Calisto set up for raping Melibea under new sex regulations

New sex regulations now sweeping America commonly require ongoing, affirmative consent for any form of activity construed as sexual (including touching, kissing, etc.). Affirmative consent means getting a specific verbal or non-verbal indication of agreement prior to the particular act. Affirmative consent for one specific act (touching) doesn’t imply consent to another specific act (kissing). Consent may be revoked at any time. Prior relationship between the parties, even marriage, is irrelevant to consent under this strict regime of individual-act sex contracting.

North Korean totalitarian traffic girl

Under these new sex regulations, before you hug your lover, you must ask for permission. Before you kiss him, you must ask for additional permission. Whether you have to ask permission again before kissing him again is unclear. Who to petition for a prior judgment on such matters, or at least for detailed guidelines, also isn’t clear. According to Ohio State University’s regulations on sexual violence, deception invalidates consent. Whether dyeing your grey hair brown counts as deception isn’t clear (the regulations haven’t yet defined sexual deception). For further guidance on proper sexual conduct and respect for others, you might watch Concordia University’s “Feminism for Bros” teaching video. To appreciate more fully these regulations, consider how they set Calisto up for a charge of raping Melibea in the medieval Spanish masterpiece La Celestina.

The young noble Calisto ardently desired the young genteel Melibea. Duped by his servants, Calisto engaged the wickedly deceptive go-between Celestina to further his suit. Melibea had initially rebuffed Calisto. However, with trickery, flattery, and puffery, Celestina stirred Melibea to ardent desire for Calisto. Conversing across a closed door of her house, Melibea told Calisto:

Señor Calisto, your great merit, your boundless graces, your high birth have, after I had a complete account of you, been cause for my being unable to tear you from my heart. And although I have struggled for many days to hide it, I have since that woman brought your sweet name to my mind been unable to keep secret my desire. I have come to this place and time, where I beg to hear your orders, and ask that you direct my person as you wish. [1]

Calisto was willing to break the door down to consummate their relationship. Melibea, however, warned him off that action. She arranged instead a tryst with him in her garden at midnight on the next night.

Brushing off concern for the sudden criminal execution of two of his men, Calisto arrived at Melibea’s garden the next night. Without securing affirmative consent from Melibea, Calisto hugged her. He said to her:

O angelic image! O precious pearl, next to whom the whole world is ugly. O my dear mistress and my glory! I hold you in my arms, and I do not believe it. Such a whirlwind of pleasure dwells within me that I cannot feel my joy.

Melibea responded fearfully:

My señor, I put myself in your hands because I wanted to do your will; may I not be worse for being merciful rather than aloof and without mercy. Do not harm me in exchange for such brief pleasure, and in so short a time. For when bad things are done, they can sooner be reprehended than mended. Enjoy what I enjoy, which is to see you and be close to you. Do not ask for, or take, that which once taken will not be in your power to return. Take care, Señor, not to harm what all the world’s treasures cannot restore.

Melibea is referring to her virginity. That reference gains extra piquancy from Celestina “mending maidenheads” in her business of running a brothel. She reportedly sold to the French ambassador three times a girl that she represented to be a virgin.[2] Calisto rebuffed Melibea’s concern for her virginity:

Sweet mistress, I have spent my lifetime in obtaining this favor; would I, when it is given me, toss it away? You will not command me, sweet mistress, nor will I be able, to restrain my desire. Do not ask me to be so fainthearted. No one who is a man could be capable of doing such a thing, particularly not loving as much as I do.

Even in mid-thrust, under criminal law a man must stop if his partner stops consenting. Melibea here objected to Calisto’s touching:

‘Pon my life! Though your tongue may speak what it wishes, deter your hands from doing as they want! Still them, my señor. Be content that I am yours. Enjoy outwardly the time-honored fruit of lovers: hold back your wish to steal the greatest gift nature has given me!

Calisto seems to have interpreted Melibea’s words as a pretense of modesty. He continued and pretended to be repentant:

Forgive, dear girl, my reprehensible and shameless hands that with their unworthiness never thought to touch even your clothing; now they rejoice in reaching your sweet body and beautiful, delicate flesh.

