Some notes on pleasure as art
Chloe decides to teach June about sex. This is not something they understand in the Midwest, but happily Chloe once made a movie with James – she whips it out at parties, she says. June of course thinks there is always something shameful about sex, whereas Chloe might say it’s no different than any other bodily function. Pleasure is not immune to enlightenment – far from it, Chloe thinks her tape might prove instructive.
By a happy coincidence, that movie is sold to the kind of people who specialize in publishing that kind of movie, privacy concerns be damned. James is shocked to hear from those people – how will it affect his upcoming Dancing with the Stars performance? But June’s mother convinces him that America will adore him. Even the kind of dancing that suggests sex is insufficiently persuasive – but add to that kind of dancing a sex movie & you have guaranteed success.
Sex, however, is not meant to teach America in the sense in which textbooks are meant to teach students – rather, America will learn that the life of Chloe is the life worth living. Chloe uses another likeness, not dancing, but music, specifically the British invasion – she admonishes June, you don’t play Birmingham twice. Casual sex is important because it prevents the various human troubles from impinging on the pleasure of sex. At the same time, much like music, it can make musicians, but not their audiences, famous & wealthy.
June wants to have sex, but she also wants a husband. Chloe can help lull her conscience, so to speak, but it is not clear whether she can replace it by accurate calculations regarding marriage. This points out a contradiction: June wants to be both very moral & very attractive. Chloe’s education seems to reduce to this, that shame clouds the mind – whereas shameless humor clears the mind. Clarity would always be immoral then.
The problem emerges because June is attracted to a very handsome man who seems equipped for pleasure, but is transparently idiotic. June objects to his charm – either that he doesn’t know who Eleanor Roosevelt was or that he believes the moon is chasing him. Not the way to the altar… The history test suggests feminism; but the other test has to do with being successful – a poet might say that line about the moon.
Of course, neither failure has anything to do with sex. But this helplessness brings out June’s mothering. Chloe mocks this by some mothering of her own. She is proud to see June is growing up when she finds her masturbating. This is because being a grownup is either about independence or about sexuality. Both are shameless in Chloe’s telling.