Big omission on “Big Little Lies”

Why isn’t Celeste’s erotic response to her husband’s rapes and beatings investigated in “Big Little Lies”? The show is exploring the husband’s tyranny and insecurity. It is showing the multiple times violence moves them to sex, and we see Celeste (Nicole Kidman) seemingly into the sex. We are meant to believe she gets off on it even though she hates what fuels it. She laughs in one scene and gets on top of him. We are not meant to think she is faking it to get it over with. I think her terror and sense of blank bewilderment about the shape of her life is also stunningly written on her face at other times.  The shrink (Robin Weigert) boldly advises Celeste to leave her husband and prepare for a new life, but she does not question her patient about the sex itself. The complexity of eros amid violence for females as well as males often remains in the shadows and is shaved or muted in profiling abuse and victimization. It is not wrong to be aroused by any sort of sex. The nature of sex is arousal. There is the category of abuse and coercive control. (bad things.) There is the category of arousal. (not a bad thing.) And there is the category of arousal within abuse. (pleasure mixed in with an otherwise wretched circumstance). It’s a real category and probably a powerful one that needs exploring free of shock, shaming, and veiling.

I posted the above on Facebook, and one person questioned accepting various forms of arousal. I wrote in response: Arousal is internal and involuntary. We don’t decide to be aroused. We either are or are not aroused in the same way we laugh or sneeze or come. These are eruptive and unmediated responses. Deciding to perform a sexual act or deciding not to perform a sexual act is a different matter. The pathology model of healthy and unhealthy erotic response is another form of the morality model of bad and good sexual feelings and practices. We know these models shift all the time depending on the culture and social mores of a period and place. Most interventions in controlling sexual response devolve to: What turns me on is the good kind of sex and what turns you on is the kind you will burn in hell for.


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