There has been a social gender order. For example, religiously speaking man has come before woman (Adam and Eve). As time progressed, the rights and opportunities of men and women began to separate. While men were granted the ability to vote and express their sexual freedoms, women received the short end of the stick. This misfortune was very evident during the Victorian Age. Evident so much that I can be identified in the literature of that time.
Written in the late 19th century, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Charles Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood” both explore the controversy of the times by juxtaposing ideal narrow gender roles that were accepted during the Victorian Age. Also, through this exploration of these texts, one can find that both authors use subtle yet obvious symbols of a heightened sense of sexuality in there literature. Victorian morality can describe values that expose its sexual restraints of women.
Victorian women were not allowed to engage in sexual acts freely unless for purposes of procreation. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house in contrast to men, according to the concept of Victorian masculinity. It made no difference whether Victorian women were single or married, they were expected to be fragile and helpless creatures. However in Dracula, women are not portrayed in the fragile manner of which many people think. Although the need for sex was acknowledged, it was only recognized in regard to evolutionary use.
Stoker used the vampire as a metaphor and analogy for the Victorian view of sex. “In Dracula, sex with the Count transformed women into seductive sirens and horrific baby killers – the opposite of the Victorian ideal of chaste and nurturing womanhood. ” Women of this time period were expected to be pure. In Dracula this ideal woman is represented in both Mina and Lucy. Both are very feminine. Van Helsing describes Mina as “one of God’s women, fashioned by his own hand. ” This statement alone assures the implication of the purity of Mina.
Dracula illuminates many fears, the most notable would be feminaphobia (the male fear of being feminine) and gynophobia (fear of women). Stoker continues further to contradict Victorian culture in regards to women through the use of the Weird Sisters. In Dracula’s transforming of women, a battle then begins between accepted behavior and women’s sexuality. In Dracula fear is not of darkness and the nature of the vampire; however, the loss of female innocence. By turning women into vampires, Dracula releases their full sexuality.
Once a woman has accepted this sexuality she then has power and control. This power is exhibited in the rape of Harker by the three Weird Sisters. Harker’s “burning desire [for] those red lips” sends him to a place where Mina had never been before sexually. The roles of men and women are switched as the male is then forced into a ‘submissive’ state. This submission has grave implications as it conflicts with the Victorian belief that mean should be able to reason and maintain control. Another example of heightened female sexuality is when analyzing Lucy transformation.
Once bitten by Dracula, Lucy becomes a “voluptuous wantonness” calling out to Arthur as her “arms [hunger for him]. ” In Charles Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood”, the topic of sex is also very evident. Staying true to the Victorian expectations of women, the moral that is taught in this story is for women to stay away from ‘wolves’, or men with slick tongues waiting to prey on young innocent girls. However, in Charles Perrault’s version of the little Red Riding Hood, his story has been considered a parable of sexual morality.
Throughout the short story, hints at sexuality can be identified. For example, when Perrault describes the devouring of the grandmother, he does so in such a way that implies “he threw himself on the good woman. ” And furthermore, before digesting the young girl, he invites her into bed. At which point, she “took off her clothes and went to lie down in the bed. ” After she thoroughly inspects and comments on nearly every aspect of the wolf’s “big” body parts, the wolf then “threw himself upon Little Red Riding Hood” to consume her as well.
Many critics believe that this story is about coming into ones sexuality, and within it has both lessons for boys and girls. Perrault’s humanization of the villain, the wolf is remarkable. The wolf represents the men that are womanizers. Serving as a reminder to women to the men, when invited within their confines can present a very dangerous situation. “So, Little girls (and educated women), this seems to say, Never stop upon your way. Never trust a stranger-friend; No one knows how it will end. As you’re pretty, so be wise; Wolves may lurk in every guise. Handsome they may be, and kind,
Gay, or charming never mind! Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth— Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth! ” As one can see, being a woman during the Victorian Era meant a life of obligatory sex solely for procreation – which one was forbidden to enjoy. Proper well-bred ladies did not even think about sex. Prostitution was a thriving business to satisfy men’s desires, as it was not considered proper for spouses to have intercourse unless the intention was to create a child. In conclusion, sexuality is a very powerful subject in both Dracula and Little Red Riding Hood.
In Little Red Riding Hood, though considered a fairy tale, plenty of symbols pointing towards sexual interpretation are there. It has been recognized as a sexual tale for many centuries, however, people still enjoy reading it, and still tell their offspring. Women are to be naturally obedient otherwise chaos will reign, for a woman is supposed to depend on her husband. Even today, female sexuality has its parameters, and can be noticed within “pockets” of our society. In the end, freedom women have gained and their celebration of female sexuality is embraced.