Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
by Joyce Carol Oates
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Theme of Sexuality
At the core of Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is a struggle over the nature of sexuality. The story is set in 1960s America, a time when sexual mores were being questioned, adolescent sexuality hotly debated, and conventional roles for women challenged. In the psychosexual drama between the female adolescent protagonist and her male predator, the story explores how the repressive attitude toward sexuality in mainstream society not only jeopardizes a woman's sense of self but is also linked to sexual violence and violence in general toward women.
Questions About Sexuality
- What is Connie's attitude toward sex? How do her ideas about love and romance factor into it? How does her attitude toward sex affect the way she perceives herself and reacts to others?
- What is Arnold Friend's attitude toward sex? In what ways does he make himself sexually attractive? What do his words reveal about his attitude toward Connie?
- Take a look at the male and female characters. What are their distinctive features? How do their attitudes toward sex differ? What do those features tell us about how men and women are perceived?
Chew on This
Arnold Friend represents a notion of sexuality as a form of mastery and control.
Connie represents the detrimental effects of a culture that views women as sexual objects to be looked at, desired, and owned – but not as desiring subjects in their own right.