Womanhood-Motherhood (by Roya Monajem)

Chapter Eleven

FEMININE SEXUALITY

 

As a reaction to the traditional masculine view that ignored women’s sexual need and desire[30], and as much as there is an equal reaction to every action, it was claimed that sexual derive (including sexual need) in women is quantitatively equal to men. This is another domain where legal and social equality led to groundless assumption of biological equality.  According to such a superficial view of equality, men and women should be exclusively equal in everything, including physiology.

Women and men can not have equal sexual desire. Biologically “one’s genetic makeup determines one’s hormonal status and the sensitivity of one’s body to these hormones.”[31] Menstruation cycle that follows the course of feminine hormonal secretion affects feminine sexual desire. The latter reaches its climax during ovulation as the result of maximum secretion of feminine hormones and then with the decline in secretion of these hormones sexual drive would decrease too. This is a natural cycle with a survival value. Women’s sexual desire should reach a climax during the ovulation to increase the probability of sexual relationship. On the other hand, it should naturally decline during pregnancy to ensure the safe growth of the fetus.

By sexual drive, we mean sexual arousal and the impulsive motivation to satisfy it, in the same way, as when we feel hungry we are motivated to find food. Otherwise, the sexual relationship as a thrilling enjoyable act can be stimulating once it starts.[32]

Generally, male’s sexual drive in the whole animal kingdom over-exceeds that of the female. This difference has survival value and significance. In this way, one male can impregnate many females, thus increasing the population of the species during the limited period of mating season (that is in the majority of mammals except humans that do not have a mating season at least from the time that a proper housing system protected them from the adverse weather conditions). The fact that such a masculine disposition lowers the selective value of an individual male, making females more valuable than males in an evolutionary sense, will not affect its overall survival value. The more vigorous the male the higher is the chance of winning a female and the higher is the chance of propagation of a stronger race.

On the other hand, the higher selective value of females guarantees that only males possessing such a characteristic will have the chance to win a female. In this way the progeny can inherit this stronger physical strength and drive thus again ensuring the survival of the race.

Generally, “sexual selection always favors polygynous and promiscuous system unless it is disadvantageous to the females as it is in most birds.” “Monogamy is favored over polygamy only when some environmental resource (e.g. food) is limited and when the maximum survival of young requires the care of both parents. As in all other aspects of reproductive behavior, the type of mating system that is employed by a species is the result of natural selection differences in animals.

“In many animals, sexual differences are apparent in addition to the primary sex differentiation. Secondary sexual differentiation in sexually distinct individuals (as the beard and deep voice of the male and the enlarged breast of the female in human species) is to be seen in many forms. Females, by and large, are of comparatively quiet disposition and relatively drab appearance. Their function is to produce and nurture eggs, as safely and usually as inconspicuously as possible. The male function is to find and fertilize the female for which both drive and display are generally required.” That is why male animals possess more elaborated appearance.

The second factor that can affect the sexual drive is pregnancy. Pregnancy with its corresponding bodily and hormonal changes and then the period of breast-feeding with another set of hormonal secretion would also influence the female’s sexual desire. In animals, the mating season in fact terminates with ensuing pregnancy. In other words, the sexual drive is extinguished in both sexes. In humans however, pregnancy should lead to a decline in female’s sexual eagerness due to its corresponding hormonal changes.

Therefore, there is not much biological foundation for the claim of ‘equality of sexual drive’ in the two sexes. Regarding monogamy among humans, the main factor that can encourage it is the caring for the young that is becoming increasingly difficult not only in regards to ‘environmental sources,’ but also socially, financially and psychologically. We can not afford any further increase in population of our race. Therefore, the social protest against polygamy of human males has a biological foundation. That is perhaps why it has been quite successful despite the stronger sexual drive of men. However, the fact that men need to restrain their sexual drive is one thing and the claim of equal sexual drive of men and women is another.

From what has been said it can be seen that the religious, cultural and social principles that are all in favor of men’s sexual liberty and women’s sexual abstention, self-denial and self-restrain have a biological basis. They sound offensive because of their patriarchal antifeminist spirit. Females are biologically more monogamous anyway. It is the male that needs to confront his polygamous disposition. However, these discriminating patriarchal dogmas are additional factors that affect feminine sexual drive. They prohibit women to acknowledge their sexual eagerness even when in ‘heat’ i.e. during the short monthly period of ovulation. It can be the main etiology of the emergence of frigidity among general population of women.

Modern women although they have freed themselves from much of the above dogmas (surly only to the extent that the social, cultural, religious anti-sexual teachings and conditionings allow such liberation) but are confronted with other obstacles including a more developed masculine self (at the expense of their feminine side), and the growth of intellectuality at the expense of their sensual (in the sense of acute, elaborated senses of the word) and intuitive qualities.

This is another element in the apparent additional growth of frigidity among modern women. No matter as a result of the anti-sexual teachings and conditionings or as a natural disposition, women’s affection affects their sexual desire. In traditional countries, sexual attraction to a man without the feeling of love is as unforgivable as the First Sin. Perhaps that is why so many different feelings are described all with one single word of ‘love.’ This is a cultural characteristic of logic-based languages. As much as they have developed a rich terminology in logic, they have a poor sensual vocabulary. It is said that Eskimos (as an example of the second cultures) have 27 different words for the concept we describe with the words ‘like’ and ‘love.’ [33] We can love a person for he is a good friend, a loving character, a good teacher, a pleasant personality to chat with, a considerate companion in trip and travel, a sensual lover, an experienced wise person, a good husband…. Eskimos describe each one of the above situations with the relevant term. But when we say we love somebody we do not make ourselves clear in what sense. As we do not make such distinction we can naturally get confused about our feelings towards people. A good friend is not necessarily a good husband, as much as a good husband is not necessarily a good friend. Such an approach has both beneficial and harmful aspects. For example, sexually suppressed cultures, forbid purely sexual attraction of a girl to a man. The only time that such an attraction is recognized is when she ‘loves’ the man (love in the sense of choosing him as her husband). As the result, she first has to make herself believe that she ‘loves’ the man, to allow herself to justify her real basis of her attraction (sex). Here is when the lack of distinction of feelings with the resultant lack of a sensual terminology comes to her assistance. By the magic word of ‘love’s, self-justification is actualized.

