“Women would be the most debauched of all creatures, if not for prudery which replaces all their instincts…. When in love, they resist spontaneously what they desire. And in this ambiguity is their attraction: they are not obscene enough to know what they want.” If the XVIII century women were anything else, assures us Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he would not be interested in them. All real passion is in pursuit! As an example of frigidity he offers us his former mistress, Madame de Warens, who would go to bed with twenty men daily and think nothing of it. Not interested? Rousseau finds feminine desire equally turbulent for men. The chase and the flight cannot be socially conditioned, and are but a spontaneous reaction of a female facing her own feelings, making her not inaccessible, but unpredictable. In the end of Jean-Jacques’ analysis, prudery is understood not as an obstacle, but as a condition of love: The complications are appreciated for their erotic value!
Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier, Madame Warens and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Walking Down the Steps…, 1815, oil, Musée d’Orsay.