Confessions of a Bored Housewife
Fantasies are an aid, an escape. They are a way to survive periods of partner absence and are safe adventures that accompany
sexual stimulation. My previous work dealt with the effects of separation on relationships due to short-term work-related absence
(1). An extension of this theme, my installation shifts to focus on the sexual fantasies that surface during periods of separation.
Confessions of a bored housewife
The installation presents the opportunity to embrace fantasies. Furnished with anthropomorphic ‘fantasy furniture’, audience
interaction is encouraged. Furniture is fashioned from elements reminiscent of masculine and feminine forms. The yonic and
phallic floral imagery suggests abstract anatomical characteristics, illustrating the bizarre that oftentimes exists in a fantasy world.
Visual and tactile stimulations are invited by the various jewel coloured fabrics. Audible narrations of adult romance novels
whisper seductively from within the structures, while the video shows sexually arousing, emotive moments from film and television.
The scenes provide an escape from a boring life. Further, they become visual aids to fantasy and self-pleasuring.
My research methodology investigated the traditional role of a housewife (2) and the psychology behind fantasies. I became
intrigued with the notion of ennui . Teysott and Seavitt (1996:49) define ennui (3): to be “bored by idleness” stemming from
“solitude or loneliness, monotony or dullness”. Using their scale of identification, I classify as a ‘bored housewife’. I am childless
and have little responsibility in terms of household duties. My fantasy world develops from boredom, especially during periods of
separation from my husband.
Originating from a patriarchal society and restrained by religion, there are women who dare not indulge in the ‘forbidden’: the
exploration of their own sexuality in the form of masturbation. The phallocentric construct of sexuality as posited by
psychoanalysts Freud (4) and Lacan (5) is measured against arguments by feminist Luce Irigaray (6), who campaigned for a new
language to express female sexuality.
Floral metaphors manifest in the handmade fabric Fantasy Flowers (2013) embedded in my installation. The ‘Language of
Flowers’ (Bennett 1993:242) originated in the Victorian era and served as a metaphor for the female sex in literature and art.
Substituting female genitals with floral symbols are evident in Emily Dickenson’s poetry (7) , Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and
Judy Chicago’s installations (8). This installation is intended to simulate the eroticism associated with the depiction of the feminine
in a fantastical manner. The process of hand stitched flowers references the silence, concentration and rigid posture of the
embroiderer, alluding to “autonomy” (Parker 2010:10). Method (2008:15) explains that these traditional crafts were associated
with chastity and solitude, keeping “hands and minds active” during moments of “idleness”. Embracing autonomy, I have
employed the medium of stitching as a metaphor for masturbation. Pelletier and Herold’s (1998:250) research established that
frequent fantasising is a product of greater intercourse and masturbation experience. The stigma of masturbation prompts the
idiom “the devil finds work for idle hands (9) ”. Antiquated medical and religious views oppose the act (Hall 1992: 365),
consequently leaving those who indulge in masturbation with feelings of guilt and embarrassment (10) (Renaud and Bayers 2001:
252). Shelton (2010:157) demands the recognition of masturbation as a safe-sex alternative for couples experiencing work-
related separation. He posits that masturbation should be encouraged for both partners to maintain fidelity.
Crafted in honour of the clitoris, Throne (2013) emphasizes the clitoris as the ultimate sex organ, elevating women’s stature to
that of superior sexual beings. Adorned with peacock feathers, the symbolism as the “gatekeeper to heaven” (11) (Wilbur 2009)
is emphasized. Conceptually, ‘heaven’ is a metaphor for the experience of orgasmic pleasure.
In the early twentieth century sexual development was a major concern of psychoanalysis. Freud suggested sexual fantasies are
“the result of sexual dissatisfaction, frustration, inhibition, masochism and unconscious sexual conflicts” (Leitenberg and Henning
1995:476-477). However, Freud has been widely discredited: “it is now considered a sign of pathology not to have sexual
fantasies, rather than to have them” (Leitenberg and Henning 1995:476-477). Lacan’s research comes from a “patriarchal
framework”, declaring dominance of the masculine over the feminine sexual language (Nicoletta 1992:21). Irigaray (1985:28), in
consideration of a multitude of female erogenous zones, states that women find sexual pleasure “almost anywhere”. The clitoris
should be used to “construct female sexuality in such a way that women” take “their sexual, social, creative and political power
into their own hands” (Bennett 1993:257). Campaigning for the clitoris to be recognized as equal to the penis, artist Sophia
Wallace (12) focuses on its historical and medical information in Cliteracy (2012). Emphasizing the clitoris as the true female sex
organ, she attempts to educate people on the pleasurable characteristics of the clitoris. Visitors are encouraged to sit on Throne
(2013), caress the velvet fabric and feathers, enjoying the tactile experience.
