men desiring women must swerve from dream vision to bodily reality

dream vision of beautiful woman

mirage of water in a desert

In his first, seminal experience of sexuality, a young man commonly dreams of a beautiful woman who is naked and warmly receptive. Lucretius, the classical Roman dispeller of delusions and superstition, described in De rerum natura {On the nature of things} the natural outcome: the young man ejaculates and soils his bedsheets.[1] Men’s dream vision fails to show them women’s bodily reality. Now is the time to swerve completely. In our age of mass sexual persecution of men, men must turn from the deification of women to perceive that women are beastly beings just as men are.

Throughout history, men in love have been like those who are thirsty and dream of water. Dream water cannot satisfy men’s natural needs. Lucretius in De rerum natura explained:

As a thirsty man will dream of drinking water, but
No water is there to quench his parching body —
he strives for the shadow of water and struggles for nothing,
gulping the rush of the river and yet still thirsty,
so lovers fall for a Love Goddess and shadows.

{ ut bibere in somnis sitiens quom quaerit et umor
non datur, ardorem qui membris stinguere possit,
sed laticum simulacra petit frustraque laborat
in medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans,
sic in amore Venus simulacris ludit amantis } [2]

Men’s dreams prepare them for their historical lot: a life of thirsting, sexual rejection, and deprivation. Even worse, men enslaved in love to women support the gynocentric society that broadly oppresses men.[3]

While so-called courtly love has long been celebrated, men enslaved in love lead miserable lives. Lucretius with his sober, scientific commitment to direct, unadorned reason and truth described men’s abasement in love to women as a bodily disease. Men’s self-abasement goes beyond physical lovesickness:

Add that they sexually labor to the point of exhaustion,
that they waste their time at another’s beck and call!
Their duties fall faint, their fame grows sick and totters,
their business fails and their wealth is turned into
ointments from Persia and sweet Sicyonian slippers.
Sure! and great emeralds with their grass-green shine
are enclosed in gold, and the purple robe’s worn sheer
from the constant rubbing, soaked and stained with sex.
Father’s hard-earned estate? Bonnets or scarves
for whores — or long lush robes or lingerie.
Then formal dinners and delicacies and games,
goblets all round, crowns, garlands, lotions, all
for nothing: from the very fount of pleasure
the bitter will surge and in love’s flower beds
clutch — for regrets bite back at the conscious mind,
to have lost his years to idleness and whoring,
or maybe the girlfriend’s tossed some two-edged word
that sticks in the lover’s heart and blooms like fire,
or her roving gaze has lit on another lover —
he thinks he sees the traces of her smile.

{ Adde quod absumunt viris pereuntque labore;
adde quod alterius sub nutu degitur aetas,
languent officia atque aegrotat fama vacillans.
labitur interea res et Babylonia fiunt
unguenta, et pulchra in pedibus Sicyonia rident;
scilicet et grandes viridi cum luce zmaragdi
auro includuntur, teriturque thalassina vestis
adsidue et Veneris sudorem exercita potat;
et bene parta patrum fiunt anademata, mitrae,
interdum in pallam atque Alidensia Ciaque vertunt.
eximia veste et victu convivia, ludi,
pocula crebra, unguenta, coronae, serta parantur,
nequiquam, quoniam medio de fonte leporum
surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat,
aut cum conscius ipse animus se forte remordet
desidiose agere aetatem lustrisque perire,
aut quod in ambiguo verbum iaculata reliquit
quod cupido adfixum cordi vivescit ut ignis,
aut nimium iactare oculos aliumve tueri
quod putat in voltuque videt vestigia risus. } [4]

Why do men act so stupidly toward women? Why do men allow themselves to be ensnared into oppressive relationships? Part of the problem is that men engage in elaborate self-deception and doubletalk:

For men are blinded by their lustful desires
and grant their loved ones graces they don’t have.
The vile, the crooked — these, we see, are sweethearts
and are honored in the highest by their lovers.
Men laugh at a fellow who’s stuck with an ugly girlfriend,
“You better go keep your Venus happy!” Fools!
Their own troubles are worse, and they can’t see them.
She’s black as soot? “Honey-tan.” She’s slovenly and smelly?
“Casual!” Cat-eyed? “A goddess!” She’s knobby and wiry?
“A gazelle.” A dwarf’s “my petite,” “my little charmer”;
a big bruiser’s “one who’ll take your breath away.”
The stammerer “lisps,” the mute one, she’s just “bashful,”
while the spiteful little spitfire’s “a real sparkler.”
Then it’s “svelte” for a woman too withered to be alive,
and the half-dead hacker’s got “a delicate frame.”
But a “diva” is she with great gargantuan boobs,
and Fat Lips is “one big kiss,” and Pug Nose “my puppy.”
I could go on forever with such stuff.

