It is a divided issue whether D. H. Lawrence is to be considered a friend or a foe to the feminist movement. On one hand, he advocates an egalitarian man-woman relationship, on the other, his notion of equality seems rather subject to qualification. His reference to the ideal monogamous partnership as "phallic marriage" (Spilka 7) is certainly a cue that must be taken up. Why is marriage "phallic" unless the phallus is privileged in the expression of sexuality? (de Beauvoir 205) The idealisation of gender relationships leads to an essentialisation of gender, which is itself at the source of patriarchal domination. Is Lawrence really a liberator of sex, or only of patriarchal sex? Does he grant more independence to the women in his novels than his predecessors or just a little more freedom within the confines of established expectations? The answers to these will be that Lawrence is not a raving misogynist (as has been suggested), but is certainly a long way from perfectly enlightened.
Rupert Birkin, the Lawrentian leading male of Women in Love, extols a philosophy of "star-equilibrium" in which the partners of a love relationship remain separate and individual, not blurred into one another, but together in knowledge of their difference. (WIL 230)
"Why not leave the other being free, why try to melt, or absorb, or merge? One might abandon oneself utterly to the moments, but not to any other being." (WIL 269) These "moments" are where one falls out of personal concern and into the rhythm of the organic universe. "Because of his belief in the life-force, he has generally been called a 'vitalist.' But 'organicist' would come much closer to the mark, since the goal of life, for Lawrence, was organic wholeness, or the achievement of 'full, spontaneous being.'" (Spilka 4)
Sex, properly treated, is the key to spontaneity. This is not because it is passionate or animalistic, it is because it is the meeting of two essentially opposed and alien forces-the two halves of human experience-the masculine and feminine.
Sex is the balance of male and female in the universe, the attraction, the repulsion, always different, always new... Sex goes through the rhythm of the year, in man and woman, ceaselessly changing: the rhythm of the sun in his relation to the earth.
Marriage is the clue to human life, ...[but] marriage is no marriage that is not basically and permanently phallic. (A Propos Lady Chatterly 40-42)
He goes on to describe the phallus as the "column of blood" that fills the woman's "valley of blood" without ever breaking through and commingling. This ultimate nearness which still respects individuality is the deepest "mystery" of science and religion, both of which are invoked in the elaboration of Lawrence's theory. The problem, he feels with modern Europe is that sex is too egoistic and conscious; one has sex for and with oneself1 and not...