How the Sexuality is Presented to Assert the Different Signification of it in Three Short Stories through Comparison Study

Human as man and woman have a sexual urge to physically unite with the same sex, opposite sex, or either sex for releasing their desire which means ‘sense of lust (mid-14c)’ according to Online Etymology Dictionaries or ‘strong wish to have or to do something or want somebody or something very much’ according to Oxford Dictionary. This thing has something to do with sexuality, a thing that always relates to living things; as I looked up to Oxford Online Dictionary, it has three meanings

  1. [mass noun] Capacity for sexual feelings
  2. [count noun] a person’s sexual orientation or preference
  3. Sexual activity

Meanwhile, according to Oxford Dictionary, it means feelings and activities connected with a person’s sexual desires.

I choose three short stories consist of Graham Joyce’s ‘Pinkland’ which is about ethereal lovers described the relation of two main characters, Sammy and Nat, Poppy Z Brite’s ‘Enough Rope’ who told us about a girl who described herself as “a gay man that happens to have been born in a female body, and that’s the perspective I’m coming from.” (1998:18), and ‘Down the Clinical Disco’ by Fay Weldon which is about two person as true love for each other at Broadmoor to analyze the significance of sexuality throughout the stories.

Sexuality is understood differently among the three short stories and I use the comparison study in how the sexuality is presented to see the difference. In my opinion, the showing of sexuality in stories or sexuality as the theme produces sexual desire that later relates the main character with other characters also the sexuality with other things.

Sexual Desires Fulfil the Capacity of Sexual Feelings

I concept sexual desire as an instinctive thing that people should has experience with it but then it becomes a problem when people has different kind and capacity of sexual desire as it is shown in Down Clinical Disco when the patients in Broadmoor watched videos together as one of rehabilitation programme and

“Only the men get to choose the video and they always choose blue films. They have to choose them to show they’re normal, and the women have to choose not to see them to show the same. You have to be normal to get out.”

In Down the Clinical Disco, I see that sexuality combines with normality, a thing that people considered as normal. From that line, what is normal relates to their sexual desire that men suppose to like erotic thing and women suppose to ignore it. There is a contrary when sexual desire should happens to both man and woman as it is a natural thing of humankind but then women will be judged not normal because they show too much erotic interest. Meanwhile, it is valid to men too, “And the men have to act interested (to women), but not too interested“ (Weldon 1985: 121).

Rosalin Coward, a writer of feminist issues and in cultural semiotics asserted that men should be the dominant in watching. They are as subject who observe and women as object to be observed, since:

[The] preoccupation with visual images strikes at women in a very particular way. For looking is not a neutral activity. Human beings don’t all look at things in the same way, innocently as it were. In this culture, the look is largely controlled by men. Privileged in general in this society, men also control the visual media. The film and television industries are dominated by men, as is the advertising industry. The photographic profession is no less a bastion of the values of male professionalism. While I don’t wish to suggest there’s an intrinsically male way of making images, there can be little doubt that entertainment as we know it is crucially predicted on a masculine investigation of women, and a circulation of women’s images for men.

Verily, if we look closely to the narrative in this story, ‘I’ declared that the worse thing than being naked and seen by strangers is being naked and unseen for the reason that she did not even count as a woman (Weldon 1985:118). As the result, there is a conflict within the story in the case of woman as the subject of vision. In clinical disco and at the time the patients assembled to watch videos, women became the visual subject of men’s sexual desire extrication. Berger had simplified this into,

men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

However, in the early passage, as it is mentioned above, ‘I’ was unseen and not reputed as woman. Since she was unseen, it means the men in that story were no longer dominant.

