Discussing: Frodo's Sexuality
31 Dec 02 2:56 PM
This thread also discusses homosexuality and bisexuality as legitimate and ethical modes of sexual expression. If you are categorically opposed to such an idea, please do not read or post to this thread.
So, what *is* he?
31 Dec 02 3:56 PM
Reply To: 2403
I am always aware of the body of fanfic that I am writing in and against in terms of Frodo, as detailed in Writing a Green Sun. There were certain tropes I wanted to address, but not fall into: Victim!Frodo, Angsty!Frodo, Gay!Frodo, Innocent&Pure!Frodo, etc., etc. Much of these conventions I put into the thoughts and words of characters who are interacting with him. Bilbo often sees Frodo as a victim and would like to see him as an innocent, a number of characters think of him as "gay", i.e., as desiring and seeking out male sexual partners, accompanied by a dislike of females, and so on.
When I look at this character, I see someone whose dominant sexual orientation is towards females, but who is not averse to engaging in sex with males. For the most part, Frodo does not have any sexual desire for other males - he is not aroused when performing oral sex on the bullies or on Sara, for example - but he is keenly aware of the effect he has on them. Sex with other males is an act of domination or submission, not primarily performed for erotic pleasure. Blow jobs are both a reinforcement and a subversion of the socio-political order at Brandy Hall. It is implied, in the last chapter, that Frodo may have been sexually servicing other males besides Sara, Tom or the bullies, and doing so as a way of dominating these unidentified males through providing or withholding sexual sevices. Frodo is adept at manipulating others' desire for him.
The exceptions to the domination and submission rule are his relations with Tom and his fantasies about Bilbo. Both of these relationships are unsettling to Frodo, particularly trying to understand his feelings for Bilbo. He has not seen Bilbo for an extended period of time since hitting puberty, and he has heard a great many confusing things about this exotic man. In particular, Frodo has been threatened with Bilbo - this old uncle is part bogey-man, a dangerous creature. Whereas Bilbo looks at him and has a difficult time accepting Frodo being a sexual being, Frodo has great difficulty seeing Bilbo as anything but that. More difficult, of course, is for Frodo to see his uncle as a person who has sexual desires, but is not ruled by them. This became the core of Frodo trying to understand his own desires - how does Bilbo want me? How do I want him?
The desire for Tom is a very complicated one. The desire is less for the person than for the person's desire for him. Frodo wants Tom to be in love with him, and has invested a great deal more emotional weight into their encounters than Tom has done. So, what keeps Tom coming back? Social ambition and the opportunity to dominate a social better. The fact that Frodo is very good at giving blow jobs is a nice side benefit.
The extensive amount of sexual experience with other males tends to cloak Frodo's desire for women. His feelings for Esmie are deeply entwined with those for Sara, and he knows that pay-back is part of his erotic wish. There is a also a wish to see Esmie as a fellow innocent victim of Sara's crudeness and domination - he would like to rescue her from Sara's clutches, or at leat share their subordination to this despised cousin through a romance. It was hard to keep him oblivious to her machinations through the story, and then clue him in slowly at the end.
Ula just appeared on the page one day, and would not leave. Their mutual awareness of each other as a possible partner was an interesting relationship to see unfold. I did not intend for them to make out so thoroughly at Wintermark - I had only envisioned some serious kissing and perhaps him getting a hand inside her blouse. Ula had other ideas. A difficulty in portraying them was how to make Frodo uncertain of what he should be doing and wary of going too far ("shaming" her), yet not allowing him to be an innocent in terms of arousing and servicing another person. The most profound thing that happens to Frodo when he is making out with Ula is learning to think about pleasure in a different way.
So, there are a few thoughts about what I was up to in OMY vis-a-vis Frodo. What kind of reactions do people have to what they read? Are there questions?
Re: So, what *is* he?
04 Mar 03 4:03 AM
Reply To: 2404
"Putting together a sensible account of a mixed-up adolescent's sexual feelings, thoughts and acts was an interesting proposition"
i was wondering how you did this? did you interview younger brothers, nephiews, cousins?
"When I look at this character, I see someone whose dominant sexual orientation is towards females, but who is not averse to engaging in sex with males."
this is funny, because although you may have intended it this way, to me he came across as someone who was more oriented towards males although he had an interest in females as well, which could at an early point just be curiosity as to how their reactions would differ from the ones of his male partners.
