“…it’s time for literature to stop letting us take the blame.”

Lauren Hutton writes at necessarybehavior.com:

“…Christianity, Judaism, and Islam’s conception of women stems partially from the very first woman: Eve. The Bible’s portrayal of Adam and Eve presents Eve as extremely beautiful but a troublemaker, the first sinner, the downfall of man, and, ultimately, a temptress. She is the embodiment of temptation, leading Adam down a dangerous path he seemingly would not have embarked on himself. As the mother of all women, society insinuates that we are all a little bit of Eve…

To proceed with western stories, archaic storytelling and medieval literature carry on this biblical trope. Odysseus is almost led astray by sirens, who use their sexual appeal and stunning voices to lure unsuspecting men in, making the journey home to their wives impossible and jeopardizing their commitment through no fault of their own. Roman myths are no exception with Medusa being seduced by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena and then punished with her classic snake-filled locks for breaking celibacy. While the gods blamed her allure for the transgression, many tales depict the interaction as Poseidon raping her. It would seem easy then to answer whether she is a temptress or a victim — but men wrote and passed down the story, and so we are only left with laments over her allure by male gods who were somehow seduced for the umpteenth time…

But it doesn’t stop there. It is not just western society that sees us as a little bit Helen of Troy, as Sirens, as Lady Macbeth. The presentation of women using their sexuality to the downfall of man expands past cultural and religious boundaries. In Elizabeth Prioleau’s Seductress, she comments on the intersection of sexuality with spirituality, writing, “the core themes of sexuality were infused in the human libido with deeply mystical impulses,” partially evidenced by mortal man’s embrace of female angels in holy texts across cultures. In Vedic India, female sexuality was linked to goddess worship with devotion to the goddess of wisdom resulting in the “highest splendour of the yoni” (the vagina)…According to historian Ashley Cowie, female sexuality has been “de-powered by the patriarchal church in the western world” over the past 3,000 years. Stories paint sexually empowered women as close to the dark and supernatural, rather than as spiritually awakened, and seek to eliminate this threat.

Later on in the east, more organized religions continued to contribute to the difficult narrative of female sexuality. Around 1,000 AD, “Tantra” developed concurrently in Hinduism and Buddhism. The term refers to the weaving of the instrument of the body and was seen as “a spiritual journey of self-development involving work with kundalini energy, chakras, yoga, and other esoteric areas. Putting elements of all these ideas together, women could raise, lower, manage, and control the flows and release of energies in themselves and their partners.” Notice that the idea of tantra involves the women doing the manipulating and lends itself to the narrative of coercion and deceit being an implicit part of female sexuality. The link between the sexual and the supernatural seems inherent to ancient storytelling, leading to its weaponization across regions…

For most of history, stories have been crafted by men. Patriarchal religions and philosophical stances depict women as evil holders of their sexuality, bringing about even the most wholehearted of men’s downfalls. Intelligent women, political and artistic leaders, and even opinionated wives are rendered supernatural, evil, capable only of abusing their relentless sexuality. The story is one-note and, ultimately, a tragedy for women rather than men.

This is how the story ends: the burning of a witch. The suicide of Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra. The hanging of Helen of Troy. Victoria’s body being ripped to pieces. Eve’s subjugation and sorrow. The silence of survivors.

Women, we must start rewriting the story. It is time to move beyond the rituals in the woods, darkened rooms, fairy lands and treacherous cliff sides. It is time to accept the realm of folklore and supernatural deceit as fiction. The tropes don’t stand — a woman can be clever, powerful, and driven without using her sexuality to succeed. Men bring about their own downfalls more often than not, and it’s time for literature to stop letting us take the blame.”

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