Cross-dressing in James Joyce’s Ulysses

All is changed by woman’s will… with this ring I thee own.

Leopold Bloom, drunk in the brothel at midnight, is effortlessly dominated by Bella Cohen. The massive whoremistress is dressed in a three quarter ivory gown, and cools herself with a black horn fan.

-Married, I see. And the Missus is master. Petticoat government.

He confesses it is so.

-You are mine. It is fate.

He begs her to dominate him. She lets him retie the knot in her boot. She places her heel on his neck, and grinds it in.

-Bow, bondslave, before the throne of your despot’s glorious heels.

Having dominated, Bella is coaxing: “Come, ducky dear, darling, there’s a good girly now. Oh, ever so gently, pet, get ready, I want to administer correction.”

“No more blow hot and cold. What you longed for has come to pass. You will shed your male garments, you understand? and don the shot silk luxuriously rustling over head and shoulders and quickly too.”

“You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond-trimmeď pelvis, restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes stamped, of course, with my hoseflag, wigged, perfumesprayed, with smoothshaven armpits. The frilly flimsiness of lace round your bare knees… ”

He confesses again. “I tried her things on only once, to save the laundry bill… ”

“It was Gerald who converted me to be a true corsetlover when I was female impersonator in the high school play.”

She will make him work as housemaid, emptying the chamber pots. She auctions him off to the Cailiph Haroun Al Raschid. “The scanty, daringly short skirt, riding up at the knee to show a peep of white pantalette, is a potent weaponand transparent stockings, emerald gartered, with the long straight seam trailing up beyond the knee, appeal to men about town.”

Bloom, broken, closely veiled for the sacrifice, sobs, his face to the earth.

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