Paris, my fluctuating statistics were yet again another force of friction between us. I had shed many kilos during our months apart, greeting him in Hong Kong as a female who not only looked trim, taut and terrific, but felt it, too. I was almost back to the weight when I first met him. Ironically, he told me in Hong Kong I was ‘too thin’, needing to add a few more kilos. I didn’t know what to make of it except that I felt far more energetic and healthy, while he still displayed a bloated beer gut and too much excess weight. In London together, I put on weight again and after Paris, it became an issue for him as it had been in Melbourne. My appearance, embodying not just my weight, but my hair too, became even more paramount after he started working for Murdoch’s weekly rag, News of the World. While he never commented or passed judgement about my clothes, my weight and appearance were oft disapproved of. I shrugged this off as ‘misguided chauvinism’ affirming my right to look and eat what I wanted and when I wanted. It was my strong stance about pleasing myself as to how I looked.
Meanwhile, on returning to London to resume my freelance work with The London Sun, the news editor I contacted no longer wanted to employ me, telling me I just couldn’t come and go as I chose. There was a list of other journalists wanting work, too. Facing the prospect of unemployment, I decided to contact the London bureau of my Melbourne newspaper for a job, only to be offered a quasi-secretary role to the chief of the bureau with some opportunity to write stories as well. The pay was dismal compared to what I earned on The London Sun, but Richard was then earning good money on News of the World. Comforting myself with the hope a few stories would be tossed my way and lead to a full-time reporter’s job, I accepted the ‘secretarial’ offer as there seemed no other choice. I was unable to obtain any other job in Fleet St. After just a week sitting in the Melbourne newspaper office, I started becoming depressed until I was asked to do a story on a famous UK society hairdresser called Leonard who was embarking on a tour Down Under. Talking to him in his salubrious salon in Mayfair shortly before he was leaving for Australia, he suggested the best way I would know what he does as a hairdresser was to do my hair. In the salon for more than three hours, his staff examined my hair, put a variety of creams and god knows what else in it and washed it while Leonard cut, reshaped and then blow dried it. As a team they changed everything but the colour as Leonard told me I had a very unique shade of red. It was auburn really, with a really red streak in the front. I walked out looking a different person.
When Richard arrived home from work, he was flabbergasted, telling me I looked amazing, but added: “You should always look like that!” It was the first time I recall where he really expressed approval of the way I looked, highlighting for me how he must have unconsciously disliked the way I looked in Melbourne. The only issue he had commented on was about my weight. When we first became acquainted, he told me how sexy I appeared, but never told me I was beautiful, even attractive. No man ever did in those days, though ‘sexy’ was a description I heard ad nauseum. Now my appearance reared its head as another significant issue for both of us, albeit with different perspectives. I was contradictorily pleased and angered at his reaction to my hair, replying I cannot do it this way and can’t afford to go to the hairdresser every week. A few days later when I washed and dried my hair again, it looked nothing like the way it was when I walked out of Leonard’s salon. I decided I didn’t care though still wore jumbo size rollers to bed on many occasions. My hair was always difficult to manage as while I had lots of it, it was very fine with natural wavy kinks I hated.
But it wasn’t only my appearance now as Richard’s attitude to the large amounts of money he was then earning revealed another huge difference between us. He revelled in his money as testimony of his success, status and superiority while I loathed his attitude and adherence to these as symbolic. For me what mattered was how he was earning that money and moreover, that he needed money per se as reassurance of his importance and status. Suggesting he could pay for me to attend Leonard’s salon again, I declined, telling him it wasn’t worth spending that sort of money on something as superficial as my hair. Rather, I’d prefer to go to Convent Garden to the opera. He of course wasn’t at all interested. The final demise of our togetherness wasn’t far way and we had been together in London for just three months.
Needless to say, he started fucking around again, drinking excessively, gambling on cards and losing his wages in too many poker games. Resentment started to fester inside me as I’d initially paid for his airfare to London, most of the rent, food and occasional cheap meals out, only to be treated as an increasing irrelevance and totally insignificant. His freelance employment on News of the World, a high-paying, sleazy, sex scandal newspaper that I deplored, became a huge factor in reshaping my feelings towards him. Telling him I had no respect for that newspaper, we argued about journalistic issues for the first time as well as lifestyle choices about what we considered important in our lives. His money chase, without caring about journalistic principles or ethics I condemned blatantly with my respect for his endeavours eroding as the paper was published. We were growing worlds apart within the space of just a few weeks, and while I remained sexually faithful, the sex we had was becoming more and more drab, dreary and perfunctory, at least for me. Indeed, for the first time yet again in our relationship, I felt ‘pressured’ to have sex when I didn’t feel like it. Consenting, but without desire, I managed the motions, not that he at all realised. My feelings, even my behaviour in bed, had become simply superfluous. Too often, he was half-drunk wanting a ‘quick fuck’ to fall asleep. I started faking it to end the fiasco which of course he didn’t notice, let alone care about. I stopped caring too, becoming aware it was all just about over for me as I didn’t like him anymore. It was more important than love. As the money he earned went to his head manifested as a misplaced sense of importance, I acknowledged his behaviour was nothing more than supercilious hubris. On several occasions, he seemed intent to impress me with his nouveau rich lifestyle which I opted out of from the start. To quote Fromm once again who sums up how our relationship had deteriorated: “If the woman is not always admiring them, if she makes claim for a life of her own, if she wants to be loved and protected herself, and in extreme cases, if she is not willing to condone his love affairs with other women, the man feels deeply hurt and disappointed, and usually rationalises this feeling with the idea that the woman ‘does not love him, is selfish or is domineering’.” As Richard embarked on a lose weight campaign, he started purchasing expensive new clothes wanting me to do likewise, rebelling at his attempt to ‘tell’ me or control how I looked, with his focus on my weight first and foremost and my hair and make-up too. In a restaurant one night when I somewhat reluctantly agreed to escort him for dinner, he told me my lipstick was all askew when I knew I was only wearing a bit of a smudge. I never really liked lipstick or skin tone make-up as it made my skin feel sticky and unclean, berating it as a mimic of being female and beauty in a bottle. The irony is that as he slimmed down and invested in new apparel as well as cutting his hair, he was jettisoning his alternative appearance as a beat, counter culture rebel as I first met him. Adopting a facade as a well-groomed and stylish young man, he seemed to believe this new appearance would engender a new appraisal of his worth in a way I condemned. Certainly, he looked far more handsome as I realised he always was, but the reality was that he was a man transformed on the outside only with an unconscious delusion about his self-esteem and self-respect. Inside his head dictated his parading as a success for no other reason than his physical appearance and a bank account in the black. I was never seduced by money or appearance in that way. Moreover his perspective had also seemingly transformed from one supporting women’s rights, independence and quest for equality to conservative conventional thinking that maintained women as the ‘puppets’ of men. It was as if his espoused beliefs when I first met him were nothing but a sham, a young man’s fleeting flirtation with a libertarian facade to be replaced by a much more authentic sense of self satisfied by superficial notions of success. I knew and recognised one thing he had not experienced in Australia on a professional level that while I was regarded as the ‘golden girl’ success, he was the journo in trouble and an unsuitable ‘match’ for me. My understanding about my success was not intrinsically what my happiness was based on, appreciating that while that success per se was meaningful in part, it was not integral to who I really was or what I deemed important and cared about. I had already worked out in Melbourne that most of the men supposedly interested in me were only interested for that reason as they didn’t know me and often, it was what I represented as a successful journalist. Mostly, they just wanted a fuck which was mostly ok by me too as I wasn’t interested in them in any other way either. The difference with Richard was that I had erroneously believed he entertained the same ideas about success as I did, although we had never discussed it specifically, seeing beyond my superficial status as a success to ‘love’ me as a whole person. While we had conversed about the boring 9-5 bourgeois lifestyle in the suburbs which we both agreed we didn’t want, I assumed he was an unconventional young man that shared my contempt for conservative conformity. In London, I had to confront this as delusional because I hadn’t asked him the right questions or didn’t even think of them, my perception mostly based on assumption and supposition. Hearing his perspectives on politics, economics and world affairs, I glibly extrapolated to fall in love with him, but that love started to disintegrate as reality intruded in my delusion. Over-eating to compensate for my increased anxiety about what I was going to do I added another six kilos only arousing more distaste in him.
Worried about what I was going to do as I no longer liked the man he had become, I surmised he always was that way but had ‘fooled’ me with his supportive and encouraging words. This persona was more significant than whatever ‘love’ meant and I didn’t want to stay with him at all. It was that simple. Our days together were numbered as I became nothing more than a ‘convenient’ fuck, feeling so used despite there being no violence and not caring about his fucking around. I knew it was over for me as in just three months he had morphed into a man that was nothing like the man I thought he was.
There were other feelings to reckon with too, becoming physically frustrated though not specifically sexual or so I considered. Or were they indeed all about that but manifesting in different ways. Feeling pent-up with a sense of anger at Richard and indeed myself, I felt a physical need to vent this anger translating into feelings to ‘tear our apartment to pieces’ which I imparted to Richard. Of course I received no understanding whatsoever. My anger was diffuse, unable to understand exactly and specifically what I was angry about with just frustration consuming me. My feelings were explained more lucidly in a book I read about 10 years later called “The Angry Book”, written by American psychiatrist Theodore Isaac Rubin, who wrote: “Sometimes the routes leading to feelings of anger are so convoluted and circuitous that it takes enormous skill to discern their original source, or fountainhead.” I was thankfully sufficiently aware of my anger not to want, and more importantly, need to express it physically, more concerned at understanding the raison d’etre for these emotions. It felt like everything was driving me ‘crazy’, my work that I was completely bored and pissed off with, Richard and how he no longer cared at all about me and my life more generally in London, pondering what had occurred that left me depressed, frustrated and angry. While I could ‘label’ these emotions in some ways, they were also shrouded by confusion and conflicts about being female. The one positive I could acknowledge was my anger, as Rubin wrote: “A healthy emotional climate is first one in which all emotions- especially anger – are given ample play and freedom.” Richard could never face his or even understand it and moreover he did not even want to. He had, as Rubin writes a “paucity of straight, honest simply and readily definable expression of feelings,” instead responding with “superficial, hysterical and manipulative outbursts turned on and off like summer showers. These serve to confuse further and to subvert real feelings.” Indeed, my father oft responded in the same way to displeasure with my mother unable to express anger at all. As Rubin continues, elucidating Richard’s denial as well as my mother’s emotional responses for me is that they ‘put-down’ their angry feelings. “The kind of putting it down occurs with completely conscious awareness. Here the victim knows that (he/she) is angry and even feels like reacting or responding in an angry way. But like all slush-accumulating victims, she also feels she has a vested interest in not feeling or showing anger…” As Fromm wrote “conflicts and resentment” flow from a woman who “does not live up to the phantastic expectations” of the man, but for me, it was a two way street for both my parents. Unlike what I realised about myself, I didn’t believe my parents had a conscious awareness of their anger, particularly about why they were angry. Richard seemed similar in too many disturbing ways to both of them.
In London, I also understood the sense of self I had as a journalist in Melbourne was undermined by my ‘role’ as a quasi-secretary, writing in my diary that “I had chosen to identify myself as a journalist and was no longer living as that, feeling like I had lost my sense of self in some ways”. Returning to that sense of myself later, I understood only too well how that identity I had unconsciously adopted was totally superficial and meaningless; a mere external appellation that I later realised was how others had judged, and/or perceived me. This pervasive social and professional perception was how I then judged myself too, feeling depressed at no longer being the successful journalist. Richard’s self-aggrandisement as a journalist of substance with money only heightened my loss of that identity. It didn’t take me long to understand that identity was extraneous to me as an individual of worth and substance. Greer wrote that ‘For love’s sake, women must reject the roles that are offered to them in our society. As impotent, insecure, inferior beings they can never love in a generous way.” I unconsciously had over my life rejected these roles and it was Richard’s inability or reluctance to accept me as I was that ultimately resulted in violence and the end of our relationship. Sadly, as I explain further on, my mother was also unable to accept my rejection of these roles.
Abiding by my decision to stop going out drinking with him, I arranged to meet him at a Fleet St pub to tell him to leave and that it was over. He stood me up. Whether he unconsciously or even consciously knew that’s why I wanted to meet him I don’t know, but after waiting about three-quarters of an hour and sipping on a glass of white wine alone, I left and went home. In bed, I was crying, wondering what I was going to do as I couldn’t get a full-time job on a Fleet St newspaper and didn’t want to return to Australia, feeling scared and anxious about what was ahead. The tears helped, but they weren’t over Richard, more about where I was heading and what I could do. About two hours later, he walked into the flat totally pissed, dragging me out of bed to ‘supposedly’ share his takeaway curry that he’d bought in a cheap Indian restaurant around the corner. Putting on my dressing gown as he tugged at my body and pulled it towards the dining table, I sat without eating anything then returned to bed still crying. There is no memory of any conversation we might have had and what happened next is a giant blank.
All I remember is getting up naked to go to the kitchen and picking up a knife on the bench, then putting it back down with absolutely no idea or recall of what I might have been thinking. Maybe my unconscious remembered him coming after me the night I had an asthma attack and bashing my head against a brick wall, picking up the knife in self-defence. I don’t know. Fortunately for both of us, he didn’t come after me this night. Returning to our bedroom to put on some clothes without any underwear, I picked up my keys and walked into the street outside, still crying. A guy soon fronted me in the street, saying “I know how you feel” to which I seem to remember replying “lucky you!” I had no idea what time it was or who he was, thinking it was a total stranger as I don’t remember whether I was wearing my glasses. Our apartment was in a quiet street off a main thoroughfare which was full of shops and the underground station so I kept walking up the street to the main road where I knew there was a hotel. At the intersection, I realised I didn’t have my wallet and even if I had, there was no money to pay for a hotel so I walked back down the street to the apartment where ‘the stranger’ had just vanished without following me up the street. Letting myself in to the apartment, I undressed and tried to sleep. Richard was passed out next to me. I may have slept for a couple of hours until I woke up to go to the toilet. Washing my hands at the basin, I then caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror above the basin; half of it was black and bruised and my eye was swollen like I’d never seen it before and my arms had a few small bruises, too. It was as if my visage ‘woke’ me up with my eye feeling like it had a patch on it that I just wanted to pull off. The swollen puffiness with my eye just a slit meant I couldn’t see out of it. It was stinging, painful and sore and I hadn’t even ‘felt’ it till I looked in the mirror. Returning to bed I just lay under the covers trying to remember what had happened, with no memory of Richard hitting me or anything else after I returned to bed crying after not eating the Indian takeaway. Richard woke up shortly afterwards and looked at me. On asking him what happened, he couldn’t remember anything except he was supposed to meet me for a drink. I do not know what happened. I never will. I told him it was over without telling him I’d picked up a knife. He left the apartment a week later, giving me half the money we’d saved in the bank account, most of which he’d earned. Alone for the first time in months, it was a feeling I just had to adjust to and accept, quitting my quasi-secretarial job and a week later, jetting out to Spain for a much-needed rest and to meet a younger, male cousin who was travelling around Europe. This cousin was touring with another young, male cousin and had stayed at the apartment during their time in London. They were in London on that ominous night, but were not in the apartment when I arrived home, nor when Richard staggered in, pissed. Waking up in the morning, they were not there and neither was their baggage. I didn’t know where they were. The day after the night before, the young cousin called me, telling me he had parted company with the other cousin to go their own separate ways. He was going to Spain. I informed him that my relationship with Richard was finally over and I would meet him in Spain. He then told me they were both in the apartment during the ‘happening’ in the bedroom, but left early the next morning without wanting to see us. Both cousins knew Richard could be violent, but I was surprised they were in the apartment. I didn’t say anything more except that I desperately needed some sun and a rest.
The night before I flew out, Richard knocked on the door about midnight. I was already in bed, but let him in. He was reasonably sober, telling me he just lost all his money in a poker game and could I give him 20 pounds to live on for the weekend as it was a Friday night and banks were closed for the weekend. I said OK. He then asked if he could stay overnight as the underground was closed and he didn’t want to waste the money on a taxi, telling me he was living with a couple of male journalist mates. We went to bed with neither of us mentioning sex, both falling asleep pretty quickly. I recall stretching out my arm to touch him in a semi-slumberous state, pulling it back quickly alongside me. It was as if I still wanted and/or needed human contact with him; some unconscious drive to re-establish some intimacy but understanding it was a futile delusion, too. He left early the next morning.
What was I going to do? On my own now with just $500 in my bank account, I decided a rest and recovering some energy were top of my priorities and looked forward to a holiday. Since my travels at 19, I hadn’t had a real holiday, working and studying till I once again departed Melbourne. I also needed and wanted ‘a good fuck’. My cousin and I met in Alicante on the Costa Brava, enjoying the great Espanol cuisine and too much ‘vino tinto’, with sex seeming like a good idea at the time. Certainly, my cousin complied, but despite my efforts in engaging his ‘cock’ in mutual consent, it refused to participate. He was willing, but his apparatus had other ideas so that his mind and body were out of sync with each other. It was an aborted attempt at intercourse I would never repeat again. (Years later, he did ‘confess’ to me that he continued to have erection dysfunction problems throughout his life). Dismissing it as irrelevant, I wrote it off as a misguided (?) mistake on my part, proceeding to enjoy the next month travelling to Ibiza and Spain. Enjoying the sunshine and the beaches, my body felt renewed bursts of energy as I ate healthily, curtailed my alcoholic indulgence and lost weight.
From Ibiza, we caught a ferry to Formentera, a small island a three-hour sea trip away. On the ferry, we met about four, young American travellers and on embarking hired a car at the port, cramming in to go to a beach someone knew about. I can still see and feel the ‘paradisical’ environs; a crystal clear aquamarine sheet of water topped with white foam, shaded by pristine white sand I’d never seen in Australia below a glorious ultramarine sky and a sun shining peacefully and tranquilly without intensity. It was a perfectly beautiful day. As there seemed no other people on the beach, one of the young Yanks suggested we all go ‘skinny-dipping’. Taking my clothes off in front of strangers was momentarily embarrassing, but I stripped naked and plunged into the water; my first ever experience of swimming naked. It was sheer sensuality with feelings of abandon in my body as the warm water washed all over me. It was surprisingly perhaps not about feeling sexy, as I didn’t fancy the young Yanks and sex wasn’t on the agenda. My male cousin, however, only half stripped off, keeping his jocks on and swimming still partly dressed, apparently too embarrassed to be seen naked. We frolicked in the water for a couple of hours together then lay on the beach, only to see an older couple in the distance who were also naked. Deciding to go and talk to them, they were in their 50s or 60s, a male and female, the male telling us he was a senator in the Dutch Parliament. I was flabbergasted by a politician sitting naked on the beach, only too well remembering how a few Melbourne politicians had ‘suggested’ sex with me; albeit covertly. The couple were staying in a nearby hotel, one of only a couple on the island, asking us if we wanted to have a drink with them in the evening, offering to pay as we were all on a strict budget. We agreed. It was amazing to see them naked on the beach, simultaneously surprising and reassuring that older people could appreciate, even enjoy, being naked together in public, without shame or sexual innuendoes as they were just sitting there talking to each other as we approached them. Another even greater surprise was ahead.
