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Ryan Wilson

Professor Casey-Wright
Expository Writing
8 April 2015

Love Sex and War
Herland a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is about has history of traditional
gender relations where women are protected and there’s a lot of war. But this only leads to death
and more violence. So Herland progressed and changed its view of love to non-violent family
love. When the men came to Herland they expected the women to return to traditional gender
relations, where women need to be protected and passive, and men have active maybe even
violent love. But Van starts to see how pleasant love based on equality can be. Gilman attempts
to present a new more equal form of love based on friendship of mind rather than physical
Herlands history is very violent and portrays the typical traditional gender relations of men
and women. Herland was involved in a great war, “around the time of the Christian era” and
while the men were off fighting the women were home caring for children. Unfortunately, the
war took a turn for the worst and almost all of the men were slain. This is an example of
traditional relations of gender. The women stayed at home in a time of war and the men went out
to protect the women. The slaves then, “rose in revolt, killed their remaining masters even to the
youngest boy.”(Pg.47) The escaped slaves try to rule over the women but there were too many
young women and too little slaves. The women begin to fend for themselves and begin to learn a
new kind of love.
With the absence of men the women begin to do activities normally adapted by the men in a
traditional gender situation. They establish a functioning society based off a new kind of love.
This love starts as a mere friendship between all of the remaining women of Herland.They all
respect and look out for each other, seeing themselves as equal to the ones surrounding them.

Ryan Wilson
Professor Casey-Wright
Expository Writing
8 April 2015

The love was intensified when the first child was born without the presence of a man, a miracle.
This gave the women hope and a purpose to live, creating a sisterhood bound by the love for
each other that was seemingly pure. The women were, “One family, all descended from one
mother.” (Pg.49) This “new love” of sisters had a profound effect on the men who visit Herland
shocking them.
Being from America where people have sex for pleasure is common, the men couldn’t figure
out why the women have no sexual desires whatsoever. Van states, “There was no sex-feeling to
appeal to, or practically none.”(Pg.78) This love the women created existed without any sexual
influence. Van sees this style of love as simple and more genuine then the love associated with
traditional gender roles. The men also expect the women to conform to their “normal” traditions.
One tradition in particular that the men expect the women to accommodate them with is
marriage. Although the women do not fully understand the process of being married they agree
to it to appease the men. Terry viewed marriage as a way to possess and conquer a woman
which is his version of love. When the topic of changing the females last names they do not fully
understand. After explaining it to the women Alima says, “Then she just loses hers and takes a
new one- how unpleasant! We won’t do that!” (Pg.101) The woman feel as if the men are
claiming them as something to be owned like a car. Marriage in the eyes of the women is a
business transaction.
Women are practically expected to give up their identity to men passively, seemingly treating
them as property. Terry demonstrates this traditional kind of love on page 79-80 making,
“Dashing attacks” to attract Alima. After attempting in numerous situations to barbarically
persuade Alima into having sex with him, Terry goes on an all-out attack. He attempts to rape

Ryan Wilson
Professor Casey-Wright
Expository Writing
8 April 2015

Alima while she was sleeping in her room to “make love” to his wife. Van describes the incident
as best he can, “To hear him you’d not believe he loved Alima at all-you’d have thought that she
was some quarry he was pursuing, something to catch and conquer.” Although Terry may have
been caught up in the ways of the men’s home country (America), Van experiences a more
genuine love for Ellador. He explains that he, at first, thought of her as a good friend. But as time
passed he began to see their relationship as a loving one based off a, “pleasant
friendship.”(Pg.77) This love is considerably more pure as they view sex as a way to reproduce
rather than for pleasure.
It seems as if the only way for a positive loving relationship to work, there must be an
absence of sexual desire. But then again is that the best we as humans can do? Is there possibly a
way we, the human race, can do better and figure out a way to incorporate sex into such a pure
affectionate love? Traditional love is slowly becoming more barbaric in comparison to the
revolutionary love produced in Herland. Hopefully one day more people will learn to love from
the heart rather than the head, whichever head that may be…