Sexuality in Jude the Obscure and the Sexuality of the Victorian Era

Sexuality in Jude the Obscure and the Sexuality of the Victorian Era

By Nauman Ahmad

2011 International Conference on Languages, Literature and Linguistics
IPEDR vol.26 (2011)

Abstract: Sexuality has an important role to play in one’s life. Sexual feelings should be given vent to. This paper draws a comparison between the sexuality of the Victorian era and the sexuality of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.

Introduction: Sexuality is seen differently in different countries. In some countries, it is regarded as taboo, and in others, it is appreciated to talk about sexuality. In the olden times, sex was regarded as a taboo, and it was considered to be a sin to be talked about. Even now, in some societies, it is reprimanded, and it is expected of people to repress their feelings and desires. But the repression of the sexual feelings and desires is regarded as unacceptable in some of the contemporary societies. Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, and historian, disapproves of the sexual repression. He holds that we should talk about sex. In his book, History of Sexuality: “he attacks the “repressive hypothesis,” the widespread belief that we have, particularly since the nineteenth century, “repressed” our natural sexual drives. He proposes that what is thought of as “repression” of sexuality actually constituted sexuality as a core feature of human identities.” Thus, the only way out of this repression is to talk about sex freely, and to enjoy it. Above all, the repression of the sexual feeling makes one hungry, and when liberated, one crosses all the barriers and tries to taste it to the fullest, but it proves to be detrimental: going beyond the limits brings them infamy. In the beginning, they do not realize as to what they are doing rather they take pride in it. Then they become guilty-conscious after the realization, but too late do they realize, society does not accept them, and reprimands them. They cry over spilt milk, and become distraught. They try to atone for it but to no avail. In the end, they die the death of humiliation. That is why; we should talk about sex as much as we want to, and treat it with kid gloves so that everything could be proportionate.

In Victorian era, sexuality or sex was considered to be taboos. It was a sin to be talked about it. The people were expected not to talk about it. Especially, the girls were kept away from talking about it. They were not let to have education. Yet, they were expected to be ideal wives: “Before marriage a young girl was brought up to be perfectly innocent and sexually ignorant. The predominant etiology of the age insisted that she has little sexual feeling at all, although family affection and the desire of mother-hood were considered innate. Morally, she was left untested and kept under the watchful eye of her mother in her father’s home.”

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