Germaine Greer: The Female Eunuch

Astonishingly good.

Gender

It is an essential part of our conceptual apparatus that the sexes are a polarity, and a dichotomy in nature. Actually, that is quite false. The animal and vegetable worlds are not universally divided into two sexes, or even into two sexes with the possibility of freaks and indeterminate types; some lucky creatures are male and female by turns; some fungi and protozoa have more than two sexes and more than one way of coupling them. The degree of distinguishability between the sexes can vary from something so tiny as to be almost imperceptible to a degree of difference so great that scientists remained for a long time ignorant of the fact that species classified as distinct were in fact male and female of the same species. Greer, p 29
Along with his maleness, the foetus then inherits a number of weaknesses which are called sex-linked, because they result from genes found only in the Y-chromosome. Strange deformities like hypertrichiosis, meaning excessive growths of hair mainly on the ears, horny patches on hands and feet, bark-like skin and a form of webbing of the toes are some of which are less well-known than haemophilia, which is in fact the result of a mutant gene on the X-chromosome which the Y-chromosome cannot suppress, so that it is transmitted by females, but only effective in males. Colour-blindness follows the same pattern. About thirty other disorders are to be found in the males of the species and seldom in females for the same reason. There is much evidence that the female is constitutionally stronger than the male; she lives longer, and in every age group more males than females die although the number of males conceived may be between ten and thirty per cent more. There is no explanation for the more frequent conception of males, for female-producing spermatozoa are produced in the same number as male-producing ones. It is tempting to speculate whether this might not be a natural compensation for the greater vulnerability of males. Greer, p 30-31

Regarding ambiguous and absent genitals of various types,

Some of these difficulties can be resolved by cosmetic surgery, but too often surgeons perform such operations for peculiar motives, when scanning the body cell structure would reveal that no congenital abnormality is present. Greer, p

Curves

The notion of a curve is so closely connected to sexual semantics that some people cannot resist sniggering at road signs. The most popular image of the female despite the exigencies of the clothing trade is all boobs and buttocks, a hallucinating sequence of parabolae and bulges. Greer, p 38
Historically we may see that all repressed, indolent people have been fat, that eunuchs tend to fatten like bullocks, and so we need not be surprised to find that the male preference for cuddlesome women persists. Greer, p 38
A full bosom is actually a millstone around a woman's neck: it endears her to the men who want to make their mammet of her, but she is never allowed to think that their popping eyes actually see her. Her breasts are only to be admired for as long as they show no signs of their function: once darkened, stretched or withered they are objects of revulsion. They are not parts of a person but lures slung around her neck, to be kneaded and twisted like magic putty, or mumbled and mouthed like lolly ices. The only way that women can opt out of such gross handling is to refuse to wear undergarments which perpetuate the fantasy of pneumatic boobs, so that men must come to terms with the varieties of the real thing. ... The vegetable creep of women's liberation has freed some breasts from the domination of foam and wire. Greer, p 39
Recent emphasis on the nipple, which was absent from the breast of popular pornography, is in women's favour, for the nipple is expressive and responsive. ... One way to continue progress in the same direction might be to remind men that they have sensitive nipples too. Greer, p 39-40
The waist is exaggerated in order to emphasize the outward curve of breast and buttock: it is hardly a natural phenomenon at all. In all those eras when it was de rigueur women have had to wear special apparaturs to enforce it, and, in much the same way that a heap of brass rings really does elongate Bantu ladies' necks, the waist came to exist. ... One native tribe of New Guinea uses tight girdles for both men and women, and the flesh tends to swell above and below the ligature, so that men have hourglass curves too. Greer, p 40

Necks are not actually elongated; rather, shoulders are sloped downward. Similarly, waists are not so much shrunk as flesh must be rearranged to above and below the cinch.

Every human body has its optimum weight and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women's bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them and their owners. Whether the curves imposed are the ebullient arabesques of the tit-queen or the attenuated coils of art-nouveau they are deformations of the dynamic, individual body, and limitations of the possibilities of being female. Greer, p 41

Hair

In the popular imagination hairiness is like furriness, an index of bestiality, and as such an indication of aggressive sexuality. Men cultivate it, just as they are encouraged to develop competitive and aggressive instincts, women suppress it, just as they suppress all the aspects of their vigour and libido. ... In extreme cases, women shave or pluck their pubic area, so as to seem even more sexless and infantile. ... The efforts to eradicate all smell from the female body are part of the same suppression of fancied animality. Nowadays it is not enough to neutralize perspiration and breath odours; women are warned in every women's magazine of the horrors of vaginal odour, which is assumed to be utterly repellent. Greer, p 43
There is a mean between the charm of a half-cured goatskin and the glabrous odourless body of the feminine toy, which is the body cared for and kept reasonably clean, the body desirable, whether it be male or female. Greer, p 43

