In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

The Archeology of an Affair

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It is a weird feeling day. I awoke with my senses tingling and an inarticulable awareness that something, some idea or fact, was around the corner of my mind waiting to wrestle me to the ground. The first missive to manifest the strange of this April Fool’s Day came thanks to a contributor to my blog whose morning internet crawls often yield blog treasures. The piece forwarded today featured a German married man’s meticulous documenting of his 1969 to 1970 affair, almost in a rudimentary documentary of affairs. 


The story on dangerminds.net includes photos that appear as if witnessed circumstantially evident sex acts: indicia of before and after sex. His mistress-secretary peers into the camera, traces of sultry satisfaction hinted in the cigarette and state of partial undress. The spread includes pictures of a dress he bought her and an empty birth control container, artifacts by which we archeologists of his future could infer a story not of a man passionately in love but the age-old story of control and possession, on display–the spoils of the hunt and capture. 


The implicitly contented face of the smoking mistress with the wonderful beehive do, teased to maximum density, in bed, extended in post coital satisfaction, or so the picture hopes to portray from a purely exterior view, showcases the object of the photographer’s gaze, the same man who presumably put that look on her face–the picture of achievement and narcissistic witness to a man’s conquest and testimony to his virility and prowess. The random bits of details surrounding this short affair appear to be important recordings to a man who does not want to forget any detail that he had indeed had this affair.


The power of possession is indeed the story, one of sex as consumerism. The woman is created only as a result of and in control of his gaze, his angle, his lens and his poses. He creates the experience for possession and posterity, and so it will always be captured in the light he chose to produce. No matter that the face of the mistress hides a pretend satisfaction to please the gazer for gain or purposes of her own, if indeed that is the case (the after-sex cigarette as the symbol of the soothing needed after the near-miss or total lack of sexual satisfaction). 


Her story is subsumed in his, overtaken and dissipated into a past disappeared perhaps irretrievably, with respect to this brief affair. Where and how would such a story be told at a time when a mistress meant whore according to the mores of a time less exposed to the real lives of real people, who marry, get bored and fuck others? A portrait of a man falling prey to culturally crafted needs supplants her story: the will to possess women, and emoting through sex, i.e., he cannot please his wife any longer so he will please someone else to make him feel like the socially constructed ideal of a man as provider, conqueror, lover, success, power–all evidenced by his stuff.


Or maybe it is just a curiosity of time and place.


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