I was up late last night, reading about a new form of porn: ‘yuppie pornography’. As Harvard English Professor Marjorie Garber writes, in the introduction of her book Sex and Real Estate, ‘What do college students talk about with their roommates? Sex. Twenty years later, what do they talk about with their friends and associates? Real estate. And with the same gleam in their eyes.’
Her book is quite fascinating, exploring cultural roles of the house as lover, mother, body or self, fantasy, trophy, history or escape.
Although, it’s unsettling too. For someone about to embark on a major renovation, I finally decided to put this book down and turn out the light after finishing the following passage...
‘Seen through a haze of plaster dust and plumbing parts, catalogues and swatches, the house of our dreams is never quite possessed, never perfect, never finished. “Keep the romance in your marriage” urges the tabloids, “keep love alive”. And so it is in the relationship between us and our houses, those “other persons” in our lives. This mutual and constant courtship, this ongoing relationship, imperfectly commodified and imperfectly consummated, is what produces both the anxiety and the enjoyment of owning a home. The keynote of much home design today is not character, not values, but desire. And desire, by its very nature, cannot be satisfied. It points always onward, toward the next redecoration, the next renovation, the next house.’
I gingerly picked up the book as I ate my sandwich earlier today unsure of what else I would find. Ahhh, thank goodness for romance. It will trump my unsatisfied desire, I’m sure:
‘The house and all that it symbolises is the repository of histories, memories, fantasies, self-images, aspirations and dreams. That is why our romance with houses is – in every sense – such a consuming passion.’
Sex and Real Estate
By Marjorie Garber, Pantheon
First published, 2000