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By Valérie Gay-Corajoud

Of flesh and blood 

If it is a peculiarity, both in the work of Diana Gabaldon and in her TV adaptation, it is the way the body in general, and sex in particular is treated.

Here, no more false modesty than exhibitionism. Sex is an essential datum that is never described for free to attract the barge, nor is it ignored to spare the too prude souls. The tone can be believed, but it is never vulgar, the scene is often filmed in its entirety, but never in a pornographic way.

 

- Writing

 

This is, first and foremost, the incredibly honest writing of Diana Gabaldon. 

The picture she gives us to see is without special effects, without shadow. It does not save the details or explanations on the pretext of shortening its text. Conversely, she takes her time, lets us walk with her characters all along their journey, so that we become aware of their states, their emotions and their options. 

No effect of the handle, no manipulation. Everything is here. We have all the cards in hand. 

When his characters embrace, kiss or make love, we do not surprise them at the bend of a door, we do not stealthily observe them at the edge of the bed and in the same way, we do not leave on tiptoe, as if we had been caught at fault. 

No. Diana has clearly invited us into this intimate but always respectful space. She has planned this place for us, where our own emotions mingle with the warmth of the entwined bodies. 

And if she takes the time to describe us sometimes intimate acts, it is not to excite us or voyeurism, it is to take us closer to their relationship, their excitement, their feelings. 

It's up to us to live this moment as we wish. It's all about trust. 

 

- Claire

 

This is also due to the fact that the heroine, Claire, is a straightforward and uncomplicated woman. 

Became orphan at the age of 8, she was not raised in a traditional family, but by an uncle archaeologist and adventurer who had nothing to do to teach him good manners, preferring a more pragmatic knowledge: locate in nature, light a fire with flints, take an interest in the land and history, and most importantly, do not create a problem. It is almost certain that he would not have raised her differently if she had been a man. It turns out that Claire is able to adapt to difficult situations and that her relationship to others is straightforward and straightforward. 

First, we discover her in 1945 alongside her husband, Frank, academic historian a little stiff, a little conventional, but sufficiently in love to appreciate the direct character of his wife and, perhaps even, to draw a some profit. 

Very quickly, whether in the first pages of the saga or in the first episode of the series, we learn that Claire loves to make love, and that she knows how to ask pleasure for herself. At a time when women were confined to being only the wife of their husbands, wise, silent and above all, waiting for their goodwill, she is presented to us as liberated, modern and incredibly daring. 

 

Extract: Volume 1, Chapter 2: the stone circle. 

 

... The hand caressing my back always went lower, stopping suddenly with surprise. She palpated me blindly then Frank looked up and looked at me with a funny smile. 

- What are you wearing there? he asked, mimicking the village idiot. Or, rather, what are you not wearing there? 

'I'm always ready,' I said. When you're a nurse, you never know what kind of emergency we're going to face. 

- Really, Claire, he murmured, sliding a hand under my skirt up my thigh to the hollow hot and naked between my legs. Your practical sense is terrifying ... 

In the series, the scene is a little different, the couple visit a castle in ruins, and Claire settling on a table, opens the legs more than suggestive way. When Frank realizes that she is not wearing underwear, she invites him to kneel in front of her without any doubt about what she wants from him. Frank does not say anything, we feel quite ready and happy to honor his wife. However, we do not feel any passion on his part. It is very likely that if she had not taken the first step, he would not have done anything of his own.

We also learn that Claire has just spent 5 years as a war nurse. This is also the first image we have of her in the series; active over a mutilated body, bloody clothes. We understand very quickly that, out of necessity, she has a very direct relationship with the body and can not bear any modesty. In the emergency, in the dirt and in the fear, she touches, triturates, cuts, sews and belly of the male bodies without there being any place for the slightest sexual allusion, the body being reduced here to its simple vital functions.
That is why when she assures her husband that she had no lover during their separation, she is believed without any difficulty. Claire loves to make love, certainly, but she is not dependent on sex either. (We are also entitled to wonder what it was for Frank) ...
We are quickly introduced to their couple who tries to get together after these years of forced separation. This is partly the purpose of their trip to Scotland, which should allow them, we are told, to revive the flame and if possible, plant the seed of a future descent. But we are told that it is also for Frank, the opportunity to study his genealogy, one of his hugs, not to mention an obsession. Finally, would the simple desire to rebuild their couple would have been enough? One senses that Frank's priorities are in some ways more compelling than Claire's.

 

- The bodies

 

And then the improbable happens. Claire crosses the stones of Craigh na dun and finds herself propelled two centuries back, at a time when the demands of the rights of women are a sweet joke. Life is rough, short and unfair, and rape is an almost commonplace event, which is shown in great detail throughout the series.

