Aphra Behn: Poems

Power Dynamics and Sexual Double Standards in "The Disappointment" and 'Fantomia' College

Aphra Behn’s “The Disappointment” and Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina” both imply a strong relationship between sex and power. Yet, the ways in which their characters understand this relationship is dependent on their gender. The male protagonists, Lysander and Beauplaisir, obtain power from their consummation of a sexual encounter. The female protagonists, Cloris and Fantomina, secure power in chastity and temptation in the moments before sexual gratification. These relationships with power are representative of societal sexual double standards imposed on 18th century men and women. Behn and Haywood complicate society’s understanding of sexual double standards by assigning sexual desire to their female protagonists. Fantomina’s disguises grant her anonymity and allow her to act on her desire without societal consequence, while Cloris only escapes the consequences of her desire due to Lysander’s impotence. The resolutions of “Fantomina” and “The Disappointment” are critical of sexual double standards; The fates of Fantomina and Cloris represent that the power dynamic that rises out of sexual double standard encourages the oppression and blaming of women that attempt to defy the double standard.

The narrators of both “The...

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