Predatory Lesbian Erotics
In “Female-female Eroticism and the Early Modern Stage,” Douglas Bruster cautioned against the tendency of scholars to focus on “affirmative aspects” of female homoeroticism.1 Arguing that power and the interrelation between dominance and submission excite desire as much as mutuality, Bruster focuses on aggressive episodes of female homoerotic subversion. That is, he examines instances of “triangulated eroticism” in which a female character, often older and worldly, gains erotic pleasure by seducing or forcing a younger, innocent woman into a sexual relationship with a man.2 Bruster offers his discussion of erotically manipulative female characters in early modern drama as a contrast to the trend in contemporary criticism to focus solely on utopian pairings—relationships characterized by mutual affection between women and the idealization of female-female attachment. Bruster cites Rosalind and Celia from As You Like It, Helena and Hermia from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Emilia and Flavina in The Two Noble Kinsmen, and Gallathea and Phyllida from John Lyly’s Gallathea as examples of utopian relationships. Bruster further argues that a number of these scenes were meant to arouse the audience but were not illustrative of a homoerotic subject—the actions of the scene might be homoerotically coded, but the characters are not.
KeywordsSexual Violence Sexual Interest Sexual Attraction Female Character Sexual Aggression
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- 4.Catharine Stimpson sees this as a moment not of nascent or repressed homoeroticism but as an instance of “sublimated incest.” It seems, in fact, both. Tamora enjoys the pleasure her sons gain from the rape and relishes the sexual control she commands over Lavinia through them. See Catharine R. Stimpson, “Shakespeare and the Soil of Rape,” in The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 60.Google Scholar
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