Discussion Topic

The Party's policies and attitudes toward sex, relationships, marriage, divorce, and children in 1984

Summary:

The Party in 1984 views sex, relationships, marriage, divorce, and children as tools for control. It discourages emotional bonds, mandates marriages for procreation only, and prohibits divorce. Children are indoctrinated to serve the Party, often betraying their parents. Personal affection is seen as a threat to loyalty to the Party, which prioritizes power and surveillance over personal connections.

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What are the rules for sex and marriage among party members in 1984?

We can piece together the following rules for sex and marriage. A Party committee has to approve a marriage, and it won't do so if suspects there is any genuine physical attraction between the two people in question. As for sex, the Party's desire is that it be strictly for procreation. They don't want people, in or out of marriage, to enjoy sex or find any erotic charge in it, because they don't want individuals to form loyalties outside of those to the Party and Big Brother. Winston describes the Party's idea of sex as follows:

Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.

While hiring a prostitute, inevitably a prole, is not supposed to be done, Winston knows that the Party looks the other way as long as it is merely a one time physical transaction. We learn that having an affair with another Party member, however, is an "unforgivable crime."

Winston's marriage to Katherine provides a good window into a typical Party marriage. Katherine dislikes having sex but insists on having intercourse weekly as her "duty to the Party." Winston finds sexual relations with her odious because of her lack of desire. He also finds the marital relationship unsatisfying in general because Katherine is a completely orthodox Party member who would denounce him as a traitor at the first sign of deviance. This is the kind of lonely marriage the Party wants people to have, which keeps them miserable and focused on the Party.

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What is the Party's policy on relationships, sex, marriage, divorce, and children in 1984?

In 1984, it is forbidden to love anyone but the Party. Family relationships, including those between husband and wife, ought to be secondary to personal allegiance to Big Brother. It is highly encouraged, for instance, to make oneself a first line of defense for thought crimes within a family. If a woman's husband is being suspicious, it becomes her duty to report him. Protecting him, out of a greater allegiance to her husband than to the Party, would be criminal, too.

Sex is considered a duty to the Party. It ought to be slightly unpleasant but done out of a sense of obligation. If sex were anything besides this, it could undermine the disconnection within family units. Sex cannot be forbidden, because the reproductive value is necessary, but Big Brother would like to make sure that that's the only purpose it can ever fill.

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What is the Party's attitude toward love and marriage in 1984?

Love and marriage are extremely important to the Party, in a negative sense. In other words, they see love and the sort of marriage based on love as inherently subversive forces and attempt to regulate them and suppress them. They want the full force of people's emotions directed in ways that directly benefit the Party, first as love for Big Brother and second as rage and hatred directed against opponents of the Party. As O'Brien says:

There is no loyalty but loyalty to the Party. There is no love except love of Big Brother. All competing pleasures we will destroy.

Thus the Party destroys the family, trying to ensure that parents and children have no affection for each other and forbids sex for any purpose but procreation. O'Brien even lets slip that they are working on a way to prevent people from experiencing orgasms, as that sort of intense physical pleasure might be something people would strive for in a way that would interfere with single-minded loyalty to the Party. Winston's affair with Julia is thus viewed as treasonous and subversive.

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What is the Party's attitude toward love and marriage in 1984?

The novel 1984, by George Orwell, discusses the relation between the concepts of "Big Brother," Comrads," and the Party. The Party has specific guidelines for all of the people who live within its control. Winston is one of the characters under the control of the Party. In chapter 6 Winston tells us about his interaction with a prostitute. He mentions that he is married but hasn't seen his wife in 11 years. The Party does not encourage marriage except for the purpose of procreation and raising "little comrads."  The Party believes that people should devote their whole lives to the Party and its causes.

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What is the Party's attitude toward love and marriage in 1984?

One of the ironies of the 1984 dystopian world is that although, as in the Soviet regime of Orwell's time, religious belief is forbidden, the Party is puritanical about sex to a fanatical degree, just as some religions still are in our own world today. Winston sees sexual freedom as a force that has the potential to destroy the Party. It's partly because of this that he tells Julia that the more lovers she's had, the more attractive she is to him. Divorce is not permitted, and therefore Winston can never free himself from his much-disliked wife Katherine, although they're separated. The Party views sex only for the purpose of procreation, and this is why Katherine (and others) have referred to it as "our duty to the Party." The Party is also sexist in the sense that it's especially women who are taught to despise sex. There is a Girl-Scout-like "anti-sex League" women are encouraged to join, with its red sash Julia herself wears and throws off when she's with Winston.

During Winston's interrogation and torture O'Brien goes even further than Winston or most outside the Inner Party might have imagined, saying that "we shall abolish the orgasm," and that they have scientists working on this now. Overall, the aim is in keeping with the general intention of turning the population into unfeeling zombies. Though the Party encourages marital fidelity, it also deliberately breaks up the family unit by encouraging children to turn on their parents, as Parsons' children do, overhearing him as he utters thought-crime in his sleep, and then reporting him to the police.

It's interesting to consider these aspects of 1984 in the light of other writings of Orwell. In his earlier novels such as Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, he identifies antagonism toward sexual freedom as a symbol of the old order, of conservative and outdated middle-class morality (which it is). In one essay about his upbringing he describes it as normal for parents of the time to "systematically warp" a young boy's sexual development. In 1984 the rationale for the Party's anti-sexual stance is that sex is a competing force to its rule. Also, this element in 1984 shows that Orwell's future world, at least in this respect, is the exact opposite of Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World, in which sexual freedom is considered normal and desirable.

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What is the Party's attitude toward love and marriage in 1984?

The Party views personal matters as things which must be brought under the control of the state. This is done because the Party realizes the dangers of allowing people to form personal attachments and loyalties. On the issue of marriage, for example, the Party decrees that its only purpose is procreation and all marriages must be authorized by a special committee. 

Moreover, to prevent any familial loyalty, the Party has turned children into agents of the state, watching their parents' every move and ready to report any incidences of Thoughtcrime. This guarantees that families will not form bonds that might threaten the Party's power. 

Similarly, when it comes to sexual relationships, the Party adopts a puritanical attitude, as Winston comments in Part Two, Chapter Three: 

There was a direct intimate connexion between chastity and political orthodoxy … The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account.  

Sexuality, therefore, is heavily regulated by the state. Organizations, like the Junior Anti-Sex League, encourage Party members to adopt a chaste lifestyle, which keeps their minds firmly centered on Big Brother. 

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What is the Party's attitude toward love and marriage in 1984?

The Party is wary of anything they cannot control, so it naturally attempts to undermine such institutions as marriage and the family, and to remove the pleasure and joy of amorous relations. On family, the Party encourages children to sell out their own parents for expressing unacceptable ideas:

...hardly a week passed in which ‘The Times’ did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak —‘child hero’ was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.

Similarly, the Party attempts to remove love and especially eroticism from sex. The sex act was to be undertaken only with the purpose of creating children to serve the Party. While the Party did not exacly oppose occasional relations with the proles, they wanted such relations to be stripped of romance:

The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act....Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.

Sexual activity and temptation seem to be associated with women. Though Orwell does not explore the point, it is women who join the ranks of the Anti-sex League, and it is Julia who approaches Winston to begin their relationship. Overall, though, it is not so much sexism but the desire to control every possible aspect of the human condition that motivates the Party.

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