Thursday, June 16, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Femme Fatale

They call me Lilith, mother of demons. They call me Eve, thief of forbidden knowledge. They call me Salome, destroyer of Saint John, the baptiser of Christ. They call me Jezebel, worshipper of false gods. They call me Medea, child-killer.

I have been marked as the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, a symbol of evil personally applied to living women.

Many of us have been damned for our sexuality, but only the powerful have become legendary sluts: Messalina of Rome, Catherine of Russia, Marie-Antoinette of France.

Millions of us were named witches. Only a few are remembered by name: Alice Kyteler of Ireland, Rebecca Nurse of Massachusetts colony.

Some of us killed our husbands, the ultimate crime. Some of us killed our parents, our lovers, acquaintances, passing strangers.

In the nineteenth century of the Christian calendar, we were identified as Fatal Women, temptresses with cold eyes who were said to have lured many susceptible men to their death simply to exercise our power.

Most of us have been innocent of any crime. Untold numbers of women have become martyrs: tragic victims of the irrational fears of those with power in the real world. The youngest of us have been aborted while still in the womb or shortly after birth, incapable of causing harm. Incapable of self-defense.

Our innocent dead outnumber the victims of every other massacre recorded in the history books. Does this make us all collectively blameless? No.

Regardless of the theories promoted by male scholars that we have a collective soul (or none), we share a basic human condition: we are individuals. We are no more alike on the inside than we are on the outside. We choose our own actions based on our personal perception of the choices available.

If we are not all guilty, we cannot all be innocent.

As the imaginary alter ego of one erotic writer among many, I survive by eliminating those who pose a threat to me. Forget “promiscuity” as the sign of a corrupt woman. I follow the example of male warriors from the beginning of time: I silence those I have used.

Why do I do it? Look around you. How many conscientious women live happily on their own terms? As someone once said: “Women feel guilty if they assert themselves and resentful if they don’t.”

The moral codes of an unjust world are as tangled as a huge skein of barbed wire. I don’t waste time trying to untangle it. I do what I must to live as I choose.

I am not a team player. I co-operate with those who show their willingness to add pleasure to my life. I'm rational, not spineless.

Don’t tell me that I give women in general a bad name. We had a bad name in this world long before I came into it.

Call me whatever you want. You would probably slander me even if I had spent my life in the cell of a convict or a nun.

Just don’t cross me. You would be lucky if you lived to regret it.


  1. Oh, Jean!

    What a wonderful piece! Your prose is diamond-sharp. I love this:

    "Don’t tell me that I give women in general a bad name. We had a bad name in this world long before I came into it."

    I'm not sure you would inspire sympathy in some readers. But you certainly generate a healthy respect!

  2. Joan, this is a manifesto, a call to arms, a warning and an enticement.

    Wo.nderfully done

  3. Thank you Jean. Very powerful.


  4. Men fear strong women...part of their fear that despite their size and strength, they can be brought to their knees by their very intense need for sexual release. So they try to convince us that we don't like/need sex, and if that fails and we do like it, we are dirty and nasty. Then they dress us up to please themselves, in uncomfortable clothing that pinches and pulls at our soft flesh, then after they are done having their way with us, they revile us for being sexually attractive, when they told us how to dress!
    Gosh darn it, if their hard cocks didn't feel so damn good, we'd overthrow the whole bunch of them!

  5. I love this piece! I'm particularly fond of Lilith. :-)

  6. Thank you, all! I wrote on this subject a few years ago, in a piece called "The Myth of the Bad Girl" (in which I dispute the then-current idea that "bad girls" were chic & popular and point out that "bad girl" really means anything the user wants it to mean). I don't think that piece can be found on the 'net any more, but if you want to see it, just ask & I can send it to you privately. I love this blog. :)

  7. Oh what a post! What a glorious post!

    And it reminds me of all the lost and untold stories of women like this. And how glad I am that I was born in a time when their stories can be told. From the strange seduction of Sugar, in The Crimson Petal and the White, to the passion and deductive reasoning of Gellis' 12th century prostitute Magdalene La Batarde, to the fallen angel turned vamipric demon of the Mary Magdalen in Wilson's 'This is my Blood'.

    There is so much to learn from the bad girls, and we have wasted so much time already.


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