For reasons that we need not try to understand, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s column, “The Unlikely Other Woman” was rejected by the “Modern Love” section of the New York Times.
Happily enough, a new website has just appeared, dedicated to publishing columns that were rejected by the Times. Among its first publications was Bussel’s column. Link here.
Bussel is a writer. She writes about sex. She writes about her own sexual experiences and about the sexual experiences of others. She has, dare I say, pretty much tried it all, and has emerged as an expert in matters erotic. We might fairly say that she is skilled in the arts of love.
I will not say that she is a sex professional, because that term has a pejorative connotation, but, were she living in a different time, she would happily fulfill the requirements to be a mistress, courtesan, or concubine.
I think it fair to say that if that is the way you want to be identified, you will naturally attract men who are looking for sexual adventure, who want to explore the wilder side of sexual experience.
Some of you might find it horrifying and profoundly offensive, but a woman who exposes her sexuality should not expect to marry and settle down in a conventional existence.
In fact, self-exposure will pretty much immunize a woman from having a conventional life. If that is her choice, that is her prerogative.
Bussel’s rejected column details a passionate love affair. In properly modest terms.
The affair involved her with a married man. Not an unhappily married man in a “loveless sexless marriage,” she specifies, but a man who was “happily married, in an open relationship.”
It happens that the marriage was not open enough for the man to tell his wife of the affair, but… let’s not be too nit-picky here.
Of course, Bussel was concerned that an affair with a married man might open her to emotional risks. She thought it through and concluded that she had the situation under control: “We were modern, feminist, egalitarian types who could separate sex and love, marriage and monogamy. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started flirting with him—or so I thought.”
Those are the words of someone whose ideology has caused her to imagine that she is immune from a normal woman’s feelings.
Isn‘t that what all of this ideology about socially constructed gender roles is really supposed to accomplish; to allow women to have sex like men?
Bussel was especially enthralled by this man because he was reading her erotic writings and was willing to give her so much attention. After all, what with his career and his marriage, he was a very busy man.
She was so utterly enthralled that when they met for their first tryst, and when the man told her that he had had sex several times with his wife that very day, Bussel was undeterred. She soldiered on, basing her decision on the intensity of her feelings.
In her words: “He picked me up and I melted into him; there was no way an attraction that powerful could be wrong.”
Sorry to say it, but many women have been lured into the wrong relationship by telling themselves: “THERE WAS NO WAY AN ATTRACTION THAT POWERFUL COULD BE WRONG.”
If you do not understand that a powerful desire can, and often is, wrong, then you do not understand much about human relationships.
It doesn’t take that long for Bussel to decide that she wants more than just the great sex. Despite herself and despite her feminist convictions, her emotions become involved in the relationship.
The more they do, the more it becomes about her soul as well as her body. Then she discovers that desire is not the be-all and end-all of human relationships… especially for men.
She had made a grievous miscalculation. If you believe that desire conquers all, read carefully what happens when Bussel tries to open her soul to her lover: “I had tried to distill my feelings for him down to their simplest essence, and he’d dismissed me as a lovestruck nuisance. My birthday came and went without even a text.”
How does she explain where she went wrong? She writes: “I thought I was too smart to get hurt, which was my ultimate downfall.” Here I agree entirely. Intellectual arrogance led her astray.
She thought she was so smart that reality did not apply to her. She believed that the mind can control reality, that if you think differently or speak differently then you will change the world, or, at least, you will change your emotional makeup.
Keep in mind, Bussel was not looking for a husband. She was looking for a lover. She wanted to have an affair. She wanted to practice her advanced skills as master of sexual pleasure. And that was exactly what she found.
She claims to have no regrets.
The moral of the story is that a woman’s free and open expression of her sexuality will require her to repress her emotions.
When those same emotions escape their shackles and catch up with you, it will not be a happy day.
Bussel declares that she would not do it differently. I imagine that she felt that she had to say that. Since she described her experience as a “downfall” I suspect that she was saying what her readers want her to say, not what she really feels.