Why are we so Repressed and Regulated?
It’s a good question, don’t you think? Women are consumed by the double standard of saint and slut. If you don’t sleep with a man your a saint or a bitch cause you wouldn’t give it up. But if you do sleep with a man, you’re a slut because you gave it up. Not only do women have to be consumed with worry over whether they should sleep with someone, and what that would do to their reputation, they also have to worry about the desirability their body gives them. I believe that through sexuality women can be freed from this repression and regulation. It is through literature and other mediums that women can gain a positive image and illustrate that pleasure does not make ANYONE any less of a person, and someone to be judged. LESSON: think about why YOU have sex and what you GAIN from it before you judge anyone else. The unwritten law of society is that sex is for reproduction, whether everyone believes this or not, I fully believe this is how society judges sexual activity, if not, then why are so many women ostracized for their sexual activities? Because if a woman is not participating in sexual relations to conceive then she is a whore for finding pleasure in sex. CONFESSION: I sometimes make snap judgements before I can remember to look to what I gain from my own sexual relations, because at this point in my life, it is NOT babies that I hope to gain! I will confess that I have, on multiple occasions called a woman a slut for sleeping with a man in certain situations, but really, who am I to judge? Is my sexual past any better than hers is? Who makes that decision?
Up to the 18th century, and I believe these are still ingrained in our society to this day, there were three explicit codes that governed sexual relations, and these three were focused on matrimonial relations. This controlled sexuality and allowed there to be a law around sexual relations. Seen before the 20th century “Doubtless acts ‘contrary to nature’ were stamped as especially abominable, but they were perceived simply as an extreme form of acts ‘against the law'” (Foucault 38). Obviously today we do not look at sexual acts that are ‘against nature’ to be acts ‘against the law’, but we do judge them in a similar way. Foucault claims that repression of sexuality has two ruptures if you try to trace it throughout history, the first being what I covered above, and the second is a 20th century occurrence that is characterized as “the moment when the mechanisms of repression were seen as beginning to loosen their grip; one passed from insistent sexual taboo to a relative tolerance with regard to prenuptial or extramarital relations” (Foucault 115). But a loosening has not gotten us very far. Women are still shamed for their sexual activites, and once again I want to ask, who gets to decide the judgement of these sexual acts? How is it even any of your (society’s) business anyway?
Let’s Change This
Through a positive representation of women and their sexuality this can be changed. Women need to help women, to write new woman into being, which can be done through many different forms of media, not only literature.
This post is to highlight the ways in which women can achieve sexual freedom from society through sexuality, whether it is in a heterosexual, lesbian, or ANY relationship women can be found in. I do not want to place a constraint on any relationship in this post by saying that freedom can only be achieved through a certain sexual relation. So, forgive me if I do make the mistake of classifying relationships in my attempt to free women from sexual restraint.
I have chosen Goblin Market as the final literary work that I will analyze because this blog is all about the evolution of women throughout literature, and thus far I have looked at “Penelope” and “Moll Flanders” two text that have great intentions for women, BUT are written by male authors. Not only am I analyzing the content but I am also analyzing who has written the content and the implications of the authorship. Thus far I have seen how two men brought ‘New’ woman to literature and gave her a strong feminist character in doing so, but these texts are ventriloquized, whereas Christina Rossetti’s poem is written by a woman, and about women in a male dominant society. The text themselves have illustrated the evolution of women in literature because they have not followed a chronological order of time, but have followed a path of what the authors have done for women. So, Rossetti’s text is last because it is the ultimate goal for women, for WOMAN to write WOMAN into being as Cixous states in her work “The Laugh of the Medusa”, as well as freeing woman’s body from the value that society places on it.
Goblin Market written by Christina Rossetti is a parable for the prostitutes in Highgate Penitentiary. The story has a moral for fallen women, that even though they have chosen a life of prostitution and have fallen from grace, their ‘sisters’ can always pick them up (Humphreys Jan 31). As great as this moral is, that women have the power to help their fallen prostitute sisters, I am reading this poem in a different way, one that still has the same moral. The Goblins and market in the poem illustrate society’s temptation for women to fall, that is for women to give into society’s temptation of pleasure, then be ostracized for their doing so. Through different mediums women get the idea that all women should look a certain way and be a vixen sex goddess, but once women have done so, they are shamed for their behaviour, and it is only until women set an example that female pleasure is NOT a taboo, can we free ourselves from society’s judgements. Why should others tells us what we can and cannot do? This is your body ladies, so claim what is yours!
