On this blog, I will share with you plays with interesting, inspiring or challenging themes, all about women experiences. Today’s play is Abi Morgan ‘s The Mistress Contract, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2014.

Can a woman call herself a feminist and provide sexual services in exchange for financial support?

“For 30 years, he has provided her with a home and an income, while she provides ‘mistress services’ – ‘All sexual acts as requested, with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers.’”

"Female Nude - Study from behind", by William Holman Hunt (1858), modified to illustrate this blog post about The Mistress Contract from Abi Morgan

The Mistress Contract is Abi Morgan ’s debut play and was put on in 2014 at the Royal Court Theatre. It follows She and He, a real life couple who had an affair for over 30 years under the terms of “the Mistress Contract”.

With this play, we get to know She, a woman who is educated and has been involved in feminist movements in the past. Even though she uses sex as a commodity and writes this contract to secure some financial stability for herself, you never know for sure if the situation suits her or not. Is this affair a second and not so fulfilling option after two failed marriages? Or is using sex as a transaction a way of regaining power and freedom? As Abi Morgan puts it, “I think it’s about a woman who feels oppressed by men, trying to regain the balance, which is the opposite of what you feel the word mistress means.”

In the French newsletter Les Glorieuses (@les_glorieuses), Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, who studied how the status of women has evolved, flags up that if women have succeeded in improving their status and gaining some rights over the last decades, especially in the workplace, their intimate and sexual life is still limited to a common conception that makes their body “at the disposal” of men. As if they had to pay for their social emancipation, with a price which would be of always being “sexually available”. Is sex as a transactional value considered empowering? Is the liberty to use one’s body as one wishes, even to serve a man in exchange for money, the very way to reclaim one’s body as its own?

Painting: “Female Nude – Study from behind”, by William Holman Hunt (1858)

📷 Birmingham Museums Trust