Lot’s daughters, and ours: on sexualization, feminism, and the absence of agency

For the first time in three years, I’m teaching my humanities course on “The Dysfunctional Family and the Western Tradition.” (More about that course here.) We use the work of John Bradshaw as a tool with which to interpret four great masterpieces: the book of Genesis; Euripides’ “Medea”, Ibsen’s “Doll’s House”, and Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” I’ve been teaching the course periodically for over a decade, and it’s one of my favorite classes to offer.

Yesterday, we talked about Genesis 19; the famous story of the destruction of Sodom — and of Lot and his daughters. Since the last time I taught the course, I’ve read Robert Polhemus’ dazzling (if occasionally exasperating) Lot’s Daughters: Sex, Redemption, and Women’s Quest for Authority. Polhemus’ book covers not only the story of how the incestuous relationship between these young women and their father has been interpreted within the Abrahamic traditions for millenia, but he touches on some of the ways in which non-incestuous older men/younger women relationships in popular lore mirror the Lot story. (The book is already dated, focusing as it does near the end heavily on the Hillary-Bill-Monica triangle that was so fascinating in the late ’90s; the biblical parallels are there, but to my students who were barely into elementary school at the time, the story doesn’t resonate.) In any case, I recommend Lot’s Daughters with enthusiasm.

The outline of the story ought to be familiar: Lot, Abraham’s relative, offers hospitality to two angels who come to his hometown of Sodom. A crowd of locals besieges Lot’s house, demanding the opportunity to rape the (male) angels. Lot tries to calm the crowd by offering his two virgin daughters instead, but the crowd isn’t interested; Lot ends up being pulled back inside the house. The city is soon destroyed by God, with only Lot and his family permitted to escape; Lot’s wife (the women, of course, are unnamed) makes the fatal mistake of looking back at her burning hometown — and is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters end up taking refuge in a cave, where the girls decide to get their father drunk and have sex with him so that he can father their children. The eldest daughter conceives a son who will be the first of the Moabites, the people from whom the great figure Ruth comes. Since Ruth is an ancestor of David, and David an ancestor of Jesus, Christ himself is (if we accept Matthew’s lineage) a descendent of a line begun in father-daughter incest.

We all have a question, reading this story: why do the daughters do it? From a feminist standpoint, it’s a perverse twisting of the reality of incestuous abuse; the literature on the subject reveals that parent-child incest is, in reality, always initiated by the former. The victims are turned into the victimizers, and the male authority figure is absolved (through his drunkenness) of responsibility. Read literally, it’s infuriating in its familiarity; heck, it even fits in as an early example of the “myth of male weakness” against which we’ve so often railed on this blog. Lot gets to pass on his line, and he gets to do so with young, nubile women rather than with his barren wife. (Salt, strewn in fields, destroys fertility — you don’t need to be a graduate student in English to figure out that turning a pillar of salt is a metaphor for the undesirability and absent fecundity of ageing women.) Lot gets to start this blessed line –one that will include Ruth, David, and Jesus — through a sexual act for which he was not responsible. In Genesis 9, Noah curses his son Ham for catching his father drunk and naked and exposing the secret; ten chapters later, Lot remains silent when his daughters get him drunk and naked. (Polhemus has a fascinating section in which he details the ways in which centuries of Christian and Jewish theologians devised ways to absolve Lot of what ought to have been a profound sin).

But here’s the angle Polhemus doesn’t touch on, and one we did explore yesterday in class. The first we learn of Lot’s daughters is when their father offers them up to be raped by a mob. Lot wants to use the sexuality of his own children as a bargaining chip in order to protect the men who are his guests. Read in modern terms, Lot is doing what older men (sometimes fathers, often not) continue to do to adolescent girls: reduce their worth down to one thing. Their value lies solely in their desirability, in their imagined purity, in their youthful fuckability. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the girls thought when they heard their father offer them up to the crowd, but it’s not hard to see the impact on their lives. From a feminist and a family systems standpoint, we can’t understand why the girls seduce their father until we understand the impact of his earlier betrayal upon them..

