Britten's Bad Boys

Philip Brett

in Music and Sexuality in Britten

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780520246096
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939127 | DOI:
Britten's Bad Boys

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This chapter delves into the nineteenth-century sexual discourse's preoccupation with male practices for which “onanism” served as a label. The Turn of The Screw is characterized by the Foucauldian categorization of social subjects of control by a sexuality–power synergy. The four-fold category includes the hysterical woman, the sexual child, the Malthusian couple, and the perverse adult. The story is characterized by three of these elements. While the governess represents the first element, the children, Miles, especially, represents the second. The Malthusian couple, apparently invisible, turns out to be the first birth-control books in the 1830s, which separated sexual pleasure from the perceived inevitable biological consequences, triggering a spate of anti-onanist literature and a frenzy to control the female physique. Anti-onanism manifests in the deprived characters who, by teaching the young to masturbate, induce sexual difference and desire in virgin minds.

Keywords: onanism; Foucauldian; Malthusian couple; male relations; deprived character; sexual difference

Chapter.  5604 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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