The sexuality within this story is not enough as sexual fantasy through the blue films, “The staff like to see how they’re getting on, how they react to the opposite sex,” (1985: 121). By asserting woman as image, man as bearer of the look[1] Mulvey has formulated,

[1] Title of the third part of Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

“a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is style accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Woman displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to strip-tease,…”

The sexuality should be brought up to reality life as flesh to flesh. The men should “look at those titties, look up that skirt, a bit of living porno, better than a blue film any day.”,  and the women “have to cat interested. Because that’s normal”. [2]

[2] Down the Clinical Disco pg. 121

On the other hand, sexual desire also has something to do with the clothes as it is presented in Down Clinical Disco. I see the connection between sexuality, desire, and clothes which is described through Eddie and ‘I’. In the end of the story, both returned their way of dressed. ‘I’ scrubbed off the make-up and got into jeans whereas Eddie got into drag (Weldon 1985: 122). Eddie as the main male character is reputed as abnormal and get into hospital because he is transvestite which means

“person with a strong desire to dress in clothing of the opposite sex,” 1922, from Ger. Transvestit (1910), coined from L. trans- “across” (see trans-) + vestire “to dress, to clothe” (see wear).

He wore woman’s clothes because his passion on teaching children but he is still a man. This different kind of sexual feelings makes him out of law.

The Sexual Preferences Overlaps the Sexual Orientation

Another presentation of sexuality which I pay attention for refers to the second meaning of sexuality. Brite’s Enough Rope is a story about a young female of dubious morality but favourable aspect wrote a raunchy book full of gay male characters[3].

[3] Enough Rope pg. 18

Orgasm and sexual desire is a natural thing for human, yet Freud said sexuality meant not only intercourse, but all pleasurable sensation from the skin[4].

People of different ages enjoy tactile experiences such as caresses, kisses, and so on.[5]

‘I’ in this story also had sexual feelings from a very early age. She already knew about function of penis and had a fantasy of sperm at age three. Suddenly she wanted dick at age five, and first time dreamt about it at age seven.

Freud had the makings of a psychosexual stage theory and what ‘I’ experienced at her early age is categorized into The Phallic Stage where the focus of pleasure is the genitalia and masturbation is common for children from three or four to five, six, or seven years old. I apply Freud’s stage because the narrative of this short story is semi-biography and it uses snapshot of age as the technique to serve the story.

The underlie question is ‘I’’s pleasure was not her own genital but the opposite’s sex genital; yet she was not only enjoy the tactile experience, moreover, she wanted to have the genital. It shows a different sexual orientation of her and this matter affected her sexual preferences. Substantively, ‘I’ had her term to describe the difference. She called it ‘my sexual dysphoria’ (Brite 1998: 16); she experienced it with her lifetime partner, C, in purpose reaching the ‘conclusion’ because she had no idea about her gender, preference, or any kind of label (1998: 17).

’I’ is biologically a woman but she tried to look like man, thought as one, and called herself as if she was a man. She used words fag and stud also for instance to show her masculinity; but it was hard for her to convince people “since I am barely five feet tall in socks, with a baby-soft complexion and a big wide ass, there never seemed to be much point” (Brite 1998: 16) At the end she felt man enough without trying so hard. There is one person who believed her as a man; he is the Canadian Slaveboy.

She really had a hard time to determine her own sexual identity. And I comprehend personal identity relates to sexual preferences yet sexual orientation. She said she is biologically a woman writer but that is not the way she thinks about herself. ‘I’ considered herself as a gay man who born within female body and she continually mentioned this statement as if she needs to convince herself about her identity. (Brite 1998: 18)

Different from Down the Clinical Disco, in Enough Rope, the sexual activities are clearly described by the narrator. In my opinion, this is one of ways the text represents sexuality. ‘I’ as the main character lived with two boyfriends who are C and Canadian Slaveboy and both bisexual. Three of them had three-way-relationship. (1998: 18). Erotic fantasy is one of ‘I’’s sexual desire and she converted it into unsafe sexual activities with an array of beautiful bisexual boys. In another passage, the text certainly told how ‘I’ made love with her Slaveboy. It was described as a full-time-sex-role-play but suddenly she got bored and the relationship had deteriorated. (1998: 23).