"For the most part, Frodo does not have any sexual desire for other males - he is not aroused when performing oral sex on the bullies or on Sara, for example"
but he wants to kiss tom and be kissed by him and was aroused by their "horsing around" when all of this started. and he is not appalled by performing sexual acts on the others, what someone who is not at all oriented that way would certainly be? he does not like it, because he HAS to do it, take the element of force away and add an element of mutual attraction or even love and i thought he would have turned that way.
"particularly trying to understand his feelings for Bilbo"
i got the impression that he had a hard time understanding that there could be someone not wanting anything he had to offer. obviously he had gotten so used to being used and turning other's desire for him around into something he could use himself to get what he wanted, that he was totally unable to handle a situation where no sex was involved. in a way he was on the very best way to become a male prostitute, when bilbo got him out of this tangle.
"The desire for Tom is a very complicated one. The desire is less for the person than for the person's desire for him."
why that? i mean others were desiring him as well - so why was tom's desire for him so much more desirable when he had no desire of his own for tom?
re ula : "not allowing him to be an innocent in terms of arousing and servicing another person"
what here jumped at me was that he was - again - not thinking of his own pleasure, but of what he could do for her. he seems to be forever at everybody's service - although this time he didn't think of manipulating her. but he never seems to have sex just for the joy of it (poor guy).
there was something i didn't understand. did sara use frodo in more ways than blow jobs? what was this stuff about coming to frodo's room when esmie had her period and what he would not even tell bilbo?
on the whole frodo is a very, very complex personailty (who would have expected else from the ringbearer?) and it's a joy and an adventure to explore your take on him. and although i coud kill sara with my own hands (making a bloody mess), i do understand that he is absolutely unable to resist the temptation frodo embodies.
Re: So, what *is* he?
04 Mar 03 9:05 AM
Reply To: 5104
I got the feeling from this that when Frodo grows up a bit he will have completely switched to women (due to his own inclination and Bilbo's advice), and will view further sexual contact with men with a good deal of distaste - men just want something from him and are not considering his feelings. Which doesn't make things look particularly up for our dear Sam, of course, but I have no idea how Ang sees that one...
Re: So, what *is* he?
10 Mar 03 8:24 AM
Reply To: 5104
Sorry to take so long to answer. I've been a little busy the last week, what with the new review process and then the site outage. :-)
Where did I get the insights into adolescence? Been there, done that, been around many others who have, too. ;-)
When I spoke about how I conceptualized Frodo's (emerging) sexuality, I presented what I think the end-point is, while the story is showing how he is moving towards understanding his feelings and impulses. The power and domination he has been encountering colors how he has been able to think about himself in relation to others. In any event, Frodo will never have a modern, Western, post-Freudian concept of sexual orientation.
This is why his desire for Tom is reasonably complex. There is simply the pleasure of being sexually stimulated. There is the fact that Tom is (unlike the others) showing emotional interest in Frodo. Frodo is lonely and emotionally needy, and Tom's affection may be more imortant than what Tom is actually doing. There is a sense that both of them are underdogs, which increases Frodo's attachment. He is clearly protective of the other, despite Tom being older. Thus, the revelation that Tom has been squealing on him to Sara may be a deeper emotional hurt than any other. Even so, Frodo knows that Tom's affections are mixed at best. At some level, he knows he's being used by the older boy, but he doesn't want to acknowledge it. He's willing to turn a blind eye to the manipulation in order to maintain the illusion of love.
Frodo both is and isn't ready to have someone like Bilbo in his life. He isn't ready because he can't believe that Bilbo doesn't want to merely make use of him, as many others (including Tom) have been doing. He keeps waiting for Bilbo to drop the "nice old uncle" act and make sexual demands on him. He is ready because he desperately needs someone who is *not* going to do that - who simply loves him and wants him to be happy. Months have to pass, and then all the relevant players have to be back together for a period of time, for Frodo to get to the point where he trusts what Bilbo says and does. The trust of Bilbo is going to be the foundation of rebuilding trust in general.
