Slut-Shaming Anaïs Nin, 2019: Enough!

Meghan Markle has stirred up some waves by using Anaïs Nin’s “I must be a mermaid” quote from The Four-Chambered Heart as inspiration for her collaboration with the British edition of Vogue. Consequently, articles have popped up scrutinizing just who this Anaïs Nin is. One such article, which was published today (August 5, 2019) by Brinkwire and written by an anonymous author, portrays Anaïs Nin (and Henry Miller) in a most unflattering light and is riddled with errors and plain, old-fashioned venom. In order to shed light on the actual truth about who Nin was, I am offering some insight and corrections below.

“The first time Henry Miller made love to Anais Nin, he pounced on her with such ferocity that she felt she’d been ravished ‘by a cannibal’.” [Not true—he actually asked her afterward: “You were expecting more brutality?”]

“It was 1932 and the 20th century’s most notorious writers of erotica were together at her rented chateau outside Paris.” [Neither of them had yet written “erotica.” That did not begin until around 1940 when both were in New York. And her house, which was formerly a living quarters for wine workers, was anything but a “chateau.”]

“Nin’s husband was a rich banker, so she had paid for the impoverished Miller to travel from Dijon, where he was eking out a living as a teacher.” [Nin’s husband had just taken a huge salary cut, and it was drastic enough that he and Nin gave up living in Paris and moved to Louveciennes, a suburb where the rent was cheaper.]

“But even a seasoned philanderer such as Nin was taken by surprise when Miller threw her to the ground and ‘attacked’ her. She was utterly smitten.” [Nin, at this time, had never had sex with any other man other than her husband—she was hardly a “philanderer.” And Miller never threw her to the ground or “attacked” her. Read the diary Henry and June.]

“Nin, who died in 1977 aged 73, was once derided as a ‘monster of self-centredness whose artistic pretensions now seem grotesque’. Yet today her aphorisms are frequently quoted online by a growing legion of fans who are rediscovering her.” [Nin was never attacked this way during her lifetime. The “monster” quote comes from a puritanical reaction to the morally scathing posthumous biography of Nin by Deirdre Bair, which, in spite of its excellent scholarship, reads like an indictment of a woman guilty of high crimes.]

“Nin was a wildly promiscuous woman whose bold sexual experimentation included bigamy, a menage a trois, incest with her own father and writing a book about sexual perversion so sordid — including paedophilia and necrophilia — that even today online retailer Amazon hides it in its ‘adult content dungeon’. She certainly hasn’t always been a fashionable name to drop into conversation.” [The author is probably writing about Auletris: Erotica (Sky Blue Press, 2016), which is clearly no longer in the dungeon.]

“Born in 1903 near Paris to a Spanish-Cuban father and French-Danish mother who split up when she was eight, the beautiful Nin earned a reputation for her untrammelled sex life long before anyone noticed her writing.” [First, she was ten when her father left the family. Second, her highly-regarded book D.H. Lawerence: An Unprofessional Study was written before she knew Miller, her first extramarital lover.]

Meghan Markle

“As she recorded in her diaries and in novels that were thinly disguised memoirs, Nin repaid his devotion by cheating on him relentlessly with the many men who became besotted with her.” [Miller also “cheated” on her, even with prostitutes. Funny, no mention of that.]

“She was fixated with Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and seduced two leading practitioners who agreed to analyse her.” [First of all, her first analyst, Rene Allendy, was the one who lured Nin to a hotel room where he brandished a whip, not the other way around. As for Rank, the seduction was mutual.]

“She even briefly practised as a ‘shrink’ herself — a deeply unethical one — having sex with her patients on her couch and cheekily later complaining that she couldn’t help but want to ‘intercede’ in their problems.” [I have studied Nin for nearly 30 years and know of no account of her having sex with her patients on her couch. I defy anyone to quote and cite such a passage by anyone who was present then.]

