Everyone who has seen the television show, Sex and the City, knows all about the character Samantha Jones. In the very first episode of the season, which I may have re-watched rather recently, she declares that she ‘has sex like a man’. While many men could take offence to this declaration, as she is essentially saying she can fornicate without feelings, it is the same message that Anais Nin’s protagonist in A Spy in the House of Love is trying to emulate.

Just fifty years before Sex and the City existed.

Sabina, a promiscuous woman taking advantage of 1950s New York, is on a quest to fulfil her sexual desires. Despite her hedonistic desires and ferocious appetite for men, Sabina is constantly in fear that her devoted husband Alan will discover her lies. As A Spy in the House of Love unfolds, and Sabina’s lies and love affairs grow, she begins to fall apart, waiting for her carefully fabricated life to fall in on itself.

While A Spy in the House of Love is beautifully written, empowering for women and advanced considering it was written 60-odd years ago, it didn’t resonate with me as a reader. Truly, I found Sabina despicable, and the way that her adventures unfolded bored me: they just seemed insincere.

I have nothing against women enjoying sex simply as a form of pleasure: I think that even in the 21st society we live in, women are branded as ‘sluts’ for wanting to be treated the same as men. While it isn’t for everyone, as long as both parties are consenting adults, then who cares what someone gets up to in the bedroom? And with whom? However, what I took offence with was Sabina’s gluttonous mentality of ‘wanting it all’: she wanted to sleep around with men to achieve the impersonal pleasures of casual sex, yet she also wanted her husband to love and dote on her…despite the fact that she was unfaithful.

While some people may argue that ‘sleeping around’ when in a relationship isn’t that terrible, for me, and in Sabina’s case too, it is deceitful and wrong if you specifically know that your partner would be against it. Sabina knows this: she creates a web of lies, multiple lives for herself in fact, to conceal her sexual adventures from her husband. And throughout the novel, she is terrified that he will find out and leave her.

This brings me to the second point of the novel that I didn’t appreciate. While Anais Nin has broken some boundaries in her novel, it also frustrated me that she created a promiscuous woman who feels guilty and dirty about what she is doing. Essentially, she is trying to have sex without feeling, and she fails, again and again. While this is largely because she is in a relationship, it also doesn’t send a particularly nice message – women who have lots of casual sex will eventually go insane from the guilt. The guilt that Sabina feels for her actions may have been realistic, but it was a tired storyline that many writers have used and the conclusion always seemed to be the same – women are more emotionally involved in relationships, sexual or otherwise, than men. Honestly, I thought that this novel had the potential for more.

Would you read A Spy in the House of Love? Are you a fan of Anais Nin? Let me know!

a spy in the house of love by anais nin

A Spy in the House of Love – (image taken from http://www.gr-assets.com)

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