“Lysistrata,” written following the trouncing of Athenian forces in Sicily in 413 BC, harkens back to this time of war. As is traditional in Athenian theater, males in drag played all of the female parts. This ritual increases the play’s absurdity. The play begins with the streets empty as the men are at war. The women speak to each other of both emotional and sexual starvation. They both fear for the lives of their husbands and children, as well as lusting the sexual attentions of their husbands. Lysistrata’s opening lines laments the way males dictate the social lives of females:
If they were trysting for a Bacchanal,…
The tambourines would block the rowdy streets.
But now there’s not a woman to be seen.
While men at war can congregate together, women, rather than share company and celebrate, sit at home longing for their husbands. Lysistrata increases her complaint by defying common myths about women:
Men say we’re slippery rogues - …
Yet summoned on the most trem...
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...re Would Be No War.”
Lysistrata’s advice to respond submissively to rape is an unpopular approach in the history of American feminism. Rather French feminist theorists have frequently supported this approach. The belief is that a limp passivity during rape allows women to define t he realities of pleasure. If the male can aggressively take hold of the female without experiencing pleasure, the effort is useless. Through her resistance, the woman engages man in a battle and, as explored above, battle itself is a male pleasure. It is a dangerous theory that requires a rather subtle understanding of the male rapist. A stranger may find the woman’s submissiveness more arousing than their husband would.
Lysistrata’s approach to women’s liberation becomes more aggressive when the old men and the magistrate’s archers attack the women. She threatens the magistrate:
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