What has become clear to me and almost immediately is how much the characters' bodies are exposed to danger and discomfort.
Claire's first. In a little shirt, manhandled by the already terrifying Jonathan Randall who tries to rape her, then by a group of Highlanders who treats her like a piece of meat.
Removed, wagged on a horse in the middle of the night, thrown to the ground, hungry. Survival, both physical and psychological, predominates in any attempt at reason.

But, very quickly, it is also question of the body of Jamie.
Magnificent, more discreet than his companions, less rustic, hurt beyond words.
Flagellated, pierced, dislocated! But also strong, beautiful, tall, muscular ... His body will be incredibly present throughout the saga, described many times and in great detail.
This is a particular feature of Diana Gabaldon's work: Jamie's body more sexual, and more coveted than Claire's. This body, Claire takes it in hand almost immediately.

She puts her shoulder back in place and will never stop repairing it and taking care of it. But Jamie is not left out. He holds Claire against him as they ride across the Scottish moor, covers her under her tartan to warm her, then takes her in the arms of the fire as she cries over her missing husband, and finally, makes her promise. that she will not risk anything as long as he is at his side.
It is therefore through their bodies that their love story begins, without, however, any sexual allusion being evoked.

The second particularity is that Claire is still married but only she knows. Certainly her husband will be born in two centuries, but her moral sense is terribly tested and the feeling of fault will take a long time to disappear.
The third particularity is not the least! Indeed, just before the marriage contract, we just learned at the same time as Claire, that the beautiful Jamie is a virgin!
This promises a session for the least interesting.

I take the time to describe this first night because it inaugurates the others to come.
Claire and Jamie do not jump at each other while obviously they are devoured by desire.
No, they take the time to talk to each other, to tell each other. In a way, their minds are lagging behind what their bodies already know about each other. And it is only in the early morning that they can finally undress, look at each other, touch each other ... and meet.
Jamie, a little clumsy but so moving. Not an ounce of machismo in this proud highlander! In the expert hands of Claire, he learns, he feels, he agrees. And Claire, although torn by her conscience as a woman married to a historian of the twentieth century, does not wait any longer to teach him the art of making love!

Extract Volume 1 - Chapter 15: revelations in the bridal chamber 

 

There was such urgency in him that I was inclined to encourage him despite his clumsiness. Wanting neither to teach him nor, for the moment, to put forward my own experience, I let him do it, only occasionally offering some suggestions, such as carrying his weight on his elbows rather than on my ribs.
Although he was still too hungry and left to show tenderness, he made love with a sort of jubilation that made me think that male virginity was an unjustly underrated quality. He was always worried about my well-being, which I found at once touching and annoying.
During his third assault, I hunched hard and let out a scream. He retired hastily, confusing himself with excuses.
- I'm sorry, I did not want to hurt you.
'But you did not hurt me,' I replied, stretching languidly, delighted.
- Really ?
To make sure, he inspected me, looking for damage.
I understood then that Murtagh and Rupert, during his accelerated training, had neglected some essential details.
- And it happens to you every time? He asked fascinated, when I explained to him.
I felt like a geisha. I had never thought that I would one day become a mistress in the art of love, but I had to admit that this new role did not displease me.
- No, it's not systematic. It all depends on the lover's qualities of the partner ...
- Ah!
His ears are pink.
- And what should I do now?
- But nothing special. Continue slowly and concentrate. Why wait ? Are you ready yet?
- Right now ? You do not have to wait? I could not, I need some time to ...
- In women, it's different.
- I see…
He took my wrist between his thumb and his index finger.
- Because you're so tiny, I'm afraid of hurting you.
- No, I was impatient. And even if it were, it would not displease me.
In front of his forbidden air, I decided to give him a little demonstration and lowered me to his lower abdomen. After a while, I began to use the teeth, squeezing harder and harder, until he gave a small moan.
- I hurt you ?
- Yes a bit.
- You want me to stop ?
- No, please, continue!
What I did, without sparing him. Soon, his body convulsed and he let out a low growl, as if I had torn his heart. All his muscles were bandaged and he was out of breath. He mumbled something in Gaelic, his eyes closed.
- What are you saying ?
'I said,' he said, opening his eyes, 'that I thought my heart was going to burst.
I smile, rather satisfied with myself.
- I bet Murtagh forgot to tell you about that.
- Yes, but it was one of those things I did not want to believe. 

- Sex

 

After this wedding night, the bodies of Claire and Jamie will seem to be more than one. There will be some disputes, so little in truth, but it is no longer possible to imagine one without the other, far from each other. Moreover, their hands constantly touch each other, their lips join and it never seems useless or incongruous.