Lot’s daughters got the message that far too many daughters continue to get: in the end, the most valuable thing about you is your desirability to men. A girl’s purity is her father’s to protect (the echoes of Lot in the disgusting “purity balls” of the chastity movement are obvious); a girl’s capacity to inspire longing is her most valuable asset. Sex, in one form or another, is what binds a girl to the men in her life. Her father’s obsession with her virginity (and its usefulness to him) matches the obscene fascination that so many other men have with her body. Many women never forget what it was like to first realize that they were objects of desire, not merely to boys their own age but to male teachers, uncles, store owners and strangers in cars. The damage that that early sexualization and objectification cannot be overestimated; in a sense, most girls have a “Lot’s daughters” moment at some point in puberty — the moment in which they realize that an extraordinary number of men are obsessed with only one thing, and that that obsession makes the world very unsafe for women.

So many young women make the choice that Lot’s daughters make. While in the real world, girls don’t get their dads drunk and sleep with them, they do make the not-unreasonable decision to use the one thing that they have that seems to matter, that gives them a chance to exercise power. When all that men (starting with Dad) value is a girl’s sexuality, then, as Courtney Martin writes, “the rest of her identity seems to fall away.” Sex is the one weapon in the arsenal, the one tool in the tool-chest, the one possibility a young woman has to get attention and to get love. (This is not to say that young women’s sexual adventurousness is always a response to cultural objectification; women have libidos irrespective of their treatment at the hands and eyes and tongues of men.) For Lot’s daughters, sex is a way to restore what John Bradshaw calls the “fantasy bond” with their father, a chance to be loved and cared for by him again. Since he seems to value nothing else about his daughters, they’re making a fairly rational decision to use that one thing to connect with him. They have nothing else.

Our patriarchal culture reduces women down to walking wombs, ambulating orifices good for little more than satisfying one male desire after another. Deprived of access to other avenues for power, it is no small wonder that like Lot’s daughters, many women grow up today with a sense that their desirability is their best asset, the most promising implement at their disposal with which to exercise power and pursue happiness. When men accuse women of “using” sex to manipulate, they fail to see that manipulation is always done from a position of weakness, when no other options exist. Lot robbed his daughters of their dignity and their worth long before they got him drunk and took him to bed; their manipulativeness was a direct consequence of their abandonment and objectification. Lot is a symbol of our patriarchal culture, an archetype for modern men, an exemplar of the way in which fathers and brothers and teachers and pastors and boyfriends betray the women in their lives; when modern men rage against women for “using sex to get what they want” they are refusing to take responsibilty for having stolen every other tool away.

Men do well to ask themselves, “Where am I like Lot?” “Where and how do I send the signal that women’s sexuality, or beauty, or virginity, matters more to me than anything else?” And we do well to empower young women, giving them agency and autonomy not only over their sexuality but over every other aspect of their lives. We need to give them more and better tools for acquiring and exercising power. And when we deprive women of the self-esteem that is their birthright and the agency that ought to be their destiny, we force many to make the terrible, agonizing decision that Lot’s daughters made in that cave so long ago.

0 thoughts on “Lot’s daughters, and ours: on sexualization, feminism, and the absence of agency

  1. “For Lot’s daughters, sex is a way to restore what John Bradshaw calls the “fantasy bond” with their father, a chance to be loved and cared for by him again.”

    That was never my interpretation of the story of Lot at all. My interpretation of the daughter’s actions was that they had exactly one thing in mind: revenge. Lot offered them up to be defiled, so they defiled him in turn.

    The only other possibility that I ever considered was that that part was written into the bible in an attempt to malign women by supposedly showing that they were just as perverted as the men.

    Regardless, the story is one of many reasons that I have always totally rejected the bible and christianity.

  2. Well, I’m certainly not trying to convince people to like the story. But it is one with enormous cultural resonance, and it’s worthy of analysis — and obviously, not imitation.

  3. In regards to the class you’re teaching, have you ever seen the play August: Osage County? It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama a couple of years ago I believe and is a phenomenal portrayal of family dysfunction. The epic three and and half hour play floored me when I got to see it in NYC. Just throwing that out there :)

  4. I was always under the impression that Lot’s daughters thought that the world was ending … well, not ending, maybe — like what happened with Noah, being cleansed? I just assumed they slept with their father because they thought it was their responsibility to re-populate the earth.

  5. My take on the story was that it was (to me) a transparently self-serving ‘alternative narrative’ to the reality of Lot raping his daughters.

  6. Nav,

    You are correct. The text says:

    “One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

    Of course, according to the feminist standpoint that Hugo consults, this premeditated, alcohol-fueled rape to preserve their patriarchal line is justified by their father’s earlier betrayal of them.

    Of course Hugo doesn’t characterize it as rape – Lot just “got lucky” – “Lot gets to pass on his line, and he gets to do so with young, nubile women…” Lot is cast in the active sense, even though the text is pretty clear that he was comatose during the encounters: “and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.”

    So the feminist standpoint on this, as in all other matters that involve interactions between men and women, is that men are entirely active and solely responsible for anything bad that happens between them, and women are entirely passive and never responsible. Reading the text, or worse – considering the irony of women raping their father to preserve their own patriarchal line – risks disturbing that bedrock principle.

  7. I always took it for an origin story for a neighboring tribe that had the function of making that tribe look bad. After all, this is supposed to be the origin of the Moabites, not the Hebrews who are actually telling the tale.

  8. STF –

    As I read this post, Hugo’s thesis is that `Deprived of access to other avenues for power, it is no small wonder that like Lot’s daughters, many women grow up today with a sense that their desirability is their best asset, the most promising implement at their disposal with which to exercise power and pursue happiness.’ That doesn’t justify women using their desirability to manipulate men, much less rape. It’s an explanation of why women use their desirability to manipulate men (and, in this case, rape).

  9. Wow, Hugo, another thought-provoking post from you.

    I’ve actually been lurking here for a while; I had tumbled upon your website in a quest to figure some things out about feminism and fathers & daughters, and read I think half of your archives over the matter of a few days. Since then I’ve been hooked. I’ll also add (since this is anonymous) that I am working hard to recover from being sexually abused by my father, and your writing is really helping me with my healing – it helps me deeply understand how he wronged me and what a good father should have done.

    My interpretation is this: the culture, even in biblical times, frowns on incest and considers it a taboo. At the same time it subtly encourages fathers to view their daughters as sexual objects only by guarding her virtue. The biblical author had to reconcile between those two impulses. What did he do? Blamed the daughters.

  10. Noema,

    I can agree with you, but not with Hugo, because you state a general truth that seems hard to argue with, and you allow for women to do something morally wrong to a man. There is no note of censure in Hugo’s analysis of the myth – their “seduction” (as Hugo characterized it) was only considered as an inevitable consequence of their earlier betrayal.

    Hugo is basing his conclusion on an highly tenuous connection to the actual story. Hugo generalizes about the “obsession” all men have with beauty and virginity, yet Lot showed no signs of either, and the mob of men were far from obsessed with Lot’s daughters. There is no evidence one way or the other in the story about how attractive or unattractive his daughters were, yet Hugo uses this story as an example of how important attractiveness and desirability is to young girls. The story is crystal clear on the daughter’s motivation for for their act, and the earlier betrayal played no part in it. In fact the story doesn’t make it clear whether they even knew what Lot offered the mob.