“In fact [Delta of Venus] had never been intended for publication as [Nin] had written it to order, at a dollar a page, in the 1930s for a millionaire businessman in Paris. ‘More porn, less poetry,’ she accurately explained.” [Nin, at Miller’s suggestion, didn’t write erotica until after she returned to New York in late 1939. And the “collector” was an American, not a Parisian. Read the diary Mirages.]

“It was the affair with Miller that helped define her. It was in the early 1930s when Nin, then in her late 20s, met the impoverished, foul-mouthed and bullying author.” [Miller was not a “bully.” He was a robust yet gentle lover and an effective editor of Nin’s work.]

“Soon after, Nin embarked on an affair with the equally lascivious Miller. After that first sexual encounter in the garden, she recorded how in trysts he would treat her like a prostitute, asking her to whip him or crawl on her hands and knees. ‘It is like a forest fire, to be with him,’ she confessed.” [Nin’s first sexual encounter with Miller was at his hotel in Paris, not a garden. And Miller was a not a sadist.]

“Nin became obsessed with [June] Miller and they clearly had a sexual dalliance. In her diaries, she mused about the attractions of sapphism and how the ‘passivity’ of the woman’s role in sex with men ‘suffocates me’.” [Nin and June Miller never had a consummated sexual encounter.]

“When this menage a trois was portrayed in the 1990 film Henry & June — in which Uma Thurman played June — it won a U.S. film classification usually reserved for hardcore pornography.” [Unfairly so, as almost every critic agrees.]

“[Nin] never expressed anything other than delight over the shocking liaison [incest with her father], which perfectly illustrated Nin’s complete inability to feel guilt. [Untrue—the affair deeply conflicted her. Read the diary Incest.]

Anais Nin, 1940s

“For years, Nin was able to keep up a precarious trans-America balancing act (she called it her ‘bicoastal trapeze’), alternating between Pole’s spartan log cabin in the wilds of Arizona, and Guiler’s luxurious flat in New York — fobbing off each man that she occasionally needed to get away for work or relaxation.” [First, they never lived in Arizona. Second, Pole was the one taking money from Nin. Read the diary Trapeze.]

“It never occurred to Nin to consider something as tediously conventional as divorce: she married Pole bigamously in 1955, choosing for the ceremony a remote desert village in Arizona, where she hoped marriage records would be hard to find.” [It was Pole who insisted on marrying her in Arizona—she did not want this, but relented to keep Pole happy. And Nin did consider divorce, but her economic status would have been decimated if she left Guiler.]

“Even after being heavily censored, [the originally published Diaries] remained jaw-droppingly candid about her sexual history and her many lovers — an international array of celebrities including Miller and fellow writers Edmund Wilson and Antonin Artaud, and Freud’s colleague, the famous psychiatrist Otto Rank — and of course her father.” [The original edited Diaries did not clearly assert (or even strongly hint) that she had multiple lovers. This was not known until after 1986, when the unexpurgated diaries began coming out.]

“A friend recounted how they once stopped their car at a petrol station and Nin was surprisingly friendly to all the attendants and mechanics. ‘Oh yes,’ she explained. ‘I sleep with all the men here.’” [That account, by Lila Rosenblum, is untrue. Nin carefully recorded her affairs, even the most insignificant, and nowhere does she write about having sex with mechanics.]

“Nin never had children, although in 1942 she aborted a child at six months. She later admitted she was never sure whether the child was her father’s or Miller’s.” [This abortion, made famous in her diary Incest, was in 1934, and Nin never considered her own father as the father of the child. She was sure it was Miller.]

While these corrections will most likely not reach the many readers of the Brinkwire article, or those it will in turn spawn, at least there is a written rebuttal here. Nin scholarship, for at least the last three decades, has been compromised with misstatements, inaccuracies, puritanical poison pens, all of which add up to slut-shaming. It’s time to set the record straight. The best way to do this is to read her work and do some basic research before exploiting Nin and Markle in a public forum.

The see the original Brinkwire article, click here.