Monsieur Venus and the Sexuality of Raoule

In Monsieur Venus, I was surprised by how sexuality and sex are addressed, particularly in Raoule’s case. Rachilde writes of Raoule having sexual desires that she desired to express, which seemed to be a bit of a taboo for a woman during that time; virginity was highly valued, and Raoule’s aunt Mademosielle Ermengarde actually becomes concerned with her health when Raoule begins acting differently. On pages 25 to 26, Rachilde describes when Raoule underwent a “complete change” after seeing a special kind of book. A concerned Ermengarde fears that Raoule could have a “serious illness” and calls in doctors to examine her niece, “[who] closed her door to them. However, one of them, very elegant in his person, witty and young, was clever enough to get himself admitted by the capricious patient. She begged him to return, and moreover there was no improvement in her condition” (26). What stands out to me in this paragraph is how Rachilde writes about Raoule’s sexual desires and engagement. Sex is not outright addressed but merely alluded to—many times, Raoule’s desires are described in their intensity, but not explicitly stated. I think it’s interesting that there is a deliberate avoidance of discussing sex. I kept thinking of Cixous’s “The Laugh of Medusa” article that we read last week, in which she urged women to write “for women”, to articulate their desires, speak for their bodies, etc. Rachilde is very much so writing “for women”: though more shy in the manner in which she addresses sex, she is still addressing it as something that a woman wants and is actively initiating. Her use of third person perspective allows for somewhat of a distance as she writes about Raoule’s desires; nevertheless, her thoughts and passions are still expressed to the reader.

This kind of discussion of sexuality is unexpected for this time period, especially in regards to Raoule. As a woman, she takes on a very different role sexually than what we have seen thus far: she is the initiator, aggressive and instigating this kind of sexual relationship. But I guess I still feel as though Rachilde is not comfortable in frankly addressing sex and sexuality—it feels as though, while she is writing bout a new/different kind of woman that desires to have sex and actively pursues it, Rachilde still tries to use subtler or not extremely evocative language in order to make her writing not too racy or “inappropriate”. 

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2 thoughts on “Monsieur Venus and the Sexuality of Raoule

  1. I agree that the details of Raoule’s sexuality and relationship with Jacques are deliberately avoided. Although as a reader I’m very confident of the extreme passion of their love, there’s no description at all of the mechanics. Which is, admittedly, something that I’m curious, given the unique nature of their relationship.

    Who is doing the penetrating? And at the end, when the wax figure “spreads his thighs”, I interpret this to be a very “female” act. Women “spread their legs”, but men are rarely described that way (though I wonder if that distinction would have been obvious during Rachilde’s time?).

    I think the only time that the mechanics of sex is somewhat described is when Jacques explicitly says that Raoule will always lack the genitals, and in that way cannot fully be a man.

    I wonder why Rachilde left these details out. Is this because she thinks that sexuality is just something done upon sexed bodies?

    • You know, in regards to your question of who is doing the penetrating, something I’ve been thinking about since class yesterday is how Raoule and Jacques gender roles would play out if they were not involved with each other–we only see them switch between male and female roles, actions, etc, but how would they identify individually? How would they see themselves if they didn’t have someone to dominate or be dominated by?

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