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Patrick White was a gay novelist with a marked interest in female sexuality, which he saw as a reflection of his own. But lust can be a source of pleasure too, and anyway it cannot be denied despite its repulsive aspects. The compellingness of sex has more to do with the imagination than with the body which inevitably disappoints. Although his depiction of female sexuality is conventional in some respects, it also challenges many stereotypes : it is both sympathetic and critical.
His dabbling with Jungian notions, especially those of animus and animawhich hold that all human beings carry in themselves the image of the other sex, would have comforted him in his belief about the feminine element in himself—and the assorted benefits this conferred. As a writer no less than as a person, White was very much interested in sex. White The sexual passions of his female characters are not necessarily his own but are in a complex relationship with his own, which they all at once reflect, magnify and justify. He did have many female acquaintances and friends, starting with his Scottish nurse Lizzie Clark who had an abiding love for him, and including such a variety of figures as Margery Williams, Nin Dutton, Cynthia Nolan or Maie Casey.
But the relationships he had with them, however close, was not of the kind to yield any great insights into their sex lives. One would be tempted to take White at his word and attribute those insights solely or mostly to his homosexual sensibility and imagination if it was not for the towering figure of his mother Ruth. It has often been observed that a combination of strong mother and weak or absent father characterizes the background of many homosexuals and, because of the difficulties in identifying with a male figure, had something to do with their sexual orientation.
The feminine was for him another facet of his complicated soul. Where female sexuality is concerned, and for all his insistence on the feminine in his self, White also wrote very much from the outside. But keeping them in check also means recognising their power, not pretending they do not matter or have been conquered and silenced.
Using the feminine as an insult does not suggest a high degree of either empathy or sympathy.
Gay men often have problematic or conflictual relations with female figures, beginning with their mothers 3and to this extent White is true to type. The feminine and the masculine are actually entwined, and it is a very delicate task to try to separate them, as shown by the example of Eudoxia Vatatzes aka Eddie Twyborn aka Eadith Trist White While the dramatis personae all have their specific perversities, their gendered identities are fairly stable and straightforward, wholly male or female as the case may be, and overwhelmingly straight.
White clearly did not share the post-structuralist view that sexual identity is a matter of discourse. Nor does he, in The Eye of the Stormengage very much with the way sex and class interact, as he was to do in A Fringe of Leaves. Class issues are mostly raised in relation to the female characters and have little bearing on sexual issues, by which they are as it were transcended. Lust is not presented as a positive life force, an energy which can be put to constructive purposes.
It is more like a wild beast that needs to be tamed and kept in its place so that love and affection might flourish. White expressed in personal terms his rejection of lust and his elevation of love, especially in the form of affection 6and his characters are in this sense his mouthpieces. And ugly. Strangely enough under the pen of a male homosexual, the male body, and the penis in particular though not the testicles…are presented as off-putting, and not in the least erotic.
His negative view of reproductive sex, 10 however, does suggest a homosexual perspective. Laura Trevelyan, at the beginning of Vosscannot stand the body of her servant Rose Portion:. This perspective is of course ascribed to frustrated women and has a good deal to do with their dissatisfaction. Bodily concerns remain with us to the very end, as is illustrated by her dying while sitting on her commode.
It is not actually possible to deny the flesh and its lusts. Perhaps disgust is a cultural conditioning, a not-always-effective ruse to stop women from indulging their lust and to keep them virtuous, but this is not what White suggests. This, as we have seen, is not quite the case, for the flesh is mostly presented as an inconvenience.
This makes sexual desire something of a mystery, at least where women are concerned. It is the irrational or instinctual self and in this sense a counterpart of the mystical self—perhaps the latter could not exist without the former. But her Black woman in West Warwick love to fuck to sex are in fact full of contradictions.
She is perfectly capable of engaging in sex without having first been bowled over by an attractive man, as she demonstrates when she sleeps with Basil with the sole purpose of getting pregnant by him. Flora is quite matter of fact when it comes to actual sex and she only grows romantic when the sex is in her imagination—her dreams, for instance:.
The afterglow or occasional ecstasy brought on by sex 13 does not last, and White would seem to subscribe to the old saying that post coitum animal triste Denying those instincts is a way for them to assert their respectability, and thus their genuine femininity. As for Flora, even while she is having sex with Basil—but this is for the respectable?
For the women in The Eye of the Storm this is clearly unacceptable. But in the end it is sometimes impossible to know who is manipulating whom. Thus Basil:. In any case most women are not groupies of one kind or another. It would be unfair to regard White as unsympathetic to female sexuality because of his mostly negative views on lust. Nor does he suggest that sexual desires and practices are the same in all women. But she is far too puritanical to be able to abandon herself to sensual pleasures, as appears from her response to the sight of a young couple miming sex in a park :.
The young people were conducting themselves disgracefully, with the result that they impinged on the thoughts of the princess, till she too was writhing, upright and alone on her bench, in almost perfect time with their united, prostrate bodies. It was ghastly More importantly perhaps, it highlights the potential of sex to unite human beings. Lust is self-centered, having no purpose but its own gratification whereas love amounts to a discarding of all selfish preoccupations and is thus a path to transcendence. This mystical view makes love far superior to lust but White acknowledges that ideally the two should coexist, and that disembodied love is not achievable, except perhaps by saints.
