Tuesday, July 8, 2014

GIRLS WITH GUNS: Phallic Women or New Pagan Goddesses?

 Long before cant-spewing, History-challenged, feminist wannabe reviewers would erupt into frothy rages over Rogue’s cleavage, the naked breasts of women were believed to be symbols of power. Of female power. They could not be challenged, diminished or polluted by the eyes of Man. They were revered. Associated with fertility and growth, they were sometimes appropriated by male divinities, as was the case with Hapi, the Egiptian Male God of the Nile. Responsible for the vital annual overflow of the river Nile, his torso was adorned in statuary with a pair of female breasts as a sign of fertility.

 The image above, of a Minoan (Crete) snake goddess, or snake priestess, of about 1600 b.C., distinguishes itself not only for the globular, shapely aggressive naked breasts, but for the snakes she’s holding in each hand. Usually considered to be communicators with the powers below the earth the snakes – obviously so in Western Culture, after the Judeo-Christian tradition – snakes are also clear phallic markers. The goddess (or priestess, as Art Historians seem not to reach a unanimous conclusion as to the true meaning of the statues), in its conjugation of exuberant breasts and control over symbolic phalluses, appears to be overly dominant, exuding power, confidence and determination, prefiguring in its ancient solemnity, not only the modern day superheroines, but the modern day action women as well. Female body and female power are not and need not be separate realms, something that has not yet been realized by infantile feminists that keep crying out not only for total de-eroticization of art (including its modern popular expression in comics and films), but for its de-sexualization by the erasure of representation of all secondary sexual characteristics. When sex is viewed as a threat, mental disturbance is not very far away.  

 The images of the Minoan Snake Goddesses are aggressively erotic, Dionysian in its exuberance, rich in its meaning, visionary in its power. Marked as truly feminine by the naked breasts, the priestess, the goddess, holds absolute control over the penis, its pagan power traversing History, Art and Culture unchallenged, until being embodied in the new pagan goddesses of Porn: 

In discussing the Minoan Snake Godesses in her book The History of the Breast, Marilyn Yalom writes “(…) the Cretan statues with their prominent breasts and snakes may also be saying: ‘Take care not to offend this priestess. She can just as easily dispense poison as milk!’. The snakes are therefore, not only symbolic phalluses, but also symbolic guns, capable of spewing death just like today’s handguns:

The Girls With Guns of today’s comics and films, are thus direct heirs of this ancient lineage. Capable of dispensing both poison and milk, death and pleasure, they are whole women, unafraid of Man, unapologetic of Sex. Feminist literature not rarely refer to them as phallic women, as if interlopers from another reign, intruders in the fortress of maleness from where they took the sleeping men’s guns, just as Lorena Bobbitt did in both a more literal and more symbolic way. But where Lorena’s absolute theft was a calculated act of media-savy and cowardice, the true Warrior Women know that the penis is not the weapon of their enemy, but as much their own. For they, and only they, control the snakes.

The snake and the breast are both undying signifiers of fertility, fecundity, passion and generation. They visibly externalize such attributes through the spewing of milky fluids. In ancient rituals of the Malabar, much as other generative divinities, the serpent is worshiped by women with libations of milk (see The Sacred Fire: The Story of Sex in Religion, by B.Z. Goldberg), and just as in almost every porn film the snakes ejaculate their visible pleasure all over the altar of women’s breasts. Simultaneously Pollution and Libation, man and woman meet in that melting moment of pleasure and desire. That explosive moment when the gun is discharged but not necessarily fired.

Porn actress Mya Diamond embodies and enacts this ancestral dynamic through which the snake became the penis became the gun, in a scene from Xavi Dominguez’s triple x-rated film SEX ANGELS 2 (2006), itself a sequel spoofing McG’s two-films update of the 70s TV series Charlie’s Angels. The film, in its basic plot ploy, parodies the first season episode “Target: Angels” (episode six), in which our heroines are being separately targeted for assassination by unknown parts.

Advised by our ersatz Charlie of the imminent threat, the three angels start sharing the recent attempts on their lives, usually after a fairly graphic sex scene. Through flashback, we learn that Mya was visiting a private wife swapping club in search of a good time, recalling to mind the female type of pre-code Hollywood defined by Molly Haskell in her pioneer study “From Reverence to Rape”, a type “conceived of as having sexual desire without being freaks, villains, or even necessarily Europeans (…). Women (…) entitled to initiate sexual encounters, to pursue men, even to embody certain “male” characteristics without being stigmatized as “unfeminine” or “predatory.

