Gender Roles In 17th Century Essay

Length: 8 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Sports - Women Type: Essay Paper: #58663297 Related Topics: Gender Roles, Profanity, Double Jeopardy, Gender Issues
Excerpt from Essay :

In Wilmot's power the woman stays weak and never takes charge. There are many underlying issues that that are uncovered in the treatment of gender roles within the society in which these poems were written.

Men are expected to have a voracious appetite for sex. This appetite for sex is equated with power and power is the key defining feature of male identity. Gender roles and structures of oppression are clear in Wilmot's poem. Behm tears them down on a number of levels in her work. Thus, Behm lashes out against oppression against women, which was the norm in her society. The woman in Wilmot's poem is the object of desire. She displays the perfect response to male advances. She is at first hesitant and reluctant, but later gives in to his advances. In this way, she acts in the manner of a proper lady. The women are not supposed to be promiscuous. To simple give in to his advances would not be the actions of a proper lady. The proper lady must first resist before giving in to his advances. The forward control exhibited by the woman in Behm's poem would be considered to be lewd undesirable because of her outward style of sexual advances towards the male.

Another aspect of the impotence in these two poems is the suggestion of the time from that is imposed on the condition. In "The Imperfect Enjoyment" we suspect that the condition is temporary. It will be restored at some time in the future, as indicated by line 24, "Than fire to ashes could past flames restore." In "The Disappointment" the imagery suggests that the condition is permanent and enjoyment will never be restored the power will never be restored and the man's impotence is a permanent condition. This suggests that the man's power will be gone forever, ushering in a new age of woman's power and the beginning of echoes of he woman's suffrage movement that would not reach its culmination until several hundred years later.

Society at the time promoted the idea that the woman had to remain virtuous all the time. However, the man was expected to be sexually active, as a symbol of his power and prestige. This resulted in a double jeopardy for women. They were not supposed to actively enjoy sex, but they were expected to passively accept it. Behm's poem lashes out at this double standard and attempts to set a new tone for male/female interactions by portraying the strong women figure who is in control over the weaker male figure. The two poems examined in this research study are excellent examples of gender roles in their respective affect on the lives of men and women at the time of their writing.

Profanity and Culture

Wilmot's use of profanity was apparently meant to shock the reader, but how it was received by the contemporary reader is not known. By today's standards he poem is harsh and crude. The direct use of profane language and the references to body parts is a male perspective....


It would be allowable for a male writer of the time, but it would have been scandalous for a woman to use that type of language. Woman were supposed to be the gentile gender. They were expected to be more refined in their nature and to use such language would have been considered to be only reserved for those of lower status. The softened style of Behm further supports that this poem was written by a woman.

The poems of Wilmot and Behm provide distinctive contextual cultural clues as to the gender societal station of the characters in the poems. The crude, masculine nature of "The Imperfect Enjoyment" provides a glimpse into the world of the late 17th century male. "The Disappointment" provides a non-traditional viewpoint of the female in the same society. Behm's work contrasts to the portrayal of the female in Wilmot's work. The actions portrayed by the woman in Behm's work do not meet the expectations that are set down in Wilmot's work concerning the proper conduct and attitude of the woman.

The poems of Wilmot and Behm provide oppositional views of the role of men and women in 17th century society. Wilmot's work presents the traditional viewpoint and accepted societal norms of the time. Behm's work reflects a shift in attitude that would not come to fruition until later in the future. However, her work echoes discontent with traditional gender roles and the manner in which women were treated in society. It marks the beginning of a desire for change and a desire to break from the traditional roles that had developed. Behm's work was revolutionary and expressed what would be considered radical thought for the time.

When one begins to examine the work of these two authors, certain elements of the society in which they lived begin to clearly emerge. One of the key elements that can be derived from their poetry is the effect of class and gender roles. If one examine the role that sex plays in the poetry, one can gain a sense of how the power structures worked involving the subordination of women. In Wilmot's poem, he admitted that he had many lovers in the past who were little more than a way to satisfy his physical needs. However, he had no emotional connection to them. Behm treats the males in her poem much the same way. When it become apparent that he will not be able to please him, she loses interest and shows no emotional interest beyond sex.

