Sex and Power

After indulging in Stoker’s Dracula, I have come to the conclusion that Stoker believes Victorian women are unnaturally powerful. Stoker develops this idea through the “thrilling and repulsive” ways in which the three vampire women at Dracula’s Castle sensually desire to consume Johnathan’s blood (45). One of the three women was described as sensually moving “like an animal” (Stoker 45). This imagery suggests that the sex appeal of women is strong enough to make honest men, like Johnathan, desire them. It renders ‘strong’ men powerless, while at the same time villanizing these women for this unpure and demoralizing effect they have on men.

In addition to the power that sex grants Victorian women, Dracula himself represents the highest level of sexual power. His sex appeal is the most unnatural and controlling. With Dracula, Stoker makes the claim that powerful Victorian men see women as objects and use them to their desires. Mina finds something “long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure” (Stoker 101). Here, Mina seems to be oblivious to the sexual assault by Dracula on Lucy. After this initial occurrence, Lucy seems to worsen in health when Dracula visits her in the nights that pass. The more he sees her, the greater her neck scar gets in injury, and the more “ill” she appears. However, when she cannot return to him, Lucy begins to heal. Here, Stoker suggests that in addition to the claim that powerful Victorian men see no need for consent, once sexually ‘liberated’, women will become sexually inclined and filled with uncontrollable desire. Not only does Stoker acknowledge gender inequalities, but he reveals that Victorian women are powerful only when they can bend ‘honest’ and ‘pure’ men to their will, and even then, this is evil and unnatural.

3 thoughts on “Sex and Power”

  1. I completely agree with the points you made in your post. I believe that Stoker sees seductive women as having too much power over Victorian men, which in turn makes them unpleasant, unnatural, or unseemly. I want to add, however, that I believe that this is a reaction to the wavering gender roles of the Victorian era. As women become more educated and independent, they gain more authority, and Stoker is afraid of the effect this will have on society. He especially sees sexually liberated women like Lucy as a huge problem because they supposedly gain the power to seduce loyal men, which Stoker portrays as evil. Lucy becomes more “voluptuous” as her vampirism manifests, and when the men sneak into to her tomb to kill her, readers can see how her beautiful and innocent features take on a deliberately suggestive and tantalizing element as a result of her sexual liberation. She devolves into an inhuman monster as she becomes aware of her sexual power.

  2. I might offer an alternative perspective to your claim about Stoker’s portrayal of “Victorian women” as being “unnaturally powerful.” Stoker’s binary between men and women not only
    prescribes power to men but depicts women as being susceptible to violence. Contextually, “a brave man’s blood is the best thing… when a woman is in trouble” and Mina is considered to be burdensome on the basis of her sex because men can “act…free when [she] [is] not in danger” (160; 258). Additionally, susceptible women need “saving” from foreigners like Dracula. This was likely Stoker’s acknowledgment of fears salient in Victorian society.

  3. I find this blog post really interesting. The idea that Bram Stoker portrays Victorian women as being unnaturally powerful and having the ability to make an honest man like Jonathan desire is a cool idea especially seeing that this was a time period usually thought of as a very prude time. I think this idea of a woman’s beauty being able to control a man has been seen throughout multiple texts that we have read in this course and is a common theme in Victorian Literature, especially due to gender roles and the desire for status and wealth.

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