The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear – HP Lovecraft.
It’s no secret that HP Lovecraft, one of the most renowned horror authors of our time, had a long list of fears himself.
Not least of all was an ever present dread of the unknown, wherein lay his Thalassophobia, or fear of the sea – an abhorrence that extended to sea food and the smell of fish. He fed those fears and used them to create the fantastical and bizarre creatures he left behind after his death.
HP Lovecraft did, however, have fears and anxieties many would consider to be irrational, perhaps most interestingly his supposed and often disputed Genophobia and Gynophobia.
Genophobia is defined as the abnormal fear of women and gynophobia as the physical or psychological fear of sexual relations or sexual intercourse and many today believe that, despite his short marriage to Sonia Greene, he suffered from both, perhaps sprouting from his overly anxious, obsessive mind and an overbearing, domineering Mother. She repeatedly told him he was hideous, an opinion which he carried through to later life, and she herself had a history of hysteria, a condition often characterized by overwhelming fear.
We can clearly see that Lovecraft had a tendency to nurture his horrors, revelling in his own madness. He shaped his fear of the unknown to create the Elder Gods and a host of other horrors, his dread of the sea spawning his most famous creation, Cthulhu. So it would stand to reason that, by looking at his works, we would find the same emphasis on women and sexual relations if they were truly two of his fears.
But HP Lovecraft seemed to try and ignore women and sex entirely within his works, regardless of the storyline. Perhaps the best example of this is the unfortunate Lavinia Whateley in The Dunwich Horror. Described as a somewhat deformed, unattractive albino woman, she was mother to the children of Yog-Sothoth, an extra-dimensional creature who impregnated her after being summoned by her father (and perhaps Lavinia herself.) It seems safe to assume that the unholy coupling would get a mention and that Lavinia’s feelings on the matter would be voiced as part of the story.
Lavinia doesn’t have much focus in the story, despite having such an important role to play. She, like most of the women in Lovecaft’s works, becomes nothing more than a vessel by which the more important, male characters are brought into the tale. She vanishes without a trace and everybody seems to forget about her.
Some use points like the above to claim that Lovecraft simply had little time for women, seeing them as lower beings (an opinion that wasn’t uncommon at the time), and that, if he had a deep rooted fear, he would have included it more in his works instead of just shoving it to one side.
It’s a widely known fact that many of HP Lovecraft’s opinions were as hideous as the works he penned (he made no secrets of his racism and homophobia) and that women may just have been of no interest to him. He certainly spent his time almost exclusively in male company.
The same is said for his aversion to sex, some going as far to suggest Lovecraft was asexual. He once described the act as: Purely animal in nature and separate from such things as intellect and beauty.
It is worth noting that whenever sex is an important part of his work, death and destruction follow close behind it. In the Dunwich Horror a creature of terrible power is born from Lavinia, trampling people as it ambles along the countryside and in Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, upon discovering an admittedly uncomfortable truth about his ancestry, Arthur Jermyn runs out onto the moors and sets himself on fire.
Although Lovecraft is known for having a fear of pretty much everything, he’s also known for disliking almost everyone who wasn’t a straight, white male, making it difficult to distinguish his fears from his prejudices.
Indeed, in Lovecraft’s case, his fears and prejudices often seem to become so inextricably entangled they become impossible to separate. Perhaps Gynophobia and Genophobia are two more phobias to add to his already lengthy list.
About Bea Embers
“I am an author of melancholy books & poetry for creepy Teens. My work was included as part of the Poe cottage restoration project. My piece ‘Night & day’ is safely bricked up inside one of the old walls in the Poe cottage. From there I wrote The Girl With Glass Eyes, a children’s horror book with smatterings of poetry throughout. I’m currently working on my first full-length novel, Ashdown Asylum. I’m a lover of all things macabre, haunting & grotesque. I’m also a nerd for villains. I know they do bad things, but they do them so stylishly.”