The term "sexuality"

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The Concept of Sexuality and Women's Roles in Society

The term "sexuality" broadly refers to an individual's sexual conduct. The understanding of women's roles in society and their sexualities, both individually and collectively, is influenced by a number of socially constructed concepts. Despite the fact that humans engage in sexual encounters as a result of their biologically driven wants, this is the case. Heterosexual monogamy is regarded as the right understanding of sexuality in many groups of civilizations. Different forms of sexuality, some of which are seen as natural while others are regarded as filthy and immoral, are a feature of the modern world. People’s sexualities today are influenced by different factors; mostly the surrounding factors that in one way or another affect one’s thought pattern. The current information age is being influenced by foreign cultures because there is extensive global contact through the Internet. In this paper, there is the comparison of how sexuality and the women are presented in Baby Face (1933) and Pillow Talk (1959). They will represent the manner in which women and sexuality were perceived in the period between the years 1930 to 1960.

Baby Face Film

Baby Face (1933), was among the most powerful films to be produced in Hollywood at the time. In the film, Lily is a young lady raised in an illicit liquor joint adjacent to a Pennsylvanian steel mill. The dad takes her out to the workers and resident politicians, but she does not entertain the men who wanted her. She chooses to avoid interacting with them, and this shows independence on her side. It means that each individual has the liberty to conserve individual sexuality to oneself, or to share it out with the preferred persons.

The Position of Women in Society

The fact that the father pimps her out to other men depicts two angles in portraying the position of women in the society. Firstly, the fact that the father exposes her to illicit drunkards for sexual purposes means that women are sex objects in the society. The men gladly receive her and make advancements to have her at their pleasure. This comes without her father asking for her consent and in this sense, her choice or opinion does not count. It is an implication that women have to follow whatever orders they are dictated upon by male counterparts. Secondly, Lily presents women as firm and strict individuals in the society. She declines the invitations of these men, who are considerably older than her, given the fact that it is her father who was pimping her. It is a show of self-worth and autonomous thought patterns that are not swayed even by her father.

The Influence of Outside Factors

Lily is shown in town trying to find her pride where a German cobbler advises her to use men in order to get the things that she wanted. The cobbler started by telling Lily that she had power over the men and so her position in the society is superior to that of the men. However at this point, the cobbler is not clear to her in which way that she is superior to the men, but he is clear that she has to use men to get what she wants. This statement shows the position of women in that; they have to depend on men in a bid to achieve their desires in life. Even if he had initially stated that women have power over the men, it is clear that the cobbler did not mean that the women had legitimate authority over their male counterparts. The power that they have over the men can be exercised when the women submit to their male counterparts and please them so that they get what they want.

After the advice of the cobbler, Lily moves to New York, secures employment in a big midtown bank. Straightaway, she starts sleeping her way up the ladder to higher ranks in the institution. Between the brief scenes seduction, the exterior of the bank premises is tilted up as Lily goes up from the workforces unit, to filing, and then the mortgage department. Her lovers wind up dead and Lily resorts to nabbing the grandson of the bank’s founder. In the process, she gains furs, jewelry, a chauffeured car, and a maid. When the grandson gets in distress with at his corporation, Lily declines to sell the jewelry in a bid to save him. Her argument is that she has to think of herself because she had gone through a lot of things in order to have things done. Finally, she redeems herself, keeps the man and comes to the realization that even if she is not rich, she will be happy. This shows that women are ideal people who can save a situation when things are getting out of hand.

The Role of Sexuality in the Society

The encounter at the bank communicates volumes with regard to the issue of sexuality and the position of women in the society. Lily gets what she wanted through following the piece of advice offered by the cobbler. Sexuality in this sense is seen as a tool of trade which is mainly used by women to achieve what they want. However, men are not in a position to utilize their sexuality because the cobbler had the secret but still could not secure a decent job or additional wealth. Sexuality can be viewed as an asset that is more useful to the women than it is to the male counterparts in the context of using it for material progression.

