Capitalism, Feminine Individualism and Sexual Morality in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana

Disclosure of the Myth of Sexual Morality

At the core, I anchor on Michael Foucault’s essay, The History of Sexuality, coupled with Jane Spencer’s The Rise of Women Novelist to delve into the historical account in relation to aberrant sexuality and virginity as an approach to unveil the interrelationship between sexual morality and pathology. Additionally, I utilize Daniel Defeo’s  Moll Flanders and Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Nobleman And his Sister, together with  and Ellen Pollak’s Incest and the English Novel to disclose the myth of the controversial issue: incest. Altogether, I am tempted to see how the collective ideology is fashioned and how the practice of sexual intercourse is stigmatized in number of ways. In respect to sexual morality, it leads toward a question: are we still situated in the Victorian age?

Nonetheless, time has changed dramatically. A great number of people are potentially temped to have love affair or obsessed with bizarre sexual fantasy, such as role play and it becomes a commonplace thing for people to commit adultery nowadays. Then, is the society sick or morbid?When more and more people get involved in the so-called abnormal sexual relationship and behaviors, it’s time for us to rethink the nature of human beings. If the majority represents the norm, can majority just the wrongdoings or manifest true humanity when perversity turns into an overwhelming and overarching social phenomenon? At length, it revisits another perennial question: is sexual intercourse natural or shameful? Is it immoral or disgraceful to embrace excessive sexual desires or is it morbid to perform lavish sexual practice? Still, sex is undeniably treated as a forbidden subject or an unspoken and dangerous subject to engage in conversion in public to a certain degree.

In the first place, it is said before Victorian age, sex drive and sexual intercourse are valued as spontaneous and natural. It is widely believed that the power mechanism of Victorian times disfigures the essence and orientation of sexuality. Undeniably, the advent of Darwinism indirectly serves as an impetus to the occurrence of sexual morality. The hypothesis of Darwinism unprecedentedly juxtaposes human’s sexual intercourse with animalistic instinct. It is widely believed that people of Victorian times are inextricably chained by this hypothesis and contrive to sever the interrelationship between human beings and animal by claiming those who fail to control their sexual desire are inferior human beings. In this approach, the essence of sexual intercourse is extremely stigmatized and the sexual bondage followed. At root, morality is quintessentially man-made and socially-determined. At any rate, it involves in artificial intervention.

In a sense, the pleasure of sexual intercourse is extremely removed and the bondage followed in the wake of this aforementioned assumption. It is an established fact that sexuality is greatly restricted to the formal purpose of procreation. Briefly speaking, sexual intercourse in justified within marriage as a duty but a shame without and before marriage. I cannot help but wondering if sexuality is something to be ashamed, then husband and wife are obliged to practice obscenity in their daily lives, which sounds fallacious.

In practice, the highly-placed people of Victorian contrive to debase the essence of sexuality and view sexuality as something shameful and despicable. For centuries, this ideology successfully popularized and is forcefully embedded in the minds of everyone that te masses are initially compel to view sexuality through the lens of morality. At the core, sexual morality dehumanizes human beings by denying and annihilating sexual desire and human beings subsequently entered into a mechanized society. Further, those who internalize sexual morality successfully are educated to despise those who infringe the injurious social codes regarding sexuality.

Sure enough, sexual constrains does not limited to the accusation and regulation of aberrant sexualities. Sexual morality has something to with the promotion of virginity, in which was measured as a value or favor or to adhere to, thereby women is educated to embrace virginity as an emblem of honor to bargain in the marriage market. At bottom, I assume sexual morality is beneficial to male-dominated ideology that the ideology of sexual morality serves a device for men to preach female chastity for their advantage, such as vanity. It is said once a lady loses her virginity before entering into a marriage, she is undone or dishonored, and she definitely brings public shame to her family and herself as well. Undeniably, it is generally acknowledged that virginity isweighted as incorrigible bondage for women, which is weighted as the highest form of a lady’s morality.

Delving into the historical account through Jane Spenser’s document, as recorded in The Rise of the Woman Novelist, the criterion of sexual morality differs from men and women that “promiscuity” was generally “pardoned in men’s case but “severely punished women for any breach of chastity” and” The double standard was reinforced during the eighteenth century by the idealization of a supposedly natural feminine purity” that “pure women” was perceived as a woman lack of sexual desire (109). Therefore, When it comes to adultery, women are condemned more severely than men, it is because women were insinuated to posses no sexual desire in the eighteenth century. With this remark, virginity is an obligatory requirement of for women alone.  In this approach, sexual morality roots in sexual prejudice and even social injustice. At any rate, sex for women intricately involve with female subjugation and servility rather than pleasure.

