Promises

Mary-Kay Wilmers

  • The Faber Book of Seductions edited by Jenny Newman
    Faber, 366 pp, £12.95, June 1988, ISBN 0 571 15110 8
  • Journeys to the Underworld by Fiona Pitt-Kethley
    Chatto, 226 pp, £10.00, October 1988, ISBN 0 7011 3223 X

Almost every woman I know has at one time or another been to bed with a man she shouldn’t have been to bed with – a married man, a friend’s man or, quite simply, a man who wasn’t her man. It may be that some of them allowed themselves to be talked into it and afterwards wished they hadn’t and it may be that someone (usually someone else) suffered for it, but to call these events ‘seductions’ would be to try to give them a status which they no longer enjoy. Seducers had victims, not partners in crime, and to seduce someone was to lead them astray, not merely to lead them to bed. ‘I like to think I’m a sort of gay bachelor, Don Juan or Casanova,’ Fiona Pitt-Kethley says at the beginning of her startling account of the sights she saw and the men she laid in the course of two journeys to Italy in search of the lairs of the sibyls and other poets and prophets of the Ancient world. She doesn’t, she adds, ‘give the men anything to complain of’, doesn’t ‘promise permanence’ or ‘leave them holding the baby’; and in that sense, however inviting or provocative her behaviour, whatever her state of dress or undress, what she describes isn’t seduction but casual sex.

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