Watch out for the Sexually Liberated

“ ‘Come, Sister. Come to us. Come! Come!’ In fear I turned to my poor Madam Mina, and my heart with gladness leapt like a flame; for oh! The terror in her sweet eyes, the repulsion, the horror, told a story to my heart that was all of hope. God be thanked she was not, yet, of them.” This is the passage where Mina is with Van Helsing and she is ill and the three women are trying to get her to ‘come with them.’

I think that through this interaction Bram Stoker is expressing the fear in the Victorian era of sexually free women. The way Mina’s reaction is described shows the complete fear that was felt that she would become ‘one of them.’ Stoker uses the juxtaposition of her ‘sweet’ eyes and then the words following being ‘repulsion’ and ‘horror’ while describing her looking at the three women to contrast this pure woman, Mina, and the repulsive, horrifying women that are trying to get her to ‘come to the dark side.’ I think that Stoker is playing on the idea in this time that sexual freedom was somehow contagious, and someone could ‘catch’ this terrible ‘disease.’ In this time sex wasn’t seen as anything pleasurable for a woman, the purpose of sex was to get pregnant, and there wasn’t any conversation about anything other than a heterosexual relationship. So, women who were sexually liberated were considered to have something wrong with them, and that thing that made them abnormal could be passed on to others if the pure soul was left unattended. Mina in this scene is vulnerable and continuing to get closer to becoming a vampire and ‘dying’ and Van Helsing is protecting her with multiple holy contraptions to try and save her from these villains. The three women are trying to entice Mina to go, and the reason Mina is saved is because of the holy circle that is protecting her.

4 thoughts on “Watch out for the Sexually Liberated”

  1. The dangers of sexuality is also seen in “A Triad” where the crimson woman in the end “drowned in sweetness like a fattened bee”. Just like we have seen in Dracula, and many other Victorian stories, the women that have had the slightest hint of sexuality comes to a dismal end. However, the crimson woman seemed to come to that in her own doings, as opposed to Mina’s purity being taken from her in Dracula.

  2. I think you raise a good point about this fear of sexually free women. I think a lot of the Victorian era novels and the era in general puts emphasis on the purity of women. It brings into question the lady of Shalott poem. In this poem she’s locked in a tower and unable to look at anyone, and when she inevitably does, she dies. This is like Mina in Dracula and the fear of the Victorians because while it’s not explicitly stated, the Lady of Shalott is not allowed to be around people, maybe more specifically men, and the second she even looks at a man she is killed (or punished). More so, it seems as though Mina’s troubles with Dracula are her doing, which is essentially what is talked about the in the poem where the Lady finally speaks and says, “the curse is upon me”. These two books emphasize your point about sexually free women and the lack of control society has on them and so therefore they must be locked away or gotten rid of (i.e. killed).

  3. I also think fear of sexually liberated women is prominent in Victorian literature! It reminds me of the “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” poem, since the plot revolved around a woman using sex to manipulate a knight and lead to his downfall. Both the poem and Dracula imply that their readers should indeed fear sexually liberated women, reinforcing Victorian notions of gender propriety and patriarchal values. It is interesting, though, that in Dracula the danger appears to be to another woman, while in the poem the danger is to a man. I wonder if this relates to the idea of Mina as “manly.”

  4. We see how the victorian era viewed sexually free women in “The Triad.” The author provides us three women, likely to be seen as how women were seen in this era. In the end, the poem wraps up with how important love was to women, as they were short lived and ready to die for it. It is if as though these three women were the paved path for all, in which none of them ended with a happy ending.

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