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Sexual characters


Disciplines > Storytelling > Characters > Sexual characters

Description | Example | Discussion | See also


Sex is a natural part of human life for which we have very strong drivers. In stories it both provides an echo of our experiences and plays directly to our desires and fantasies.

In tales of morality, those who transgress social morals, such as Rakes, Seductresses and Lechers may well be punished for their sins. In other tales they may be objects of fantasy who play out our secret desires and allow for vicarious pleasures.


The Virgin

The Virgin is closely related to the Maiden, and may be the same person. From a sexual angle, of course, the Virgin has not had intercourse. She thus represents childhood extended and hence immortality and perpetual youth. Virginity is also associated with innocence, although of course a Virgin may know much (note here also how 'knowing' is often used as a euphemism for intercourse).

There is a particular symbolism about the Virgin who has sex for the first time. The man who 'deflowers' her, 'taking the cherry' (or many other symbolic metaphors), is seen as making a particular conquest, in the manner of the explorer who first climbs a mountain or crosses a continent. It is seen sometimes as admirable, whilst in other ways it is viewed despicable, particularly if associated with cynical seduction or base rape.

Men are also considered virgins before they have had sex, although this is not the origin of the word. In these days of open sexuality, it can also provide curious reversals that perhaps help men understand the state of female virginity.

Watching stories of virginity, we may envy the conqueror or empathize with the innocent virgin. The loss of virginity symbolizes a one-way transition and perhaps the transition from youth to adulthood.

The Flirt

The Flirt hints at sex but does not give it. The flirtation may deliberate or may be relatively innocent, done as unconscious seeking of attention.

Flirtation is often a game of mild temptation and acts as permissible titillation. Most of us flirt in small ways most days. We may also fantasize of flirtation turning into something more.

Flirtation seldom becomes more, remaining a relatively harmless stimulation that remains within the bounds of social morality. The Flirt thus adds pleasure but without actions that lead to later regret.

The Temptress

The Temptress goes further than the Flirt, sometimes more explicitly suggesting sexual or other pleasures and sometimes providing temptation just by her natural beauty.

The Temptress thus creates a trial for men. To fall for the temptation is to demonstrate a lack of self-control and perhaps cast oneself more as a base animal than a man of integrity.

The Seductress

The Seductress goes all the way, tempting men into sexual relations. Sometimes this is for her own pleasure but more often in stories it is to gain control over the man. Something akin to blackmail, she may threaten exposure unless he obeys her. She may also  require compliance to her demands before further sex is given.

The goal of the Seductress is often to ruin the man or achieve some other personal goal with little care for her lover, and with moral indignation we may concur with his punishment.

The Rake

The Rake is the male form of the Seductress. Through his charm he seduces vulnerable women with little concern for the person and no view to any long-term relationship.

Other men might envy his charisma and ability to get sexual gratification almost on demand and with beautiful women. If the Rake is sufficiently sympathetic, women might be vicariously charmed and indulge in secret fantasies.

The Mistress

The Mistress acts to some extent as a second wife for a man, providing love, sexual pleasures and a sympathetic friendship. In some ways she may be the idealized wife, giving pleasure without demanding punishment.

The man, wife, and Mistress form a triangle, within which tensions may be complex and are common in many storylines.

The position of the Mistress is of relative precariousness, especially if she is dependent on her lover for financial support. If she is independent or married, then other tensions may be exploited in the story.

The Whore

The Whore in stories is often at the bottom end of society, plying her trade as a route to survival rather than the more emotionally motivated Mistress, who may also be considered a Whore in some ways.

Whores often represent the depths of desperation and are often pitied more than disliked. Their unclean image also may represent danger and rough thrills for men.

The Unfaithful Husband

The Unfaithful Husband is one who consorts with Mistresses and Whores and perhaps succumbs to Seductresses. Particularly when exposed they act as a warning to other men. To women they may be objects of great scorn and dislike.

The Unfaithful Husband also represents the weakness of man and, by implication, the moral superiority of women. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' is an appropriate saying when the wife finds out. Her anger may appear as cold rejection or comical destruction of his clothes and other prized possessions.

The Cuckold

The Cuckold is a man whose wife has been seduced by another man. For the Cuckold, this is a position of defeat and domination by the other man and may thus elicit great anger and lead to acts of terrible revenge.

The Cuckold may also take revenge on his wife in a reflection of the revenge taken on the Unfaithful Husband, although his anger is usually reserved more for the offending other man.

The Lecher

Whilst relatively harmless in not performing any sexual acts, the Lecher still creates discomfort in women by his unwanted leering and other attention.

The most common emotion invoked by the Lecher is disgust, which comes from both women and other men. He is seen as representing base instincts yet played from a safe social position where little can be done about his leching. In stories, older men, particularly the rich and powerful, indulge in leching.

The Rapist

The Rapist is probably the most hated of all sexual positions. In women they create fear of defilement and in men they evoke protective responses towards their women.

In stories, Rapists are often criminals who may also kill their victims. Occasionally they are more sympathetic, for example when a youth gets carried away and later regrets his actions.

See also


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