A study of the works of Behm and Wilmot supports the thesis that one can gain an understanding of gender roles and class structure in late 17th century society. One can get an intimate sense of both the traditional roles of men and women and of the changes that would become apparent in later years. Wilmot's poem presents a more traditional picture of male and female roles, while Behm's works provides a role reversal of traditional gender roles. The subjugation of women is clear in both poems. It is apparent in Wilmot's treatment of women and in Behm's desire to escape the rules that bind women in that culture through her breaking of the rules.

Works Cited

Behm, Aphra. The Disappointment. Retrieved April 26, 2010 from http://www.web-

Wilmot, John. The Imperfect Enjoyment. Retrieved April 26, 2010 from

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Behm, Aphra. The Disappointment. Retrieved April 26, 2010 from http://www.web-

Wilmot, John. The Imperfect Enjoyment. Retrieved April 26, 2010 from

Cite this Document:

"Gender Roles In 17th Century" (2010, April 27) Retrieved June 28, 2022, from

"Gender Roles In 17th Century" 27 April 2010. Web.28 June. 2022. <>

"Gender Roles In 17th Century", 27 April 2010, Accessed.28 June. 2022,

Related Documents
Royal Patronage of 17th Century
Words: 1558 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Sociology Paper #: 91247298

While France relied on direct involvement of the royal power, either through the King or his ministers, Britain had a more formal royal patronage, that encouraged the activity, but did not sponsor or finance it. This also meant that in the former case, the activity was directed towards studies that could directly help the state, while in the latter case, the activity was much less directed by royal interest. Bibliography 1.

Barbados Culture Gender Roles and Working Life
Words: 3839 Length: 12 Pages Topic: Native Americans Paper #: 36207302

Barbados Culture Barbados was once called the Little England due to its landscape of rolling terrain, as well as its customs of tea drinking and cricket, the Anglican Church, parliamentary democracy and the conservatism of its rural culture. It has a well-developed airport, electrical supply and road system, especially after independence in 1966 when the tourist industry became the most important sector of the economy. Of course, it also inherited a

Tartuffe Moliere's Tartuffe Is From 17th Century
Words: 943 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Mythology - Religion Paper #: 24832074

Tartuffe Moliere's Tartuffe is from 17th century France, during the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was the ruler of France at this time. People in Paris were interested in Enlightenment values such as rationality, moderation, and order. Also, social graces, good manners, and gender roles were strictly enforced during this period. Moliere demonstrates all of these Enlightenment values in his play. The

Gender Women Occupy Conflicted and Ambiguous Roles
Words: 1687 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Sports - Women Paper #: 55478888

Gender Women occupy conflicted and ambiguous roles in Middle English and Renaissance English literature. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night all show how male authors in particular grappled with the role of women in an increasingly patriarchal society. Women feature prominently in each of these stories, even if their status and perceived morality is questionable. Each of these stories features women who have a

Gender in Mexican Intellectual History Juana Inez
Words: 892 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Sports - Women Paper #: 73291741

Gender in Mexican Intellectual History Juana Inez Ramirez de Asbaje, also known as Juana Ines de la Cruz, was an amazing woman in both Latin American and world history. Here was a woman writing in the 17th century who was willing to discuss the sexual practices of the males around her and to criticize them. Being a nun, this was even more out of the ordinary and makes Asbaje an even

Gender Religion and Social Relations in the Mediterranean
Words: 1113 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Mythology - Religion Paper #: 75023050

Gender Marc Baer. "Islamic Conversion Narratives of Women: Social Change and Gendered Religious Hierarchy in Early Modern Ottoman Istanbul." Gender & History 16, no. 2 (2004): 425-458 In "Islamic Conversion Narratives of Women: Social Change and Gendered Religious Hierarchy in Early Modern Ottoman Istanbul," Marc Baer presents a string of narratives illustrating the experiences of women in Early Modern Ottoman Istanbul, from around the 17th century. The narratives include strategic conversions to