Without showering as we weren’t staying anywhere, we got dressed, lounging on the beach as sunset descended on the sea, returning to meet the couple for a drink a few hours later. The guy was dressed in a shirt and slacks and his wife as he told us, was in a skirt, bare tanned legs and sandals but it was from the waist up that grabbed my attention. She was wearing a sheer, chiffon, see-through, black silk blouse without a bra. Her breasts were on full display and I was gobsmacked. We sat down and no one said anything about her apparel. She looked amazing, sexy and fantastic, well-groomed with her blondish-grey hair combed neatly, sophisticated and stylish. Her husband also looked handsome and well-styled. By comparison, we were the typical ‘beach bums’, sandy, probably smelly of salt, and our hair still stringy and wet. It didn’t matter at all. We talked for more than a couple of hours over drinks and even the barmen who attended said nothing about the wife’s breasts on view. Neither did I. The young Yanks and my cousin said they would sleep on the beach (the last ferry back to Ibiza had long since departed), but I paid for a room in the hotel as I didn’t fancy a night fighting with the sand up my crutch. I also wanted a shower. The next morning my cousin and I returned to Ibiza, where I booked my ticket back to London, alone. I can’t remember where my cousin was heading and I didn’t see him again for three years when on another overseas trip, he unexpectedly turned up in London. It had been a month’s sojourn of R & R for me, arriving back in London resolute about finding a new place to live and some work that would inspire and invigorate my brain. I had some money left as Spain was cheap, clearly understanding how bored albeit depressed I was with the work I’d previously engaged in.
Tabloid journalism might have paid some of the bills over the years but it didn’t challenge my mental capacities to think and write as I increasingly recognised I needed. Work had always been my top priority; appreciating we spend more time working than we do anything else. What could I do that would satisfy my mental needs? Moreover, Richard still loomed in my mind, too, often thinking about him and missing all the good times we had shared; especially the sex. I was still trying to work out how ‘great sex’ could contribute to ‘falling in love’. Would I ever really understand ‘falling in love?’ I needed to find other men to take his place, at least sexually, grappling with trying to understand and unravel what had happened to all those good times that nearly ended up in ‘murder’! I stayed with some Australian friends on my return to London, ringing Richard and asking him to meet me for a drink as I wanted to ask him yet again, what he could remember about ‘that’ night. He didn’t want to see me. The ‘blank’ will always be a ‘mystery’ in my mind, oft pondering if it was the first and only time I refused to have sex with him, clueless however about why he hit me. I’m actually glad I don’t know what happened and I never rang him again. He didn’t ring me, either.
I soon found a suitable room to rent in a flat with a young English couple who were both studying drama. With only $200 left, I started re-applying for jobs everywhere and anywhere I could, hoping for more interesting and stimulating work as a researcher in TV. Suffice to say for nearly six months, I didn’t even get an interview with any of the TV companies around the UK, and in between, started freelancing in the printed word with my own ideas in ways I never had to do before in newspaperland. I made pretty good money selling them to whoever would buy them, trying to live my life again on my own, sans family and with few friends. Sex was still important, but shaking Richard out of my sensual experiences proved harder than I expected.
A Canadian male friend of the heterosexual couple I was living with and I started ‘dating’ and he was interesting and good fun, but the sex went nowhere for me. Back to square one it seemed, without much touching or any turn on foreplay, just intercourse that left me wanting yet again. I continued to see him a few times, but we both knew it wasn’t much of anything and it ended before it even started. There were a few other abortive forays into ‘fucking’ but still more of the same futility. Richard still ‘played’ in my cunt, or so it seemed as the other men I experimented with were disappointing and depressing. There was the odd occasion when the phone rang at night I hoped it was Richard, but it never was. Did I just want and need a good fuck or what was still going on with my feelings about him? Why was I hoping he would ring? Interestingly, I never considered ringing him again after he told me he didn’t want to see me when I first returned from my sojourn in Spain.
It was then I really started reappraising ‘love’ and ‘sex’, wondering too often if love was indeed the ‘essential ingredient’ for elevating sex into the ecstatic heights I’d experienced with him. The other men didn’t seem to care that much about me and/or my pleasure and was that what it was all about? Were they just ignorant or simply selfish? Certainly, I didn’t care that much about them either but it seemed they could derive satisfaction from lust in a way I couldn’t. What did I have to contribute to make it work for me? Were men and women, or specially me as a female, that different when it came to bedtime? How significant was ‘love’ in the equation of mutually satisfying sexual encounters?
After six months of ‘surviving’ and even enjoying myself at times with money I made from freelancing, I secured a three-month contract as a researcher on a new science program at a TV company in the provinces in the UK. It then became another three months and later extended to six months. Relinquishing my flat share in London, I rented a flat on my own in the provincial town in which I now worked. I was nearly 24. I hadn’t studied science since Year 11, but the job opened up an intellectually exciting and enjoyable new world literally, where I pored over physiological and psychological texts, magazines and articles that enriched my life in ways I just didn’t even countenance. Men and sex went missing as work dominated my existence, having a date with an assistant cameraman I didn’t fancy but nonetheless ending up in bed with him. We’d had a few drinks together, but I wasn’t at all drunk, and it wasn’t until I was lying naked alongside him in my bedroom that I realised I didn’t want to know. I was also only too well cognisant about wishing it was Richard lying next to me, abruptly telling the guy I was still ‘in love’ with my ex-boyfriend and I’m sorry, but he should go home. He did. For a couple of months after that I didn’t have sex with any other man and it was about six or seven months living in the town that I received a most unexpected late-nite Thursday, drunken, phone call from Richard in London.
I knew he was already living with another English woman in London, but despite that ‘arrangement’, he suggested visiting me with a male friend of his for ‘a dirty weekend’ as his girlfriend was away. I told him to ring the next day, sober, if he still wanted to drive up north, not expecting him to call again. He surprised me with a call at work the next morning, sober and straight, and thinking it would be at least a weekend of some good sex I agreed to the ‘dirty’ weekend. It wasn’t. Very sure about not wanting anything more from him than a couple of days of fun which had also gone missing from my workaholic lifestyle up North, I looked forward to seeing him. On one level it was nice to see him as his conceited self-importance had disappeared after being sacked from his sleazy, sex rag, not for any violence this time, but on an expenses misdemeanour when he was ‘caught’ lying, ‘losing a few inches’ in his head. More like the man I had initially met, I realised I still felt very attracted to him sexually, but at the same time, was absolutely clear about keeping it on that level. Now driving minicabs in London to survive economically, he seemed flattened, albeit humbled by his hardship, but surprisingly and soberly suggested he live with me in my ‘new’ abode up North. I instantly replied “no way!’ without further discussion. However, I did think about it after he returned to London, clearly recognising that I now had ‘status’ again, albeit in what he probably assumed was a glamorous and exciting life in British television. For him this identity or indeed, what I externally represented, that is, so-called success again, sadly impressed him, even attracted him. For me, in those months since we’d parted, I had already understood that my success in Melbourne as a journalist, which he never had on the same level as me, was indeed, a big part of his interest in me. Indeed, when I no longer had that ‘success’ in London and he started earning good money, he was then impressed with his own so-called success and less interested in me. At the same time, I also fell for or unconsciously believed that disingenuous definition of success, the difference being that I had clarified it for myself over the months without him and he was still unsurprisingly attracted by superficial accoutrements and deluded notions of success.
Never having met his accompanying male friend before, my flat was two-bedroom and it seemed alright to let them stay, giving Richard a spare key when they arrived on the Friday at about 5pm. We went out for dinner to one of my favourite French dining establishments, one of a handful of good restaurants in the desolate town and half way through our meal it seemed history was repeating itself. Richard kept ‘eyeing’ off two young females sitting at the bar having a drink, telling me how sexy they seemed. As we finished dinner, I told him he was free to ‘chat’ them up, telling him I was going to a disco a ten-minute walk away and if he wanted, I’d be there to meet them. I left them to pay the bill and walked out.
To cut a long story short, I wasn’t at all sure they would turn up despite issuing walking directions to the disco. We weren’t drunk. Arriving at the disco alone, I chatted up my own man after about five minutes, leaving with him to adjourn to his apartment for sex. My intent in going to the disco was calculating and conscious, wanting to ‘pick up’ a man for nothing but some good sex. It was the first time in my life that I initiated a sexual liaison in such a brazen and blatant fashion, espying a reasonably good-looking specimen after a couple of minutes of spot-fixing in the crowd. Approaching the dark-haired, young man, I asked him if he was by himself. He replied he had come with a female friend but she wasn’t a girlfriend. Broaching the subject of sex, I then asked him if he wanted to take me to his place. Explaining he would drive his female friend too and drop her off at her place, the three of us bundled into his very expensive Italian sports car, duly depositing her at home then adjourning to his apartment for sex. Richard and his friend hadn’t arrived when we left. Staying the night at his place, the sex was only moderately pleasurable, wanting instead to be in bed with Richard. I called a taxi and returned to my apartment at about 7am, finding Richard in my bed awake and smoking a cigarette. Calling me a ‘bitch’, he asked me who’d I’d been with and I told him the truth, then asking him about the two women at the bar in the restaurant. He replied nothing had happened and he and his friend had arrived at the disco about 15-minutes after I’d left to find there was no sign of me. He then said: get into bed with me! His tone of voice was terse, but I still thought we’d enjoy ourselves. I didn’t. He fucked me pretty quickly, albeit almost angrily, without much care or interest as I expected and hoped for more. It was almost perfunctory on his behalf and almost numbing for me. There was no conversation about the encounter. Making coffee in my dressing gown before having a shower, his friend who had been asleep in my second-bedroom, walked into the kitchen and suggested we have sex, too. I said ‘No’. After we all showered, we went out for breakfast after which they left to return to London.
Spending the rest of the weekend thinking about it all I was disappointed and depressed. What was I really depressed about? The reality I had to face was that part of me was still ‘in love’ with him or was ‘in lust’ the reality, though ‘in lust’ was not a concept I felt familiar with. Too often I remembered all the good times but knew all too well I certainly did not want or intend to ever have a ‘relationship’ with him again. Yet, I kept on questioning what that ‘in love’ was really based on and my answer was always the previous ‘good sex’. I also realised he was the only man I had ever been totally open and honest with, feeling like it counted for ‘something’ beyond just sex. Moreover, we had once talked about so many other things such as politics, the world and general current affairs I could not forget those conversations either. Certainly, the sex was a very powerful attraction and one I couldn’t shake free of at that time, and although the weekend was a ‘sexual’ disappointment, I considered whether my ‘picking up’ the guy in the disco was a ‘ploy’ and a ‘game’ to see if Richard still ‘cared’, also contemplating whether his comments about the two, sexy women at the bar in the restaurant was a similar ‘game’ for him. Irrespective of what games people play, the weekend only reinforced that I didn’t want to just ‘pick up’ men for sex and indeed, I never did that again in such a calculating way.
Richard and I stayed in touch with one another over the next few months, mostly via the telephone when I started ringing him just for someone to talk to. He was usually amiable and pleasant and I had to live with all my mixed emotions about him, hoping I would meet another man to enjoy really good sex with and some stimulating conversation. I didn’t want another ‘relationship’ until I sorted Richard out ‘in my own mind’. The following weekend, I went out with the guy I’d met at the disco on a dinner date, but didn’t want to have sex with him and never saw him again. For the next two or three months, I didn’t have sex with anyone else, taking off for a two-week holiday to Spain with an Australian girl-friend (then residing in London) for some more R & R. Exhausted after a relentless work schedule on the science series, it ended for a summer break having a new 12-month contract to sign when I returned from holiday. Fate changed my direction.
It was the second day of our holiday when my girl-friend met a Spanish guy, call him Diego, and I met a local, Pedro, in a disco just a couple of nights later. Pedro, my man, if I even call him that, was just 18-years-old and I was then 24. He didn’t speak a word of English and I knew no Spanish, but was hoping we’d speak the same language in bed. We didn’t. Certainly attracted to him with his piercing, jet dark eyes and gorgeous black hair, his body slim and taut, I didn’t care at all about our language barrier as many bedtime experiences had revealed language could be no barrier at all. I simply lusted after his good looks and by contrast I was plump, pink and pot-bellied. Part of my raison d’etre for a holiday was about losing weight and getting fit, though I always seemed to have huge reserves of energy despite being overweight, my misshapen torso never interfering with my sexual appetite. I just needed and wanted some sexual pleasure in the hot summer of southern Europe. I still wasn’t on The Pill and didn’t even have a packet with me. Playing Russian roulette with pregnancy, I seemed to get away with it, not asking my girlfriend whether she was taking The Pill either. Concerns just by passed me, ignorantly and stupidly, without even raising the ‘safe sex’ issue with Pedro to use a condom. He didn’t suggest it either. The sex was over before I felt much at all as he came within about five minutes and that was the end of it. I knew all about ‘foreign’ girls and the Spanish males who ‘used’ them because their own kind wouldn’t indulge in pre-marital sex, accepting that morality because I was ‘using’ him, too. After a week in a cheap pensione, my girl-friend’s Diego who was older than us and spoke reasonably good English, offered us an apartment his family owned to stay in for nothing in a village nearby the township we were living in. Ironically, the apartment was in the same building complex where Pedro’s family owned the village bar/restaurant. Asking me if he could have ‘sex’ with me again putting ‘sex’ in inverted commas because it hardly qualified as that for me, I told him ‘si’, hoping the initial ‘five-minutes’ might just extend into longer that would arouse and satisfy me. He started arriving at the apartment for sex every night after he finished working in the restaurant in the early hours of the morning, stopped coming quite so quickly, but the sex still did little for me. It was pleasant, but I didn’t come at all. My girl-friend however, had ‘fallen’ for Diego, and it seemed reciprocated, announcing a few days before we were due to return to London that she was ‘going to marry him’. I nearly fell off the bar stool on the beach.
Suffice to say we returned to England, and on walking into my apartment in the town up North on the Sunday night before returning to work on the Monday morning, I burst into tears. Lonely and work-obsessed in the previous twelve months, I just couldn’t contemplate doing it again for another twelve months and living there in the cold, dank, grey environs of another winter. At just 24-years-old, I needed to reassess my priorities as while work had been intellectually stimulating, challenging and intensive; a rewarding learning experience, I felt exhausted as it had been eight years of full-time work and part-time study without a decent break in between. Moreover, I had enjoyed virtually no social life and was pondering whether a work focused life was a lifestyle I wanted. Having saved substantial amounts of money in those twelve months as I had no spare time to spend my earnings as I virtually worked 24/7, I stopped crying and decided I was going to return to London to see if I could get a job there and if not, would return to Spain to travel, learn the language (my schooldays Latin had come in handy during my holiday) and live in a fascist country (Franco was still alive and in charge- that’s another book!). Having lived in a ‘socialist’ community on the kibbutz just five years before, now was my opportunity to see ‘totalitarianism’ in the other extreme and I looked forward to an ‘educational’ experience of an altogether different kind. Besides, Spain was cheap, the food delicious and the people ‘muy’ friendly. With enough money for at least six months to live in Spain, I arrived at work on the Monday morning and resigned, calling Richard in London and asking him to drive up North again to help transport my belongings (mostly a trunk full of books I’d bought as well as music cassettes and tapes) back to London to store at another cousin’s abode then resident in London. The day before my scheduled flight back to Spain, Richard, my Australian girl-friend (who was also a good friend of Richard’s) and I went out for lunch as a farewell. After indulging in plates of delicious Greek cuisine, drinking a couple of bottles of Retsina, Richard and I both felt like continuing the ‘party’ somewhere else as London’s laws prescribed the restaurant and its grog were ‘switched off’ at 3pm. Richard suggested adjourning to a friend’s place nearby to keep on ‘socialising’, the one he’d brought up North that ‘infamous’ weekend and our Australian girl-friend told us she wasn’t coming and would go home. I was in a good mood, excited about my travels the next day and enjoying Richard’s company. Sex was not on my mind, at least not consciously. At the friend’s apartment, we kept on drinking as more and more people arrived for a real ‘party’. There were about 20 people in the room, when I took off my clothes and Richard fucked me on the floor in front of the other revellers. I can’t remember whose idea it was: his or mine, but it was great and I really got off on it, oblivious to who was watching and caring even less. After intercourse which was the first time I came since we had parted more than twelve months before, Richard then picked up an empty wine bottle, using that on me, too. I was in seventh heaven. Shortly after, his friend asked me to accompany him to his bedroom, following him so he could fuck me, too. It felt pretty satisfying, too, though was over in about ten minutes. Free love, that is, free sex, was certainly running ‘amok’ and I revelled in it. By then, it was late at night and exhausted and replete, I returned to my cousin’s where I was staying before jetting out the next day.
On the flight to Spain, I quietly amused myself by thinking of my sexual antics in ‘swinging’ London and the irony of travelling to what I had already realised, albeit not as pervasively as I later understood, ‘puritanical’ Spain. I also was thinking about Richard again, and at least this night it was all about mutual pleasure. Would I ever forget him and meet someone else? Arriving back at the village, I contacted Diego about renting the apartment we had stayed in during the holidays, agreeing to rent it to me where I saw Pedro again. The Pill still wasn’t relevant, starting to even consider whether I was perhaps infertile, not that it concerned me as I didn’t want children at that time. The sex still wasn’t all that crash-hot, but there was ‘something’ about him that interested and/or engaged me beyond the sex per se, the enveloping smells and sounds a ‘turn on’ I experienced as sexy. After the boisterous and at times belligerent behaviour of Richard, I really appreciated Pedro’s quiet and sensitive manner, and during the day, studied Spanish from a text book another Spanish man, Andreas, I had met during our holiday, recommended. Andreas was in his 40s, had lived in Canada for many years and was fluent in English, his home in a more westernised-European urbanization just a few kilometres walk from the village. I quite fancied him as he was older, seemed worldly and more intellectual than other Spanish men I met, but he seemed to fancy my girl-friend when we were on holiday, a pattern that became all too familiar. Despite his lack of lust for me, our friendship became strong and interesting, engaging in philosophical discussions as well as traversing political terrain and the reality of Franco’s dictatorship. Preoccupied with Pedro, I dismissed Andreas as a man who just wasn’t interested in me sexually. The Spanish language came easily to me, soon engaging in ‘conversations’ with Pedro about all manner of things including his family, his ambitions, the country’s politics and ‘foreign’ girls and sex. He even started apologising for coming too quickly when he realised I hadn’t as I no longer ‘faked’ it, talking to him for hours at night when he finished work. Lying together in bed with a dictionary in my hand till he returned home to sleep, I asked him whether he thought ‘foreign’ girls were ‘bad’. He replied ‘not bad or good’, just ‘differente’.
My girlfriend, who had stayed in London due to having no money to live in Spain when I jetted out, was persuaded to join me with Diego offering to pay her share of the rent while I offered to lend her several hundred pounds. After a fortnight on my own, she joined me in Spain. My relationship with my girlfriend soon became strained as Diego had an altogether different take on my bedtime frolics dismissing me as a ‘bad’ influence on my girlfriend, telling her she wasn’t to accompany me to bars for a drink and/or food anymore. Sadly for her, she accepted his ‘control’. The ‘relationship’ with Pedro continued for the five months I lived there and while the sex between us was ‘beautiful’ on one level; tender, gentle, romantic almost, it never touched me the way Richard’s sexual expertise, or so I thought in those days, had. He was a very young, Catholic boy who wasn’t interested for reasons he would never impart, in anything but putting his cock up my cunt. Yes, he kissed me on the mouth, but that was about the extent of our sexual coupling. He never touched my cunt or played with me and didn’t want me to touch his cock, let alone put it into my mouth. I did have sex with another three or four Spaniards during my time there, mostly young men and a couple of Diego’s ‘amigos’, but they were all equally disappointing. I did tell Pedro and it wasn’t until we had been seeing each other for about three months that he ‘seemed’ to change his attitude towards me. He said my sexual behaviour was none of his business, with the shift in his attitude manifesting as more interest and/or effort in ensuring I came too, far more positively than he ever had before. A couple of times it worked. It was essentially ‘vanilla’ sex however, without foreplay or fondling. But as with Richard, just being near him was a turn on, so that touching me didn’t matter, with kissing him enough for me to get wet and excited. While I accepted he was seeing me for sex only or intercourse and some kind of ejaculation satisfaction, my sexual satisfaction receded in significance as I was more interested in him as a sensitive and intelligent young man. We shared an intimacy in bed beyond sex as we could relate emotionally and intellectually, despite his limited worldly experience.
One night threw my perspective onto a whole new level. I always accepted his main interest in me was ‘sex’, and while we talked for hours too, I always believed ‘sex’ was the raison d’etre for his visits. On Saturday nights, Pedro was often excused from working late in his family’s bar to go out with his amigos, often arriving at the apartment at 2 or 3 in the morning. After about three months on one particular Saturday night, I was in bed early at 10pm as I had my period and didn’t feel that well, my stomach cramping and uncomfortable, just lying in bed reading. We never locked the apartment door, and surprisingly, Pedro waltzed into my bedroom at that time. Instead of sitting on my bed as he usually did, he sat on the nearby chair, looking pensive and subdued and saying nothing. I told him I wasn’t in the mood for sex as I had my period and he should go home. Certainly, I had had sex many times when I was menstruating as my libido usually felt heightened at that time of the month, but that night I had severe cramps and just didn’t feel at all sexy. I never had sex with Pedro during menstruation. On telling Pedro I didn’t feel like sex, he didn’t move. Suddenly, after a few moments of silence, he just started talking non-stop about how he couldn’t ‘talk’ to his ‘amigos’ anymore and wanted to be with me, leaving the disco on his own to see me. He said he didn’t care about the sex. I didn’t know what to say as he just kept talking, explaining that he had initially not ‘cared’ about me but now he did. He didn’t say he was in love with me or anything close to that, instead detailing how his feelings about me had all changed and he didn’t know what to do. He added ‘you’ll go back to England and I’ll have lost my friends’. After talking for about two hours I only interjected briefly as I really didn’t know what to say, let alone how I felt, too. Finally I suggested he return to his friends and he left the apartment. Lying in bed for a couple of hours, I chain smoked as I thought about him, unsure what to make of the conversation or him. Moreover, what was I feeling? On the one hand, I knew he was right as I was already getting bored with the lifestyle and we lived in such different worlds and accepted it was just my ‘time-out’ from the rat race. He knew that too.
The next morning, I imparted some of the ‘conversation’ to my girl-friend and Diego, both of them disbelieving, realising pretty quickly what they thought of me, too. Andreas and I were still good friends though I didn’t tell him what had transpired with Pedro and while he was unattached, he had often amusingly regarded me as ‘too much of a woman’ whatever that meant. He would never elaborate. Certainly, I was attracted to him too, but we talked ‘politics, sex and religion’ philosophically without ever indulging in bed. Pedro often told me I was far more ‘suited’ to Andreas than him as he was an older man and more intelligent. The reality however was I was ‘infatuated’ with Pedro and content with Andreas as a friend with interesting thoughts and ideas.
A few days after Pedro’s ‘talk’ with me, Andreas told me he was driving to Madrid to see his family, inviting me to join him as another female Spanish friend I vaguely knew was also going to accompany him. We could spend time together while he was busy with his family. Excited about seeing more of Spain and visiting Madrid, I grabbed the opportunity. It was now winter in southern Europe; sunny but crisp, cold days and freezing nights and his female friend, Marina, and I soon found a cheap but comfortable pensione to stay in. During the day, we ‘touristed’ around Madrid and after a couple of nights, Andreas contacted us to go out for dinner with another male friend of his. Suffice to say the male friend, Fabre, suggested we adjourn to his apartment for sex after dinner. We went to his apartment in the city, even though I didn’t fancy him that much but thought (hoped) I’d have a good time. We spent the night there as Andreas took Marina back to the pensione while he stayed with his family. It was Spanish-style sex with Fabre, as I called it then, ad nauseum; a gentle fumble and fuck with my body and its needs untouched and unmoved. With him, I hankered, even needed more foreplay and petting, but accustomed to the predictable ritual, missionary sex without more, I just smiled quietly inside and performed accordingly. Despite the lacklustre sex, Fabre was an interesting guy who worked as an economist for a Spanish airline, inviting me out for dinner the next night on our own. I agreed, arranging for him to pick me up at the pensione that night, appreciating that ‘good sex’ didn’t usually happen on the first encounter and hoped for greater pleasure second time around. Good sex did demand time to know each other to feel more relaxed and comfortable. The morning after our first night together, he had paid for a taxi for my return to the pensione where Marina was waiting for me. This is going to be interesting, I thought privately to myself, wondering what she’d make of my sexual behaviour. In the few days we had been together in Madrid, I learned Marina was 34 and head of a hotel house maid staff near the village I lived in and surprisingly, unmarried and still a virgin. She wasn’t Spanish-style beautiful as I thought about so many of the young women I’d met but pale and plump with curly, brown hair. So many other young Spanish females were slim and olive-skinned with flowing, ebony locks. She was however warm and friendly and we communicated well in Spanish as she did not speak English. Although sometimes obsessed by my own looks and appearance, I had shed several kilos since living in the village, eating far more healthily and walking nearly 6km along the beach late almost every morning to visit Andreas in his business office which was also his home. At that time, I didn’t ever wonder if Marina’s virginity and unmarried status could be associated with her less attractive visage than the other young females I saw. It only now occurs to me as I write this as in the 21st century I think about appearance, looks and sex far more than I did in my teens and twenties, albeit in a very different perspective.
Marina and I engaged in an amazing conversation where unlike my own Australian girl-friend and Diego, she was not at all disapproving of my behaviour. Indeed, when she told me she was still a ‘virgin’ she explained that she just hadn’t met a suitable man to marry and as a Catholic, believed in being a virgin on her wedding day. I had no idea how many young, Spanish girls adhered to that philosophy, but it wasn’t all that different to the 60s sexual mores in the west. The difference was that in the village and its environs in those years in the 70s, the young male Spaniards I met and talked with in bars and cafes, including Pedro, did appreciate that they could far more easily have sex with ‘foreign’ girls from all over the world than engage with their own kind. A ‘good’ Spanish girl would be a virgin when she married and some of the boys expected that to be reality, with Catholic attitudes entrenching those sexual mores more deeply. I’m unsure as to what Marina really believed or knew about other young Spanish males and females, but she was aware that my life in Australia and England was very different to her own in Spain. We discussed some female rights’ issues as she was an intelligent and thoughtful woman who read books and knew there were opportunities other than a destiny of marriage and kids. For her that was still top priority. Now as I write this, I’m considering whether it was, moreover is, any different from women in the west. The only issue I can highlight is that with the women’s liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s young, educated and mostly middle-class females wanted a career as well as the husband and kids, embracing the whole concept of ‘having it all’. Marina didn’t envisage a ‘career’ as particularly important, though she told me she was partly envious, though not at all jealous, of how I could live. She accepted it was different in Spain without wanting to change it. Our conversations were not what I expected but it was reassuring to know not all Spaniards were locked in a moral prison.
The next night at dinner with Fabre, we adjourned to his apartment again, telling him that I was getting bored in the village and needed to work again, but that I wasn’t keen to return to England. He spoke English well too, but the sex was again just ‘ordinary’ with no advance on the previous night. Certainly, I enjoyed our conversation as he was well travelled and interested in politics and current affairs, but I wasn’t that interested in him, wondering whether it was the unexciting sex that curbed my interest. As much as I thought I was living the ‘free sex’ liberating morality, I still didn’t ‘tell’ my sexual partners what to do to improve the encounter, still believing, albeit unconsciously, the man would, or should, know how to excite and arouse me. I took the initiative in suggesting sex sometimes, not just with Richard but a couple of others, too, but when it was bedtime, I wanted the man to ‘lead the way’. While I had suggested oral sex to Pedro, his interest wasn’t that adventurous. Moreover, when I did initiate sex with Richard, I was oft told I was ‘a sex maniac’ and ‘insatiable’, though at the time, it seemed humorous and amusing. My behaviour in bed wasn’t always conscious in those days, rating men’s performance as good fucks or basic duds according to what they did or didn’t do and how I felt. Apart from imparting ‘that feels good’ and/or ‘do that again’, I didn’t offer much feedback to my male sexual partners nor did I ever suggest what they should or might do. Why didn’t I? I don’t have a clear answer to that one except to surmise that the traditional stereotype of a more experienced and knowledgeable male was still extant in my psyche and I don’t recall reading in even Greer’s tome about females actually ‘leading the way’ in sexual encounters. Maybe I’ve just forgotten, but remembering what she penned about women finding their own sexuality, her emphasis was more focused on appreciating and understanding our own bodies and their individual needs and wants almost separate to their sex with men. After Richard and I finally parted, I started trying to understand how a woman could learn about herself in bed alone, so as to speak. The good sex with Richard I’d worked out was because he seemed to know something about female bodies and what they (I?) needed and wanted and he wasn’t selfish. I was still struggling to understand and/or appreciate whether his ‘attention’ to me during the good times of our relationship was because he felt he loved me and cared whereas for the other men I’d oft been with, I’d been just a ‘sex’ partner without any emotional attachment. And were my feelings in the same boat? Was my want or desire for only a ‘sex’ partner affecting my sexual responses or was it that I was still ignorant about my own body, expecting men to ‘show’ me how good it could be? Why was I expecting them to know about females when I knew nothing about males? Yes, I’d certainly learned about Richard, but was that because I loved and cared about him too? Yet initially the sexual impetus was inspired by him and my expectation of other males resided in me for decades. Was it just me being selfish or did it really take two to tango, love irrelevant? It took another decade to find out.
Fabre mentioned I should consider moving to live in Madrid, trying to convince me I’d find journalism work in the big city. I wasn’t persuaded and besides, I was missing Pedro, thinking about him in an altogether different way since the night of his visit without the sex. In a diary I kept in Spain, I wrote after nearly four months: ‘am I really in love with him- who knows and I don’t give a damn!…(I did of course, though obviously tried to downplay how much I did care)…there is this terrible, terrible ache; a loneliness and sometimes I feel I’ll never find a man to accept me as I am – crazy, impulsive, erratic, moody, aggressive, quiet, too independent, too honest, too outspoken!’ Finding a man, however much I knew my work took precedence in my life, was still a paramount concern. Marina and I spent another few days in Madrid together before Andreas picked us up to return to the village. Fabre told me he would visit me in the village sometime soon and was as good as his word. Becoming fluent in Spanish at least regarding speaking and listening without translating from English in my head, I could now read the newspaper, some current affairs magazines, engaging with all sorts of Spanish people, ‘falling in love’ with the people, the music, food, and more relaxed and tranquil way of life, at least that’s how it seemed on the surface.
At the same time as I loved the village and its environs, sexually, it was an eye-opener into another world, albeit a really repressed and backward thinking social milieu that appeared out of the 19th century. An ‘amigo’ I’d met and talked with in the bar on many occasions told me on my return to the village that the villagers, both the women and the men, most of whom were not friends as such, thought my Australian girl-friend and I were ‘prostitutes’, as how could two, young girls afford to live like that without working. They knew my girl-friend was seeing Diego and they knew I saw Pedro, but when I was told about the prostitution, I was gob-smacked, explaining how I’d worked so hard and saved my money in England. While he said he understood, for the other villagers, it was beyond their comprehension. Spanish young women were mostly married, living as mothers and wives to their men who worked. It was 1974/75 and it was as if women’s lib had never ‘visited’ that village. In Madrid, it had been a different scenario. Furthermore, Marina worked for herself, too. Foreign girls were in another ‘world’ altogether to the village Spaniards.
When I arrived back from Madrid, I received the shock that my girlfriend had decided to become Diego’s ‘live-in’ lover in a town just eight kms from the village, though Diego would still live at home with his family. From my perspective, she became a ‘kept’ woman, but I deferred from saying as much though privately was aghast and ashamed for her. No longer needing or being able to afford a two-bedroom apartment which Diego paid half the rent of, I moved out to rent a one-bedroom apartment and was on my own again. A few nights later, when Pedro made his ‘usual’ visit to my abode, both of us received another ‘shock’. He had been with me for a couple of hours, having sex and talking. The sex still left much to be desired, but we shared an intimacy and closeness that I really loved. Suddenly, at about 4 am, there was a loud knock at the door, with Pedro bolting out of bed, mumbling ‘mi padre, mi padre’, dressing hurriedly and departing, though kissing me ‘adios’. Seeing him in the bar as I went every morning for coffee, we never mentioned it and he didn’t return at night for over a week. On visiting again, he explained his ‘padre’ had become aware it was no longer just visits for ‘sex’ and he was worried, telling Pedro he must keep his visits to an hour, no more. I then suggested to him that he come with me to Madrid as I still had enough money for a couple of months and hoped to find some journalism work there as Fabre suggested. Village life was fast boring me intellectually. Realising I was not just a ‘mere sexual plaything’ for him, deep down I suspected he wouldn’t come with me, but asked anyway and wasn’t surprised when he said he couldn’t. Deciding to leave the country soon and return to London,
Fabre arrived to the town nearby about two weeks later for a holiday. We had lunch together and I suggested we visit my girlfriend in her apartment as our contact had been limited since she’d moved in with Diego. She never bothered to visit me in the village and I’d only been to her apartment a couple of times. Suffice to say ‘siesta time’ had finished as I didn’t want Diego to see me with Fabre, knowing he would be back at work. Fabre and I ended up having sex again in my girlfriend’s apartment and my diary records ‘he wasn’t very good in bed and my thoughts to Pedro, who I can’t seem to blot out.’ Later in the bar that night, where I’d had dinner with Fabre and Andreas, I’ve penned: “Pedro was staring at me, and I just can’t take my eyes off him…I’m madly in love with Pedro, it hurts, but what can I do?’ Furthermore, Fabre then ‘told me he could see himself falling in love with me, even asked me to come and live with him in Madrid; drunk, joke, but he said he was serious. But Christ, it’s not just that easy for me! Just to decide to go and live with someone! And me, who’s so in love with my 19-year-old Pedro- god only knows what he thinks of me!’ In retrospect, I oft wondered whether the less than satisfying sex was a significant reason for telling Fabre I wouldn’t go with him to Madrid, though consciously, it was more about my consistent belief in maintaining my economic independence. Moreover, the sex with Pedro was less than satisfying too though I was increasingly becoming more and more ‘infatuated’ with him, leaving me once more to entertain and understand the nexus between love and sex. Later in conversation with another ‘amigo’ in the bar, he told me ‘Pedro gets jealous when you talk to Andreas and the others, and I said, so what? …Oh Christ, I feel guilty about sleeping with Fabre; I’m sure Pedro thinks so, why do I care about these people because only I care about Pedro and I love him – or something that is eating me up! Siempre (always) Pedro! Siempre! Siempre! Like a stupid disease I can’t seem to shake off!’
Fabre was staying in town in a hotel, but after our ‘sexcapade’ at the apartment, I received yet another ‘shock’ My girl friend had told Diego, only to inform me later that he reacted angrily at me ‘using’ the apartment he was paying for and I was no longer welcome there. I knew Diego strongly disapproved of my sexual behaviour as I’d had sex with two of his ‘amigos’ when I first returned to the village, albeit as disappointing as Fabre, too, but my girlfriend supported him and I was horrified at her. What was she for fuck’s sake compared to me? I didn’t visit her again and while I saw Fabre a few more times in the week he stayed, we never discussed me living with him in Madrid again. He left to return home and that was the end of him.
While Pedro might have known about my sex with Fabre, I recorded in my diary that people in the village ‘judged me on whether I sleep with men or not!…’ Furthermore, Diego’s anger and contempt for me because I had sex with Fabre in ‘his’ apartment, reflected that ‘he seems to be going backwards not forwards…for my friend, I just don’t know –playing the dutiful housewife, living off him, seeing no one else: it’s no kind of life for me! Fight for yourself- I must continue to be strong, to believe in myself against all the odds!’ Moreover, Pedro’s inability to satisfy me sexually was obviously an issue for him as I’ve written in my diary that he asked me ‘did a man with much experience always satisfy a woman? No, I told him. …(adding) that one’s mind (was) very important: I also told him that I don’t sleep with anyone else, (not anymore in Spain I had realised); when I was younger, sure, it was important, now, I want to know someone because it just wasn’t worth it. I’m left feeling so strange; he’s such a strange boy, always different, I know I’m not in love with him, but very fond of him and he interests me more than anyone else. (How my feelings came and went so quickly about Pedro; as if one minute I’m always thinking about him, only to recognise and realistically understand that it wasn’t love, but just a really warm tenderness for his sensitivity and care). I’ve also recorded that I thought about Richard again and that night in London at the ‘party’ before I went to Spain to live, writing: “I miss that- perhaps it is debauched and degenerate (sex still lingering as what exactly for me to use those words) but it is still part of me- I imagine the people – even Pedro- would think me absolutely depraved if I ever told him that story- which of course I’m not so stupid as to even begin to – and when I think about my past, it’s amazing how much different I’ve been here – good no – but still, the same sort of judgements, sex – nearly always, it’s the only thing on people’s minds; men because – as everybody keeps telling me – they’re “hot’ – and women because they’re probably frustrated and jealous as hell..’ As for Pedro – I believed ‘there is a quality in him that sets him a little apart from many of the others- but essentially, he is the same – what is that essential difference- probably as I see it a hankering after experience, after life – after some of the risks, even with me, but then, like the others, he steps back when the going gets too rough, listens to his father, or the others, because he’s still too young to really know what’s best for him. And I know what’s best for me and it’s certainly not him!….I feel sad that people can be so narrow-minded, that they can judge you on the merits of who you sleep with and who you don’t, and when I think of the kibbutz in Israel, and that old Russian man in his 70s who was encouraging sex because he claimed it was unnatural to thwart it- then I think it’s not a question of a generation gap, but an entirely different concept of humanness- of values, of morality…’ In Spain ‘they deny one of the most natural appetites of man-sex. Shroud it in obscurity, don’t talk about it except with foreign girls, and don’t do it with your own kind- until you’re married! If you’re a girl, that is!’ Moreover, I’ve also written ‘I’m tired of the constant banter of sex, of la cama (bed), last night, (a couple of amigos) told me I was obsessed by it; but if that’s true, it’s only because that’s the main thing I’ve heard here for nearly four months. … as for Pedro, he looked at me today with a very cool distance; so fuck it – cherish the good memories, remember the nights in the other apartment when you and he dreamed and talked of life, of being close and warm- and blot out all these last few days – except for the tranquillity and peace you’ve absorbed- and enjoyed. Half of me wishes I could make him understand, but I have tried so many times and he sticks stubbornly by his convictions as I do, too, I suppose about the men here…I think part of the problem here is that men want their women to be soft and pretty; a little docile so that they’re manageable.’
As much as I was ‘obsessed’ by the mentality about sex, I had developed an even closer friendship with Andreas. Having his own rent-a-car business with another Spanish man, I frequently visited his office during siesta time when his work was quiet. Indeed, I had ‘fucked’ his partner, a married man who proved to be just another ‘cock up my cunt’ experience. Andreas and I often used to go out for dinner after 9pm when the Spanish working day was over, talking over paella or garlic prawns at my favourite restaurant in the old township. He was a well-read man and intellectually, we shared much in common. However, he had often ‘joked’ about me being ‘too much of a woman for him’; and asking him what he actually meant, he never elaborated. Moreover, while I had been overweight when I first went to live there, over the months I had shed heaps of unsightly flesh, both feeling and looking good. He commented on that too as he had ‘jokingly’ referred to me as ‘fattie’ early in our ‘relationship, only later telling me it was good that I lost weight and looked much better. Partly pleased by his praise for my effort, I was also quietly angered yet again, by his and many men I met, preoccupation with female appearance and weight. While Richard and I argued over that one, it was no different in Spain, as Pedro also commented on my weight loss, without however elaborating any further. He never told me I looked better as I had told him I felt better, fitter and healthier. That’s good was his only utterance.
One night, when I had gone back to Andreas’ place to listen to some music and talk after dinner, he told me he was too tired to drive me back to the village as he usually did, suggesting I stay the night and share his bed. Somewhat surprised I didn’t think anything sexually, accepting that he and I were strictly platonic. I was tired too. We went to bed together naked and he put his arms around me, touching my tits, but nothing more. Within about ten or fifteen minutes, we fell asleep. Or I did. He woke up early in the morning for work and drove me back to the village, stopping for a coffee together in Pedro’s family’s bar. Pedro wasn’t there. Andreas left and I went back to my apartment alone. It was strange, wondering why nothing sexually had happened, but then, I just accepted he didn’t really fancy me, though I still occasionally fancied him which went nowhere. I accepted our relationship as just good friends and I still thought about Pedro. Yet there was a closeness with Andreas too as falling asleep with him felt good but I just had to leave it at that. Now I’m pondering whether I should have initiated something though at the time it never crossed my mind, once again expecting him to make the first move. Maybe he tried to by holding my tits, but I soon fell asleep. Sometimes you think what if?
While the people’s obsession with sex, at least about me, was making me more and more angry, an even ‘uglier’ face of sex in those environs reared its head to convince me it was time to ‘get out’ of Spain. Cruising the highway almost daily on motorbikes, a member of the military police (this was a fascist country then), the Guardia Civil as it was called, used to drop into the village bar owned by Pedro’s family for a coffee or beer en route to wherever. This particular guy had asked me out several times always refusing as he was decidedly unattractive and there was absolutely NO WAY I wanted anything to do with the military police. I was very aware of the torture, imprisonment and persecution of any Spaniard who dared to defy Franco’s regime, aided and abetted by the Guardia Civil. I talked to this guy occasionally, but kept my mouth shut about politics. This night, he appeared in the bar quite drunk and started hassling me, promising he could obtain a work permit for me so I could work and stay in the country. I knew it was but a camouflage for what he really wanted and I turned my back on him, telling him in Spanish to ‘leave me alone’. I was drinking a coffee by myself and reading at the bar. He didn’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer, starting to get angry with me as I kept repeating to ‘leave me alone’. After a few minutes repeatedly hassling me he went ‘beserk’, smashing his beer glass against the wall and screaming at me in Spanish with words I couldn’t understand. Scared and frightened, Pedro’s brother who was working in the bar that night, told me ‘go home’. I left. About two hours later, having locked the apartment door, there was a knock on it. Asking who it was, I was stunned to espy through my glass front door (I covered it with a blanket) two, younger Guardia Civil policemen standing outside I had never seen before. They wanted to come in and talk to me. Feeling they might just be there to apologise for the other’s guy outburst (how naive was I?), I let them in as they said ‘sorry’ about what had happened. After a few minutes I asked them to leave. They duly departed. About 20 minutes later, they knocked again, claiming from outside the door they had mistakenly ‘left’ a torch in my apartment. Could they come in to retrieve it? This time I’d come to my senses and wouldn’t open the door or let them in. I was scared. I looked around the sitting room but of course, there was no torch anywhere and told them to go away, hearing them walk away after a few minutes. I was now shaking in fear, and with nowhere else to go, went back to the bar to be told by Pedro’s brother that I was white. I was still shaking and now even more frightened. The apartment was directly behind the back of the bar and Pedro’s brother told me to go home, reassuring me they wouldn’t bother me again. I returned to the apartment, chain smoking all night without sleeping as I was just too damn frightened, knowing only too well what went on in this fascist country about politics where they could lock me up and throw away the key. This was about sex however and it was horrifying, deciding that I’d had enough and the next morning, after a coffee in the bar, went into the town to book a flight back to London the next day. I told my Australian girl-friend in town I was returning to England and went back to the apartment to pack. So ended my Spanish sojourn in the village. Pedro wasn’t in the bar and I never said ‘adios’.
Arriving in London to stay with the other cousin living in the city, I immediately rang my old boss in the TV station up North, arranging to visit him in a couple of days. It was all to no avail as he told me you think you can just leave and then walk back in when you want; it’s not like that as there are others who want your job and I’ve just hired two, new researchers. I knew we didn’t particularly like each other, but I was determined to get my old job back, going above him to see if his boss, the Head of Current Affairs who had originally employed me, would see me. He agreed. We always had interesting conversations, so I elaborated on some of my Spanish experiences, leaving out all references to sex, of course, giving him Diego’s family’s address to contact me if any job opportunity arose as I informed him I was returning to Spain. My plan was not to live in the village and as my money was fast running out and Spain was cheap, I hoped I could find some work teaching English or waitressing in a bar. I needed to replenish my finances before I embarked on another journey into god knows where.
I stayed on the Costa del Sol with Australian retirees I had previously met living there. They had rented a house a few kms from the village, often having coffee, beer and meals together in Pedro’s family’s bar. They welcomed me with open arms. I walked to see Andreas, telling him I hoped to find work in a bar in town. A couple of days later, on visiting him again, he imparted the news that an ‘amigo’ of his was looking for a ‘foreign’ waitress to work in his bar at night, hours 5pm-midnight. Giving me the amigo’s telephone number, I called him and went to talk to him and although I thought he was a ‘sleaze-bag’, the bar environs were warm, cosy and more importantly, I would be working and earning money. I would begin the next night. The shock set in about 9.30pm on the first night of work. One man, circa in his 30s, kept insisting I meet him after work for a ‘rendevous’ which I knew meant sex and as he kept on drinking, I started to get more and more depressed. Moreover, the other barmaid, a sight for sore-eyes with bright, red lips, smeared dark, brown powdery make-up, with dyed blonde hair black at its roots, told me I should go and meet him. Half her tits were hanging out of a cotton white blouse, squeezed into a tight, straight skirt, while I was covered up in a denim jacket and skirt. I didn’t get what was going on, no longer serving the man any drinks and just standing back behind the bar, espying the clientele. They were all male and I kept mulling over what the agenda really was, almost crying. An older man, somewhere in his 50s, very thin and wizened, was sitting at the end of the bar on his own, sipping a beer. He called me over. In no uncertain words, and very gently, he told me the bar was really a ‘front’ for a brothel, which were of course, banned in Franco’s Spain. It was my job to get the customers drunk, have sex with them later, and pay a share to the owner. I was stupefied. How could Andreas have sent me there? That’s what really got me. The older man then told me he was a taxi driver and asked me where I was living. Telling him it was about a 30-minute drive away he said he would drive me home as I replied I had no money to pay him. His response brought the tears I’d been fighting off to my eyes as he replied ‘Por Nada; Nada.’ I will take you home for nothing. Without waiting to be paid for the five hours I’d worked as the sleaze bag owner was not on the premises, the taxi driver duly took me home, chatting in Spanish on the drive about what I was now going to do in Spain. I told him I didn’t know. I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his kindness and care. My Australian friends were asleep, waking them up to inform them about the ‘front’ the next morning. I was more horrified at Andreas than anything else, deciding to go and confront him, though he vehemently denied knowing it was a brothel and that he was setting me up as a ‘prostitute’. I didn’t really believe him and left.
I still had enough money for a few weeks, so for a few days, I just relaxed, spending time in the bar in the village without hassles (Pedro was away in the army doing his military service) and seeing my Australian girl-friend who was now working in a boutique in town. Diego had still not moved in with her. Within a couple of days, as I anxiously contemplated what I was going to do, Diego arrived in the bar early one night waving a ‘telegram’ in my face. It was from my immediate boss in the science department from the TV company up North, offering me a contract position for 12-months as a researcher on a documentary and I should call him if I accepted the offer. Although it was the boss who had rejected me when I first returned from Spain and understood well enough we didn’t really like each other, I duly called him and arranged to be back up North the following week. It was the best news ever at the time and farewelling Spain I looked forward to a whole new chapter in my life.
My Spanish experience was therapeutic in not just refreshing my body with my healthier regimen and regular walking exercise (I lost about 10 kilos), it also allowed my mind to ‘switch off’ from the rigors of the rat race as well as my preoccupation with Richard. However I had felt about Pedro, be it ‘in love’, infatuated or simply a young man I was endeared to, our relationship reassured me I could feel lovingly, intimately and tenderly about a man again despite the sex being pretty ordinary. That perspective was interesting to contemplate and while Richard and I had enjoyed ‘great sex’ initially, that paled into insignificance when he changed into a man without integrity or principle; at least as far as I was concerned. Professionally as a journalist and sadly, and more importantly, personally, the moral ethics of Richard and I were so strongly opposed that I was aware we were past history. Pedro was just a young and inexperienced young boy but he ‘reached’ into my soul in a way Richard never did. The time we shared together for the first three months was precious, making me reappraise just how important sex really was in a caring relationship, however limited and proscribed. It was still an issue for me as one of the reasons for suggesting Pedro come with me to Madrid was to get him away from the Catholic clutches of his family so he could engage more profoundly in ‘better’ sex. He of course didn’t want that, putting sex into a different perspective for me in a relationship. I no longer thought much about sex and love, recognising Richard’s hold over me was intrinsically sexual that had left me wanting on so many other levels. I was now 25-years-old and hoped I could meet a man who could ‘reach’ me on so many other levels, sex included in that scenario.
In my first week back at work up North, I met the director on the documentary. He immediately appealed as he was slim, bespectacled, and superficially, dynamic and exciting, nearly 10 years older than me and with impressive documentary credentials. A freelance director from London he had worked at the TV company where I had been trying to obtain a job since my arrival in London nearly three years before. At that time, I didn’t even think about any future possibilities of working for that company, simply looking forward to working with him and learning all I could. On a conscious level, I found him sexually attractive, but my thoughts went no further than that superficial appeal. Arranging to visit the main protagonists in London for the documentary, we journeyed down South on a two and a half hour train trip as he left his car in London and I didn’t drive. I’m unsure who started the conversation about sex, but that’s what we talked about during our trip. Call him John, he was unmarried, childless, with his own house in south London and a girl-friend in north London who he had been with for several years and worked at the TV company in London. Of course, I can’t recall all the details of our dialogue; suffice to say I asked him if they were sexually ‘faithful’ to each other as that was an issue of interest about how others managed their relationships. He then burst forth about how he had ‘caught’ her in bed with a senior executive at the TV company, asking him what his reaction was: Did you hit her? Yes, he replied. That reply was what I needed to hear in so far as I knew that whatever transpired between us (we talked together easily and openly) it was always going to be on my terms. Sex and work only; maybe. I cannot recall how long it was after that we ended up in bed together but it wasn’t that long. I’d rented a new apartment for 12-months up North, with him becoming a week long resident in my abode while we were working together on the documentary. We often worked weekends too, but some weekends he returned to London to be with his girl-friend. Clearly, his hitting her had not ended the relationship, neither her infidelity. She was also ten years older than me he imparted, unmarried and childless, too, and I could only conjecture about the ‘nature’ of their relationship, all sounding so depressingly familiar. As much as I enjoyed his company and the sex, I was very wary, but it didn’t seem an issue as he made it very clear to me that he ‘loved’ her. That was fine for me to hear as my agenda involved he as a ‘good fuck’ to enjoy without hoping, or wanting, anything more. The sex with him was limited however as he ‘masturbated’ me without intercourse and while I always came, was perplexed as to why he didn’t want to ‘fuck’ me. I never broached the subject, content at that time with clitoral orgasms and unperturbed about not having a cock up my cunt. He didn’t even put his fingers inside me either, but it didn’t seem to matter at first, realising later how ignorant he was about women. Greer summed it up writing: “If we localize female response in the clitoris we impose upon women the same limitation of sex which has stunted the male’s response.”
After Richard and I parted, I asked a few men I met if they had ever hit a woman, most of them replying ‘yes’ though usually adding ‘but..’ at which point I switched off and crossed them off my list of potential boyfriends. Even one hit, whatever their justification was enough for me to keep them at a safe distance. Maybe that’s part of why I accepted the ‘limited’ sex with John as I didn’t want to get too close to him and realised as well he just wasn’t that interested in me anyway. The sex felt good and helped relieve the tensions that mounted during our work on the documentary, appreciating how sex could be a ‘stress’ relief in a way I’d never understood before. The documentary had many problems and having sex was ‘therapeutic’ in that I would wake up in the morning seemingly more capable of facing another tense and anxious day. I never discussed that with John, but I’ve used sex since as a way of alleviating anxious and stressful situations in my life, mostly on my own and with men when I could. John’s violence and some of the other men I’d asked made me very sure there were never going to be any ‘buts’ for me ever again, maintaining that stance over my life. It was very black and white for me as no excuses or reasons would ever justify a man, or woman, hitting their partner in a so-called ‘loving’ relationship. Similarly, emotional or psychological violence and abuse involving intellectual put downs, disrespect and dishonesty were all on my blacklist. I might not have known exactly what sort of man I needed and/or wanted, but I was extremely clear about what I didn’t need or want, choosing to be on my own until I met a decent man who reciprocated my respect and integrity.
The sex with John was the opposite of Pedro in that he touched me in a way I hadn’t experienced since Richard. Occasionally, I sucked him off too, once telling me ‘I was the best cock-sucker’ he’d enjoyed. We had sex a lot even taking me to his girl-friend’s London apartment during a work trip (she wasn’t home at the time) and wanting to have sex in her bed. I was stunned, refused, and later realised their relationship was about ‘sex games’ too. The thing that got me at the time was that I had been 21-years-old with Richard and pretty naive, ignorant and inexperienced, too. They were both in their mid-30s and still playing these ‘immature’ games. Certainly, I had become more than ‘fond’ of him, often wondering why he didn’t ‘fuck’ me (less guilt that way I found out later). Work was relentless and filming had started in various locations around the country, during which we stayed in first-class hotels, all expenses paid. I soon started putting on weight again, appreciating my need of ‘a cock up my cunt’ and in some ways, was getting bored with him as we talked about work and indulged in sex without much more. One night, in a hotel we were staying at, I just decided to find another man to ‘fuck’ me. After dinner with the crew in the hotel restaurant, we adjourned to the bar to continue drinking and talking, when John rose from his chair to tell me it was late and I should go to bed as we had an early start the next morning. What he meant was I should join him in bed as I replied I wasn’t tired. Trying for a few seconds to persuade me, I didn’t move so he then walked abruptly, even angrily, out of the lounge bar alone. Sharing drink time with one of the crew, I decided I wanted to fuck him and he agreed. We went to his room, where I got on top of him and had a great time. Almost ecstasy, though it was vaginal, not clitoral, but I’d had enough of that. John was distant to me in the morning and things were never the same between us again, cavorting instead a couple of nights later with one of the protagonists involved in the filming, leaving John to drink with the crew. He was really pissed off with me that next morning. Months galloped on and despite his initial annoyance at my sexcapades, he started talking to me about working in London and at the same time, started a ‘sexual’ encounter with one of the secretaries in our office who was unhappily married. In her mid 30s too, she had previously told me about her ‘loveless’ marriage and was ‘madly’ in love with John. Embarking on a new sexual adventure with her, I stopped having sex with him and he stopped living in my apartment.
Certainly, he didn’t take umbrage about my other sexual indulgences (he wasn’t that interested in me) but was well aware I found living up North desolate, lonely and boring as I told him many times. I didn’t care that he was having sex with the secretary and not me anymore, though in some ways was I was ‘infatuated’ with him too as he was exciting and ‘alive’ sexually in an office environment where all the other men I worked with were staid, conservative and ultimately, asexual from my perspective. I was somewhat ‘hurt’ by him starting the ‘affair’ with the secretary, but also acknowledged to myself I had been ‘playing’ with other men and he had a girlfriend in London who he was still partnered with. Moreover, I accepted the essential ‘sexual’ nature of his interest in me, telling me too about another female researcher in the office who was happily married but who he fancied. At the time, he never approached her. Sex was high on his agenda and mine and I reluctantly confronted the reality that it meant lots of different sexual encounters for both of us. However, despite knowing that, I also knew he genuinely cared about trying to help me get a job in London, telling me he would talk to his girl-friend and see what she could do.
There was yet another female researcher of my age, an Oxford University graduate, a self-declared feminist, who had joined the company during my sojourn in Spain, who I befriended. Telling me she had a boyfriend, one night over coffee in my apartment after work, she ‘confessed’ to me their relationship was over. It was, she told me, all about sex, too. She had been with him for more than a year or so, but it transpired he had been having sex with another female because he found sex with her less than he needed, unable to enjoy it with her and leaving him feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. Stunned she opened up to me about sex, I had never really indulged with other girlfriends about sex, except my Australian girlfriend who had accompanied me to Spain, but even those dialogues were limited compared to my conversations with men. I couldn’t believe this girl’s relationship at first (she wasn’t Catholic either), but I wasn’t that surprised on some levels and didn’t ask for ‘details’ about what they did or didn’t do together sexually and certainly didn’t divulge ‘details’ about my sexual indulgences either. Indeed, I’ve told very few women about my experience and even men, too. What I realised with the men I’d been with over the few short years I’d been ‘fucking’ around was that from their perspective, many females didn’t seem to really ‘enjoy’ sex; too often it was about so-called love with sex part of a ‘routine’ in the relationship but not that important to them. The men seemed to need, even want and enjoy sex more and I was often the ‘easy’ lay for them. It was pleasurably mutual and they were as easy for me as I was for them. Happily accepting that role, it left me pondering yet another conundrum about relationships and sex. If John was playing around at his age too and with a girlfriend who was also playing around, what were relationships really based on? How important was sex for men and women (and was intercourse too guilt ridden?) and what was ‘sexual fidelity’ all about? I was just 26-years-old and puzzled by it all, and while the female researcher was very upset at what her boyfriend had told her, the relationship it seemed was ended by him because she wasn’t ‘a good enough fuck’. I could relate to that in one way about Pedro, but just how significant was sex per se? Was it just an individual matter for different human beings? John left the company after the doco was finished and I then worked on another doco, staying in touch with him to arrange a meeting with his girl-friend in London to help me get a job there. Meanwhile, I started an ‘affair’ with another crew member who was married but who didn’t want to fuck me either, just more cunt foreplay. It was the mid-70s and many feminist magazines were full of articles about lesbian sex, reading many of the different magazines proliferating in England at that time. Many of these articles articulated the power and importance of the clitoris rather than the vagina and furthermore, revealed many women were having sex with women because women knew how to ‘pleasure’ women in a way most men didn’t. Indeed, I knew some heterosexual women who were now ‘experimenting’ with women, but I never did. Why? As much as I experimented with Richard, women never appealed to me sexually and in retrospect, I never really felt that close to women, able to be myself more with men than I ever could with women. I had sex with at least a few men who engaged my clitoris as well as my cunt, believing it was not so much what sexual activities you engaged in, but more important was who I wanted to be with and women weren’t on my radar. I didn’t dismiss women as such but they just didn’t turn me on. On one level, my reading and talking to both men and women suggested gender in some ways was irrelevant for many people, but for me, it wasn’t what you did, but who you did it with that mattered and moreover wanted to do it with. It was about a ‘simpatico’ feeling for me and that never existed with women. Yet, I had missed girlfriends up North on some emotional levels, but sexually, I felt far more intimate with men than I ever did with women. Fortunately, a few men I had been with knew enough about women, or at least me, to ‘pleasure’ me the way I needed and wanted and didn’t need women as ‘stand-ins’ for good sex, even though the good sex with men was ‘few’ and far between’. I did revisit the notion of ‘lesbian sex’ decades later as I’ll write.
