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Allan sued, but in the context of wartime uneasiness Pemberton Billing got away with it. Young women moved into munitions work and previously male occupations, and many had their horizons widened by travel, work, and cinema. There was concern about improper goings-on in the dark of the picture palace, in dance halls, or indeed anywhere where young people hung about together.
Girls gathered together in groups were held to egg each other on to unruly behavior. Lawrence, which was published in When she shows a desire for a fuller, more intimate relationship with him, the inspector, wary of her possessiveness, cries off. They press him to make a choice, to commit himself to one or other of them. He gets uneasy, feeling himself cornered, and then the girls set on him like Bacchantes, ripping his clothes and drawing blood. When they let him go, crestfallen, Annie is left miserable, and the girls completely nonplussed. High-spirited and irrepressible, they zestfully pursue pleasure and personal gain.
They are magnets for men wherever they go, and though good-natured, they exploit their suitors shamelessly.
The men are shown as gullible, shallow creatures, somewhat infantile and often at the mercy of their wives and mothers. Lorelei, as narrator, is something of a philosopher. Through the voice of Lorelei, Loos makes hay with the strictures of a society structured by class and patriarchy, up-ending double standards of morality. He advises her to cultivate some inhibitions. The fashionable young woman, characteristically casting off her stays and inhibitions, caught the imagination of the s. She played the part of a shop girl, Betty Lou, who set her sights on seducing and marrying the handsome owner of the department store in which she was a lowly employee.
After a number of misunderstandings, and a lot of scheming, she pulls this off. Lil is lustful and sexually self-possessed, juggling between her own sexual needs and determination to marry wealth as it suits her. They stood as examples of precisely the kind of license and moral laxity that the Motion Picture Production Hays Code, which took effect in America from , was designed to censor and clamp down on.
They are like cardboard cutouts, characterized by, and differentiated from each other simply by age, wealth, and handsomeness, serving as ciphers for, or objects of, feminine desire. This is in contrast with the male icons of celebrity culture of the s and s. While it was risky for individual women to lose control or to surrender to passion, there could be safety in numbers. The maenads, after all, went around in a gang. There were historical precedents for this kind of thing.
Such behavior has long been deplored and labelled hysterical. Women were said to swoon or shriek at the very mention of his name. When he appeared in public, they snatched at his clothing, jewelry, or cufflinks for mementoes. Valentino was, and remains a superstar, whose cult status has endured: his sex appeal is anatomized and hotly debated on the internet even today. In The Sheik , a brown-skinned man, ostensibly an Arab, carries off a pale-skinned girl, likened in the text to a pretty boy or a white gazelle.
But fears about miscegenation were on the rise in the late s, and soon the Hays Code set out explicitly to clamp down on suggestions of interracial romance. Adultery should never be made to look attractive, in order to protect the sanctity of marriage and the home. All this had an impact. Stars such as Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich, and Barbara Stanwyck all played convincing roles as women of uninhibited sexuality, pursuing men, enjoying sex, and challenging sexual double standards head on. In the later s this changed, and sex had to take cover under metaphor.
She is passionately in love with Ashley Wilkes, who is bent on marrying the much more conventionally feminine Melanie.
Ashley—represented in the book as a gentle, gallant, and cultivated young man—will never leave Melanie, however much Scarlett tries to push him into doing so. A man of honor, he is aghast at her lack of loyalty to a friend. In the meantime, Scarlett goes from man to man, marrying variously out of pique, out of self-interest, and for survival. His performance failed to appeal to women viewers. Nevertheless, when Scarlett and Rhett do eventually marry, the marriage degenerates into a mutually destructive power struggle, with neither character able to respond positively to tenderness in the other.
Rachel Vorona Cote is a writer in Washington, D. Find her on Twitter here. Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:. Get award-winning feminist analysis straight to your inbox: Sign up for our Weekly Reader!
Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire by Carol Dyhouse
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