Frodo is distanced from his own desires. He has to be, given the crude way others have taken advantage of him. He's pretty disgusted by it. He doesn't like what is being done, and he doesn't know how to make others leave him alone, so he engages in a rather typical distancing technique - he becomes an "expert". He can make them beg. He can pretend he's in control. But this also means he has few other ways of thinking about and expressing what he is feeling. So, when he's making out with Ula, he's stuck in this mode of making another feel certain things instead thinking of himself or of their mutual enjoyment. He's young, he'll figure it out. ;-)
Sara is a whole other post...
Thanks for your comments!
Re: So, what *is* he?
10 Mar 03 9:22 AM
Reply To: 5117
You're pretty much right on how I see Frodo turning out, though over emphasizing his reaction to other men. He will always be suspicious of approaches from males because of the high probability of manipulation, but he also has the example of Bilbo himself. Frodo will be someone who is "wise through experience" (as JRRT says is the meaning of his name), and his relationship to his very wonderful uncle is part of that wisdom. Frodo is someone who can have pity for and can extend trust to something as wretched as Gollum, after all. His reaction will be more along the lines of "Thank you, but no thank you."
I do not envision him having any sexual interest in Sam (or Merry, or Pippin, etc.), though I do think he will be very, very protective of them. He will try to be to them as Bilbo is to him. They will each look up to him as wonderful big brother, though Sam's affection will be colored by the class relationship as well.
Re: So, what *is* he?
10 Mar 03 2:59 PM
Reply To: 5308
I was really happy to see that, because some friends and I have been fervently discussing exactly WHAT is the nature of Frodo and Sara's relationship...it definitely appears to be more complex than Frodo's interaction with the other boys, even with Tom.
I may be reading this wrong, but it seems to me that there is more going on there than just a case of Sara victimizing Frodo. This didn't come through as strongly in "Legacy," but it seemed to wind throughout many parts of "On Merry Yule." A few examples come to mind:
When Frodo is talking to Gilda near the end of the story, she tells him that Sara has sworn that he never "lay with" Frodo or "used him as a woman," then asks Frodo if Sara was telling the truth. Frodo does not answer, "Yes, he told the truth," he only answers, "No, he never used me that way." Even you call it "a glaring omission!" And it certainly is!
When Frodo and Sara argue at the end, Frodo accuses Sara of being jealous because he's no longer the one "in my bed." When I read that, I thought, "Wait...when has Sara EVER been in Frodo's bed?"
The idea of "laying with" someone (of literally, lying down with them) or being in someone's bed would seem to imply that there was more intimacy here than I previously suspected. If that's the case, I don't think it suggests that Frodo was romantically attracted to Sara...I think he was just desperate for affection, and took it from Sara when he could (as he does when they embrace at Wintermark). But what does this mean for Sara? IS Sara actually attracted to Frodo in more than just a carnal way? Is this why he is so vicious to Frodo...because he can't face the fact that he has these "improper" longings for another male?
Even the fact that Sara tries to kiss Frodo when he attacks him at Wintermark would suggest something odd about Sara. We've already seen from Tom that boys aren't "supposed" to kiss...and yet Sara violates that "rule" by trying to kiss Frodo. Veeeery interesting.
And, like Kete, I am really intrigued by this idea that Frodo struck a deal with Sara to service him during Esmie's "monthly indisposition." Frodo seems conviced that he's doing this for Esmie's benefit...where did he get that idea? What has Sara told him? And why has he told him this...to ensure that he'll have a regular "monthly appointment?" **Shudder.**
I certainly don't think that any of this points to Frodo being more attracted to men than women...it seemed fairly clear to me throughout the story that he does these things with boys not out of any romantic leanings but out of loneliness, or fear, or coercion, depending on the case. I think his reactions to both Esmie and Ula point to him being, well....straight. But I really, really have my doubts about Sara.
It's a great story, and one that I could sit here and discuss all night!
(PS: Thanks for all your hard work on the site this weekend, and for keeping us posted via the Yahoo group!)
10 Mar 03 6:39 PM
Reply To: 5330
I'm not certain what has happened between Frodo & Sara. Frodo got back to Hobbiton and clammed up. I know this sounds odd, but my characters sometimes do or say things that simply aren't clear to me at the time, but which become more clear as I go on with a story. For me, I trust that Frodo was telling Gilda the truth when he said 'I just hoped [Sara] would stop being so mean. That he would go back to liking me, as he used to. But he didn't. No matter what I did.' Whatever happened, a great deal of Frodo's participation was reasonably voluntary because he wanted to make Sara like him again. Of course, the more Frodo did, the more antagonistic Sara became.
