September 25, 2014


In 1930, Dorothy L. Sayers introduced us to Harriet Vane. She became (instantly) the love interest of Lord Peter Wimsey. What I find remarkable about Sayers  portrayal of her incredibly forward-thinking characters in 1930 is their attitude about sex. For those unfamiliar with the book Strong Poison that introduces Harriet Vane, a brief synopsis: she is being tried for the murder of her lover and Lord Peter rushes to her defense after falling madly in love.
I like that Harriet doesn't fall into his arms just because he works to prove her innocence. In fact, she actively fights her attraction because gratitude is not a good basis for a relationship. Also, Harriet is self-sufficient financially, and independent. She is characterized as having relinquished her views on traditional marriage for the sake of her lover, but once having made that decision refused to waiver from it.
Notable of Wimsey's stance on the issue, at one point when Harriet turns down an offer of marriage with the argument that she has had a lover and therefore (in 1930s parlance) tainted goods, no longer a virgin bride. Peter comes back with, "So have I. Several in fact. It's the sort of thing that could happen to anyone." In 1930. 

85 years later, we're still hung up on that virgin thing. Everytime I see those creepy "pledging my virginity to my father until I marry" pictures from Purity balls, I'm reminded that we are letting others dictate our sexuality.

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