I started thinking about sex in relation to John too, knowing his girlfriend was also a strong feminist and maybe he, too, thought sex for women centred on their clits. As for the crew member, I’m assuming he might have thought that, too, but I didn’t ask him, also considering whether both he and John, married and partnered respectively, didn’t ‘fuck’ me as intercourse could engender more guilt and refraining from it dismissed that possibility. I didn’t really appreciate at that time that some men just couldn’t get it up, even when their heads might be ‘willing’, their cocks could be unresponsive. Or was that the partner’s fault as maybe I just didn’t turn them on? I couldn’t answer that question then.
At the same time, I did start to ponder whether some men were frightened of my ‘sexuality’ and desires and whether ‘fear’, albeit unconscious, had inhibited an erection. I can’t answer that of course, and in later chapters, I address it even more as the numbers of men who couldn’t get it up increased as I aged and they did, too. Many years later I realised some men couldn’t actually have an erection for all sorts of reasons I didn’t have a clue about at that time, remembering about my cousin during my first sojourn in Spain. Ignorantly, I was unaware of how pervasive this problem could be for some men, even those in their 40s, but it was a pattern I was getting used to all too sadly often. I really didn’t get it and at least not being on The Pill was irrelevant. The affair with the crew member continued for a few weeks and while I enjoyed the sex, albeit limited, I never fell in love with him. As much as lesbian sex was part of a new vernacular about women’s sexual liberation, so too was homosexuality with sexual diversity shaping a new social landscape that I confronted for the first time in my life.
Apart from sex and its limitations with John, I appreciated one thing about him more than anything else as he always told me how damn good I was at my job, respecting me and my work, even if he didn’t get what he always wanted sexually and me too in other ways. For that, I was always very grateful. It was nearly 18 months since I’d been back up North, opting to visit Spain for a holiday break with the documentaries I was working on completed. Pedro was still in the army and I didn’t see him nor engage in sex with anyone during my fortnight stay as Spanish men I realised weren’t my sexual soul mates. Shortly after returning up North, John’s girl-friend rang to say the London-based current affairs program at the TV company was looking for new researchers, giving me the name of the executive producer and telling me to write a letter to him asap. Sending off a cheeky letter, I received a call in reply from his secretary, arranging to see him in London for an interview a few days later. Telling him about my sojourn in Spain, his instant response: who was the man there? Or words to that affect. I replied I had a friend there, but he wasn’t even interested in anything about what I’d learned about the country, its politics, its traditions and history, let alone that I was fluent in Spanish. No one I told in England ever was. It was always about a ‘man,’ as if that was the only reason I lived there, disappointing, but predictable. Within a couple of weeks after our meeting in London, I was offered a job on the current affairs program at the London-based independent company, Thames TV; a “BIG” company part of the ITV network and the only broadcast opposition to the BBC. It was for a summer trial period of three months yet again as a researcher, resigning my job up North to embark on another new beginning.
Working at this company, sex really hit my life in the workplace big time, as did domestic violence, mental health issues including pill popping, alcoholism and suicide as well as rampant sexism and discrimination, based on appearance and assumed sexual preferences. The ‘sex and sexism’ was not just about me, but seemed so pervasive about everyone working at Thames TV that I was shocked and horrified by the attitudes, behaviour and innuendoes that pertained to everybody, men as well as women. Intellectual acumen and abilities were ignored as irrelevant. What was overwhelmingly shocking was that most of the employees seemed to accept this culture as a natural norm of media business, albeit disguised as competitive and challenging whereas my perspective perceived it as combative, corrupt and conspiratorial. Paranoia reigned supreme, jealousies permeated programs and ‘useless’ reporters and producers were earning megabucks because they either ‘looked’ good or sucked up to the powerbrokers in the company. It took me 20 months to walk out; disgusted, depressed and totally disillusioned about the media in the UK, certainly TV.
My first experience of the cultural sexual obsession focused on homophobia, visibly on display on my first day at work with no words needed as articulation of sadistic attitudes. A male colleague, call him Robert who was in his early 30s and gay, told me he had a ‘problem’ with his back. One of the producers sat behind him at his desk, and as Robert left his desk for a brief moment, the producer, ‘Martin’ saw him get up to find something a few feet away on another desk. Returning to sit down, Martin pulled Robert’s chair out from under him so he thudded heavily on his back onto the floor to Martin’s manic amusement. Although gay rights were increasingly on the social agenda alongside women’s rights, I had never really thought about homosexuality per se despite encountering it in Melbourne occasionally and it was now 1976 and campaigning protests against oppressive laws were being staged across the media for gay liberation as much as for women. For whatever reasons, I had just never really contemplated what it must have been like at that time to be gay. Certainly, I knew that Oscar Wilde had been ‘imprisoned’ for his homosexuality, confronting that imprisonment as ‘aberrant and totally unjust’, but beyond that, my thoughts had been about women’s liberation, especially my own. I started to reflect on my past encounters with homosexual males remembering my first boss at my Melbourne newspaper who was gay or so I was told by a couple of other young, female cadets. Referring to him as ‘queer’, that appellation seemed cruel, but they also used his homosexuality as justification for copping a hard time from him about what stories they were asked to cover. They complained he didn’t like women, particularly female reporters, the implication being because he was a homosexual. Initially brusque with me in the first couple of months of my employment in 1968, I confronted him, demanding ‘a fair go’ no different to the young male counterparts I worked with. I did entertain thoughts he appeared to ‘discriminate’ against me because I was female, but we compromised and I was satisfied. Successful in writing a couple of good stories, he soon changed his attitude towards me and became an amicable boss, much to the chagrin of the two other female reporters. Jealousy raged rampant which I ignored, making friends with others, mostly males in the 95 per cent male dominated workplace. There was also another male football reporter who was ‘in your face’ homosexual; but at the time, none of it really registered as an issue for me. Both my boss and the football reporter did their jobs and were well-regarded. So was I. Then, when the two gay men fronted me in my apartment the night of Richard’s violence, the reality of them being gay didn’t seem remarkable or at all odd to me as they were just caring human beings. I didn’t have any homosexual friends. Robert’s misfortune at Thames revealed itself as a ‘shock’ as he was being ‘laughingly persecuted’ for being gay as he told me he had worked at Thames before and Martin knew he had a problem with his back. I was aghast. We occasionally talked about his homosexuality and the public demand for gay rights, but it was limited and circumspect. He completed his summer three-months contract to depart and I never saw him again. That experience however made me aware of just how homophobia could play itself it out in a big town like London, seeming ‘way behind’ my experience in Melbourne. Only a couple of weeks later after Robert fell on his back, a female researcher I sat near was abused by a senior male reporter for having ‘no tits’. It was summer and stinking hot (the office wasn’t air-conditioned), and the researcher was bone-thin and as flat-chested as I was as a teenager. On this day, she was wearing a tight, cotton dress across her body which only heightened her titless appearance. The male reporter, friends with Martin, thought that was funny, making mocking comments about lack of tit. Making a nasty comment back at him, he just kept on laughing. Then, it was my turn. Whilst sharing a drink with Martin and others in a nearby tavern, and wearing a sheer, loose-fitting, peasant blouse as well as being about seven kilos overweight, I had big tits compared to the skinny, glamour females who strutted round the office. Leering at my tits beneath my blouse which I tried to hide as much as I could, Martin asked: ‘Are they real?’ Instantly, I replied: ‘No, they’re rubber.’ Amused by my quick quip, he didn’t say anything else, turning to the bar to have a drink. Of course, I was often told I had ‘great tits’ in my Melbourne newspaper office, but this seemed different and more offensive, given the perspective of what I had already witnessed in that office, but opted to let it pass to concentrate on my work.
I was only on a three-month contract and had thus far ‘won’ Martin’s respect for my hard work and good results, informing me he was hoping to get my contract extended, saying “If I keep telling people how good you are they’ll think I’m having an affair with you.” Or words to that effect. The reality that people, read men, as all the people in top positions were male, could extrapolate from being good at your job to ‘fucking for favour’ hit me like a sledgehammer, never happening in my previous employment, or not that I was aware of. Then I started hearing even more disturbing gossip. My contract was extended for another three months and during that time I befriended another male researcher who had started when I did, though he, like Robert, had worked ‘freelance’ stints at Thames before. Call him David. He was married without children and fancied himself as ‘a great intellectual’, who was at times interesting to talk to as we became dinner ‘comrades’ after work. I never fancied him and we didn’t talk about sex, mostly because I was too stressed out working non-stop to ‘prove’ myself, continually under pressure to have my contract renewed. At the same time, I ‘let myself go’, having no time in the mornings to shower, wash my hair or bother with any make-up, though uncaring about what I looked like as work was my all-consuming obsession. I was however depressed at the ‘antics’ in the office; hearing stories of ‘shocking’ domestic violence perpetrated by that senior male reporter against his wife (apparently a journalist elsewhere) and all I could think about was Richard, too. There were also stories of employees having ‘nervous breakdowns’ and one committing suicide, let alone the sexual shennigans that I believed should have ‘shamed’ the company. The depressing reality was that this well-respected, big TV company seemed bereft of a morality I could endorse as ethical, a madhouse where people’s egos, jealousies and paranoia ran rampant. Indeed, I was told the particular program I worked on was regarded as ‘a piranha tank’, oft featuring in newspapers and satirical magazines. Shocked and saddened but not surprised, some of my awareness was conscious but mostly at that time, my negative attitudes were unconscious, too often internalising them as my own depressing problems rather than as a manifestation of the corrupt and conspiratorial behaviours of my colleagues. Here I was working for this big London TV company in supposedly a ‘great’ job so why should I be depressed? What was wrong with me? I told a couple of so-called friends I still saw outside Thames what I was experiencing, also saying I was depressed. Then, stories would appear in the newspapers and the Big Boss of the company was angry at who was talking to the media about the program. Starting to worry about what I was saying to people as a couple of them worked as journos, albeit not at Thames, I wondered if I was getting paranoid as so many people there seemed to be. After nearly six months working there, a bombshell hit with the executive producer who had hired me becoming ‘really paranoid’ and too frightened to venture out of his office as Martin and Co ‘ganged’ up on him. He had a nervous breakdown and on telling me he was leaving the program, told me: ’you’re my only piece of good news.’ As my three-month renewal contract was coming to an end, I just wasn’t sure what to do. A new executive producer was employed (a former newspaper journo I was told) and all employees on short-term contracts had to be ‘boarded’ for an interview to have their contracts renewed. David and I applied, but on one night when he was at my place after we had dinner and I was telling him how depressed I felt, he said: “the trouble with you Paulyne is you don’t like yourself’. Indeed, I didn’t like what had happened to me as while I had excelled at my job, I was overweight, smelly, and altogether unhappy with the working environment. So many of the other females were thin, glamorous and while not exactly beautiful, I felt frumpy and unattractive by comparison. I’d look in the mirror at myself and wince: what has happened to me, without being able to clarify an answer. Greer sums it up: “…maybe I’m sick of the masquerade. I’m sick of pretending eternal youth. I’m sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex…I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate.” While my appearance was an unconscious consequence of rebelling against the masquerade, I was indeed affirming, or certainly trying to, my intelligence, my own will and my own sex, but for David and so many others, females as well as males, my sexuality was paramount. At my place, David then flopped his dick out as sex once more reared its head, only for me to tell him to put it away as I wasn’t interested and telling him to leave. He duly departed. The consequence of the ‘board’ interviews was that my contract was renewed for 12 months while David’s was not, and instead he was offered a contract as a researcher on the company’s women’s program. On fronting him to convey my commiserations, he told me: “we’re in competition and can’t be friends.” I was devastated, though was soon told he was fucking one of the program’s secretaries. Shortly after, looking the way I looked, and with absolutely no knowledge of me, two men who worked on the studio floor asked me independently of each other if I was ‘camp’ a word in vogue at the time for ‘lesbian’. I replied I was not, but as one of my female researcher colleagues was referred to as a ‘slut’ because she had been ‘fucking around with a few of the male staff’, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. If they only knew me I smirked to myself that’s the last thing they’d ask me, but it seemed lamentable that ‘sex’ was the ‘name of the game.’ I can’t even remember who these men were or their names as I hardly ever spoke to them but the situation of that company, especially that program, was tragic.
In some act to offset the depressing environs I worked in, I started having a ‘fling’ with one of the taxi drivers the company contracted for its staff to ferry them around Londontown. He was several years older than me and a Greek Cypriot, who as a regular driver for Thames’ staff, heard a lot of gossip about the company’s shenanigans. He was very considerate and empathic of my plight, ending up in bed together after a few months as he invited me to dinner on many occasions after work. Interested in the world and current affairs as well as very interested in sex, too, he was a pretty good fuck, even adventurous and at times outrageous, and always wanting to indulge. Unmarried and without a regular partner so he told me, I believed him. There were times I felt I didn’t really fancy him, but the sex felt good and I always enjoyed myself. However, some of his sexual predilections as he elaborated on them (involving women in ‘buggery’ scenarios) I found sickening, even depraved. One occasion he gave me a VCR featuring a woman and a horse, it was on the cover and I felt repulsed as I told him, but he said I should take time out to watch it. Horrified and without the slightest interest or intention of ever watching it, I took it from him to ‘shut him up’, burying it at the bottom of an underwear drawer. I also burst into tears one night with him as we proceeded to have sex, developing a revulsion for him and his sexual perversities. What on earth was I doing with him? I do recall talking about my mother and father and how different they were, telling him my mother was somewhat ‘aristocratic’ while my father was a ‘peasant’. I never forgot that as it was my attitude about him I was really revealing in so far that I was still thinking about my father and the men I had sex with. Was I attracted to men like my father, not that he ever forced me or hurt me; the sex was always mutual and up til that time, reasonably pleasurable, but his attitudes to sex and women with a horse seemed beyond my imaginings, not that my father would have ever been into that. However, my father did at times ‘repulse’ me physically when he screamed and yelled at my sister or mother, his whole demeanour akin to lunatic and ugly. I felt similarly about this guy that night, albeit sexually as his ideas were simply too revolting to contemplate. My tears were the ‘end’ of our sexual and even amicable relationship as I stopped accompanying him to dinners and he stopped asking, only seeing him from time to time as he drove me around the city for my job. I then started ‘a sexual;’ fling with another taxi driver who was older than me but younger than the other guy. After another of my late night work research forays, this driver who I’d also known for months, explained he needed to call into his office to check messages (no mobiles; no texts though there was a car radio phone) en route to driving me home. We were both cold, stone sober. Arriving at his office, he was the only driver rostered for the night and it was already around 11pm, offering me a red wine while he checked his paperwork, phones etc and then suggesting we have sex on a desk. He was far sweeter and even cute compared to the other driver and I fancied him. The sex was great, basic but beneficial as I came and felt satisfied, repeating the encounter a couple of times again on an ad hoc basis as I never actually went out on a ‘date’ with him. I can’t remember now as I’m writing this but he may have been married or living with a woman though it was irrelevant at the time. Both these drivers were chatty and knew exactly what transpired on the program I worked on, understanding what I was bemoaning as well as knowing how good I was at my job (others had told them as they drove them around), including the hard work and long hours I put in as they were always driving me somewhere and picking me up, often late at night. The sex was a needed diversion for me, both of them also offering some therapeutic rapport I desperately needed too, realising it all had nothing to do with me and my depressing feelings were justified and understandable. While they acknowledged the reality, I was still ‘internalising’ too much of the shit around me; taking another few months to sort it out in my head, too often wondering why I felt so depressed. Some of the social approval of working at such a successful TV company in a ‘status’ job I knew thousands of other young people wanted in London was shrouding my ability to understand myself, though I started trying more analytically to isolate the factors contributing to my depression. First and foremost, I started to appreciate that as a female I was ‘unconsciously’ not de-sexing myself per se, but making myself unattractive as a way of thwarting all the unwelcome sexual advances and comments I’d heard in the media during my working life. This veneer was my attempt, albeit unconsciously at the time, to unmask the sexual objectification I’d been copping for years in a media that just didn’t take me seriously as a researcher/journalist. The irony is my smelly, plump and unappealing self was a ‘mask’ of another kind that only depressed me. Conscious I had BO and appeared at times unattractive, no man I ever had sex with mentioned it, pondering alone whether most men cared little about personal hygiene in bed. Having sex was all significant and as long as it was a woman with a ‘hole’ they were unbothered by other details rendered superfluous. Reflecting on it all for months and breaking up all the issues that were depressing me, I realised that the TV world I worked in was ‘just so superficial’, writing in my diary in March 1977: “so many of my friends regard me as a ‘great success’, but I see it as nothing, meaningless, except to impress other people when you’re applying for your next job. And worse, I see TV as representative of so many of the ugly aspects of our exploitative capitalistic society –that I hate it for what it does- I hate its hypocrisy, its shallow egocentrism, purporting to be something else”.
As these conscious realities swirled in my head, I also befriended two men outside Thames who were both in their late 40s, penning in my diary: “perhaps I really do need an older man. I like them. But nothing more…” One of the men, a committed union member, I talked to “for hours about politics”, while the other man, a journalist on a prestigious London newspaper, ‘(was) also very leftist and very interesting…it’s strangely not on a physical level- I’ve become very fussy or perhaps – just grown-up about my sexual habits these days. It’s the one thing I don’t feel hung up about. I just know now that I really have to care about someone before I go leaping into bed. Perhaps being curious at the early 20s is a good thing: it’s not something I’d fall in love for- as I’m sure I did with Richard (as I’m sure that’s why I miss him)”. Despite my best (?) intentions, I did indeed end up in bed with the journalist guy who was very drunk though I had been drinking too but was reasonably sober. Liking him, the sex was eminently forgettable; truly a ‘slobbering’ non event as he was a really ‘wet’ kisser without finesse or style. It was a one-off occasion, though I still shared drinks with him around Fleet St.
The new executive producer turned out to be ‘a nightmare’ too, incompetent and ‘stabbing me in the back’ as the months went on. Discord pervaded the office as this producer was an alcoholic (not the only one) who returned after lunch pissed and at one time, changed my script for which I was threatened with legal action and the sack. Saving my job by finding my original script in his wastepaper bin on the floor beside his desk that he changed for the program’s live broadcast I took what I’d written to the head of current affairs to prove my case. Yes, I went through his rubbish bin as my job was on the line. Moreover, I also heard how he too, had been violent to his first wife but it was just surprise, surprise to me as the people employed there no longer shocked me as I kept deliberating on how much longer I’d stay.
I did have a couple of other male friends I dated mostly for sex but really wasn’t interested in either of them. The sex was vanilla-style perfunctory, hardly satisfying or at all enjoyable, though they did manage to ‘get it up.’ I was too tired, depressed and worked non-stop, 80 hours a week for almost a pittance (that’s another story) and sex temporarily stopped being that important. My future career took precedence over everything else as well as trying to work out why I still ‘looked’ unattractive. Then, some good news actually came my way as soon after the debacle over his changed script, this new executive producer was sacked, lasting about as long as the previous one, just six months. Could I actually ‘trust’ yet another new man? What I experienced in nearly twelve months at Thames turned out to be child’s play for what unfolded over the next eight months under a different regime. Sex, sex and more sex underpinned almost everything, at least about me!
