[personal profile] wingedbeast
Chapter six is a, thankfully in light of the content, very short chapter. If you're reading along, gird your loins... or otherwise protect them. If you like any kind of emotion attached to your sex (love, lust, compulsive need, or even such emotional satisfaction as using masturbation as a means of wasting a few seconds), this chapter is not going to appeal to you. This will not be a pleasant experience.

That's not to say that you shouldn't read this chapter. Absolutely you should. It is a necessary discomfort for reading this book, for understanding Oceana, and for examining how a society can use sex (or something with similar emotional need for most people), against its own members. I'm just noting, ahead of time, that your reaction to this chapter will be a great deal of discomfort.

This chapter starts out with Winston writing in his diary about spotting a woman in poor lighting and heavy makeup. She tells him "two dollars", without specifying. We can connect the dots ourselves.

There's also a quick bit about how your own nervous system can be your own worst enemy. Unconscious ticks that you can't control can give you away or talking in your sleep. This is something to discuss further at a later point in the book, here it's just setup.

More in his notebook about how he went down into a basement kitchen with that woman in the poor light and...

His teeth were set on edge. He would have liked to spit. Simultaneously with the woman in the basement kitchen he thought of Katherine, his wife. Winston was married-had been married, at any rate: probably he was still married, for so far as he knew his wife was not dead. He seemed to breathe again the warm stuffy odour of the basement kitchen, an odour compounded of bugs and dirty clothes and villainous cheap scent, but nevertheless alluring, because no woman of the Party ever used scent. In his mind the smell of it was inextricably mixed up with fornication.

I don't know much about George Orwell. I did a bit of a Google search about his perspectives on pornography for the Pornosec examination. And, I did the same for his views on religion for this entry (See? You can foreshadow in real life!) So, I don't know if he had much of his own philosophy regarding sexuality. But, I do see one important thing highlighted, here.

Nothing is inherently sexual. These days, more modern than the 80s when this was set and the 40s when this was written, we have a lot of phrases to this. "The brain is a sexual organ." "There is nothing inherently sexual about the breast."

The only reason a woman's breast is sexualized is because we have a set of cultural rules requiring that it be covered up for just that reason. If, instead of the breast, we required all people's hands to be constantly covered, there would be lascivious magazines with the disgustingly blatant titles like "Wet Knuckles".

It's a good way of making the point that this chapter will discuss sexuality as a thing of the mind and how that relates to Winston's relationship with his then-wife.

There's a note that procuring the use of a prostitute is a minor crime. Being caught might mean a mere five years in a forced-labour (that's how the book spells it) camp, if no other crimes are committed. It's also, according to text, an incredibly easy crime to get away with.

As with so many times, the novel does away with subtlety to make a clear point.

The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. Not love so much as eroticism was the enemy, inside marriage as well as outside it. All marriages between Party members had to be approved by a committee appointed for the purpose, and-though the principle was never clearly stated-permission was always refused if the couple concerned gave the impression of being physically attracted to one another. The only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party. Sexual intercourse was to be looked upon as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.

This is why I did the Google search on Orwell's views on Christianity. It was a quick, thing, so don't trust this too much. But, that quick glance said that Orwell was opposed to Catholicism but was an Anglican.

These days, conservative Christians like to brag that they have a great sex-life... It's never really great even as they describe it. See here for a perspective on the current view, here's SeekerofTruthweb's related entry*. Back in the 80s when this was set and the 40s when this was written, it was a bit of a different story.

Not just Catholics, but Puritans and Baptists and others held the view that sex was for procreation within the confines of marriage alone. Anything else was a sin. At the same time, it was considered a very normal, very male sin. There certainly wasn't as much stigma upon a man having been indiscrete before marriage as there was upon a woman merely dressing in such a way that a man might look upon her with lust. (The very concept is given lie by the aforementioned lack of inherent sexiness to anything.)

The big difference is that Oceana unambiguously views artificial insemination and artificial wombs to be a good thing. Not so with the conservative religious communities.

Brave New World will have its future world tackle precisely the same topic with precisely the same goal in precisely the opposite method. The point is clear, that people should feel as little for each other as possible.

It's worthy of note that true love and soul mates, as a reason to marry, is, itself, relatively new and was, once, thought of as a something that might poison a marriage. Cultures with similar views included America, England, and Ancient Rome.

Speaking of marriages without love...

Katharine was a tall, fair-haired girl, very straight, with splendid movements. She had a bold, aquiline face, a face that one might have called noble until one discovered that there was as nearly as possible nothing behind it. Very early in their married life he had decided-though perhaps it was only that he knew her more intimately than he knew most people-that she had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her...

The paragraph isn't over but... fuck you, Winston.

