I was inducted into a harem…

Pretty pretty spider
The crux of the matter

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:

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 - 1904), "The Slave Market"

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:

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780 -1867), "La Grande Odalisque"

The image of life in a place of sensual indulgence:

Gérôme again, "The Harem Baths"

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.

Rewatching _The Sheik_ just recently I was struck at the extraordinary charisma that Valentino projects through the screen, even through flicker, silent, sepia-toned images now almost 90 years old.  What male Hollywood actor working today would even be fit to shine Valentino's shoes?

And the whole theme continues onward.  See related Erosblog posts here, here, here and here. Who am I, humble scrivener that I am, to decline to expropriate such a tradition?

One thought on “I was inducted into a harem…

Comments are closed.