Theme Of Sensuality In The Handmaids Tale

1254 Words 6 Pages
The Wrongful Extinction of Sensuality
In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, she creates a dystopian society where women are valued for their sexual functions instead of their attributes. Her novel is set in a post-United States era in a time where men control everything, from the jobs to women’s bodies. Offred, previously married, is a handmaid of a powerful Commander and his wife. It is her job to provide the couple with a child. Society has been trained to believe that all eroticism is unholy and even dangerous. Although the Gilean society is deeply desexualized, Atwood shows that, regardless of gender, the need for love and intimacy is a human desire that cannot be overcome.
The Republic of Gilead’s commanders state that the republic
…show more content…
For a period, women were not allowed to work and then that transitioned into there being specific roles for women to play. Handmaids have the role of child bearing for families who cannot conceive. Society’s views on sex and love shifted to fit the new ideals. Love is unnecessary and sex is for purpose and no longer pleasure. Offred has been told that, as a handmaid, she is “for breeding purposes” only (136). When Offred joins the Commander’s household, his wife tells her that, “as far as [the wife] is concerned, this is like a business transaction” (15). It was like a business and the sex was treated as such. There was a time of the month that the ceremony occurred and the wife was a part of the sex between the Commander and Offred. Offred’s ‘job’ was to stay healthy and get pregnant. She is not valued for her strengths or even judged for her weaknesses; she is no longer an individual. Offred has no choice but to embrace the Gilean attitude of handmaids. Handmaids are “two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices” (136). She and the other handmaids are no longer seen as human. The Aunts tell them that they are necessary to society and therefore respected; however, these women feel no respect. They are expected to do their “duty in silence” (221) while a commander’s wife is watching as “he is fucking the lower part” of their bodies (94). This sex is for a purpose and for an …show more content…
The lack of intimacy expected is to prevent emotions from interfering with the job. Since “all flesh is weak,” temptations can occur and the Aunts try to teach the handmaids to “set up boundaries” (45). Emotions and intimacy are so out of relationships in the republic that even the Commander watching Offred read “is a curiously sexual act, and [she feels] undress while he does it” (184). This overt lack of physically intimacy guarantees a lack of emotional intimacy. It is an avoided discussion that humans need and long for love and intimacy. Offred often longs for her past life with her husband, Luke, and constantly thinks about how she longs for his touch. She states that she’d like to have Luke with her so she “could have a fight about that, about unimportant, important” and even believes “what a luxury it would be” (200). Her lack of intimacy in this life has made her miss everything about being a wife, even the fights. She not only misses emotional intimacy, but she also misses physical intimacy. Offred regularly sees Nick late at night and they “make love each time as if [they] know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will never be any more” (269). With Nick in secrecy, Offred can be herself and to experience intimacy and eroticism again. She calls her time with Nick ‘making love’ where as her time with the commander is simply him ‘fucking’ her. The ceremony is made to

Related Documents