The scenes of love succeed one another without ever being repeated and they always tell us something. Whether it's a bustling reconciliation on the bedroom carpet, or an incredibly sweet moment when Jamie offers the sweetness of her mouth to Claire's intimacy. Whether at full speed in the clearing or slowly in the hollow of their bed,
each meeting of their heated bodies tells us of the link between them that they themselves can not explain.
Diana never repeats herself. She never misses those precious moments. It's never sloppy, never boring, never useless either. From the passionate act to that bestial or even jovial; manual or oral caresses; glances that glide, smiles that are drawn, surprises that invite themselves, phrases that proclaim themselves and sweet words that whisper ... Everything is offered to us with the same passion for essential detail.
Sex is not a bonus and even less a condition! It is obvious.
It is through the body that he met, it is through the body that they express their infinite love ...

It is therefore through the body that the worst happens ...

 

- The rape

In most rape stories told, the victim is the woman and it is up to the man to protect and then find the path of his intimacy shaken.
In most stories, the man protects the woman. It's like that.
Here, as I have already said above, Jamie's body is the object of lust.
The aptly named Black Jack Randall, Frank's ancestor and who had already tried to mistreat Claire a few minutes after crossing the stones of Craigh Na Dunn is obviously, and has been obsessed by Jamie for years. He whipped him to the bone, marking his back for life. He is the one who declared him outlaw and who put his head at a price. He is the one who stops him and places him in the terrible fortress of Wentworth ... and it is him who finally rapes, martyrises, traumatizes, brings him to the edges of madness until he want to die.
If it is indeed a delicate subject to discuss in literature, and even more on the screen, it is that of rape.

You're hurting, I'm sure, like a fake, healthy stuff, Diana Gabaldon and I'm doing it in a way that looks great.
Diana ne nous épargne pas plus than Randall n'epargne Jamie, and I'm the capital I've always dreamed about! For new ones, I absolutely understand the affres et les tourments that the last day is going through. Out of the unbearable brutality that makes him go, Randall well understands that it is part of Jamie's most sensitive, this is the love that took her to the woman.

And that's what he's going to sack in the deepest, with as much method as demonic madness.
This inseparable part of Jamie, this part inscribed as much in his body as in his soul. It is through this body that Jamie offered his wife from the first meeting, that Randall will defile what he himself can not have.

Excerpt: Volume 1 chapter 39: The ransom of a soul 

... He told me the following: the lashes, precise and spaced, punctuated by kisses; the burning pain of burns, administered to revive him and force him to face new humiliations. He told me everything, with hesitation, sometimes tears, things that I did not want to hear but that I had to listen to, as silent as a confessor.
- He did not just hurt me, Claire, he made love to me. He made me suffer martyrdom, but for him it was an act of love. And he forced me to answer him ... cursed be it! He made me love it!
His fist slammed violently on the pillars of the bed with impotent rage.
- The ... the first time he was very sweet. He coated me with oil, slowly penetrating my skin, massaging my entire body ... gently stroking. I could not help but be excited. I did not want to think about you, Claire. It was ... a blasphemy. I wanted to erase you from my mind and stay ... empty. But he did not hear it that way. He spoke without stopping. Sometimes they were threats, sometimes words of love, often, it was about you.
- Me ? yelped I.
- Yes. He was very jealous of you, you know.
- No, I did not know it.
- Oh yes ! While caressing me, he asked me: 'Does she do that for you? Does she know how to excite you as well as me?' I did not want to answer him ... I could not. So, he asked me how you would feel when you see me doing ... make me ...
He bit his lip, unable to continue.
- He made me suffer, then stopped and caressed me until I was excited again ... then, all of a sudden, he inflicted me a terrible pain and penetrated me brutally. And all this time, he spoke to me about you, so that I keep you constantly in mind.
I struggled, mentally, to get away from him, to separate my mind from my body, but each time the pain caught me again and again, crushing all the mental obstacles I was setting in his path. 

My God, I tried so hard, Claire, but ...
He buried his face in his hands.
- I understand now why the young Alex MacGregor hanged himself. I would have done the same if it was not a mortal sin. If he has ruined my life, it will not be the same in heaven.
It's ... everything is now linked in my head. Claire, I can not think of you anymore, or even kiss you or touch your hand, without being invaded again by fear, pain and nausea. I stay there thinking that I will die without your caresses, but as soon as you touch me, I want to vomit shame and disgust of myself ... 

