In Dracula, the incessant conflict between good and evil manifests itself in the form of female sexuality. Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra, being chaste and pure in the eyes of Victorians, represent the good, while the “trinity” of vampire women represent evil.
Mina and Lucy embody values which have been regarded by Victorians as proper for women of society. Both are innocent and—in the beginning, at least—uncorrupted by the apparent evils of the world. Both women are devoted to the men to whom they are bound: Mina “helping to nurse” (Stoker 109) Jonathan back to health, and learning shorthand so as to attend him at work, and Lucy, looking forward to settling “down soberly into [an] old married [woman]” (Stoker 64). Thus, these women are deemed virtuous, or “good” by Victorian standards. They are not a threat to anyone as of yet.
The three vampiric women are a completely different story. All three are “voluptuous,” “coquettish,” and cause a feeling of “longing” and a “burning desire” within Jonathan (Stoker 43). Stoker provides ample imagery to describe their lips, their figures, and the eroticism that they exude. They are threatening—to men, and more specifically to Jonathan. This experience was more sexually thrilling for Jonathan than anything he had experienced with Mina, or ever would in her present chaste state. Jonathan lost his head, and therefore considered the women “evil,” as he had no power over them. Instead, they possessed the power over him.
The balance of good and evil begins to shift as Lucy is corrupted by Dracula. The reader can see her subtle transformation from virtuousness to sinfulness. She becomes more forward with her sexuality, asking Arthur to kiss her in a “soft, voluptuous voice,” which until now, had “never been heard from her lips” (Stoker 172).
The novel seems warn Victorian men to avoid women who are open and comfortable with their sexuality, for fear that–through no fault of their own–she will force them to lose control over themselves. And when men cannot control themselves, they cannot exert power over women.
4 thoughts on “The “Evils” of Feminine Sexuality”
I agree with the claims of this post in that Stoker appears to paint the idea of a woman expressing her sexuality in a negative light. When Lucy becomes a Vampire, the men are repulsed by her and kill her gruesomely, and are thus putting to rest the idea that women can have power over men and express their sexuality. As well, when Van Helsing comments on Mina Harker and describes her as having the brain of a man, he also argues that she should not be the one to defeat Dracula and should be protected merely because she’s a woman, overlooking her capabilities. When women begin to express that they are capable, powerful, and challenge some of the stereotypes of the pure Victorian woman, the men within the novel feel the need to put her in her place. The same could be said of Lady Audley in Lady Audley’s Secret, as when she began to try to gain more control of her situation, she was shipped away to an asylum in a foreign country so that her harmful actions could be contained.
The concept of Feminine sexuality as an evil to be avoided is an interesting concept to point out in “Dracula”. In comparing the 3 women of the count’s castle to the virtue of Lucy and Mina, we see what can be essentially a before and after view of corruption as a result of women’s loss of innocence in gaining sexual knowledge. It emphasizes how easily corruptable the Victorian age thought women were and in a time of social conflict in which gender roles were changing this can be seen as a reminder of the assumed unreliable or fickle nature of women and the danger they pose in society.
After reading about and watching the clip of Lucy’s death, where the men surround her and hammer a metal shaft through her heart, I find this blog to be very interesting. I say this because you touch on Lucy’s growing sexual nature as she transitions to being a vampire. In this, her last words are sexual and tempting towards Arthur. When reading the passage of her death, I couldn’t help but wonder why Stoker made her death in this fashion, with her last words or action being tempting towards a male and being hyper-sexualized. I wonder if it is because of the Victorian era that this is written during and the nature of wanting to push the boundaries of what is “normal” in society, especially for women and their roles, during this time period. I wonder if Stoker was actively trying to push the bounds of what women’s roles were and pushing sex beyond just that for reproduction. Still now though, I wonder why her death and her final words had to be sexualized even if that was what Stoker was trying to do.
It’s funny that Dracula paints itself as very feminist at times, with the ideas of things like Mina being a very important figure to the story — her shorthand skills, compilation of all the evidence and what not — all being the key to his downfall. The idea of ‘new women’ is brought up several times, and it’s portrayed as very forward for a Victorian novel. But then you get to sexuality, and it’s brought up very negatively at every turn. The entire first appearance of the three brides of Dracula is a very sexualized scene with erotic undertones, and right from the get go moments like those come and are shown in a bad view.
Guess Victorians weren’t too forward after all, and maybe Stoker didn’t want to challenge too many boundaries for his time by pushing the idea of women openly embracing sexuality.
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