What does it say about morality that so much human energy is put into imagining someplace where we are rid of it? All four of the stories in Study Abroad involve a certain leap into some realm beyond good and evil. and Bridget’s involves one into an imagined world that has had a pretty deep grip on the erotic consciousness — at least of Christian Europe and its cultural offshoots — for hundreds of years. In the age of Google, it takes a matter of seconds to peer back into the artistic record and see the story. I make a tiny, tiny nod to political correctness in imagining that Bridget goes there of her own “free will,” (or does she? — there are layers of complicating detail), but otherwise, I simply indulge the story whose record is so abundantly available. The visual image of nubile slaves, up for sale, voyeristically inspected:
That of the odalisque, a subject so popular in European painting that there must be hundreds of examples, of which this is perhaps the most famous:
The image of life in a place of sensual indulgence:
And I must of course note, that this visual tradition continues in cinema, and interestingly not just as male voyeurism. Perhaps the first important male sex symbol in film, Rudolph Valentino, really broke into the public consciousness in The Sheik, a story of the abduction and seduction of an aristocratic white woman in the mysterious orient.