The Axial Age is defined as occurring around 800 BCE to 200 BCE. This is the period when women’s position in society–worldwide–was degraded and (male) gods were assigned a new dimension of morality and “goodness”, of power and control.
It doesn’t matter where you look: ancient Greece or China or even India. All the thinkers of the time handed down the same edict: the (male) gods demanded that everyone be “good” and “moral”–good and moral as defined by mouthpieces of the newly supreme male juju. We look at the laws of Hammurabi from a somewhat earlier age, and find that 75 percent of them deal with controlling women. We look at classical Greece, and find that the only women allowed to own property after 400 BCE were the hetaerae or courtesans. Further east, geisha were typical of the women who retained a place in society. The story of Tiamat being overcome by her son, the “good” god, is yet another example of the effects of the Axial Age.
Here is the question: Why did this happen? One theory suggests that old men with ED* wanted the young men to quit having fun. Another says that centralizing authority in the various priestly classes demanded some way to control the people. You couldn’t starve them of food or deprive them of sleep, because you wanted them to work–but you could deny them the pleasure of sex. You could make it a moral issue and control people with the eternal trinity: guilt, shame, and fear.
Ayn Rand got it right in Atlas Shrugged; here’s a paraphrase of her thought.
If you tell a man that smelling spring flowers is wrong, and he smells spring flowers,
he’s guilty. You’ve got him.
This business of the hetaerae and the geisha and their position in society is interesting. As we Frosts drive southward in our frequent travels, as we get into the “red” or “Bible-belt” states we see a higher density of euphemistic “gentlemen’s relaxation clubs” and sex shops offering porn films. Apparently the men of the region assume that they “need” these services and are entitled to them; but in using such services they degrade the position of women, tending to treat them as non-persons, merely conveniences for sexual relief. One such term for the setup is sexual toilet. Still, here’s something–at last–that even they can dominate.
We can only hope, and work, for things to revert to a culture with parity between the genders, but it’s almost 3,000 years since the beginning of the Axial Age; in other words, this dominant-male mindset has had a long time to dig in. The culture needs a complete purge. Perhaps we can dream of a Free Age in which people are moral–make that ethical–because the nation’s leaders are moral; when we behave decently and ethically because we want to be decent, not from fear of the law.
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* ED = erectile dysfunction