Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Threat of Female Sexuality in Dracula

Throughout Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there is a question of gender roles and a threat of female sexuality. In Victorian society, there was often a repression of female sexuality that was dictated by the strict traditions and rigid gender roles. A woman was either a virgin who was seen as pure an innocent, a wife and mother, or she was a whore. Lucy, one of the most outwardly sexual female characters, had at one point wondered “why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (63). She questions traditional sexuality through her desire to have multiple husbands. When Dracula turns Lucy into a young, ravishing vampire the men see no other option but to destroy her and return her to her pure state. When Stoker kills off Lucy, one of the most powerful female characters, and it causes the readers to draw the question of whether this was because of the threat of female sexuality she imposed on the novel. The three female vampires at the beginning of the novel were outwardly sexualized and seen to be very beautiful but very dangerous women. Stoker displayed their sexuality as a threat through physical descriptions of their physical attributes and the type of mental and emotional trance that they put their victims in. The vampires beauty and sexuality is what drew in their victims and is also what lead to the danger of their victims. This can be seen as Stoker warning the readers of the threat of powerful female sexuality, as too much of it leads to harm and downfall. This theme is seen as far back as Adam and Eve, where a woman’s desires lead to the downfall of humanity.

2 Comments

  1. All of the examples you give highlight the theme and warning Stoker creates about women staying in their appropriate gender roles. In Dracula women who push societal norms are punished, from the surface it seems that stoker is very conservative about his views on gender. Despite this Stoker makes Count Dracula extremely feminine, is the Count characterized in a unique gender flipping manner if Stoker is so focussed on reinstating gender norms.

  2. solongandthanksforallthefish

    December 6, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Looking at Christabel, I’m not surprised that Victorian literature goes out of its way to denounce female sexuality. In a conservative society such as theirs, of course it was taboo and very un-Christian, frowned up as women were meant to be pure till marriage. This of course translates into literature in forms like these, where sexuality is displayed as blatantly evil and a tool of malice used by evil women, and the pure women are those that aren’t sexual and thus not evil as well. Despite the many challenging of boundaries these authors have done with their works, they still could not break free from this stereotype and kept sticking to it.

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