Once there, garbed in jewels and satiny red dress, she is accosted by two customers, with whom she proceeds to share the most vigorous and strenuous ménage à trois, making the screen sizzle with the most complete and vivid catalogue of sex acts one could expect from such a film. They fuck. Yes, they fuck her breasts, and they fuck her mouth, and they double-team her, and she consents to be doubly-penetrated. All the while she controls the action. We never doubt that she is the one commanding the puppets, the one at the wheel, even as she masturbates a penis while she is fellating the other, her hair captive of one of their hands.  In the end, they both ejaculate copiously over her breasts, her hands controlling the snakes as they spill their poison.

Unbeknownst to her, but – one suspects – not to the viewer, they are the assassins sent to terminate her. And, as soon as their orgasms are over, their penises deflating in pointed contrast to their trusty forty-fives, they point their guns at her, naked and feminine and covered in sperm.

And yet, with their primal lusts satiated, with no territorial quandary to resolve, the reasons for violence and aggression appear to have vanished. Only the iconoclast, fueled by the Sadean impulses of pollution and corruption, would desecrate the idol whose cult he has just observed. The victim – and how often anti-sex feminist rhetoric can think of the (hetero)sexually active woman in no other terms – has transcended herself in this sacred game, regaining the power of the Snake Goddess.

“I can’t kill her now”, one of them says. You could think that’s because she’s marked territory now, his semen like dog-piss on a lamppost. That because his lust is satisfied, so is his need for violence, for we all know that sex is violence, that sex is rape. But that is not so. He can’t kill her because she has the power over the weapons. The snakes have discharged their venom and are lying limp and flaccid as if in deep winter. Only she can bring life back to them.

And so, imperious, capricious, sublime, the Goddess regains the upper hand and shoots both of them with her own concealed weapons, their materialization looking for all purposes like an act of magic, for surely she couldn’t have hidden those two semiautomatics on her flimsy dress…

Despite marred by the overextended and mainly under-imaginative sex scenes so characteristic of recent porn, and not in the least aided by the paper-thin excuse of a plot, in this particular scene SEX ANGELS 2 accidentally (maybe not so much by accident as by design) dips in the subterranean pool of our cultural history and drinks deeply of the hidden undercurrents of sex, sex roles and sexual representations at the margins of popular entertainment. And what it brings back from the deep, is not objectifying or degrading for women, it is empowering and liberating. After all, it’s only the sex differences that make women, women. Even when they’re Goddesses.


Gene Phillips said...

Welcome back, ASB.

I definitely agree that the display of women's breasts in archaic cultures often connoted their display of supernatural power, rather than, as one pundit claimed, "de-humanizing the feminine." There's a fascinating episode in Irish epic that parallels your porn-flick summation. Briefly, the warrior Cuchulain goes wild, consumed by supernatural fury, and his kinsmen can only stop him by having a bunch of women show him their breasts. Cuchulain covers his eyes for reasons that are not discussed, which gives the other warriors the chance to dump water on him until his fiery fury is dispersed.

By coincidence, I've been writing some stuff on the ambivalences of the female breast, starting here:


A. Sherman Barros said...

Hi there, Gene.

Thanks for your welcoming me back. It is true that the use of the uncovered breasts as a way to stop aggression or violence is very common along archaic cultures. Not only Irish (or Celtic) as in the example you so aptly presented. The same thing happes in Homer when Menelaus is about to slay Helen (of Troy) by trespassing her heart with is blade. She unfastens her robe and bares her breasts thus staying his hand.

Curiously, long before I read Homer, I found that episode in John Erskine's "The Private Life of Helen of Troy" (1926) in a passage so very quaint by today's standards that it seems even more endearing:

"When the war ended in Troy, with the fall of the city, Menelaus went looking for Helen, with a sword in his hand. He was undecided whether to thrust the blade through her alluring bosom, or to cut her swan-like throat. He hadn't seen her for some time. She was waiting, as though they had appointed the hour. With a simple gesture she bared her heart for his vengeance, and looked at him. He looked at her. The sword embarrassed him."

I read that when I was about 13 and couldn't then understand whay would he not kill her simply because she had exposed her breasts (here I should point out that I originaly read it in Portuguese translation, where the meaning of the action was made a lot more explicit for such a youth as I was then).

You point out that "by coincidence", you've been writing some stuff on the ambivalences of the female breast... Well, no coincidence in there, my friend. Your writings were the inspiration for both this post and my next one (as you can deduce by the reference to the CBR essay you referenced, and will see confirmed by my next text).

Thank you for your support, and congratulations for the excelent work (and dazzling rythm) you've been doing (and keeping) on all your blogs.



Gene Phillips said...

Thanks for the compliments. Hope you'll drop me a line on the blog sometime. Ever since GROOVY AGE become a semi-abandoned child of sorts, I don't get much traffic these days, and I'm bored with seeing the same damn thing every time I open comments!

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