The grass is always sexier on the other side.

There is one particular paragraph that I find a little bizarre in this week’s Stoler reading, the gist of which can be summarized in two sentences:

Although novels and memoirs position European women as categorically absent from the sexual fantasies of European men, these very men imagined their women to be desired and seductive figures to others. Within this frame, European women needed protection from the ‘primitive’ sexual urges aroused by the sight of them. (58)

The idea of the sight of the European woman arousing the “primitive” colonized reminded me of Doris Lessing’s novel I read years ago, entitled The Grass is Singing, where an all too plain married white woman in living on a farm with her husband in Africa enters into a bizarre sexual affair with her slave. If memory serves me correctly, there’s one point in the beginning of the text where the narrator says something along the lines of “Mary just could not get along with the natives.” From what I remember, the African slave makes the first move to modify the strict mistress-servant relationship when Mary faints or suddenly feels weak and is put to bed by Moses, the slave. From that point on, Moses addresses her in a dangerously familiar, slightly controlling tone, seemingly exploiting Mary’s weakness as a woman.

However, I really don’t understand how exactly this sort of standard comes about: what is the appeal in imposing this image of sexual predation of native men on European women? Admittedly from the texts I’ve read (Lessing’s The Grass is Singing included) the rape or predatory relationship between colonized men and colonist women is about imposing control in some way on the colonist, even if only through the percieved weakest link.

I suppose this raises a few questions about whether the colonist men had this fantasy about their women exciting sexual urges in the “primitive” colonized because of this control.

One thought on “The grass is always sexier on the other side.

  1. Interesting ideas; you may want to also check out the film “Chocolat” by Claire Denis, which expresses this dynamic in a most interesting way. Coetzee’s “Disgrace” is also about this–but in my opinion writes about this from a very disturbing angle. Answers can be found about this in the second and third chapters of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks.