‘‘Colouredness’’, Female Sexuality and Respectability in Irene Sabatini’s The Boy Next Door

Keywords: coloured, desires, femininity, resistance, respectable, shame


This article examines how race consciousness mediates the performance and experience of femininity, female respectability, and sexual desires in Irene Sabatini’s debut novel, The Boy Next Door. It explores how assumptions of racialised female bodyhood, femininity, and sexuality are constructed and transmitted within an intergenerational framework of the mother-daughter relationship between Lindiwe Bishop and her mother, Mrs Bishop. I argue that in the novel the notion of respectable womanhood is mediated through the desires, the sexual behaviour and the proper conduct of the female sexualised and racialised body. Reading the novel from a theoretical perspective of “hegemonic” and “subordinated” femininities, which takes into account how “other axes of domination such as race, class, sexuality, and age mold a hegemonic femininity, I analyse how the ideology of whiteness mediates discursive performances of femininity, which place certain kinds of femaleness associated with whiteness as superior to others—and how this consciousness also influences ideas about respectability in relation to sexuality.



Author Biography

Asante Lucy Mtenje, University of Malawi
Lecturer, Department of English, University of Malawi, Chancellor College