Sex 107B. #JuliasRoom: Feeling a False Pretext


“Loving Julia” (Sex 107, not posted here) is the short story of a rich businessman seducing a beautiful young actress. He succeeds — but not in the way he wanted.

The emotional hashtag #JuliasRoom refers to the sense of dislocation he feels when he realizes something is “off,” even though he is getting exactly what he asked for.

The big reveal is that the her willingness to surrender to his affections was engineered by her agent. The introduction of a third party is critical. If the actress merely admitted that she was sleeping with him because he was rich, it would be crass but not surprising.

The very fact that he was courting her with ostentatious displays of wealth (contra Thoroughly Modern Millie) makes it clear that his riches and status are as intrinsic to the bargain as her fame and beauty. He isn’t pursuing any sort of lasting emotional attachment; he is already married and just after an exciting affair. He wouldn’t be dismayed or even surprised if she had a genuine boyfriend.

And yet, he needs the pretense that she is choosing to do it at least partly for the short-term thrill of his amorous attention, not solely from rational calculation. When that is deflated, somehow the whole scenario loses its allure.

#JuliasRoom is distinct from a #PotemkinVillage, where the experience is a facade and completely divorced from context. Here, the experiential context is real: he wants to sleep with her, and he can get exactly that. It is the pretext that is “off” in a way that, for whatever reason, completely changes how the experience feels.

In some ways it is the inverse of #gaslighting, where the perpetrator deliberately confuses reality to make the victim lose self-confidence.

Note that this is a different sort of betrayal than a mere scam, such as blackmail or stealing a kidney. She is giving him exactly what he wants, with no strings attached. Yet knowledge of the pretext is sufficient to cool his ardor and end the affair. Somehow it stops being fun and romantic; perhaps the same reason he is happy to court her with expensive gifts (which she could easily resell) but would feel weird giving her cash directly.

Note that #JuliasRoom is just about the emotional experience of dislocation, not the romantic or sexual overtones. It is what we feel when another person seems completely sincere (“making a genuine offer”) and yet still not authentic: their motivations and actions feel out whack, even though they look perfectly aligned (perhaps overly so).

In many real-word cases, the person themself (the “Julia”) may be completely unaware of their deeper motivation (“manipulative agent”).

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