红颜祸水
hóng yán huò shuĭ 

Many men may probably confirm how strong of a force certain traits of femininity exerts on them. According to the proverb introduced in this chapter, beauty and, by exten­sion, sex are responsible for great trouble, and can even cause the downfall of men. Regar­ding women as sexual objects for male enjoyment is apparently not enough. Woman­hood itself is often blamed for misfortune striking the fate of men. In particular, it is com­monly regarded as her fault if a man overindulges himself in carnal pleasures, thus resulting in the failure of his career or duty. The purpose of this section is not only to present such indict­ments as both wrong and wrongful but also to salvage sex from its inauspicious image. The main argument herein will be that such censure of free love is exag­ge­rated and that it indirectly contributes to (pretty) women being unfairly picked on and accused of being res­ponsible for various forms of tragedies and shame. Such practices are counter-productive and undermine female eman­cipation. On the contrary, they slow down women’s escape from narrow gender roles and their liberation from legal, econo­mic, and sexual oppression. Hence the message to be conveyed here: If prudery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

History, literature and mythologies across the world abound with stories of beauties placing their male counterparts into compromising, perilous, desperate or mortal situations. Unlike, the archetypal evil woman[1], however, the mysterious femme fatale uses her phy­sical advantages and seductive powers to mesmerise and deceive her victims. These assets may include a striking appearance (like for the succubus Lillith and the Chinese fox spirit Daji[2]), long hair (as in the case of the Japanese Yuki-onna or the German Lorelei), a dulcet voice and singing (the Lorelei or the Greek Sirens) or dancing skills (Salome in the New Tes­tament). Once the victim is under her spell, he finds himself locked in bonds of irresis­ti­ble desire, losing his own will. The poor devil’s fate remains at the discretion of the enchant­ress, and may range from being murdered (which is what happened to Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, who was killed by his wife Clytemnestra), sucked dry (the form of exe­cution the Japa­nese Hone-onna is famous for), eaten (by Bai Gu Jing[3]), betrayed (like Samson whose secret that his strength lay in his long hair was revealed by his lover Delilah), or induced to kill someone else (José Lizarrabengoa in Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen, or Xīmén Qìng, 西门庆, influenced by Pān Jīnlián, 潘金莲, in The Plum in the Golden Vase, 金瓶梅, Jīn Píng Méi).

Contemporary representations of most pernicious women appear harmless compared to these classical villains. Although modern time plots involving such deadly females may not end as fatally as in the stories above, the leitmotif remains the same: A beautiful temptress sedu­ces one or more naïve men, enticing him or them to act in her interest. This may include the exercise of violence on other people (as in the case of ice skater Tonya Harding who allegedly led her then-husband to plan an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan), the trade of sensitive military information against sexual favours (which North Korean spy WON Jeong-hwa apparently succeeded in doing), or otherwise disclosing state secrets to the enemy (e.g., the famous story of Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was accused of espio­nage for Germany during the First World War).

The latest notable scandals are relatively benign, merely featuring the debauchery of gover­nment officials or corporate executives. Prominent examples in this regard include the outrage following US President Bill Clinton’s improper relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s patronage of a prosti­tution ser­vice, Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd’s inappropriate conduct, or Inter­natio­nal Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s intimate encoun­ter with a hotel maid. Although it seems that males in powerful positions are parti­cularly prone to profligacy, the political post or the place within a company or other groups of people is not the only pertinent point to explain the problem of adultery or promiscuous behaviour. Even in lower levels of our society, or among commoners, sexual affairs, ending in nasty divorces or harass­ment lawsuits, regu­larly destroy personal and professional lives.


Notes

[1]    See chapter 7 “The most vicious is a woman’s heart”.

[2]    Chinese original: 妲己, Dájǐ. Fox spirits, or 狐狸精 (húli jīng), also appear in Japanese and Korean folklore, in the person of Kitsune and Kumiho respectively.

[3]    Bai Gu Jing (白骨精, bái gú jīng, literally: white bone demon) is an evil spirit from wú Chéng’ēn’s (吴承恩) Journey to the West (西遊記, xī yóu jì), one of the Four Great Classical Novels (see also chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s