Female sexuality in the colonies

What stood out most for me in the Stoler reading was the blatant double standards that colonialist men imposed upon the women, and in a very uni-directional way. What Stoler really highlighted in this chapter was the way women became, like the colonised, another passive ‘site’ upon which white men could designate meanings and place anxieties. Stoler talks about how women were thought to be too fragile, needing special places to live in, or jealous of the “dusky sirens” etc., and how white men saw the white women (whom they did not desire sexually) to be sexually attractive to the native men. For me, Stoler seemed to be drawing a parallel between the natives (men and women), and white women—ultimately, both groups were there to be viewed and interpreted (or misinterpreted) by the white men. The ‘truth’ of matters hardly played into colonialist decision-making or beliefs, but perceptions did.

It’s interesting to think about issues of white female sexuality in colonialism, mainly because we always think of the act of colonialism as being a very male-oriented sexual action. The ideas of penetration, staking a claim on virgin land and so on, seem to preoccupy a lot of thinking about colonialism even today, and although women are coming to be more present in colonial/postcolonial scholarship, we think less about female sexuality, especially white female sexuality.