{ nam faciunt homines plerumque cupidine caeci
et tribuunt ea quae non sunt his commoda vere.
multimodis igitur pravas turpisque videmus
esse in deliciis summoque in honore vigere.
atque alios alii inrident Veneremque suadent
ut placent, quoniam foedo adflictentur amore,
nec sua respiciunt miseri mala maxima saepe.
nigra melichrus est, inmunda et foetida acosmos,
caesia Palladium, nervosa et lignea dorcas,
parvula, pumilio, Chariton mia, tota merum sal,
magna atque inmanis cataplexis plenaque honoris.
balba loqui non quit, traulizi, muta pudens est;
at flagrans odiosa loquacula lampadium fit.
ischnon eromenion tum fit, cum vivere non quit
prae macie; rhadine verost iam mortua tussi.
at tumida et mammosa Ceres est ipsa ab Iaccho,
simula Silena ac saturast, labeosa philema.
cetera de genere hoc longum est si dicere coner. } [5]

Such fallacious perceptions can persist. Men last off sinking ships shows a culture of toxic masculinity, patriarchy explains why men have no reproductive rights, and structural oppression of women causes men to be held vastly disproportionately in prisons, jails, and other structures of incarceration. Believing in a world completely detached from reality is a prevalent human practice.

Now is the time to swerve completely. In writing his masterpiece Il Corbaccio, Boccaccio accurately understood Lucretius’s insight in De rerum natura. Lucretius pointed out that every man’s love goddess farts like any other woman:

No doubt she does (we know it) what the homely do:
she farts at times, poor lady, with vile smells,
while her maids scurry away and chuckle in secret.
But the weepy locked-out lover buries the steps
under flowers and wreaths, and oils the haughty posts
with majoram, planting kisses on the door —
pathetic. Just let him in and let him take
one awful whiff! He’ll look for a decent reason
to get out; the whiny poem he’s got by heart
falls, and he curses himself for being a blockhead,
for granting her more than is right to grant a mortal.

{ nempe eadem facit, et scimus facere, omnia turpi
et miseram taetris se suffit odoribus ipsa,
quam famulae longe fugitant furtimque cachinnant.
at lacrimans exclusus amator limina saepe
floribus et sertis operit postisque superbos
unguit amaracino et foribus miser oscula figit;
quem si, iam admissum, venientem offenderit aura
una modo, causas abeundi quaerat honestas
et meditata diu cadat alte sumpta querella,
stultitiaque ibi se damnet, tribuisse quod illi
plus videat quam mortali concedere par est. } [6]

Often in Roman love elegy, the locked-out lover {exclusus amator}, always a man, maintains a love vigil at the door of his beloved woman. He’s an abject, thoroughly deluded slave of love {servitium amoris}. In Il Corbaccio, a dead narrator describes thunderclaps and fetid air emanating from his wife’s anus. She, like all other flesh-and-blood human beings, occasionally farted. Women are far from ethereal beings. Men who know the nature of things know that women stink just like men do.

Acting in their own interests, women work to preserve men’s delusions about women. Lucretius in De rerum natura observed:

Our goddesses are no fools. No! They themselves
guard all the backstage secrets of women
from those they want to hold in the bonds of love

{ nec Veneres nostras hoc fallit; quo magis ipsae
omnia summo opere hos vitae poscaenia celant
quos retinere volunt adstrictosque esse in amore } [7]

The secrets of women aren’t difficult to learn. Any boy who has a sister knows. Any man who has lived for more than a month with a woman knows. Women are flesh-and-blood human beings. Even though a woman farts, if she’s good-hearted and not shrewish, her universal human failings can be overlooked.

Woman pretend that they do men a favor by having sex with them. That helps to support the long-standing, oppressive social practice of men paying women for sex. In reality, most women enjoy having sex with men:

If it weren’t for mutual joy they’d never do it —
a joy that tricks them into being enchained together.
So I say again: the pleasure goes two ways.

