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The Sensual Lawyer

Vivia Chen

August 21, 2012


Who says lawyers are lacking in sensual appetites? 

Perhaps every lawyer should be required to take a class in poetry. I'm always a bit taken aback when I read something beautifully constructed by a lawyer (no, I'm not talking about an airtight stock purchase agreement).

Retired Debevoise & Plimpton partner (and acclaimed novelist) Louis Begley wrote a lyrical essay recently celebrating love and eroticism in old age in The New York Times. It's a little tribute to his wife (I assume) simply called "Old Love." It's quite lovely—in fact, much too lovely for me to summarize—so please read it yourself.


Speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey. So sorry to go from the sublime to the absurd, but a little bird tells me that E.L. James's best-selling trilogy about sexual submission is still a hot topic with female lawyers at some big firms. Several lawyers I know are putting it on their "must-read" list for the remaining weeks of summer. 

Personally, I don't see 50ShadesofGreyCoverArtwhy anyone—much less women lawyers—with precious little free time would spend it on devouring clumsily written (according to critics) porn in which a young woman willingly submits to spankings, whippings, etc., at the hands of a cold but handsome and rich man. I mean, I can sort of understand it if the novel places the woman in the dominant role.

Alas, I finally stumbled on the answer why so many accomplished women seem drawn to the book (no, it's not because the male protagonist insists that the woman sign a nondisclosure agreement about the S&M!). Working women want to be submissive because they are simply tired and want a little attention, theorized a "Harvard-educated" phone dominatrix who works under the name Jennifer Hunter (rather mundane sounding, no?), reports The New York Times's Maureen Dowd. Submission is alluring, Hunter told Dowd,  because the only thing the woman needs to do "is relax and enjoy the ride while delicious sexual acts are visited upon her."

Hunter gave Dowd a rather romanticized version of female submission:

She’s the star of the proceedings. Someone is ministering to her needs for a change. Master is choreographing all the action. The book seems to have resonated with so many women because, after a long day of managing employees, making all the decisions, and looking after children, a woman might be exhausted about being in charge and long to surrender control.

So ambitious women like the book because they are sick and tired of juggling—all that pressure trying to balance work and home. No wonder Fifty Shades of Grey is called "mommy porn."

Now, that sounds enticing.

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It's not about domination or submission. It's about loss of interest in sex due to exhaustion. Women now wrok as hard as men used to work. Everyone is too tired to copulate. Reading about it is easier........

What's surprising to me about the success of Fifty Shades of Grey (which I, admittedly, have not had time to read) is that this isn't anything new. Anyone heard of The Story of O? The Sleeping Beauty trilogy? The Marquis de Sade? Anais Nin?

Perhaps it's a sign of progress that female lawyers enjoy porn -- even if they identify with submissives. It seems we've graduated from the days captured by Woody Allen's aphorism: "There are three sexes - men, women and lawyers."

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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