By looking at attitudes towards sex and sexuality in a given community, one can begin to see what one generation passes down to the next. This highlights how personal ideas about sex and sexuality are constructs we receive from the ones who raise us. This glimpse into a community can tell us a lot about a community’s values. As a revolving theme throughout Sula and Walden Two, we gain insight, not only into the social norms of these two communities but into our own ideas of how our sexuality influences us in our daily lives and in the communities, we are a part of. While both Walden Two and Medallion maintain a traditional view of sex through sexual monogamy, in which sex is to be enjoyed within the social conventions of the community, that is where the similarities end. The communities exhibit a dichotomy in which sex is approached openly yet is viewed only as a process of procreation in Walden Two, while in Medallion sex is privatize and serves to maintain marriages and established gender roles within the community.
In Walden Two the openness about sex and sexuality serves as a means of control. Sex is framed in such a way that its sole purpose is for procreation. After childbearing years, sex all but disappears from the lives of the community members. Skinner challenges many traditional views of sex and sexuality. Adolescent years are robbed, for teenagers are encouraged to get married and have children. In Walden Two a couple who isn’t even eighteen years old yet, are already parents. Skinner writes, “the average age of the Walden Two mother is eighteen at the birth of her first child and we hope to bring it down still further” (119). This openness and acceptance about teen sex and pregnancy is quite startling for most and goes against traditional values and norms. Skinner further writes, “Sex is no problem in itself. Here the adolescent finds an immediate and satisfactory expression of his natural impulses. It’s a solution which is productive, honorable, and viewed by the community with admiration and pride” (121). Sex among sixteen and seventeen-year-olds is not seen as a deviant act. It is encouraged for procreational purposes to populate Walden Two with the next generation and to shorten generation times. This encouragement and openness around sex can be viewed as Fraiser’s way to populate his community and continue behavioral engineering.
Frasier believed that allowing sex to occur without shame as it comes naturally to an individual, would lessen the allure of sex and create normal sexual adjustment among its young adults. In turn, this would help to prevent promiscuity. In a conversation between Fraiser, Burris, and Castle addressing a hypothetical scenario in which a boy with an aggressive sexual problem comes to Walden Two, Frasier explains that the young in the community have “never found sex amusing or secretly exciting. They know the bodily functions of both sexes, and they’re looking forward to marriage within a couple of years” (212). Although in Walden Two sex is viewed openly, this statement shows that the community still holds some traditional attitudes towards sexual activity. Sex is bound to marriage and not seen as an activity for enjoyment or pleasure. This highlights how traditional values of monogamy still prevail and that the open attitudes towards sex are not meant to advocate for anything more than sex between a man and women, or in this case a girl and a boy, within the confines of a marriage. Furthermore, Fraiser explains, “we don’t regard extramarital love as wholly justifiable or without its difficulties” (130). Further exhibiting the community’s values and respect for sex within a marriage.
As marriages mature and the childbearing years come to an end in Walden Two, couples are advised to go from shared living quarters to separate rooms. Fraiser claims, “in the long run there’s a more satisfactory relation when a single room isn’t shared” (128). The sexless marriages of couples, that comes after they are done having children, is no surprise. As aforementioned sex is not found to be amusing or exciting, so it holds no value after a couple is done with procreation. This is seen a good thing in Walden Two. Libido is redirected into more productive activities such as work and art. Without the complications that come with sex, the members of Walden Two have more time to focus on improving and building a better community.
Unlike in Medallion, sex does not stand to perpetuate gender roles in Walden Two. Once a woman is done childbearing, “she has made the special contribution which is either the duty or privilege of woman, and can take her place without distinction of sex” (123). Fraiser explains that equality between men and women is commonplace in the community. He talks about how friendships are even encouraged between men and women and how this serves to discard the expectation of seduction. “When a man strikes up an acquaintanceship with a woman, he does not worry about failing to make advances, and the woman isn’t hurt if advances aren’t made” (130). Women and men don’t feel pressured to play the roles of the “seducer” and the “seduced”, thus not perpetuating stereotypical gender roles within the community.
You can’t talk about the role of sexuality in a community without bringing up deviance. Walden Two has a unique way of dealing with acts that go against their norms and values. In Walden two sexual deviance is downplayed compared to other communities and societies. The “fourteen-years-olds have been told of the sexual practices of children in society at large” (212). This educates them so that they can handle situations with outsiders that are less than ideal. Obscenities and attempted seductions are viewed as shortcomings and are handled through “counter-education” and a trip to the psychologist for some behavioral modification aka engineering.
Like in Walden Two, in Medallion, societal attitudes towards sex and sexuality stem from a traditional view based on monogamy and marriage. For women, it is expected that they control their sexual behavior to maintain marital solidarity.
The big difference between these communities is how sexual deviance is handled.
are a world apart from Walden Two’s views.
strong sexual standards exist which only perpetuate heteronormative ideas of gender.
“with the exception on BoyBoy, those Peace women loved all men. It was manlove that Eva bequeathed to her daughters” (41)
“they began to dance, pressed in among the others, and each one turned his thoughts to the night that was coming on fast” (85). The anticipation and eagerness sensed here hints that Nel and Jude had never had sex before and had waited until their wedding night. This is indicative of the traditional societal values of Medallion in which sex, for women at least, is meant to be between husband and wife. This ideology acts to help discourage premarital sex and preserve a marriage.
The “good” women in Medallion said, “one thing I can’t stand is a nasty woman” (44).
“Seeing her step so easily into the pantry and emerge precisely as did when she entered, only happier, taught Sula that sex was pleasant and frequent, but otherwise unremarkable” (44).
“She was pariah, then, and knew it. Knew they despised her and believed that they framed their hatred as disgust for the easy way she lay with men” (122).
“what do you mean take him away” I didn’t kill him, I just fucked him” (145).
This down-play of sex for pleasure in Walden Two is the reverse of sex as recreation, which is seen in Medallion. However, both communities maintain a traditional foundation in which their views of sex and sexuality are based.
- Skinner, B. F. Walden Two. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005. (Print)
- Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Vintage International, 2004. (Print)