In Which the Velvet Is Tipped

Yes, I am talking about the BBC film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Tipping the Velvet (which is  a slang term for oral sex performed on a girl), the story of Nan Astley, a lesbian in Victorian England. I watched the three part mini series with my boyfriend the other night as part of some research I’m doing for a screenplay, and I must say, it presented a rather interesting look into the female homosexual underground of England at that time.

It had never occurred to me that, just as men dress up as women and did even back then, women dressed up as men as well. I know, perhaps that seems naive but just as you know that that goes on, it is also possible that just because you know it doesn’t mean you get it. You know it because it seems glaringly obvious but Tipping the Velvet provided some interesting and almost voyeuristic looks in the lesbian world (excuse me if that’s offensive). The onstage love that is so obvious the whole world can see it and yet, there is something that keeps the audience from understanding the true extent of the sexuality being thrust upon them. And then, the idea of the kept woman, the tart, the sex slave, but in the hands of a woman and not a man – a woman who enjoys parading her tart about at parties where only other women, some dressed as men and some dressed as women, mingle and point and ooh and ahh. And finally, the domestic love, the idea that two women can be perfectly happy in a long lasting, modest, and simple relationship.

I loved the idea but actually kind of hated the movie – I think I’ll have to read the book because there were many ideas presented that I wanted to see more of and didn’t, and other ideas that I thought were plain silly and saw far too much of.

Whatever I thought of the film, I think Sarah Waters was on to something….

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