* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
Dismiss
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs

Analysis: Steaminess Rating

Exactly how steamy is this story?

PG-13

Well, PG-13, unless you were living in the 1860s. Then it might be a lot closer to R.

There's no actual depiction of sex in the novel, but there sure are a lot of sexual hints and threats. Given that Dr. Flint is nearly forty years older than Linda, his sexual pursuit of her seems not just gross, but, well, illegal, at least by today’s standards.

The most important thing about sex in the novel is that, for the most part, slave women don’t get to choose who they have sex with. As Linda puts it, Northern women who "have been free to choose the objects of [their] affection" shouldn't judge slave women (10). With no legal possession of their bodies, enslaved women had no control over their sexuality.

This is why Linda’s sexual relationship with Mr. Sands is so important (even if it’s creepy)—it is her choice. As Linda says, “It seems less degrading to give one’s self, than to submit to compulsion. There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you” (10.5). For a slave-girl in the nineteenth century, an act like this was a major symbol of choice and agency.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Noodle's College Search
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement