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Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's All About Sex Baby...

Image - "The Seed As The Origin Of The Fruit"
What was the biological knowledge of the people in the middle east a couple of thousand years ago? How did they live? How did their lifestyle influence their worldview? Did the limited biological knowledge of the time result in not only in a shift towards a more overt form of patriarchy, and if so, could this shift towards male political and economic power have helped to create the concept of a "supreme male god"?
It's interesting to note that the supposed time span from Abraham to the time of the early church is a period of about two thousand years. It is during this time that there was a cultural change from a nomadic lifestyle which consisted of moving from place to place with herd animals, to a more settled agricultural based society. This may have occurred for the israelites when they reportedly settled in Canaan after leaving Egypt. Farming became a more important way of making a living. Grains, such as wheat and barley, were used for making bread, and were the most important crops.
As time went on, their knowledge as farmers helped them to grow fruits, including melons, figs, dates, grapes, and olives. From these practices, developed a number of religious festivals which were based on their agricultural society. Some of the major religious festivals in Israel were the Harvest Festival and the Festival of Shelters. These festivals were coordinated with the farming cycle. The Harvest Festival, also called the Festival of Weeks, celebrated the wheat harvest in the spring (Exod 23.16). The Festival of Shelters (or Booths) is an autumn holiday for the occasion of the planting and gathering of crops, and the annual harvest.
Grain and seed and the resultant propsperity and eventual dependence upon an agrarian lifestyle meant that seed would be seen as an essential element to the continuation of life. The veneration or importance of seed would be obvious in an agrarian society. There was political and economic power in being the producer of the seed. Seed was necessary to plant the grain crops. Plus it was necessary for all the fruits, such as figs, dates. Aparts from their knowledge of seeds and agriculture, people of this time period would have been aware of the copulation of their herd animals and the fact that male animals deposited "seed" into female animals who then went on to bear the "fruit" which originated from this seed.
It is doubtful if there was any recognition that either female humans or female animals contributed any matter towards the growth of the seed to the fruit. They provided the environment, or the soil in which the seed could take root and prosper. It was the male who produced the seed. The seed was probably thought of as the primary element. It was the female who nurtured the seed until it grew into fruit. The fruit, when born, was of male seed, or his seed - not of her egg or ovum as they didn't know that women produced ova. If women could not "bear fruit" even though they had received "seed", they were seen as barren, as soil was considered barren, or lifeless, if it did not produce a crop of grain or fruit.
This kind of puts in perspective to me, why Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21:19. "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away." Was this because he had been expecting fruit and had received none? Had the fig tree failed him as a barren woman would have failed her husband? I don't know. Sounds suspiciously like it to me. Perhaps from Jesus' point of view, it was the job of that tree to produce fruit. It had been seeded and had grown to a tree, but had not produced fruit. It had disappointed him, and therefore deserved a bit of a tongue-lashing.
Patriarchy, or male power structures, therefore, may have been given a boost with this shift from a hunter/gatherer culture to an agrarian one. Certainly, it has been suggested that this huge shift in human behaviour and the resultant changes in the emerging cultures and societies, may have been the catalyst towards the creation of strongly patriarchial religious systems. The major monotheistic religions and their overt patriarchial hierarchies evolved in the spaces between nomadic and agrarian societies, not in the hunter/gatherer ones.
So, why is it "all about sex?" I think that the female gods and female power structures continued to disintegrate during the cultural and societal shift from hunter/gathers and nomadic lifestyles to more settled agrarian cultures because men were able to evidence that they produced the seed needed to create life. As their crops came from seed, so did their children come from seed. In essence, men began to see themselves as the creators of life. Perhaps, they also began to see their penis' as the tools for the creation of life, as evidenced by the jewish covenant with god being a foreskin.
Prior to the development of male dominated religions, in the hunter/gatherer cultures, the creation of life was always viewed as something mystical, supernatural, mysterious AND essentially female. Afterall, women gave birth - they were the “creators of life” or the "producers of life", therefore fertility and the creation of life may have been viewed as essentially female. With the advent of agrarian cultures and the increased knowledge of natural biological processes, the idea of who was responsible for the creation of new life probably shifted from a female origin to a male one.
People became aware that females, (humans and animals), did not give birth and create life without a cause. Males may have began to see themselves as the cause of life as evidenced by sex and male ejaculation. It didn’t take a Rhodes Scholars to work out that women did NOT give create new life unless they had been with a man. Female animals did not create new life unless they had been with a male. So, I think a few misconceptions were made. Firstly there was the misconception that the male was responsible for the creation of life and that the female was merely the vessel. She did not contribute matter to the creation of new life, she merely provided “the soil” in which the “male seed” was planted.
Many biological and religious misconceptions most likely arose. Women were supposedly responsible for the lack of conception as she must be barren as soil is barren. It was not considered that the male seed may be non-productive, because it was assumed that all the elements for the creation of life were contained within his seed. Best to remember at this juncture, that the ovum (female egg) wasn’t discovered until 1827 by Prussian-Estonian embryologist Dr. Karl Ernst von Baer. Prior to that, there was no evidence that females contributed any matter to the creation of life.
Man provided the seed which women gave birth to as fruit. (the fruit of the womb) - The seed, which mankind provided was the catalyst for creation. Fruit was created from seed. Man derived power from being the seed. The fruit grew from the seed, the woman provided a vessel (womb) for the growth of the seed, but essentially the seed was male. Perhaps this is also why some cultures have considered female children to be inferior fruit as they could not produce seed, they could only receive seed.
Of course this type of agricultural thinking and the resultant religious thinking, is obvious when one looks at the language used in the bible. There are many references to seed and fruit. Not always literally used as "seed" and "fruit" as we would use them today, but also referring to seed as possible decendents and fruit as being babies. Some examples below.
  • 1. Genesis 46:7 "His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt." (Children are all his seed.)
  • 2. Genesis 17:7 "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." ( The covenant of circumcision.)