Meeting the new executive producer, now labelled ‘editor’ and call him Gary, shortly before the program was to end for a month’s summer break off-air, I knew he’d looked at my Melbourne references which I sent with my job application letter to the first executive producer to obtain my initial three-month contract. The letter and references had obviously been filed. How I realised this was simple as Gary asked me how I spelt Pauline – “with an i or a y?” The fact was when I began work in TV up North, how I spellled my name didn’t seem significant as while my name did appear on the credits of the science program I worked on, no one ever looked at them (I was one of three members then of a production team). In Melbourne and later freelancing in London, my name counted for more than just being ‘a cog in a wheel’ and as my first gay boss had explained to me, getting yourself known so that people will call you with potential stories was part of the job. They’re called ‘contacts’ and they can make or break a career. Moreover, the editor at that time also informed me that my name, surname especially as I had asked him whether I should change it as I was continually having to spell it out on the phone and/or when I went out on a story, to which he answered “If you’re good they’ll always remember you because it’s such a different name, but if you’re bad, they’ll never forget you”. So up North and at Thames I had reintroduced the real and legal spelling of my name which had an ‘i’ changing it to a ‘y’ professionally when I embarked on my journalistic career in 1968. I told Gary it wasn’t important, what was pertinent, I thought, was that he had clearly seen them. My Melbourne references referred to me as “Paulyne with a ‘y’ and the reference from up North was Pauline with an ‘i’. It was an interesting question I oft mulled over as I was very close to walking out of the company, totally exhausted and incredulous at the machinations of this so-called prestigious TV company in London. Thinking Gary may have just been one of the ‘good guys’ at the company I hoped he had perused the references and would realise I had actually been a journalist and I didn’t resign. He explained there would be many changes in his regime, establishing an investigative unit for more in-depth stories and his aim was to make the program more like a newspaper. I responded by telling him I wanted to work on that unit and he said I’ll tell you next week. “I won’t be here” I said, I’m going to Spain for a holiday until the new program starts. I’ll ring you from Spain as I wanted to see where I would work before I actually resigned. I’d already worked out how being a researcher felt humiliating, intellectually demeaning and even more important, was that in that role I had to ‘hand over’ my research to reporters on camera who I believed were ignorant, dumb and without any journalistic skills. I confronted the possibility that as much as I didn’t want to be on camera, if I was then I could research and report my own stories as I was used to on newspapers. I went to Spain undecided about what I would do, suffice to say I needed a rest to get fit and energetic again and lose weight. Appalled and disgusted at my own appearance, I resolved to ‘slow down’ if and when I returned and not work so manically, with my mind swirling about my future. Did I really want to continue the hard slog in the rat race? Did I want to be on TV with all its associated glamour puss perspective. I couldn’t answer those questions definitively for myself then and in my tired and stressed state I departed London alone for Spain, arranging for a couple of girlfriends to join me when the program finally ended in another week.
I duly rang Gary from Andreas’ home in Spain a week later only to leave a message which was ignored. Tossing up whether to bother again, I decided just one more time, speaking to him to be told I would work on the investigative unit as one of four researchers when I returned. Thanks, I replied and hung up, deciding to see what transpired when I returned. With nearly three weeks ahead to relax and enjoy myself in the hot, summer Spanish sun, I soon adopted a darker shade of tan after months of pale in London’s winter environs, losing about 8 kilos and feeling renewed strength and determination to shed even more weight and look after myself.
Seeing Andreas in Spain again, despite my anger at him over the set-up at the ‘brothel’, he imparted the news that Pedro was getting married and did I want to accompany him to the wedding. The reception was in the family’s bar/restaurant and we both agreed we didn’t want to attend the church ceremony, but would go to the reception. I hadn’t seen Pedro for just over two years since leaving Spain to return up North to work and I was looking forward to wishing him much happiness. Seeing him on arriving at the reception, I walked over to him to congratulate him, without even kissing him on the cheek. I shook his hand. Introducing me to his wife, she looked very beautiful in a white dress, though I cannot recall her name. He looked as gorgeous as ever and both of them so young. Wishing them much joy in their lives together, I didn’t talk to them further and Andreas and I left their company to socialise with listening to the music and dancing. The food was great, the champagne flowed and there was a warm and welcoming ambience for me, too. I never saw Pedro again.
Andreas and I resumed our conversations and friendship and one afternoon after sunning myself on the beach, visited a cafe for an iced coffee. Sitting nearby me was an ‘obvious’ non-Spaniard who was fair and lightly skinned. We started talking as he was English and about my age and on his own for a holiday and after about an hour, he invited me out to dinner that night. I agreed to meet him at my favourite restaurant in town. Dinner was enjoyable and conversation felt comfortable and easy and we only had a couple of vinos. Feeling tired, I told him I was returning to my pensione to call it a night. He then asked me to go with him to his hotel. I said no, I don’t want to. Call me naive or just plain stupid but I hadn’t even thought about having sex with him. Clearly, he had. He started abusing me, explaining he bought dinner and that I should go back with him to his hotel. Raising my voice in anger at his presumption and expectation, I told him to fuck off, storming out of the restaurant to return to the pensione, only to write in my diary that “they buy you dinner, expect you to sleep with them and then try to make you feel guilty”. Moreover, I had accompanied many men for dinner in years past when I had paid for myself or men shouted me, as Andreas often did, and had never encountered such a blatant attempt to ‘buy’ sex. Maybe some men did but then because I felt similarly lusted agreed. This was the first time I recall a scenario where a dinner date was a subterfuge for sex. I revisited this situation many times over the next few decades, prostitution dressed up as dinner. Some men just had no idea.
My Australian girlfriend who did actually marry Diego a year before in Gibralter- “divorce isn’t legal in Spain and well, you never know” she had explained to me as why they went to Gibralter to marry, had since returned to Australia with new hubby in tow. I returned to London to start another new chapter in my life, very much alone.
For a couple of years, I read Cosmopolitan magazine, recognising how many young females blazing the trail of women’s liberation were too often without real self-belief and scared of being alone. My self-belief and confidence at work were conflicted, if not even distorted at different times, for different reasons and in different contexts, by being female and on my own as much by myself as by others, too often men, in the workplace. Sex and my behaviour seemed to preoccupy others in a way that proscribed my aspirations and ambition. Filling out a sex questionnaire I answered in the magazine, I transcribed the conclusion into my diary: “As to my sexual style: adventurous. Sex to you is sport, art, game even perhaps your mission in life. Ever ready for new experiences, you revel in your sexuality and emanate an explicit unmistakeable appeal. No lover of yours will ever forget you – but insecure men may find you a little alarming.” I added in my diary “And to that I wholeheartedly agree. And on Richard, I know it’s when I feel sexy that I mostly think about him. And strangely, I think he realises that, too. It’s part of my inability to find and develop a good relationship with another man- so often, they just don’t attract me and so often too – they’re really lousy lovers.’
Returning to Thames after the holiday, my ‘new’, slimline, deodorised appearance, a ‘sexy, young thing’ as I had been mostly in Melbourne, was greeted as if I was a woman transformed. Buying a couple of cheap dresses from assorted markets, I certainly looked very different to my plump, bejeaned and jumpered self just months before, receiving compliments, so called, of looking ‘glamorous’ I always knew what I could look like so the well-meaning sexual flattery, as I interpreted it only fuelled an anger about my appearance yet again. What was most infuriating was that many people seemed to believe I was a different person, too. The one aspect I never forgot about myself was how I looked at 13 years old dressed up in black with a leopard skin vest at the party when I had fantasised about being a model, knowing that being slim, with make-up, my hair done, and stylish apparel, I could look fabulous. Certainly, that reality about myself always stayed in my conscious, just pushed to the side in my unconscious rebellion against being a ‘sex object’. The people at Thames of course had never known me in that life and I accepted their flattery with an amused tolerance, taking up the ‘supposedly’ new position on the investigative unit and keeping strictly to my allotted work schedule. I was also angry about the pittance I was earning and as my contract expired within six months, I decided to bide my time until I hit them with demands for a substantial pay increase. Understanding that my depression was not just about my appearance, I also realised how ‘put down’ intellectually and professionally I felt as a researcher. Working for The London Sun just four years previous I had earned substantially more there in a week than I earned in a month at Thames. Moreover, some of the young female reporters were ‘trumped’ up former secretaries, having ‘fucked’ Gary as I soon found out. Interested only in being “TV stars’, they evinced no genuine interest in the stories I presented them with. My months of self-analysis reaped due dividends as I made my unconscious conscious, clarifying many reasons I was depressed, but as much as I didn’t ‘like’ some aspects about TV, I still believed it was a more ‘powerful’ medium than newspapers which could make people think and enhance people’s lives for the better. I didn’t tell anyone about what I was planning for myself long-term which then encompassed being a reporter.
Back in London for just a few short weeks, I was surprised to receive a phone call one night from Richard, holidaying in London with his English girl-friend who was away again and he was on his own. Did I want to go out for dinner? It had been over 12 months since I had seen him, but during the time I was in my depressed and anxious environs at Thames I started calling him in Australia at his workplace (time zones allowed for) for some emotional solace. Every time I called I’d hang up determined NOT to ring again as his attitude was cold and indifferent to my mental turmoil. He understood nothing, but even sadder, he was just uninterested in what I was dealing with at work. After a few months of repetitive behaviour, I stopped ringing. Now he was back in London and did I really want to see him? Indeed I did, knowing I looked trim and terrific and who knew what might happen, looking forward to seeing him. How did I feel? I just couldn’t clarify it, except that I was wary even frightened of getting involved with him again. We went to an Italian restaurant we often dined in when we lived together as the food was always good and relatively inexpensive. We ate our main course and after a few drinks, he leaned towards me and kissed me at the table. Throughout dinner, I was consumed by how gorgeous and sexy he looked as he too had lost weight and we were both tanned and glowing. It felt amazing to kiss him again, passionate and full on and I was so turned on all I wanted to say was come back to my place and let’s go to bed. Instead, I said nothing until the restaurant’s manager intervened, offering me a quick solution, loudly telling us “you can’t do that in here. Will you please leave.” Richard paid the bill and we departed to my apartment, having sex as if it was the first time we made love together. Asking me if I had a bottle, which I did, indeed, quite a few empties that I shoved into a cupboard he suggested I play with it, adding ‘sit on it’ for me. I had never done that so blatantly but complied, though the bottle didn’t go up me enough, telling him to take over. He readily played his part. I’d forgotten how good it felt, though in some ways, had never forgotten because I thought about him all too often. Yet, that night was our farewell in a way as the sex was beautiful and as exciting and satisfying as it once had been, the violence, the indifference and the uncaring in the background of our past. We kissed each other with all the love and/or passion we had both once felt, falling asleep together for the last time. In the morning as I got ready for work, he was sitting in the lounge drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette, looking strangely forlorn. I told him “I’ll always love you” to which he replied “Don’t be so nice to me.” I didn’t know what to say. Somewhere in my head, I realised his guilt was extant in his head, though he told me he had ‘fallen in love’ with some other woman from up north in England who he had just met, telling me he was going to see her and then maybe go to Spain. Staying at my apartment the next night before he headed north, I asked him to have sex with me again, but he declined, saying he didn’t want to. At the time, I just accepted it and we never made love again, feeling like it was over for me in that I had a new life in London without him. There was also a sadness too as he seemed lost and unsure about where his life was taking him. He also referred to a weekend away with another female journalist I never met shortly before that blank night, which he had initially lied about but that I find out about before we parted, saying “what a thing to break up over.” The fact was he saw the end of our relationship as due to a meaningless sexual fling while it had nothing to do with why I finally called it quits, revealing just how differently we regarded sexual fidelity and our whole relationship. Before leaving for work, he imparted an interesting perception about me, saying there are “two Paulynes: one is very physical and the other is very spiritual.” What’s pertinent is that he used the word ‘physical’ not sexual maybe because he knew I loved dancing and Aussie Rules football which focused on physical contact and was the source of many arguments about violence, him arguing that his violence was in some ways no different to how footballers behaved on the field. I acknowledged there was intentional violence perpetrated by some footballers, but it wasn’t innate in the code. Physical contact did not equal violence in my perspective. Being spiritual was another issue again, unable to understand exactly why he used that word and I didn’t ask him. Certainly, I could be philosophical and reflective, but spiritual was something of a mystery to me. Yet, I also felt he knew me in a way no one else ever did, but we were now on such different paths that I had no idea where he was heading, except he was on a very different road to me. I went to work and he disappeared out of my life once more. His final words to me spoke loudly about him: “You’re still one of the sexiest, craziest ladies I’ve ever met!”
Researching a story involving new rules for BBC radio, I met a producer from the BBC who told me: “If you want to get ahead, you’ll have to have an affair with someone to help you.” Or words to that effect. I didn’t reply, returning to the office even more upset at the behaviour of these media men. No way was I going to do that as I’d copped enough shit about my boss in Melbourne and that was for real. Yet, at the same time, things started to change for me within the working environment. Gary seemed to start ‘flirting’ with me, or that’s how I felt it, wondering if he fancied me with my new image. While this book is not about me and work per se (that’s my next book), it became increasingly clear to me how TV was fucked compared to newspapers, determining that before my contract expired I would try and research and report off camera. There were also suggestions from a couple of female colleagues about another man who was the executive producer of the international weekly current affairs program, for which I had unsuccessfully applied for jobs over the past years in the UK. Meeting him a couple of times, call him Brad, I had oft fancied him, and suddenly, one of my girlfriends starts saying things to me “what if Brad wanted to sleep with you if you work on his program? Then she said I was a lot like him adding all manner of suggestive innuendos about me, sex and him. One thing I knew was that he had recently married another researcher/reporter on the Thames women’s program David worked on, a woman I had little to do with and who I considered politically uninteresting as she worked on women’s stuff. I wasn’t going to ever have sex with him, as in some ways, thought I might just ‘fall in love’ with him. At the same time was a conflict about him too as I had an interview with him just three years before where he was arrogant, condescending and uninterested in my media experience or my knowledge about politics. This was a potential problem for me as I was interested in him despite feeling a ’second-class’ female in his understanding. On another level, my perspective about him was similar to the famous football coach I turned down in Melbourne years before, except that Brad never really spoke to me and never propositioned me. In retrospect, my attraction to him was essentially about ‘lust’, though that was a word I still didn’t use. It was also too about what I assumed about him politically, albeit unconsciously, as I had first seen him on a TV program in 1973 when he was waxing lyrical about the importance of unions in the country. Moreover, he was the executive producer of the kind of TV current affairs program I had always wanted to work on, covering international stories that could help ‘change the world.’ At that time, I was living with Richard during our downhill debacle and thought Brad was far more the sort of man I needed. When I realised who he married, I did reassess him, but some kind of delusion persisted. Why? It’s hard to be sure but lust wasn’t in my frame of reference and even though I ‘fucked’ many men purely for sex out of lust, I didn’t couch it by using that word. Sex sufficed. Brad seemed to have the intellectual interests I shared too as well as being sexy and I was very wary.
As I started reporting off camera, I also started writing scripts of my own stories (I’d done some before but now I was trying to do it all) and taking a script into Gary’s office for his OK, he stunned me by saying: “Don’t wear your clitoris on your sleeve!” In shock, I couldn’t muster a reply, just putting the script on his desk and walking back to my office. Sitting down, I smiled to myself, thinking his comment was ‘clever’, funny too, starting to ‘fantasise’ he might really have fallen in love with me as I was beginning to fancy him, though wondering whether the BBC radio producer had ‘sown’ that seed in my head? Such was my extrapolation at that time of my life. I was 27 and should have known better and/or realised, but I didn’t as I found him attractive too, hearing he was divorced without a partner I knew about, making him fair game in the flirting stakes. That’s as far as I accepted it would go as there was to be no affair with my boss ever again! I kept to it. As the months went on, I did some reports off camera, and really ‘fell in love’ with Gary who was positive and encouraging. The reality is in retrospect I wanted to fuck him and explained it to myself as ‘love’, lust still not part of my vernacular. Moreover, I hadn’t had sex with him, but it was his favourable and funny personality that appealed to me, too. For almost the first time in my adult life, I appreciated he was nothing like my father as he never yelled or screamed at anyone in the office, looked nothing like my father either and was approachable though we rarely talked about anything other than work, albeit very briefly at that. I was told he had studied philosophy (but not at Oxford or Cambridge) and his friendly manner seemed warm and more like my mother, believing I may have ‘broken’ the pattern of being attracted to men like my father. As much as I appreciated my father’s positive endorsement of my success in the media, he was a difficult man to communicate with about personal or emotional issues, while I could relate to my mother with ease and comfort about these things. Moreover, while my father was interested in sport and politics, as was my mother, too, my father was not at all interested in psychology and philosophy which my mother was, many books lining our shelves at home. Indeed, I wrote in my diary that thinking of Gary engendered all this ‘mushy warmth’ in me, also feeling like ‘a born again virgin’ as I penned later. Why that? Hard to remember why I felt that way and some 38 years later I do remember feeling I ‘loved’ Gary in a way I never had felt for any other man, even my boss in Melbourne. Maybe still lingering in my head was some relic of the bygone era that dictated being a ‘virgin’ to ensnare a man. Yet, I was using it more euphemistically in that all my scores of fucks became irrelevant, genuinely feeling I’d found the right man for the rest of my life and seriously contemplated marrying him. Yet, I didn’t even know him, ‘falling in love’ with an ‘image’ based on ignorance, assumptions and misinformation. He flirted with me, naively believing that suggested he fancied me, even thinking he may have even wanted to marry me, too. During a staff program lunch at our nearby watering- hole, I brushed past him en route to the cigarette machine, touching his back with my tits, as he responded:” Do that again and I’ll have to marry you.” I believed him. It turned out to be so misleading that some years later, I revisited the whole notion of flirting and sex games, and at that time, ‘sexual harassment’ in the workplace was an ‘unspoken’ and ‘unnamed’ issue. However much of my chagrin at Brad I felt very attracted to him, too, a ‘delusional fantasy’, realising I couldn’t seriously marry Gary while I was also so interested in another man. To say I was confused is an understatement, believing I had ‘fallen’ in love with two men again as I had with Richard and my boss in Melbourne. I had to sort it out for myself before becoming involved with either of them, or for that matter, anyone other man.
It was the late 70s and the women’s movement had a new catchcry – ‘having it all’ – the man, the love, the power and the sex with the career and the money, too. It was an illusory reality I adhered to for a while actually convinced that I could indeed achieve that goal. The big difference at Thames was that I never knew either Gary or Brad at all, just ‘falling in love’ based on what? Lust dressed up as love? Until I could disinter all the interlocking strands in the web, I just concentrated on my work.
