In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the protagonists resist the control of their oppressive society, only to realize that their efforts were largely in vain. The systematic regime of the novel, the World State, exerts complete power over every aspect of the mundane lives of citizens. The two forces, however, foster conflicting views on how to handle the freedom present in human sexuality. Although there are many distinct differences between these dystopian societies’ jurisdiction over sexuality, the oppression over this aspect of life results in the protagonists’ rebellion against their totalitarian state, accomplished through either complete acceptance or total rejection of their innate sexual nature.
The entire community not only practices sexual promiscuity, but the World State encourages it, programming it into all of its inhabitants.
While guiding a group of young Alphas on a tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the Director gives Lenina “two or three little pats” on her behind, and “received in exchange a rather deferential smile for himself” (Huxley 17). This act of sexual harassment illustrates the norm of the World State, as Lenina returns a smile upon the Director’s direct violation of her body. No act towards the human body is seen as too sexual or offensive in any way and is actually smiled upon; in fact, the entire population has been conditioned to not only indulge in their sexual desires, but that “ ‘everyone belongs to everyone,’ ” therefore explaining the Director’s sensual act (Huxley 40). As the Alphas continue their tour of the centre, they come upon a young boy and girl “playing, very gravely…a rudimentary sexual game,” in which the Director affectionally regards as “ ‘charming’ ” (Huxley 31). From a young age, children are encouraged to participate in erotic games, reinforcing an inclination to give in to their sexual nature from childhood to adulthood.
However, there exists a reason why the World State actively encourages sexual promiscuity among the population. In order to ensure the success of the State, there must complete loyalty to the State, which means all competition for loyalty must be removed. When Lenina confides in Fanny that she’s been having sex with Henry Foster exclusively for four months, Fanny, shocked, warns Lenina “ ‘to be careful’ ” since it’s “ ‘such horribly bad form to go and on like this with one man’ ” (Huxley 41). Fanny’s hostile attitude to Lenina’s revelation stems from the conditioning that monogamy is wrong since “everyone belongs to everyone else.” This statement is reinforced abundantly as monogamy may lead to romance, resulting in one’s loyalty to another instead of the state. In addition, Mustapha Mond notes that with mothers and lovers, there were “ ‘prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey,…temptations and lonely remorses,…diseases and endless isolating pain,’ ” which forced them to feel strongly (Huxley 41). Mustapha Mond condemns mothers and lovers as they lead to emotions, which results in disloyalty, and ultimately, instability within the State itself.
To prevent its downfall, there must be complete annihilation of chastity within the World State. In regard to the future of their World State, Mustapha Mond states that “ ‘chastity means passion, chastity means neurasthenia. And passion and neurasthenia mean instability. And
instability means the end of civilization. You can’t have a lasting civilization without plenty of pleasant vices’ ” (Huxley 237). This reasoning reinforces the World State’s claim that sexual promiscuity must be practiced in order to prevent emotions running amok and destroying the instability of their civilization, and by pressuring sex onto others, the act itself is dehumanized. To combat against emotional bonds, women at birth are “ ‘decanted as freemartins – structurally quite normal,…but sterile,’ ” while those who aren’t rendered sterile are required to wear Malthusian belts, “cartridge belt, bulging…with the regulation supply of contraceptives,” so one may never take on the tender role of a mother, a role so taboo in their society (Huxley 13, 50). By controlling the citizens’ fertility, the World State strips any last means of forming emotional bonds that may lead to disloyalty, and then, instability.
However, the hyper-sexualized society’s active push of promiscuity upon its inhabitants also deprives an individual of their humanity, which causes rebellion within two of the novel’s central characters, Bernard Marx and John the Savage. The day after their date, Bernard reveals to Lenina that he “ ‘didn’t want [the night] to end with [their] going to bed,’ ” which shocks her; elaborating on his thoughts, he concludes that although they’re “ ‘adults intellectually…[and] infants where feeling and desire are concerned,…it might be possible to be an adult all the time’ ” (Huxley 93-94). Although he gave into temptation, Bernard rebels in his thoughts against the norm of his society as he makes the connection that effortless sex proves to be childish, and ultimately, futile in its attempt to strip him of his identity. After Bernard exploits John for his own happiness, John discloses that he would “ ‘rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness’ ” that Bernard was experiencing from his increasing popularity (Huxley 179). The daunting task of fitting into society, which entails indulging in your sexual desires, proves to be too much for John as his views on emotions and sexuality diverges from the World State’s views. In fact, the so-called “sexually liberated” community secretly oppresses its inhabitants through the bereavement of individuality, which causes feelings of dissatisfaction and defiance within John and Bernard regarding the uncontrolled sexual freedom running rampant throughout their society. In addition, after Lenina undresses and forcefully attempts to submit John into the act of sex, he “retreated in terror, flapping his hands at her as though he were trying to scare away some intruding and dangerous animal” (Huxley 193). In rebellion against the World State, John practices chastity, especially when it comes to Lenina, and champions pain over pleasure, all to maintain his humanity.
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