‘Quiet Cruising o’er the Ocean Woman’: Byron’s Don Juan and the Woman Question *
The female domination in Don Juan is always of a purely sexual nature rather than self-seeking or materialistic. Lord Byron undermines the concept of reforming society through endowing women with the role of guardian of morals, by suggesting that the unalterable dynamics of human sexuality have appertained throughout time and place, and that woman is by nature as much a creature of sexual appetite as is man. Byron does not apotheosize the chaste wife of Northern European protestant society, but romanticizes a libertarian ideal on a primitive Greek isle. Byron plainly portrays the appeal of the role of moralizing mother to women as a sublimated power strategy. For the aristocratic nature of the libertinism of Don Juan is complemented by a definitively romantic and antinomian view of human sexuality, which is based on the individual, and egalitarian in its implications. Byron’s Juan is not the traditional libertine as sexual predator, but an ordinary individual released from the confines of social mores.