Fleming’s Women

Fleming was a notorious casanova — his bachelor flat was filled with French S&M pornography, purposefully scattered about for the benefit of the women he brought there. His interactions with women throughout his life were complex and somewhat self-contradictory, a fine cocktail of precarious manhood, sexual desire, aestheticism, gender attitudes typical of the era, a need for solitude, and self-consciousness.

Fleming struggled both with an overly controlling mother, whom he argued with constantly, and his own sense of inadequacy. When college paramour Peggy Barnard arranged to go to a ball with another suitor, a furious Ian went out to a nightclub and contracted gonorrhea from a prostitute, prompting him to drop out of Sandhurst and ultimately break off their relationship.

The younger women he courted are described as doting, which may have contributed to — and been caused by –his domineering and somewhat cavalier attitude towards them. Conversely older women, like Maud Russell, were able to command more respect from him. He believed they were somewhat more capable of conversation and more experienced with sex. But while these comparatively dominant women provided suitable challenge for his intellect, Fleming argued “”but none of them answer to the mind alone, to the intellectual demand, unless they are man dressed as woman,” influenced both by the patriarchal zeitgeist of Cold War Britain and his own preconceptions of gender power dynamics. He preferred the company of men, arguing only men were suitable as friends.

But we know Fleming was not entirely callous towards his female companions. He sent comforting letters to Anne after the neonatal death of their illegitimate child, was devastated by the loss of his lover, Muriel “Moo” Wright, who died in an air raid in 1944 (Lycett 151-2; 186-7). The women he loved were important to him, and yet to expose this fact would make him potentially vulnerable, thus “you have to get yourself killed before he feels anything” (ibid 152).

The Private Room

Kerim brought his hands down resignedly. He placed them flat on the desk and looked straight at Bond. “There is only one way of telling if a woman really loves you, and even that way can only be read by an expert.”

“Yes,” said Bond dubiously. “I know what you mean. In bed.”

From Russia, With Love, p. 97

Part of the fantasy involves the degradation, and thus conquering, of women: the proud and snarky Tracy asks Bond to talk down to her in the bedroom scene. According to Darko Kerim, engaging with a woman in this way – perhaps reducing a threat? – is the only way to truly understand the intentions of a woman, who is otherwise impossible to read!

A comic rendition of
Fig. 1. Bond and Pussy band together in this comic rendition of Goldfinger.
Source: Diamond Comics.

Sex is Bond’s tool for diffusing potentially dangerous women, like Tatiana Romanov and Vesper Lynd. “There was something enigmatic about her which was a constant stimulus. She gave little of her real personality away, and he felt that, however long they were together, there would always be a private room inside her which he could never invade” (Casino Royale 157). The leverage it provides in exposing their hidden motives is itself sexually arousing. It is a privileged viewing of her candid personality, her hopes and fears, ordinarily reserved for close friends and lovers, without the commitment, which grants Bond — a nomadic spy who discloses very little of himself compared to his partners — the advantage of informational power.

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