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The Burden of Intimacy

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The Burden of Intimacy

        The scope of this essay will be to examine female subordination in romantic heterosexual relationships through the argument given in Simone de Beauvoir’s work “The Second Sex”. Beauvoir believes that much of a women’s psychological self is constructed through the ideals of male dominance over her through an artificial constructed female identity. It is through this identity that women tacitly assume a role of inferiority in romantic relationships. I will attempt to prove that the intimacy of heterosexual romantic relationships causes women to internalize this identity to its greatest extent. First, I will analyze the myth within the artificial feminine identity which claims that women are mysterious and how this in turn prevents women from being transcendent. I will then look to the role of a women in love and how her return to a child-like dependency on her male lover also disallows her to develop her own identity. Lastly, I will discuss how the burden of responsibility falls on females who as free beings passively assume this identity. However, due to the intimate nature of the relationships men and women share, the artificial femininity becomes exceedingly difficult for women to resist despite the fact that they are free to reject it which creates an imbalance of power where a women’s identity itself forces her to be inferior to man.

        For Beauvoir, one of the myths that the artificial feminine identity is made up of claims that women are mysterious (Beauvoir 68). This mysteriousness that surrounds women, places a hinderance on her ability to discover an identity beyond the artificial one she was handed at birth (67). When a man cannot understand an aspect of a women’s existence he does not attempt to gain any sort of understanding but instead attributes his lack of knowledge to her mysteriousness, to man women are a mystery (68). The acceptance of this myth on the part of males results in his ignorance of the female experience including the pain a women endures during childbirth or the complexity of her sexual nature; man does not understand these experiences because there is no explanation from his perspective, it is simply because his understanding cannot grow beyond an understanding that women are mysterious and therefore there is no reason to try to unravel the complexity of their sexual nature (69). The tendency of men to rely upon this myth as an explanation of questions surrounding the female experience is then also adopted by females themselves, “as she is mystery for man, women is regarded as mystery in herself” (68). When a women attempts to understand her existence Beauvoir describes this to be an awkward experience for her, because she is nothing more than a lover of man anything which surpasses this understanding is regarded as the mystery of women (69). As women remain idle in their understanding of their identity, men thrive in all aspects of life; they engage in activities and projects in the external world which allow them to create an identity for themselves separate from their romantic relationship with women; the concept of transcendence which is defined as excelling beyond ones current capabilities exists only for men (69). All the while women are blockaded by their own mysteriousness to create an identity beyond the one they’ve been handed; it is easier or a woman to understand herself the way men do, simply as a lover and nothing more. This in turn concludes that the way a man views his female lover influences the way she sees herself, the close proximity of his understanding of her forces her to regard her identity in the same manner, not only are women mysterious to men but because of their intimate relationships with men it is easier for women to be mysterious to themselves.  

        When a women falls in love she abandonds who she is and places a high level of dependency on her male counterpart (73). A common symptom of the women in love is that she wants to become a child again (74). The dependency the women places on her male lover is similar to that of a new born child and it’s mother. In the mother and infant relationship the mother has responsibilities in the external world, she has relationships with other people to upkeep, possibly a job to report to and the sustainment of her own health and well-being. In contrast, the infant is completely dependent upon it’s mother for the sustainment of it’s life; the infant needs its mother for food, protection, love, and attention and outside of this relationship the baby does not engage in any activities or projects, the infant’s identity at this stage in life is dependent upon it’s mothers actions. Similarly, but not to this extreme in romantic relationships the identity a women assumes causes her to be dependent on her lover, as Byron said, “love is merely an occupation in the life of the man, while it is life itself for the woman” (73). Just as the baby relies on the mother, this female identity disallows women from being anything other than a lover of man, she abandonds herself and relies solely on partner for reassurance, support, approval and her identity (74). Without her male lover a women is simply nothing, which is why she thrives on her enslavement to him, it is better for her to be his lover and his slave than to be nothing at all (74). The behaviour of a women who is a slave to her male lover is dependent upon his approval, this in turn causes her to revert back to a child-like state; she is disciplined by him the way a young child is disciplined by her father and when she seeks comfort or needs help she does not depend upon herself but runs to her lover to be consoled, “to become a child in the arms of man brings them great satisfaction” (75). It is easier for a women to be inferior, she is taken care of and is guaranteed the same unconditional love children receive from their parents (75). This level of dependency only highness the intimacy of the relationship which in turn only increases the internalization of this identity that causes her to depend on him.



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