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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

SACRED AND PROFANE VIOLENCE, PART 2

Will and Willingness. —Some one brought a
youth to a wise man, and said, " See, this is one
who is being corrupted by women!" The wise
man shook his head and smiled. " It is men," he
called out, "who corrupt women; and everything
that women lack should be atoned for and improved
in men,— for man creates for himself the ideal of
woman, and woman moulds herself according to
this ideal."—" You are too tender-hearted towards
women," said one of the bystanders, " you do not
know them ! " The wise man answered : " Man's
attribute is will, woman's attribute is willingness,—
such is the law of the sexes, verily 1 a hard law for
woman ! All human beings are innocent of their
existence, women, however, are doubly innocent;
who could have enough of salve and gentleness for
them ! "—"What about salve ! What about gentle-
ness ! " called out another person in the crowd, " we
must educate women better ! "— " We must educate
men better," said the wise man, and made a sign
to the youth to follow him.— The youth, however,
did not follow him. -- Nietzsche, THE GAY SCIENCE.

My re-interpretation of Nietzsche's "will and willingness" would not quite fall into the trap of viewing men as entirely active and women as entirely passive. Yet Nietzsche's dichotomy does apply in a more specific biological sense: male humans are biologically positioned to specialize in violence (a rough analogue to Nietzsche's "will") , and female humans are biological positioned to specialize in sexuality (an analogue to "willingness," up to a point).

I specify "humans" here since my main concern is human expression of its own propensities and limitations. Yet the biology doesn't start with human beings, but applies to the majority of humankind's nearest simian relations. With some exceptions, the so-called "great apes" follow the example set by a majority of birds and other mammals in that most male apes possess greater size, about 25 percent larger than the females. This gives the biggest ones a generally greater capacity for imposing their will, either on females or on other males. Meanwhile our nearest DNA-relations, the common chimpanzees, seem to have stolen a march on their earlier relatives by becoming experts in sexual promiscuity, in a "willingness" to indulge in sex for purposes not entirely defined by procreation. (Their relatives, the so-called "bonobo" or "pygmy chimps," go even farther, as noted here.)

Classical evolution's explanation for such modifications is that they just happened, either by random gene selection or equally random mutation, and were then preserved because they proved useful, or at least not a hindrance, either to immediate survival of the organism or general survival of its species. I've touched on the evolutionary theories of Stuart A. Kauffman in a four-part essay series, beginning here, which suggest that there may an element of "choice" in such modifications, perhaps one rooted in the quantum mechanics rather than classical physics. On this basis I would suggest that some modifications may not be entirely random: that they are prompted by a species' need for that modification, even though the species cannot cognitively know how to articulate that need before it is fulfilled, nor can they keep the modification from having all manner of unanticipated consequences.

If there is any truth to the idea of a "non-conscious modification," then male animals' acquisition of greater size and physical strength is a direct consequence of the males' desire to achieve dominance, both over other males and over females. This would be the logical counterpart of a theory that is taken much more seriously by evolutionary biologists: that "woman made herself." To be sure this theory is only applied to human females: to my knowledge there is no consensus that female primates were responsible for the intensification of their species' sexual nature. However, as far as I know all biologists credence the notion that at some point the human female perfected what Lynn Margulies called an "anatomy of deception"-- banishing outward signs of estrus, which in my opinion would have preceded the actual cessation of estrus. There is no universally accepted theory as to how or why this occurred, though the most popular idea seems to be that the human female gained power by making herself more unpredictable-- that any male desirous of fathering progeny might have to devote more time and attention to a given female in order to be sure of producing said progeny.

While no one can prove, with the data beloved by empiricists, that "men are the masters of violence, and women the mistresses of sex." the dichotomy nevertheless informs the basis of much human culture, even if one need not quite view woman's "willingness" as being something as passive and "moulded according to an ideal" as Nietzsche does. Additionally, the dichotomy, while biologically and culturally dominant, is not determinative of the full range of male and female capacities. I have suggested the potential for a *bouleversment* of gender-roles in WHAT WOMEN WILL PT. 3, where I spoke of these reversed roles as "the Compassionate Man and the Barbarous Woman." While I don't renounce anything I said in that essay, for the purpose of further examining the role of sexuality and violence in fiction, I'll come at the same topic from a slightly different angle in Part 3.

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