Such confusion can very well be one of the most important reasons for choosing the wrong person as our life companion. In human societies sexual attraction is not enough to act as the main foundation of a marriage. In fact young people that have not yet become expert in “learning to cope with their sexual arousal to such an extent as to achieve some balance between suppression and free expression”[34] sexual drive would make the core of attraction to the opposite sex.

This is a very important point especially for younger women to be aware of. For a sexually patriarchal society as Iran, it is still extremely difficult for Modern intellectual women to acknowledge the real nature of their feeling toward a man. On one hand, they do not want to accept the traditional parental supervision in the matter. On the other hand, the cultural suppressions do not allow them to freely examine the core and the real nature of their attraction. To free one’s whole psyche from centuries of the anti-sexual learning and conditionings is not an easy task at all. The overwhelming majority of young women who do have pre-marital sexual relationship derive their courage still from the magical word of ‘love.’ They dare to break the prevalent traditional suppressions because they are under the illusion of love. To be more exact, they willingly put themselves in the hands of such an illusion and self-deception. Once the goal is accomplished they wake up, but it is difficult to accept the truth. Its bitterness sends them back to their previous ‘self-hypnotic’ state. It is painful to wake up and suddenly realize that one has lost her only true capital: ‘virginity.’ For centuries, this had been considered as the only thing that she truly possess in this world. But why has it acquired such a high social evaluation. What were the probable needs? What can be the main goal of such a social contract?

Virginity is the most reliable way to ensure that the husband would be the father. In other words, the need to ascertain the fatherhood of the child, has most probably been the cause of emergence of valuation of virginity. Earlier we showed that monogamy is one way to regulate population growth. Perhaps that is the basis of the difference observed among different peoples. Monogamy or nuclear family in social terms, that Engles attributes its origin to the rise of private ownership, should have emerged where the growth of population was becoming threatening for the survival of the race as incest was in another period of history-- genetically it threatened the health of the race. The rise of private ownership and the subject of inheritance that Engles regarded as the cause of the emergence of monogamy particularly for women can be one interpretation of a biological phenomenon in a patriarchal society. Let us look at the problem from a biological view. As it was shown, the sexual drive of women is lower than that of men for 1) physiological and 2) survival reasons. When “monogamy is favored over polygamy” it is naturally easier for the sex with lower sexual eagerness to control its sexual drive. In other words, abstaining from sexual relationship is easier for women than for men. Therefore from a biological view, monogamy is reserved for the sex that is less affected. From this view women have nothing to object to polygamous men. It can arouse objection if women’s security would be threatened. This is exactly what in practice happens. The second woman can endanger the position of the first. She might be abandoned. For a financially dependent woman this is a real catastrophe. If her financial security would be ensured then no biological ‘injustice’ has logically occurred. She is just freed from a frustrated husband.

Evolutionary, as mentioned earlier polygamy is preferred only when the survival of the race is threatened. Monogamy is favored 1) when the growth of population becomes a threat, 2) when the survival of the young requires the care of both parents. Considering the fact that human offspring have the longest dependency period, this together with other environmental factors such as food availability would naturally lead to the dominance of monogamy among humans. However, polygamy has always been maintained at least for the powerful men such as kings, princesses, the chief of the tribes, etc mainly because they are not equally confronted with the same limiting factors. In Islam where polygamy has been the right of all men, (they are allowed to have four official wives and as many “Sighehs” (i.e. temporary or short term, nevertheless official wives) as they can afford), there could very well be a biological basis for it at least at the earlier time of its emergence. Many men were killed during the early Islamic conquest threatening the survival of the race. Therefore, polygamy was favored biologically and then was theorized in religious precepts. If we accept the inequality of sexual drive in the sexes, under normal conditions there is always some pressure on one or both of them. Either the woman should behave in opposition to her deep inclination or the man or both. The other alternative for them is to maintain a passionate love. That is the only way that would make love-making a blissful act for both emotionally and existentially. Without such love, either women have to act like a prostitute and/or men should suppress their extra sexual eagerness and thus carry a deep frustration.  By prostitute we mean somebody who makes love without necessarily loving the man. Women who sell a part of their body for some material, objective gain. As said before, women’s lesser sexual drive can only be overcome by the energy of love. Each time a woman makes love, if she is not in love, then she is acting like a prostitute. Men do not need love for the arousal of their sexual drive at least as much as a woman. Another way to say that is in addition to natural sexual desire, women need the element of love to be totally fulfilled. During the times that she is hormonally repressed the only way for her to desire love-making is by feeling ‘in love.’

In short, in a marital relationship in which passionate love is a rare phenomenon, the alternatives are:

1)       women act like prostitutes;

2)       men ‘neglects’ their sexual desire; this leads to accumulation of some frustration in man;

3)       men fulfill their additional sexual desire in extra-marital relationships; for this they need to neglect the enforced or imposed cultural (including religious, social and legal)  marital contracts such as faithfulness;

4)       break the marriage and start another relationship;

5)       revive and maintain their passionate love.

 

For women when they are not in love, it should not really be important if their mate sleeps with another woman, at least as long as her position is not jeopardized. In other words, as long as women’s financial security is not threatened, they could not have anything against men’s ‘unfaithfulness.’ That is perhaps why wives of a single man, at least in the majority of cases, cohabited quite peacefully with each other and women of Harems did not normally revolt. Their financial security was ensured. Perhaps that is why they didn’t protest at least in a masculine way to such an unequivocal injustice. We will attempt to explore the probable differences in the manifestation of aggression and protest in men and women later in the chapter.

As mentioned before, polygamy has largely been limited to the upper and perhaps a very section of the middle classes, i.e. only in a relatively small part of the general population. The financial state of men was the determining factor here. For the majority of population living in poverty, a man could hardly support even a single wife and her children. As it was shown in this book, there can be many other reasons for the historical long silence of women. Here the lower sexual drive and full-time preoccupation with children can very well account for women’s acquiescence. It can be a form of active voluntary acquiescence.

