For The Record, Lolita Was Not Sexually Precocious — She Was Raped

When I first encountered the literary classic Lolita, I was the same age as the infamous female character. I was 15 and had heard about a book in which a grown man carries on a sexual relationship with a much younger girl. Naturally, I quickly sought out the book and devoured the entire contents on my bedroom floor, parsing through Humbert Humbert‘s French and his erotic fascination for his stepdaughter, the light of his life, the fire of his loins — Dolores Haze. I remember being in the ninth grade and turning over the cover that presented a coy pair of saddle shoes as I hurried through the final pages in homeroom.

Although I remember admiring the book for all its literary prowess, what I don’t recall is how much of the truth of that story resonated with me given that I was a kid myself. Because it wasn’t until I reread the book as an adult that I realized Lolita had been raped. She had been raped repeatedly, from the time she was 12 to when she was 15 years old.

As a young woman now, it’s startling to see how that fundamental crux of the novel has been obscured in contemporary culture with even the suggestion of what it means to be “a Lolita” these days.  Tossed about now, a “Lolita” archetype has come to suggest a sexually precocious, flirtatious underage girl who invites the attention of older men despite her young age. A Lolita now implies a young girl who is sexy, despite her pigtails and lollipops, and who teases men even though she is supposed to be off-limits.

In describing his now banned perfume ad, Marc Jacobs was very frank about the intentions of his sexy child ad and why he chose young Dakota Fanning to be featured in it. The designer described the actress as a “contemporary Lolita,” adding that she was “seductive, yet sweet.” Propping her up in a child’s dress that was spread about her thighs, and with a flower bottle placed right between her legs, the styling was sufficient to make the 17-year-old look even younger. The text below read “Oh Lola!,” cementing the Lolita reference completely. The teenager looks about 12 years old in the sexualizing advertisement, which is the same age Lolita is when the book begins.

And yet Marc Jacobs’ interpretation of Lolita as “seductive” is completely false, as are all other usages of Lolita to imply a “seductive, yet sweet” little girl who desires sex with older men.

Lolita is narrated by a self-admitted pedophile whose penchant for extremely young girls dates all the way back to his youth. Twelve-year-old Dolores Haze was not the first of Humbert Humbert’s victims; she was just the last. His recounting of events is unreliable given that he is serially attracted to girl children or “nymphets” as he affectionately calls them. And his endless rationalizing of his”love” for Lolita, their “affair,” their “romance” glosses over his consistent sexual attacks on her beginning in the notorious hotel room shortly after her mother dies.

This man who marries Lolita’s mother, in a sole effort to get access to the child, fantasizes about drugging her in the hopes of raping her — a  hypothetical scenario which eventually does come to fruition. Later on as he realizes that Lolita is aging out of his preferred age bracket, he entertains the thought of impregnating her with a daughter so that he can in turn rape that child when Lolita gets too old.

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!