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The Anatomy of a Love Affair: The Guide to Sex for the Girl Who Says “Yes!”
Author: Evelyn Bourne
Publisher: Pyramid Books, New York
Discovered at: The Second Best Thrift Shop, Astoria, Queens
The Cover Promises: That you need a book to teach you how to do the thing that you already say “Yes” to.
“You’ve got to constantly think of yourself as elegant, fragile, and sexy. Think that way long enough and often enough and you will be in no time at all. The key word here is ‘fragile.'” (page 23)
“When you finally get him to the point of seducing you, don’t act too comfortable about it. He might accept the fact that you’ve quenched your thirst once before, but it wouldn’t do to have him think you’ve been to the well too often.” (page 66)
Evelyn Bourne’s fascinating The Anatomy of a Love Affair could have been titled How to Get Yourself Seduced Without Looking Like You’re Into It. Published in 1965, the book demonstrates on each florid, chatty page the complications of the early days of the sexual revolution: Women now felt free to want sex outside of marriage — but Bourne urges them not to admit that to anyone, including the partners with whom they might want to do it.
It’s a self-help book about achieving a goal — but making the goal think it’s achieving fragile little you.
Here’s what Bourne suggests you do once you get a likely seducer back to your place at the end of a date:
“Since you know him well enough by now to ask him in for that last drink, you know him well enough to kick off your shoes and fall full length on the couch, in simulated (and possibly genuine) exhaustion. He’ll probably fall right alongside, pal-fashion. This is generally effective in getting things started, but you do run the risk of his falling asleep beside you.”
Throughout Anatomy of a Love Affair Bourne endeavors to teach women to create the situations in which men will feel comfortable — but not quite invited — to do what used to be called taking advantage.
Bourne lays out some rules:
“While you’re stretched out on the couch, you might worry briefly about your gown. Say something innocuous like ‘I think I felt a seam split’ or ‘Don’t catch your cuff-links on my sequins.’ But don’t you suggest taking it off and ‘getting into something more comfortable.’ … Let the suggestion come from him.”
(And if that doesn’t work? “You might remark that the room seems unseasonably warm.”)
Her advice for what to do if you wind up at his place starts practical and winds up tragic:
“Don’t take off more than your shoes your first time up there for any reason.”
“Don’t shower in his apartment unless you’re ready to be seduced. Even if you’ve just come from the golf course and could use some soap and water, settle for a good wash, with your clothes on, and take your chances.”
“If you do find it necessary to shower at his place, and he makes a pass at you when you step out of the stall, soft-skinned and sweet-smelling, don’t threaten to scream. With your luck all the neighbors will be stone deaf. And if you do scream, he and the police department might well ask what you were doing up there with no clothes on in the first place.”
“If you can’t talk yourself out of his pass, try crying. Only a beast can resist a woman’s tears. And if he’s a beast, relax and enjoy it. All it means is you’ll be seduced a few days or weeks earlier than you had intended. And since you had planned to be anyway, don’t quibble.”
Don’t quibble if he forces you into sex while you cry in his shower? Is it possible “seduce” meant something different in 1965 than today?
As you might expect after the horrors of that shower scene, Bourne isn’t selling liberation, here. Yes, she presumes her readers feel free to chase pre-marital sex but also that they’re willing to suppress most other aspects of themselves to get it.
Here’s one more batch of suggestions from Bourne, all less depressing than that last one:
“Don’t get too smart, too strong, or too dogmatic, or I can promise you you’ll lose him. Defer to his judgement; let him handle taxi-drivers and waiters.”
“Neither is it advisable to follow him around, as this may make him very nervous.”
“Femininity is always looking and feeling like you’ve just stepped out of a bath.”
“Almost as bad as the dirty-joke teller is the ‘funny girl.’ There’s one in every crowd. She’s the girl who is invited to all the parties because she keeps everyone amused. But when all is said and done, who wants to make love to a clown?”
“Don’t let him see that you’re smarter than he is in any area, including whatever you specialize in. If you’ve just won the Nobel Prize for Literature and he says you should have presented chapter three differently, agree with him.”
“Make interesting conversation (like ‘Really? How wonderful. Do go on!’)”
By all that logic, it’s quite likely that this “Evelyn Bourne,” if she’s still alive and if she chances to read this post, will out of habit have to agree with the man who wrote it: “Yes, yes!” she might say. “My book was awful.”
And then I’ll have to spend the rest of my life wondering if she’s reverse-seducing me.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 16, 2014