Most of Heart of Darkness deals with a bunch of nineteenth-century dudes who travel into the core of Africa with no women aboard the ship. Sex? Not happening. (We're not saying that you couldn't find some HoD fan fiction on Livejournal, but you're on your own there.) The closest anyone comes to saying anything even vaguely sexual is Marlow's description of the warrior woman as "wild and gorgeous" (3.13) and the Intended as beautiful—but even those descriptions leave us feeling pretty cold.
So what's up with the ladies in this novel, anyway? The two main female characters—the warrior woman and the Intended—are both nameless and practically voiceless, while the few other women mentioned—the two knitting women, Marlow's aunt, and the woman in the painting—either have a supernatural quality to them or are never actually seen in person within the text.
Well, if Marlow is at all representative of Conrad's beliefs, then maybe we should revisit his comment that "we [men] must help them [women] to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse" (2.29). If Marlow cuts women out of his tale to preserve the beauty of these particular characters, Conrad cuts women out of Heart of Darkness to preserve their separateness from this rather depressing and gloomy world.
Which, of course, means no sexytimes. Is it a fair trade?