Project Title: Les Femmes Nues: The Evolution and Devolution of Women as Sexual Fantasies in Le Pain Nu by Mohamed Choukri
Student: Abigail Hanson ’16
Mentor: Dr. Mary Anne Lewis
At the beginning of Le pain nu, Mohamed sees women in two groups — family members and sexual fantasies. He describes his mother with little detail and with little understanding of her and her emotions. In fact, all he understands of gender at the beginning is "Men beat women. Women cry and scream "(14). Mohamed describes women who are not his family as sexual fantasies. For example, Assia is his first encounter with a girl. He becomes a voyeur as he watches her swim naked and then dreams about this image (32-33). Moreover, he sees a woman in the garden in chapter six and is she is also his fantasy because it takes place in a dream world where "the devil danced in her body" (73). He imagines all women except his mother and sister as his own image - as sexual objects waiting to pleasure him. But, his experience with Sallafa changes how Mohamed views women - she is a person and not a fantasy. She is sexual, but she is also important, real, and even lovable. In this essay, I argue that the women Mohamed views as sexual creatures are more important to him during most of the novel, but in the end, through his experiences with these “real” women, he is no longer obsessed with his fantasies, and realizes that his family is more important. Toward the end, the sexual fantasies disappear behind the veil of what is really important to Mohamed, as well as a more developed understanding of women (for example, when he regrets masturbating to the image of raping Assia (119); he would not have thought twice about this action previously.) I also aim to show how women's rights, gender issues, and prostitution in Morocco in the 1940s may have influenced Mohamed’s ideas of women.