In Good Morning, Midnight, sexuality serves as a bargaining chip and determiner of social power. While Sasha is certainly not the only character to use her sexual agency to express inner conflict, and as a means of manipulation, her sexual, and emotional, vulnerability provides the backdrop for a host of issues that color every interaction within the text.
One of the first things that struck me about Good Morning Midnight is the way in which Sasha’s sexuality is inextricably, and painfully, identified with her identity as a woman. Her sexual anxiety and fear provides an extremely unsettling emotional undertow that runs throughout the novel and which, along with the sharp spikes of black humor sprinkled throughout Rhys’ prose, provides the book with a large part of its emotional heft.
Sasha relates to other women in terms of sexuality and attractiveness. When she mentions younger, prettier women (like the young English women in the restaurant, or the various women on dates in cafes she sees watching her), it is with condescension and fear. Their attractiveness, especially when it correlates with the presence of men in their lives, is extremely threatening to Sasha’s quickly fading sense of herself as an attractive young women in her own right.
Older women, women on their own, without men earn Sasha’s pity. She feels that they all must be as sad and disappointed as she is. Sasha sees male attention as the solution to these women’s problems; like in the scene with the balding women in the hat shop, where, with ironic foresight, she suggests that the best path for her would be to buy, “…A wig, several decent dresses, as much champagne as she can drink, all the things she likes to eat but oughtent to, a gigolo if she wants one…But no, you must have a slow death.” The whole thing puts Sasha’s later relationship with a gigolo, presumably after having given up the idea of a slow death through determined alcoholism, into sharper, sadder relief.
The sad, alcoholic women from Martinique Serge describes being unable to make love to is another embodiment of Sasha’s anxiety about the inverse relationship between her deep seated sadness, and her sexual potential. For Serge, whose friend picks up Sasha by commenting on her sadness, an artist who seems to be a collector of the maudlin sorrows of everyday Parisians, the story seems to serve as a sort of allegory about the dangers of drunk, emotional women. Serge says he is unable to give the woman, “what she needed,” with the implication that her pathetic, ruined state made her impossible for consideration as a potential sexual object. This interaction is bizarrely mirrored at the end of the novel, with the entrance of the commercial traveler from across the hall. When Sasha surrenders to the man in the white dressing gown, it is his pathetic nature, his sad emptiness that she seems to be responding to.
Rene the gigolo is, in some ways, the most perfect example of another character mirroring and distorting Sasha’s sexuality. Although she experiences a great deal of anxiety about the effect that aging might have on her sexual appeal, for most of the text, Sasha is seen as sexually available and desirable by the men around her. She is watched and approached by strangers, including the Russian, who have no desire for her money, desiring her for her self, however superficial their idea of that self might be. Even men who do not attempt to sleep with her will stand her for drinks, listen to her cry. Sasha evidently is used to, if not entirely comfortable with, relying on men for her wellbeing. She is supported by some disdainful male relative in the beginning of the book, and talks about her previous Parisian excursions being funded by her ex husband, or generous former lovers.
With Rene, Sasha’s habitual role as the impoverished, sexualized dependent partner in a relationship is reversed. Sasha, as Rene’s potential buyer, is in a position of financial and social power, a situation which, at first, she seems to quite enjoy. Sasha explicitly comments on the role reversal, saying, “I have done this so often myself it is amazing watching someone else do so,” and decided to “get (Rene) back” for all the pain she has experienced at the hands of men in similar situations. But when Rene seems to confide her, telling about his wounds and saying, “I know you won’t betray me,” Sasha realizes that she is emotionally unprepared to play the role of the deceiver, the exploiter in their relationship. However, Sasha’s discovery that there is room for compassion even in a relationship based on lies, disillusionment and contempt, is quickly thrown into sharp relief when Rene attempts to rape her at the end of the book.