Fantasy Field, Boner Bag, Umbrella
Fantasy Field (2013) consists of a group of free-standing soft sculptures, while Bean Bag (2013) is a large bean bag comprising
upright appendages, reminiscent of the phallus. The name Umbrella (2013) denotes protection or security. Two chairs are placed
under the arch of the tall soft sculpture in order to listen to narrations from adult romance novels. Inspiration for shapes and
colours are taken from Yayoi Kusama’s (13) whimsical installations. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the sculptures, sit on
the furniture and explore the physical contact with the fantastical elements.
A vernacular word for vagina and television, the box displays the Untitled Video (2013). An escape from boring life, watching
television is a popular pastime. The video contains sexually arousing, emotive excerpts from film and television. The search for
stimulation through the creation of an imaginary world correlates with the fictitious scenes depicted in the video.
Fantasies are a common occurrence, especially during periods of separation from a partner. This installation intends to transform
a traditional home setting into a fantastical, light-hearted environment that induces sexual stimulation. What was once regarded
as ‘forbidden’ has become an enjoyable exploit, supporting fidelity and contributing to a healthy sex life. By confessing to my
penchant for fantasising and the accompanied act of masturbation, I hope to encourage women to recognise and appreciate their
erotic fantasies and explore their own sexuality.
1. The key results of short-term work-related separation expressed by Ward (1996: 21-24) are lack of sleep, loneliness, sexual
frustration, isolation, jealousy and infidelity.
2. Iglehart states the traditional housewife’s identity is dependent on her role as mother and wife (1980:319). The financial
dependence also reduces the “basis of self-actualization” which could result in psychological symptoms such as depression
3. Ennui is a “feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement” (Oxford Dictionary of
English 2006, Sv “ennui”).
4. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) developed a therapeutic method for analyzing the unconscious. Psychoanalysis is a philosophy
of human consciousness, both individual and social. (D’Alleva 2005:88-92).
5. Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981) was a French psychoanalyst whom “endeavoured to interpret Freud in the light of linguistics
6. Luce Irigaray (b.1930), a Belgian feminist theorist, whose primary writings involve the female body, repression of sexuality and
female sexual enjoyment (Blackburn 2008:191).
7. Emily Dickenson (1830 – 1886) was an American writer, poet and keen botanist.
8. The American artists Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986) and Judy Chicago (b. 1939) are described by Bennett (1993:242) as
using the ‘Language of Flowers’ to depict women’s genitals in their work.
9. The idiom the devil finds work for idle hands is used to assert that people who have nothing to do are more likely to get into
trouble or commit offences (Cambridge Dictionaries [Online]. Sv “the devil finds work for idle hands”)
10. Concern about masturbation had several aspects. It was a “filthiness forbidden by God”, morally reprehensible and a habit
that decent men unanimously regarded as disgusting. Medically, it was said to be “depleting to health” and an “impurity leading to
fornication, disease, and death, eroding self-discipline and self-control” (Hall 1992: 369).
11. Wilbur (2009) lists various symbolic meanings to the representation of peacocks: immortality; symbol of renewal; resurrection
- I associate the symbolism with the increased popularity of the clitoris, inspiring advances in female sexuality.
12. Sophia Wallace (b. 1978) lives and work in New York. Cliteracy (2012) is a body of work educating the public on the clitoris.
The work consists of video, Clit rodeo (2013) interactive performance, text based art on posters and graffiti (www.sophiawallace.
13. Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) is a Japanese artist living in the USA. Her work is characterized by an abstract nature, using bright
colours and a penchant for polka dots (http://www.yayoi-kusama.jp/e/).
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