There continued to be positive comments about my work, but my sexuality still seemed to surpass that as THE significant factor as well as what they assumed as my strident feminism. After several successful stories, which I researched and reported as I wanted, I went to see the personnel manager about renewing my new 12-month contract. Without beating about the bush, I told him I wanted a pay rise and wouldn’t sign the contract as the salary was exactly the same as I’d started on at the company 20 months previously, very clear about never working as ‘slave labour’ again. He immediately retorted with a question: ‘where do you think men are more chauvinistic-here or Australia?’ Somewhat ruffled by the totally irrelevant and subverting issue he raised, I told him I didn’t know as I’d never thought about it. Maybe in America they’re not, I don’t know. I asked again for a pay rise. He told me there wouldn’t be one, telling him I wasn’t going to sign the contract. It’s up to you, he said. After my aborted attempt to secure a pay rise, I was told by my immediate producer, another male, though an aged one, that Brad had told him to tell me he made a mistake about me and there was a job soon available on his program as a researcher, intimating it was my job. I went away thinking firstly, why didn’t, or couldn’t he tell me himself and secondly, I wondered if he ever considered why he made the mistake. On what basis? Assumptions about me based on my appearance and/or my background, when he knew nothing about me? Or moreover, his ignorance because he was never interested in talking to me, as were none of the staff employed on his program. I didn’t like the people (man only) believing most of them were just pseudo-intellectuals who ‘got off’ on the status and prestige of their jobs. I believed Brad felt likewise, albeit unconsciously for all of them manifested by their disinterest in me. If it’s a truism that good fortune depends on being in the right place at the right time I would add one extremely important qualification and that being it depends on the right opportunity even more so. My truth was that a job as a researcher on the international current affairs show no longer interested me as my stint as an off camera reporter reinforced my belief that I needed to not just research but also report my own stories; a need not only professionally, but intrinsic to that was my intellectual and psychological well being. I was also aware that it was just a year before Brad had employed the first female as a director/reporter on the program who was employed on another Thames’ program beforehand. Much to do was made about her appointment but for me it was no more than lip service adherence to gender equality in the workplace, never forgetting how when I first met Brad in an interview his arrogant and condescending body language and tone of voice made me question what he was really all about. It was 1977 when this woman’s appointment was made; he had been executive producer of the program since 1973, or at least when I became aware of it when I returned to the UK with Richard, and it had taken till that time to employ a female in a senior position on his program. On one level, I was not surprised, confirming how sexist Thames, and most of my experience in the media had been over a decade, really was. I also was no longer interested in travelling to ‘hot spots’ around the world to stay two weeks in another town to research issues, conflicts and problems that demanded months if not years to realistically comprehend and communicate to others. At the same time, Gary announced to his staff, including me that they were going to start a new London-based series of half-hour documentaries and were looking for staff as researchers, reporters and producers. Compiling a page of typed documentary ideas, I applied for a producer’s job only to be unsuccessful. With justifiable anger at the whole sick company, though still curious as to many of the positive and encouraging words I’d heard that were contradicted by no pay rise and the so-called suggestion of a job on the international current affairs program which I didn’t wait around to be formally offered, I resigned, opting to take my chances out in the world again as I understood by this time exactly how good I was at my job and my confidence and self-belief has been rekindled, believing I would get a better job elsewhere. Such was my naivety.
On leaving Thames, I was given a card (signed by people who must have really celebrated my exit behind my back) and a present which was all-revealing. The present consisted of two lighters (I was an inveterate smoker): one, a slim, elegant electronic kind and the other: a white, throw away plastic lighter encased in brown leather which was attached to a bold, big metal key ring lesbians used to attach to the loops around their jeans’ waist band. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, acknowledging that their belief I was a lesbian (albeit one who hadn’t yet ‘come out’) only reinforced my conviction that these men (and they were mostly males in early 1978 in the media) were indeed not just ignorant about me, but fooled by my appearance as so many had been before them. The reality I experienced after my departure drastically changed my life; temporarily, in a most depressing way I never imagined or even considered as I knew exactly how damn good I was at my job. Clearly, other issues affected the male establishment’s perceptions of me as I became long-term unemployed and broke.
Another reality was that while I had fallen ‘in love’ with Gary, I was told he was actually marrying a secretary in the company who was pregnant to him. Partly shattered by this revelation I kept thinking was he just a ‘cunt struck’ womaniser flirting, leading me astray for fun’s sake? In my diary, now confronting sexism in the workplace for the first time (previously I had believed that getting promoted was based on merit), I wrote “we really do need a revolution” to rebalance the gender skew in society. ‘Having it all’ was pushed more and more into the background of my dreams.
I determined however that establishing my ‘own’ life without a male was far more important as I wanted my own money and after Richard, declared I would never ‘depend’ on anyone ever again for my pecuniary welfare. I had been economically independent all my life and expected to live that way for the rest of my life. It didn’t turn out that way.
When I left Thames, a senior male reporter told me about a male friend of his who was editor of a weekly marketing magazine and that I may be able to get a job there. Calling him and having an interview, he offered me a job again as a journalist, with considerably more money than I’d been earning at Thames. The environs were friendly and without malice, enjoying learning about marketing, advertising and of course, actually doing my own research and writing again, too. After a couple of months there, I received a phone call from a female reporter at Thames who I had hardly ever spoken to asking me if I was interested in doing some interviews for a book about childbirth. She explained she had no time to do the work, but thought of me instead. Stunned to hear from her, she gave me the publishing contact, telling me to ring her. Meeting her a few days later, the work involved interviewing a midwife about breastfeeding as well as about 10 interviews with various women who had all given birth in different ways; natural, caesarean and with and without epidurals etc The interviewees had already been selected, only having to contact them and write their experiences. I accepted the work for about $2,000 over three months, the work to be undertaken in my own time and at home. Staying on the magazine during the day for another couple of weeks as well as interviewing the women at night, I had a falling out with the features editor and decided to resign, finish the interviews and then, with the substantial money I earned, start to write for myself, thinking I had enough money to live independently for about four or five months till I rejoined the rat race.
There were a couple of sexual encounters with a few men during those months as my ‘own’ boss writing from home. Interestingly, while I wrote about being a ‘born again virgin’, just a few weeks later, I told some man I was “a high class tart’, reflecting on a status beyond his reach and my repertoire of sexual experience. It may seem contradictory to some, but not to me as my life was taking a new direction with far more self-belief in my worth as a strong, successful and sexy woman. The sex with these men was also less than exciting or adventurous, though my preoccupation with Richard was displaced by Gary, fantasising about him in bed at night though resolute about establishing myself as a writer on my own first. Maintaining a rigorous work schedule (I was always disciplined), I wrote children’s stories and two novels, sending them off to various publishers only to receive copious rejection slips. The most ‘interesting’ was from Virago: a publisher of women’s feminist writings and one of the novels was about sex, violence and the media from a female first person perspective who was as much supportive of male rights as those of females. Virago’s rejection letter stated: “thanks so much for letting us read this but we can’t publish it….etc” . The ‘thanks so much for letting us read it’ was as if I didn’t want anyone to read it but why else would I have written it, moreover sent it to them? Did they think it was all true, an autobiographical non-fiction book I would be ashamed of? Reading Prone to Violence four years after writing this novel and copious publishers’ rejection letters, I understood why I couldn’t attract a publisher, as the book states: “Again no one wanted to hear the uncomfortable truth. And that truth was that there are so many thousands of violence-prone people, born and raised in violence, who know no other lifestyle except to terrorise and mutilate each other or any innocent victim who comes into their circle.” My novel was about just that. Writing this book, I traversed much of my life as I’ve detailed in the previous decade; some of it painful as well as understanding it with a more mature perspective, attempting to write ‘faction’ with everything I’d experienced, analysed, read about and came to appreciate about myself. Calling it ‘The Circle War’, it was my tribute to Greer, who writes in conclusion of her tome, that “The old process must be broken, not made new,..There is no alternative (to liberation) but rupture of the circle.” Focusing on an intense and passionate relationship, albeit with physical and psychological violence, my novel was my own version of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, but with homicidal rather than suicidal consequences (readers to appreciate their own link?); a narrative about not just love and sex, but hate, bitterness, jealousy and insanity, attempting to have my say about the links between self-hate and hate of another, manifesting in different ways. I’m unsure as to whether my novel’s title is borrowed, albeit amended and personalised not just from Greer but another non-fiction book I read called The Fear of Freedom written by American psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm. In his book, which I read during my final university studies during Richard’s absence overseas, Fromm quotes US philosopher, John, Dewey, who comments “the battlefield is also…within ourselves and our institutions”, clarifying for me that we are too often fighting a war inside ourselves, our own internal civil war as a conflict about human freedom. Moreover, in 1976 shortly after I started working at Thames, I researched a story about male violence towards their female partners. About 12 men, aged from their late 20s to mid 40s, were attending a group therapy session designed to stop their violence. The therapy was the initiative of a man in his 30s who had also been violent but had counselling to change his behaviour; indeed, to understand himself and his violence. He was now attempting to pass on his insights to other men. For nearly two hours, I sat in on the therapy meeting, listening to the men as they discussed their behaviour and why they responded violently to conflicts and disagreements with their partners. After the meeting, the men engaged with me for another hour as I asked questions and conversed with them about issues I had already been thinking about for years. Mostly, they acknowledged their partners were verbally aggressive, but not physically violent towards them. I also told them about my own experience with Richard and it was interesting that they responded by telling me they had no understanding of how their partners’ felt until they embarked on the therapy. It was an enlightening experience listening to them, realising Richard’s behaviour was mirrored in these men, too. Sadly, a far too common problem behind closed doors in suburbia.
Re-exploring my parent’s marriage, I understood that my mother was not just unhappy in her marriage, but unhappy with herself as was my father, albeit manifesting with very different behaviours and attitudes. Did they actually love themselves? Respect themselves, let alone each other? It seemed to me they didn’t. Greer wrote “The first significant discovery we shall make as we racket along our female road to freedom is that men are not free and they will seek to make this an argument why nobody should be free.” Fromm writes: “Is submission always to an overt authority, or is there also submission to internalized authorities, such as duty or conscience, to inner compulsions or to anonymous authorities like public opinion? Is there a hidden satisfaction in submitting, and what is its essence?” In my novel, the male and female characters are all ‘unfree’, prisoners without bars but trapped depressingly in their own limited stereotypes and imaginings, fighting a war within themselves so they both self-destruct, albeit unconsciously, by failing to understand their own internal self-hate and project that self-hate, albeit unconsciously too, onto others. It became clear that my mother had never celebrated my success in the media nor appreciated how bright I was, while my father had oft boasted about my good marks at school and took pride in my achievements. Moreover, he not only recognised me as a ‘radical and non-conformist’, but accepted me as that. My mother never appreciated nor knew the ‘real’ me, unable to accept me as the female I was, and as De Beauvoir penned, was unconsciously trying to make me in her image which I rejected and later abandoned her. For this, she labelled me as ‘abnormal.” Greer penned: “It takes a great deal of courage and independence to decide to design your own image instead of one that society rewards, but it gets easier as you go along. Of course, a woman who decides to go her own way will find that her conditioning is ineradicable, but at least she can recognise its operation and choose to counteract it, whereas a man might find that he was being more subtly deluded. A woman who decided to become a lover without conditions might discover that her relationships broke up relatively easily because of her degree of resistance to efforts to ‘tame’ her, and the opinions of her friends will usually be on the side of the man who was prepared to do the decent thing, who was in love with her, etcetera. Her promiscuity, resulting from her constant sexual desire, tenderness and interest in people, will not usually be differentiated from compulsive promiscuity or inability to say no, although it is fundamentally different.” Indeed, my two sisters didn’t know me either, and my time away in England where I forged a new life for myself only clarified how ‘unclose’ I really was to my mother and sisters in some ways and a lot more like my father than I had ever understood. I no longer perceived him as the only one with problems, my mother contributing to the farce of the marriage with her own problems, too, albeit different ones. Indeed, in my diary I wrote at 16 that people who were close seemed to destroy each other, understanding some years later in England that it was quite the opposite; people who were not close either to themselves or each other were in fact self-destructive as well as destructive to others physically close to them in a family environs, but emotionally, morally and spiritually, really very distant from each other and cut-off from themselves. The ‘closeness’ of a family could be just an acceptable social facade, even the norm of perception (assumption) to mask the more pertinent reality of empty distance within family members and between them, too. A short time later, I understood my family as ‘we are all strangers’ to each other as I wrote in my diary. Fromm sums up a two-person relationship and I quote it here as applicable to my whole family: “the well-oiled relationship between two persons who remain strangers all their lives, who never arrive at a ‘central relationship”. That was essentially how I understood my family in some ways as a teenager. Later I understood it was more complex than that as while we were all strangers in some ways our relationships also involved sharing common interests and passions, albeit limited emotionally. Sometimes, the relationships needed oil.
As I wrote, there was, and still is a strong, masculine streak in me and indeed a palm reader/clairvoyant man I paid to consult about 18 months before, looked at my palm to remark: “There’s a strong masculine streak in you but you should being out the feminine more”. I didn’t ask him what he meant as I believed and/or thought I knew, understanding by then my at times aggressive and outspoken temperament was not perceived as ‘feminine’, but masculine. It did take a few more years to appreciate how being out spoken, even aggressive (assertive wasn’t a word I knew then) in my stance about feminism, politics and social issues had ‘threatened’, even ‘disturbed’ many quieter, even tame females, my mother and sisters particularly and some of my girlfriends, too and some men, particularly Richard similarly. In his book Human Aggression, psychiatrist Anthony Storr clarifies the misunderstanding oft pertaining to the use of the word aggressive. I had indeed appreciated the positive application of the word in football parlance back in my adolescence and as Storr explains “It is worth noticing, for instance, that the words we use to describe intellectual effort are aggressive words. We attack problems, or get our teeth stuck into them….” For me, how football players attacked the ball might have been physically aggressive, but it was not intrinsically violent or malevolent, but a very positive way of playing the game. Storr continues: “The aggressive part of human nature is not only a necessary safeguard against predatory attack. It is also the basis of intellectual achievement, of the attainment of independence and even of that proper pride which enables a man to hold his head up high amongst his fellows.” In social and civil environs, aggression is too often regarded as a violent, negative disposition despite Storr understanding how quintessential it is to enrich and enhance our lives. Both men and women I knew had no idea about that understanding at all, often castigating men as aggressive and denying their instincts, too. The women were the ‘docile’ females I wrote about in Spain. These women, as much as they verbally espoused some of the tenets of feminism, pursuing careers beyond a secretarial desk, were more akin to “Stepford Wives” as far as their husbands and boyfriends were concerned, submissive and subservient to their man’s dictates and desires and moreover, depending on them for status, prestige and economic security. As Fromm asserts, there is an ‘automaton conformity’ that people, both women and men, often adhere to as an escape from freedom and the denial or sublimation of self and individuality. Greer explains: “The degree of satisfaction gained by women following this pattern is very slight; we are not surprised to find that many of them think of even their professional life either as a stop-gap or an indirect qualification for marriage.” The Stepford Wives movie featured automated women in the home; passive, placid and acquiescing to their men on most pertinent matters; homemakers and mothers first and foremost, with lovers and friends found elsewhere. In my relationship with my boss in Melbourne, I was the woman ‘found elsewhere’ as he told me he rarely talked about his work to his wife and her role was to care for the home and their four children. My independent stance about being my own person also unnervingly ‘confronted’ Richard in a way I now understood as my values and attitudes undermined his sense of being a ‘man’ as he believed himself to be. On the work front, I also realised as I wrote my novel how some men in powerful and important positions in the media were similarly ‘threatened’ by me as I wrote in my diary about feeling ‘inhibited’ in my first few weeks at Thames. Unconsciously, I curbed my outspoken oratory about feminism and politics frightened of the repercussions as I experienced from Richard and some of my former bosses and ‘male superiors’ in the workplace. Internalising their ‘fear’ as partly my own, and calling it depression, I also understood this unconscious reaction as I started to voice my opinions and views once more as the weeks became months at Thames. Making my unconscious conscious heralded not only a greater understanding about people’s insecurities and weaknesses, but also clarified for me why I was a threat to them, which of course, they never acknowledged or understood. It was my release of ‘aggression’ positively as Storr articulated that too many people misinterpreted as ‘could be violent’ physically. They had no comprehension about the psychology of anger with total disinterest or biases about the issues I was loudly and vociferously talking and arguing about. Far less disturbing for them was to ‘blame’ or ‘label’ me as somehow abnormal, aberrant and psychologically disturbed. Moreover, I also wrote about Richard in my diary that ‘I felt like I was going insane’; understanding as I wrote my novel that what I thought about love in my teens and read about in Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina was not love, but lust and romantic delusion, with women often confusing a passionate sexual attraction with being in love. This ‘in love’ was another delusion with their feelings focused, albeit unconsciously, on romance and desire rather than intimacy as mutually respectful human beings. It wasn’t just women who blurred the boundaries.
As part of my interest in clarifying many of the issues pertaining to me as a female, albeit with a ‘strong, masculine streak’, I bought my first book about men in 1978 “The Limits of Masculinity” written by an English lecturer in Birmingham, Andrew Tolson. I was aware enough to understand that living in a society with both men and women as part of a community implied that if women were to liberate themselves, men also needed to too as a social movement in unison with each other. Having read many books about women, I now turned my attention to men. Tolson quotes a local Birmingham 1973 Women’s Liberation newsletter: “The possibility of men’s liberation then, rests upon an awareness by men of the limitations imposed upon them by a sexist society…” He goes on to acknowledge that “For many liberal middle-class men, the growth of a feminist consciousness represented a challenge…As men, we felt trapped in our own exclusion…A masculine ‘mask of silence’ concealed the emptiness of our emotional lives…We wanted to rediscover the experience of becoming a man…(but) As men, we had no language to formulate our uncertainties; no way of showing to others our responsiveness or concern…we could not understand the impact of feminism on our lives.” I’ve written on the side of the page ‘because you didn’t understand yourselves’ when I first read this in 1978. I continue: ‘It wasn’t feminism per se; rather, the threat to yourselves which you’d never had to think about.’ Reading this book offered me extremely valuable insights into understanding the hostility and antipathy I’d experienced not just from many men, including Richard, but many women, too, as I sought to sever my links to the status quo and establish myself as an individual with both masculine and feminine traits in balance with each other. Furthermore, with my feelings about Gary and Brad, I understood that ‘falling in love’ was more to do with ‘falling in lust’ and that real love was certainly NOT about violence, be it physical or emotional. Sex was a big part of it for me but I realised I could find that ‘great sex’ without love, though as a female, I too had confused it about Richard for far too long. With both Gary and Brad, I started considering whether I was something of a ‘challenge’, again albeit unconsciously using Tolson’s word, they didn’t want to confront or even countenance. I had never envisaged men as ‘the enemy’, but I started wondering whether I was now ‘the enemy’ to these men, however much they didn’t want to consider it; a threat to their power and sense of self, albeit tenuous and vulnerable. Was liberation just about a sense of power, not over others, but within the self? A self belief in one’s own individuality and integrity? They were issues I’d mull over for another two years.
