Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rahab's in Rehab and Aristotle's Watching

For some tabloidic reasons that may be obvious, I'm not going to say much more here on two blog posts of yesterday.

First, when Suzanne McCarthy starts what Jane Stranz calls the rehabilitation of Rahab, some of us start humming, involuntarily, that addictive Amy Winehouse song and go back to black over at youtube. Rahab is the most interesting prostitute who ever lived because, like so many, she's become the heroine of many a man without any single one of them ever stopping for a moment to think of her ambiguity. I mean, think of it. Her name in Hebrew male terms means rachav, which in male English terms means "broad, large" and "sea demon" and the "proud one." But, if we're men, let's don't even think about her male Christian story, which must make us think about her sisters too. No no, let's get diverted by what Aristotle calls "natural gender" in English, and do the binary split of that from what men call natural "grammatical gender" in any language. Let's quickly forget about her, and go didactic. Then, guess what, no man has to talk about what he's done to her.

Second, since we've had to talk about Aristotle watching women in sexist ways, remember how Alison Motluck had to start her book review yesterday? (Oh, little ones, please divert your eyes now:)
There's a long-standing debate in sex research about whether female orgasm improves the chances of conception. Hippocrates thought it did; Aristotle disagreed. "You never see anything written about Mrs. Hippocrates or Mrs. Aristotle," Mary Roach writes in her entertaining new book, Bonk, "but I'd put a few drachmas on the former being the one with the spring in her step."
The really important thing Aristotle wants us to know is that he doesn't know her name. We might tell him it's "Rahab" but then again he wants to be definitive and we don't even know Rahab's sisters' names. (Some of the research secrets of men just have to stay hidden. That way they can insist on teaching as experts in grammar and in biology, about sex and women.)

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