Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Of course,

You have to take it all in context of the time period (Babylonian times). Shamhat is revered and honored for her sexual power. The good part about it as opposed to nowadays is that the sexual politics were less shameful and more simple and talked about -- sex was not taboo as it is today. It was a fact of life and part of being human. However, when you think about it, so far Shamhat is the only woman in the book; it seems that women could only gain recognition for their sexuality. It's also a little disgusting to read about how "great" the city of Uruk is because of all the sexual pleasure it has for men.

So Gilgamesh, having scared his people into treating him as a god, enforces the jus primae noctus. Everyone is aware of this and it is just as much a part of the wedding customs as anything else -- a passing citizen tells Enkidu of Gilgamesh that "since his birth-cord was cut, every girl's hymen has belonged to him." Rightly, of course, Enkidu gets very angry and decides he must put a stop to this. He goes and blocks the way to the marriage bed and fights Gilgamesh. When Gilgamesh beats him, they become friends; apparently now that he has found a friend he doesn't feel the need as much to show his power by abusing it with the brides.

More to come, just talking to myself as I read.


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