    In Hugo’s analysis the father’s sin absolves his daughters from all accountability for sin. Hugo has to see Lot as the sole independent actor of the story, because he needs to place the blame for all that happens completely on his shoulders. Yet Lot is reacting to the angels, reacting to a mob (Hugo uses the word “bargain” so exclude exculpatory fear from consideration), and has to flee the city. Hardly a willful, determined, independent actor. Hugo makes much of the fact that the daughters are unnamed (see, they’re not even considered people!!!), but takes no account of the fact that they are the only actors in the story that consider their circumstances and act as part of a deliberate, thought-out plan. In Hugo’s mind, they can’t be viewed as actors with wishes, foresight and free will, who discussed a plan and acted on it. They can’t be seen as fully human, with the human capability to do wrong. They are innocent flotsam, acted upon by patriarchy, but never acting.

  11. I think this interpretation bizarrely deprives the daughters of agency. In real life, you are absolutely correct about the dynamics of incest — but this is a story. In real life angels don’t come over for dinner, God doesn’t smite cities, etc.

    Just as the story clearly states that Lot offers his daughters to be raped, it clearly states this his daughters rape him. I don’t think Lot’s scoring with nubile virgins without having to take responsibility, I think Lot is getting raped by his own daughters. The former framing presumes that the daughters are totally, finally powerless. I prefer to think of them as adults who, having been through several extremely disturbing traumas, make an extremely disturbing plan and execute it.

    I also second Lynn about the origin story/make our rivals look bad thing.

  12. I always got the same read out of it as ballgame did, and that was back when I was a teen, long before I became a self-identified feminist. One reason it always made me upchuck in the back of my throat a little. Can’t we just put this on the list of “psycho Bible stories” along with the one about Abraham getting ready to murder his son at God’s command and the dude who did actually murder his daughter because he’d sworn to God he’d kill the next person who walked in the room and it turned out to be her and not encourage those types of stories any more by paying any attention to them whatsoever…?

  13. For Pete’s sex, I never said the daughters were robots. But their actions with their father were heavily influenced by his with them. Influenced, not fore-ordained; I’ve reread my post five times and it seems fairly clear to me that I’m arguing the former (as Noumena sees too). If I’ve suggested that these daughters are automatons without any free will, I withdraw that statement — but at the same time, they aren’t entirely independent actors, making decisions independent of their culture and their own experience of objectifcation and abuse.

    And we read these stories because they are foundation stories of the Western Tradition, and for millenia have been debated and interpreted and found their way into virtually every facet of our culture. Religious or atheist, they’re too important to ignore, too important not to know.

  14. For Pete’s sex,

    My new favorite typo. : )

    I’m not sure if your comment is in part directed to me; if so, I didn’t mean to suggest you said the daughters were automatons. You certainly didn’t do that. What I objected to was my perception that you framed Lot’s daughters as more or less helpless victims even when they’re the ones doing violence. You’re objecting to “the absence of (female) agency” — my contention is that the daughters do have agency, which they exert when they revenge-rape Lot. (This is certainly not the traditional reading of the passage, so if it’s that you’re objecting to, then never mind.)

  15. Daisy, I was primarily responding to STF. And it is a felicitous typo, isn’t it!

    Yes, they could have chosen not to do what they did with their father. But their choice was formed and shaped in a crucible that left them few other options. Denied agency and abused, it is little wonder that they chose what they did.

    (There’s an element of battered wife syndrome in this discussion, I note.)

  16. Hugo,

    The only motivation the story refers to is the lack of any other men that the daughters could breed with after the city was destroyed. I’m just an engineer, not a student of literature, but I can’t read the story any other way. The story makes no connection between the rape and the earlier betrayal. The story in no way denies them agency – they considered a problem, came up with a plan and acted on it, which is a pretty clear sign of agency. There just isn’t any basis in the story to support your explanation of what they did, and why.

    I’m on pins and needles awaiting your analysis of Lot’s battered wife. I’ll go out on a limb and predict you’ll blame the Patriarchy.

  17. 1) STF, we should remember that this story was almost certainly recorded and passed down exclusively by men. Taking a step back from the four-corners of the page, it was their recounting of the alleged behavior of Lot’s daughters.

