10/24/13

A Modest Proposal For Tying The Same-Sex Knot. Or not.

same_sex_wedding_topper1-620x412“Same-sex couples rushed to wed early Monday morning, the first day they could legally do so in New Jersey. … Mayors in some places performed ceremonies after the stroke of midnight Sunday for couples looking to tie the knot as soon as possible.”  The Wall Street Journal, October 22

Dear Same-Sex Knot-Tying Devotees,

732-d-001You were with me in spirit those many years ago when I got married at City Hall. You were my anti-establishment role models, giving me tacit permission to show up in black velvet pants and a tweed jacket instead of a cloud of white netting. The Good Ex, my soon-to-be spouse and I waited in vinyl chairs for our number to be called, and when we walked into the nuptial room, the only thing I noticed was the round patch of rug sewn over the carpet at the foot of the ceremonial podium where countless of betrothed had worn it down, standing before a city functionary  declaring their love.

And you were there when I got divorced, reminding me that wedding vows can have shelf life and happiness doesn’t need to stand on ceremony. I spent summer weekends with you on Fire Island and went to the theatre with you and out to dinners where the conversation trumped the food. I was grateful to your queer eye for rescuing the straight guy’s ineptitude and for your canny perspective on coupling when my romantic adventures went south.

I especially admired the way you went about your relationships compared to my straight friends. You weren’t sprayed with couple’s fixative causing you to socialize forever in tandem. You didn’t need to finish each other’s sentences. You didn’t have to argue about your mother coming to visit because she thought you were in love with the beard you took to family weddings. You weren’t all smoochy in public, saving your unleashed passions for the bedroom or wherever you happened to have sex, because you were definitely having more of it.

You seemed happier until you weren’t and then you went your separate but equal ways. Outsiders, you answered to your own rules. Not caught in the swift, unswerving current of the mainstream, you charted your own course.

So before you flock to the altar I fled from, The Sultanette offers pre-nup counseling:

Research, please. In a ten-year $1 million study of 1,000 same-sex couples and their straight married siblings begun in 2000 by San Diego State University, the same-sex couples reported “higher levels of happiness in their relationships than straight couples.” According to an International Herald Tribune piece by Tara Parker-Pope, “The gay couples were more likely to feel that they could confide in their partners, experience high levels of affection and be happier with their sex lives.”

imgres-2There’s more. The same-sex couples won the tally on “far less conflict than heterosexual couples” and “higher levels of intimacy.” Okay, we’ve always suspected that you were screwing like rabbits but we had the corner on intimacy. It was our justification for staying together long after the question, “How do you want it” got replaced by “What do you want for dinner?”

Had enough? Lurking in the study’s findings is the notion that a gay relationship is by nature a different negotiation because those of the same sex find it easier to communicate and share perspectives. “One reason same-sex couples may report more satisfaction and less conflict,” Parker-Pope suggests, ”is that their relationships tend to be less defined by traditional roles.”

imgresNom de Plume, a pre-harem friend and member of The Male Harem’s gay contingent, told me the other night over burgers at a local singles saloon that some of the most interesting and open conversations he’s had with men were at bath houses. Call it the gay version of strangers on a train, he said there’s something about two people standing naked in front of each other that incites, if not lust, frankness.

Applying the Bath House Rule beyond marriage, if only members of congress were required to assemble in the nude, we might finally get some laws passed. (FYI all senators and congressmen are banned from The Male Harem due to their bloviating, false posturing, and complete lack of style.) And who knows what could get accomplished at the U.N.?

Now forgive The Sultanette for coming off short-sighted about your well-deserved demand to have equal rights before the law. I merely ask you to consider the full contract you’re signing on for. Do I have to remind you that the other side of the velvet ropes is never as good as it looks?

images-2“Presumably there are lots of people still married who are miserable,” notes Esther Rothblum, author of the research and professor of women’s studies. “Just because heterosexual couples stay together longer does not mean they are always happy.” It seems that while gay couples reported being happier, they were also more likely to break up. So since you’ve always been the early adapters how about inventing the new marriage mousetrap? If we let you get hitched the least you can do is help us get unhitched.

One caveat: Breaking up will be harder to do. “Now that the marriage laws are becoming more widespread,” says Rothblum, “gay couples will also have to go through the legal process of breaking up.” That sacred knot you’re tying is blessed by the American Bar Association and it will take a gaggle of pricy divorce lawyers to help you untie it.