{ quod facerent numquam, nisi mutua gaudia nossent,
quae iacere in fraudem possent vinctosque tenere.
quare etiam atque etiam, ut dico, est communis voluptas. }

Men should swerve and insist that women buy them dinner. Women should swerve and value highly men’s erection labor.

With his playful literary perversity, the fourth-century Christian scholar Jerome has been one of the most insightful readers of Lucretius’s De rerum natura. Jerome composed a brief biography of Lucretius:

The poet Titus Lucretius is born. Later on, a love potion swerved him into derangement. Having composed between bouts of insanity several books that Cicero later corrected, Lucretius killed himself by his own hand at age 44.

{ Titus Lucretius poeta nascitur. Postea, amatorio poculo in furorem uersus, cum aliquot libros per interualla insaniae conscripsisset, quos postea Cicero emendauit, propria se manu interfecit anno aetatis XLIIII. } [8]

No direct testimony contradicts Jerome’s account of Lucretius’s life. However, like Theophrastus’s Golden Book on Marriage, this biography of Lucretius is almost surely Jerome’s literary conceit. It implicitly credits the knowledgeably reasoning Lucretius with having personally experienced the insanity of a slave of love. With Jerome’s characteristically biting irony, Lucretius in this mock biography killed himself with his own hand after he correctly described his own affliction. Jerome rightfully regarded the slave of love and the locked-out lover as fools for false gods. Across many centuries of gynocentric valorization of men’s self-abasement in love with women, many readers of Lucretius have lacked Jerome’s insight.[9] Many readers have superficially dismissed Lucretius’s depiction of men’s ignorance and delusions in relation to women. Such failure of reason has had terrible consequences for men’s lives.

Now is the time to swerve completely. The dominant culture asserts that men should be taught not to be men. That’s nonsense.[10] Men should turn from sleep-walking while dreaming of mother and sweet goddess lover, open their eyes, and face women as beasts like themselves. As Lucretius makes clear, men with their own reason can rise to see the light of the sun.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Lucretius, De rerum natura {On the nature of things} 4.1034-6:

These things so tickle and rouse the seed-swollen place
that it gushes out — as if the job were done —
in the flow of a mighty stream and soils the linen.

{ qui ciet inritans loca turgida semine multo,
ut quasi transactis saepe omnibus rebus profundant
seminis ingentis fluctus vestemque cruentent. }

Latin text from Brown (1987) p. 148, English translation from Esolen (1995) p. 151. Here and in subsequent quotes from De rerum natura, the Latin is from Brown’s edition (a quite good Latin text is available online) and the English translation is based on Esolen’s. In quoting from Esolen’s translation, I silently make some insubstantial changes for ease of reading for non-specialists. Since readers today tend to find verse intimidating, I don’t capitalize the initial word of each line so that the lines look more like prose.

Through the course of their lives men typically do a large amount of erection labor. During a wet dream and other similar work, a man typically performs mighty labor to produce a mighty stream. This male-gendered job historically has been poorly compensated and immiserated. Women’s sexual harassment of men, which is now pervasive, often causes men to do more uncompensated erection labor.

[2] De rerum natura 4.1096-1101. For l. 1101, Esolen has “So lovers are fooled by Venus and her shadows.” Since many readers today don’t know the classical meaning of Venus, I’ve adapted this line in a straightforward way while making the five beat per line metrical structure clearer.

[3] Lucretius recognized the conventional gynocentric perception of the world:

Lucretius frames his cosmos around strong, female figures: the Earth Mother, the goddess Venus, and Nature herself. Each figure helps propel the world forward, working in tandem to produce, organize, and nurture every species in existence. Lucretius uses language of pregnancy and birth to describe the fundamental cycles of the cosmos, depicting the female gender not only as present, but necessary and formative to his world.

Lochtefeld (2016) pp. 19-20. Responding to Nugent (1994), a thoroughly gynocentric study, Fowler took the position of a strange and pathological being attempting to appease an intellectual goddess like Athena. He began:

ONE of the most stimulating and productive developments in gender studies has been the realization that gender is a relevant aspect of all texts, not merely of those whose subject-matter is most directly ‘women’s things’. If the first wave of feminism directed our attention away from what scholars had been brought up to regard as central — war, politics, technological advance — to the marginalized worlds of women, the second wave has returned to the traditional world of men: a world, however, seen no longer as natural and normal, but as strange and pathological.

