The Sun is the Ultimate Phallic Object
Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 12 of 12
Photo by Jill Wellington.
In the last of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing and how this relates to the sun.
Ultimately, it always becomes necessary to speak about the sun when thinking about the phallus – and vice versa. For the sun is the supreme phallic object and an erection is the body of man declaring: I am the Sun. As Bataille writes, the verb to be and the integral erection tied to it, is nothing other than an articulation of amorous solar frenzy.
For an erection, like the sun, is something that rises and falls and scandalizes, being equally obscene; a quasi-miraculous phenomenon resulting from a complex interaction of factors, often triggered by some form of sexual stimulation, though this need not always be the case (indeed, the happiest of erections are often ones that arise spontaneously and in innocence).
In one of his most famous short stories, Lawrence writes of an American woman, Juliet, who surrenders herself to the sun in a cosmic-carnal sense, before then considering the possibility of fucking a stranger in whom she sees the sun rise – i.e., noticing a fierce stirring of his penis beneath his thin cotton trousers. Personally, the man doesn’t exist for her: all she wants is his cock inside her. For the phallus is that inhuman form of agency which she believes will bring her into still further connection with all things. Ultimately, however, Juliet lacks courage to engage in an anonymous quickie with an Italian peasant whilst separated from her (sunless) husband.
But mayn’t we ask: would it really have shown courage to have sexually exploited a social inferior? Wouldn’t it have just been a Lawrentian form of sex tourism? It could be argued that just as Juliet is objectified by the sun into nothing but an open womb, so too is the peasant objectified by her into a walking dildo. Still, there are worse fates – and being a subject is really just a very rare and unusual way of experiencing one’s objecthood.
D. H. Lawrence, ‘Sun’, The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories, ed. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, (CUP, 1995).
Georges Bataille, ‘The Solar Anus’, Visions of Excess, ed. Alan Stoekl, (University of Minnesota Press, 1985).