"Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known… [She] is the guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure. By deficient eyes she is reduced to inferior states; by the evil eye of ignorance, she is spellbound to banality and ugliness. But she is redeemed by the eyes of understanding."
—Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
In the years since Sex at Dawn came out, I’ve often been asked whether men or women enjoy sex more. As with so much else, ancient Greek mythology might offer some guidance. Specifically, the story of Tiresias comes to mind.
Tiresias, when still a young man, was walking through the forest when he came upon two snakes entwined in serpentine copulation. (Some versions have the snakes fighting.) He separated the snakes with his staff, and — poof! — he was suddenly transformed into a woman.
Years later, Tiresias was again walking through the forest when she stumbled upon some snakes having a private moment. She couldn’t resist spinning the wheel again, so she stuck her staff between them and, you guessed it, was transformed back into a man. (The Caduceus, perhaps the most recognized symbol for medical arts, is associated with this story.)
When Zeus and his wife, Hera, got into a spat about who enjoyed sex more, they called upon Tiresias to settle the argument. Zeus claimed the ladies enjoyed sex more, while Hera insisted men got more out of it. You might think this is a nuanced and difficult question, but Tiresias was unambiguous and precise: Females enjoy sex nine times more than males! Not eight. Not ten. Nine.
This response incensed Hera so much that she struck poor Tiresias blind. Feeling responsible for having gotten poor Tiresias into this mess, Zeus tried to make amends by giving him the gift of prophecy. It was from this state of blinded vision that Tiresias prophesied the terrible destiny of Oedipus.
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