Brahm Stoker's Dracula
Female Sexuality in Victorian Literature
The place of women is always a difficult thing to talk about because of the controversy surrounding opposing views regarding equality. However; the fact that sex sells is no secret. This is evident in Stoker’s Dracula as the women aren’t housewives as most virtuous Victorian women of the day. They are viewed as sex slaves, and mindless victims.
Credit: morgueFile “I have always thought that a wild animal never looks so well as when some obstacle of pronounced durability is between us. A personal experience has intensified rather than diminished that idea (Stoker 235).” When looking into this quote deeper a sort of repressed form of sexuality is found. It seemed to hint that all women are just wild animals that aren’t as pleasing to men when they don’t do as normal women do, like keeping the house clean, living just to please the man, and being little boring housewives. It is just another way of saying that when they rebel and fight for themselves, men feel attacked.
It’s not just coincidence that Dracula feeds on the weak minded and feeble people, which also just happened to be females. Bram Stoker seemed to be using the thought that women are weak minded, sub human life forms. Men could control them very easily; much like Dracula did to Mina. “I want to be what you are. See what you see-love what you love (Stoker 257).” This quote is after Dracula’s mind melds Mina into his own concubine. If he wanted to he could have chosen between many victims, but he chose to manipulate Mina’s mind because women were thought to have very weak minds.
Credit: morgueFile “I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body (Stoker 319).” This is when Van Helsing and his crew plan to kill Lucy. In this quote and whole sequence of this part of the book, it shows the power men have over women. It’s a hidden message to women saying, “if you don’t follow the rules we set out for you, we have the power to man handle you.” This little quote speaks volumes about women’s places in Dracula. No bigger than the fly on the wall, no more important than the blade of grass in the lawn, and no stronger that the infants they were when they were born. “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Book of Genesis chap.2: vs. 21-24). Women are stupid, weak, baby making mammals in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the year 1897 there was a lot of thinking done about women being men’s personal play things. No thought was really put into their worth because during that time people just seemed to accept it and be okay with it. That’s the way it was and it was no different in Dracula.
Sexuality is often a word that when heard people often feel uncomfortable, or believe it should just be kept to yourself. However, female sexuality has been a huge theme in history, women have battled discrimination, sexual torture, been labeled with derogatory names and have been seen as objects rather than peopl. In the novel Dracula, female sexuality is a major reoccurring theme. Taking place in Victorian England women were given two options set by society’s firm expectations, she was either an innocent virgin or a marred mother, anyone who didn’t follow these guidelines was negatively looked upon and labeled. In the novel we are presented with very different examples of female sexual expression and are brought with the idea of the “new woman”. Not only does the expression of female sexuality in the novel defy society’s norms, it poses a threat to male dominance and temptation, and brings about the idea of the loss of female innocence.
The issue and controversy over female sexual expression was the most prominent and common theme. Not only were we introduced to Lucy and Mina, but the three vampire sisters in the beginning of the novel. At this point Lucy and Mina are seen as the epitome of Victorian women, they represented innocence, purity and devotion to men. On the other hand the three sisters represented promiscuity and the rebelliousness against society. The first time we are introduced to this idea of female sexuality is in chapter 3 when Harker has found himself in a situation with the three vampire sisters, and feels emotions and feelings he had never felt before. “I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight. . . . Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat. . . . I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart” (Stoker 43-44). Credit: morgueFileNot only does this passage suggest a sexual act was imposed on Harker but rather the promiscuity and aggressiveness of the three sisters that both attracts and disturbs Harker. I believe that the three sisters not only are an embodiment of the promiscuity and aggressiveness that was not seen during this time but also as a subject of fantasy to males living within the confines of female sexuality. Harkers reaction to this shows us not only how he felt when approached by the sisters sexual attitudes but also a sense of sexual pleasure and desire, “I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited- waited with beating heart” (Stoker 44). This is an example of the sexual pleasure and desire. Whether it was the longing for female attention or the buildup of sexual aggression, we can see how men in the novel respond to female sexual expression. Not only was Harkers temptation tested his male dominance was questioned which lead him to a state of shock and fear.
The loss of female innocence was also a huge concern for males in the Victorian era. They believed that if woman were not either married or virgins that female innocence would be lost forever. This was portrayed a lot through the novel in different areas. Lucy and Mina were pure examples of women during the Victorian England period, they were innocent however Dracula tries to draw them in, to steal their purity and turn them into creatures of his “new woman.” The idea of the loss of female innocence parallels the idea of the threat to male dominance, in that if females lose their sense of innocence, and embrace their sexuality and sexual desires they will obtain power and therefore pose a threat to male dominance. In the novel the idea of the “new woman”, is the transformation of the submissive, innocent woman to the aggressive and sexually open woman. “She still advanced, however, and with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said:—“Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry or you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!” There was something diabolically sweet in her tones—something of the tingling of glass when struck-which rang through the brains even of us who heard the words addressed to another. As for Arthur, he seemed under a spell; moving his hands from his face, he opened wide his arms.” This shows the threat the loss of female innocence has on society. The openness of woman sexuality poses a threat to men, whom at the time were seen as the more dominant figures. Not only did Arthur have to fight the sexual transformation of a once innocent pure woman he was left susceptible to being suppressed by a woman.
Credit: morgueFile After Dracula had bitten a woman once, they became under his trance and longed for more. The women even longed to live eternally with him. This also represented how it was believed a woman would feel after having a sexual encounter with someone. Dracula was sought out and killed not only because he was a killer, but also because he threatened the views of women in society. After he slightly influenced them, the women let all of their fears of a judgmental society go, and they expressed what they weren’t allowed to express before. They became more open about sexuality among other things, which was not acceptable for a woman of that time. Stoker did an outstanding job of lacing together the fictitious story and fantasy genre of Dracula with the real life issues that women of the nineteenth century faced. The fear of vampires represented the fear people had of female sexual expression. Like the characters voiced in the novel, it was believed that women being something other than pure or a mother would corrupt society.
In conclusion female sexual expression was something many looked down upon because it posed a threat to the regular structure of society. It made men more vulnerable to be overtaken by females. Female sexuality had so many restrictions and boundaries that it was only a matter of time before chaos would arise. From Dracula’s invention of the “new woman”, to man’s reaction to sexual openness, we see that female sexuality and sexuality in general was not a well talked about theme, you either followed the guidelines set by the Victorian England period or you were labeled a temptress something ungodly that must be destroyed.