This chapter describes ugliness and beauty, youth and age—for a time—as determining factors of sexuality. It also turns to the question of how women writers imagined sex as their own power. These writers explored sex power as an implicit historical argument about their choice of sexuality. As has been argued in previous chapters, sex power emerged out of sentimental culture's preoccupation with self-expression, sometimes as sentiment's corollary but more often as its antithesis. The chapter explores how some women writers recuperated or repudiated sex power—and why they did so. For instance, Edith Wharton, one of the most vocal of sex power's detractors, distrusted sex expression as alienating, while one of the most pro-sex writers of the 1910s and 1920s, Mary Austin, was also anxious about women's uses of sexuality.
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