Suppression of Sexuality and Gender in Dystopias: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed and Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory
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Authoritarian and totalitarian systems are built on the collective conscience and obedience of their subjects. With the object of securing the continuity of the dominant ideology, these systems create obedient masses and draw their strength from their support. Their awareness of human agency and the troubles that it may initiate require these oppressive political systems to take measures to abolish it beforehand. Totalitarian regimes and the dominance of an ideology are the frequently referred motifs that dystopian narratives employ to display how oppressive and restrictive a political regime may become. The governmental restrictions include the repression of sexual practices and the manipulation of gender roles. These are regarded as the predominant ones that affect the protagonists more than other restrictions and put them into action against the order. Throughout this thesis, three dystopian novels that were published in three consecutive periods of the twentieth century will be examined by putting emphasis on the manipulation and suppression of sexuality and gender. With regard to Judith Butler’s gender performativity theory, three different close readings will be provided. According to Butler, one can develop personality and so communicate with the others if she/he can experience her/his sexuality and gender. In line with her theory, sexuality and gender stand as the essential elements of identity development. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), notably sexuality and other relations among people are regulated by the state. Besides sexual relations, the citizens are isolated from each other through general distrust with the intent of securing the continuity of the state; therefore, as a first step family bonds are annihilated in Oceania. Natural sexual relations and emotions are not approved of and sexual intercourse is accepted only on the condition that it aims procreation. Citizens are encouraged to have children as it is their duty to the state. Discovering his subjectivity through sexual pleasure, Winston Smith rejects the suppressive regulations of the Party and suffers due to his rebellious nature. xi In Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed (1962), the main crises that the society has encountered are put forward as overpopulation and famine. In order to control population increase, homosexuality is promoted by the government and heterosexuality is politically and socially suppressed. Although heterosexuals and heterosexual families still exist, they are constantly subjected to negative discrimination. This social pressure hinders the citizens from experiencing their natural gender inclinations and forces them to behave and even feel like homosexuals. The protagonists Tristram Foxe and his wife Beatrice-Joanna Foxe are separated due to their heterosexual desires and are punished by the social structure in different ways. In Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory (1984), the manipulation of not only sexuality but also gender is suggested as an oppressive enforcement carried out by the totalitarian power. It is suggested that if a person is constantly suppressed throughout the process of her/his personality development, she/he inevitably internalises the already constructed gender norms. The manipulation of gender in a totalitarian-state-like-family is depicted through the abused sixteen-year-old protagonist, Frank Cauldhame. Unaware of his biological femaleness, he is brought up by his father believing that he is a castrated boy. His corrupted gender directs him to commit crimes in an attempt to accomplish the socially constructed masculine ideal. Throughout the novel, Frank’s attempts to fulfil his masculine ideal foreshadow the catastrophic results that sexual and gender manipulation would lead to. In conlcusion, the destructive effects of the restrictive and manipulative enforcements carried out by the totalitarian systems in the fields of sexuality and gender will be examined from three different perspectives throughout the novels in mention.