3.299 man-haters and killer-women (66)

Fri, 28 Jul 89 21:10:51 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 299. Friday, 28 Jul 1989.

(1) Date: 28 July 1989, 18:24:16 EDT (21 lines)
Subject: gender specific man-haters and "killer-women"

(2) Date: 28 July 1989 (25 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: sexual devourers

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 28 July 1989, 18:24:16 EDT
Subject: gender specific man-haters and "killer-women"

Ariosto in Cantos 19 and 20 of the *Orlando Furioso* constructs a
sympathetic account of a nation of warlike women who rule themselves and
regularly enslave or exterminate most of the men they encounter or even
give birth to. They subject men to a severe test of strength, warlike
skill and sexual potency: "Only he could escape this fate [being killed
on contact or enslaved] who achieved victory over ten men in combat, and
the same night in bed was able to pleasure ten damsels" (trans. Guido
Waldman; sorry, I don't have the Italian at home). Other similar
islands or inland nations of murderous or man-destroying women are
reported in Apollonius of Rhodes' *Argonautica* and in the *Aeneid*,
often associated, at least loosely with the semi-mythical Amazons. But
I don't remember the "man-killer" phrase in any language I am acquainted
with being associated with "man-hater." I thought the idea was that
you didn't have to hate men in order to kill them; one Amazon princess
was supposed to have selected Alexander the Great to propagate her
children because he was such a noble warrior. Any further reports from
antiquity? Roy Flannagan
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 28 July 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: sexual devourers

Roy Flannagan asks for more evidence from antiquity about aggressive
women's attitude towards men, and he makes the interesting distinction
between hatred and murder. The only "evidence" I have at hand concerns
the powerful women whom Ovid depicts in the Metamorphoses. These have a
questionable relationship to the "real" women of antiquity, of course.
In any case, they do not despise men but devour them. The ones who
always come to mind, probably because I am working on that section of
the poem, are Semiramis (who is historical and widely attested) and
Salmacis (who is mythical). Both appear in the poem as sexual devourers,
and both are paralleled by the bloody-mouthed lioness who causes the
deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe. They do not hate men, rather they consume
them -- with apparent relish. What strikes me is that these and other
sexual devourers in Ovid's poem (male and female) are there because they
suit his purpose; that does not necessarily mean, however, that they are
absolutely unlike any "real" people of the time.

The scholarship on this subject is rapidly growing. Perhaps a better
organized Humanist could provide a beginner's bibliography.

Willard McCarty