When a woman loses her position as the sole ‘lover’, and usually that is when she can not respond sufficiently to the sexual drive of her husband as before mainly because she doesn’t love him anymore, she would at least confront less frustration. Her accumulating resentment that has led to her ‘falling out of love,’ together with the man’s similar resentment and frustration alienate them further, thus giving rise to a vicious circle. It is then that the man would look for extra-marital sexual relationship that would at least decrease his sexual frustration and nervousness. The discharge of his sexual frustration can very well lead to a more lovable and pleasant disposition at home. On the other hand, no matter how self-righteous the woman would feel, she unconsciously is aware of her lack of love that has in turn made her ‘frigid.’ Such a woman would escape love-making as much as possible. That is perhaps why she could and still can forgive her husband for his unfaithfulness particularly when he fulfills his sexual desire with a prostitute.

The situation is unjust and unfair on women because it is quite possible that in such cases there are times that women feel (at least hormonally) the sexual desire, but her mate is with somebody else and she is not allowed to do the same. In addition, sometimes although her financial security is maintained but the man does not fulfil her emotional needs any longer. Many of Harem women were exposed to such an injustice.

Now that we are faced with population explosion, maintenance of monogamy is an urgent need. It should be applied for both sexes. Divorce, in addition to the reasons discussed in the relevant chapter, is not the solution in this respect too. The chance of having more children increases in multi-marriages. In order to accomplish real justice for both sexes, the couple should create and maintain a lasting passionate love for each other. Love is a conscious act. In chapter 5 we explained in detail the general mechanism for maintaining a loving relationship. Briefly the couple should keep concentrating on the loveable side of the personality of their lover as before and treat the negative side as a reflection or a reaction of their own self. Once they discover the nature of their action, of the particular state of being that is producing such an offensive reaction, they can overcome it and thus would no longer be confronted with its corresponding disturbing and agitating reflection. Once they maintain their love, the hormonal decrease in woman’s sexual desire would be overcome by passion and she would be able to respond to her husband’s sexual need in a more satisfactory fashion for both.

 

Now let us go back to the discussion about virginity and why it turned into the only true ‘capital’ of women. Engles’ theory can be more feasible here. Virginity is the only way to warrant the fatherhood of the child. It is the only way that a man can be sure that the child in his wife’s womb belongs to him and not to another man before him to ensure that his inheritance stays in his own lineage. It seems that for men the question of inheritance is the most important rapture in life. What can be the origin of this engrossment? Why should it be so important for a man to make sure that his inheritance goes to his own descendants?

Inheritance can be regarded as the outcome of man’s creative activity in life. It is very natural that it should be the most precious thing that a man possesses. It is the fruit of his life long endeavour and struggle. As much as children are the fruit of woman’s creativity, what a man gathers in his career would be his true child. He has given his life for it as much as a woman gives her life for her children. When he leaves it for his own child, whom he can teach to continue his standards and evaluations and train him for such a task, the higher would be the chance of its preservation. He enjoys a greater freedom in training his own child in the same way as he wishes. In other words, as genetically his own offspring is closer to him than somebody else’s child, therefore, the higher is the chance that the child would accept the sort of conditioning that the parents like to impose. Even among the tribes that the girl had to sleep with another man before sleeping with her husband, that other man was either the man’s father, the chief or another man of authority that even if it led to pregnancy, the child would be either of the same blood or would have a ‘noble’ blood.

In any case, the high evaluation of virginity is a masculine concern and therefore will be reinforced by the patriarchal cultural norms. The fact that it is the men who choose their mate and not the reverse is in a way in accordance with the general situation in the animal kingdom. In the latter, the males fight for a female and the winner wins the female. Remember the more vigorous the male the higher is his chance to defeat other males and wins a female. If we consider private property as one of the attributes of power and authority essentially comparable to other various devices for the attraction and stimulation of females such as claw of the fiddler crab, antlers of a moose, great bulk and strength of a harem master in a fur seal colony, the beautiful fan tail of the peacock and brighter feathers of the other birds, then the more the property, the higher is the chance that he will win over other males. It is quite possible that this trend (male taking the first step in choosing a female) has continued because of its strong link with a Natural propensity.

Now the question is if private property and the question of inheritance is the main basis for the importance and high evaluation of virginity, why has virginity started to lose its high esteem although the underlying basis has remained more or less as firm and significant as before? If we are right to say that the importance of virginity emerged out of the fact that it was the only way to guarantee the fatherhood, then now it is losing its significance because it is no longer THE only way to ensure that. Traditionally, premarital association of young people was forbidden. In Islamic countries, many future couples would see each other properly only after they were married i.e. on the night of their marriage. Now they freely communicate for months and years before marriage. Another important factor is the invention of reliable contraceptives. Both can warrant the fatherhood as much as virginity. Finally, we have the transformation in the universal ideology in regards to women as the result of feminist movement.

It was mentioned that modern women particularly in traditional societies have not still been completely freed from the discriminating sexual dogmas. They can allow themselves to surrender to their sexual desire only when they make themselves believe in being in love. Once the sexual relationship is accomplished, they sort of wake up and realize that the feeling had not been love, but rather a strong physical attraction. In the majority of the cases, they would still do their best to make the relationship lead to marriage despite their true feeling. They are not still psychologically strong enough to cope with the long infused guilt feeling resulting from losing their virginity.

On the other hand, it is difficult to live with a man whom you don’t love. It is even harder to make love to such a man. The mental association of sex in women is love. The self-hypnotic stage through which she convinced herself of her love is not strong enough to maintain her in her foregoing illusory love. The strength of her sexual drive that acted as a powerful hypnotic force has decreased as the result of fulfillment. Self-control at the sight of food is easier when one is satiated than when hungry. Thus a vicious circle starts that will either lead to divorce or a lasting, but disappointing marriage. For modern women, the first choice is now getting more feasible. However as mentioned before divorce is not a real solution, at least in the majority of cases.

