Sex and sexuality promote power struggles and the demise of the person or character when interwoven into a storyline. Two such novels that contain a focus on sexuality are that of Brave New World and 1984; both novels concern several characters that experience both the up side and the down side of sexual promiscuity. The given twist of both authors is that the characters all live in a totalitarian state; in 1984 the main character Winston, lives in a world where sex has been outlawed and made a crime; in Brave New World sexual promiscuity is very much accepted as a way of live.
Both Orwell and Huxley use a variety of techniques to create stories powerfully illustrating worlds in confusion, contrasting worlds where sex is frowned upon or where it is smiled upon, through this the characters’ sexuality is brought to the forefront of the readers mind, and we are able to see how the way the characters deal with sex and whether or not the decisions that take lead to their eventual downfall.
Sex is an extremely powerful weapon and this is established very readily within both novels. In 1984 sex has been forbidden, people are brainwashed by Big Brother and the Establishment to live a mundane life, concentrating solely on worshipping Big Brother and working for Oceania. Even something as confidential and intimate as sex has become a tainted and polluted thing; we are allowed an insight of this through the limited and sometimes hazy memories of Winston about his estranged wife, Katherine.
Sex between the two is uncomfortable and awkward, ‘To embrace her was like embracing a jointed wooden image…She would lie with her eyes shut, neither resisting nor co-operating, but submitting.’ This is a symbolic reminder of what sex has been moulded to represent in Oceania, and the sexual relationship or lack of, is something that exasperates Winston greatly. Sex has become something only necessary to produce a future generation and not for enjoyment. Perhaps Winston’s previous experiences are the foundations for him, as well as his initial hate for Big Brother and the society his lives in, to embark on the perilous affair with Julia.
This point could not be more different in Huxley’s Brave New World. In this novel there is a complete contrast to 1984; sexuality is a celebrated phenomenon and further still sexual promiscuity is enthusiastically welcomed, being induced at a young age, ‘It just seems that this little boy seem reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play.’ The stress on the adjective ‘ordinary’ shows how erotic and sexual games are used as a form of education and are a normal occurrence.
In Brave New World one of the main characters, Lenina’s sexuality is a more important thing for herself that perhaps for the rest of the Fordian society. Beginning at the very introduction of Lenina, the reader is provided with the suggestion that possibly Lenina is not necessarily conditioned to enjoy her given sexual promiscuity as intended. Lenina’s conversation with her friend Fanny is a clear indication of this, ‘”Somehow,” she mused, “I haven’t been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately. There are times when one doesn’t.”‘ This is an obvious flaw in the make up of the Fordian society; the society is programmed to enjoy sex but not to stay with one partner.
Lenina even admits at one point that, ‘”No, there hasn’t been anyone else…And I jolly well don’t see why there should have been.”‘ This shows the difference that separates Lenina from the rest of the society; this is later on further enhanced by her apparent fascination with the Savage, John. Lenina is opposing in her own way the make-up of the society she is living in and this leads to her downfall towards the end of the novel, she is not alone in her fascination with the Savage but the appearance her intrigue takes on is somewhat different from the others, again showing the difference in her from the rest of society.
Lenina’s affair with the Arch-Community Songster is a symbol of her reluctance in promiscuity. Huxley makes the moments somewhat poignant describing ‘Lenina, who had lingered for a moment to look at the moon, dropped her eyes and came hurrying across the roof to rejoin him.’ Lenina gazing at the moon; commonly a symbolic image of love and romance, to me signifies a hidden longing of her own to be able to embark on a relationship that means more than just sex, indeed the whole affair to some degree allows the reader to sympathise with Lenina, reinforcing her unwillingness.
A certain moment in the novel presents two contrasting images, ‘The golden T lay shining on Lenina’s bosom. Sportively, the Arch-Community Songster caught hold of it, sportively he pulled, pulled.’ The repetition of ‘sportively’ leads the reader to believe that this is nothing more than sportive foreplay, however Lenina’s reaction gives a totally contrasting impression, ‘”I think,” said Lenina suddenly, breaking a long silence, “I’d better take a couple of grammes of soma.”‘ Lenina is unable to participate in this seemingly innocent foreplay without the aid of the drug soma, emphasising her reluctance; as she is relying upon the drug, she is not fully in control of the situation and therefore being force against her better judgement and complying with the conditioning.