“There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” is a quote that brings to mind a young Pierre Elliot Trudeau, then Acting Minister of Justice of Canada, who introduced omnibus legislation that decriminalized homosexual acts performed in private and granted women the right to abortion under certain controlled conditions. The date was December 1,1967. A lot has changed since then in many parts of the world, but not all. A lot remains the same, but has merely shape-shifted. The public control of sexuality and reproduction remains a hot topic in all human societies, perhaps because Eros, or the impulse towards life, is in constant struggle with Thanatos, or the inevitability of death.
Montréal Serai is not afraid of controversy. In fact, it embraces it, because dialectics is the surest, albeit toughest, path towards truth. Truth is out there, but its shifting appearance is deceptive. However, our writers are not afraid of the hard climb.
This issue takes a peek inside the “boudoir,” a term coined to describe 18th-century aristocratic French women’s private chambers. Annie Bouvrette’s evocative portraits of women’s obscured bodies probe the archetypal and explore the inner and outer movement of intimacy with self and other. Abby Lippman looks through the glass door of the boudoir darkly, with feminist shades, musing on how a room of one’s own can be used as a weapon of exclusion when wielded against women by others, and on the subversive possibilities of reclaiming that space. Tamara Faith Berger leaps into the fray with a no-holds-barred exploration of hate-sex, the negative consequences of constrained lust, and the very real violence facing women who are overtly sexual, whether they live in Canada, South Asia or beyond. Maya Khankhoje delves into the past when poetry was the only weapon women had to resist the social strictures that limited their sexual pleasure. She also reviews The Happy Marriage, a novel by Tahar Ben Jelloun, an award-winning Moroccan author who chronicles the deterioration of a marriage against the backdrop of religious fundamentalism. Nilambri Ghai regales us with a playful romp through a young Indian girl’s sexual education with tales from the Kama Sutra. Rana Bose, a self-described “writer-nerd,” gives us his take on the writing process with “g-spot-rubbing rebelliousness.” Oleh Derhachov caps it all with cartoons that are as delightful as they are incisive.
We hope that this initial foray into the politics of sexuality will inspire our readers/writers to contribute to this life-affirming debate. Keep your eye to the Serai keyhole for more surprises to be unveiled in the coming weeks, including Montréal street art that takes the boudoir to the back alley.
When Maya Khankhoje changed from private to public school in Mexico, she learned the real meaning of the word “virgin.” Asked by a street-smart classmate whether she was a virgin, she replied no, to the great hilarity of her new friend. Maya, of course, was thinking of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patroness of all Mexicans.
Jody Freeman’s boudoir is all in her mind.