Lawrence makes quite clear to the reader that Nellie March and Jill Banford share an affectionate and committed friendship. The relationship between them is homoerotic, although perhaps not physically homosexual. In her letter to Henry, Nellie writes: “I know her and I’m awfully fond of her, and I hate myself for a beast if I ever hurt her little finger. We have a life together.” In other works, Lawrence is less sympathetic toward the homoerotic attachments of women. Winifred Inger in The Rainbow (1915), for example, is an intellectual lesbian whose influence Ursula Brangwen finally rejects as oppressive. In the 1929 poem “Ego-Bound Women,” Lawrence’s hostility to lesbianism is unmistakable. Yet in The Fox, Lawrence treats with dignity and matter-of-factness the erotic friendship of Nellie and Jill. Although they are, from a stereotypical erotic-fantasy point of view, “butch” and “femme,” Nellie and Jill reverse their roles in their relationship toward Henry. He is attracted to the more nearly “masculine” Nellie rather than the “feminine” Jill. Also, counter to the stereotypical erotic-fantasy, Nellie surrenders none of her homoeroticism by submitting to Henry; he fails to dominate or “change” her sexually.
Henry, similarly, departs from the conventional erotic-fantasy stereotype of the virile male in playing his part in the triangular relationship. He falls into neither of the two major types of Lawrence’s male lovers (or would-be lovers): neither the sexually unassertive, fastidious, charming heroes such as Paul Morel (Sons and Lovers, 1913), Cyril Mersham (“A Modern Lover”), Bernard Coutts (“The Witch a la Mode”), or Edward Severn (“The Old Adam”), nor the virile, direct, unself-conscious models of Oliver Mellors (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928), Maurice Pervin (“The Blind Man”), or Tom Vickers (“A Modern Lover”). Instead, Henry is always described as a “boy.” Assertive, magnetic, and uncomplicated like Lawrence’s virile heterosexual males, he is also—unlike the finer types— insensitive, manipulative, cunning. His sexuality has turned predatory, like the aggressiveness of the fox. He represents the male heterosexual as destroyer of women.