Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Sex

By Tennessee Williams

Sex

… but contains a folding bed to be used by Blanche. The room beyond is a bedroom. (1.40)

Notice the immediate and obvious presence of Stanley and Stella’s bed? Blanche finds herself right on the edge of their sex life – in more ways than one.

Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens. […] He sizes women up with a glance, with sexual clarifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them. (1.205)

After this description of Stanley, we expect him to view Blanche in an overtly sexual way. Look at the dialogue that follows – does he view her as a sexual object? Why or why not?

STANLEY
My clothes are stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable? [He starts to remove his shirt.]
[…]
STANLEY
Be comfortable is my motto. (1.219-21)

Stanley’s ease and comfort contrast sharply with Blanche’s rigid sense of sexual propriety and the hidden shame she harbors.

Blanche moves back into the streak of light. She raises her arms and stretches, as she moves indolently back to the chair. (3.88)

Blanche tries to use her sex appeal to gain influence over men. It’s essentially the only tool she has at her disposal. This is interesting, since Stanley’s overt masculinity is his only tool.

Blanche waltzes to the music with romantic gestures. Mitch is delighted and moves in awkward imitation like a dancing bear. (3.164)

Blanche’s subtle charms and sophistication are clearly lost on Mitch. It’s interesting that, because of the almost caricature-like nature of the awkward Mitch, the audience is inclined to side with Stella’s choice of a partner, rather than Blanche’s. This certainly complicates our reading of the play.

STANLEY
[with heaven-splitting violence]
STELL-LAHHHHH!
[The low-tone clarinet moans. The door upstairs opens again. Stella slips down the rickety stairs in her robe. Her eyes are glistening with tears and her hair loose about her throat and shoulders. They stare at each other. Then they come together with low, animal moans. He falls to his knees on the steps and presses his face to her belly, curving a little with maternity. Her eyes go blind with tenderness as she catches his head and raises him level with her. He snatches the screen door open and lifts her off her feet and bears her into the dark flat.] (3.198)

Sex seems to be the strongest bond between Stella and her husband.

STELLA
Why on our wedding night – soon as we came in here – he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place smashing the light-bulbs with it.
[…]
BLANCHE
And you – you let him? Didn’t run, didn’t scream?
STELLA
I was – sort of – thrilled by it. (4.18-22)

There is definitely an undercurrent of sexuality to Stanley’s violent aggression – and one that Stella finds very attractive.

STELLA
But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark – that sort of make everything else seem – unimportant. [Pause]
BLANCHE
What you are talking about is brutal desire – just – Desire! – the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bans through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another… (4.103-4)

It’s interesting that Blanche seems to identify lust as a vulgar, common emotion, considering that she is guilty of it herself.

BLANCHE
Well you do, honey lamb! Come here. I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth! (5.116)

One of the most fascinating aspects of Streetcar is the tension between Blanche’s Southern belle demeanor and what is obviously a very sexual and very hidden self.