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Simone De Beauvoir: The Woman In Love

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Beauvoir discusses love in relation to sexual difference. She also discusses the difference between authentic and inauthentic love. What differences between women and men's experiences of love does she discuss? How does she think the problems of love can be rectified?

Simone de Beauvoir's text "The Woman in Love", taken from her book "The Second Sex" (1988) describes her theories on men and women in love. This essay will explore her propositions about the differences men and women experience in love, look at her ideas of authentic and inauthentic love, and how she proposes for the differences and problems of love to be dealt with. De Beauvoir published her work in 1988, and with this context in mind we can understand the way she exemplifies women as the weaker sex and dependent on men. In today's context there is less inequality however there is still a difference in power between men and women, this essay will also examine whether de Beauvoir's theories could still be relevant in society today.

De Beauvoir suggests that love is a totally different experience for men as it is for women and claims this is not to do with a biological difference between the sexes but rather a social construct. Women experience love as a total devotion, a gift of herself to the man she loves, whilst men experience love as a less intense desire for this gift, as "no more than a passing crisis" (p. 673). Men experience love in this way as they are portrayed as independent beings of power, subjects who are capable of controlling their own lives and achieving transcendence without assistance; women are seen as dependent creatures and incapable of transcending alone, they have been led to believe this their entire life and so are encouraged to align themselves with a male so as to achieve some form of transcendence through him. De Beauvoir writes mainly about the love that women experience, with only several references to the experiences of men, perhaps to exemplify her point that women love men as their whole existence, while love plays a much smaller part in a man's life; he wishes only to integrate his lover into his life.

Women's quest for love begins at a young age "the adolescent girl wishes at first to identify herself with males; when she gives that up she then seeks to share in their masculinity by having one of them in love with her" (pp 653-654). Love becomes a vessel for her own self-idolisation, if a man is in love with her she is worthy of this love and an important being, "through loveÐ'... everything she is, all that belongs to her, escape contingency and become essential" (p. 657).

Physical love also becomes a form that is very different for men and women. Women may view physical love as a debasement and in contradiction to their feelings of self-worth and dignity. De Beauvoir writes of how some will resort to frigidity, but many of the rest will relent to their carnal instincts but that they must be re-assured of their lovers love for them to be able to revel in the act "in giving her pleasure, the man increases her attachment, he does not liberate her" (p.659). On the contrary, for men, once the deed is over "he no longer desires her" (p.659).

De Beauvoir also discusses the themes of jealousy and infidelity with relation to the sexes. She describes that for men "a lover who has confidence in his mistress feels no displeasure if she absents herselfÐ'... sure that she is his, he prefers to possess a free being than to own a thing" (p. 667). He feels that his lover is united with him and only suspect's infidelity if other aspects of his life are failing him. Women, however, feel they are in constant danger and their expectations cause them continuing paradoxes. She finds her lover unfaithful if he fails to live up to her god-like idolisations, she aims to possess him yet desires him to be independent, otherwise how else is she to achieve transcendence? She also fears losing her lover to another woman, as to lose him is to lose everything. She prefers to invent rivals rather than believe that his love for her has lessened, and believes that some "clever schemer" is "bewitching" him (pp. 672-673).

De Beauvoir believes much of what she theorises about is an inauthentic form of love. She believes that when women use love as their saviour, and as a means to find themselves that it is not authentic and can never be. As love, for many women, is just a means of salvation and finding themselves, it becomes more a matter about the woman than about the one she loves. It is inauthentic when the woman views her lover as a god, because in reality no man is godlike, and she is ultimately disappointed (Bronte para. 3), to view a man in this way means there can be no connectedness so authentic love can not occur. De Beauvoir believes however that authentic love is possible but that to occur it "should accept the contingence of the



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