The sexuality of women in cinemas

they are attentive
but not to me
their hair trembles
at the touch of light
like a field
of gossamer
their steel shoulders

packets rustle
but not skirts
not plackets
their touch-screen lips
their sympathy
they are transported
abandoning themselves
but not to me

William Wall


50 thoughts on “The sexuality of women in cinemas

  1. Nice to find u here william! As always, I find your use of the ‘feminine/female’ quite impressive. Reminds me of a friend who went to see Pirates of the Caribbean with her boyfriend, who ended up quite upset to see her so torn between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom…
    You seem to interestingly (but maybe unwillingly) engage with Laura Mulvey’s stance that women in cinema are constructed as the object of the gaze, deprived of any agency (mind, she wrote about Hollywood cinema in the 50s and 60s). Your women, still the object of (your) male gaze, acquire power and agency simply by averting their own gaze, and choosing another object – which makes them, I suppose, subject. A quite faraway and little engaging subject, though…

  2. What a strange name – Orlando Bloom. Is it a pseudonym? If not, surely a parent who reads Virginia Woolf. Yes, two levels (at least) of gazing. A kind of counter-pornography in which the women abandon themselves to their imagination and the male is irrelevant. The ‘me’ is rueful, rejected, but captivated also by their asexual sexuality.
    The film i was watching, by the way, when I began to think of the poem was L’Enfant. Not that that’s in any way relevant.

  3. I had never wondered about the Wolfian echoes of Bloom’s name…I suppose I had been distracted in my spectatorial agency. Indeed your spectators are quite bodily – shoulders, rustling packets – their eyes (the vehicle of their absorption and flight) missing, almost denied.

  4. Welcome to William Wall, Irish novelist, poet and short story writer.
    For those interested in purchasing his books here is a list of his most important works:


    This Is The Country (Sceptre, London – 2005, TBD) ISBN 0-340-82215-5

    The Map of Tenderness (Sceptre, London – 2003) ISBN 0-340-82214-7

    Minding Children (Sceptre, London – 2001) ISBN 0-340-75188-6

    Alice Falling (Sceptre, London, and WW Norton, New York – 2000) ISBN 0-340-75187-8

    This Is The Country made the Man Booker Prize 2005 longlist.


    Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me (Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland – 2004) ISBN 1-904556-21-3

    Mathematics And Other Poems (Collins Press, Cork, Ireland – 1997) ISBN 1-898256-26-8


    No Paradiso (Brandon Books, Daingean, Ireland – 2006) ISBN 0-86322-355-9

  5. Grazie Luca.
    Si, vocativo, L’Enfant des Dardennes. The film made a deep impression on me (in ways unrelated to the poem), and in particular i have begun to think about how to apply some of the narrative techniques to my fiction. The poem came to me, as poems sometimes do, in between speculations. I think, often, that poems occur in the synapse, a brief pulse of energy.

  6. It’s difficult to keep up with these ontological statements, Luca. The last time I looked i was what I eat. That was comfortin as I’ve eaten a lot of good things in my time. Now being my synapses will take a bit of digesting.

  7. Nor to what we eat, I’m afraid…and what we desire? Will’s poem, in the end, is a lot about thwarted desires, of the ‘I’ toward women, but also of the women themselves toward the impalpable dreamworld of cinema…an impalpability almost reduced to matter-of-fact foucauldianness by the ‘sexuality’ of the title. What do u think, Mr. Wall?

  8. Foucauld again.
    ‘Thwarted’ is not a word i would use, I think. It’s actually a slightly rueful, slightly happy state of observation. In a sense the speaker is observing the women through the prism of his own casual desire. But of course, observing that there are beautiful and desirable women who do not desire one is an acknowledgment of a power relation. ‘Thwarted’ is a strong word and suggests a forceful desire, which the slightness of the poem does not support (I think).
    I would not like to make too much of this little lyric.

  9. Poetry is feeling as Geppetto entering the mouth’s whale searching for Pinocchio.
    Pinocchio ! Pinocchio was shouting carrying a lanter. William

  10. Is that you Will?
    Yes, and also Pinnocchio himself, the teller of small and big lies, inside the whale where everything feels overwhelming and claustrophobic and Pinnocchio is sitting there trying to put together a really gone lie to explain his situation.