At this point Melibea dismissed her co-conspiring servant. That makes no sense if Melibea actually wanted Calisto to stop touching her and not continue on to sex. Nonetheless, after dismissing her servant, Melibea lamented:

I want none of my error. If I had thought that you would have your way with me so immoderately, I would not have entrusted my person to your cruel company.

Melibea didn’t affirmatively consent to have sex with Calisto during their secret meeting in the garden after midnight. After having sex, Melibea expressed deeply felt regret and fear:

O my life, my señor! How much have you wanted that I lose the title and crown of virgin for such brief delight? O Mother! Sinner! If you had knowledge of such a thing, how willingly you would welcome death, and have need to take mine by force! How you would be the cruel executioner of your own blood! How I would become the sorrowful end to your days! O my honored father, how I have stained your reputation and given cause and place to the downfall of your house! O what a traitor I am! Why did I not first look at the ruinous error that would follow his entering, the great danger that awaited? [3]

Under the sex regulations that govern most college students in the U.S. today, Calisto would be formally guilty of sexual assault and rape. But ongoing, affirmative consent for every specific type of intimate activity wasn’t required for romantic encounters in medieval Spain. Educated persons in medieval Spain understood that persons use words in sophisticated, highly cultured ways. Educated persons in medieval Spain understood that no doesn’t always mean no, nor yes, yes. Humane, perceptive persons in the Middle Ages knew that mixed emotions are an aspect of human experience and that regret sometimes follows desired sex.

Melibea and Calisto’s first sexual encounter concluded with a pointer to her delight in their sexual relationship. Despite her regret and fear, Melibea said to Calisto as he left her at the end of that first night:

Señor, God be with us. Everything is yours. Now I am your dear mistress; now you cannot deny my love; now you cannot refuse me a sight of you by day, passing by my door, or at night, where you command. May you come to this secret place at the same hour, where I always await you anticipating the joy you leave with me, and thinking of nights to come. [4]

To ease his pain from being apart from her, Calisto later joyfully recalled to himself Melibea’s equivocations :

sweet imagination, you that can, come to my aid. Bring to my fantasy the angelic presence of that radiant image; carry to my ears the soft sound of her words: those palely uttered parries, that “Step back. Señor, do not come near me,” that “Do not be ill-mannered” I heard from your rosy lips; that “Do not covet my perdition” that you proposed from time to time; those loving embraces between words; that letting me go and clasping me to you; that fleeing and approaching; those sugared kisses … Those last words with which she bade me farewell left her lips with such pain! With such waving of arms! With so many tears resembling seeds of pearls that fell without her awareness from her clear, shining eyes!

Despite questionable aspects of their initial sexual encounter, Melibea and Calisto seem to have been pleased with it. They subsequently had eight similar midnight trysts in the garden in the next month.[5]

Celestina describes Calisto and Melibea’s ninth midnight tryst in more detail. Melibea welcomed Calisto with exuberant joy. She chided her servant-woman for longingly touching Calisto (apparently without affirmative consent) as she took his weapons and clothes. Melibea also teased Calisto with denial of her consent for sexual intimacies:

since you, my señor, are the exemplar of courtesy and good breeding, how do you command my tongue to speak but not your roving hands to remain quiet? Why do you not forget their artful tricks? Order them to be at rest and leave their irritating ways and unsupportable manners. Look, my angel, just having you quiet beside me is agreeable to me, but your roughness is annoying. Your honorable games give me pleasure, your dishonorable hands exhaust me when they surpass what is reasonable. Leave my clothing in place, and if you wish to see if my outer gown is of silk or cotton, why do you touch my shift? You know it is of linen. We can frolic and play in a thousand different ways that I will show you, but do not hurt and mistreat me as you are wont to do. What benefit is it to you to damage my clothing?