Sex

Part of the modesty about the female genitalia stems from actual distaste. The worst name anyone can be called is cunt. The best thing a cunt can be is small and unobtrusive: the anxiety about the bigness of the penis is only equalled by anxiety about the smallness of the cunt. No woman wants to find out that she has a twat like a horse-collar: she shopes she is not sloppy or smelly, and obligingly obliterates all signs of her menstruation in the cause of public decency. Greer, p 45

Quoting The High-Prized Pin-Box,

I have a gallant Pin-box
The like you ne'er did ee
It is where never was the Pox
Something above my kne . . .
O 'tis a gallant Pin-box
You never saw the peer;
Then Ile not leave my Pin-box
For fifty pound a year.
Greer, p 45

Early gynaecology was entirely in the hands of men, some of whom, like Samuel Collins, described the vagina so lovingly that any women who read his words would have been greatly cheered. Of course such books were not meant to be seen by women at all. Greer, p 45
Love-making has become another male skill, of which women are the judges. The skills that the Wife of Bath used to make her husbands swink, the athletic sphincters of the Tahitian girls who can keep their men inside them all night, are alike unknown to us. All the vulgar linguistic emphasis is placed upon the poking element; fucking, screwing, rooting, shagging are all acts performed upon the passive female: the names for the penis are all tool names. The only genuine intersexual words we have for sex are the obsolete swive, and the ambiguous ball. Greer, p 46-47
A. H. Kegel, teaching women how to overcome the bladder weakness that often afflicts women, showed them how to exercise the pubococcygeal muscles and found inadvertently that this increased their sexual enjoyment. What their mates thought of it is not on record. The incontinence resulted from the same suppression of activity that inhibited sexual pleasure; we might find that if we restored women's competence in managing their own musculature many of their pelvic disturbances would cease, and their sexual enjoyment might correspondingly grow. Greer, p 47
Part of the battle will be won if they can change their attitude toward sex, and embrace and stimulate the penis instead of taking it. Enlightened women have already sung the praises of the female superior position, because they are not weighed down by the heavier male body, and can respond more spontaneously. It is after all a question of communication, and communication is not advanced by the he talk, me listen formula. (Greer, p 48)

Of note, there seems to be a pubic hair between pages 48 and 49.

It is nonsense to say that a woman feels nothing when a man is moving his penis in her vagina: the orgasm is qualitatively different when the vagina can undulate around the penis instead of vacancy. (Greer, p 48)
The process described by the experts, in which the man dutifully does the rounds of the erogenous zones, spends an unequal amount of time on each nipple, turns his attention to the clitoris (usually too directly), leads through the stages of digital or lingual stimulation and then politely lets himself into the vagina, perhaps waiting until the retraction of the clitoris tells him that he is welcome, is laborious and inhumanly computerized. The implication that there is a statistically ideal fuck which will always result in satisfaction if the right procedures are followed is depressing and misleading. There is no substitute for excitement: not all the massage in the world will ensure satisfaction, for it is a matter of psych-sexual release. Real gratification is not enshrined in a tiny cluster of nerves but in the sexual involvement of the whole person. Women's continued high enjoyment of sex, which continues after orgasm, observed by men with wonder, is not based on the clitoris, which does not respond particularly well to continued stimulus, but in a general sensual response. If we localize female response in the clitoris we impose upon women the same limitation of sex which has stunted the male's response. The male sexual ideal of virility without languor or amorousness is profoundly desolating: when the release is expressed in mechanical terms it is sought mechanically. Sex becomes masturbation in the vagina. (Greer, p 49)
The ideal marriage as measured by electronic equipment in the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation laboratories is enfeebled -- dull sex for dull people. The sexual personality is basically anti-authoritarian. ... Masters and Johnson supplied the blueprint for standard, low-agitation, cool-out monogamy. If women are to avoid this last reduction of their humanity, they must hold out not just for orgasm but for ecstasy. (Greer, p 49-50)
Sex for many has become a sorry business, a mechanical release involving neither discovery nor triumph, stressing human isolation more dishearteningly than ever before. The orgies feared by Puritans have not materialized on every street corner, although more girls permit more (joyless) liberties than they might have done before. Homosexuality in many forms, indeed any kind of sex which can escape the dead hand of the institution -- group sex, criminal sex, child-violation, bondage and discipline -- has flourished, while simple sexual energy seems to be steadily diffusing and dissipating. (Greer, p 51)

Women who understand their sexual experience in the way that Jackie Collins writes of it are irretrievably lost to themselves and their lovers:

He took her to the bedroom and undressed her slowly, he made love to her beautifully. Nothing frantic, nothing rushed. He caressed her body as though there were nothing more important in the world. [Is there? Note by Levi.] He took her to the edge of ecstasy and back again, keeping her hovering, sure of every move he made. Her breasts grew under his touch, swelling, becoming even larger and firmer. She floated on a suspended plane, a complete captive to his hands and body. He had amazing control ... Afterwards they lay and smoked and talked. 'You're wonderful,' he said, 'You're a clever woman making me wait until after we were married!'

