The Erotics of Virtue (Obituary Essay on Dominique Aury/Pauline Reage, Author of Story of O)

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 20, 1999

8 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2007 Last revised: 3 Jul 2010

See all articles by Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: June 6, 2010

Abstract

This essay originally appeared in the LA Times book review as an obituary essay on Dominique Aury, author (under the name Pauline Reage) of the pornographic classic Story of O. The essay argues that Story of O is a fairy tale in which the heroine, O, seeks to escape from modernity's enforced virtues of equality, freedom, and choice into a world of the virtues of hierarchy - the eroticized analogues of religious submission. The novel is driven forward by a downward spiral in which O seeks to surrender herself to her masters and so escape from modernity's insistence on liberty and equality. In each instance, however, O's submission is permitted only upon the condition imposed by her masters that she consent to her enslavement, thus returning her to the condition of freedom and equality. In each iteration of the novel's trademark sado-masochism, she abases herself still further in seeking a submission that would carry her outside of modernity's conditions, and cannot obtain it. The essay also comments on the relationship of the fairy tale-novel to Aury's own life and the lover for whom she wrote it, the eminent editor and critic Jean Paulhan. (Note: The PDF takes a little while to download.)

Keywords: sadism, masochism, Story of O, sado-masochism, submission, dominance, S&M, sexuality, bondage, discipline, Dominique Aury, Pauline Reage, Jean Paulhan, pornography, eroticism, virtue, hierarchy, equality, freedom, liberty, submission, consent

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Kenneth, The Erotics of Virtue (Obituary Essay on Dominique Aury/Pauline Reage, Author of Story of O) (June 6, 2010). Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 20, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=931790

Kenneth Anderson (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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