When viewing the goblin men Lizzie knows the harm of falling victim to society, but Laura is unable to resist their charm. Laura wants to peep at the goblins while Lizzie scolds her,“No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”
Lizzie first rejects the society that the goblin men represent and runs from their temptations. But Laura is fascinated by the goblins and their ware “Curious Laura chose to linger / Wondering at each merchant man” (69-70). When Laura stays behind to peep at the goblin men she is drawn into their temptation and must sacrifice a part of herself in order to find the pleasure the goblins offer:She clipped a precious golden lock, She dropped a tear more rare than pearl, Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red: Sweeter than honey from the rock, Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, Clearer than water flowed that juice; She never tasted such before, How should it cloy with length of use? She sucked and sucked and sucked the more Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; She sucked until her lips were sore; Then flung the emptied rinds away (126-137)
As the days pass Laura searches for the goblin market but cannot find it anymore. Because Lizzie has not tasted the fruit of the market she still hears the temptation, but Laura is unable to find the pleasure she found before in the market (society) because it is now ostracizing her. Because Laura gave into the temptation of society she is now being repressed from having any further sexual encounters with the society and she loses her desire to gain sexual pleasure and starts to wither away under this repression.Laura turned cold as stone To find her sister, heard that cry alone (253-254) Then sat up in a passionate yearning, And gnash’d her teeth for baulk’d desire, and wept
As if her heart would break. (266-268)
Again when Laura thinks of the goblin men and their fruit the poem takes on an erotic image of Laura in bed with Lizzie and being painfully aware of her baulking desire that she cannot satisfy. She continues to feel this desire go unsatisfied and Lizzie watches as her ‘sister’ withers under the repression of the goblin market. Lizzie cannot bear to watch Laura wither away:Till Laura dwindling Seem’d knocking at Death’s door: Then Lizzie weigh’d no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kiss’d Laura, cross’d the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look. (320-328)
It is only until Lizzie rejects this society openly that she is able to save Laura.“Good folk,” said Lizzie, Mindful of Jeanie:
“Give me much and many: —
Held out her apron,
Toss’d them her penny.
“Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,” (363-369) “Thank you,” said Lizzie: “But one waits At home alone for me: So without further parleying, If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I toss’d you for a fee.”– One call’d her proud, Cross-grain’d, uncivil;
Their tones wax’d loud,
Their look were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her,
Claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat. (383-407)
Lizzie braves the goblin men for her ‘sister’ and rejects their offers of pleasure because she wishes to return to Laura and save her from withering away to nothing. The Goblin Men once again try to coax Lizzie, as they did Laura, into tasting their fruit and when she will not they become violent with her because she will not partake in their goblin pleasures.She cried, “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.” (464-474)
When Lizzie returns home to Laura she beckons for her ‘sister’ to taste her, lick her and suck her juices. Through erotic imagery Goblin Market illustrates how Lizzie can save Laura from dying through female eroticism. Lizzie knows that the market (society) will only repressed women, and that it is only through a rejection of this society and female eroticism that women can transcend this repression and save one another. Lizzie shows Laura that it is ok to have this desire and to express it, this is what saves Laura from dying under the repression of the goblin market.Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town):
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.” (548-567)
When they are grown women with children of their own, Laura will tell her children of her ‘sister’, a woman who saved her from the repression of society. Lizzie was able to help her ‘sister’ reclaim her body and transcend the repression of the goblin men who tried to take her sexuality from her.
Why a Sister is the Greatest Friend a Woman Can Have
Bullying, it is a major problem for many children, a problem that for the most part goes unresolved. How does bullying have to do with this blog? EVERYTHING. This topic is close to me, and I do hope that readers can see the relationship between society’s repression of women’s sexuality as seen in Goblin Market and the case of Amanda Todd. I want to look at Amanda Todd and the bullying she received as a teen and the death that resulted. I said above that women are ostracized from their society when they partake in sexual activity that they are tempted with, then they are shunned from society. That is exactly what happened to Amanda Todd. For what is bullying but ostracizing someone from the society in which they reside.
This video was made by Amanda to tell her story and experience with society. When she was in grade seven, she was chatting with new people and she was prompted to show her breasts to a boy she was talking to. She did as she was asked, and one year later she was bullied into doing more, but she wouldn’t, so her photo was sent to everyone she knew and she was ostracized for being a ‘slut’. Not once was the guy thought less of for asking a complete stranger to do such a thing, or even exposing that she had done it. The blame fell completely on Amanda Todd, and the repercussions were gruesome. The Todd family was forced to move several times to try to get away from the main person responsible for the exposure of the photos but he continued to harras Amanda wherever she went, and others, once they found out what she had done, would shun Amanda even if they had become friends.
All she needed was a ‘sister’ in the fight for freedom from a repressing society. Instead Amanada Todd was forced to kill herself, because her peers, mainly girls, insisted she should. In her youtube video of her story, she uses flashcards to narrate her story, the last flashcard says, “I have nobody, I need someone”. Like Amanda, Laura was at the mercy of the goblin market (society) and withered under its repression, but Laura had Lizzie to save her, whereas Amanda had no one. If only there were another to save Amanda she would not have had to kill herself, and maybe, she would have been able to escape the repression of her society, and by doing so, understand that female eroticism is not a bad thing, but a freeing act, when women band together and separate themselves from the repression of society.