For a traditional young woman the situation is somehow different. It is true that she marries through the wooing procedure, sometimes despite her wish and under the mere force of her parents, but there are many factors that can help her to create a more satisfactory marriage. As explained in the chapter on love, although it is almost impossible to foresee whether a marriage will be successful or not, but usually the closer the cultural, financial and ethical similarities (in one word the ‘habits’) of the couple, the greater is the chance of marital success. This together with the strength of sexual drive of the young people can make a marriage work. Parents’ role (on both sides) is in fact to discern the right candidate. This is a task difficult for inexperienced, sexually aroused young people. Their strong passion and ardor make them see themselves as ‘super-humans.’ Nothing seems a problem to them particularly when they think they are in love. They conjure up that they can victoriously make everything work, overcome any obstacle. They can not imagine how difficult the process of creating a happy, fulfilling marriage can be. They are ignorant about the fact that the origin of the majority of marital problems and disputes lies in different social, educational, cultural background of the couple. The majority of adults are aware of this fact and they know that the closer the ethics of the couple, the less quarrels they will have, the less offended they will be and less resentment would fill their hearts. They know out of experience that once the flame of the passion (especially sexual passion) fades away, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain an affectionate relationship. Now for women with the dependency of at least a good part of their sexual desire (only excluding the desire to have a child) on deep affection the increasing fall in their feeling of love leads to a decline in the their sexual desire. The less she can express her femininity, the less the man can manifest his masculinity. So another vicious circle starts to take shape here as well. As the man is not sexually satisfied at home the chance of his disloyalty would increase. In contrast to one of the most prevalent generalizations about men, they are not genetically unfaithful, but it is some objective conditions that develops such a quality in them. It is time for women to give up their traditional ‘martyr’ or ‘poor me’ drama and accept their responsibility for and their role in this condition (i.e. men’s unfaithfulness).

There is normally a biological natural root for every trait that humans manifest. If women have been comparatively more faithful throughout the history, it is not due to the cultural, social, religious and legal restraints imposed on women. In fact these restraints arose and successfully propagated and transformed to traditions because of a biological survival exigency. As explained in chapter one, traditions arise from some biological need and the more they maintain this bound and dependency, the more lasting they will be and the more difficult would be to change them.

To summarize, a successful fulfilling marital relationship requires harmony and compatibility in characters. This is largely determined by the personality development background of the couple. For traditional women, it is the parents with their life experience that can discern whether such compatibility is present or not. Modern women with their strong tendency to overrule the long lasting traditions and ignoring their wisdom on one hand and their developed masculine self and increasing alienation from their true self on the other hand, deprive themselves from the experience of their parents. They will learn about the importance of the harmony and compatibility of characters only after they start the marital relationship in practice and problems start. Therefore even when a modern woman starts her marital relationship with love, if she lacks similar ethical background with her husband, the chance that the relationship might work out is not high. In case of the traditional young people, this very last feature, i.e. sharing many common traits may help her to fall in love. She is free from at least the self-deception and self-hypnotism that her modern ‘emancipated’ sister inflicts on herself to make herself believe that she loves the man of her choice. The only thing that might agonize her at the beginning would be that she might have not had an active role in choosing his future love. Once she finds the man pleasant, she would overcome her initial resistance. This does not mean that even the parents can always choose the right person. Here we only have the probabilities in mind.

 In addition to the above problem among modern women, their intellectuality can also affect their sexual relationship. Intellectuality affects women in different ways. As a newly developed trait, women still are relatively inexperienced in the mechanisms of its operation. They still do not know how and when “turn it off.” The need for mental activity in women developed as they entered the ‘man-made’ social productive relationships.

Intellectuality in women can be regarded as the outcome and the effect of the growth of her masculine, animus, or yang masculine aspect. Purely feminine way of living has no need and place for thinking at least in its masculine sense. In comparison to feeling, logic and mental activity have a lower survival value. When in danger, one has not time to ‘think’ and rationalize how one should act. Women as the sex responsible for survival of human race needed acute, subtle senses that would act quickly and promptly.  In addition, her different way of responding to both human urges, i.e. creativity and looking for truth, (see chapters 2 and 3), did not necessitate the development of her mental faculty as it did in men. In men, the growth of mental faculties had a real survival value. The more intelligent, the higher the chance of survival. The more intelligent, the more ingenious one can be in production of surplus values and management of one’s material possessions. The higher the mental activity, the closer one is to genuine creativity, the higher the chance of reaching new conceptions.

On the other hand, human beings can not simultaneously function in two different domains. One can either think or feel. If one wants to feel one should stop thinking and vice versa. Considering the role of affection in women’s love making ability, an intellectual woman should be able “to turn off the key for thinking” in order to be able to feel. This is an operation that women have not yet acquired efficiently. That is an additional reason for the increasing cases of frigidity among intellectual women. As she continues to think, she is unable to feel and thus can not enjoy the act of love-making emotionally. The only basis for her enjoyment here is physical stimulation. The less she enjoys, the less she desires it and thus appearing frigid.

Another way that intellectuality can affect sexual desire in women is through the fear of pregnancy.  Any new child can mean a longer period of full-time occupation and greater responsibility at home that would lead to having less time for herself and her mental endeavors.

 In chapter 2 in our discussion about different aspects of creativity we showed that creativity has two main pre-requisites: 1) objective needs that lead to invention of working tools and 2) subjective needs that produces creative works (both in arts and sciences). We explained that women’s objective needs were fulfilled rather early in human history (mainly due to consistency of their working tools) in contrast to men whose working tools has been under perpetual development and growth. We showed how the subjective needs for creativity in women were and still are satisfied by 1) different house works, quite a few of which possess an artistic nature (cooking, table setting, interior decoration etc) and 2) different handicrafts (sewing, knitting, weaving etc) and ‘last but not the least,’ and most significantly by 3) giving birth that can very well be considered as the culmination of creative activity.

