The story of John and Martha within Anais Nin
's Delta of Venus
is one of the most atypical within this novel comprising many erotic adventures because it deals with a woman's pursuit of a man who continuously rejects her. Martha is a sensuous teenager who is in the midst of a sexual awakening typical to girls her age. As she lies in bed in summer, the mere touch of wind
against her body arouses sensations within her. She imagines it to be a caressing hand. Martha
, however, would prefer to be caressed by her same-aged friend John. The two have known each other since their childhood
in the orphanage
, which was the site of Martha's first attempts to win John's attention. Martha would wrestle with him, usually managing to pin him down, and would experience pleasurable tingling sensations when her body was pressed against his. She would also squeeze up against him when they would build tents, and would close her eyes when he would touch her in a game of hide and seek
. However, John was suspicious of Martha's pleasure. Her glowing and flushed face after their wrestling games
intimidated him and he decided to get to the bottom of it by pestering Martha with questions.
"What do you feel then?" asked John.
"Contentment, a pleasure I cannot explain," she replied
Martha's confession that she really enjoyed being touched by John incited him to think of her as an animal
. Rumors were going around that a woman who once visited Martha in the orphanage and hugged her, a voluptous, full-figured beauty with thickly painted lips
, was the girl's mother and had to give up her daughter for adoption because she was a prostitute
. Concluding that Martha would chase pleasurable feelings from contacts with hundreds of men much like her alleged prostitute of a mother, John consistently rebuffed her advances.
Ironically, when Martha attempted to overcome John's cold and distant demeanour and prompt him to desire and touch her, he recoiled even more because her overt seductiveness only seemed to confirm his convictions that she had the nature of a cheap tramp. One one such occasion, Martha wrapped herself in a Kimono
that hugged her body and showed off its curvy shapes. While talking to John, she let her Kimono open and reveal her nude body. However, what this gesture awakened was not John's arousual, but his anger
"What an animal you are, you are truly the daughter of a whore
. Yes in the orphanage, everybody said it, that you were the daughter of a whore" John screamed at her.
Defeated in her strategy
of open seduction, Martha decides to adopt a new tactic. To prove to John that she can renounce her "sensuality and animal nature" and love him innocently and chastely, she offers to sleep next to him in his bed without any touch
ing or caressing. John triumphantly agrees to her offer, determined to "show her what chastity was, what love, love without sensuality could be between two human beings." Easier said than done. When he wakes up in the morning, the presence of Martha's body next to his overwhelms John with a feeling of warmth
that scares him enough to make him jump out of bed
and get dressed quickly. The next few nights, a motionless Martha, giving the impression of being asleep
, witnesses her body become the field of exploration for John's hands. Though she experiences intense, shudder-inducing pleasure, she doesn't stir in the least to keep up his illusion that she is deeply immersed in sleep. For she had to be impervious to his caresses, an austere Snow White
whose frigid, liveless body inhibited her sensuality. All to prove that she isn't a whore.
Note 1: The story is to be found towards the end of Delta of Venus. In my 206 page edition, the story runs from page 163-175. The story is also available on a website at http://www.geocities.com/arsenio_grilo/a_nin_6.html#Pierre. You have to scroll half way down the document though, past the story about necrophilia at the top of the page.
Note 2: The sexual relations of John and Martha are complicated by Martha's side affair with an older man, Pierre. I have left him out this write-up to focus on the relations between John and Martha