Though human beings fancy themselves are empowered to dictate their emotions, human beings succumbs to instinct consciously or unconsciously, which verifies the inevitable occurrence of aberrant sexuality. Essentially, sexual desire is impulsive and grounded in primitive instinct, literally sexual instinct.

Personally, I assume sexual desire is another form of power, which is essentially uncanny and unfathomable, which can potentially overwhelm our senses and paralyze our reason when it occurs or erupts, which reasons its “inevitable frequency of occurrence,” as pinpointed by Foucault (895). For instance, we are educated that adultery is heavily involved with disgust and shame. But still, adultery never successfully prohibited or cease but occurs frequently. On the other hand, if a person overly suppressed his sexual instinct, the instinct might explode out of the blue someday. With this remark, I assume sexual repression and sexual depression go hand in hand and people in authority of Victorian times fail to foretell the fact that sexuality depression evokes sexual decadence. As to my understanding, sex industry was rampant during Victorian age that prostitution was everywhere.

At any rate, it is convinced that incest is adjudged as the extreme form of perverse sexuality whether in social-cultural perspective or Christian viewpoint. In essence, I suppose incest can be chiefly classified into two types, with blood-relations and without blood-relations. Without doubt, the former carries a much more terrifying nature than the latter. By and large, people commit incest with blood relations unconsciously and end it with a necessity after the blood-relations disclosed. However, people commit incest without blood-relations consciously and struggle to end it in sight of public eyes and public accusation, which is based on the preservation of fame and virtue. Taken together, though both groups of incest are highly reprehensible, incest of blood relations is viewed wholly unnatural and wholly inhumane. Correspondingly, incest without blood is despicable, but it is basically condemned for its want of morality rate than abnormality.


In Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Nobleman And his Sister, In Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Nobleman And his Sister, Behn portrays a incestuous love relationship that the “Brother and Sister” relation is grounded by law rather than blood relation (11). So to speak, their love relationship is valued as adultery and incest in consideration of law and custom and they are the target of denunciation for their want of morality. The bother-in-law claims that “alliance” between their “Relation” is “weak” to undermine the flame of passion and love though they are keenly aware the fact that their love relation is “criminal” and vicious in the public eye (11). With this remark, this incestuous relation has something to do with the confrontation with the social expectation and social pressure, in which is viewed by them as “fetters” to true love (75). Though this incestuous relation confronts” conflicts between Love and Hounour, the leading lady repeatedly claims” I will bold in love” though she is doomed to bear eternal” infamy of being a Prostitute” (11, 69, 74). Come to think of it, though they are balked at the “fear” of future “destruction,” they are enslaved by” impetuous meeting tides of the extreme joys,” which prop them to last this “dangerous” passion and brush aside the denunciation they received from the society (32, 74). In this case, “ joy and fear” concurs and swells simultaneously.

But, when it comes to o incest of blood relation, itself carries a horrifying and enigmatic nature that the joy is entirely removed and the partners who commits the action itself is stricken with overwhelming fear and anxiety. In Moll Flanders, in response to the disclosure of incestuous marriage, Flanders’ brother-husband falls into “physical and mental disintegration”(89). And Moll claims thought the “ Action” of incest itself “has nothing to do with “ Conscience” its shocking” Nature” made “ Cohabiting, in which is her “ duty” to perform accruing to the law, with her half brother “ the most nauseous thing…in the world” (90, 98). Concerning the occurrence of incest, as noted by Ellen Pollak contention in” Incest and the English Novel “incest is a possibility always present in not knowing where one belongs” and Moll’s repulsion has something to do with “an over powering and implacable inner necessity,” which is enigmatic” since she claims” asserts that” O had the Story never been told me, all had been well; it had been no Crime to have lain with my Husband, since as to his being my Relation, I had known nothing of it” (88, 110, 112 ) Moll “ was not much touched with the Crime of it” until the whole truth exposed and afterwards she could not remove that riveted Aversion” of having sexual intercourse with her half brother (89). In a sense, if the story never unearthed, then, Moll won’t feel any uneasiness of committing incest.

