How does the author challenge heteronormative concepts and norms relating to sexuality in Sexing the Cherry?

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The ways that author Jeannette Winterson plays with heteronormative concepts such as gender roles include the characterization of Dog-Woman, the politics of the English Civil War era, and the princesses’ stories. By setting her novel in a historical era when many norms were being challenged, Winterson sets the stage for reversals and subversions of traditional gendered and sexual identities and relationships.

Through the character of Dog-Woman, the author raises many questions about what aspects of gendered identity and sexual relationships were considered natural in the era when she lived. While Dog-Woman has some stereotypically feminine qualities, such as her maternal treatment of Jordan, aspects of her physical appearance and determined independence are usually associated with male characters. Her gigantic size and her strength connect her with fairy-tale giants, who are usually male, and suggest Rabelais’s character Gargantua. In turn, Jordan’s initially submissive role not only infantilizes but also feminizes him.

Dog-Woman’s preferred method of dealing with enemies, by beheading them, connects her character with the author’s larger social commentary that challenges patriarchy and monarchy in seventeenth-century England. Although she is a Royalist, Dog-Woman takes her cue from the beheading of the English king Charles I, an act that offered a potent symbol of emasculation in that era.

When Jordan embarks on his adventures, he interacts with many female characters, who often prove to be bolder or braver than he is. The embedded stories of Fortunata and the other princesses subvert traditional gender roles, both through their magical qualities that remove them from the mundane realm and through their rejection of heterosexual love and marriage as appropriate female goals. The princesses and their male consorts include both female and male gay characters, and Fortunata ultimately rejects Jordan as a partner.

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