The Dandy as a Patriarchal Figure
The dandy was as much an aesthetic figure as a sexual figure. The dandy purported his aesthetic value as much as his sexuality by way of his physical dress and leisurely mannerisms. Although the dandy’s self-expression was demonstrated through appearance, sexuality, particularly the taboo of homosexuality, was conflated with dandyism as a whole. The aestheticism of dandyism subsequently meant aestheticizing the expression of homosexuality because of the societal stereotypes attached to the figure of the dandy.
Aubrey Beardsley’s image for Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” combines a patriarchal hierarchical authority with the figure of the dandy. The image’s association with “The Rape of the Lock”, a poem where a man metaphorically sexually exploits a young woman, makes the male dandy figure in the text performing the act of the lock-cutting the textual figure who performs this sexual exploitation. Thus, the dandy performs a heterosexual, patriarchal act that situates him atop the gender hierarchy. The fact that Beardsley makes the poem’s male figure resemble a dandy is a refusal to accept the taboo, feminized stereotypes that place the dandy below the heterosexual male.