Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Second Sex, intro, translator's notes and the beginning of chapter 1!

OK, so first of all: Go Nattie! Great choice, love this book ALREADY! It will probably take me years to actually finish because it is QUITE dense! I love love love love it though!

So here's a few mini-book reports I have on this book! Attention: the chapter one part is pretty explicit!

Intro/Translator's Notes

1) The intro is pretty interesting. I find it completely fascinating that the intro doesn't so much mention how so little has changed between 1949 (when the book was published) and 1989 (when this intro was written). I also found it interesting that the book was translated to English because the wife of a publisher thought it was a sex manual and should therefore be available to the American public. Wow. And then asked her HUSBAND to publish it. It's cool how the very thing that Beauvoir is discussing is so present in how her book became more widely available to English speaking women. Ironic, I think. It's like rain on your wedding day. ha ha.

2) The translator's notes are the funniest part by far. He (yes, he... I find that a little strange, but I guess it WAS 1952) keeps talking about all these strides that women have made. To think about that in 1952 terms based on what we know today, one would probably say "what strides?". Women couldn't even vote in Beauvoir's home of France until the late forties. In Italy, I'm pretty sure it was later that mid-fifties. Even in Canada, aboriginal women COULDN'T VOTE until like 1960. That blows my mind.


OK, so chapter one is about biological facts. So here are the two thoughts I came up with on my way home today:

1) perhaps that (what? I'm not sure, ghost subject alert) is why the sex act is so much more carefully considered by human females than males (in terms of general stereotype, certainly not speaking from my own experience or observation). First, according to Beauvoir, the sex act is a violation of the woman, decided upon by the man only. I personally believe this has limited physical truth in the society in which we live today, but that is DEFINITELY not to say that rape doesn't happen now (or then, especially rape within marriage and other relationships). Socially though, women (at least some) do tend to be compelled by some sort of ideology to be happily submissive sexual partners and pieces of relationships, I think. Second, the act of reproduction is more closely tied to her since she is attached to the potential offspring long after the sex act itself is over, whereas the male is independent of the sex act as soon as it has ended. Finally, the physical sex act in humans (in the case of intercourse) occurs internally in women but externally to men. I think this makes a big difference, but that's tough to dispute, I think.

2) For the human male, intercourse is almost a physical necessity, or at least it is boasted as one by many arguing against blue-ball syndrome (or whatever it might be called). As a man's "need" (or need, whatever), and perhaps therefore his inherent human right, sex is also necessary to the female even though procreation and propagation of the species then becomes her inherent RESPONSIBILITY. To the male, sex is a need that is relatively simply met (and on his own terms according to Beauvoir), but for the female the act which is assigned to her by another individual (the male in question) carries a great deal more weight (perhaps literally and figuratively).

She's definitely just talking about animals so far, so I shouldn't read so much into her analysis in human terms as I have, so this is definitely a long shot and is CERTAINLY based more on stereotype than a true analysis should be, but it was just my thoughts!!!

<3 L.


Natalie said...

Very interesting so far. I would agree that the stuff you extrapolated from her non-human examples could apply in human cases as well. However, I am confused by your last point that men experience the act simply and women are more "acted upon" (sorry, paraphrasing here). I kinda feel like that may be more true at the time this book was written, but is (or may be) less applicable to society today. However, I certainly agree with and enjoy and find great truth in the point that sex has different meanings for men than for women, as the implications of the act have very different time periods.

I should buy my own copy so we can read and discuss, haha.

Louamonster said...

You're totally right, I think that men were more the actors and women were more "acted upon" when the book was written, but I was thinking about sexual assault now in a way. It's a pretty extreme example. And I certainly know that rape is about power not sex, but it's funny that you mention it because I was considering it this morning. You SHOULD get your own copy! Ha ha, I won't be done for years though, and you read faster than me! It could happen!

Natalie said...

Ok, gotcha. Perhaps we could get into some good discussions. Haha, we should also pick up that book about how to be a good wife from the Anglican church. It would at least be good for a few laughs, I'm sure.

I know PJS said that de Beauvoir was ridiculed for her book; do you know if it was banned by the churches at all?