    2) I’m not familiar with Polhemus’ work, but taking the story back full circle once we’ve been through the analogy insofar as the daughters are concerned to the wife (I’m not sure if Polhemus did this), consider the message there, again, if we’re reading this as a commentary on women’s sexuality and its social role. What Lot’s daughters have as their weapon and means of intimacy, will eventually leave them when they get to be mom’s age (at which point, they presumably become barren salt or something).

  18. Tom,
    I do believe that is part of the point. If a woman’s only value is in her youth and beauty, once she is “mom’s age”, she is no longer worth anything. Which is part of why that is such a bad system.

    I feel like I am missing something. I have read and re-read the post, and I don’t see anything suggesting that Lot’s daughters were not responsible for their actions. What I see is an explanation, not an excuse.

    Lot’s daughter’s did not make this decision in a vacuum. Their previous circumstances help us understand WHY they raped their father.

    “From a feminist and a family systems standpoint, we can’t understand why the girls seduce their father until we understand the impact of his earlier betrayal upon them.”

  19. Oh Kay – but Hugo’s analysis of Lot being raped by his daughters (which, given that the biblical account makes it fairly clear that he was drunk to the point of insensibility (he “perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose”), is pretty unambiguously what it was) is much less along the lines of “Here’s an explanation for this reprehensible act” than “Here’s why Lot’s daughters were practically compelled to do it, the poor things”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel any particular moral indignation at reading the story, but that’s because I doubt it’s any kind of accurate portrayal of any actual events. I seriously doubt one can discern valuable lessons about gender relations from the screwed-up morality therein. Nor would it surprise me if the current version is the result of some editing of an earlier (and probably equally fictional) story where Lot is the rapist. But since Hugo appears to be taking the approach of taking the story as currently given and analysing it from a modern gender relations perspective, there’s something rather disturbing about how it’s filtered through his perspective.

    For starters, while he readily describes the mob as wanting to rape the angels, and Lot as offering up his daughters to be raped, when it comes to the daughters, they merely “had sex with” or “seduced” him. Why, he got to “pass on his line with young, nubile women”, the lucky dog! The story says exactly what their reasoning for the act was (I’m not saying it’s remotely realistic, but it does say), but Hugo is quite certain that their real motivation was to get their father to appreciate them (as the drunk-out-his-mind Lot was surely in a great position to do) by (forcibly) offering up their bodies to him, since their observation of his earlier offer to the mob (of which the story makes no mention of them being aware) establishes that that was all he valued about them (since there’s clearly no other reason he would suggest raping them to a mob intent on, er, raping people).

    Based on their (hypothesised) knowledge, then, they were apparently “left with few other options” than raping their father. Pardon? Setting aside whether that makes any sense at all, that sounds a great deal like an excuse rather than just an explanation to me.

    Of course, should it need saying, Lot comes off as no better in the story – frankly if the daughters’ supposed motivation had been some kind of revenge that might have made a little bit more sense. And as I’ve said the story itself isn’t of much concern to me. But seeing such a strenuous effort made to come up with an unsupported alternate narrative in which what the daughters did was probably entirely understandable, even inevitable, and certainly nothing to do with the “r” word – well, it’s rather creepy, not to mention the sort of thing I expect Hugo would brand “rape apologetics” in a heartbeat were the genders reversed.

  20. I’m sorry to say it Hugo, but I agree with Jebedee. Apart from the bit about Lot’s offering of his daughters to be raped being no relation to them being young women, there, I think, Hugo is absolutely on the money: Lot could have offered himself to be raped; or his wife; or his servants – but he chose his daughters instead.

    Great post though Hugo, very well written, knowledgable about rape trauma (in partss!) engaging and interesting. It sounds to me as if you are saying the daughters had some form of Stockholm Syndrome, which is posssible in such a situation, but is not an excuse for rape – and you did say they had no choice but to rape their father.

