Aphrodite: Transsexual Goddess of Passion (Rachel Pollack)

The following essay exploring archetypal transsexual archetypes appearing in traditional mythology was first published in Spring – A Journal Of Archetype And Culture, in the edition titled ‘Pink Madness’ (1995). The essay is republished below by permission of the author.

Unintended Effects Of Transgender Activism On Men’s Issues

Wright, P. ‘Unintended Effects Of Transgender Activism On Men’s Issues,’ in New Male Studies An International Journal, ISSN 1839-7816 ~ Vol10, Issue 2,2021, Pp. 71–80, Issue 2, © 2021 Australian Institute Of Male Health And Studies

Is Romantic Love a Timeless Evolutionary Universal, or a Frankenstein Creation of The Middle Ages?

Addendum:

I’m suspicious of scholarly works which “find” romantic love all over the world, appearing seamlessly throughout all places and all periods of history. After reading many such essays I’ve come to the conclusion they confine their definitions of romantic love to biological universals such as the desire for sex, the need for attachment, limerence, social interaction and so on and so forth — all of which falls well short of the complex European-derived phenomenon known as courtly & romantic love.

Those academic surveys conveniently omit the idiosyncratic elements that might cast doubt on their universality thesis of romantic love – details like the inherent displays of male masochism, uniquely stylized feudal relationships borrowed from from French or German class conventions, the conceptualization of the Virgin Mary and her purity and how that plays into conceptions of gender and love, along with other complex behaviors and influences which make up the courtly love complex arising in medieval Europe.

When Gaston Paris first coined the phrase ‘Courtly Love’ (1883) he was referring precisely to those idiosyncratic elements that render the phenomenon distinct from the universals many scholars reduce it to.

Gaston Paris’ description of courtly love can be summarized as follows:

“It is illicit, furtive and extra-conjugal; the lover continually fears lest he should, by some misfortune, displease his mistress or cease to be worthy of her; the male lover’s position is one of inferiority; even the hardened warrior trembles in his lady’s presence; she, on her part, makes her suitor acutely aware of his insecurity by deliberately acting in a capricious and haughty manner; love is a source of courage and refinement; the lady’s apparent cruelty serves to test her lover’s valor; finally, love, like chivalry and courtoisie, is an art with its own set of rules.” 1

 Thus courtly love as defined by Paris has four distinctive traits;

  1. It is illegitimate and furtive
  2. The male lover is inferior and insecure; the beloved is elevated; haughty; even disdainful.
  3. The lover must earn the lady’s affection by undergoing tests of prowess, valor and devotion.
  4. The love is an art and a science, subject to many rules and regulations — like courtesy in general.

 
It’s clear that what we call romantic love today continues each of these conventions with the sole exception of illegitimacy and furtiveness. With this one exception romantic love can be regarded as coextensive with the courtly love described by Paris.

Many scholars researching this area conveniently overlook (or refuse to mention) the sexual feudalism inherent to the European-descended model of romantic love. Attempts to homogenize and cast romantic love as a global universal, while avoiding all mention of the unsavory sexual feudalism that might render it more problematic and complex, is unhelpful to say the least, and misleading at worst. European-descended romantic love, now the dominant version globally, deserves to be considered separately and need not be confused with more simple theoretical constructs on offer.

In summary, to reduce romantic love to a consistently and universally expressed set of evolutionary behaviors amounts to an attribution error.

Note:
[1] Roger Boase, The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love: A Critical Study of European Scholarship, p.24, Manchester University Press, 1977
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For more about romantic love as a confabulation of the middle ages, see the following video which explores the unique creation of supernormal sign stimuli which lies at the heart of the romantic love trope.

“Love Service”

Love service is a ritualized form of male love-devotion toward women, especially noble women, that was popularized in the Middle Ages.[1][2][3]

History

The practice of love service appeared first in Medieval Europe and was modeled on a combination of feudalistic class distinctions, courtly love tenets, and gendered aspects of the chivalric class code regarding respectful treatment of women.[4][5]

Love service had certain resemblances with vassalage, especially the concept of obedience. According to Sandra R. Alfonsi the entire concept of love-service was patterned after the vassal’s oath to serve his lord with loyalty, tenacity, and courage. These same virtues were demanded of the male supplicant. Like the liegeman vis-a-vis his sovereign, the male approached his lady with fear and respect, submitted obediently to her and awaited a fief or in this case an honor of reception as did the vassal.[6]

The vocabulary of love service borrowed some terminology from the vocabulary of feudalism indicative of the ties between a man to his lord. Examples are servitium (service), dominus (denoting the feudal Lord, or Lady), homo ligius (addressing the Lord’s liegeman or ‘my man’), homage (duty toward Lord), and honor (honoring gestures). The men were sometimes referred to as domnei or donnoi, meaning an attitude of chivalrous devotion of a knight to his Lady based in servitude and duty.[7]

