Excerpt from the new issue: Sara Gray on Notes on a Scandal (2006):
"I resent how our culture has taught men to gaze at women’s bodies with entitlement, dividing their wholeness into breasts, thighs, legs: lumps of pretty meat to use and eat. But now I know a little of how men feel, for I, too, have found myself objectifying my coworker with my gaze. I’m not proud of it. Lucas wears the top few buttons of his shirt open, and there, beneath the hollow of his throat, I can see a tuft of hair that hints at a thick swath covering his chest and belly. I have to consciously avert my eyes from that tuft, because if I don’t, I will stare at it and yearn to touch it instead of listening to him ask for a travel application. "Eyes up," I chide myself, but moving my gaze directly up to his is just as dizzying. His eyes are so blue. When he looks back at me, words turn to marbles in my throat, and I have to swallow them down, hard. The only time I indulge myself is when he turns his back on me. In those stolen moments, I can take in the wondrous line of his thin hips. I toe the edge of a precipice with each furtive glance.
I don’t know why I long for Lucas when I’m so happy to be engaged to the man I love. I fret over this often. It’s unfair. Why can’t I have such lustful feelings for my fiancé? He’s still the same handsome guy I fell for back in the first frantic months of our courtship. Our relationship has since deepened into an abiding, comfortable intimacy; we laugh at each other’s farts and baby talk to the dog. I worry I take too much advantage of this intimacy when I tell him about Lucas. I fear I am being cruel, but I also fear that if I keep my lust to myself, it will fester and metastasize. He just holds me and tells me I’m being too hard on myself. “You’re only human,” he says, his hands gentle on my neck and back. “It’s ok to want other people. Just let them alone, and keep telling me the truth.”
Easier said than done, at least for Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). Like me, she too teeters on the cliffs of desire, though she has it much worse than I do. Her obscure object is Steven (Andrew Simpson), a fifteen-year-old student with a Scottish burr and freckles. After scoring a goal in the schoolyard, he whips off his shirt and points at her. This one’s for you, Miss. It’s difficult to tell if he’s referring to the goal or his sculptural half-nakedness, but the effect is the same on Sheba either way. I recognize the pain in her eyes: longing, shot through with resentment. As we age, we must sweat and diet and discipline ourselves into beauty, but the young just miraculously are, like Venus emerging from the sea.”
(this essay is currently featured in the September issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room and is also available to read, in its entirety, over at RogerEbert.com)
I wrote some torrid stuff for BWDR this month, and it’s featured on Roger Ebert’s film site.