But what of Sara? I don't think he is greatly attracted to other males. He is libidinous, and with the amount of drinking he does, his inhibitions are low, but I have never seen him as anything but strongly heterosexual. He really is infatuated with Esmie. I imagine that he about drove Rory & Gilda insane during his tween years by the amount of fooling around he did with the local girls.
I also don't think he is a monster. I agree with Gilda about this. He is a good father and he does care about his family. But he is a merely ordinary Hobbit born into a prominent and exceptional family, and he knows it. Sara can't help but know that he is a disappointment to his parents, particularly to Gilda, and he doesn't know what to do about this. He is clearly very, very jealous of his mother's affection for Bilbo and Frodo - tinged with fear with regard to Bilbo, overwhelmed with hatred with regard to Frodo. He was telling the truth when he said to Frodo, 'Oh no, Rat. I don't like boys - I just hate you...'
Even so, his actions are far outside the bounds of normal Hobbit behavior. The extreme quality I actually attribute to the influence of the Ring. The mere sight of the Ring has driven one Hobbit (Gollum) to murder on the spot. My supposition is that the Ring has a slow, poisonous effect on the Shire, subtly corrupting and and distorting. Without the Ring's influence, I think Sara would never have gone beyond being just a little harsh to Frodo. The Ring exaggerates his jealousy, his hedonism, his impulsiveness, his aggression. There has to be something in particular that sets him off, though, and I think that is Gilda's favoritism, which hurts Sara on a variety of levels.
He knows it is wrong, and my sense is the part that he & Frodo don't want to talk about has something to do with the ways in which Sara is guilty about what he has done, and was trying to make amends without seeming to do so. It is very confusing and Sara is one f'ed up puppy. Like Gilda, I am glad for both his and Frodo's sakes that Frodo has left. I think between the exposure of his misdeeds and the beating he took from Dalin, Sara has some strong motivations to clean up his act.
16 Mar 03 9:35 AM
Reply To: 5346
ah! something‘s going on here again!
"Where did I get the insights into adolescence? Been there, done that, been around many others who have, too. ;-) "
ha ha! everyone was an adolescent once - even i (though it‘s looong ago), but i was asking how you got your specific insights into MALE adolescence, as you are a woman.
"This is why his desire for Tom is reasonably complex. .... He's willing to turn a blind eye to the manipulation in order to maintain the illusion of love."
how terribly sad. but i really like how he handles the end of the affair.
"Frodo both is and isn't ready to have someone like Bilbo in his life. .... The trust of Bilbo is going to be the foundation of rebuilding trust in general. "
i am really looking forward to see you flesh that out.
"Frodo is distanced from his own desires. .... He's young, he'll figure it out. ;-)"
let‘s hope for the best. but given the fact that according to book canon he is unmarried and generally unrelated when living at bag end (at least the 17 years we are told of) what do you intend to do? an unrequited love?
"I'm not certain what has happened between Frodo & Sara. .... Of course, the more Frodo did, the more antagonistic Sara became."
i found that scene at wintermark when he gave in to sara‘s embrace though at first he was suspicious heartwrenchingly sad - and like bilbo i wondered how he could be so forgiving. then later that night the attack in the wood, argh....
"I also don't think he is a monster. .... He was telling the truth when he said to Frodo, 'Oh no, Rat. I don't like boys - I just hate you...' "
oh ang, really, that IS a monster... and the poor boy is now already calling himself rat (i really hate that!).
"The extreme quality I actually attribute to the influence of the Ring."
but the atmosphere outside the shire is getting poisonous and unhealthy also. i thought this was an effect of sauron rising again? do you really think the ring could poison a whole country? it‘s of course a very easy way out for guys like sara („your honour, it was the ring not me...!“). HA!
"He knows it is wrong, and my sense is the part that he & Frodo don't want to talk about has something to do with the ways in which Sara is guilty about what he has done, and was trying to make amends without seeming to do so. It is very confusing..."
that is very true, because i‘m none the wiser now. has he bedded him or not? and if so what will happen? according to the appendices sara was a healthy 92 years when he died - so no chance for bilbo and sting.
and how will this sara thing influence frodo‘s relationship with merry? it sure will not make it any easier, i think.
kete, happily singing „four more, four more“