So the climax of feminine creativity is giving birth. Love-making, for women, is the actualizing tool of such an urge. Satisfaction of this urge, together with the increasing complexity of life and child raising, further lowers the sexual desire in all women, particularly the intellectual type, as mentioned earlier. For women the desire of love-making is conjoined with child-bearing, when one is lowered as the goal is accomplished the other will also decrease.

The fact that women are told that they should have the same amount of sexual desire and they don’t feel it to be true, then they naturally come to the conclusion that ‘there is something wrong with them.’ As the result, they either would make love despite their feeling (i.e. act like a prostitute) which would further lower their desire as they would not enjoy the act as they should. Or they would unconsciously create a situation that would justify their reluctance, such as finding an excuse to make a fuss over nothing and then sulk the rest of the evening. This again will further lower their normal desire. Another alternative is to unconsciously invoke a gynecological condition such as metrorrhagia and so on that would make love-making difficult.

I think many women will sign a relief to know that it is O.K. not to have an equal sexual desire at least when they have children and are not passionately in love.

To summarize, women can desire and enjoy sexual relationship as much as men do only on one condition: to be passionately in love. Otherwise, their physiological constitution, together with the natural division of labor, their different way in responding to human urge of creativity, will take over and as the result she will appear ‘frigid’ by the present ruling masculine terms, criteria and definitions.

We will end this chapter by trying to find some of the fundamental feminine and masculine characteristics by exploring an ancient wisdom formulated in the Chinese Book of Change or I Ching. However before that we would like to refer to another major difference of men and women and that is the subject of aggression.

 

Probable Feminine forms of aggression and protest

Throughout the history, women have been described as the tender, sensitive, vulnerable, delicate sex, in need of support and protection. Surly all this is true from one angle, but it does not mean that she is devoid of any form of aggression.

There is no need to say that women can not express their aggression physically particularly when the ‘opponent’ is a male, i.e. a physically stronger species. Not only this form of aggression is the result of male hormone secretion, the physical constitution and psychological make up of women do not allow direct assaults. In addition her responsibility in the survival of the race, make her naturally anti-war and anti-physical-aggression, anything that can result in destruction and devastation unless she feels that her child is in danger. Death of the mother of a young child can seriously threaten the life of the child as well. Even when she is in a situation that endangers her child’s life indirectly, she would exhibit forms of ‘aggression’ that have not yet been explored mostly due to the historical dominance of masculine outlook (including concepts, values, definitions…). Women have largely been described and defined and explored by men.  A man can only see and feel through his own perspective which although it overlaps with that of women at some points (that is the human part), it is different.

Feminine forms of aggression should necessarily be very subtle and obscure, forms that men would not interpret as aggression. Otherwise she will be treated as a man would in such conditions and as she lacks enough physical strength she would be the loser from the very beginning.

The first universal form of her ‘aggression’ would be to convey the idea that she is so delicate and vulnerable that if mistreated she will break as a fragile object. In other words, she would act in such a way as to reinforce the universal definition and description of her sex. Tears are her dagger and sword. Cursing and tongue-lash her bow and arrow. In this way anybody approaching her in a brutal aggressive way will hate himself and will be filled with self-disgust and guilt.

Charm and allurement, enticement and seduction can be her other tools in avoiding aggression and in getting what she wants. These qualities are particularly useful in situations where a man would use physical power and strength. It is as difficult to say no to a charming woman as it is to an authoritative man.

As she is not allowed to express her opinion openly and explicitly she has been forced to appeal to more subtle and implicit ways of expression. So she would develop artfulness, craftiness and canniness.

Submission is another way to avoid aggression. If in men it finds a passive obligatory form, in women it definitely has an active arbitrary quality. Men surrender only when they smell defeat that is when they know aggression would aggravate the situation. Feminine surrender however is based on totally different considerations. Like submission it has an active voluntary nature. In men both behaviors are manifested when there is no hope for the success of aggression and therefore assumes a passive quality, while in women that do not have aggression in the same physical sense, it can be considered as an active reaction. Women don’t start a fight in the first place to be forced to surrender at the end. If we want to use the current masculine terminology, she surrenders right from the beginning. Surly this can not be surrender in the same sense as it is used for men. It is a form of transformed aggression. Aggression changed to its mirror image. It is of the same nature. It can be said that they are the two sides of the same coin as hate and love are. The latter are the same energy in opposite forms. That is why they are easily interchangeable. One can hate only the person that one loves and vice versa. When ‘like’ can turn to ‘dislike,’ it suggests that they are of the same nature, the same energy.

Another universal form of women’s aggression is sulking and not being on speaking terms. The anger is then conveyed tacitly and obscurely. In other words, this is a concealed form of aggression.

Ideal Female and Male

 

In the last chapter, it was suggested that Eastern traditional women can help us to rediscover at least part of our lost femininity. Another source for this purpose are ancient classics such as the Chinese Book of Change or I Ching. The only problem with at least the present version of these books is that they are all polluted with masculine commentaries and interpretations. 

Personally, for years, when studying I Ching that is the Chinese ‘word of wisdom,’ the parts dealing with women would greatly offend me. In Chinese thinking female-maternal together with darkness, heaviness, downward movement, receptivity, nature, earth, space etc. is Yin, while male-paternal, light, lightness, upward movement, creativity, spirit, heaven, time etc. is Yang. In I Ching’s terminology, Yang is defined as “the primal power, which is light giving, active, strong and of the spirit,” and Yin is described as “the dark, yielding, receptive, representing devotion.”[35] In other words, it seems that everything ‘good and valuable’ is classified among masculine principle. Gradually I realized that at least a part of the offensive effect of this book on me arose from the fact that as Nietzsche had noticed a century ago we are unable to think “Beyond Good and Evil,[36] in other words, without judgement. So as I freed myself from making value judgements as much as possible, I discovered that it was the masculine tone of the relevant commentaries and interpretations that made the relevant passages repulsive. For example, in Book III: The Commentaries of I Ching, it is said: “The association of high and low with value differentiations lead to the differentiation of superior and inferior.”[37]  Or “Receptive (Yin) is dependent upon the Creative (Yang).”[38] Or “There is heaven, the upper world of light, which though incorporeal, firmly regulates and determines everything that happens, andover against heaven there is the earth, the lower, dark world, corporeal, and dependent in its movements upon the phenomena of heaven.”

