Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 6 of 12
Cosmic Lawrence by James Walker
In the sixth of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing and why marriage has to be in harmony with the cosmos.
While it’s true that there’s plenty of illicit and kinky sexual activity in Lawrence’s work, he nevertheless regards himself as a staunch defender of marriage: “But – and this but crashes through our heart like a bullet – marriage is no marriage that is not basically and permanently phallic …”
In other words, for Lawrence, marriage has to be in harmony with the cosmos and the rhythmic passing of time; and it has to be a sexual relationship between the two blood-streams of man and woman involving genital penetration. Sex without the consummating act of coition and which is out of synch with the seasons and the phases of the moon, is, in his eyes, counterfeit.
Thanks to his belief in polarized difference between male and female, Lawrence is also obliged to insist that only heterosexual intercourse results in a flash of interchange that rejuvenates the blood of both parties. Gay marriage can never quite be phallic in nature. However, it might be noted that there are plenty of episodes of physical intimacy between same-sex individuals in Lawrence’s work and he concedes that male homosexual intercourse is less harmful than masturbation (his real bête noire), allowing as it does an element of give and take.
Indeed, it’s also worth noting that when Connie endures the night of sensual passion in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, this involves a “phallic hunting out” in the most secret places of her body; i.e. a transgressive and transformative act of anal penetration.
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a Propos of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, ed. Michael Squires, (CUP, 1983).