YAHWEH: The Original Women’s Liberator
By Christopher S. Brownwell
Throughout the Sixties, people complained, especially men, about the sexual suppression of women. The “Free Love” counter-culture demanded we “Make Love. Not war.” Author Elaine Tyler May in Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era juxtaposed the American foreign policy of containing communism abroad with the domestic containment policy of social roles within the home. With this domestic “containment” came the suppression of female sexuality.
FoxNews.com “Sexpert” Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is complaining in her column “Easy or Empowered? The Female Double Standard” on February 2, 2009 that society is containing female sexuality and repressing their sexual identities. How horrible is it that people, especially other women, use labels such as “whore,” “slut,” “tramp,” for promiscuous women. Dr. Fulbright laments that many women now feel uncomfortable in asking for what they want sexually.
With these labels tossed around, women can’t be open with their sexuality like the fictional character Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City.” I understand that sex is Dr. Fulbright’s career choice. Maybe Dr. Fulbright sees herself as a “temple priestess,” providing sexual empowerment to women. But, I find it ridiculous that there are women waiting to be freed sexually in order to imitate Samantha. I have never met a woman that talks or acts like Samantha. Women just don’t act like that regardless of whether they fear being labeled a slut.
Dr. Fulbright dreams of returning to the romantic notion of temple priestesses who were “artists in the sacred act of using sexuality as a spiritual, healing force.” These goddesses, after all, played an important role in instructing virgins in the ancient art of making love. Her romanticism of the role of these temple prostitutes is a revision of history. Greek historian Herodotus writes that “The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life.” Herodotus, The Histories 1.199, tr A.D. Godley (1920).
A woman could not choose and could not refuse the first paying stranger.
Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfill the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.
This forced prostitution was also practiced in Canaan, ancient Palestine, Sicily, Greece, India, among other places. Forced prostitution is not a romantic notion even in today’s morass of moral relativism. The romantic period Dr. Fulbright describes is not sexual freedom. It is sexual slavery.
Dr. Fulbright assails Christianity for ruining the sexual utopia. Now these “Watchers of the Stars,” these “goddess ambassadors” can no longer spread love and healing. The labels Christians put on sexually active females control women by shaming and humiliating them. Women can no longer be open about their sexuality. People will spread rumors about women who pursue their sexual freedom.
However, the Hebrew and Christian God did not suppress women. He liberated them and demonstrated that they had value and are not merely tools for male sexuality. Deuteronomy 23:17-18. God’s design in forbidding the practice of temple prostitution was to protect the sexuality of women. God did that by actually suppressing men’s deviant sexuality.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the original women’s liberator. Like a Knight, defending a damsel’s honor, God gave women their freedom from sexual bondage. Dr. Fulbright should be gushing about with romantic feelings for the God who cares so much for women that He promulgated a law forbidding forced temple prostitution. Yet, for some reason she would rather make a maudlin appeal for a return to a chimerical, idyllic time of sexual oracles and healers.
That fanciful place she seeks is fantasy. It never existed. What did exist was a hell on earth for women forced to yield their bodies and their sexual identities to the brute force of male sexuality. The fact of the matter is the only safe place for women to find and express their sexual identities is within the commitment of marriage to one man who is as committed to her. Until then, sexually “empowered” women will not be revered as anything more than temple prostitutes.