The confirmation hearings over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, along with the accusations of sexual impropriety in his younger days, represent the latest act in a drama that has been going on since recorded history began. It has to do with the imbalance between the sexes in Western and Eastern cultures, with women gradually emerging from the position of chattel to more respectable roles. In the late 1800s, it was still legal in the UK for men to beat their wives. In the US, women got the vote with the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution in 1920. But probably nothing has freed women like the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960. We–all of us, men and women—are still adapting to that.
Demonization of women is deeply rooted in Western monotheistic traditions, beginning with the Biblical Book of Genesis and the Garden of Eden. Eve, the temptress, is blamed for Adam’s fall from grace. Since then, women, representative of the earthy, intuitive side of humanity, have been deemed inferior to the abstract, spiritual male principle. Under this scenario, sexuality is suspect, to the point where Catholic priests are not allowed by marry, and even between married couples, sex is supposed to be confined to propagation.
The notion of original sin thus puts man (and woman) at odds with their own earthly natures and has contributed to distorted ideas of sexuality ever since. It translates into a disrespect for women and, by extension, a disrespect for the earth from which we all spring and depend on for our existence. Even such notions as “survival of the fittest,” attributed to Charles Darwin in the 1800s, presumes that “fittest” refers to the most physically powerful members of a species. In real terms, the fittest for survival are those who are best equipped to produce and raise healthy young.
The idea of women as necessary evils pervades modern thinking. Even the most liberated of women, for instance, still wear make-up and shave their legs, two concessions to sexual desirability no one expects from men. Women who disparage men for overstepping sexual boundaries must realize that these men were usually raised by mothers, who by words or behavior taught them to disrespect women.
Animals have no shame about their sexuality. They mate in the open, yet for man, with the shame and secrecy inherited from Adam and his fig leaf, sexuality is fraught with guilt and circumscribed by rules that create their own problems.
Our distorted views on sexuality play out in every area of our lives and seem to be especially prominent today. The women’s “#metoo” movement is an example of the solidarity of women who claim they have been harassed by men, but it also signifies a coming of age in terms of women’s recognition that sexual balance is long overdue. The “fittest to survive” will be those who can anneal the spiritual with the earthly in respectful appreciation for all the attributes of both.