Lecture Topic The connection between sex and violence

Sex and violence
Almost all of the sex represented in the novel is framed by a violent act of some kind. I think the only situation in which there isn’t a direct connection between the two is when Henry and Lenina go to bed together at the end of their date in chapter 5. Beyond this, there are either explicit and direct connections between sex and violence (e.g. Linda and the women in Malpais) or more subtle, embedded connections (e.g. the use of simile in the solidarity service). The pattern of violence in the framing of sex within the novel means that we can legitimately see this as a part of Huxley’s crafting and that it is valid for us to make connections between the sequences.

In John’s past
“Linda was on the bed. One of the women was holding her wrists. Another was lying across her legs, so that she couldn’t kick. The third was hitting her with a whip. Once, twice, three times; and each time Linda screamed.” We are told that this is the consequence of Linda’s sexual encounters with the married men of Malpais. The direct consequence of her sexual practice is extreme physical violence. What is perhaps interesting is that we don’t immediately judge the women for what they are doing. We understand their position, while we still empathise with Linda. Violence was almost inevitable in this situation, which suggests a very strong link between sex and violence.

At the solidarity service
“Oh, he’s coming!” screamed Clara Deterding. “Aie!” and it was as though she were having her throat cut.” We’ve talked about this one in a decent amount of detail. Huxley does a good job of undermining the pleasure that the characters are feeling during this sequence through his language choices. While they are happily going about their solidarity service, we are left disturbed and disconcerted by the way in which Huxley chooses to describe the scene.

Beyond this, there is again the direct connection between sex and violence. Huxley’s quite overtly sexual language in the above quote is immediately followed by another, quite brutal, image of violence. It is difficult to argue against the idea that Huxley wants us to see a connection between sex and violence here.

With Lenina
“Get out of my sight or I’ll kill you.’ He clenched his fists.” “The noise of that prodigious slap by which her departure was accelerated was like a pistol shot” As discussed in the previous presentation, Lenina’s blatantly sexual advances on John are met with physical violence. Interestingly though, Lenina isn’t the only one who suffers physically in the scene. John too has his wrists scratched by the impassioned Lenina. While there is no overt sexual act in this sequence, the idea of sex is met with violence.

The final sequence
“Kill it, kill it, kill it ...” The Savage went on shouting. Then suddenly somebody started singing “Orgy-porgy” and, in a moment, they had all caught up the refrain and, singing, had begun to dance. Orgyporgy, round and round and round, beating one another in six-eight time. Orgy-porgy...”
Possibly the most potent of the sexually violent moments in the text. We get the clear allusion back to the solidarity service. We know how that ended. But rather than gently tapping the rhythm of the song on the bums of the person in front, we get “beating one another in six-eight time.” They’ve taken John’s lashing of Lenina and turned the violent act into a sexual act. It is perhaps the most perverse and disturbing image that Huxley offers up. It is very much the climax of Huxley’s direct connections between sex and violence across the novel.

Dual implications
I think there are two ways to read this and the may (or may not) be mutually exclusive: 1) Huxley has set up a pleasure utopia to a large extent. He has designed a world where sex and pleasure are freely available and there is nothing standing in the way of anyone having the pleasure they want, when they want it. This is an extremely enticing concept. In order to Huxley to adequately express that this type of world is corrupt and doesn’t work - in order for Huxley to create the dystopic text he set out to create - he has to undermine all of the pleasure of the world to ensure that the reader sees no real pleasure happening in a world of supposedly infinite pleasure.

2) He wants to show the duality of pleasure. By creating direct connections between sex and violence, he is showing the duality that must exist for pleasure to exist in the first place. He is showing that nothing is without its opposite, by connecting pleasure and pain. They co-exist within this novel as a reminder that in order to have things like passion and pleasure, we have to have their opposites. This essentially undermines the notion of stability in the World State - if they are to have sex and if sex is to be a vehicle for pleasure, then they must have pain. Which ultimately seems to suggest that the World State can’t work, can’t remain stable - if they are to have sex, they have to have pain, which means they have to have instability. This may be a massive overreading, but Huxley is perhaps saying that the system cannot work.

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