Melibea’s servant-woman provides context for interpreting Melibea’s sophisticated complaints:

May I die of buboes if I listen any longer. This is life? Here am I burning with jealousy, and she being elusive in order to be begged! … I could do the same if his idiot servants would talk to me someday, but they wait until I have to go and seek them.

Men shoulder a vastly unequal gender burden of initiating and pursuing sexual relationships. Women and men’s pleasure in men’s boldness and women’s reluctance tends to criminalize men in heterosexual seduction.

While Melibea expressed regret after first-time sex with Calisto, she committed suicide in grief at Calisto’s accidental death. Part of Melibea’s regret at losing her virginity was fear of her parents’ reaction. That fear didn’t dominate her preferences. She subsequently acted strongly to dissuade her parents from arranging a marriage for her. She boldly informed her father how “his {Calisto’s} desire and mine” was realized:

Vanquished by his love, I let him into your house. With ladders he overcome the walls of your garden, just as he overcame my resistance. I lost my virginity. From that pleasureful error of love we took joy for nearly a month.

In narrating the realization of their desires, Melibea credited Calisto with skill and strength. She didn’t charge him with acting wrongly. She then, in anguish from Calisto’s death, committed suicide by jumping off a tower in front of her father’s eyes.

Totalitarian sex regulations indicate societal suicide. The new sex laws and policies now sweeping America are so unrealistic as to make almost everyone who ever had sex a perpetrator of rape, or sexual assault, or sexual misconduct. Rape has always been regarded as a relatively serious crime. Making everyone a sex criminal and blurring very different categories of wrongs makes a mockery of law, fairness, and justice.[6] Even amid the lies, delusions, greed, immorality, and treachery of La Celestina, no voice in that text accuses Calisto of raping Melibea.

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Notes:

[1] Celestina, from Spanish trans. Peden (2009) Act 12, p. 167. Celestina  is available online in the original Spanish. All the subsequent quotes from Celestina are from Peden’s translation, cited by act and page. The quote sources: Act 14, pp. 189-92 (O angelic image …  and subsequent seven quotes);  Act 14, p. 197 (sweet imagination …); Act 19, pp. 230-1 (since you, my señor, are the exemplar … and subsequent quote); Act 20, p. 240 (Vanquished by his love …).

[2] Act 1, p. 25. Report according to Calisto’s servant Parmeno.

[3] Melibea moves from speaking to Calisto (O my life, my señor!), to speaking to her mother (O Mother!), to self-address in the voice of her mother (Sinner!), back to addressing her mother (If you had knowledge …), to addressing her father (O my honored father), and then to her self (Why did I not first look …). Those shifts in address suggest intensity of feeling. Her regret and fear don’t seem feigned.

[4] Peden’s translation includes the sentence fragment, “At night, where you command.” The sense seems to me connected to the previous sentence. I’ve thus made a small change in the quote above. Singleton’s translation supports my change. Singleton (1958) p. 201.

[5] Calisto’s servant Sosia revealed this fact in response to Areúsa’s guileful questioning. Act 17, Peden (2009) p. 217.

[6] The new sex crime laws and policies are being enacted in the context of widespread lying, scare-mongering,and anti-men bigotry in reporting facts about sexual assault, contempt for due process of men accused of these crimes, and vastly gender-disproportionate imprisonment of men. In that social context, promoting those laws and polices is particularly benighted.

[image] Woman traffic officer at a crossroad in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 5, 2010. Thanks to Roman Harak for making this photo available under a Creative Commons By-SA 2.0 license.

References:

Peden, Margaret Sayers, trans., and Roberto González Echevarría, ed. 2009. Fernando de Rojas. Celestina. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Singleton, Mack Hendricks, trans. 1958. Celestina; a play in twenty-one acts, attributed to Fernando de Rojas. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

One thought on “Calisto set up for raping Melibea under new sex regulations”

  1. Cardinal Richelieu is said to have remarked something to the effect of “Give me the most honest man in the world and in one page of his writing, I will convict him of treason and heresy”. The new priestly class has taken that notion one step farther and criminalized the entire area of adult sexual activity. Power to the people who manipulate the people.

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