First chapter of small, soon to be (re-)published book, solely about Basic Instinct and Catherine Tramell.
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2021 10 29 | Lauren Harteveld
I’ve been fascinated with Catherine Tramell from the moment she appeared on the screen.
And then I’m not counting the opening scene of Basic Instinct, where a naked, anonymous blonde with the same breasts as Sharon Stone murders a retired rock ‘n’ roll star and we’re supposed to assume that was her, but the first time we see her face.
This is after detective Nick Curran and his partner Gus have arrived at the beach house of a sexy as hell, blonde, millionaire writer (!!) to ask her where she was the night of the murder.
“How long were you dating him?” Nick asks.
“I wasn’t dating him,” Catherine Tramell answers. “I was fucking him.”
It was 1992.
I was twenty and in a steady relationship because of two reasons.
One was that I wanted to lose my virginity and secure having a good and steady sex life after.
And the other reason I chose a steady relationship was because I got such bad anxiety attacks from giving oral sex without a condom, because I was so afraid of hiv/aids, that staying single and at risk was definitely not an option anymore.
I had enough of nights trembling alone in my bed, afraid to tell anyone why I was so afraid. I had obviously put myself at risk by doing that and now I could get really sick and nobody was going to love me anymore.
I had a deep understanding that I wasn’t strong enough, or tough enough to deal with that shit.
So at seventeen I threw in the towel, and went steady.
Like a normal person.
Except that a normal person would probably not see Basic Instinct about ten times in cinema (there was a time when they ran it for 2.50 per ticket).
Not rent the VHS a couple of times, at a time when they didn’t have their own player and had to rent that as well.
Not buy a Basic Instinct dvd as soon as they had a dvd player and then to top it all off, buy Basic Instinct 2 on dvd as well.
Together with three other people 😉
Those were signs that something was up underneath the good girl “facade”. Facade obviously doesn’t stand for that I would cheat. It’s actually surprisingly easy to stay faithful if you think cheating will get you killed.
Facade means that everything in my teens had been about me loving sex so much, but also the thrill of being in love, and with new men, and clothes that come off for the first time.
Nothing in me had dreamed or longed for a long term relationship, aside for the longing to put an end to the anxiety attacks.
It was all so obvious.
Because in 1992, I was absolutely certain I had zero in common with Catherine Tramell, except the farfetched wish that I had been anything like her.
Wouldn’t that be awesome!
“I wasn’t dating him. I was fucking him.”
Man, that would be worth a million, to be that emotionally contained.
But I knew I wasn’t, and I just focused on her style of clothing, adopted some of that. Which I still do till this day. I always wear white long coats, only wear uni (never print), and my entire wardrobe consists of black, white, grey, beige, dark blue, every flavor pink, and bright red.
Aside from pink and red, those are all Catherine Tramell colors, and smooth fabrics.
In Basic Instinct 2 they gave her two furry coats. One dark brown, one green. I immediately was all like:
“She would never wear that!”
Maybe the stylist of Basic Instinct 2 went on maternity leave and somebody else stepped in, but it looked totally out of character. Maybe the critics were right it was a bad movie.
Later on, when I became a blogger, I sometimes presented myself as Catherine Tramell, by using stills from the movies. But for me it was more tongue in cheek. Surely nobody would think I was that sassy, that chic or anything like her.
Because although I have learned to manage my fear of hiv/aids, to a degree where I actually could have a life where I fuck people, not date them, my sexual orientation turned out to be a little bit different than Miss Tramell’s.
Because I’m a monogamist: I like to have only one lover, one pair of hands touching me, one dick to give blowjobs to.
Thinking I would ever go around having multiple lovers, was more an idea that stemmed from thinking that was simply how a sexually free woman would live. And how I would live too, I assumed, if I didn’t have all that fear holding me back.
That image, or ideal, had nothing to do with who I was and what really made me tick. I know now that for me one partner is ideal. If I ever fall in love with two men at the same time, I’ll up my game. But me preferring one partner doesn’t have anything to do with fear anymore.
Because something else about my arrangement, is very exciting. Not to say nerve wrecking.
