Mary Gaitskill (born 1954) is an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer.
Notable BDSM-Related Work
Gaitskill attempted to find a publisher for four years before her first book, the short story collection Bad Behavior, was published in 1988. A Romantic Weekend and Secretary are short stories in it, and both explore themes of BDSM and psychological aspects of dominance and submission in sexual relationships. The film Secretary (2002) is based on the short story of the same name in Bad Behavior, although the two have little in common. Gaitskill characterized the film as “the Pretty Woman version, heavy on the charm (and a little too nice),” but observed that the “bottom line is that if [a film adaptation is] made you get some money and exposure, and people can make up their minds from there.”
Gaitskill’s 1991 novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin follows the childhood and adult lives of Justine Shade (thin) and Dorothy Never (fat). Justine works through her sadomasochistic (meaning sadistic and masochistic) issues while Dorothy works through her up-and-down commitment to the philosophy of “Definitism” and its founder “Anna Granite” (thinly veiled satires of Objectivism and Ayn Rand). When journalist Justine interviews Dorothy for an exposé of Definitism, an unusual relationship begins between the two women. In an interview, Gaitskill discussed what she was trying to convey about Justine via her sadomasochistic impulses:
It’s a kind of inward aggression. It seems like self-contempt, but it’s really an inverted contempt for everything. That’s what I was trying to describe in her. I would say it had to do with her childhood, not because she was sexually abused, but because the world that she was presented with was so inadequate in terms of giving her a full-spirited sense of herself. That inadequacy can make you implode with a lot of disgust. It can become the gestalt of who you are. So the masochism is like “I’m going to make myself into a debased object because that is what I think of you. This is what I think of your love. I don’t want your love. Your love is shit. Your love is nothing.