Tête à Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley: Sartre’s pet name for de Beauvoir was Beaver. In French the word is castor, which happens to be the title of the literary magazine to which the hero of Murger’s Scenes de la vie de boheme contributes. But Sartre – who had a taste for tough American crime novels, with their lexicons of misogynistic slang – probably knew that in English the word refers, none too flatteringly, to the pudendum. Actually, he soon tired of de Beauvoir’s nether parts; as a substitute for sex, they pimped for each other and shared titillating reports of their latest conquests.
Sartre, a wall-eyed gnome who reeked of tobacco, prided himself on the success of his seductive blather, and throughout his life maintained a harem of abject women, between whose apartments he commuted. Usually they began as his pupils, or as subjects of the amateur psychoanalysis he doled out: this placed them in a convenient position of inferiority, ready to be plucked. When Sartre declared her to be physically superannuated, de Beauvoir solaced herself with toy boys and – while a schoolteacher – had extracurricular liaisons with selected female students.
Once, when she and Sartre were together in Brazil, she fell ill with typhoid and spent a week in hospital. Outside visiting hours, Sartre concentrated on seducing ‘a 25-year-old Brazilian journalist, a virgin, with flaming red hair’, to whom he idly proposed marriage. He dismissed such forays by explaining – with Clintonian finesse – that they were just a species of masturbation. He sadistically specialised in denying himself to his partners, and practised coitus interruptus to punish them, not as a contraceptive precaution.