    This is always the problem with the Bible and Christianity for me, the Bible seems to contradict Christian values so often, and it reads like a hodge podge of personal ramblings, altered over the generations. I mean how, can anyone really know who wrote this stuff. God speaks to me through my soul; and through nature; then I know it’s really God.

  21. “and you did say they had no choice but to rape their father.”

    Oy.

    He said no such thing. I’ve reread the post several times just to be sure, as so many are apparently doing. He did not say that they had no choice, nor did he say that their behavior was excused by their father’s previous behavior. He offered an explanation, not an excuse. There is a difference and he did not veer into the latter.

  22. Alright Faith, he did say some such thing (if not exactly the same thing), as follows:

    ‘For Lot’s daughters, sex is a way to restore what John Bradshaw calls the “fantasy bond” with their father, a chance to be loved and cared for by him again. Since he seems to value nothing else about his daughters, they’re making a fairly rational decision to use that one thing to connect with him. They have nothing else.’

    OK, so I should have said ‘no choice if they wished to bond with their father’, which is not true – I bonded with my loose boundaried father who put me at serious risk of sexual abuse at the hands of his drug addict friends by ranting my anger at him, Lot’s daughters did have something else. If we follow this line of rational, then any rape can be justified.

  23. Faith

    While Hugo doesn’t quite say that, he says When men accuse women of “using” sex to manipulate, they fail to see that manipulation is always done from a position of weakness, when no other options exist, Since he seems to value nothing else about his daughters, they’re making a fairly rational decision to use that one thing to connect with him. They have nothing else.. He paints very clearly (though not explicitly) a picture where one can reasonably take him to be saying “They had no other options”. Beyond that, when in an (evenly vaguely) feminist context, when you refer to sex with someone who is drunk and unconscious as a “seduction”, and talk about how lucky the unconscious person is, you shouldn’t expect to receive the benefit of the doubt. While it’s understandable that a lot of people might give Hugo the benefit of the doubt on this because of their overall impression of him, he’s really stepped deep in it here.

  24. Oh, and I do understand that Hugo was trying to explain the motives of the daughters, but this explaination veered way too far towards justification, in my opinion, most probably, Hugo didn’t realise he did this.

    I also think this story sounds patched together, probably altered over the years to suit whoever was in control at the time, and that relying on such things for moral guidance is about as reliable as consulting a British tabloid newspaper.

  25. “OK, so I should have said ‘no choice if they wished to bond with their father’, which is not true”

    Not sure that’s accurate either. What he said is that in patriarchal society women are reduced to sex objects. That means that the only power that women have (in a heavily patriarchal society) is their desirability to men. As I’ve already stated, it doesn’t excuse their behavior, anymore than a man is excused for committing rape under any circumstances. It does provide one possible explanation.

    “I bonded with my loose boundaried father who put me at serious risk of sexual abuse at the hands of his drug addict friends by ranting my anger at him, Lot’s daughters did have something else. If we follow this line of rational, then any rape can be justified.”

    You also are not living in the same time period. If Lot’s daughters had expressed anger and rage at their father, they would have been severely reprimanded, mostly likely in a physical manner – as in they would have been beaten or possibly even killed.

    “I also think this story sounds patched together, probably altered over the years to suit whoever was in control at the time, and that relying on such things for moral guidance is about as reliable as consulting a British tabloid newspaper.”

    Well, yes, which is why I personally have no use for the bible whatsoever. The only purpose I’ve ever seen for the bible is to control people and guilt them into submission. I realize that it has other significance for some people, but I do believe that is the ultimate purpose of the bible and I believe that it always has been the ultimate purpose of the bible. Hence one of many reasons that I’m a dirty, dirty heathen.

  26. Hugo, your article might have sparked better discussion if you’d used the word “rape” instead of “seduce.” I fully see your big-picture point, and find myself agreeing with much of it, but feminists regularly take to task anyone who refers to male-on-female rape as something like “seduction” and the same should be true if it’s in reverse (or male-on-male or female-on-female). If the daughters had to get their dad drunk in order to sleep with him, it was rape.