Homosexuality firstly emerged within the story through the main character’s experience when she watched TV Farce called Three’s Company. At the other time at age thirteen she was caught reading a book about gay and lesbian history. Queer probably is the best chosen word to describe ‘I’ because “it fits those of us who don’t fit so easily into the other categories” (1998: 26) and she was not ready to be called ‘fag hag’ or ‘penis envy’. Later ‘I’ was described as a ‘non-operative transsexual’ and at the moment she met the lioness, she started acting protectively and that was the first time she was sure about her masculinity and her homosexuality. In addition, the lioness started calling her ‘sir’ (1998: 25). The self-perception became explicit and she figured out herself as a man and a fag. When ‘I’ finally can describe herself as a homosexual, on the contrary she had stopped insisting on being a boy and probably looked more like one than she used to. (1998: 26). In Lacan, the body will emerge from the transfiguration of desire into an imaginary visual field, one which establishes the body first as a function of a specular imaginary reflection[6] .

[6] Judith Butler, Desire. Critical Terms for Literary Study

I conceive it as the main characters’ sexual imagination since she was a child and it grows into desire that finally forms her emotion, physic, and unconsciousness into what she called queer. Both the imagination and desire take part in sexual preferences yet orientation building.

Sexual Desire Combines Material and Immaterial Body through Sexual Activities

Graham Joyce’s Pinkland is compared to a Greek mythology about Psyche and Cupid which about Psyche’s impatient to see the physical of cupid that suddenly made her husband disappeared. Pinkland is a short story about an ethereal lover, Sammy and Nat. The story is told by the third person (omniscient). There are parentheses to differentiate the conversation on the Net with the conversation in the real world or in other words the bracket disaggregates the material and immaterial body. The characterization in this story slightly puzzling, Joyce described Sammy as a girl by the way she dressed, “Favouring a feminine, clinging satin skirt and wearing a nimbus of flowery perfume” (1997:31). In the other hand she used ‘he’ and ‘his’ for Sammy’s preposition in the end, “Sammy got up from his seat. He tried to offer a handshake”. (Joyce, 1997:43). Joyce characterised Nat in the same way. “The two had been ethereal lovers for almost six months before Nat admitted to Sammy she was a woman” (1997:28) this statement gave an idea that Nat is a woman in the real world who pretends to be a man in cyber. A different kind of Nat appeared in the end of story. When they both finally met, Sammy found out that Nat was a transvestite which shocked him very well.

Material or offline body and immaterial or online body should not be blended because when the connection is created then the bewilderment emerges. The story consists of many dreams and fancies that lead into real passion. The two characters played their role on the internet imaginatively; they followed the rules until sexual desires overpowered the unreal life. They both started relationship on cyberspace as homosexual until Nat admitted his self as woman then all things fall apart.

Firstly, the sexuality activities were described through words because the offline rely only on words. Then the imaginary of Sammy and Nat took control and broke their boundaries to bring up the sexual activities into real world. The explosion of sexual desire is too big then guides them to take the risks in uniting material and immaterial body. Then the sexual desire ended into sexual activities. Both made an engagement; as the consequent, the physical body took the wheel and stirred the relation up trouble.

After all the comparisons, I conclude that the way I figure out what sexuality is within each short story is through close reading and find out how the sexual activities are presented because different sexual activities determine a person’s politics identity, sexual preference, and sexual orientation. The sexual activities are not only flesh upon flesh but it can happen through words. I also conceive sexual desires as a product of sexuality and it has an important part relates to sexuality. It is described and presented through the characters as human who naturally has desires. The specification on these stories is sexual desire in sexuality.


  • Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.
  • Brite, P. Z. (1998). Enough Rope – Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity, edited by Lisa Tuttle. Indigo Books.
  • Coward, R. (1984). Female Desire. Harper Collins.
  • Gilman, C. P. (1899). The Yellow Wallpaper. Boston: Small & Maynard.
  • Joyce, G. (1998). Pinkland – Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity, edited by Lisa Tuttle. Indigo Books.
  • Mulvey, L. (1994). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, eds. New York: Longman , 421.
  • Weldon, F. (1985). Down the Clinical Disco.

2 thoughts on “How the Sexuality is Presented to Assert the Different Signification of it in Three Short Stories through Comparison Study

  1. Nenden Radcliffe says:

    could you send me Pinkland short story? I am intested to analyze it further… help me please 😦 i ‘ve searched in google and no result 😥

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