Female Sexuality Criminalization and Violations in Literature
Through literature we are often various truths of life and society. In the novels “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin; the reader is introduced to female characters from various time periods who have been ostracized by those around them due to their sexual activity. Women have the right to choose who, how, when and how they want to have sex and they have the right to not have sex at all. Yet society ridicules them when they exercise that right. Women throughout history have had their sexual rights violated.
In “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester Prynne is a woman living in puritan society. She lives in the new American colony , her husband was suppose to meet her there but he has been missing for seven years. Hester assumed he was dead. Hester, like any human being had sexual desires and needs. She found love in Arthur Dimmesdale, the colony reverend. Naturally, they made love and Hester became pregnant. When the colony discovered that Hester had an “affair” with a man who was not her husband, they labeled her an “Adulteress” even though it was safe to assume that her husband died at sea, which was typically for the dangerously long voyage from England. She was literally branded, she was sentenced to wearing a scarlet letter “A” as her punishment for this “crime”. Hester’s life turned into lonely life of exile. She and her daughter were ostracized because Hester chose to have sex with Dimmesdale. Hester was a talented seamstress, however no one would ever ask her to make a wedding dress for them because they didn’t want an adulteress to make their wedding gown, as if that would be a sort of bad omen for their own marriage. Hester was actually thrown in jail with her “bastard” child. Society treated this natural act of sex as a crime. Hester was especially treated harshly because was a woman. Women were expected to obey the man, so for Hester to sleep with a man other than her husband was especially heinous.
In the novel “The Awakening” the ownership of women is especially apparent. The novel follows the life of Edna Pontellier, the wife of Leonce during the Victorian Era. Women at this time were expected to obey their husbands. However, Edna is tired of being controlled and decides to be a free woman, she leaves her husband and starts to get involved with other men. Edna sleeps with Alcee twice. Edna’s actions are seen as a dishonor to her family so much so that Edna cannot deal with the humiliation she has brought down on her kids that she kills herself. Edna knows that what she has done will cause shame even though she and her husband are separated.Edna is an example of what happens when a woman can’t express her sexual desires or embrace her sexuality. She couldn’t deal with the abuse society would throw her way if they found out, so she killed her self because she felt as if there was no way out alive anyway. These prejudices are especially unfair since men were not treated the same for sleeping with a women. This can be seen in characters such as Alcee. He is a known Casanova, yet he does not suffer any cruel treatment and is not treated indifferent. But this is the truth of society, its unacceptable for a woman to explore her sexuality the way a man does with out being ridiculed.
In the novel, ” The Bluest Eye” the main character, Pecola Breedlove is a victim of many abuses. Pecola differs from the characters in the other novels because her sexual rights were violated in a different way. The other characters chose to have sex and were ridiculed, whereas Pecola was not even given a choice, her sexuality was taken by force. Pecola’s father forced himself on her. Her sexual right of choosing who, how, when and how she wants to have sex with was completely ignored and violated. If Pecola was not a girl, this would not have happened to her. Because she is a female in a misogynistic society her sexual right was violated.
Through these three novels we can see how women especially, get their sexual rights violated. Some get exiled for their community or commit suicide because they dared to explore and exercise their sexuality. Some get their sexual right violated by someone forcing them to exercise their sexual being. Women throughout history have had their sexual rights violated.
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