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Beauvoir, Simone de (1908-1986)  
page: 1  2  

Beauvoir sees lesbianism as a choice, not in the sense of the religious right's use of the term as a weapon against gays and lesbians, but in the existentialist concept of an attitude adopted in situation, for which one freely and fully takes responsibility. Furthermore, Beauvoir's representation of the lesbian couple per se (which she adapts from Colette), makes possible the kind of nurturing, creative subject-other relations that Beauvoir had always sought. Her conception of a reciprocal relation in which each partner maintains her autonomy contrasts markedly with Sartre's (and Hegel's) annihilating clashes between consciousnesses.

In the early 1960s, Beauvoir began a relationship with Sylvie le Bon which lasted to the end of Beauvoir's life. In 1980, following Sartre's death, Beauvoir adopted Sylvie so that the latter could legally care for Beauvoir, who was to die six years later. Their relationship offers a model of the lesbian couple described theoretically in The Second Sex.

While Beauvoir categorically denied it was a lesbian relationship, le Bon did not. Although le Bon refused to be more explicit, she seemed to suggest that Beauvoir's denial was aimed at protecting the younger woman, which would not be surprising given Beauvoir's earlier experiences. Yet Beauvoir described Le Bon as the "ideal companion of my adult life," explaining that, since Zaza's early death, she had often desired an "intense, daily and total relationship with a woman." Now that she had found Sylvie, their relationship was "absolute," one in which each lived "entirely" for the other.

Beauvoir's active participation in the public silence surrounding her same-sex relations had the consequence of excluding her from the field of lesbian studies. Now, thanks to well-documented evidence and a more receptive climate, the philosopher can take her rightful place as a woman who passionately loved women.

Ann Cothran

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Bair, Deirdre. Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography. New York: Summit Books, 1990.

Card, Claudia. Lesbian Choices. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Fraser, Mariam. Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Moi, Toril. Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

Simons, Margaret A. Beauvoir and The Second Sex: Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: Cothran, Ann  
    Entry Title: Beauvoir, Simone de  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 3, 2003  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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