It is worth noting a fundamental difference between the book and the series.
Indeed, the bias of the book is to tell the story from the point of view of Claire. The series respects this state of affairs and most of the time, it is the voice of Claire that exposes the situation.
But there are two exceptions to this rule, one of which is Jamie's rape by Randall.
Even though we know afterwards that he told Claire everything, we are the first witnesses of the horror perpetrated in this infamous dungeon.
The scenes are almost unbearable, and both physical and psychological violence is unreservedly shown to us. The bodies are naked, that of Jamie tortured again and again, until the unthinkable. The eyes are bulging, the hands are tortured, the screams are heartbreaking. We feel almost the coldness of the soil, the hardness of the bed, the dampness of the body. We experience the filth and smell of blood. Again, there is no question of ignoring crudeness and cruelty. This is the bias of Diana Gabaldon and writers who have worn his work on the screen: What is ... must be told or shown.

 

- Players

 

Telling is one thing. We put the words and they are read. In a way, the author collaborates with the reader in some kind of tacit contract. He gives the keys and words to create a vision of his story. Once the work is created, it is made available and everyone then assumes his way of understanding and transcribing. It takes talent of course, and there is no need here to prove how much Diana Gabaldon is. provided, but the author is the only chief on board. Composer and music, Painter and canvas, creator and creature.

But to transcribe in the cinema, you need actors. Media that will bring others to the author's vision. How to find actors to the extent of the characters created by Diana and their incredible meeting.
It took a man who could take the role of Jamie Fraser, whom Diana has been telling us for hundreds of pages so thoroughly! A tall, powerful, handsome man, warrior, wounded, tortured!
But also fiery, impetuous, romantic not to say romantic!

A hypnotic looking man whose great intelligence can not be doubted
and the vast culture, strength and bravery but filled with pride and integrity?
It needed an actress also worthy to figure this exceptional woman that is Claire Beauchamp!
A beautiful and learned woman, with a character steeped in steel! free as nobody! A woman fit to hold under her thumb a whole clan of raging Highlanders and to melt the righest of them! A woman that we would follow with a snap of a finger to disrupt the story! A woman who dares everything in bed and who loudly claims her right to pleasure! A woman who can heal a man's body but kill another's body to defend his clan? A woman always, who can sleep on the stone and bathe in a frozen river, without that lessening its beauty. So a woman, to the measure of Jamie Fraser ?!

Not only did they find the two actors at the height of this challenge, but what is even more incredible is how much the attraction between them is to the extent of the characters they embody.
This osmosis that exists between Claire and Jamie and that fills the books of Diana Gabaldon with an ever renewed lyricism, we find it with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe throughout the episodes of the series.

Sam first, almost indecent beauty, body sculpted to perfection, piercing blue eyes and intelligent, and with that bit of childhood in him that borders on magic ... awesome actor, playing with the same talent on all the registers. This is a masterful discovery and what's left of me in my midst can only be exalted at each of his appearances!
And Caitriona Balfe, divine, captivating, strong and passionate, beautiful as a person, even dressed in the worst clothes! even under the deluge or cold of the Scottish stones. The bright and proud look, the loud and loud voice! What an actress, my God! What an actress!

One and the other are Sam and Claire, he has no shadow of a doubt! It does not take more than 5 minutes on the screen to be convinced.
However, we must wait for the seventh episode, that of marriage, to know what will happen to their relationship to the body and sex, so fundamental in the saga. What about Jamie deflowering?
What about their ceaseless caresses? Of their greed, their need sometimes almost animal?
How would they offer us these moments so well described by Diana? Hands grabbing themselves? actions and the emotions that inhabit them? Bodies glued, attracted, heated, soaked, exhausted?

I do not have words powerful enough to describe what Sam and Cait were able to offer us. With the same generosity and the same passion as Diana, they gave everything of themselves.
I also imagine the need for absolute trust between the writers and the entire technical team so that such scenes can be shot.
The camera against them, expressions of pleasure or pain, lost or amazed looks. But above all, their exposed bodies, up to the grain of the skin. Their intimacy, front or back, one against the other or one in the other ... and again, without ever being crossed the threshold of voyeurism or pornography!
All the sequence of the Jamie rape by Jonathan Randall, also exceptionally embodied by Tobias Menzie so fair, so realistic, but always respectful and will probably be the subject of another focus ...

I stop here, I planned to do an overview of the whole saga, or at least the first 4 games on the screen, but I realize that it is impossible to be concise, that In a way, I must give Diana Gabaldon this gift of words and the time necessary to put them in order.
There is no urgency to tell Outlander ... on the contrary, there is no sweeter than to let the pleasure continue.

The body in the first season

- The wedding night

 

It is only during the wedding night, many days later, that both will be able to express this part of themselves and discover, together with us, how their bodies are in symbiosis.
The particularity of this wedding night is that the wedding is arranged. The sexual relation must take place the same night, it is imperative and contractual and has nothing to do with a possible desire on their part.