But if you’re still hell-bent on joining the stampede to the altar, then go out in a big way. Last week, a 3,000 pound copper and tin bell was installed at the New York Public Library to celebrate Bridal Fashion Week. “This bell could be yours!” reads its website, Bellebrations. “To reserve it for your special day, please fill out the form below.” The bell is one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly, and works on compressed air so you can play it anywhere. It tolls for thee.

10/17/13

A Traveler’s Guide to The Male Harem

 “The chief thing the traveller carries about with him is himself.”

Freya Stark, Perseus in the Wind, 1948

On the road.

On the road.

As with any expedition, venturing into The Male Harem requires mental preparedness, pluck, and a degree of madness. Also a willingness to throw out the map for the uncharted and open-ended – the weekend in Provence that bids au revoir at the JFK baggage claim, the heightened conversation left dangling until another day.

So why abandon the beaten path that leads to a committed one for the less-traveled road to an unaccountable many? For inspiration, The Sultanette offers Freya Stark, a British explorer who lived to see her one-hundredth birthday. Called by Lawrence Durrell the “poet of travel” she could also be anointed Sultanette on Steroids.

Born 1893 in Paris, she grew up in the Italian countryside. When she was twelve an accident ripped off a portion of her scalp requiring a skin graft from her thigh before the days of anesthesia. The trauma left her with a lifelong insecurity about her looks and a fire to discover a world outside herself.

She was a nurse on the Italian front in WWI, became proficient in Arabic, and began venturing into places in the Middle East where no Western woman had set foot. Along the way, Sayyid Abdullah the watchmaker gave her the Five Reasons for Travel. The Sultanette now proposes the watchmaker’s timeless advice for embarking on a 21st century male harem …

 “To leave one’s troubles behind one; To earn a living; To acquire learning; To practice good manners; And to meet honorable men.”

Freya Stark, A Winter in Arabia, 1940

If the above lacks the tidy promise of finding lasting romance it offers an unembroidered alternative. The exhilaration of living fully and freely with like-minded souls. The Male Harem has only a few years to vouch for the above but Freya Stark’s one-hundred years can speak for the rest.

imgres-1Her early forays were concocted and financed by sheer guile and resourcefulness. In 1928 with a woman friend she’d bamboozled, a local guide, and a dubious letter of introduction to a rebel chieftain, she penetrated one of the most remote and dangerous territories of Persia. Commandeered by French officials who were policing the region and suspected they were British spies, she coached her friend to behave “as if we were guests at a garden party.” They had skittered sixty miles off track by donkey due to that infuriatingly unreliable Thomas Cook guidebook. “You really should get it brought up-to-date!” she reproached the officer.

“The great and almost only comfort in being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.”

Freya Stark at 77, 1970

With the earnings from her travel books, BBC lectures, and funding from the Royal Geographic Society she began to accessorize her free-wheeling lifestyle in satin, fur and diamonds, alternately lurching across the desert by donkey or camel and careening along the Italian countryside in a second-hand Vespa.

cropped-01_intro_pic-newDuring World War II she finessed her way to Cairo, an atmosphere “as heady as the perfume of jasmine climbing the wall of King Farouk’s palace,” according to her biographer, Jane Fletcher Geniesse, in Passionate Nomad, “where England’s best and brightest converged to wage the battle for Western civilization.” She mixed easily with the habitués of the Kit Kat Club where pashas and nabobs mingled with prime ministers and merchants, diplomats, spies, military brass, and two exiled kings.

At fifty-four she married a diplomat of forty-six but the claustrophobic role of a British administrator’s wife would never placate her wanderlust and they separated after five years. Though she longed all her life for a singular passionate partnership her travels remained her most seductive companion.

Map-heart-054Among the mourners at her funeral in 1993 were lords and viscounts, Oxford and Cambridge dons, journalists, ex-foreign officers, members of the Royal Geographical Society, and the devoted friends who had cared for her when she no longer could. A congregation worthy of any male harem.

