by Eva Figes
Stein & Day, 192 pp., $.95 (paper)
Every schoolboy has a pretty good idea of what the situation was down at Sodom but what went on in Gomorrah is as mysterious to us as the name Achilles took when he went among women. Or was. Thanks to Eva Figes, author of Patriarchal Attitudes, we now know what Gomorrheans are up to. Miss Figes quotes from an eighth-century Palestinian midrash which tries to explain the real reason for the Flood (one of the better jokes in the Old Testament). Apparently passage on the Ark was highly restricted. “Some authorities say that according to God’s orders, if the male lorded it over the female of his own kind, both were admitted but not otherwise.”
The Founding Father had strong views on the position of woman (under the man) and one of the few mistakes He ever admitted to was the creation of Lilith as a mate for Adam. Using the same dust as His earthly replica…but let us hear it in His own words, rabbinically divined in the fifth century.
Adam and Lilith never found peace together; for when he wished to lie with her, she took offense at the recumbent posture he demanded. “Why must I lie beneath you?” she asked. “I also was made from dust, and am therefore your equal.” Because Adam tried to compel her obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him.
The outcast Lilith is still hanging about the Zeitgeist, we are told, causing babies to strangle in their sleep, men to have wet dreams, and Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, and Eva Figes to write books.
The response to Sexual Politics, Feminine Mystique, et al. has been as interesting as anything that has happened in our time with the possible exception of Richard Nixon’s political career. The hatred these girls have inspired is to me convincing proof that their central argument is valid. Men do hate women (or as Germaine Greer puts it: “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them”) and dream of torture, murder, flight.
It is no accident that in the United States the phrase “sex and violence” is used as one word to describe acts of equal wickedness, equal fun, equal danger to that law and order our masters would impose upon us. Yet equating sex with violence does change the nature of each (words govern us more than anatomy), and it is quite plain that those who fear what they call permissiveness do so because they know that if sex is truly freed of taboo it will lead to torture and murder because that is what they dream of or, as Norman Mailer puts it, “Murder offers us the promise of vast relief. It is never unsexual.”
There has been from Henry Miller to Norman Mailer to Charles Manson a logical progression. The Miller-Mailer-Manson man (or M3 for short) has been conditioned to think of women as, at …