The difference is further emphasized by the variation in the tenses, from present to preterit. To love someone as it were suspends the passing of time albeit provisionally in most casesor lifts one above the flux of time, whereas to love something is an experience which remains inscribed within a specific moment and is devoid of any potential for transcendence.
White puts sex in its proper place, exaggerating neither its virtues nor its shortcomings. In this sense, sex paradoxically matters more to women—it is more of a defining force in their lives. Sex is a positive as well as a negative, bringing pleasure as well as pain, and neither aspect can be ignored. In fiction, these are often presented as stock characters—the former being a romantic, exciting figure, and the latter rather tame and conventional, if not downright boring.
Women achieve sexual ecstasy with a lover and respectability with a husband. This view has of course been challenged, in particular by Gustave Flaubert in Madame Bovary —one of the novels White most admired—where lover Rodolphe is shown to be a complete cad while husband Charles, for all his limitations, is a good, sincere and devoted man. But sex with a lover is hardly better since it is a source of regret. In either case, the woman craves the absent figure and is thus condemned to dissatisfaction. Ideally, husband and lover should be one and the same person but even when this is actually the case happiness remains out of reach.
In romantic fiction lovers are often presented as a liberating force releasing women from the tyranny of domesticity, but this is clearly not how Flora feels. The alliance of love with lust is a consummation devoutly to be wished but it remains either unsustainable or out of reach. Women seem condemned to lurch from one to the other and back, always unsatisfied. Thus Elizabeth is afraid Arnold will find displaying his naked body such an embarrassment that it might interfere with performance, so she tries to reassure him by closing her eyes.
The male approach to sex is fairly unproblematic, if not downright mechanical. Women, on the other hand, are much more complicated and ambiguous creatures. She is referred to as a girl until she empathizes with her servant Rose Portion through corporeality and as a result she turns into a woman. Thanks to Rose, who helps her find the body acceptable, as well as her love for Voss, Laura becomes a woman and a mother, achieving a sublimated sexual life of her own.
As a homosexual himself, White could have been expected to give a fairly positive image of gay people, but this is far from being consistently the case. If Eddie Twyborn is treated with much sympathy, Cecil Cutbush, in The Vivisectoris presented in starkly negative terms. With one hand she made a swipe at the silver sickle swinging from her mouth. Elizabeth Hunter is in her late eighties and confined to what is practically her deathbed, so that her abstinence does not call for further explanations.
Her take on sex is inevitably retrospective—and no less powerful for that. It has no redeeming virtue and offers no perspective. At the same time, her yearning for the transcendental experience in the eye of the storm, the provisional tranquility before passions are unleashed again, and the confession of some of her inadequacies, suggest that in order to be profitable sex has to be kept in its proper place—though what that is is never entirely made clear.
Not that a preoccupation with the topic was absent from his novels, but it was more allusive and more circumscribed. Afterwards, White will be able to engage in depictions of sex whether heterosexual as in the case of Ellen Roxburgh or homosexual in the case of Eddie Twyborn 15 that are far more positive in terms of its ability to give pleasure and enhance life. As that context became more tolerant over the years White found himself more capable of insisting on the virtues of sex.
The Eye of the Storm is in this sense a transitional novel. If sexual pleasure is celebrated, it is in fairly understated fashion, with marked emphasis on its downsides. The novel, like its predecessors, le to the conclusion that it is love rather than sex which enhances life. Sex without love can give a momentary thrill but does not amount to much. Yet it is an inescapable preoccupation, and discarding it is fraught with the risk of dessication. There is an unresolved tension, in the female characters, between acceptance of sex and rejection and this makes them different from the male characters : these—Athol Shreve, Arnold Wyburg, Col Pardoe or Basil Hunter—have sex whenever an opportunity offers and are not Black woman in West Warwick love to fuck troubled by ethical problems.
At the same time, by suggesting that women are actually more preoccupied with sex than men he challenges the prevailing stereotype. They are far more aware of issues such as the connections between sex and power or between sex and betrayal and as a result are less straightforward in their sexual practices, more inclined to revulsion or twinges of conscience. This makes them, in a way, more enlightened though not happier sexual creatures.
Basil Hunter, the great actor, is a case in point but the mask is even more ificant where women are concerned—men may wear a mask to play a particular role but women wear one just to be feminine. The mask is both seductive and protective. Giving way to desire is dangerous because it entails a loss of control and perhaps of identity as well.
What they do is outline some of the possible ways in which gender identity is performed, part of a gamut that is broad enough to accommodate the projections and fantasies of a male homosexual novelist, part of an imaginary world in which male and female desires conflict and entwine but achieve no lasting resolution.
If White depicted aspects of his own self through his female characters, especially when it comes to almost simultaneously breaking the rules of sexual propriety and playing by them, he did not so much transcend the sex divide as deconstruct it. Last accessed 5 March Last accessed 10 FebruaryBlack woman in West Warwick love to fuck
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