And although I speak very little of this – as if I’m so worried that only confessing I feel this way, and that it does scare me, and that I don’t have anxiety attacks yet but that I can feel the layer of calm and collected is so very thin – is this:
I am a secret mistress and that might get me killed.
After more than three years, and working through a ton of inner stuff, I own being secret mistress.
I’m not ashamed of it.
I have many things to tell about it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And yet… I cannot stop being scared that this could cost me my life.
Either by social exclusion or literally, because someone wants revenge.
I know my lover will leave me.
No way he could afford standing up for me, when all hell breaks loose. He would have to choose her side, even if she does give him his appropriate punishment of whatever she thinks he deserves. But nobody will take it out on him.
They will project that on me.
Because somebody has to pay for the betrayal of his wife. And it only takes one person with aggression issues who thinks that way.
That thought sickens me to my stomach.
Like I said, I could easily flip into having anxiety attacks over this. And I’m currently planning out how I want to proceed with my writing career:
If I want publicity yes or no.
If I want a regular publisher yes or no.
If I want to even be known in the Netherlands, or if I want to immediately focus entirely on the English market? Or is that decision based on fear for the Dutch market? Fear of getting killed for my ideas?
And if it’s based on fear, then is it a bad thing?
Those are my thoughts.
And I actually considered, and I haven’t told this to anyone, to end my relationship..
To stop being a secret mistress.
And to say: “Yes, I was a secret mistress, but when I realized I had to choose between telling my story and risking my life, or staying quiet, I ended it. I am more a writer than a lover.”
And it would take the sharpest edges of my mistress status, and of the hatred that it could trigger, since I would now be an ex-mistress.
Except it would not be me any more than locking myself up in long term relationships from age seventeen to thirty-four was. I was hiding from the real me then, because I couldn’t deal with the threat of death and social exclusion.
And I was considering running now, either from my career as a writer, or from my relationship, because I couldn’t deal with the threat of death and social exclusion now.
It was exactly the same scenario and the sequel was not becoming a particularly good movie.
Until I realized something that my lover, this lover that I have now, pointed out to me at the beginning of our relationship.
I informed him about my fear of std’s, but we also fantasized together about sex that was really exciting and didn’t fit into the warm, cuddly, intimate corner of sexuality.
There wasn’t anything we didn’t both look forward to test out, play out, dive right in.
We were a match made in heaven and I had finally found someone willing to play at my level of desired sexual tension.
“No wonder you need this,” he said, after we had spoken of yet another thing that would be a very hard limit in most relationships. “You grew up being so scared of aids. It was so filled with tension. Unless the pressure is dialed up, you don’t feel a thing.”
In all those years, I had never looked at it that way.
But of course, he was right.
I’ve always had, perhaps “unsettling” is the best word, sexual fantasies, but the aids phobia certainly amplified it. From that moment on I would always associate sex with risk. The only time I didn’t, was in my long term relationships. We had great sex but I only felt the thrill, I only felt truly alive the first couple of months.
Then it died.
Everything after that didn’t move me to my core, because I knew I was safe.
The tagline, or subtitle of Basic Instinct 2 is Risk Addiction.
It is explained when a psychiatrist evaluates Catherine Tramell for her trial:
Psychiatrist: “Her behavior is driven by what we call a risk addiction.
A compulsive need to prove to herself that she can take risks. And survive dangers others can’t.”
Judge: “Why would a person do that?”
Psychiatrist: “The greater the risk, the greater the proof of her omnipotence. Her existence, really.”
I know that my current relationship, as a secret mistress of someone who totally supports me in my sexual fantasies, is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am so happy I found him, and that we have a relationship form that will always push me, and test me, and yes it frightens the shit out of me.
I still don’t know how to balance the risks of fame or speaking up for my sexual orientation.
But I do know that I need risks in order to “get it up”.
That I will ever be satisfied having sex the way normal people do, is an illusion.
Judge: “When you say she has a risk addiction, is this condition likely to get worse?”
Psychiatrist: “I think the only thing that’d stop her, I suspect the only limit for her, would be her own death.”
An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living
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