The Mystique of Women

by Michael Sones

“For the female of the species is more deadly than the male”-Rudyard Kipling

It is likely that all babies are born to beautiful mothers-at least from the baby’s perspective and whatever the objective merits of the mother’s physical appearance. Babies perceive their mothers as beautiful. However, wherever there is beauty there are, to a greater or lesser degree, anxieties about it.

Take a look at the photograph (not commissioned or staged by us). It epitomizes many of anxieties which men have about beautiful women. It is of a beautiful blonde haired woman, arms demurely folded across her breasts, revealing one bare leg and wrapped in what looks like a leopard skin. She is clearly very beautiful but why a leopard skin? It suggests an identification with this predatory animal. She beckons with her bare leg and the lifting of her foot suggests delicacy-but is that the bait? How dangerous is she? She has an innocent looking face but is her inner nature that of a wild, ravenous feline? Would a man who accepted her unspoken but visual invitation be safe? Many men might take the risk and enjoy the challenge of trying to tame this wild kitten. But there is a risk-we presume that male black widow spiders are not genetically programmed to know that they are likely to end up as the main course. By definition that is not a bit of knowledge which can be passed on.

Masculine attraction to and anxiety about the beauty of women is prevalent in many cultures. The reasons why men have dominated and oppressed women are many but anxiety about their beauty is one of the factors which has led to the control of women by men. The outside is visibly beautiful but there is worry about the unknown that lurks within the invisible depths. There is generally less anxiety about something which one is in control of.

Beauty in a woman, while very attractive, brings anxiety in its wake as it can result in men coming into violent conflict with one another. In our modern societies we are somewhat protected from this though many murders still take place because of male sexual jealousy. This anxiety is a product of our evolutionary heritage. For most of human existence on earth we lived in small bands as hunter-gatherers and our basic psychologies evolved to suit that lifestyle. Women evolved to be attractive to men and to have and look after children. Men evolved to hunt and to fight. Our bodies and minds have not caught up with all of the changes of the past few thousand years.

The sight of blood makes people anxious. It can be a sign of violence and when violence erupts it can rage like a flooding swollen river sweeping everything in its path. In particular men are anxious about women’s menstruation. Many cultures have taboos about it seeing it as a form of pollution and there are worries about contamination. Is the bleeding a sign of fertility and life or is it a sign of some inner destructive process? In some Western cultures when they advertise what are delicately called “feminine hygiene products” on television they illustrate their absorbent properties with blue fluids. (Blue blood??? The royals?)

This uncertainty about the mysterious interior is difficult to tolerate. If a woman is controlled there is no need to trust her. There is no need to worry if her inner nature is that of a pussycat or a leopard.

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