First of all, as it can be seen later, the concepts such as superior/inferior, high/low, dependent/independent etc, are created as points of reference. It is not clear why they should assume the form of value judgements, in other words why the value differentiation should lead to value judgements. This is not in agreement with the spirit of the basic principles of the whole book. Using the above example, Receptive and Creative as the sublime manifestations of the primary phenomena of Yin and Yang are inter-related, mutually interdependent, complementary events. In other words, if Receptive, female (Yin) is dependent on Creative, male (Yang), then the opposite is automatically true too. Or in another place when it is said: “Being yielding and devoted must not exclude strength, for strength is necessary to the Receptive if it is to be the helper of the Creative” if Receptive is helping Creative, the opposite will definitely hold true too. In reality superior and inferior have the same value, and there is no need for “value differentiation” in the sense of value judgement. However the commentator (s) make it sound as though superior is superior in value. That is how whatever classified under the category of superior heaven (Yang) becomes Good and everything categorized under inferior earth  (Yin) is thought of as Evil. In other words, it suggests that female is inferior – not inferior in the sense of space, but in the sense of value—to male. It is in this way that one principle, heaven (with all its other attributes), comes to attain a more exalted and honorable position, while the other, earth is regarded as lesser and lower in value. It is exactly such masculine patriarchal value judgements that is offensive to any impartial mind especially as not only there is no need for it, but as mentioned before, it is against the main fundamental laws describing the different relationships of Yin/Yang. When the two principles are mutually interdependent and interchangeable in such a way as one can not exist without the other and needs the other for its manifestation and conception, how can then one be ‘superior’ and more ‘exalted’ than the other?

The interesting point is the way the commentator transforms the basic ideas to reach at his patriarchal masculine conclusions. For example, although the commentator acknowledges that “the Receptive is the perfect complement of the Creative… for the Receptive does not combat the Creative, but completes it” he reaches at the following conclusions: “For the Receptive must be activated and led by the Creative; then it is productive of good. Only when it abandons this position and tries to stand as an equal side by side with the Creative, does it become evil. The result then is opposition to and struggle against the Creative, which is productive of evil to both.” The commentator does not explain what will happen if the Creative deviates from its right course of action. He makes it sounds as though it is only the Receptive that can go astray. He ‘forgets’ that they are mutually inter-related dependent states and so it is as much possible for the Creative to fail in its task of activation and guidance (even if the latter is a true inference and not again a patriarchal one), it too would “become evil.”

However, despite the above shortcomings, I Ching is a good genuine source for discovering the proper qualities of feminine and masculine way of Being. The best way of Being is that which is in utmost harmony with the natural order of things. Harmony that is defined as the conditions of equilibrium is attained when everything is in its appropriate place.

According to I Ching “there is a system of order pervading the entire world. When in accordance with this order, each thing is in its appropriate place, harmony is established. Such a tendency toward order can be observed in nature.” Therefore, in order to come out of the prevailing confusion “each thing should be in its appropriate place.” It is only when man and woman find their appropriate place in their relationship they can be loving and productive. Now in order to find our appropriate place, we have to discover the nature of the natural order. In other words, we should take this order and its prevailing laws as our reference point.

The first observable law of nature is change. Days change into nights, seasons follow each other in a definite order and in a predictable way, germination of a seed leads to growth of the appropriate plant that will then blossom, produce fruits and finally it either undergoes a temporary death with the onset of winter or die for good. Briefly, change (consisting of birth, growth, death) is the basic ‘immutable’ law of the world which of course finds meaning against a background of non-change or against that which makes change possible. In other words, there should be a fixed point of reference, otherwise there “can be no definite order and everything dissolves in chaotic movement.” In fact, we are looking for this point of reference to find the proper way of Being, to resume our self-identity that would lead to finding our proper place in the order of things. Without such a point of reference we can not come out of the present chaotic state of affairs that dominates our relationships. Now the question is ‘how is this point determined?’

According to I Ching: “this point of reference must be established, and this always requires a choice and decision. It makes possible a system of co-ordinates into which everything else can be fitted… Theoretically any point of reference is possible, but experience teaches that at the dawn of consciousness one stands already enclosed within definite, pre-potent systems of relationships. The problem then is to choose one’s point of reference so that it coincides with the point of reference for cosmic events.”[39]

In simple words, when men started to put the world into words, i.e. philosophize, they needed some points of reference. Who knows perhaps they tried many points of reference before the present one that did not work and thus abandoned. The pre-existing laws of nature or as the above commentator has put it the pre-existing “pre-potent systems of relationships” refuted them. Perhaps there can be some other and different points of reference that can coincide with the existing cosmic relationships even better than the present one. In fact Einstein law of relativity and other subsequent observed phenomena in quantum physics have opened the way to posit new foundations for another ‘system of co-ordinates into which everything else can be fitted.’

The present system in nearly all philosophies considers two primary phenomena, Ahuramazda (Godhead) and Ahriman (Satan), Good and Evil, Yang and Yin as the generating forces of the world. Even later systems of thoughts, monotheistic religions, did not succeed in eradicating these two primary phenomena, but they just made them to be the creation of a sole God. No matter where, in all of the different forms of this very same system, at least, as long as the present forms of the Holy Books and added judgements to I Ching exist, female is categorized under the class that when studied with value judgement is the Inferior--meaning inferior and not just as a point of reference with the same value of its ‘opposite,’ even in the Chinese thinking that does not believe in ‘opposite poles’ but ‘complementary ones.’

From what has been said it is evident that we have to look for a point of reference that would coincide with the cosmic events as much as possible. And this is so because “in the last analysis the world is a system of homogeneous relationships—that it is a cosmos and not a chaos.”[40]

In other words, the more we succeed to live in accordance to the cosmic laws, the less conflict we will encounter and the happier and healthier we will be. The simplest way to attain this goal is then to discover our true nature. This is where we are in harmony with the Cosmos. This is where our conditions of equilibrium are one with those of the world. This is where men and women are in their right place and would complement each other.

