To Bed Without Shame

Simon Cropp

In Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music, the reader is likely to ask significant questions about the moral quality of Deborah. Here resides a married woman that not only sleeps around, but she seemingly has no true interest in her child except as a tool to further her conquests.

to-bed

The issue with demonizing a character like Deborah comes from a very real place of shaming those who are not in line with society’s modern moral views. And morals, while often believed to be divinely inspired, are more often self-imposed, culturally created constructs used to control.

The woman who cheats on her deployed husband.. Women still have been assigned terrible labels and stereotypes if they play to this trope. Just scroll down and read some of the [warning: explicit] comments at the bottom of that linked post. The responses to the person who wrote that post aren’t, I can’t think, truly protecting a divinely inspired sense of morality.

But a culturally imparted morality used to keep certain segments of our population in control.

I wonder then if Friedrich Nietzsche, when he writes in Geneology of Morals, “Morality seems bound up with obligation, with codes and rules, and somehow I don’t see the ‘blond beasts of prey’ kowtowing to rules (any more than to a social contract),” speaks of how the blond beast of prey, is that next step is breaking free from moral contracts. How women like Deborah are treated in real life, in the novel, is cruel and sickening, and to say it comes from a place of morality is merely a perversion of morality. If Deborah sees herself as unfit to be a mother, a Wife, then she has that right to be who she is without the constructs of a puritanical society shaming her into a place of isolation. Isolation, namely, from all relationships except those of a sexual nature.thou_shalt_vs_i_will_by_shton-d853mhw

Morality is a cultural code. And I wonder, looking at Nietzsche’s quote again, if he believed in not morals (or better morals), but this evolution of the metaphor of the lion (the blond headed beast), and ultimately the child–which makes us better people. Not better moral constructs.

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Sleeping Around

Something that made me uncomfortable reading To Bed with Grand Music is the way that readers respond to Deborah. I am including myself in on this, because despite all of my reasoning and all of the class discussion, I still can’t get behind the character. I know somewhere in my mind that Deborah is not an awful person, but there is always still something nagging at me and telling me that I can’t support a protagonist like her. I don’t agree with all of the choices that Deborah makes, but sometimes I forget that Grant gives Deborah permission to cheat on him when he says “I don’t want to promise to you I’ll be physically faithful to you . . . I’ll never let myself fall in love with anyone else . . . Darling will you promise me the same” (Laski 2). Grant is just as much to blame as Deborah for the situation, and he is probably doing the same thing as Deborah, but the blame still falls on her. Even so, Deborah’s character doesn’t seem like a good person to me, and I think that it is because we have been conditioned to think that way.

There are so many double standards when it comes to sex in regards to men and women. If a man sleeps around he is a legend, but if a woman sleeps around she is a slut. Growing up I always heard “If a key unlocks multiple locks you call it a master key. But if a lock opens for any key it is useless.” This is such an unfair way to think about sex, and it puts women in such a tough position. This way of thinking tells women that even though sex is natural they aren’t meant to enjoy it because they don’t have a penis. I grew up in a world where I was conditioned to look down on women who slept around, and I think that is why I have the underlying problem with Deborah. Society is moving in the right direction in terms of gender equality, but I think that we still have a long way to go if the issues of women having sex are still prevalent today.

Laski, Marghanita. To Bed with Grand Music. 1946. Persephone Books, 2009

Samantha Hudspeth