Carleton, Gregory. .Sexual revolution in Bolshevik Russia / Gregory Carleton. [0822942380 (cloth : alk. paper) ] Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, c2005. Call#: Van Pelt Library HQ18.S65 C37 2005
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the film, Doctor Zhivago, is the intense sexual prowess of the characters. At any given moment, especially early in the film's narrative, four intimate relationships are progressing at once; Komarovsky with Lara's mother, Komarovsky with Lara, Pasha with Lara, Zhivago with Tonya, and eventually Zhivago with Lara as well. Why is it that David Lean and Robert Bolt decide to add a number of extra-marital affairs to the script, even though many of them do not exist in Pasternak's novel? Gregor Carleton touches on this subject in his novel, Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia. Carleton claims that along with the sentiments of political revolution in 1917, came a new sense of sexual freedom. He says that young communist-activists were not just rebelling against political institutions, but against all institutions, including "marriage". In fact, out of this political movement came a strong campaign for women's empowerment. These revoluationary sentiments explain the strength that characterizes Lara throughout the film. She is under the rule of no one, and lives out most of her life as a single, independent woman. According to Carleton, this is an accurate portrayal of women from revolutionary Russia. He cites one female in particular, as his prime example of the changes that accompanied Bolshevism; Kollontai. Kollontai was a party official, fiction writer, and polemicist, and was highly educated. But her most significatn contribution to the revolutionary cause was her views on women's sexuality. Carleton writes, "Her message was that there could be no authentic marriage, no love or intimate relationship, in a class-based, property-obessessed society." (Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia, pg. 38). Essentially, women of Russian society were tired of becoming pieces of property for their men. They were tired of subordination, and their answer to these abuses was sexual promiscuity. In fact, to back such a claim, Carleton sites a poll taken in 1922 in Russia, asking citizens whether marriage was their "ideal" form of a relationship. 21.4% of men said it was, whereas only 14.3% of women said the same. Instead, women stated in interviews that they desired short-term relationships. One bourgeoisie woman, interviewed around the same time as the poll was taken, stated, "Sex is extremely important to me. Its absence ruins my whole mood." (Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia, pg. 39) Therefore, the Russian Revolution was not just a political upheaval, it was also a time of women's empowerment. They were finally allowed to address their own sexuality. Much of this sexuality is evident in Doctor Zhivago. The film is set during the Russian Revolution, and Lara is portrayed as an independent, sexually promiscuous woman. Despite her hatred for Komarovsky, she enjoys the sexual benefits he provides. Similarly, we see the absence of "marriage" as a viable institution in this film. Almost every marriage is violated through infidelity, including Lara's marriage with Pasha, and Zhivago's marriage with Tonya. Carleton's analysis of sexuality during the Russian Revolution explains why David Lean and Robert Bolt may have chosen add the concept of "promiscuity" to the film.