Sexuality is primarily presented as both CIS/straight desire and as deeply conflicted. Once the teenaged Stephen Dedalus begins to experience sexual arousal, he can barely stop thinking about his desires for women. At the same time, as he thinks ahead to his future career or vocation, he is contemplating becoming a Catholic priest. He understands this commitment as being fundamentally at odds with his heterosexual desires, which causes him considerable internal conflict.
The author also presents a conflict between the romantic or idealistic side of Stephen's attractions for women within his normal social circle and his initial forays into sexual activity. Stephen understands the girls he knows as being unapproachable: he would be rejected, probably condemned, and possibly reported to adults if he made sexual advances to them. Stephen's desires are also presented as insatiable; in addition to masturbating, he begins to visit prostitutes to find sexual release.
In Portrait of the Artist as...
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