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Preface Or How To Read The Text Of Sexes

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts…”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), As You Like It.

“For the archaic human the sex is a social (cultural)

Rather than a biological category.

A woman or a man is to be made, not born.

And that making happens during the transitional rituals.”

Ivan Marazov, The Mythology of the Thracians, 1994.

In a sense, the world we live in appeared as it is only recently. Today, Shakespeare’s words might arouse protest in certain gender circles. Why only men and women? And why does the fourth line show respect only for “one man in his time” – the unambiguous, plain masculine singular? Many may feel offended!

In May 2016, a list of genders officially recognized in New York City was publicly released. The list consists of 31 genders, and has been left open to embrace new options. This was as many as there appeared to be at the time. In the list, a woman takes 17th post, and a man 18th. Number 26 has been reserved for “androgyne” and 31 for “androgynous”. I find it difficult to understand the difference between androgyne and androgynous, except as grammatical categories. As a matter of fact, outside any list of this kind, biologically one can have a vulva, a penis or both. There is no other possibility. This comes to be one of the major conditions for the proper reading of the text – the biological sex, the way it develops and how far it goes. We are warned about this from the very outset. There is not yet any gender. Or at least, the term has not yet appeared. In any case, it exists as a notion, as we know from Greek mythology – men–men, children of the Sun, women–women, children of the earth and men–women, born of the moon.

The NYC list was not to be the only one of its kind. In 2015, Great Britain accepted the address honorific Mx to replace the traditional Mr, Mrs and Miss. The reason was to avoid specifying gender characteristics of personality. Mx is to be used also by the agencies responsible for issuing driving licences and passports. One may address even Her Majesty the Queen as Mx.

I remember an advert: “Share this picture if you are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual or if you really love cats. Have fun figuring out which one.”

Unlike biology, imagination is beyond any limits. It seems far better not to take ourselves too seriously.

In our day, we have not only sex; we predominantly have gender. The history of the term gender is amusing. If we properly read this text, we shall find that it repeats the whole story of civilization. The term was proposed in 1955 by John Money, a man. His goal was to make a terminological distinction between biological sex and gender in regard to society. He was not paid much attention. Men were still men, and women remained women. The public kept everything else in silence; homosexuality had been reprehensible since the time of the Old Testament, and discussions on lesbianism were relegated to minor mention, as the secular courts did not prosecute such cases.

Feminism brought about the heyday of the term in the 1970s. As we shall read in this book, most of the concepts have been invented by men for women, fighting to be admired and chosen for reproduction. Nevertheless, once invented, the concepts developed their own life and (in the hands of the women) reached a fantastic level of development.

If we are aware of ourselves – as far as possible – in terms of sex and gender, let us read. The text is provoking, very provoking. It can be read in various ways, depending on our orientation. The book has been written by a philosopher on the basis of his own sexuality and gender role. His erudition is vast, and his fantasy under control. Between the lines is an elegant humour. The very essence of being human is also a philosophical concept of a still-not-entirely clear description. The text reflects one of his/her/Mx’s major biological aspects – sex, and what all the fuss is about. In the beginning there were only man, woman and hermaphrodite. Almost no doubt about it – these concepts developed about 40,000 years before our time, and are very well represented in the earliest rock pictures and figurines. These depicted mainly women with abundant vulvas, more seldom phalluses. The idea of the hermaphrodite also existed at this time. A figurine from Tursac, France has been interpreted as a hermaphrodite. It is made of transparent calcite, is amber in colour, and dates from 25,000 years ago (27,000 BC calibrated), in the Gravettian Culture of the Upper Palaeolithic. Stylized bone figurines from Trou Magritte, Belgium, terminate in female heads above and phalluses below. The same concept we read in the later Greek mythology – the erotic story of the Nymph Salmacis, overwhelmed by a strong desire (eros) for Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite. (The affair takes place in the waters of a lake, which is far from accidental – the water draws a line between life and death). The theme of the androgyne is also broadly discussed in the texts of the Greek philosophers. The earliest principal gods in the mythologies of the East, Africa and Australia are also androgynes.

Death is one of the main subjects of this book. Everyone has it within themselves. It is inevitable. Death arouses sexuality, and stimulates reproduction. In the old days the death rate was very high. Men died in battle and women in labour. For the survival of the species, civilization was created – to protect weak men, according to the thesis proposed in this book. Thus, the weak man, the male who cannot kill the beast or win a duel, is to be found in almost everything we take for granted today (without thinking about the sex or gender of the creator) – in language, art, fantasy, humour and love. He also invented the lie – first the hunting, then the eroticism. All his efforts were deployed to gain admiration, to be chosen for reproduction. The woman was regarded only in terms of soul – to sanctify the weak man, to choose him before all others, to show she has accepted him and will give birth to his children. The woman still has the power to choose – the strong male/victor or the weak man, fascinating with his civilized gifts. Meanwhile, the world was continuing on the basis of biological sex alone. It seemed well enough. The males were an experiment, a try, changing all the time; the women were memory, transmitted through the generations. Only the criteria for selection were changing, not dramatically the mechanism. Not yet – until the events under the Apple Tree.

It is absolutely possible, in the sense of this book, that the first lie pronounced by a man was: I have killed the bear! Then, most probably the first phrase pronounced by the woman, in the language the man had constructed for her, was a question: What is this? We could not know what the thisthe woman was regarding at that moment was – the apple? the horizon? the dick of Adam? It does not really matter. Adam began immediately to answer her, to improvise, to lie. Far from accidentally, in the following scene, Adam gives names to all the animals. Adam has created words; Eve has given them meaning.

There are three characters standing under the tree – a man, a woman and a snake. We can think of the snake as we like – nature, God, fate or some nameless character. We all name the snake for ourselves. Even Adam does not know its name. Along with Adam and Eve, our choice is standing. Eve has chosen.

Since then, men have been unable to forgive her. And they might be right. They might still be there, naked and ignorant under the tree. They would not even know they have dicks.

We have to pay thorough attention to the etymology vastly presented in the book; to read closely the development of meaning in words we often say or write lightly. Etymology can reveal the history of any world process. It alone can construct the thesis here proposed. This capacity has been made use of in the text brilliantly. Lying comfortably in conventionality, we see men in the verse of Homer - …Then men killed each other, the battle front collapsed… (Iliad, 15:325). We also read that Zeus was the father of all the gods and men, and Agamemnon the basileus of the people. As a matter of fact, the word that Homer used does not mean men,but warriors, mortal warriors who are males and biologically and socially possess vigour and strength, males of reproductive age. There is the difference. (Nevertheless, the warriors might be male as well as female. We have enough texts about it. This text, though, does not discuss it. Throughout the story, there is no place for it. As I have mentioned above, the philosopher stands on the basis of his own gender orientation).

Thus, it goes on, even today. The scenario has not changed dramatically. Only the criteria are different, as well as the shades. The woman is memory and truth, the man is an experiment.

A man‒male is just a male. The woman is all the rest.

P.S. One final guess – perhaps it seems better to read the text twice – once as a male and once as a female. It is well known that each of us is composed of both sexes, although in different proportions and not always aware of it.

Katya Melamed, PhD

August 2016

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