Pillow Talk Film

The Pillow Talk film initiated other sex comedies that were deemed as racy at the end of 1950s and early 1960s. The film is important because it shows the manner in which women were portrayed at that time. It is possible to study this phenomenon through analyzing the visual traits, mood, tone, theme, plot, and narrative patterns in the film. The plots illustrate the manner in which couples are bound to their bond to show various love stories with diverse prescriptions; one for the men and another for women for sustaining a love relationship. In this sense, it can be concluded that the film advocates for the unitary form of partnership between lovers and hence sexuality is a mutual affair between couples. Both the man and the woman are obliged to remain together and be faithful to each other in terms of sexual matters.

Women's Forgiveness and Vulnerability

In the film, the two main characters come together since they have an issue with sharing a single telephone line with two numbers. Brad, a songwriter, and playboy is seen romancing one woman after another through the telephone. He sings to them the original love song and in the escapades, Jan, cannot use the line to for official purposes. The two parties develop differences out of this issue until a certain evening in the nightclub, the two meet and brad is attracted to Jan. The feud gets resolved, and Jan portrays women as tender persons who are quick to forgive and forget easily. From her easy approach to Brad, it shows that women easily move on after they are upset; they are vulnerable to male dominance without claiming account for the same.

The Visual and Narrative Depiction of Women

The visual characteristics of the film show the manner in which women are perceived. There are different sets to consider the set and the costume. Some of them include the studio, style, age, sex, class, fabric, décor, body exposure, image, and symbolic function. The women are portrayed as colorful, flamboyant, and placed in the film for entertainment. It shows that the position of women in the society is to appear appealing to the men. They should look beautiful and attractive to their male counterparts in the society.

On top of the visual characteristics, the narrative patterns place women in a different position in the society. In the second scene, the director introduces the cultural context that exploits and romanticizes women, rendering them unrealistic. Stock characters in the film are moneyed, educated, twenty-something, and Caucasians. The production code allowed Hollywood to show independent working women to be without explicit sexual desires. Women are shown as people whose sexuality is greatly influenced by their social statuses in the society. The ones that appear to be of low social classes and income brackets are likely to be sexually susceptible. On the contrary, the rich ones are more conscious of their sexualities and what they want in life. The second lot is independent and not likely to be vulnerable to explicit sexual engagements.

Comparison and Conclusion

Both of these films have similar ways of presenting women as well as their sexualities in the society. However, Baby Face was produced before the Hays Code was put to effect, but Pillow Talk came after the implementation of the code. The Hays Code was adopted in the year 1930, but was fully implemented in 1934. It included a set of rules and regulations that were intended to govern the American filmmaking industry. After the implementation of the code, the films to be published had to have the seal of the Production Code Authority (PCA) for approval. The studios could voluntarily accord the PCA the mandate to review and get rid of morally inappropriate materials from the final script of the film. In accordance with the code, films had to embrace the sanctity of marriage and issues of drug addiction, nudity, sexual seduction, and racism were banned from public broadcast. Also, it was forbidden to show violence, details of crime, display weaponry, or even discuss violent matters on the screens.

In both films, there is an indirect depiction of the concept of sexuality and position of women in the society. In Baby Face, sexuality is depicted as a tool of trade that can be used by women to go up the ladder in the society. Women are seen as the ones who can manipulate men and exercise their illegitimate power in a bid to get what they want. Initially, the father exposed Lily to men for sexual advancements and this shows that the position of women in the society is that of sex objects. In the second film, Pillow Talk, the issues of sexuality and position of women in the society are shown indirectly through the entire production. Women are depicted as soft people who easily forgive their transgressors. The manner in which Brad hits on different women on the telephone shows that they are sex objects and he can manipulate them. Women are seen as entertainment entities who exist to please men. The Hays Code does not affect the production of both of these films because one was produced before the rules and regulations came to effect, while the other one appeared when the code was being abandoned.


Denby, David. 2016. "What Movie Censors Did For Women". The New Yorker.

Doherty, Thomas Patrick. Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen & the Production Code Administration. Columbia University Press, 2007.

Foster, Gwendolyn A. 2015. Loc.Gov.

Lopez, Kristen. 2015. "Baby Face (1933)". Journeys In Classic Film.

Shiner, Michael. "Drug use and social change." In Drug Use and Social Change, pp. 158-169. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2009.

Swanicke, Helena Ann. "How women are portrayed in the romantic comedies Pillow Talk (1959) and When Harry Met Sally (1989)." PhD diss., Drew University, 2016.

April 06, 2023

Sociology Literature



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