Rochester 's Radical Gender Roles

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Rochester’s Radical Gender Roles Many poets and authors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used their respective mediums to broach what were then considered to be taboo or radical subjects. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘radical’ as “supporting complete political or social reform. Departing from tradition; new” (Soanes 740). When using this definition, both Aphra Behn’s work, “The Disappointment” and John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester’s work, “The Imperfect Enjoyment” are easily interpreted as such. Both poems discuss sexuality and gender in new, sometimes shocking ways. Behn’s poem offers astoundingly liberal views on female sexuality, considering the time period. Despite the radical notions and expletives present, Rochester’s pushes the envelope further by exploring the extremely private issue of impotence and male sexual failure, using highly offensive language. In the year “The Disappointment” was written, traditional gender roles were still very important to society and generally adhered to. This means that men were expected not only to be ‘manly’, but to maintain a certain air of dignity and composure at all times, especially in front of women. For this reason, Rochester’s blatant disregard for social conventions in his brutally honest depiction of erectile dysfunction is simultaneously revolutionary and scandalous. To portray a male in a less-than-flattering light undermines the stereotypes society tried so hard to uphold and represents a
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