Sunday, September 20, 2009

war and sex: the power of women in Lysistrata

Lysistrata depicts the complexities of war and sex as well as the influential power the latter has over man. In comparison, war and sex are opposites. War yields death while sex can potentially bring about life. War is unnatural while sex is very natural. But both war and sex have been integral components throughout the history of mankind. For years men have waged war and, of course, sex is not a novel concept or construct. Lysistrata portrays women in a powerful role, namely in control of their sex and sex in general. They have authority over the men. When the absurdities of war have taken their men away, the women use sex as a weapon in order to obtain peace. By withholding sex, women come to essentially control their men. The men eventually succumb to the women and yield in their determination to carry out a war. This is interesting because in Ancient Greek tradition, the women are placed in a domestic role where they yield to their husbands. But Lysistrata turns the table and leaves the men at the mercy of the women.
In wartime, life is taken away. Not only are men (and women) killed, but if the men are away at war such as in this case, no new babies will be born and society overall will suffer. But in peacetime, life flourishes and society is perpetuated and renewed. Toward the close of the play, the women, specifically Lysistrata, determine the manner in which the women will return to their husbands. The women decide details and dictate how everything will be conducted: “…you will exchange oaths and pledges; then each man will go home with his wife” (45). The men want to reunite with their wives as quickly as possible, but the women will not have it until the men carry out their wishes according to their instruction. Women, through their sex, are portrayed as a driving force within society. Sex essentially controls everything in this case. It can end wars. Women can end war and are sources of power within Lysistrata.

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