Indeed, consummation is “valued as a wife’s “Duty” to perform accruing to the law (93). In Moll Flanders, her half-brother was raged at Moll’s protest of sexual intercourse and he thought she was “mad” and threatened her to “alter her Conduct” or be sent “into a Madhouse” (92). With this remark, it verifies Foucault’s earlier point that “sexual irregularity” is accused as “something like a nature gone awry” and “annexed to mental illness” in contemporary society (892, 894).Also, it reveals the customary subjugation men imposed upon women in the marital relation. As indicated by Foucault, sexual practice within marriage was under severe surveillance and “martial obligation” was chiefly governed by “canonical law, the Christian pastoral, and civil law” which prescribes martial “obligations” which lists” circumstantial “rules and recommendations” regarding “the sex of husband and wife” and “if it was found to be lacking, “it had to be a serious case and “had to come forward and plead its case” at court (893). Personally, I defy the extension of jurisdiction of law to the sexual behavior within marriage. In my viewpoint, the ordinance of the sexuality within marriage is fallacious. Sexual intercourse should be viewed as a personal affair between husband and wife and should be exempt from the intervention of law. The bond between husband and wife should reside in affection rather than obligation.

As noted by Foucault, in the nineteenth century, the penalty in relation to aberrant sexuality loosened with attempt to elicit all the forms of perverse sexuality and detect and classify them in circumstantial details by means of pathology (895). In this approach, sexuality becomes a “medical and medicalizable subject” and aberrant sexuality is attached to “mental illness” and “unnatural” or perverse sexual dispositions are given a psychological depth to its cause and tied up to pathology (894, 896).

At any rate, the ultimate purpose of machinery operation is meant to bring human’s suppressed sexual desire and latent sexual appetite comes to light and to monitor and channel sexual transgression in place. What is assured, the overarching” machinery of power” aims to endow aberrant sexuality with “intelligibility” and “classification” and ultimately to “establish … a natural order of disorder” (896, 897). In other words, it modifies to govern human beings’ sexual instinct through the application of psychological theories and specifically pathology.

Tracing down to the ordinance of late eighteenth century and nineteenth century, according to Foucault, up to the late eighteenth century, the codes which “govern sexual practice” were grounded in the “division of licit and illicit” (893). Accordingly, “debauchery” was a “confused category” that breaking the rules of marriage and seeking strange pleasures” bear resemblance in “general unlawfulness” and are deemed equally despicable (893). At root, the decrees was established to “govern the order of things…. of a judicious nature” and the practice of governing sexuality is fragmented into two braches: “infraction against the legislation (or morality) “and “offenses against the regularity of a natural function” (893, 894). In this approach, regulation of sexual practice split into the governing of “law of marriage and the order of desires” (894). What is assured, academic discourses shift their attention from the sexual obligation within marriage to aberrant sexuality and” unnatural becomes a specific dimension of sexuality (894, 895).

In this approach, those who seek” strange pleasures” infringe the “law of nature” rather than law (894). In this respect, if a person violates the “law of nature “it meant he is inhuman. Likewise, Accordingly to Foucault, a person is mentally sick or morbid if he demands excessive sex. In other words, anyone who is obsessed with “ bizarre impulse” or carry “ infamy” are doomed to “ bore the name of vice” and were branded as “ delinquents” or even “ madmen” and “ bore the stamp of “ morally folly, “genital neurosis, “ aberration of the genetic instinct, “ …“physical imbalance” and so forth(894). That is to say, those who embrace the so-called abnormal sexual desires would be coerced into medical treatment or “pedagogical controls” (892, 894).

At root, sexual morality is quintessentially man-made and socially-determined. At any rate, it involves in artificial intervention. What is assured, there‘s no alternative at this stage. Once the current law of marriage is challenged or subverted, the order of things could be at stake.

Indisputably, the essentially detrimental collective ideology of sexual morality of Victorian times is still influential in the modern times. For instance, some people tease those who display excessive sexual fantasy as perverts, which manifest the fragment of detrimental effects of Victorian age. Come to think of it, sexual disposition resembles the taste of food, dressing…and so forth. In this respect, heterogeneity of sexual disposition should not be prejudiced. Further, since sexual morality has something to do with a person’s character, mostly people are frightened to be stigmatized. Owing to entrenched sexual morality of Victorian times, average person endeavor to mask or hide their sexual desire so as to fit the social expectation in consideration of decency and virtue. Hence, the liberation of sexual morality might better the society in the sense of relinquishment of sexual depression.

Works Cited:

Foucault, Michael. The History of Sexuality

Defoe,Daniel. Moll Flanders

Pollak, Ellen.” Incest and the English Novel “

Behn, Aphra. Love-Letters Between a Nobleman And his Sister

Spencer, Jane. The Rise of Women Novelist

司馬 儀

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