Fowler (2002) Appendix C, p. 444. With the intellectual orientation of a eunuch serving in a goddess cult, Fowler lamented about De rerum natura: “It is clearly not possible to claim that {the} text embodies tout court an acceptable attitude to women.” Id. p. 445. Despite his Epicurean commitments, Lucretius surely would have been deeply disturbed by such scholarship.

Genders studies that take seriously men’s well-justified sexed protest largely don’t exist. Men understanding themselves to be pathological has been normalized. That’s a terrible legacy of misguided scholarship. Scholars should show the capacity to learn.

[4] De rerum natura 4.1121-40. For l. 1121, Esolen has “Add that they spend their strength to the point of exhaustion.” Above I’ve clarified the reference to men’s erection labor. The second line refers to women dominating men. That’s a pervasive but rarely discussed effect. Copley translated that line with perceptive clarity: “add that the will of a woman rules their life.” Copley (1977) p. 108. Medieval Latin poetry recognized the folly of men soldiering for love.

The gifts that the man gives to his beloved women are exotic Hellenistic luxuries that Romans began acquiring after the Roman conquests of Greece and Carthage in the second century BGC. Brown (1987) p. 250. “Sweet Sicyonian slippers” refers to “a high quality brand of shoe, apparently used mainly by women” and made near Corinth. Id. pp. 256-7, Esolen (1995) p. 269. The adjective thalassina, attested only in this text, is a Greek transliteration: “{t}he precise sense of thalassina is disputed but it probably means ‘sea-dyed,’ i.e. dyed purple with murex.” Brown (1987) p. 259. For Esolen’s “seaside” I have used above “purple.” With respect to “Alidensia Ciaque,” Brown notes “the text of the mss. poses grave difficulties … the context requires a reference to luxurious clothing materials.” Id. p. 262. The gender gap in consumption (men control less than a third as much consumer spending as women do) is much larger that the widely misrepresented gender gap in wages (women are paid only 78% as much as men, not speaking of not controlling for hours worked, job experience, non-pecuniary factors such as the risk of being killed in a coal-mining accident, etc.).

[5] De rerum natura 4.1153-70. Regarding the contrasting personal descriptions, Brown commented:

In nearly every case a direct and usually derogatory Latin description, often drawn from vulgar speech and “unpoetical” in the usual sense, is set against a fanciful Greek hypocorism. This stresses the lover’s perversion of language and conveys in concrete fashion the distance between his idealized picture of the beloved and her real appearance.

Brown (1987) p. 282.

[6] De rerum natura 4.1174-84. Classical Latin philologists have been slow to recognize that the beloved lady farts. In 1897, the eminent, no-nonsense classical Latin philologist A. E. Housman proposed that the lady farts. Most subsequent scholars and translators of De rerum natura made up a variety of excuses to dodge that reality. In a 2017 publication, Brown displayed astonishing scientific integrity in recognizing that his detailed commentary published 30 years earlier mistakenly described se suffit odoribus as referring to “medical fumigation, which was widely practiced as a gynecological treatment.” Brown (1987) p. 296. Brown now recognizes that farting provides the most reasonable, most coherent reading for De rerum natura 4.1175. Brown (2017). Ordinary readers have recognized earlier that the lady farts. For example, Oudenos in 2010 loosely translated 4.1175 as “they fart too, and their farts stink.”

Understanding se suffit odoribus as farting provides crucial context for understanding why the lady’s maids scurry away and chuckle in secret. Their pretentious lady acts as if she’s a goddess. But she farts just as her maids do.

In Book 2 of De rerum natura, Lucretius described turbulent flow of atoms using the verb declino (2.221, 2.259) and the noun clinamen (2.292). Scholars haven’t recognized the relevance of these terms to De rerum natura 4.1174-84. The female human body features a decline from the clitoris to the meeting of labia lines at the base of the vagina, and then a continuing decline to the anus. When the ignorant and deluded exclusus amator travels that path in understanding, he completely reverses his direction. That’s an allusive meaning of clinamen.

Lucretius’s invocations of declino and clinamen have been incoherently interpreted as swerving to support mythic history and the current direction of elite ideology. The medieval churchman Poggio Bracciolini discovered a manuscript of De rerum natura in 1417. Poggio then helped to bring De rerum natura to scholarly attention. Poggio’s vitally important discovery has yet to produce clinamen in relation to gynocentric society.

