The book We was written in 1924 by a Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. It is a dystopian novel which talks about a totalitarian society which is secluded from the remaining world. The novel is written in the form of a diary with forty entries. In short, the society which is described in the book is guided by authoritarian laws. All of the citizens are strictly controlled by the government and the police.
The society is highly planned and organized. Individuals must adhere to the rules prescribed by the Benefactor. Importantly, the inhabitants of the One State do not have any names, they all have numbers. There are no such things as marriage, romantic love, and the like. When it comes to the topic of sex, each of the citizens is given personal hours on a daily basis. During these personal hours, he/she may engage in personal activities; among them sex and arts. The curtains must be drawn at this time. Here, it is important to note that everybody lives in glass rooms, yet it is only during these personal hours that the curtains need to be drawn.
In We, sex is perceived mostly as a function. This is exactly why D-503 feels attracted, yet also repelled by I-330, who expresses her sexuality freely. Despite the fact that sexuality is permitted in the One State, intercourse is devoid of any true emotion. In fact, the state has invested numerous efforts into isolating itself from the remaining world and instilling an order which compromises all free expression. Sex is one of the last things that it cannot exclude (for biological reasons) and must accept. Yet even here, the state has invested much effort into robbing this act of all feeling and making it absolutely mechanic. The One State even has a Sexual Department where “the exact content of sexual hormones in your blood is determined.” Here, the individual is provided “with an appropriate Table of sexual days.” During these “sexual days” the individual has the right to use his/her pink coupons in order to have sex with other individuals (who are simply called “numbers” throughout the book). Astonishingly, when referring to the topic of sex, the novel uses the verb “use.” Thus, sexual intercourse is simply an act of one individual using another.
The state intends to control all sexual processes. But why do individuals have to draw the curtains when engaging in sex? Would not it be more rational to keep the curtains open to fully control the individuals who are having sex? This is a tricky question, since the state would not want other citizens to see anything that would arouse their imagination. Seeing other people having sex might lead to unnecessary fantasies and a greater overall need for sex. All inhabitants of the One State are confined to a reality which does not give much space for going beyond the mundane. It is the state’s primary objective to ensure that individuals are strictly regulated in terms of their actions and feelings.
What is more, the promiscuity which is widely supported by the state keeps any two people from becoming too attached to one another. Hence, all individuals are left secluded. Without a partner or a family that could offer one support, love, and emotional connection, all inhabitants are left by themselves. They are lonely and, as a result, much easier to control. If people gathered in cohorts, formed romantic relationships, family or friendship connections, they would be come much less controllable. In effect, We shows the reader what the world would look like if all meaningful connection was extinguished.
Eventually, the novel demonstrates that the One State is at war with all that can lead the individual to freedom: feelings, imagination, even dreams are considered a mental malaise in the state. Pregnancy, which is filled with feelings of attachment in the human world, is only a function in the One State. Thus, when O-90 wishes to keep her baby (instead of giving it up to the state), she commits a crime against the state by concealing her child.
In the human world, sex is not only a physical function, but it is also a way for expressing one’s deepest feelings for another human being. Humans relate to one another through sensual touch and sexual contact. Hence, sex is always about some form of attachment. In the One State, there is absolutely no chance of becoming attached to another person. The Great Operation is designed to remove this possibility from the citizens’ lives; it demonstrates the ultimate atrocity of the regime. During this operation, the individual’s emotions and free will are completely removed. Most of the inhabitants of State One have undergone this procedure.
One of the book’s characters, I-330, plays a key role in the plot. As it was mentioned earlier, she flirts and does not suppress her sexual urges (like all other inhabitants). She, unlike the other citizens, has access to the world beyond the Green Wall. There, people are free. The fact that I-330 has access to the “other side” explains the free expression of her instinctual and other urges.
Summing up, the book We is filled with sexual context, yet it is far from what one would imagine. The book talks about a state where all sexual activity is significantly suppressed and controlled by a police government. However, the state can do nothing but conform to the laws of nature. Therefore, it has chosen to control all human feeling, identity, and ensure that no free will or emotion arises in any of the citizens. This way, sex and all other interactions become void; all attachment is severed.