Between Two Waves: Reconciliation of BDSM and Radical Feminism in Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber”


  • Junsu Hong Sogang University


Feminism, BDSM, Normativity, Agency, Fairy tale, Sexuality


Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber" (1979) is now a renowned 20th-Century rendition of a fairy tale, "Bluebeard." Critics such as Kelly Link evaluate this work as a novella dealing with the unruliness and subversive potential of women. However, this novella provoked controversies among feminist scholars, who are Carter's contemporaries, regarding the way it displays subversive and transgressive feminist agency. Anti-pornography feminists criticize the work as a text that reinforces social oppression and sexual objectification of females as "The Bloody Chamber" is encoded with symbols alluding to BDSM and pornography. On the other hand, Robin Ann Sheets asserts that this novella also has an aspect that "moves closer to the anti-pornography feminists" (Sheets 655). This paper aims to read Carter's novella as a work transgressing the boundary of two different feminists waves, which are radical feminism opposing nonnormative sexual practices as well as pornography and pro-sex third-wave feminism that advocates sexual deviations. Through this reading, the paper asserts that this work is Carter's navigation to seek a ground that does not belong to either radical or third-wave feminists. Instead, she suggests an alternative perspective that weaves women's adventurous sexual exploration with the issue of female liberation from the violent patriarchal system. Through this text, Carter evokes the need to realize the sexual and other worldly desires of women, but at the same time, she contends that the glass ceiling of the patriarchal system is yet hindering many women from truly pursuing their desire. Hence, she spotlights the need to break the fetter of patriarchy in advance so as to save women from its violence and abuse through the denouement of the story. To demonstrate the story's relevance to different feminist ideas, it grounds its argument on Robin Ann Sheet's adumbration of feminist history and it also refers to the theory of Gayle Rubin when it comes to demonstrating the story's relevance to nonnormative sexual practices. 


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How to Cite

Hong, J. (2022). Between Two Waves: Reconciliation of BDSM and Radical Feminism in Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” . International Review of Literary Studies, 4(1), 9-17. Retrieved from