Study Guide

Moll Flanders Sex

Advertisement - Guide continues below


After he had thus baited his hook, and found easily enough the method how to lay it in my way, he played an opener game; and one day, going by his sister's chamber when I was there, doing something about dressing her, he comes in with an air of gaiety. (62)

Moll describes the beginning of her first sexual relationship – the one with the elder brother in Colchester – by saying that he "baited his hook." It sounds an awful lot like the elder brother regarded her as weak prey and attacked. Plus, it goes to show how far Moll has come, later, when she describes one of her relationships by saying, "I played with this lover as an angler does with a trout" (540). Suddenly she's the one in control, and the man is the prey.

Then he walked about the room, and taking me by the hand, I walked with him; and by and by, taking his advantage, he threw me down upon the bed, and kissed me there most violently; but, to give him his due, offered no manner of rudeness to me, only kissed a great while. (79)

Moll gives away a big clue here to her – or possibly society's – attitude towards intimacy that goes beyond kissing: it is "rudeness." You'd think that "rudeness" might include unwanted kissing that's also described as "violent," but Moll doesn't seem to think so.

My colour came and went, at the sight of the purse and with the fire of his proposal together, so that I could not say a word, and he easily perceived it; so putting the purse into my bosom, I made no more resistance to him, but let him do just what he pleased, and as often as he pleased; and thus I finished my own destruction at once, for from this day, being forsaken of my virtue and my modesty, I had nothing of value left to recommend me, either to God's blessing or man's assistance. (95)

It's hard to tell what matters to Moll more here – her attraction to the elder brother or her attraction to his money. It's "the sight of the purse and […] the fire of his proposal together" that makes her succumb to his advances. This also lays the groundwork for so many of the other intimate relationships Moll will have, each founded on or connected to the exchange of her body for money.

I lived, as I have said, but in the worst sort of whoredom, and as I could expect no good of it, so really no good issue came of it, and all my seeming prosperity wore off, and ended in misery and destruction. (341)

There's a joke here amidst all this talk of how being a whore is bad and immoral (which sounds a little bit like platitudes, by the way, because Moll's by no means done with prostitution). When Moll says "no good issue" will follow her actions, she could mean simply that nothing good came of her behavior, or it never got her anywhere. But "issue" is also another way of saying "children." According to the morals of the time, any child born out of wedlock would be considered less good than a legitimate child, which is why Moll is also saying "no good issue [will come]" of what she's doing.

He took my carriage very ill, and indeed he might well do so, for at last I refused to bed with him, and carrying on the breach upon all occasions to extremity, he told me once he thought I was mad, and if I did not alter my conduct, he would put me under cure; that is to say, into a madhouse. (350)

Poor Moll. She has a <em>really</em> good reason for withholding sex from her husband. Unfortunately, her husband has no idea that he is also Moll's brother, and back then, it seems, men expected their wives to meet their sexual demands. So her husband is probably wondering why in the world Moll would say no, and comes up with the only explanation that would make any sense to him – she's nuts.

Thus the government of our virtue was broken, and I exchanged the place of friend for that unmusical, harsh-sounding title of whore. (436)

Even though Moll and the guy she's seeing at this point had agreed to just be friends – no benefits – and "govern" their "virtue" together, the guy doesn't get called any harsh names for giving in to having sex. Instead, Moll's the one who has to pick up the "harsh-sounding" label, while he just gets to be a guy. Talk about a double standard.

"Well, well," says he, "and so I am, I hope, too. But I am something else too, madam; for," says he, "to be plain with you, I am a cuckold, and she is a whore." He spoke it in a kind of jest, but it was with such an awkward smile, that I perceived it was what struck very close to him, and he looked dismally when he said it. (503)

It might help to know that a cuckold was a name for a husband whose wife was cheating on him. So unlike Moll's Bath boyfriend, this man does pick up an unflattering reputation of his own when he's associated with a woman who's sleeping around. Of course, what's unflattering to the man is not that he's having lots of sex, but that he's <em>not</em> having any while the woman he <em>should</em> be having sex with is, instead, having sex with other, more inappropriate men. It's yet another double standard of this society where, basically, women are criticized for having sex outside of standard relationships, and men are criticized for <em>not</em> having sex within them.

First, it was past the flourishing time with me when I might expect to be courted for a mistress; that agreeable part had declined some time, and the ruins only appeared of what had been; and that which was worse than all this, that I was the most dejected, disconsolate creature alive. (737)

It's interesting that Moll is not only troubled by the fact that she has grown old and less desirable. In addition, she is bothered by the fact that because of this, she has to give up an easy way to make a lot of money, and now she'll have to find some other occupation, if you can call thievery an occupation.

If I had been younger, perhaps she might have helped me to a spark, but my thoughts were off that kind of livelihood, as being quite out of the way after fifty, which was my case, and so I told her. (764)

Moll's life and experience in the world only reinforces the idea that one of the best ways for a woman to make a living is hooking up with a "spark" and trading sex for an income. Here, what's stopping her from making money this way isn't a change in her morals or her character, but in her appearance: she's too old. With her looks not what they used to be, Moll can no longer use sex as a moneymaking tool.

Here he began to be a little freer with me than he had promised; and I by little and little yielded to everything, so that, in a word, he did what he pleased with me; I need say no more. (859)

Wait a minute. We thought Moll was over the hill. But apparently our girl has still got it, at least enough for one last go at prostitution. And no matter how much she blames the man for his advances, we can't help but notice that she doesn't seem to have any problems going along with it.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...