 For this purpose, we can still use the existing philosophy of the primary two phenomena as our working tools to discover the nature of our true way of being.

So let us start by finding out the basic attributes of Yin and Yang or the Creative and Receptive to which all phenomena including masculine and feminine way of Beings belong.

In Book II of I Ching the two underlying principles are described in the following words:

 

 

Heaven is high, the earth is low;

thus the Creative and Receptive are determined.

In correspondence with this difference between low and high,

 inferior and superior places are established.

Movement and rest have their definite laws;

according to these,

 firm and yielding lines are differentiated.

Events follow definite trends,

each according to its nature.

Things are distinguished from one another in definite classes.

In this way good fortune and misfortune come about.

In the heavens phenomena take form;

on earth shapes take form.

In this way change and transformation become manifest.

I  Ching

Ta Chaun / The Great Treatise

 

 

First of all the word that is translated into English as Creative is ‘heaven’ in ‘heaven’ in Chinese in the same way that Receptive is ‘earth’ in ‘earth.’ It is as though both have created a copy of themselves. Creative can not be a genuine interpretation for two reasons. Firstly, creativity is an attribute of both yin and yang and not only one of them. Let us refer to I Ching itself. For Creative it says: “Creative works sublime success, Furthering through perseverance.” And for Receptive: “The Receptive brings about sublime success, Furthering through the perseverance of mare.”[41] Therefore, the four common attributes of Creative and Receptive are Sublimity, Success, Furthering and Perseverance. It defines sublimity as “the cause and origin of all beings.” The Creative and Receptive are therefore equally “Creative.” Their difference lies in the different qualities they create. The second proof is that yin and yang include complementary concepts such as high/low or as it I Ching says: “… the complement and not the opposite, for the Receptive does not combat the Creative, but completes it.” The complement of Receptive can not be creative, but something like ‘endowing’ or ‘giving’ or ‘bestowing’ or ‘conferring.’ Receptivity is the ‘power or capacity of receiving impressions’ and its complement will be the ‘power or capacity of giving impressions.’ One gives the impression, the other receives it, and in this way a formless idea will find its appropriate form or in other words will be materialized.

Therefore, a more exact translation would be Creative giving and Creative receptivity that as mentioned before is ‘sublimity’ in I Ching’s terminology. However, from now on in order to keep our impartiality instead of the two terms of Creative and Receptive we will stick to the traditional general terms of Yang and Yin. In this way the fist two phrases of the above quotation will be:

Heaven is high, the earth is low; thus yang and yin are determined.

Now it gradually becomes evident why yang is described as the light giving, active, strong and of spirit; it belongs to heaven positioned high in space. It denotes energy in contrast to yin that denotes matter for the same reason. The main source of energy (light) is situated in heaven. Some other qualities of yang such as lightness (in weight), upward movement, heat, extension and as such are logical derivations of the same attribute of being high in heaven. For Yin that is situated low, we have the characteristics of heaviness, downward movement (on earth everything solid falls due to gravity), cold, contraction.

The ‘heaven’ suggest any invisible phenomena such as phenomena, spirit, idea, thought, time, energy while ‘earth’ includes anything visible, tangible having form, shape, solidity; the senses, space, matter are all Yin in character.

That is why it is said that “Yang represents spiritual potentiality while yin the spatial reality.” That is how the coexistence of spiritual world and the world of senses becomes possible. This very fact can perhaps explain why prophets were chosen among men and not women. Spirituality in that sense is a masculine faculty. On the other hand, women’s life is very much dictated by her maternal activities and responsibilities that as mentioned throughout the book would not leave her any ‘free time’ for meditation and philosophy. In addition, thought, idea, abstract, all are masculine characteristics.

Now let us move to the next line of the quotation:

 

In correspondence with this difference between low and high,

inferior and superior places are established.

 

As explained before, inferior and superior if meaning anything other than position in space i.e. if it is a value judgement is not in agreement with basic tenets of the Book of Change. Therefore, if not a later masculine manipulation or derivation, their meanings are still quite ambiguous.

In the next line, we become familiar with four other characteristics of yin and yang:

 

Movement and rest have their definite laws;

according to these,

 firm and yielding lines are differentiated.

 

Yang as the power responsible for bringing about change and transformation is an active, moving principle and yin, as the power responsible for giving form, suggest the concept of passive movement, rest and repose. Once something attains form, its further change and transformation can occur only in accordance with immutable laws of the nature.

“The Receptive in its riches carries all things. Its nature is in harmony with the boundless. It embraces everything in its breadth and illumines everything in its greatness. Through it, all individual beings attain success.” In other words, feminine conditions of equilibrium is in harmony with the boundless. It is for this reason that she should be yielding and devotional. In this way, she would instinctively receive guidance and is no need of any external guidance. The idea of the leading feature of the Creative should be another masculine interpretations of I Ching where it says: “For the Receptive must be activated and led by the Creative.” It is not clear that when the Judgement for Creative contains only two lines describing the attribute of Creative, why the corresponding Judgement for Receptive contains many more. These lines must have been added later especially as they no longer deal with the general characteristics but with the behavior of the superior man. The commentator is admonishing the superior man to use this yin attribute (yielding) in his life. It suggests that in the same way as yin is in harmony with the boundless and because of that it is yielding and devoted, the superior man should act accordingly. “The superior man lets himself be guided, he does not go ahead blindly, but learns from the situation what is demanded of him and then follows this intimation from fate.”

Yin is not guided by Yang, but by the boundless. Boundless is a spatial concept so it can not belong to Heaven and Creative. In fact the boundless, like non-change mentioned above, would be the fixed point of reference, the background against which space is made possible.

Yielding and devoted are the ways yin that allows everything attains its appropriate form. This is the only way that yang, firm in bringing about change and transformation can materialize and manifest. This is the only way that boundless can find meaning and life assumes myriad shapes and forms.

In simple words, if mothers were not yielding in their manner toward their offspring, if they would attempt to impose their own will, the child could not thrive and survive. “Nature’s richness lies in its power to nourish all living things, its greatness lies in its power to give them beauty and splendor.” This is only possible through the flexibility and surrender. That is where the word ‘success’ finds meaning. Through the constant change and transformation quality of yang and yielding, devotional character of yin, myriad shapes arise.

 

Events follow definite trends,

each according to its nature.

 

From this arises the third attribute of “Furthering and perseverance.” It is only when events follow definite trends, each according to its nature that they can persist and endure. Thus:

Things are distinguished from one another in definite classes

In this way good fortune and misfortune come about

Good fortune comes about when events and things follow the definite trends according to their nature. They would persist because they are in harmony with the immutable laws of nature. On the contrary, when they do not follow the trends according to their nature, misfortune will come about. So in order to attain harmony, one should act according to one’s nature. This is why it is so urgent for men and women to rediscover their true nature, as it is only in this way that the present misfortune in our relationships can be overcome.

The concept change and motion give rise to the concept of time, which is again, a yang attribute while its yin complement is space.

Now in their four common attributes of sublimity, success, furthering and perseverance, yin and yang have some differences. Regarding sublimity:

“Perfect indeed is the sublimity of the Receptive. All beings owe their birth to it, because it receives the heavenly with devotion.” “Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven.” Why is it described as ‘perfect’ in one and ‘great’ the other goes back to their other characteristics? Concepts such as beginning and end suggest time, which is a yang feature. As it permeates all heaven, it is also ‘great.’ On the other hand, when change and movement dominates, there can not be any place for perfection. Things undergo change to attain perfection. In other words, perfection can be one of the goals of change and movement. Perhaps that is why it has been more of a concern of men than women. Perhaps that is why throughout history men have been in search of ameliorating systems of living reflected in schools of thought and religions.

On the other hand, the act of giving birth is perfect. In women’s view of the world then everything appears just as it should be, i.e. perfect. Naturally they don’t attempt to change it. Next time that you go for a picnic with a group of young girls and boys just observe their different approach to Nature. While the boys are all the time probing into and manipulating the things they come across, the girls just observe and notice.

Finally it is only when everything is assumed perfect and as it should be that devotion is possible. Devotion can not be a yang attribute that is always in motion and change, in search of perfection. That is another reason that yin can rest. That is another reason that women are not tempted to change things and are peaceful in nature. That is why her submission is an active chosen submission. It is in her nature. It is one of the outcomes of being yielding and devoted. From here comes her historical silence. She couldn’t go for war, conflict and opposition. Self-interest and self righteousness are foreign to her way of Being.

To finish, the different natural qualities of men and women as derived from the ancient Chinese wisdom, are shown in the following table. By looking at this table, we can find reasonable explanation for the observed difference. For example, men have always been much sportive than women due to their active disposition. Women have not participated in composing music and abstract thoughts and ideas, as these are foreign to her way of being and so on.

 

Female/Yin
Male/Yang

Earth

Heaven

Low

High

Sense

Spirit

Perfect

Great

Matter

Energy

Rest

Movement

Space

Time

Concrete

Abstract

Dark

Light

Simplicity

Clarity

Receptive

Giving

Restful

Active/sportive

Cold

Heat

Deed

Theory

Heaviness

Lightness

 

 

A glance at the above table, can very well explain the main reasons why women and men have act so differently in the past history; that is up to the time that they maintained their natural characteristics; up to the time when women where still dominated by their yin constitution. As they found everything perfect, they did not attempt to change it. As Time was not a function that bothered them, they were closer to the idea of eternity than impermanence. A great deal of man’s mental endeavor – from alchemy, the father of modern chemistry, to philosophy, mysticism, and then psychology-- originated from his preoccupation with time and mortality. Similarly, in connection with the attribute of ‘movement,’ Newtonian physics comes to life. His disposition to light and clarity derives him to explain things and make them clear. His connection with ‘abstract’ as a derivative of the attribute of ‘high, heaven, energy, thus intangible’ derives him to abstract mental endeavors, while feminine connection with ‘low, earth, matter, thus tangible’ would keep her preoccupied with the ‘concrete, utility.’ Preoccupation with ‘sensual reality’ would have outcomes different from preoccupation with ‘spiritual potentiality.’ The latter as mentioned before actualizes in the form of religions. Menstruation is another feminine reality that does not allow women to actively participate in religious rituals. That is why in Taoism when a young girl decides to dedicate her life to ‘Tao,’ she is first taught to stop menstruating.[42]

As such there is nothing offensive in possessing one set of characteristics in a more pronounced way than the other set. The inter-relatedness, inter-dependence and interchangeability of Yin and Yang make sure that not only in their pure form they complement each other, and neither is ‘better’ than the other, but each has the seed of completeness within itself. This is also the best way for maintaining equilibrium. The present growth of yang in women would be compensated with a corresponding decrease in their Yin, on one hand, and perhaps a similar increase in yin of men with a consequent decrease in their yang.

The growth of Yang in women leads to the growth of all its attributes including abstract ideas and as such that can explain the recent growth of women artists in the masculine sense.

Conscious return to womanhood in its pure form would free us from the present duality in Being. For this we first need to free ourselves from value judgements that look down on feminine attributes, while glorifying masculinity. We should be aware of the fact that women have been all that men have been i.e. artist, inventor, scientist, but in their own different way and it is now time to discover this feminine way of being. It is only then that is possible to discover human way of Being that is now confused with and taken as one with the masculine way of existence.

From one view, history can be defined as the process of transformation from unconscious state of Being to a conscious state. For this, the coming into power and the dominance of yang at one stage was necessary and inevitable. Mind had to rule in the expense of Sense. This growth reached its climax by its expansion in women. If we don’t observe the fact of interchangeability of yin/yang, this yang dominance will naturally lead to the growth and then the dominance of Yin. This would be as incomplete as the present period of Yang dominance. Bliss can be achieved only when they are in equilibrium. This is what we have to consciously and perseveringly (wisely) work for.

 

 


Top | Epilogue

© Copyright 2000 NetNative & Roya Monajem
(All Rights Reserved)