blame men for lack of gender symmetry in love

pink flower with asymmetrical sexual organs

Men’s sadomasochistic interest in penal sex has prevented the achievement of gender symmetry in love.  Ancient Greek novels and modern academic gender literature have set out the ideal.[1]  The task for a progressive society is to achieve it.  Much progress has been made, but much work remains to be done.

The chief problem is men.  Men are skipping, skimming, and misunderstanding the wise instruction of Ovid, the great teacher of love.[2]  Ever since the big egg united with the small sperm, long before the arrival of the stork, women have suffered under men’s suppression of gender symmetry.  Men are to blame.  I still remember that a man in twelfth-century Europe said:

I want to live a man’s life in manliness.
I’ll offer my love if I’m loved on equal terms.
That’s my idea of right loving.  No other is acceptable.

{ Volo virum vivere viriliter;
diligam, si diligar equaliter.
sic amandum censeo, non aliter. }[3]

A fine man was he, sure to make his mother proud and pleased.  But as soon as he saw a beautiful, young woman, here’s what he said:

Oh my, I don’t like the song I’ve sung —
I’ll now whistle differently.
I’m a prisoner to your charms, lovely one.
I was forgetting how exquisite you are.
My manly sin deserves heavy punishment —
I’m so abjectly sorry.  Flog me, please, in your bedroom.

{ Ecce, michi displicet quod cecini,
et meo contrarius sum carmini,
tue reus, domina, dulcedini,
cuius elegantie non memini.
quia sic erravi
sum dignus pena gravi;
penitentum corripe, si placet, in conclavi }[4]

After he bought her dinner and paid for two tickets to an expensive show, she satisfied his desire.  Until this changes, women will never achieve equality and gender symmetry in love.

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[1] On the distinctiveness of gender symmetry in ancient Greek novels, see Konstan (1994).  The tale of Aziz and Azizah from the Thousand and One Nights provides an alternate perspective on gender symmetry.

[2] On medieval understanding of Ovid, see Elliott (1981).

[3] From Carmina Burana 178, 1.1-3, Latin text from Walsh (1993), pp. 198-9, my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

[4] Carmina Burana 178, stanza 5. R. Howard Bloch exemplifies a similar development in academia.  With subtle reasoning drawing on feminism, psychoanalysis, theorizing, and in-group affiliating citations, Bloch announces “the patristic invention of gender in the first centuries of the Christian era” and concludes that both misogyny and courtly love intentionally debase women.  Bloch (1991) pp. 8, 164.  Consider this analysis:

Courtly love is perhaps the best example of what Gisèle Halimi, in an anthology entitled New French Feminisms, terms “Doormat-Pedestal” tactics, which seek to elevate woman in order to debase her.

Id. p. 197.  Such wit is difficult to appreciate, but the profit is obvious.


Bloch, R. Howard. 1991. Medieval misogyny and the invention of Western romantic love. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Elliott, Alison Goddard. 1981. “The Bedraggled Cupid: Ovidian Satire in ‘Carmina Burana’ 105.” Traditio. 37: 426-437.

Konstan, David. 1994. Sexual symmetry: love in the ancient novel and related genres. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Walsh, Patrick Gerard. 1993. Love lyrics from the Carmina Burana. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

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