While I had grown up in an emotionally violent family, I realised I wasn’t attracted to men like my father particularly dismissing the psychological family pattern attraction as nothing but a convenient and simplistic explanation for what I came to appreciate was ‘inexplicable’. There was no obvious answer to why some men sexually attracted me more than others, relating to men and liking men I could engage in interesting conversations about what I was interested in with appearance and temperament initially irrelevant. The men weren’t like my father but rather men a bit like myself, aggressive at times, lustful at times, emotional at times, angry at times, quiet at times and sensitive and reflective. I also understood I shared much in common with my mother, certainly her interests in philosophy, literature, history and even politics, temperamentally like both my parents at different times in different contexts and for different reasons. My father certainly did have an ‘explosive’ bad temper, while my mother never raised her voice or screamed or yelled at all, often maintaining her stance with determination and resolve far more unemotionally than my father. Yet, in a letter my mother penned to my father and my two sisters and myself when I was just 10-years-old, she wrote: “…if I have too much and too many arguments I’ll just explode and bust.” Prone to Violence articulates it thus: “Only the ignorant ignore the fact that there are many men who ask for pain and instead insist it is totally a woman’s condition. It is time to say that more boys are physically battered than girls, and then tend to become batterers in their adult life, whereas girls tend to be emotionally violated, internalising pain and suffering.” The sad reality was that on the inside, my mother was already ‘exploding’ in a way, adding about me in her letter that I needed to ‘learn to take your medicine as you should and I don’t only mean medicine for sickness.’ Indeed, what did she mean? That I shouldn’t complain and put up with suffering as she did? Moreover, who was the ‘sick’ one needing medicine? My parents were tragic or that’s how they seemed to me, keeping her letter for the rest of my life which I still have. The fact she wrote a letter, rather than engaging us in conversation about these issues, is significant, too, unable to verbally express her discontent and frustrations. My novel focused on these issues, not just about my mother and father, but many females I knew who had little sense of themselves and ‘put up’ with abuse and emotional violence. Understanding my mother’s acceptance of it, albeit with resentment and recriminations towards my father and my sisters and I, clarified my own conflicts of self-esteem and self-belief, internalising in some ways the violence I experienced in my family which translated into rejecting Richard then reneging to take him back. My rejection of him reflected my good and healthy self-esteem and self-worth, but repeatedly undermined by accepting him back, part of me clinging to having a boyfriend per se and some associated need and belief in love, albeit distorted. However, as the good times back together lasted for shorter and shorter periods of time, my healthy self-esteem transcended my low self-esteem when I finally ended it forever. It had taken two years but some of my low self-esteem internalised as a kind of depression, not so that I needed medication as I functioned and continued to work, but too often reflecting on why he was violent and why I believed it would never happen again Richard might have ‘beaten’ up on me, my mother might have ‘beaten’ up on me albeit psychologically and ambivalently, but in essence, I was ‘beating’ up on myself and at the time, unable to understand why. The reality was however that while my father could not discuss personal psychology and my mother seemed more able to indulge, she was unable to understand her own acceptance of the violence and her own internal civil war, as she wrote “I hope you won’t make the same mistakes in life as I did, but you will make plenty, so try and equip yourselves with a strong character so you can take anything which wishes to deal out to you without much complaining and moaning.” Indeed, she should have complained loudly and clearly, her unhappiness internalised so she needed amytals a couple of years later, and within a few more years, started projecting onto me how I should live. The reality is that I always remembered this letter, able to understand her twisted and distorted emotions that sadly, adhered to some kind of faith in a marriage for its own sake and unable to assert her strength without self-belief and self-respect. I certainly had ‘absorbed’ some of these conflicting contradictions, but luckily, my reading, analysing and talking to many people over the years in my twenties, clarified that she was a woman of a different generation and my father’s recognition of my intellectual talents surpassed her constant, albeit unconscious, put downs of my abilities. She was at times disrespectful about my mind, if not downright disparaging, unable to acknowledge or appreciate that I was uninterested in any kind of domestic bliss in suburbia, my work the most important thing for my intellectual and economic independent freedom. Meeting the right man and having children was her perspective on what I should be focused on instead of career concerns and related matters. The men in my life were individuals in their own right and casting them as stereotypes of my parents, as many psychological pundits offered in books, magazines and newspapers, was as much arrant nonsense as the ideology that as children we are cast as our parents. Prone to Violence clarifies the notion of love and people’s ‘addicted’ behaviour in its guise that really masks internal pain and suffering: “the addiction to violence is an addiction to pain” explaining “we firmly remind (people) that people do not hurt the people they truly love”. And that is, not just physically but more significantly, psychologically and emotionally.
In stark contrast to Richard, my relationship with Pedro was not aggressive or violent, sharing a sensitivity and intelligence with him that was just as much about lust and passion, but without torment or insanity, understanding how warped and stupid I was at 17 to even think that was part of ‘love’. I did initially feel that Gary and Brad were more akin to personality types I could ‘identify’ with and relate to far more than I ever did with Richard, but as they both put me down intellectually and financially and obsessed with my sexuality was revealing, guilty of perpetrating psychological/emotional/mental/economic violence against me. I had thought they were clever and bright, taking me a few months after leaving Thames to understand how my being female had ‘distorted’ their perspective about me, assuming about me instead of knowing me at all. They were as violent as Richard had been, albeit manifesting of their minds, not bodies. As I lived to find out, their attitudes towards me were not about chauvinism or sexism as it was later labelled, but incited by a sadistic superiority not because I was a female per se, but the kind of female I was, a woman who stood up for herself and her beliefs, values and attitudes who eschewed the so-called definitions of success they adhered to. I celebrated my victory of choice when I walked out on all of them. In Glen Lewis’ book ‘Real Men Like Violence’ he posits: “Middle-class men use their credentials, language and expertise in institutional contexts to maintain existing patterns of social inequality. This is not normally their individual perception of their role, but it is the objective social result. The power of elite and middle-class men, that is, is exercised by influence and discrimination rather than by outright physical violence.” This was exactly my experience and understanding about the men at Thames TV. Indeed, in Prone To Violence, the authors write: “The chances are that the person who learns came from a healthy family, and has a strong enough choosing sense of self to endure …painful experience, and can go on and learn. What emotionally able people like this have achieved is the ability to synthesise and to integrate most parts of their personalities, as well as their chemicals, so that their strong self chooses their behaviour.” I may not have come from a so-called healthy family in many ways as I’ve written, but it was my strong self that prevailed in many testing and troubling circumstances and to walk out on my own as my choice. Make of it what you will.
After departing Thames, my few friends were not returning my phone calls and no one was interested in reading my novels or children’s stories, confused about why they no longer wanted to know me. One female friend did stay in touch for a few months, the same friend who’d been a lowly production assistant at Thames who had told me a few weeks before I resigned: “You’ll be famous soon and drip with diamonds, but don’t ever change, Paul…” I knew there was indeed ‘something’ going on at Thames about me, but so much was to do with sex et al that I just felt angry and confused.
During my writing efforts at home, (I was sharing a two-bedroom flat with an English woman several years my senior), I occasionally went out to a wine bar for a drink to give myself a break from my routine at the typewriter. One Friday night, I was ‘picked up’ by an Iranian young man who had fled the Shah in Iran. Over a few glasses of red wine, he told me his political history as well as talking about his family and other associated matters to do with life in Tehran. He then offered to buy me dinner and to share another bottle of wine. I was enjoying our conversation without thinking at all about sex, talking for about three hours, slightly intoxicated, but not drunk. He suggested I accompany him to his bedsit for a coffee and without thinking anything of dangerous concern, I agreed. We caught a bus to a part of town I don’t remember, but walking into his bedsit after he unlocked the door, a wave of fear suddenly assaulted me, wanting to get out of there and leave immediately. Without turning to face him (I had walked in first and my back was facing his face), I told him I was tired and wanted to go home. He then grabbed my arm, twisted it behind my back and said: “You’re not going anywhere!” I was briefly mute then said: “OK, you want to fuck me?” Taking off my jeans, he proceeded to do exactly that as I lay on his bed with my legs spreadeagled. He fucked me quickly, putting his head on the pillow and hiding his keys under it. I lay my head on the pillow next to his, staying awake till dawn broke contemplating my next move to get out of there as he was asleep. Without knowing what time it was, about 7ish, I surmised, I woke him explaining I had work to do and had to go home. Carefully, I ensured my tone of voice was quiet and peaceful; almost contrite. I didn’t want to make him angry. He said “OK”, adding “Can I have your phone number as I’d like to see you again?” Aghast, I maintained my composure and told him I lived in a room in a house without a phone. I don’t think he believed me but he got off the bed to unlock the door (he had deadlocked it when we walked in which was what alerted me to the danger) and let me out. Of course, I had lied, but I walked down the street thinking I’m lucky to have survived unscathed. A fuck wasn’t worth getting killed for! I never told anyone.
As Christmas 1978 approached, I had little money left and unable to secure another job in either TV or newspapers in London. I was thinking heaps about a myriad of issues to do with men and women particularly, part of me angry at appreciating how unfair and unjust our western world could be to women but also angry at much of the rhetoric of feminism, even more than I had been in Melbourne six years before. Reading some more books, magazines and all sorts of assorted literature about the oppression of women, I was torn between feeling that oppression was real and also part of my experience but I rejected the thesis that it was all men’s fault. Patriarchy was the culprit it was maintained, writing in my diary in London that “we really do need a revolution.” Women AND men together was my perspective which remained unchanged since my conscious awareness of the need for female liberation in my adolescence. Yet, too many women wouldn’t or couldn’t acknowledge their own responsibility and willing participation in situations of oppression, instead blaming men per se as the perpetrators of their persecution. I started thinking about a book I wanted to write to uncover women’s own conspiracy against themselves, albeit unconsciously as my retort to the limited and unliberated linguistics of the women’s movement. Women had to face themselves first and foremost, sometimes alone but together with men in a socio-political context. I was only too well aware by then how society covertly manufactured conformity, a socially acceptable and sanctioned conservative and conventional mentality that all too sadly, unnaturally proscribed too many people’s behaviour, gender irrelevant. I had railed against a lifestyle of domestic, suburban bliss with the ideal nuclear family because I knew I couldn’t live it and moreover, wasn’t at all interested in trying to. The status quo implicitly controlled too many people’s lives, only to seek refuge in drink or drugs because they weren’t really happy. I’d realised that about Richard and so many alcoholics working in the media during my decade of experience with the mainstream media in England which was just as screwed as in Melbourne. Being a non-conformist was fraught with its innate conflicts. In The Fear of Freedom, Fromm writes that there are “psychological mechanisms which we find operating on a large scale in the social process…” clarifying notions of normal and neurotic as “the person who is normal in terms of being well adapted is often less healthy than the neurotic person in terms of human values. Often he is well adapted only at the expense of having given up his self in order to become more or less the person he believes he is expected to be. All genuine individuality and spontaneity may have been lost. On the other hand, the neurotic person can be characterised as somebody who was not ready to surrender completely in the battle for his self.” He elaborates on mechanisms of escape from freedom in two modes “once the individual faces the world outside himself as a completely separate entity…(the first is) he can progress to ‘positive freedom’ ; he can relate himself spontaneously to the world in love and work, in the genuine expression of his emotional, sensuous and intellectual capacities; he can thus become one again with man, nature and himself, without giving up the independence and integrity of his individual self. The other (mode) is (he) can fall back, to give up his freedom, and try to overcome his aloneness by eliminating the gap that has arisen between his individual self and the world. He terms this mode as an ‘escape from threatening panic; it is also characterised by the more or less complete surrender of individuality and the integrity of self…This assuages an unbearable anxiety and makes life possible by avoiding panic; yet it does not solve the underlying problem and is paid for by a kind of life that consists only of automatic or compulsive activities.”
“The Circle War” was written as my own take on the problem Fromm highlighted, working long hours at home on my own at the typewriter and getting tired as well as running out of money. My Thames girlfriend said she would pay for me to accompany her for a Christmas holiday in Spain where we had holidayed together previously while I was still at Thames.
On Xmas Day in Spain, most bars were closed but we found a bar around midday that was open, sitting there drinking our ‘cafe con leche’ when a man approached us who spoke English well and wasn’t Spanish, though I couldn’t identify his accent. He asked us what we were doing there and our plans for the rest of the day, telling him there was nothing to do as it was a ‘dead’ day in Catholic Spain. He invited us to a villa nearby where a friend of his lived and we agreed to go with him. At the villa, we met his friend who was sitting in the lounge drinking Chivas Regal who offered us a drink. The villa was palatial, grand and opulent, but sparsely furnished and a bit cold. Drinking whisky and eating some nibbles they provided, they told us they were French Arabs from Beirut who had left Lebanon during the civil war. We, at least I, talked politics with the friend who was kind of sexy and smart. After a few whiskies, he asked us if we wanted to watch a video movie. OK, what sort? What movie? He said “porn”, leading me down some stairs into a basement lined with umpteen shelves stacked with VCRs where he picked out one and we returned to the lounge to watch it. It was my first porn movie, featuring a lesbian ‘orgy’, young, big breasted women in black leather body suits with cut outs for the breasts and cunts, both on full display for the camera. It turned me on as I watched eagerly, never having seen anything like it. The man who had picked us up was trying to do a ‘line’ with my girl friend, but he was not very good looking and she wasn’t interested. Then, the friend asked me: “You want?” I nodded my assent and he led me to a bedroom, where I undressed and we had sex, fucking me from behind, without touching me or even kissing me. I was wet enough so it didn’t matter as the movie a great aphrodisiac. Certainly, it was what I felt I wanted, though the sex was hardly that exciting; enjoyable and pleasurable and I didn’t bother touching him either. It was over in about 15 minutes as we both came. Sometimes, I got what I needed. Without either of us bothering to shower, we got dressed and returned to the lounge where my girlfriend (brought up a Catholic) was seemingly very upset and agitated. She asked if she could use their phone (pre-mobiles) to ring her mother in London and wish her happy Xmas. She was crying. Ringing her mother, she then said she wanted to return to the apartment we were staying in with Andreas. My fuck friend asked me if I wanted to go out for dinner as it was now dark and early evening, saying he’d drive my friend back to the apartment and we’d then go out to eat. It was the last I saw of him. We had dinner at an expensive restaurant, then he dropped me off at the apartment and despite giving him Andreas’ phone number I never saw him again. Xmas ’78 was a memorable one for a good Jewish girl!
For the next eight months back in London, I didn’t hear from or see my Thames girlfriend again. I rang a few times, but she never returned my calls. Still unable to obtain a decent job in the media, I had to start considering returning to Australia, as my mother, who had helped me with a few hundred dollars to tide me over was pressuring me to come ‘home’. I was now completely broke but wouldn’t go on the dole and unemployment never made sense to me as I had been so damn good at my job and was at a loss to understand why my experience and excellence at work didn’t translate into a decent job. Waitressing in a wine bar briefly, I felt angry and resentful about having to do this. It was humiliating intellectually and a put down, having had to ask my mother for the first time in my life to help me financially. I hated it. After seven years in the UK, I now felt at ‘home’ there but realised I couldn’t stay unemployed, deciding to return to Australia where I believed I would obtain a good job, save some money again and then return to the UK. I had obtained my permanent residency in the UK and gave myself 18 months to save enough money to return. Little did I expect to be unemployed back ‘home’ in Melbourne. Suffice to say that’s for my next book on work, but as 1980 arrived on my return to Australia, I recognised in writing a sequel to The Circle War which I called ‘At The Front’, that sadly, the men at Thames weren’t the only ones perpetrating violence, their male gender irrelevant. My female friends, mother and sisters were guilty of expressing the same mental put downs, or a rape of my mind, that too many others had similarly evinced, either verbally or physically as manifested by my continued unemployment, impoverished existence and turning their backs on me. Fortunately, my relationship with Pedro and understanding my attraction to men with intelligence instead of just those with a potent ‘dick’ was my key to another life. Despite occasional flights of fantasy about other men, I never lost that key. Greer writes about liberation that “Essentially she must recapture her own will and her own goals, and the energy to use them…” I also penned my own poetic creation about Liberation:
“We’ve heard it for years, as they’ve beaten the drums,
Women will no longer be under men’s thumbs,
Yet they succumb like puppets on a string
Dangling their words with their hollow ring
For liberty, freedom and the quest for themselves
Yet too often standing back not willing to delve
In the put downs and abuse that riddle their lives
The power held over them like a sheath of knives.
Without looking to the meaning, they surrender their claim
Of individuality, instead all the same
Just robots and machines dancing on a line
Speaking nothing but sham, but dressed up all so fine.
The women have opted to seal their own fate
In narrow horizons in a world that’s too late
For freedom is struggle, against all the tide
With patience and fortitude we learn how to bide
The status quo and all its demeaning
Just words that are empty and full of snide malice
A cruelty perpetrated by man’s golden phallus
Yet women are conned and deceived by the trick
Victims of their own inability to think
And sexism flourishes on that ancient rule
That men are the wiser and women the fool
But uncover their lies and see what we find
A richness of self denied to the blind
So don’t be afraid to pursue the task
For liberty is strength without any mask.”
I also penned another poetic endeavour about having a man:
“We look as if we’re in the chase,
For men and sex along the race,
To trim our arse and flaunt our tits
Without fat wobbling to give men the shits.
We dress up fine and flirt and glance
Hoping to attract the chance
Of winning on the sexy stakes
Except that is our big mistake.
As women we have much more than that
Declare our minds and strip the law,
Between the sexes, only foolish,
To play a game that’s only schoolish,
Around the bed and not the desk
Demean ourselves by offering less.
And men the fools are caught and trapped
In our smart game, our route is mapped,
For marriage, love and a man to hold
And ‘success’ is ours we’re always told.
But what of us, and what we feel,
That dressing up is not so real
But just a show for their approval
When want we want is blunt removal
Of surface imagery and all the crap
That’s thrown at us along our map.
For ourselves should be our quest
Not caring whether by men we’re blessed
It’s just their ploy to put us down
Attending to our looks like clowns
ignoring us, what we’ll do next,
Just bodies, faces for some sex
Is their criteria, how we appeal
Based on nothing but the glib unreal.
Our challenge is to please ourselves
To gain and claim our looks and sex
Without the fools around our necks
For big tits and arse is all they see
We’re better off by letting it be.
Since penning this poetic prose in praise of a woman’s mind, I read a great line uttered by American Jewish writer, Nora Ephron, who said: ‘In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.’ My reality in 1980 was no longer interested in fantasy but rooted, all pun intended, in more significant succour that involved both body and mind; a delusional fantasy no doubt too as my 70s decade of self-discovery about everything and anything sexual, carnal and physiological involved too many men who weren’t on my wavelength. Indeed, in a book I picked up some years ago recording male and female perspectives on love, sex and lust among other things, American pop star of the 70s decade, Cher, suggests: “A girl can wait for the right man to come along but in the meantime that still doesn’t mean she can’t have a wonderful time with all the wrong ones”. I cannot think of any more relevant and risqué words to epitomise my young life. Just that writing it now decades on, I’m still deluded by fantasies of both mind and body, too often encapsulated in the wrong men. Is that what life is about? Finding a man? That was my issue as I approached the milestone of being 30.
My life was not at all what I’d planned, let alone could even conceive of, reflecting on what had transpired at Thames for many months, still angry and confused about the emphasis on my sexuality and looks as if that was all that mattered. Gloria Steinem, 82, writer and feminist activist, sums up the appearance issue very succinctly at that time: “Sometimes sexual politics took petty and odd forms. For example, I had been called a ‘pretty girl’ before I was identified as a feminist in my mid-thirties. Then suddenly I found myself being called ‘beautiful.’ Not only was I described by my appearance more than ever before, but I was told that how I looked was the only reason I got any attention at all”. Who told her, she doesn’t say. Men only? Or jealous bitchy and bitter women? Steinem doesn’t elaborate on what I think is key, but continues: “In 1971 The St Petersburg Times headlined: ‘Gloria’s Beauty Belies Her Purpose’. It took me a few years to figure out this sudden change in response to the same person. “ Interesting in those years, too, I received exactly the same changed response when I ‘glamorised’ my appearance, but at least it didn’t take me years to figure out though it was depressing, upsetting and saddening to say the least to realise just how ‘superficial’ most people, men AND women included, can be, particularly about females. Disappointingly, Steinem either doesn’t get it or didn’t want to write about who exactly was at fault, men only or women, too? She goes on: “…this grew into an accusation (again, she doesn’t say by whom she was accused) that I was listened to only because of how I looked, and a corollary that the media had created me. Though I’d been a freelance writer all my professional life without being told my appearance was the reason I got published, it now became the explanation for everything no matter how hard I worked…The idea that what I had accomplished was all about my looks would remain a biased and hurtful accusation even into my old age. “My bold.
About lesbianism, she wrote: “If someone called me a lesbian- in those days all single feminists were assumed to be lesbians-I learned just to say Thank You. It disclosed nothing, confused the accuser, conveyed solidarity with women who were lesbians, and made the audience laugh”. To say I related to her experience is an understatement! While I’ve never been described as ‘beautiful’, I was as I’ve written, very aware how our appearance as females could dictate our destinies; our intellect, minds and abilities rendered irrelevant. My experience of these limiting proscriptions was repeated ad nauseum for the rest of my life.
So often too were Plato’s wise words: “Is there any greater or keener pleasure than physical love? No, nor any which is more unreasonable”. The smart subtlety of Woody Allen also pertains to my decade who posits: “Love is the answer; but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.” The final words however belong to my teenage heroine as star of screen, Katharine Hepburn, who never married but had a lifetime liaison with co-star, Spencer Tracey, another married alcoholic, who wrote: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Indeed!