This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

S(ex)pression: Sexuality and Gender Oppression in Dirty War Argentina




Burns, Kaitlin

Type of Degree



Foreign Language and Literature


The period of conflict known as the Dirty War was a pointedly sexual oppression inflicted on the people of Argentina by their fledgling militant government. For these adolescent powers that lacked political legitimacy, fear served as the primary instrument to ensure the loyalty of the people. The means to achieving this fear was the kidnapping, torture, and subsequent death of 10,000-30,000 of Argentina’s youthful, leftist sector during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This domination was particularly sexual, which leads my theory to rest on gender studies and more specifically, queer theory. Thus, I have created a Male-Female analogy wherein I posit that the male force in a patriarchal society represents the machista government, and the people are represented by the female side of this metaphor. This analogy is founded in the idea that a conflict like that seen during the Dirty War period is a direct result of the expansion of prescribed gender roles, wherein the male feels he is leader of his domain (on a smaller scale—the family, and on a larger scale—the nation of Argentina) and must protect and punish this domain as he sees fit. Through thorough analysis of three works of literature emerging from the conflict at hand, the country’s cultural production reflects this gendered oppression and the effects that such a sexual repression have left upon Argentine society. I will examine the novel El beso de la mujer araña by Manuel Puig, Luisa Valenzuela’s compilation of short stories entitled Cambio de armas, and Nela Rio’s poetry from En las noches que desvisten otras noches. Each of these stories supports the Male-Female analogy as each gendered relationship chronicled therein depicts a sexual oppression on a microcosmic, personal level, as well as on a global and political scale in which the female protagonist represents Argentine society, while the male force is symbolic for Argentine state institutions.