Moll Flanders made me feel kind of like a whore.

I learned about Daniel Defoe when I was frantically studying for the English Literature subject GRE (which I’m still waiting for the results…. graduate school, here’s to you). Also, when I read his novel Robinson Crusoe one summer when I was staying at a farm. But that’s besides the point.

One of the novels from a period of political and social unrest, this novel is one of a kind for having the main protagonist be a female, but also that she’s a incestuous whore who sleeps around for money.

And yet we somehow cheer her on for being that.

Moll is a heroine for using what she has to get what she needs. And who’s to say what a whore is? Aren’t we all whores? We all use what we have; our intelligence, our money, our talents, our connections. What makes it so wrong to sell our bodies?

Like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, we have a woman who is using what she has to offer; the only thing that she truly owns, to survive. Which is perhaps why we cheer for her so willingly. Especially in a society that treats the sanctity of marriage as a business transaction in which money is the common denominator, how can we not help but see that Miss Molly is just using the system to her own advantage?

As a woman, I’ve personally resented a recent cultural trend titled: friend-zoning. If you are from a generation other than mine; let me give you the quick down-low: friend-zoning is what happens when a man finds a woman attractive, and a woman uses this attraction to garner special gifts or services from the man, without any intention of reciprocating the actions with any sort of special favor or affection. Needless to say, it is not good to be in the friend zone. You are being used, my friend. So, if you are a man and you have a certain girl friend who is always in the wrong relationship with the wrong sort of man, who constantly needs you to fix her car/computer, and always tells you how cute you are, and that she wishes she could find someone “just like you” (but not actually you), RUN FOR YOUR FREAKING LIFE. You have just been friend-zoned and she will want nothing from you but to use you like a piece of toilet tissue.

Now, while I do think that there are girls who will very obviously abuse their gender role and take advantage of smitten men; even encouraging them on (like our lovely hero Moll Flanders), I do think that this cultural phenomenon is given in cases in which this is not necessarily true.

I once met a man who was really a great, fun guy and I loved hanging out with him. He knew how to have fun and be goofy, but mind you, I had no interest whatsoever in this guy. He was a friend, and I told him so.

But this man had a very certain idea of women in his head. To him, women were formulaic. Just add chocolate, flowers, a kiss, and stir until melted. He didn’t understand how a woman could possibly resist him if he presented those things.

So, awkwardly, he gave me flowers once and I thanked him, but told him I didn’t see him that way, and gave the flowers back. He pretty much went ballistic and started showering me with gifts that while I appreciated his generosity, told him I didn’t want, and that all I wanted from him was friendship. You can guess how well he took that, and to say the least we parted on not so friendly terms. So, while he would rather resent the fact that I had “friend-zoned” him, I felt perfectly valid in feeling angry that just because a guy tries to give me crap doesn’t mean I automatically like him. But to be clear again, a girl who encourages those types of gifts/attention is clearly a bitch.

So, why do we love Moll Flanders so much? She is the queen of friend-zoning; of the social and matrimonial manipulation; a princess of thieves, and a heartbreaker to impress all heartbreakers.
Is it because she had to? Or because she is justified to do so in a system in money, and not love, is the only currency? If men wooed her for her money, doesn’t it seem justified for her to “friend-zone” them for money? Perhaps we love Moll Flanders because we feel that if men loved money and not women, it serves them right to have a woman, and not money. Perhaps, in using the system to her advantage, we see Moll Flanders as progressing our cause, and not ruining it.

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About Angela

Editor, bookbinder, and writer.

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