Miss Collins's heroine is prudish, passive, calculating, selfish and dull, despite her miraculous expanding tits. When her husband grows tired of playing on this sexual instrument she can have no recourse but must continue to loll on her deflated airbed, wondering what went wrong. There is no mention of genitals: everything happens in a swoon or a swamp of undifferentiated sensation. (Greer, p 52)

What Jackie Collins is expressing is the commonest romantic ideal of the perfect fuck. It shows how deeply we believe in the concept of male mastery. Miss Colins's heroine was manipulating her mate's colonizing sexual urge, making him wait, as long as his importunacy [sic?] lasts, until she is ready. In manipulating his violent impulses she exercised an illusory superiority, for she is tender, sentimental and modest, loving not for her own gratification, but in expression of esteem, trust and true love, until she could civilize him into marriage and the virtuoso sexual performance. The complicated psychic aspect of his love is undervalued; she is still alone, egotistical, without libido to desire him or to bring him to new pleasure in her. Jackie Collins and the sex-books show that we still make love to organs and not people: that so far from realizing that people are never more idiosyncratic, never more totally there than when they make love, we are never more incommunicative, never more alone. (Greer, p 52)

The Wicked Womb

Frigidity for women is regarded as a common condition, resulting from bad luck and bad management; in men impotence is treated with the utmost seriousness. (Greer, p 54)
Any trivial lesion on the penis is examined with ostentatious care so that a man need not feel threatened by castration anxieties, but the poor old womb must gush blood or drop out before anybody takes its condition seriously. The clitoris is ignored: a nurse once narrowly missed cutting mine off when shaving me for an operation. Even the much vaunted cervical smears are rarely given in our community. I first managed to get one when I went to the VD clinic in despair because my own doctor would not examine my vagina or use pathology to discover the nature of an irritation, which turned out to be exactly what I thought it was. (Greer, p 54)
The enormous hoo-ha about the strange impalpable results of vasectomy upon the male psyche results from this continuing phallocentricity: the devisers of the pill worried so little about the female psyche that it was years before they discovered that one woman in three who was on the pill was chronically depressed. (Greer, p 54)
Exaggerated care for the male apparatus, together with reluctance to involve oneself in serious attention to the womb and its hand-maids, is the fruit of centuries of womb-fear, not to be eradicated by political action or yelling at public meetings. Women must first of all inform themselves about their own bodies, take over the study of gynaecology and obstetrics, and, not least, conquer their own prejudice in favour of men doctors. (Greer, p 54)

Greer touches on hysteria and mother. Regarding the mother,

The womb was 'charged with blood and stale seed from whence arise foul and ill-conditioned damps', developing their own strange theory of pelvic congestion. It was assumed that unmarried women and widows suffered most from hysteria, and that a good husband could fix it. Greer, p 55

Greer also mentions an imaginary illness called chlorosis, priorly known as green-sickness.

Although we do not believe in green-sickness any more, since maidens became an essential, if menial, part of the work force, we do believe that old maidens are apt to be consumed and wasted by frustration. Greer, p 56

The quote below has resonated in my mind long since I read it,

Such a woman cannot be a person, for she does not exist in her own terms at all. Her significance can only be conferred by the presence of a man at her side, a man upon whom she absolutely depends. In return for renouncing, collaborating, adapting, identifying, she is caressed, desired, handled, influenced and occasionally desired in vain. It is a bad bargain for a man for she makes no attempt to excite or interest him, so he cannot expect to be handled or influenced by her. The whole structure could be toppled by a wart on her nose, for Deutsch cannot keep words like lovely out of her prescription. What right can this creature have to demand ardent love and desire, seeing as she powerless to offer it? She is a vain, demanding, servile bore. Nothing is more chilling than such a spectacle of unremitting self-sacrifice. This is a woman born to be abandoned by her ungrateful husband at the very pinnacle of the success she helped to make for him, for a shameless hussy of nineteen. Greer, p 108-9
Childbearing was never intend by biology as a compensation for neglecting all other forms of fulfillment and achievement. It was never intended to be as time-consuming and self-conscious a process as it is. One of the deepest evils in our society is a tyrannical nurturance. Greer, p 109-10

[A quote from Krafft-Ebing:] If she is normally developed mentally, and well-bred, her sexual desire is small. If this were not so the whole world would become a brothel and marriage and family impossible.

[And Greer's response:] If marriage and family depend upon the castration of women let them change or disappear. The alternative is not a brothel, for brothels depend upon marriage and family for their existence. Greer, p 111-12

[A quote from Mary Astell:] A Man ought no more value himself for being wiser than a Woman, if he owes his Advantage to a better Education, than he ought to boast of his Courage for beating a Man when his hands were bound. Greer, p 118
When Schopenhauer described the state of women as moral infancy, he was reflecting not only his prejudice against women, but also against babies. Greer, p 124
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