Kiss of the Spider Woman

by Manuel Puig

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What social concerns are addressed in Kiss of the Spider Woman?

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The most important social concern in Kiss of the Spider Woman is its treatment of homosexuality; at the time, homosexuality was beginning to become an accepted lifestyle, but still suffered under societal stigma and criminal laws. By showing a complex, flawed, and human homosexual character in Molina, author Manuel Puig works to destigmatize the nature of sexual orientation. Molina's orientation is both part of his character and a direct plot point; he is able to get information and win the trust of his cellmate, a Marxist revolutionary. Molina even explains his strategy directly:

It was because I'm gay that he didn't want to let me come near him. Because he's an absolutely straight guy. But little by little, dropping a few words here, a few there, I made him see I respected him, and he started telling me little things about his life.
(Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Google Books)

The notions of homosexuality and its origins and effects are discussed both by the characters, in their prison conversations, and in scholarly footnotes, some of which are factual and some deliberately invented. By making a homosexual character the co-protagonist of the novel instead of a minor or comic relief character, Puig allows the humanity of sexual orientation to show through the stereotypes and stigma.

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