SHE AND HE
THE MISTRESS CONTRACT
The remarkable true document that is The Mistress Contract opens with a piece of paper that was signed in 1981 by a woman and her wealthy lover. The contract establishes an exchange that she thinks fair: If he will provide an adequate and separate home for her and cover her expenses, she will provide him with “mistress services”: “All sexual acts as requested, with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers.”
For the duration of the agreement, she will become his sexual property.
Then — on a small recorder that fit in her purse — this extraordinary and unconventional couple began to tape their conversations about their relationship, conversations that took place while travelling, over dinner at home and in restaurants, on the phone, even in bed.
This book is based on those tapes. It is a candid record of what they had to say to each other privately about the arrangement and its power relations, their physical relationship and the sexual forces that shaped it. As private and intimate as it is, though, the book also turns an unblinking light on a period of intense upheaval between men and women.
Looking back now, thirty years later, this extraordinary couple are willing to reveal their most private moments to our scrutiny. What they capture in The Mistress Contract is an unapologetic revelation and a bold provocation.
$12.95 | Trade Paperback | 5 1/2 x 8 1/4 | 160 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60953-088-4 | Carton Quantity: 24
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Scene: HE and SHE in bed with tape recorder.
Time: A night in April, in California in the 1980s
She: Sometime we’re going to have to talk on tape about this agreement we’ve signed.
He: The content of these tapes should appear in a book, and if the content is as outrageous as the contract, it’s going to outrage some people . . . one thing I fi nd fascinating, and which makes me fall in love with you every time I think of it, is . . . where did you get the audacity (I wouldn’t call it courage) to try something like that? The sheer genius? When I go back over all of our arguments, all the times when we were thrashing about on the issue of your bending your will to another, other figures loomed up, shadows from the past. If we did something together, all the other men you’d done it with interposed themselves.
She: Do you remember when I wrote that letter offering myself as mistress? I wrote it because I was angry at myself for feeling miserable. I sat down and in the petulant heat wrote a suggestion. I got carried away at the typewriter because it was so much fun . . .
He: . . . as is your wont . . .
She: . . . so much fun to give away all of my freedom and to give up all my other roles of feminist, analyst of what was happening to me and other women— to just throw it away and be paid for all I had previously, supposedly, done out of love. What’s a letter? Send it. He’ll either never respond, or he’ll laugh. I didn’t expect you to accept it.
He: I thought it was the greatest offer I’d ever received.
She: By phone, immediately, you accepted. And I can remember feeling soaringly happy at the whole antic. For weeks and weeks after that, I tried out what it felt like to be a mistress, which I certainly had never been. It’s not even a category available . . .
He: . . . to a modern woman.
She: I, modern woman, went dancing around, took walks, thought, and wrote not a word of it in my journal. I didn’t want it to be literary. I needed it to be real.
He: You’ve grown into the role beautifully.
She: There was a big payoff besides happiness. Housing, money. It’s not too fair.
He: Why? Just because you happen to have someone who is madly in love with you and would give you anything he had?
She: But if you were as penniless as I am, this kind of agreement wouldn’t work at all.
He: You wonder what I’m getting out of this?
She: That question does not usually occur to women. They say, “Why don’t you do this, or treat me another way?” They find it hard to ask, “What am I getting out of this?” A home, cutlery, kids, and a man’s protection they expect, and then demand more.
He: I never have been penniless, but I don’t think it’s just a function of the fact that in a relative sense I’ve become affluent. I’m a lot richer than I can make use of. That is, my worth is a lot greater than my ability to spend money. What puzzles me is, is this new pleasure a function of age, or experience, or what? You’re the genius. You’re the one who thinks up these delicious ideas.
She: It’s surely not an idea I got from reading feminist books. It’s perverse.
He: The only thing I can think of which is similar is your former joy in ritual rape. You loved to be raped.
He: And you love this role. Only this isn’t ritualistic. This is real. You might think you can get out of it, but habit will trap you. We’ll develop behavior patterns, and you won’t be able to escape.
She: I can’t right now imagine wanting to escape because nobody wants to go over all of women’s battles every day one meets with a man. Do you remember when I wrote that letter offering myself as mistress? I wrote it because I was angry at myself for feeling miserable. I sat down and in the petulant heat wrote a suggestion. I got carried away at the typewriter because it was so much fun . . .