The readings for class on October 4th I found to, strangely, relate to my French seminar, Libertine Fiction of the 18th Century. This type of novel concentrates on at least one or more characters that are lacking in morality, basically to the point where they ignore all virtues, etc. We are currently reading a novel by Crébillon fils entitled “Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit” which literally means “the wanderings of the heart and mind”, and today in class we made a chart depicting the difference between the two female characters whom the main male character, Melicour, is trying to decide. One, referred to as “the unknown” is young, naïve, inexperienced when it comes to men, mysterious, just left a convent and thus believes in and follows rules, and their future together is more of an uncertainty in general. The other, known as “Madame de Lursay” is old, rich, more experienced and educates Melicour (sexually and otherwise), and hopes to maintain a reputation of virtue and prudeness, where in reality she is not at all prude and rather manipulatively wishes to appear this way, to save her name. Madame de Lursay feels that she will be the greater prize to Melicour because “la conquete d’un prude” translated as “the conquering of a prude” is a greater triumph than having sex with someone who is not as virtuous as a prude. In reality though, she is just pretending to be this way.
I find it interesting that Madame de Lursay feels that this is a positive thing, although I imagine that life was different back in the 1700’s. Nowadays, like Susan Douglas says in “Enlightened Sexism”, people are referred to as prude almost as a negative. For example, Charlotte in Sex and the City is described as “the prude who was, nonetheless sexually active and labeled by Carrie a ‘Park Avenue Pollyanna’” (page 172), perhaps because “Charlotte is shocked to learn that all three of the other women have a guy that they can call solely for sex with no other attachments or commitments” (page 173). Here, to me it seems that being labeled a prude is a terrible/negative thing. Though technically I believe that being labeled anything is a bad thing, being labeled a prude, personally, would be preferable to being called a slut. When you’re called a prude, it implies at the very least that you have some morality. In “Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit”, Madame de Lursay feigns having principles and morals, in order to win over the man. I cannot be certain in the world today whether or not being prude or being a slut is more likely to “win over the man”, and I am not sure whether or not Madame de Lursay succeeds as we have not yet finished the book (!), but the way the media is almost completely sexualized makes me feel that perhaps in the world today, being slutty is preferable (to most).