Fantomina, Feminism, and The Female Experience College

Most literary representations of the sexes include implicit and binary differences between women and men. Women are typically written as pure archetypes who strive to find constancy in their relationships. In contrast, men as seen as libertines who seek multiplicity, novelty, and otherwise rakish desires. In Fantomina, a venture of sex, love, and disguise, Eliza Haywood challenges these standards through Fantomina’s own multiplicity and change in identity to deceive Beauplaisir. Fantomina is a foil to Beauplaisir’s male gaze, and with her foresight and constantly being a step ahead of him, she finds a way to reverse typical gender dynamics. Through the heroine’s sexual assertion, verbal expression, and her deceiving of Beauplausir, she rebels from feminine constructs and ultimately contributes to the standing of Fantomina as a proto-feminist text.

The nameless protagonist’s initial disruptive sexual transformation and her resulting sensual assertion exemplifies her determination and ingenuity. While she adopts the Fantomina persona and appears as a prostitute, it is not at first her mission to seduce Beauplaisir, and he initiates the first sexual encounter despite her resistance and rapes her. But following this scene,...

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