Eroticism in the Poetry of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman's poems often alude or directly state sexuality. While he tries hard to write about women and men the same, he treats homosexual eroticism and heterosexual eroticism differently.
In the poem "I Sing the Body Electric," Whitman has equal stanzas for both men and women. But they are all very different. When Whitman describes women he seems to be very detached and speaks from a more general veiw. In each section about women he mostly writes stuff about them that has to do with things like motherhood. But not sexually. As Whitman is describing the two sexes in their daily lives, the woman was a mothering cow. In stanzas about the auction of slaves, he describes the woman as "the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates and mothers." Every time Whitman describes women, he goes back to this maternal image of them. Even when Whitman has a few short lines about the female sexuality, he immediately has a line of "She is to conceive daughters as well as sons.
Whitman's writing style is also different when he writes the female sections. His words seem to be more natural and flowy like a woman is just a part of nature. He uses phrases like "folds of their dress" and "bend of legs, negligent flowing hands..."
Even though Witman gives male and female equal time in the poem, you can tell he is clearly drawn to the man. He was compairing a woman in flowing dress on the street to naked swimmers and wrestlers. The way he describes man is so much more passionate and erotic. He always seems to talk of women from a detached voice but seems to actually be watching men, or physically touching them. He describes an old farmer then says "you wish to sit by him in the boat, that you and him might touch each other." Whitman is never physically with any woman he decribes.
Try as he might, Whitman is clearly prone to homoeroticism. You simply can't compare birthing mothers to naked swimmers and say Whitman is not homoerotic. Even though he acknowledges women's sexuality, he simply does not find them erotic.