What Is Sexuality in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut  Term Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 4
  • Subject: Women's Issues - Sexuality
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #68900994

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Moreover the shop owner is no longer upset with them and seems to be pleased with them -- implying that there may have been some financial arrangement between him and the men. Lastly, the shop owner's daughter is all but offered to Bill for sexual purposes. This behavior is certainly not in accord with conventional Western morality, and indicates that where power is concerned -- in this case in the form of money and social prestige -- sexuality and sexual acts are permitted, even with one's daughter.

Since Bill is technically a wealthy socialite in his own right, it is extremely interesting to note the occasions in which sexuality and power are used against him. Such an occurrence takes place when his wife reveals her fantasy and when he is expelled from the orgy for not having properly received an invitation and not knowing the purported second password. Yet the exposure of his lack of power also takes place when he is roaming about in the streets. This particular anecdote is valuable because it indicates that the representation of sexuality as power is not merely in the form of capital goods and social standing, but also in more conventional measures of power such as strength and numbers. On one occasion Bill encounters a pack of younger, rowdy young men who appear to be in various stages of intoxication. They verbally harass him by deriding his sexuality (they believe he is gay), and physically intimidate him with their numbers, their strength, and their overall boisterous behavior. Regardless of Bill's social standing, he is among the disenfranchised in this encounter and is subject to the power of others -- which is why he is derided as a homosexual. There are interesting correlations between this scene and this inversion of power (for Bill) and Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals. In defining the dichotomy between the terms "good" and "bad," Nietzsche references the fact that originally the former term applied to the wealthy aristocrats and whatever they did -- since they had the social standing and the strength, both literally and figuratively, to reinforce their superiority. This viewpoint is largely the chief moral principle which defines sexuality in Eyes Wide Shut, and validates the behavior of the socialites and their orgy. However, it is interesting that this concept is somewhat inverted as it applies to Bill in the preceding scene discussed, since Bill is technically a socialite but merely encounters stronger individuals (due to their numbers, perhaps their youth and their rowdy behavior) who are able to assert their power and reduce Bill's own sexuality as a result.

The view of sexuality as a representation of power requires one to rethink the politics of sexuality, particularly in the terms that Nietzsche referred to in his definition of moral principles. Nietzsche was, after all, strictly examining morality in terms of power and did not necessarily refer his conceptions to sex. Although there are others who have explicitly studied sexuality in terms of power (such as Michael Foucault, most eminently), it is interesting to note the inversion of power that this representation of sexuality produces in Eyes Wide Shut. What the movie makes abundantly clear is that power does not only pertain to wealth and social standing -- to the nobility and the aristocrats that Nietzsche refers to. However, power also refers to conventional definitions such as brute strength and other forms of intimidation including having more people than others. Additionally, power refers to mob-like rule -- such as was evinced within the orgy scene. True enough, the majority of the people at the orgy were rich socialites. Still, the fact that there were so many of them dictated that in that particular setting, their definitions of good and bad (which in this case was the fact that Bill was an outsider) effectively transcended conventional Western morality and even the law, if they desired it too. So there is also an aspect of power that is related to the mob mentality of people as it pertains to sexuality, and as which any sort of gang rape crime implies as well.

The significance of this thesis, that sexuality is defined in Eyes Wide Shut as power, has substantial ramifications for future studies pertaining to gender and sexuality. Specifically, it would be of considerable interest to attempt to quantify the concept of power as it refers to sexuality. There are a number of different variables to consider when attempting to do so such as physical strength, numbers of people, social standing, wealth, and a host of other factors that should be examined. It would also be useful to analyze settings and cases in which conventional Western morality pertaining to sexuality is overridden for any number of reasons.

Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. "Eyes Wide Shut." www.rogerebert.com. 1999. Web. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/eyes-wide-shut-1999

Eyes Wide Shut. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman. Warner Brothers. 1999. Film.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. www.lightoftheimagination.com. 2000. Web. http://lightoftheimagination.com/Freud-Civil-Disc.pdf

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. www.inp.uw.edu.pl / 1898. Web. http://www.inp.uw.edu.pl/mdsie/Political_Thought/Nie-GenologyofMorals.pdf

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