That Seductive Mulatto Woman

Moreau de Saint–Méry painted a particularly negative portrait of mulatto women whom he considered to be voluptuaries and a threat to morals and decency.


A Voluptuary

All the advantages given to the mulatto man are lavished upon the mulatto woman. Everything which I have written, in painting the white Creole woman suits her perfectly, if you refer to elegance of form and ease of motion. But she carries farther the nonchalance which speaks of low vitality—this feature is not repudiated by the language of the eyes. To see her slow pace, accompanied by movements of her hips and the balancing of her head; joined by that arm which moves along her body, holding a handkerchief. . . . So, too, with a little bit of root used for a sort of brush with which she frequently burnished the enamel of her most beautiful teeth, and you recognize one of those priestesses of Venus beside whom a Laïs or a Phryné would have seen all her celebrity vanish.

The entire being of a mulatto woman is given up to love, and the fire of this goddess burns in her heart, to be extinguished only with her life. This cult is her whole code, all of her votive offerings, her entire happiness. There is nothing that the most inflamed imagination can conceive of that she has not offered, guessed, or accomplished. Captivating all the senses, surrendering them to the most delicious ecstasies, holding them in suspense by the most seductive raptures: those are her whole study. Nature, in some way the accessory to pleasure, has given her charms, appeal, and sensibility. She also has what is definitely more dangerous: the talent for trying her hand at greater delights than even her partner could equal. She knows pleasures of which not even the code of Paphos contains all the secrets.

Remember that I cited the mulatresses as the most precocious of the Creole women. This quality, their natural disposition, the accounts of the seductions of men by their female acquaintances, and the effect of a reputation which attaches to the entire class, are causes enough to make them pledge themselves at an early age to a life of love-making. You would be sorry to learn to what degree this disorder has developed. Sometimes the period which separates childhood from puberty and which belongs equally to both, so to speak, is hardly respected. From this stem all the wrong things, of which the inability to reproduce is not the least, or the coming of offspring who are feeble and weak.

The luxury of the mulatto women is carried to the nth degree and since 1770 it has made progress which seems unbelievable to those who are able to compare the two eras. It is always in the towns that you can judge well enough to gain an exact idea. This luxury consists almost entirely of single object, dress, because usually nothing is more simple than the housing of a mulattress.

Source: Médéric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry, A Civilization That Perished: The Last Years of White Colonial Rule in Haiti, (Philadelphia, published by the author, 1797-1798), translated, abridged, and edited by Ivor D. Spencer, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985), 81-82.