[7] De rerum natura 4.1185-7. The term Veneres nostras {“our goddesses,” or more literally, “our Venuses”} carries irony in the context of women scheming to cover up repulsive human bodily functions. The figure retinere adstrictos in amore resonates in literature of men’s sexed protest. See also 4.1207. The subsequent quote above is 4.1206-8.

[8] Jerome’s addition to Eusebius’s Chronicle for the year 94 BGC (or possibly 93 BGC). Latin text from Gain (1969) p. 545, my English translation, drawing on that in the entry for Lucretius in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Gain concludes, “no part of St Jerome’s account of the life of Lucretius can simply be dismissed as untrue.” Id. p. 553. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t an artful literary construct.

[9] Nussbaum greatly misunderstood Jerome’s biography of Lucretius. Of derangement from a love potion, Nussbaum declared:

this experience, and the criticism that arose from it, were highly atypical and peculiar. The madness of love was not any ordinary erotic experience; it was a compulsive state induced by a drug.

Nussbaum (1989) p. 2. Love madness not drug-induced was conventional in Roman love elegy. Moreover, lovesickness has long been recognized as a naturally occurring, debilitating condition. Nussbaum then freely wanders further from reasonableness:

And the condemnations of love that were written {by Lucretius} in the ‘lucid intervals’ can, in consequence, be seen as outpourings of bitterness and misery produced by an unwilling addict, rather than as rational criticism constructed through reflection by a free thinking being.

Id. Freely thinking without relevant learning doesn’t produce reasoned thought. In Jerome’s mock biography, Lucretius learned about love madness, and then in an interval of rationality, wrote about what he had learned from his experience. Nussbaum seems to project onto Jerome her own evident concern in her scholarly article to reach a conclusion edifying and therapeutic, in a comforting, complacent sense, for herself and her elite academic gynocentric circle.

[10] A classicist in Kansas declared:

my approach finds something both correct and salutary in the dominant culture’s complaint that the Garden {the Epicurean learning academy} was teaching men not to be men.

Gordon (2002) p. 106. The dominant culture now hatefully teaches men not to be men.

Men should be taught that women are not superior by nature to them. De rerum natura 4.1030-1287 offers such teaching with brilliant Latin poetry. Yet, perhaps because of gynocentric resistance to teaching real gender equality, De rerum natura 4.1030-1287 hasn’t been included in the school curriculum. On the history of suppressing De rerum natura 4.1030-1287, Buttterfield (2012), esp. pp. 96, 109.

[image] (1) Vision of beautiful woman. Image released under CCO Public Doman license thanks to Max Pixel. (2) Mirage of water in the Mojave Desert, 23 May 2007. Thanks to Brocken Inaglory and Wikimedia Commons.

References:

Brown, Robert D. 1987. Lucretius on love and sex: a commentary on De rerum natura IV, 1030-1287, with prolegomena, text, and translation. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Brown, Robert D. 2017. “Lucretius’ malodorous mistress (De rerum natura 4.1175).” Classical Journal. 113 (1): 26-43.

Butterfield, David. 2012. “Contempta relinquas: anxiety and expurgation in the publication of Lucretius’ De rerum natura.” Ch. 5 (pp. 94-114) in Harrison, Stephen J., and Christopher Stray, eds. 2014. Expurgating the classics: editing out in Greek and Latin. London, England: Bloomsbury Academic.

Copley, Frank O., trans. 1977. The nature of things. New York: Norton.

Esolen, Anthony M., trans. 1995. Lucretius. On the nature of things: De rerum natura. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Fowler, Don. 2002. Lucretius on atomic motion: a commentary on De rerum natura 2.1-332. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gain, D. B. 1969. “The Life and Death of Lucretius.” Latomus. 28 (3): 545-553.

Gordon, Pamela. 2002. “Some Unseen Monster: Rereading Lucretius on Sex.” Ch. 3 (pp. 86-109) in Fredrick, David, ed. The Roman gaze: vision, power, and the body. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lochtefeld, Vera Jane. 2016. “A Cyclical Cosmos: The Female in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura.” Essay, April 8. St. Olaf College, Minnesota (US).

Nugent, S. Georgia. 1994. “Mater matters: The female in Lucretius’ De rerum natura.” Colby Quarterly 30: 179–205

Nussbaum, Martha. 1989. “Beyond Obsession and Disgust: Lucretius’s Genealogy of Love.” Apeiron. 22 (1): 1-60.

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