  11. What struck me was the constrast between the ‘lightness’ of the poem (fable-like, in a way) and the title, which sounds more like an essay by Teresa de Lauretis. I suppose it was intended…wasn’t it?

  12. Yes. I like titles and poems to work in opposition. Here’s another:

    On formally undecidable propositions
    for David Means

    no one believes Cassandra
    & Lazarus keeps mum
    the sibyl at Cumæ
    burned 6 of her 9 books
    bargains at the price

    these are the instruments
    we do what we can

  13. Ciao Bill,
    yes it’s me.
    But not to you…But the woman is also a “fata” for Pinocchio and a fatal woman always attract us… and me. yes too me.
    Don’t you agree?

  14. It is interesting to overhear/eaverdrop you guys writing about fate turchine/morgane, fate fatali o fataliste…da parte mia ultimamente mi sono ritrovata a giocare di nuovo con le streghe, altro mito del feminino (ma anche del 68: tremate, tremate, le streghe son tornate! :)). Un feminino, william, che ci attrae tutti/e, I suppose, in quanto archetipo oggetto del desiderio…xs

  15. Witches have had a bad press. What the world needs now is more witches. Bring on the feminine principle – we’re had several thousand years of the masculine one, enough anyway, to see that it’s crap. But, and here’s the caveat, what if the head witch turns out to be Maggie Thatcher? Or Imelda Marcos? We’d be back where we started. Let’s have socialist/anarchist witches only. I’m for that. A witchy socialism would at least be new. Maybe we should found a (non)party, Serena?

  16. tempt me, Will! I would add Indira Gandhi to your list of head witches (and maybe wouldn’t forget dear Elizabeth I), but my major objection is about the fact that we’ve had thousand of years of masculine principle. Actually, the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ have been far too compliant with one another to favour one against the other. I’d like our nonparty to be founded (if one could ever found it) on a nongendered ideology, that is, on a deconstruction of gender identities as we know them – and maybe i’d fit the ‘ethnic’ in as well – at least this would prevent Bush parading Condoleeza Rice as evidence for the ‘progressive’ nature of his staff, just by the fact that she is ‘woman’ and ‘black’! By the way, do u know that Condoleeza (which had an oil ship named after her) comes from the Italian/musical ‘con dolcezza’? … xs

  17. Condoleeza the Wrongly named. Dolcezza is the last thing I associate with her. But she does play the piano. I’m told she could have been worth something if she hadn’t got involved in bringing ‘freedom’ to Iraq and Palestine, and possibly Iran next. Maybe the root of her name is really Condolence/Condoglianza, since she should send her condolences to so many.
    Anyway, a nongendered ideology. Speak. Let us have the manifesto. “A spectre is haunting the world. It is the spectre of….” (There has to be a spectre).

  18. As both homage and provocation to our kind host, as Banquo’s ghost at Macbeth’s banquet i’d conjure up the spectre of “feminism” (please note the inverted commas!!!)…and not only because, to borrow a wonderful metaphor from a recent talk by Stuart Hall, in the late 60s feminism “came like a thief in the night – and crapped on the table” (aren’t harpies sort of witches after all?). Of course it would be because for me personally feminist theory first staged all the complications and possibilities of ‘difference’ and its political/rizomatic implications. But also because femin-ism (as Marx-ism, modern-ism, and many other forms of essential-isms) is in a sense dead and gone, somewhat useless to deal with the challenges I’m facing today. (By the way, I know this is not what Marx meant: Communism for him was a ghost from the future, a sci-fi ghost – Derrida says this beautifully). But still, as all good old ghosts, feminism too comes back to me every time i believe i can do away with it, and haunts my everyday life and practice (too bad, someone is thinking right now, my witch’s powers perceive this distinctly).
    I’m sure everyone here will have a different name yo fit in, but maybe the experience – of being haunted by maybe old-fashioned theories that still resist at being discarded – is a shared one. So, I propose we leave a blank in our manifesto, and everyone can fill in what s/he likes. Do u think this would work? 🙂

  19. Oh I don’t think feminism’s dead yet. Like Marxism it’ll never die as long as it’s needed. But like any good spectre, it keeps changing shape.
    I’m not too happy about leaving a blank.
    I’m on my way out to give a reading at my old university. Should be fun. I’ll think further on this, and maybe when i come back others will have made their contribution.