 “One is so apt to think of people’s affection as a fixed quantity, instead of a sort of moving sea with the tide always going out or coming in but still fundamentally there …”

Freya Stark, Letter, May 20,1934

I was introduced to Dame Freya by The Impresario at John Sandoe (Books) Ltd. in London. Down a Chelsea side street of cheek-by-jowl shops, the store managed to reserve a narrow space for people between books crammed along every surface. The search for a title on its unlabeled shelves (in the spirit of English manners, if you need to have the system spelled out, you really oughtn’t bother) resulted in leaving with a handful more than you’d set out for.

A trip to London was hardly a trek across the desert but it was a brave new world for me. My previous involvement with The Impresario had amounted to polite conversation at a midtown Italian eatery where we’d exchanged cards, a few heady afternoon teas, and a drink at the socialite slumming bar, Bemelmans, where he’d suggested we meet in London and I’d accepted.

images-2Reckless decision? It seemed less detrimental to my well-being than the previous two years with One and Only spent sucking the last air out of the deflated life raft of our relationship. I took no photos – this trip was about the ephemeral present – but images luxuriate in my memory: the highest tea I’ll ever have at the most exclusive hotel I’ll never find again; champagne on the Thames at the National Theatre after Hamlet’s soliloquy; the creaking staircase of a drowsy men’s club; sardines on toast at The Ivy in the West End and a Middle Eastern smorgasbord off the beaten track; channeling Carlyle, Dickens, George Eliot and T.S. at The London Library; the endless entrails of the Tube with its mellifluous recording announcing each stop.

And the rest of it? Waking under the insanely crisp white sheets of a discreet Kensington hotel, glancing over the morning paper at a man I almost knew who had just invaded every corner of me, the delicious shock of a touch on the knee while spreading clotted cream on a crumpet in the immutably pastel tea room at Fortnum and Mason, watching the drips from a brass faucet fall into a mass of bubbles while soaking in a deep-sided tub to a Mozart sonata playing in the other room. What else is on The Impresario’s iPod? From what lives did he collect it? In what other lives does it play?

If Sayyid the watchmaker were here I’d add that the best kind of travel might be exploring an unknown person and being explored in return. Do we see ourselves better through the intimates in our long lives or the strangers we encounter along the way? Do we unwittingly or compliantly conform to the expectations and criticisms of those who claim they know us best, until we’ve lost our own divining rod? Does bumping up against a foreign place or person arouse us to know ourselves again?

I’ll never be the adventurer Freya was. I save the used aluminum foil like my mother did, until it’s too wrinkled to reuse. I rearrange the clothes in my closets every Spring and Fall, and make lists of lists. I believed in logical outcomes until I couldn’t. The Male Harem was a last resort and now it’s my best revenge. This intense, exquisite, erotic expedition is not a sentimental journey but a singular one.

imagesAt eight-two, Freya Stark was knighted. At eight-four, she was filmed by BBC on a raft in the Euphrates. When her driver’s license was revoked at eighty-five, she did errands on horseback. At eighty-eight she rode a mule into the Himalayas. On her 91st birthday, the Queen Mother sent the Royal Household Cavalry. And though she was no longer entirely present for the ceremony, I’ll wager she was on another adventure – in search of the place where she could lose, and then find herself again.

“The beckoning counts, and not the clicking latch behind you.”

Freya Stark, Traveller’s Prelude,1950

10/10/13

It Depends On What The Meaning Of The Word “It” Is.

Pablo Picasso, Faun uncovering a sleeping woman. British Museum

Pablo Picasso, Faun uncovering a sleeping woman. British Museum.

The Male Harem can’t resist joining in on the hoopla over Robin Thicke’s music video Blurred Lines, including accusations from the feminist cabal that its antics and lyrics – “I know you want it” – are lecherous and filthy with gestures as crude as they are indecent. Wait! That’s what Le Figaro said about Nijinsky’s Paris debut of Laprès-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun) at the Ballet Russes on March 29, 1912!

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? Or has it gotten worse? Nijinsky wasn’t personally attacked – or the entire male race. Just his dancing. Blurred Lines has become a soapbox for everything that makes females victims. What is it about being a woman that makes other people think they know what’s right for you? First it was men, the church, the government. Now it’s other women.

Thankfully not all women. “I don’t think anyone’s going to convince me that now in 2013 all of a sudden there’s this thing of men making women out to be whores or whatever, and women are standing by, like victims, appalled by this,” remarks Linda Perry in in the Financial Times’ piece, What’s Wrong with Being Sexy?.

