Reaffirming the Code

  • Richard Fantina


None of the speculations in these pages concerning Hemingway’s sexual preoccupations are meant to detract from his genius as an author and they are irrelevant to his overall morality as a man. If Hemingway and his wives indulged in similar activities to those depicted in his fiction, fewer today would cast moral aspersions on them. Such sexual behavior contains elements of psychodrama involving perhaps mild consensual pain along with domination and submission, and in most masochistic relationships, of course, no one is actually injured. Haircutting games followed by women sexually dominating their lovers hardly seems as perverse today as in the past, even if such scenes involve “unnatural acts” such as sodomy performed on the man by the woman. But if, as seems likely, this was the pattern of Hemingway’s love life, he felt he had good reason to conceal it considering the almost universal opinion in his time of male masochism as repulsive and deviant. Indeed, it still has this reputation in some quarters today. So, while it remains difficult to fault him for concealing his sexuality, in his insistent support for the idea of traditional masculinity to the point of homophobia and misogyny, Hemingway crosses an ethical boundary. A man with such an unorthodox sexuality might have been expected to demonstrate some tolerance but Hemingway generally proved incapable of this.


Traditional Masculinity Male Homosexuality Masochistic Sexuality Ethical Boundary Dominant Woman 
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  1. 8.
    Leonard J. Leff, Hemingway and His Conspirators (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefidd, 1999), 100.Google Scholar

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© Richard Fantina 2005

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  • Richard Fantina

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