Why is the jewish covenant with god a foreskin? Something to do with the veneration of seed? The penis and the male sexual organs produce "seed". Is this recognition that the male through his seed, is the creator of life as the male god is the creator of life? Did this idea that males were the creators of life through their seed result in developing a religious concept that the supreme god must be male? That is - males are the creators of life through their seed so therefore god must be male? If god is male, he must be capable of impregnating women even if he doesn't have seed. (Gods can do that sort of thing, doncha know...) In fact, perhaps the head honcho would be someone who COULD get women pregnant without having to go through the usual "manly procedures.") Now THAT takes some skill. I can hear the local guys at the pub now. "See, I am so virile, I only have to look at her and she gets pregnant." ;)
  • 3. Leviticus 12:2 "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean." (Women conceive after the planting of seed.)
  • 4. Ezra 9:2 "For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass." (All seed is equal, but some seed is more equal than others if it is holy seed. The "holy seed" is a reference to the males of Israel spreading their seed where they shouldn't. Namely amongst the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.)
  • 5. Genesis 30:2 "And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (Another naughty woman who hasn't borne fruit after the seeding procedure.)
  • 6. Leviticus 25:19 "And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety." (A reference to the earth as female which produces fruit after she is seeded.)


These are just a couple of examples, but it is obvious to me that the shift from a nomadic lifestyle towards a more settled agrarian lifestyle, coupled with the knowledge of agriculture and farming; directly influenced the gender roles within their developing religion. It influenced which gender would have which power roles and why.
Perhaps man took the credit for the creation of life a few thousand years ago based on insufficient information about natural biological processes. The agrarian cultures only enforced this belief as the sowing of crops, was probably seen as the sowing of male seed into the female earth. We still refer to the earth as female. We refer to churches, ships, houses, planes as females. Many objects which can be symbolic of the female womb is refered to as a “she”. Whereas objects which are symbolic of action, acts of creation, sowing seed, shooting missiles, etc are generally refered to as “he.” Maybe this is why the cultures which grew out of nomadic and then more settled farming communities, developed concepts of a supreme male god who, through his creation of men and women, would spread his seed across the face of the planet.

Just my thoughts on the subject.
PS. And homosexuality would have been seen as "bad" because men would NOT have been sowing their seed in order to produce more fruit.
"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power." - Thomas Aquinas, 'Summa Theologica', Q92, art. 1, Reply Obj. 1



Blogger toomanytribbles said...

i don't know if i've mentioned this before on a similar post of yours.. in greek there is a very old phrase which is, unfortunately, still used today:

ο άνδρας γεννά -- η γυναίκα τήκτει.

this is pronounced: o andras genna -- i gineka tikti.

it translates (loosely, always, as i'm not a linguist) into: the man generates and the woman brings forth.

sound familiar? whenever i hear this phrase, it's like nails on a chalkboard and i get homicidal tendencies.