  20. That’s why I was thinking about leaving a blank space, so that everyone could fill in their favourite tools – even, in a paradoxical case i find not hard to imagine, “fascism”. But Will has doubts about it…would u tell me more about it?

  21. Yes, Serena, I see the blank with fascism in it too. Nevertheless, I accept bthat there can be no over-arching theory that works in all circumstances and for all time. I too see theory as an instrument. The ends to which the tool or instrument is dedicated is the critical question. For example, I would be against a theory that reinforced nationalism, that rewarded the powerful, that was comfortable with the status quo, the privileged death, et cetera et cetera.
    But as always I’m just feeling my way forward here, unsure of where I’m going, but recognising what I’m trying to leave behind.

  22. I think Bush and Conde Rice should be forced to stay in the Plato’s grotto for a long while to meditate. Will Stabile

  23. Bush and Condi are the false images that the inhabitants of the grotto saw projected onto their screens. For most who believe in the existence of Bush and Condi, the reality of what the world is really like would be a painful experience.

  24. My best friend Professor David Cariolaro from Academia Sinica of Taiwan will join soon our conversation. Will

  25. Dear poets and lovers of literature,
    I have been asked by William to give a short introduction to the world of graphs.
    Perhaps it will be easier for me to express my own reason for becoming interested in graph theory. If one looks at the most common mathematical structures, e.g. groups, rings, fields, vector spaces, Hilbert Spaces, etc. it is difficult to escape the impression that they are all objects of a very specialized kind.
    Sometimes five, ten or even fifteen axioms are needed to define these objects. Of course one may easily feel that the choice of these axioms is somehow arbitrary. Therefore it seems that pursuing the study of these structures would result in putting a strong bias to one’s mathematical activity in the long term. I was attracted by graphs because they express a concept that may be described by a single axiom: friendship. We are either friends or not, there is no alternative, no third excluded. This is in some sense what the structure of a graph conveys: when you see two points connected by a line that is the geometrical expression of this relation, whereby the two points can be considered “friends”, or as we say: “neighbours”. Of course what one immediately learns is that, if A is a friend of B and B is a friend of C, that does not mean that A should be a friend of C: that is, the relation of friendship is not transitive (as we know very well).
    Now the word friendship may be changed, if you wish, with any symmetric relation that you like, or even asymmetric, provided we are ready to switch to the world of digraphs, or directed graphs.
    The relation may not be limited to two people only, it may involve any number of people, provided we pass from the world of graphs to the world of hypergraphs.
    Of course the more general is the concept, the more difficult is to establish theorems about these objects. If any of you has a genuine interest in graph theory, he or she is welcome to join the discussion group that I run on Yahoo, at the web site
    Happy continuation of the activities in this blog.

  26. David,
    Luca Paci welcomes you.
    We hope that you with your collegues will enjoy the site and where possible contribute. As you know I aim to merge/ amalgamate all sorts of arts/subjects with no ierarchy.
    Thank you
    William Stabile

  27. Thanks a lot for your great explanation on graph theory David. Really facinating. I’m in a rush tonigh ,but I’ll commment tomorrow. promise. Thanks for the link Gavin.
    Ciao for Now

  28. I wonder if David or Will would care to expand a little on the Graph Theory post? My mathematics is woeful, despite (or because of) being married to a mathematician – the kind of person who finds car number plates ‘interesting’ – and David’s Yahoo Group scares the living daylights out of me. Any expression that includes both an x and a numeral (or a Greek letter and a numeral) gives me cold sweats.

  29. same here William. bur then i think about Spinoza, Descartes, Leibniz, Wittgenstein.. Mathematics can be an amazing universe. Let’s wait for our guests..

  30. Amazing certainly, and I have the greatest respect for mathematical creaitivity, which I believe is essentially the same as the creativity of writers, artists and philosophers. But it is a universe that is obscure to me personally. For this reason i would like to hear more from Will and David.

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