  27. B – Precisely! to call a rape a seduction is excusing in, and answers Faith in her resonse to me. Hugo was explaining motives for a seduction, not a rape. It is pretty essential to call a spade a spade in these situations.

    Yes, Hugo did say the things you said he did, but he also justified a rape, and called it a seduction. Sorry, because I am a big fan of Hugo’s too, it’s a real shame, because it’s otherwise a great post: John Bradshaw is fabulous.

    No, I’m not living in the same peiod as Lot’s daughters, but who ever was???? Can you tell me exactly which period, and place we are talking about here? And what the status of women was at that time and place in these situation? because I’m sure history departments have wasted millions on that very futile question.

    Lot and his daughters were the only people alive in their land at the time of the rape, according to this Bible story, and believed themselves to be the only people left on the planet (hence the urgency for re-population – the reason the Bible gives for the rapes), so I csn’t see his daughters having much concern for comeback on whatever course of action they chose to take. Plus, surely raping your father would be just as illegal as venting verbal anger at him in whatever time/place it is you have in mind.

  28. “to call a rape a seduction is excusing in, and answers Faith in her resonse to me.”

    Uh, no, it actually doesn’t. I didn’t call it a seduction. I called it rape.

    “Sorry, because I am a big fan of Hugo’s too, it’s a real shame, because it’s otherwise a great post: John Bradshaw is fabulous. ”

    My opinion here has nothing to do with being a “big fan” of Hugo’s. If I thought he was way out of line, I’d be the first in line to lambaste him. I believe that the word “seduction” was used in order to show how the act would have been perceived from a patriarchal point of view, not from a feminist point of view. I believe that may be the contention here. From a patriarchal point of view that posits men as unrapable, the act was a seduction. From a feminist point of view, it was rape.

    “No, I’m not living in the same peiod as Lot’s daughters, but who ever was???? Can you tell me exactly which period, and place we are talking about here? And what the status of women was at that time and place in these situation? because I’m sure history departments have wasted millions on that very futile question.”

    None of us were living in that time period. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have any idea of what life was like for people in other time periods. We also do not even have to look to the past in order to have some understanding of what life was like for Lot’s daughters (assuming they are more than a fairy tale). There are still countries that are still heavily patriarchal. For instance, if you lived in Afghanistan, you would not be able to express anger with your father without being reprimanded…again, meaning beaten or even killed. This would have been the reality of Lot’s daughter’s as well. They had no power beyond using their sexuality to manipulate men. That is the only power women have in a patriarchal society. Do you honestly disagree with this statement?

  29. “so I csn’t see his daughters having much concern for comeback on whatever course of action they chose to take.”

    I meant from their father himself.

    “Plus, surely raping your father would be just as illegal as venting verbal anger at him in whatever time/place it is you have in mind.”

    No, actually, it wasn’t. People then believed that it was impossible for a woman to rape a man. There are still people who believe that it is impossible for a woman to rape a man.

  30. Faith

    Lot was raped by three of his daughters, and he wasn’t young, so I’m sure they would have managed if he’d tried to become violent with them.

    I’m sure having sex with your father, even if it was seen as seduction, rather than rape, would have merited at least as much recourse as venting anger at him.

    The other point is: it sounds to me as if, in the society you seem to have in mind, Lot’s daughters would have been punished for being unmarried pregnant women (as the Virgin Mary feared) – as all of Lot’s daughters became; that prospect didn’t bother them.

  31. “Lot was raped by three of his daughters, and he wasn’t young, so I’m sure they would have managed if he’d tried to become violent with them.”

    Well, possibly. Part of the problem here is that we have no idea whether this story has any basis in reality at all. I’m personally of the belief that the bible is almost all entirely a bunch of fairy tales. That makes it difficult for me to discuss bible stories with any real seriousness. But I do believe that you are underestimating their likely fear of their father (had they been real). