Sade´s Justine and Juliette, Andahazi´s Mona Sofia , Nabokov´s Lolita all have one thing in common: they were girls under 14 when they started their sexual lives. It is amazing that most readers I know seem oblivious to this fact. Is it because of other media portrayals of the characters? Is it because they assume that female characters engaged in sexual intercourse are older? Or they are enticed by the idea of sexualized Young girls and they do not fully realize?
Justine and Juliette are sides of the same coin, of Sade´s view of religion, ethics, morality, law and sex. Juliette enters a catholic boarding school for no destitute orphan girls along with her younger sister Justine. Juliette is drawn to the Abbess of the convent, a woman under thirty, condemned by her parents to monastical life and who reigns over the nuns and novices, corrupting them, convinced that society is indeed corrupt, moved by Money, and that pleasure and sex are ways to manipulate power in their favour. Juliette becomes na acolyte and part of the price she pays to enter the inner circle of debauchery is selling her younger sister to the mercy of others, and that´s how Justine´s troubles really begin. Juliette does not think about her sister again, until the end of Justine´s novel, when she finds her and gives her the last days of Peace. Justine is very Young, around 13 and eager to learn, and she does enjoy sex.
Her enjoyment comes first from women on women practices, and she does not seem capable of forming any true bond to anyone, men or women, and that is key to her success. She is beautiful, intelligent, and cruel. She learns to actually enjoy deviant sexual practices, and describes her pleasure. When she does it, we read the Marquis fantasy of what a women should feel. He does not describe her that thoroughly, he does, however, describe her victims, and the innocent are the best described. Young bodies, still firm, lean, budding breasts, or full and still high, adolescent boys and girls.
Justine is angelic, undoubtedly dumb, although most describe her as naive. She is a girl between 11 and 12 when she enters the boarding school and is sold to rape. She begins a journey where she us submitted to every act of violence conceivable, and she does not waver in her Faith that Providence will eventually rescue her. She is Panglossian and angelic, she is a believer. She does not draw any pleasure from any of the acts she is forced to participate, she has no agency, no say in anything. A careful reading might make you wonder if she had scars on her body. Yet she is a porn icon. How can someone resist brutalizing Justine? She is a flower ready for plucking.
Lolita… ah, Lolita… the nymphette. One might excuse Sade for writing child girls having sex. Nabokov wrote on the second half of the twentieth century. The movies made Lolita a sex icon, the teenager who hits on an older man. In the books, she is 12.
Humbert Humbert is a man emotionally stuck on a certain moment of his past. His idea of beauty, love, sexual attraction is determined by that moment of his development, and he can´t grow out of it. Lolita echoes this moment, and although in the beginning she is indeed infatuated with that Foreigner who is so chic, pretty much like any pre-teen would be with a charming teacher, a movie star or a musician on a stage, it is not rational to believe that at that precise point of our western social history girls of her age do understand how uneven a relationship with an older person can be, and how this can become a power play, where she will be severely abused as a human being.
On the other hand… can anyone deny that the body respond to stimuli?
Hilda Hilt´s Lori Lamby is disturbing because she teases us, she is extremely young, only 8 y-o, she sometimes “talks like” a child, and still she does admit that she does has physical responses which are not unpleasant. The tingling, the spasms and “pressure” down there, manipulation of her genitals, she is not truly aroused by the contact of other bodies. She is still immature.
Lolita is a book about abuse, about a girl that goes from abuse to abuse. It is a great book, and it is amazing how Nabokov can make legions of readers fall for the girl as Humbert did, often loosing sight of the abusive aspect.
And Mona Sofia… Andahazi´s book is a small jewel. In fact, if only more men knew how to deal with our clitoris like our sweet Anatomist did… but then they would have to look a tour bodies with real interest, as if they truly wanted to understand our bodies, the smallest details of our pleasure. Not the orifices where they can stick their cocks and spill their seed, but rather the journey, the fields of skin, the thousands of different sensations one can provide and draw from exploring someone else´s body. For the love of Mona Sofia, the most beautiful prostitute of Italy, a man discovers that women have a little thing in their genitals which can provide them with utmost pleasure and he Wonders if by learning how to manipulate that small piece of anatomy he could seize the soul and the heart of the woman he loves. He makes one woman realize that if she feels no pleasure, she can manipulate men. And he fails miserably in his intent with the prostitute. The sex trader, Mona Sofia, Lady Knowledge, is a woman literally raised to be a prostitute, a baby sold into servitude, a young child sold to a school of hetairas. A whore is not supposed to show affection, but to please, love against the clock, love that hides its joy, should it have any.
I can´t pretend to know how a pedophile feels. I do not feel attracted to children in any way. I have never liked older men, and I have only tried them when I was older than 35. There is a limit to age difference. But I do admire young men. I do love to watch them and I have had sex with a few. It is a humbling experience, and also… I don´t treat them as equals, sometimes I don´t treat them as humans I reckon.
They are living Works of art, each with his own beauty. My sensualism peaks, and it strips them of agency, unfortunately.
We are often blind to the age of characters because we – men and women – love youth and its attributes. I don´t deny my own bias. I admit it and up to a certain point I embrace it… how did it feel to be a teenager physically? Hmmm… I am afraid of talking about it cause people might fantasize, or claim that I am giving material for paedos…