References
  1. Margaret Schaus, Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 2006
  2. Chivalry and Love Service, in Judith M. Bennett, Ruth Mazo Karras, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, Oxford University Press, 2013
  3. Sandra R Alfonsi, Masculine Submission in Troubadour Lyric (American University Studies), Peter Lang Publishing, 1986
  4. James A. Schultz, Courtly Love, the Love of Courtliness, and the History of Sexuality, University of Chicago Press, 2006
  5. Chivalry and Love Service, in Judith M. Bennett, Ruth Mazo Karras, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, Oxford University Press, 2013
  6. Sandra R Alfonsi, Masculine Submission in Troubadour Lyric (American University Studies), Peter Lang Publishing, 1986
  7. Sandra R Alfonsi, Masculine Submission in Troubadour Lyric (American University Studies), Peter Lang Publishing, 1986

Archetypes & Gender

The Dogma Of Gender (by Patricia Berry)
Gendered Archetypes: Masculine and Feminine (Peter Wright)
The Psyche Often Ignores Gender (James Hillman)
Masculinity & Femininity Are Plural (Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig)
Beyond The ‘Feminine’ Principle (Andrew Samuels)
Gender And Individuality (James Hillman)
“The One True Masculinity” (Peter Wright)
Revisioning Anima & Animus (James Hillman)
Nothing Envy and the Fascration Complex (David L. Miller)
A Mythopoetic View Of Men & Masculinity (Shepherd Bliss)

Transgender Musings

Aphrodite: Transsexual Goddess of Passion (Rachel Pollack)
Archetypal Transsexuality (Rachel Pollack)

Gendered archetypes: masculine & feminine

Below in an amended excerpt from an interview with Greta Auroa which touches on archetypes of masculinity and femininity appearing in traditional mythologies.

Greta Aurora: You previously mentioned you don’t agree with looking at masculinity and femininity as the order-chaos duality. Is there another archetypal/symbolic representation of male and female nature, which you feel is more accurate?

Peter Wright: Some archetypal portrayals in mythology are distinctly male and female, such as male muscle strength and the various tests of it (think of the Labours of Hercules), or pregnancy and childbirth for females (think Demeter, Gaia etc.). Aside from these universal physiology-celebrating archetypes, many portrayals of male or female roles in traditional stories can be viewed instead as stereotypes rather than archetypes in the sense that they are not universally portrayed across different mythological traditions (as would be required of a strictly archetypal criteria in which images must be universally held across cultures).

For example you have a Mother Sky and a Father Earth in classical Egyptian mythology, which is a reverse of popular stereotypes, and males are often portrayed as nurturers. This indicates that material nurture is not the sole archetypal province of a feminine archetype. Also, many archetypal themes are portrayed interchangeably among the sexes – think of the Greek Aphrodite or Adonis both as archetypal representations of beauty, or Apollo and Cassandra as representatives of intellect, or of the warlikeness to Ares or Athene.

To my knowledge the primordial Chaos described in Hesiod’s Theogony had no apparent gender, and when gender was assigned to Chaos by later writers it was often portrayed as male. There is no reason why we can’t assign genders to chaos and order to illustrate some point, but we need to be clear that this rendition is not uniformly backed by archetypal portrayals in myths – and myths are the primary datum of archetypal images. So broadly speaking the only danger would be if we insist that chaos must always be female, and order must always be male as if that formula were an incontrovertible dogma.

There’s also a rich history of psychological writings which look at chaos as a state not only of the universe, or of societies, but as a potential in the psyche or behavior of all human beings regardless of gender; e.g. this factor elaborated for example in the writings of psychiatrists R.D. Laing and by W.D. Winnicott .

See also: The Greek Titans: Images of Chaos

Damseling and the child archetype

ARTICLES DESCRIBING THE NATURE OF ‘DAMSELING

Damseling, chivalry and courtly love (Peter Wright)
Women of color feminists vs. white feminist tears (Peter Wright)
Alison Phipps: White Men’s Ship Floats on White Women’s Tears (Peter Wright)
Damseling and ‘Chivalry’ in International Negotiations (Study)
The Damsel In Distress Trope (Wikipedia)
The Near-Irresistible Lure of Damseling (Janice Fiamengo)
The Origins And Structure Of Damseling (Peter Wright)
The Biological Origins of Damseling (Peter Wright)
Two Modes of Damseling (Peter Wright)
The Power of Damsels in Distress (Greta Aurora)

ARTICLES ON WOMEN’S ATTRACTION TO THE CHILD ARCHETYPE

Time To Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater (P. Wright & P. Elam)
With This Ring I Thee Adopt (Esther Vilar)
The Child Archetype As Responsible for Woke Dystopia (Peter Wright)
Fascinating Womanhood: How To Use Childlikeness to Manipulate Men (video)
Fascinating Womanhood: Women’s Introduction To Cultivating Childlikeness (pdf text)