11/1/07 9:14 pm  
Blogger L>T said...

nice post! I think that's an excellent explanation. those primitive people are to be excused because of ignorance. But, what's the excuse now?
When I was a Christian it was all about "proper order" & "family values" & just because it said so in the Bible.
The men would never admit their motives for keeping the status quo was anything but noble.

11/1/07 11:58 pm  
Blogger new.atheist said...

I just find one problem that you didn't address:

If the woman is just a growth vessel for the man's "seed," why would women get blamed for not producing a male heir?

How would they rationalize the explanation that the seed is what produces the fruit, but it is how the fruit grows that determines it's sex?

12/1/07 4:55 am  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Afriad I don't agree with you that early agricultural societies were responsible for the shift to patriarchy. Non-patriarchal agricultural villages (perhaps more correctly horticultural villages) existed some 5000 years before patriarchy predominated. There seems to be a cultural continuity between the hunter-gatherers and the early horticulturalists. It appears that these villages, both in Eastern Europe, Mesopotamia and Egypt were conquered by patriarchal nomads who were driven into these fertile areas by the increasing desertification which began about 4000 BCE, reaching its peak about 2000 BCE. Please see my essay on this Also check out
James De Meo's excellent Saharasia for a fuiller treatment of patriarchy's origins See
The thing about seeds may be a rationalization that occured later after the nomadic patriarachs settled down lording it over their agricultural serfs.

12/1/07 5:52 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE tribbles

Yes, I did post a similar articles a while ago and you did mention the greek saying - it is relevant I think as it expresses the idea that man is the active agent and that the woman is the passive agent.

It appears to corroborate the idea that man contains the active ingredients for life, and women just "house" the ingredients.

12/1/07 11:21 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: lt - ty :)

RE: new atheist

I am not sure how they would rationalize it, but I am sure they had a way.

By the time of Thomas Aquinis (around 1250), he, for example, was saying this. -

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power." - Thomas Aquinas

This indicates 2 things to me.

1. That Aquinis thought that the male contained all the matter that was required for the creation of life.

2. "Manly men" produced male seed and men who were less than men produced female seed.

3. The male seed tends towards a perfect likeness in the masculine sex. In other words, male seed (by this I assume he means the active ingredients in ejaculation) - wants or is disposed towards the creation of male children.

Certainly male seed were the preference as he refers to "women as defective and misbegotten" - that is, they have an improper basis or origin; or ill-conceived.

So women originated from a defect, according to Aquinis, in the active power. The active power being the male.

Of course 1200 years is a long time from the initial shifts from hunter/gatherer to nomadic and agricultural cultures. So, in order to be able to know or hypothesize how men rationalized who was responsible for the creation of male of female children a few thousand years before Aquinis is always going to be an arduous task.

What is interesting though, is that right up until the 20th century, there have been men who have commonly believed that women determine the sex of the child.

Perhaps they have believed that "female supernatural forces" have acted on the seed and corrupted their seed from fulfilling its "natural course" - which would have been to produce males.

So, maybe they believed that mysterious, magical female forces could corrupt the seed in utero so that the seed did not develop, as it should, into male fruit.

I am pretty sure they would have lots of superstitious and uneducated ways to lay the blame at the feet of women, without assuming that the female contributed any matter to the growing seed.

I will speculate that men, throughout history, have had hundreds of ways to blame women for not producing male heirs, and the majority of them were based in superstitions and lack of knowledge concerning human biology.

My guess would be that the most popular way to blame women for the production of female fruit as opposed to male fruit would have been something along the lines of that she corrupted the seed.

Maybe this occurred because she did this to spite him. Perhaps they had an unhappy marriage and she deliberately, through her feminine powers, used magical, witchie-poo magic to deny him a male child.

Guys could always blame the ground in which the seed was grown. The ground was "bad" and corrupted the seed so that the "best fruit" didn't grow there.

Maybe the woman was praying and offering libations to a female god on the sly - and female supernatural forces interceeded on her behalf and corrupted his "manly seed"?

Thousands of excuses are probably possible for superstitious people.

12/1/07 12:25 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE larry

Thanks for the links. I will check them out. I figure we don't be in much disagreement about this anyway. Perhaps just some aspects of chronology.

12/1/07 12:28 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE larry:

Matriarchy vs patriarchy

Political, economic. cultural and social power acquired through superstition doesn't impress me much. Regardless of which gender the power is afforded.

If females in past history acquired power through superstitious beliefs, it should be called out. Similarly, if males in past history have acquired power through superstitious beliefs, it should be called out too.

The "how, when, where and why that power" is apportioned is what interests me.

12/1/07 12:38 pm  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I agree. But one thing though - there never was a matriarchy. While there is a good deal of evidence of a more egalitarian relationship between the sexes in many hunter-gathers and early horticulturalists, in no way does this add up to matriarchy or a power relation miroring patriarchy. Riane Eisler speaks of "partnership societies" vs. "dominator societies", and patriarchy, authoritarian religion and nacent class system form part of the latter.

12/1/07 5:27 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: Laary

I agree that a purely matriarchial society would be difficult to evidence.

I will point out at that this time that in the article I didn't mention matriarchy as existing prior to patriarchy.

I did, however, mention female power structures which certainly did exist, as the worship of female gods equals female power and female power structures. structures.

There have been evidenced, however, societies which if not completely dominated by women, have had female power structures as politically, religiously and economically important.

Perhaps even ones that are more important, at least on the surface, from the male power structures which existed alongside.


What is interesting to me is what caused the shift in societies from seeing the worship of female gods -(whether or not this worship occurred in conjunction with the worship of male gods is kind of irrelevant to me), - as less important, or of less value.

Why did the worship of female gods and their subsequent political, economic and cultural power structures, lose favour? (By this, I am not suggesting matriarchies - female power structures eventually ceased to exist unless the power was conferred to the woman by a man, or through the male line.)

Obviously, I suggest in my article that the worldview of societies was changing. The worldview of societies was changing because of their increasing knowledge of natural biology. This increased knowledge of the biological world was probably a natural progression from hunter/gatherer to nomadic herders which then progressed to more settled communities of farmers and herders.

It was probably the settling in one place and becoming farmers of crops and farmers of animal herds which had a large impact.

A society needs to know, or learn quite a bit about reproduction, (in agriculture and in animals) in order to make this venture successful.

And I think that it is during these time periods, (perhaps over thousands of years - and would vary from place to place), that mankind equated the seed of his crops with the seed that could be sown in women, and the seed that male animals sow in female animals.

Seed, whether male ejaculation, male animal ejaculation, or the seed of crops, became identified as being male.

What farmers and herders primarily require is "seed." Females did not produce seed, they could only receive seed.

Males, essentially became "the creators of life" - women merely the ground which received the seed grew the fruit.

If males are the creators of life, then the gods must be male. And the alpha supreme god must be male too.

12/1/07 8:22 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

By the way, I want a jewish guy to step up to the plate and explain to me, in detail, why the covenant with the male god is a foreskin.

Why not chop the last digit of the little toe off? Why not donate a fingernail clipping? Or a lock of hair? (not public hair, or we are back to the sex thing)

12/1/07 8:35 pm  
Blogger wheatgrass said...

Heya how's it goin? I love your page and I miss u:)

12/1/07 8:44 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Public hair? - ooops, pubic hair

12/1/07 9:29 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Hey wheatie, how ya goin'? :)

12/1/07 9:29 pm  
Blogger new.atheist said...

I am pretty sure that there are matriarchal societies in African cultures. I took a human-studies course in college where the professor had been to study African cultures many times (she was a little crazy). She implied that the societies she lived with for some time were matriarchal, that the only way to trace one's history was through one's mother because children weren't always sure who their fathers were.

Also, as far as who is to "blame" for the sex of the child, it is being discovered now that it is a 2-fold system; the conditions within a womans body do help determine the percentage of x or y sperm that reach the egg, and even which one is allowed in first. I have even read studies that whether or not a woman orgasms can affect the sex of the child. (I don't think anyone 2000 yrs ago was taking a survey of these things though.)

Also, they must have recognized that a child would bare likeness to both parents, and even grandparents? Would this not imply a contribution from both parents to the creation of a baby?

13/1/07 4:13 am  
Blogger Deacon Barry said...

I suspect that circumcision would have been performed for thousands of years prior to the patriarchal era. It would have been encoded into religious law simply because it was a traditional practice, along with many other laws such as not eating certain animals.

13/1/07 10:39 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE atheist

Yes, I had not thought about africa and the possibility of matriarchy occuring there.

RE: sex of the child

Yes, we know a lot more about that than prehistoric cultures would have known. Not sure if orgasm can effect gender (never heard that one before), but supposedly the PH or chemical composition of the womb can predispose either a male conception or a female conception.

RE: likeness to parents

I think that ancient peoples would have noticed if a child bore a strong likeness to either parent, or another member of the family, but I think that they didn't have evidence to suggest to show that the female contributed matter to the creation of the baby.

Maybe if they believed that males supplied all the matter for the creation of life, that is, the seed, a likeness to the mother could be explained away through many superstitious means. Like, the woman's body corrupted the seed. Bad soil can corrupt or change the outcome of a growing plant etc.

Of course I am speculating, but one wonders how they explained these things away, as we didn't know that women produced matter until 1827 when ova is discovered by Prussian-Estonian embryologist Dr. Karl Ernst von Baer.

And it wasn't until 1843 that it was discovered that human conception occurs when the sperm enters the ovum. (Martin Berry)

This changed the way the world saw human reproduction. While people used to believe that the male implants life into the female, they now know that both the male and female each contribute half the material needed to create life.

Human sperm was discovered earlier in 1677 by a student of Antonij van Leeuwenhoek. But, it would have been obvious by observation, for probably thousands of years, that males ejaculated what they thought of as "seed."

There was nothing obvious about female ova, and certainly nothing obvious about the process of conception as it occurred in the womb.

13/1/07 10:51 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE deacon

I am going to post about the history and reason for circumcision soon.

It is one of those cultural/religious practices which has always interested me. I will concentrate more on male circumcision as the history of female circumcision is a practice which has rarely been condoned or promoted in the west.

The origin of circumcision is what interests me, and because I am feeling slightly freudian, it will be argued that - it is all about sex, baby.. ;)

13/1/07 12:59 pm  
Anonymous remy said...

It is still quite common for a man to want a male child but it never occured to me that there was a sense in some men that having a female child somehow made him less of a man.
If a man believed that he was the determining factor it makes perfect sense. Fascinating; it explains a lot.

13/1/07 2:23 pm  
Blogger new.atheist said...

Apparently, a woman having an orgasm makes all the muscles on the inside convulse, pushing the sperm further up inside, and male don't live as long, so having an orgasm helps the male sperm get up there faster...

If you do post on circumcision, don't forget what the foreskin is for to begin with; it sucks out any sperm that might already be in there. (Yea...ewww)

So is there some connotation about a society that removes the foreskin?

I think there's other theories on the protection of the penis too, etc.

15/1/07 10:00 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: new atheist

Thanks for the extra information about gender selection. The shettles method isn't widely accepted, but who knows, there might be something to it.

One of the dangers of looking back and trying to ascertain why a previous culture may have performed certain actions, or rituals, it the chance that we might think that the modern reasons why such rituals are done, is the reason ancient rituals were done.

In other words, we take our modern knowledge of science and circumcision and assume that the ancient procedure was done for the same reasons.

Some muslim scholars are masters at this. (for the wrong reasons) They take our modern knowledge of science and attempt to find instances in the koran where that modern knowledge applies.

For instance, the koran references, what we would know in modern terms as the embryo or fetus, as a blood clot.

Koran 23:14)
"Then WE made the sperm into a clot of congealed
blood; then of that clot We made a lump;
then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the
bones with flesh"

This is scarcely a scientific description of embryonic development. It ignores to mention the female egg (the second and equally important half) and the process of fertilization when egg and sperm unite to form one new cell.

It mentions the obvious (the sperm), the visible, that which all mankind knew for a long time which is necessary to create a human. But the Koran does NOT mention the invisible (the female egg), which we know only through modern medicine.

Many muslim apologists use this quote from the koran to indicate the "holiness" of the koran, because, how could ancient men know about embryology and conception if the book was not the word of allah?

They are basically shoehorning present knowledge and claiming that a " congealed clot" is the same as knowing about modern conception and embryology. It isn't.

What was written about in the koran, is knowledge that they had at the time (koran was written a few hundred years after the bible). Therefore it is reasonable to assume that someone, by this stage, had seen the inside of a womb. Perhaps they saw inside an animal's womb which had been slaughtered? I don't know. But this seems reasonable.

It is a huge intellectual leap to take our present knowledge to the argument and assume that ancient peoples knew this modern information as well and were acting about it and writing about it.

15/1/07 11:28 am  

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