Confessions of a Normal Woman

By Lewis Gagnon

Éloïse Marseille, 26, has no filter as she shares her sexual education in her first comic strip book, Confessions d’une femme normale (Confessions of a Normal Woman). If you’re looking for a story full of humor, lessons and self-reflection, I urge you to have a look at this work by a Montreal artist.  

At age 11, Éloïse discovers her sexuality. While watching a film with her family an erotic scene appears onscreen. It is the first time she feels those weird sorts of butterflies. She asked her mother: Maman!? Pourquoi j’ai des papillons dans le poupou!? Having never received any sort of sex ed from her parents, she starts to do her own research and experience things herself, especially through pornography. She quickly becomes addicted, but she also goes through a lot of self-questioning and shame. It is the beginnings of her adventures in sexuality.

In her book, Éloïse shares her first experiences in sexuality. She runs the gamut from her first drool-filled kiss, the first time she ever touched an erection, and her fear of the penis. As a virgin in high school this young woman feels a lot of pressure around her. Later, she learns that her friends were in the same situation. We can all recognize this unease of youth, when we all wanted to appear “cool” but at root we were all terrified by sexuality. We follow her story through a love gone wrong, then to Cegep, where she confronts her fear of penis heads, literally.

This Montreal author then shares some sexual experiences with us, which women will easily identify with. She draws on, and draws, her encounter with a man’s overly-wandering hand, despite her demand that he stop. And then there’s the time she is drugged at a party where she knows everyone. For her sex c’est de la grosse marde (it’s a lot of shit) because she can’t meet someone who will listen to what she needs. She questions her own sexuality because her chemistry is so much better with other women. How do you pull off a one-night stand to fulfil your desires without feeling disgusted with yourself?   

Protect Yourself

She also deals with female mutual support. At a party, a fried sees her “on another planet” and accompanies her back to her place so she gets there safe and sound. She notes: “Sometimes, I feel bad that men don’t have the same reflex for mutual protection.” At the same time, it’s sad to hear that women have to protect each other against the threat that meeting a man represents. It’s because of this menace that women famously tell each other “text me when you get home,” which they say when one is going home and the concern is that they get back to their place without any trouble.

One thing is well represented in this cartoon book, and that is the ups and downs of sexuality. Éloïse shares with us her wants, her fears and her hurts. Finding someone who will listen to your needs seems to me to be something fairly complicated for a heterosexual woman. I think it should make a lot of men think about how they treat women in bed. She also raises the feeling of being invincible at a young age, but we should always protect ourselves against STDs. It’s important to protect yourself.

Confessions d’une femme normale is a very easy book to read. It is well illustrated, amusing, funny, and it contains a lot of pertinent information on sexuality. If, like Éloïse, you haven’t had a lot of sex ed in your life, you can learn some through her story. I recommend this book not only to young women but to young men as well. Cartoon books are often associated with youth literature, but they can also contain a lot of information, even in their illustrations.  If you’re looking for a good read, take a look at Confessions d’une femme normale.  

Cover credit: Éloïse Marseille and Éditions POW POW

French version available on the Reflet de Société website, October 31st, 2022

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