At 48, Perry is a songwriter and one of the few women studio producers in a male industry. She’s written and co-produced for Pink’s album Missundaztood, Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful, and collaborated with Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys and Céline Dion. “You know what the video looks like to me?” she tells writer Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, “A bunch of people having a good time and being erotic and provocative.”

Josephine Baker, Walery, French, 1863-1935

Josephine Baker, Walery, French, 1863-1935.

Call it blurred vision, but the video’s campy, tongue-in-cheek attitude comes off stylish rather than sexist. And even more than a good-time romp, might there be an element of empowerment in a woman confidently flaunting herself to a desperately lustful dude?

Leaping from the Ballet Russes to burlesque consider what Francine du Plessix Gray (prolific author including bios of Simone Weil and Madame de Stael) had to say about a burlesque dancer she watched perform in the late Fifties just after graduating from college. “To an audience clamoring, ‘Take it Off! Take it Off!’ the stripper peeled off her gloves for a good five minutes and disrobed down to a sequined G-string and pasties with excruciating languor.”

Du Plessix Gray was raised by her step-father, Condé Nast chief Alexander Liberman, and fashion icon Tatiana du Plessix (documented in her fascinating memoir, Them) so she hardly had a sheltered upbringing. But her reaction was still refreshing considering it was the suppressed Fifties. “After watching her strut, prance, pout, wink, and finally exit the stage, breasts bouncing, to wild applause,” du Plessix Gray concludes, “are these girls ever in charge!”

Burlesque is back, revived by camp neo-strip performers like Dita von Teese. Former Disney darling Miley Cyrus seems to have missed the “excruciating languor” part of the cock-tease memo before her VMA performance, but If vomiting yourself at a man twerks for you, Miley, have at it. I know someone who might have given you some pointers though, The Sultanette’s own mother, God rest her impish soul. A five-foot world-class flirt who had my father in thrall, she was raised in the Twenties in Wisconsin by immigrant Italian parents who chaperoned her dates. Yet after 56 years of a decorous marriage and in her nineties, she still declared from her walker, “We dress for the women and we undress for the men.”

A twerking Mini-Mouse.

A twerking Mini-Mouse.

Sweet petite, take-no-prisoners mom didn’t live to hear “I know you want it” but she would have put it this way: “We have what they want and they know it.” So why are we shocked when men resort to any kind of tomfoolery to get it? Presidents and kings, governors, senators, and statesmen have decimated their careers over the power of it. And to the argument that exploiting that power keeps us from shattering the glass ceiling see previous post, Top Ten Signs You Know You’re Having The Perfect Affair for a riff on London School of Economics author Catherine Hakim’s Erotic Capital, The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.)

One bonus about The Male Harem is that it’s lead to a perfect mingling of appreciation and indifference regarding male attentions. Case in point: MOFW (Man Of Few Words). We met at a new restaurant I’d decided to check out for a quick bite at the bar. Seeing that I was absorbed in my magazine and shrimp cocktail, he started angling for attention.

Even pre-harem, I’ve always believed that you get everything you need to know about a man in the first thirty minutes of meeting him, and that anything you determine after that is either denial or wishful thinking. So here’s what I surmised that evening about MOFW that would be supported in later encounters:

Spending most of his day on a trading floor, he spoke in machine-gun bursts of clarity. Wired to his surroundings like a feral cat, his eyes darted in tandem with the synapses of his brain. He was clean and crisp-shirted and probably arranged his socks and underwear by color. He lived hard considering love and marriage as mandatory add-ons that he couldn’t quite tolerate putting enough attention into, and seemed baffled that they couldn’t be managed like a trade. Boyish charm and a resigned vulnerability saved him from an aggressive nature bordering on cocky. What little tenderness he required, he needed desperately.

While I was casing out MOFW that first meeting, he was becoming obsessed with knowing my age. But since The Male Harem discourages reeling off factoids there was no reason to divulge it, especially since he’d already revealed that he was fifteen years my junior. The more I resisted, the more he insisted until he finally wore me down and I spilled the beans. MOFW pulled back. Scrutinized me like I was a laboratory rabbit. Then burst out, “I have to fuck you!”

The Fox checks out the Hare checks out the Fox.

The Fox checks out the Hare checks out the Fox.

