The Mistress Contract

Incoming from Ed: the “Mistress Contract“, a play at the Royal Court Theatre:

She and He are the pseudonyms of a real-life couple who live in separate houses in the same city on the west coast of America. She is 88. He is 93.

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.’

They first met at university and then lost touch. When they met again twenty years later, they began an affair when She – a highly educated, intelligent woman with a history of involvement in the feminist movement – asked her wealthy lover to sign the remarkable document that outlines their unconventional lifestyle: The Mistress Contract.

Was her suggestion a betrayal of all that she and the women of her generation had fought for? Or was it brave, honest, and radical?


It seems odd to me that the term “radical” is applied. That is word belonging to politics, and this seems like a personal story, what relevence is it to politics? Nevertheless, it seems essential to many to discuss the issues arising from this agreement. The Royal Court is hosting a panel discussion on March 12th:

Chaired by broadcaster, journalist and theatre critic Libby Purves, the panel debates how and why we form sexual partnerships. The panel includes playwright Alecky Blythe, anthropologist Professor Sophie Day (Goldsmiths, University of London), academic and activist Lynne Segal and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Ed writes:

I’m not sure what angle they’ll take […] but contracting generally has a pro-liberty flavour? I’ll be interested to see how they interpret it.


  1. It boils down to what rights, if any, can be considered inalienable, and whether someone can give up such rights, via contractual means on either a time limited or perpetual basis. A highly complex area for which there is no right answer in general terms. Each situation needs to be individually considered, by a court if one the parties wishes to modify or renege on a contract.



    1. One’s free will cannot be alienated, therefore it seems to me that the ‘mistress contract’ would be unenforceable in the event that the woman did not want to have sex on any particular occasion, as to force her to do so would be rape, notwithstanding any agreement that existed in the past.

      Until recently the law considered rape within marriage to be an oxymoron. This went back to a ruling in (I think) the 17th century, where one influential judge ruled it to be so, and everyone followed that precedent for 300 years. However, it should be noted that although such an act would not have been classed as rape I would think that it could still have been seen as some other kind of criminal assault. In any case, the original ruling was flawed as far as I can see, because it is based on the idea that, by marrying, the woman has consented to sex in perpetuity, which is contrary to the principle of inalienable rights.

      The idea of a ‘mistress contract’, or any other similar contract, sounds like a good one, as long as inalienable rights are respected. To me, legal marriage seems to be little more than a government-sanctioned tax avoidance scheme, which serves a purpose only because of the greed of the taxman to seize property from the deceased, unless the deceased has a spouse. If the same partnership could be established through a private contract (i.e. if two people could protect their property from the taxman in the same way), then no one would need to be married in the eyes of the state. In such circumstances, people would of course still get married.

      In countries like France and Italy, where marriage is secular by law, the actual marriage takes place in front of a public official, and those who wish to have the marriage blessed by the church then have a separate ceremony at the church.



      1. I should add that I am not at all against marriage, only that the state element of it is utterly unimportant to me, and I would like this to be replaced by a system of private contracting, which would leave everyone free to marry in church or wherever else they chose.


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