The Boudoir of Bellatrix Lestrange

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The Boudoir of Bellatrix Lestrange

Post by thegirlnamedcrow on Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:39 pm

          Though this isn’t always the case, oftentimes it can be incredibly revealing to consider a character’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding sex, love, and relationships in general. I am particularly interested in this aspect of Bellatrix’s life, given the conservative, patriarchal, and presumably fairly sexually repressive environment in which she was raised, as well as the fact that she married not for love, but to fulfill her role as a respectable pureblood heiress.


          Below are my ramblings on this topic specifically for my portrayal of Bellatrix. There isn’t too much in the way of canon facts about this subject, so this is all my own subjective take on the matter. My apologies for the length; I’m a neuroscientist by trade and can’t help but dissect her mind like this.
When I initially wrote Bellatrix’s biography, I suspected that she was asexual. I have since realized that this is not the case. Bellatrix certainly is a woman who experiences specifically directed sexual desire. It is simply the case that this desire makes her deeply uncomfortable.


          Bellatrix’s parents taught her to discount her own needs and feelings in order to put first image, honor, and family values. It didn’t matter if she was hungry; she should not have a second helping at dinner, because a proper pureblood woman watched her figure. It didn’t matter if she was tired; there would be no turning in early if there were guests to entertain. She could be irritable or angry or even deeply depressed, but her perfect practiced smile should never falter. Being a pureblood meant being inherently better than everyone else, but maintaining this superiority was not without effort. Being a pureblood meant continuously working to better oneself, to control oneself more expertly, and to fail to live up to one’s blood was to disgrace not just oneself, but one’s entire family.


          The result of all of this is that, despite having grown up surrounded by luxury, she learned early on to deny herself in many areas. Though she is hardly the type to deprive herself of the things that she wants, she has learned to be selective about her indulgences. There is, in her mind, a world of difference between splurging on a new set of dress robes when she has dozens of sets at home that she’s never worn and giving into temptation and having a second slice of cake at a party. The former is wholly acceptable, as it enhances her image as a wealthy and beautiful pureblood heiress. The latter is beyond reprehensible; it is shameful, disgusting, and indicative of deep personal weakness, of an inability to resist urgings of the flesh.


          This is, in part, how her perception splits the world. Matters of mind, of intellectual curiosity, social relevance, or of aesthetic value (of higher brain function, in other words), should always take precedence over drives from the body and heart.


          More than anything else, more even than her family’s puritanical views on matters of the bedroom (though these too are incredibly important, and I will get to those later), it is this splitting that shapes the way that Bellatrix thinks about sex. Convinced as she is of the importance of the mind mastering the body, she thinks of sexual desire as being the basest of all human desires. An appetite for sex is, to her, far worse than an appetite for food. Sustenance is, after all, a necessity of life, and it is only in excess that hunger becomes something shameful. But while reproduction is essential for the continuation of any species and is an important part of her philosophy, given that it is vital for the preservation of pureblood family lines, celibacy is not in and of itself fatal. Despite that, sexual desire can be as powerful a motivator as survivor instinct. It can hijack thought, impair cognitive ability, and lead people to abandon their deepest convictions for what is, in the end, momentary pleasure that only leave one wanting more.


          This triumph of the body over the mind both appalls and terrifies Bellatrix. Appalls because giving in to one’s libido goes completely against all that she believes about proper conduct, and terrifies because she herself is not deaf to calls of the flesh.


          Her problems with sex are entirely mental. There is nothing about her anatomy or sexual orientation that stands in the way of satisfaction; Bellatrix is fully capable of experiencing sexual pleasure, and can even achieve orgasm under the right conditions, and she does experience sexual attraction. But so deep is her shame and self-disgust that she cannot enjoy the sensation. Her mind warps the experience into something uncomfortable and unsatisfying, something to be avoided at all costs.


          The fact that sex is necessary for reproduction only makes Bellatrix feel more uncomfortable with it. She can never quite shake the feeling that she is being bred when her husband sleeps with her, even when contraception is in play. Additionally, sex brings to the forefront of Bellatrix’s mind the fact that she is a woman, which to her feels very dehumanizing. Given the general role of women in pureblood society (or what I believe to be their role, given textual clues), Bellatrix feels very uncomfortable being a woman. It isn’t that she experiences any degree of gender dysphoria – her problems are not with her anatomy, but with the way society treats people with her specific genital configuration. In many ways, Bellatrix rebels against her role as a pureblood heiress – she marches as a man in the Dark Lord’s army, she fights as a man, and she interacts with her husband more or less as an equal. Despite that, society still treats her a certain way, and she balks at that, and does her best to distance herself from the general idea of femininity. If it were acceptable to make herself more masculine – to dress in more masculine clothes, to present herself in a more masculine way – she would without a doubt do it, if only to be taken more seriously. As it is, she plays her part, wearing beautiful robes and makeup and acting as a high society lady, but she doesn’t play the part comfortably.


          All of this, quite obviously, has a profound effect on her marriage to Rodolphus Lestrange. Sex is an important part of every marriage, and though Bellatrix does perform her marital duties, she isn’t generally particularly happy about it. If she found her husband repellant, and if sex with him were completely unenjoyable, she might actually be able to get a bit of pleasure out of the experience. As it is, the fact that she is sexually attracted to Rodolphus only makes it worse. Sleeping with him feels like surrendering to her needs, and she cannot allow herself to enjoy most sexual interactions with him because of that. 


          She can only really enjoy sex when she feels as though she is using it for some other purpose. Interestingly enough, if she decides to sleep with her husband because she is trying to manipulate him, she can actually experience unhindered sexual pleasure, when ordinarily she would be too consumed with self-hatred to find much enjoyment in the whole ordeal. She manages to justify it to herself, not really consciously thinking this, but separating orgasms of manipulation from other climaxes. 
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