Sex and the Scapegoat

Sex and the Scapegoat

Submitted by Eleanor Burke

As an old English idiom goes, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” For thousands of years in various corners of the globe, we’ve been raped, assaulted, tortured and paid less for everything we do. Women are angry and rightly so. In the wake of the #metoo movement, if you’re a white man with any semblance of power or prestige, watch out … we’re coming for you.

In the mythic and archetypal understanding of the scapegoat, communities have often targeted select members to bear the painful and shadowy sides of human nature that many refuse to acknowledge. Scapegoating is an allusion to a practice in biblical times where the collective sins of the people were placed on a goat, which would be left in the desert or sacrificed as a ritual to appease the gods, thereby, relieving the humans of their “wrongdoing.” Thus, a person becomes a scapegoat by enduring communal violence (malicious gossip; defamation of character; gas-lighting; death threats; bullying of the individual’s family and friends), resulting in their death (death of a marriage, job, life, and/or any sort of livelihood) and/or expulsion from the community; their death serving as sacrifice for the communal good.

Etymologically speaking, a victim is also one who serves the role of scapegoat. Victim, from late 15c., is a “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power, or in the performance of a religious rite;” from Latin victima “sacrificial animal; person or animal killed as a sacrifice;” and is distantly connected to Old English wig “idol,” Gothic weihs “holy,” and German weihen “consecrate.” In both Scapegoat and Victim there is sacrifice. A sacrifice is made in a ritual offering to transform something. In sacrifice is the Latin root sacr, which means, “holy.”

Understood from this vantage, perhaps we ought to celebrate our Scapegoats for bearing the brunt of old wounds, of which are rearing locally and across the nation. These old wounds, these hungry ghosts are pleading for some nourishment and kindness. These ghosts are two sides of the same coin: 1. Women’s ancestral trauma and fury living under the patriarchy, and 2. Repression/Shaming of sexuality. These two things cannot be parsed out from the waters we swim in. The United States was founded on two major world views — the Cartesian belief that mind is superior to the body, and the Protestant Puritan’s values of hard work as the way to salvation, and (my words), don’t trust loose women. These two world views do not make a sexually liberated, or sexually informed nation.

The United States still does not mandate sex education in all 50 states. Women’s reproductive freedom is not a given, though we birth the babies. We are all wounded by the patriarchy — men and women alike. How then do we hold one another accountable? How can we factor both trauma and desire? How can we make our way together?