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'Accident' or 'Vulva'? The battle for your Ballardian dollarAuthor: Simon Sellars • Jan 11th, 2008 •
Two readers, Alf & Peter, wrote in separately with news of ‘Accident: A New Fragrance for Women’.
As the punchline says: ‘Accident. New fragrance for women. Fragrance strip: The unique fusion of burnt rubber, brake fluid and excrement. If you don’t want to experience it again, don’t drive and call.’
As Alf says, it’s ‘crypto-Ballardian’, yes. Very Crash. Even after it turns out this is (or was?) a viral marketing campaign from T-Mobile, warning against the dangers of driving while talking on the phone. A campaign I endorse, by the way. Many is the time, as a cyclist, I’ve almost been cleaned up by a car swerving in and out of the lane, a mobile phone glued to its driver’s ear.
Speed and violence is automatically linked with Ballard these days, like shorthand. The car as prosthesis. But in a sense Ballard’s real concern is inside the body, not the exoskeleton, and the ‘scenarios of nerves and blood vessels’ that lay buried under layers of cultural conditioning. Like Cronenberg, I’m sure Ballard would love to judge a beauty contest for the inside of the body, ranking intestines, arteries and internal organs rather than breasts, hips and face.
This was certainly a theme in some of Ballard’s earlier, experimental short stories, less explicit in his later work, although in a recent exhumation of Cocaine Nights I was struck by this passage:
I had never seen Frank make love, but I guessed that he had kissed Paula’s hips and navel as I did, running my tongue around its knotted crater with its scent of oysters, as if she had come to me naked from the sea. … I pressed my cheeks to her pubis, inhaling the same heady scent that Frank had drawn through his nostrils, parting the silky labia that he had touched a hundred times.
However briefly I had known Paula, my brother’s months of intimacy with her body seemed to welcome me to her, urging me on as I caressed her vulva and felt the scent glands around her anus. I kissed her knees, and then drew her to the bed, pressing my tongue to her armpits and tasting the sweet gullies with their soft underdown. Feeling not only lust but an almost fraternal affection for her, my imagined memories of her embracing Frank, I held her to my chest.
Taking my penis in one hand, she began to masturbate herself, eyes fixed on my still-leaking glans, forefinger parting her labia.
… ‘Paula, why can’t I stroke you?’
‘Later. It’s my Pandora’s box. Open it and all the ills of Dr Hamilton might escape.’
‘Ills…? Are there any? I bet Frank didn’t believe that.’ I took her palm and held her fingers to my nose, inhaling the rose-damp scent of her vulva. ‘For the first time I really envy him.’
She raised one knee, watching the shadows of the plastic blind wrap themselves around her thigh. ‘It looks like a bar code. How much am I worth?’
‘A lot, Paula. More than you think. Put a higher value on yourself. Being hyper-realistic about everything is too simple a get-out.’
‘Being hyper-realistic about everything’, a modern-day sin if ever there was one…
Similarly, like the narrator, Charles, in the above passage, the character Laing in High-Rise allows himself to be guided by bodily odour, seeing it as a pure expression of his new state of being, stripped of his technological exoskeleton after life in the high-rise has broken down into tribal chaos:
Within ten minutes he had returned to his apartment. After bolting the door, he climbed over his barricade and wandered around the half-empty rooms. As he inhaled the stale air he was refreshed by his own odour, almost recognizing parts of his body — his feet and genitalia, the medley of smells that issued from his mouth. He stripped off his clothes in the bedroom, throwing his suit and tie into the bottom of the closet and putting on again his grimy sports-shirt and trousers. He knew now that he would never again try to leave the high-rise. He was thinking about Alice, and how he could bring her to his apartment. In some way these powerful odours were beacons that would draw her to him.
So, with all this in mind, I reckon there’s a new fragrance that is perhaps even more Ballardian than ‘Accident’. I have no idea if it’s a real product or not but who cares? It’s hilarious. And it would definitely appeal to Charles, with his passion for the scent glands of his lover’s anus and especially the ‘rose-damp scent of her vulva’.
It’s a fragrance that is actually called ‘Vulva’, and you must watch the promotional video — it simply has to be seen to be believed. Aside from what I’ve just mentioned, it’s explicitly Ballardian in the way it talks of ‘fiction becoming reality’ and the vaginal scent of the perfume setting off the ‘film inside your head’.
The erotic, intimate scent of a beautiful woman… The precious vaginal odour filled into a small glass phial. The phial is shaken gently, only a tiny amount of the precious, organic substance is applied onto the back of the hand, and the irresistible smell that exudes from a sensuous vagina immediately intensifies your erotic fantasies and starts the film rolling inside your head. VULVA Original is not a perfume. It is a beguiling vaginal scent which is purely a substitute for your own smelling pleasure.
Wonderful. So what do you think? ‘Accident’ or ‘Vulva’ as a gift for that special someone in your life?
UPDATE: John Coulthart informs us that while “VULVA may be a joke the recent ads for a fragrance from clothing designer Tom Ford are quite real.”
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