Somebody call the Feminist Police! Bring in the Victim Squad! I’ve been objectified, what do I do? Do I give him a tutorial on third-wave feminism? Do I tell him where he can go? Or do I grab him and say, Let’s get out of here? I did what every self-respecting Sultanette would do. I laughed really hard. Then I congratulated him for the most brash politically incorrect reaction to my age I’d ever heard. No further action required. Not for now anyway. It was enough to enjoy the chase with this hot, smart, highly amusing guy, emphasis on G-U-Y. Oh is that why he was behaving so – unlike a woman?

Don’t get me wrong. Being a post-Catholic authority-fearing girl, I’m not immune to feminist pronouncements. I’ve considered the accusations that Blurred Lines is degrading, offensive, misogynistic and objectifying. I’ve wondered why I’ve been amused, and not offended. Intrigued instead of disdainful.

So am I blind to its sexist stance or is the culture suffering from blurred vision? Have we learned anything about celebrating sexuality in the past 100 years since a dancer exposed his eroticism to a shocked world at the Ballet Russes? Did my mother twerk? Maybe if we all knew what we wanted no one would have to tell us. Do you know what you want?

While you’re reflecting on that take a look at how Jimmy Kimmel blurred the lines.

10/3/13

How Does A French Woman Lean In?

Paris stroll.

Paris stroll.

Isn’t it time we gave French women more credit than tying scarves? For those cheeky accents that could make a grocery list sound sexy? The way they can prance down the rue de Rivoli in skinny heels and tight skirts until they’re eighty? How they can come home after working all day at the Galeries Lafayette and cook blanquette de veau for ten without breaking a sweat?

More germane to the subject at hand, The Sultanette credits them for planting the first seeds of The Male Harem, when I moved to Paris as a young bride with first and only husband, the Good Ex.

We were cohabiting in New York City when he was hired by a cosmetics company to work there, invited me to marry him and come along. Three weeks and a November wedding at city hall later, we had sublet our Gramercy Park loft, tossed cat in carrier, and were hurtling across the Atlantic with no address but Paris, France.

After solo moves from Wisconsin to Chicago and New York, I was no stranger to making my way in a new town. But this time I was going from bachelorette to housewife and leaving a New York ad agency job behind with a slim chance of landing a job writing in English.

There’s a reason no one’s written a song called November in Paris. Little rhymes with bone-chilling, rain-drenched, and godforsaken. The Good Ex was working twelve-hour days and after so many museums, open markets, double espressos, and churlish Parisians, I’d come home every night to our cat, Turkey, who was besotted with the pigeons perched like courtiers on the wrought iron balustrade overlooking the rue d’Artois.

No job, no prospects, no friends in this foreign land. Even my cat ignored me. I was lost and lonely. And then I began to notice her –  the French woman. That certainty behind the Hermés scarf, couture T-shirt, and perfect manicure. While I boasted and stewed about being a work-in-progress, she accessorized.

She had a different attitude about men, too. Instead of obsessing over what they were up to on Mars she was clearly content on Venus. If an extraterrestrial dropped by she’d slip into her new lingerie purchase (more sold in France than anywhere on this planet) and just say oui. If her heart was broken, it didn’t shatter. If a lover betrayed, she didn’t need a year of therapy to get over it. Why waste time and money on a shrink when there was a parfumerie around the corner?

Paris perfume.

Paris perfume.

How had this happened? Weren’t American women supposed to have the corner on liberation? If we did, it didn’t seem to be making us any happier. I decided it was up to me to stop feeling miserable and inadequate and reinvent my expectations. And then like a clever courtesan, Paris seduced me. I began to hear the comforting swish of the street cleaner’s broom outside my window every morning, to take in the intoxicating smell of the cheeses at the local fromagerie, and taste the micro-thin layer of sweet butter on a sandwiche jambon. I filled the apartment with exotic blossoms from the flower market, signed up for a jazz dance class taught by a hard-bodied Antiguan, started hanging out at parfumeries and cooking blanquette de veau. I could go into details of the ménage à trois but what happens in Paris, stays in Paris.

Two years later when Good Ex and I moved back to New York, I was as much femme as feminist. I got a job writing for a French cosmetics brand and hunkered down to the sweet life with Good Ex – perfect until it wasn’t. (More on divorce and decimated dreams in future blogs.) Again I was single and now I was forty. What next?

Eloise at the Plaza.

Eloise at the Plaza.

I found a sublet in a gracefully aging neo-gothic fortress near Lincoln Center that had been a refuge to Isadora Duncan, Noel Coward, and Norman Rockwell. My advertising salary afforded me a back apartment with half-refrigerator suitable for freezing ice cubes and a place at the legendary Café des Artistes bar downstairs where the building’s tenants gathered every night for gravlax and gossip. I was Eloise at the Plaza taking in the café society of New York politicos, media titans, Swiss bankers, and Wall Street swindlers with their décolletaged trophy wives. Paris had taught me the pleasures of not belonging.

I dated: an OCD lawyer with a terrace overlooking Riverside Park who liked the blues and my toes; a sweet-hearted man who couldn’t stop drinking; some dedicated flings. I hung out with a circle of friends and launched a million mascaras. I met One and Only and thought I’d found forever for real.

That’s when I stumbled onto a review of Pamela Druckerman’s Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee in the Financial Times. A newlywed when she wrote it, Druckerman wasn’t buying into the Hallmark Card marriage. Faithful to her husband (she dedicated the book to him) she was curious about what made the rest of the world’s heart beat faster. Assuming “that people everywhere have roughly the same mix of biological urges” she explained in the introduction, she wanted to know “how people in different cultures channel those urges.”

I made a beeline for the chapter on France. New Yorker writer and French ex-pat, Adam Gopnick, talked about the American obsession for truth in marriage. Diane Johnson, author of L’Affaire, La Mariage, and Le Divorce, weighed in on gender warfare. But what did the French woman have to say?

Cat nap or cat nip?

Cat nap or cat nip?

Aurélie: Divorced and in her thirties, a writer and consultant on gender issues, she tells Druckerman that one of the pleasures of going to a dinner party “is knowing that you had an afternoon tryst with the man across the table, who’s now passing the cheese plate to his wife.” But isn’t that adultery? Apparently not in the French dictionary. “The only space where you could call it adultery,” Aurélie explains, “is where you deal with your husband’s feelings … If you only look at the relationship between me and my lover, there’s no adultery. There’s just us.”

Could it all be so stunningly semantic? Was there not one embittered wife in the whole of France, weeping on her pillow or rifling through her husband’s suit pockets?

Bernadette: After the multiple infidelities of her husband, Jacque Chirac, were exposed (yes that Jacques Chirac, the former president and prime minister of France) she says in an interview that she’d considered leaving him. Yet most striking about the tone of this woman who has been personally and publicly humiliated, is that she does not speak the rhetoric of the victim.

Bernadette describes her husband as “very seductive, very lively. So the girls, they go wild for that … But yes, of course I was jealous … Very! He was a handsome boy. And he also had the magic of words. Women are very sensitive to that … One finds this in all the professions. A great surgeon, a great doctor, a minister. It’s human. But one still must resist.”

Marquise de Pompadour, 1759.

Marquise de Pompadour, 1759.

Véronique, the school teacher: At last someone intelligent enough to believe in monogamy. But what about her girlfriend’s husband who has just left her for another woman? Surely this unfaithful weasel deserves to rot in hell. “To stay with her would have been unfaithful,” Veronique replies, “because his heart would be with someone else.” But isn’t it the job of marriage to suck it up and wring everything out in couples counseling? “The first infidelity,” says Véronique, “is this infidelity: Can you be faithful to what you are?”

I was in love with One and Only when I read Lust in Translation and had chosen monogamy with no regrets. So Druckerman’s anecdotes were interesting but academic, like studying the sexual habits of wildebeests in Africa. But sixteen years later and on my own again, I was drawn back to those French women with their sexy defiance and mercenary ways. And after years of playing by the rules du jour, I’m following my own for a time, Male Harem version.

Yes, I pay attention to dispatches from the feminist media elite, like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. But I wonder if Aurélie, Bernadette, and Véronique could add a few chapters about flaunting feminine wiles, being a vixon instead of a victim, and the merits of infidelity. Will I ever find a way to be faithful to myself within the sweet pull of exclusivity? Do I even want to? For now The Sultanette’s going to tie herself some scarves.

This is the first in a series of The Male Harem Chronicles narrating The Sultanette’s path to The Male Harem.