The text doesn't say, one way or the other, whether Winston ever voiced these opinions to Katharine. Neither does it say, one way or another, whether Winston enacted any level of physical violence against her. I would argue that he hadn't done either, during his marriage, simply because he was always aware of the constant surveillance. That the only argument I can make that Winston Smith isn't shown to have done the obviously abusive to his wife is that he could have been watched at any moment does not improve my view of him.

I will repeat what I have repeated before. Winston Smith should be well aware that people's inner lives need not match their outer lives. Winston Smith, it must be repeated, is both victim and perpetrator of the crimes of Oceana. For someone who is in best position to empathize with others who cannot say what they most desire to, Winston Smith still so objectifies other people that it doesn't occur to him that any of them are putting up the same kind of front as himself.

When he does this with children that are little more than strangers, it's understandable but an annoyance. When he does this with the closest things he has to friends, being Symes and Parsons, it gets frustrating. When he does this with his spouse, I want to slap him.

In recent comments, someone wondered whether or not we're supposed to like Winston Smith. In some ways, I think the presentation of Winston doesn't age well. The 1940s wasn't a time of great gender egalitarianism. It would be approximately three decades before we get the messages in Three's Company that would be, relative to the sexual ethics on display in the forties, revolutionary.

In other ways, I think the point is that you are supposed to be uncomfortable with any degree to which you identify with Winston Smith. He's not the worst that Oceana has to offer, of course. But... ugh.

Yet, in his blindness to the fact of other people being complex beings, I have to admit some similarity. Oceana is a warning for societies, to be wary of the temptations of power. Winston is a warning to the individual that I should be wary of my place within those manipulations.

Yet he could have endured living with her if it had not been for just one thing-sex.

As soon as he touched her she seemed to wince and stiffen. To embrace her was like embracing a jointed wooden image. And what was strange was that even when she was clasping him against her he had the feeling that she was simultaneously push him away with all her strength. The rigidity of her muscles managed to convey that impression. She would lie there with shut eyes, neither resisting nor co-operating, but submitting. It was extraordinarily embarrassing, and, after a while, horrible. But even then he could have born living with her if it had been agreed that they should remain celibate. But curiously enough it was Katharine who refused this. They must, she said, produce a child if they could.

Winston certainly doesn't see it and I'd be curious to know how well Orwell saw it, but Katherine is a victim of more than just lies. All the forced expressions and shutting down of bad-thoughts that Winston has to engage in, so did Katherine, but Katherine has one extra issue.

Katherine, every time she has sex, is raped by Oceana.

It's important to note that Winston, in this particular issue, is not the perpetrator. The text goes out of way to note that he would have been able to live in a sexless marriage. However else he treated her, whatever contempt she must have picked upon, he wasn't a rapist... but he was the tool thereof.

There's an old joke about certain views of sex, particularly in the abstinence-only-sex-education mindset. "Sex is disgusting, degrading, evil, sickening, deadly, and should be experienced with someone you love." Oceana has taught Katherine something similar. It has done its level best to train her to hate and fear sex... and then demand that she have sex.

The text will even, eventually, give a reason for it. That won't make it any better.

In the text that follows, here, there's some pontification on why Winston is stuck where he is in his romantic/sex life. No woman to wed and to have and to be a woman of his own (I think the particular phrasing is, comparatively, easily forgiven). Instead only "filthy scuffles at intervals of years".

Oceana has made love affairs, real love, a nigh-impossibility.

While the text goes over this, there are interludes to the topic of the diary entry, what happens when Winston finally sees the prostitute he's employing in the light. In the light, this woman has streaks of grey hair and is, according to his estimate, fifty years at least. That makeup is heavier than he thought, heavy enough to "crack like a cardboard mask". To him...

...the truly dreadful detail was that her mouth had fallen a little open, revealing nothing except cavernous blackness. She had no teeth at all.

And just two sentences later...

But I went ahead and did it just the same.

Orwell has set us up for something and it certainly isn't something to make Winston Smith look good.

Katherine, at least physically, is beautiful. We can't know anything about her internal life only that her external life shows exactly what she needs to show in order to survive in Oceana. This woman who works as a prostitute, who's name we don't know, is very unattractive to Winston.

Which one's worse? Given the choice, which do you choose?

Now, Oceana is shown, here, to act in a similar way to abstinence only sex-education. That means that, were this real, I could reasonably predict it having a similar consequence, that of more teenage sex and more teenage pregnancy. The result would be more people having more sex. That wouldn't be a failure of Oceana's, because there'd also be more guilt and more negative association as well as there being more people for Oceana to use in whatever designs they have.

Still, that does give me a bit of hope. Along with the failure of Newspeak to achieve its desires is the inherent failure of the anti-sex-leagues to achieve their stated desires.

So, almost out of pure survival instinct, I reach to a hope. I hope that Katherine has found some empowerment in a Sexual Liberation Underground Resistance that subverts Oceana's manipulations and encourages independent thought through application of subversive pornography.

* https://seekeroftruthweb.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/a-males-gratitude-to-feminism/
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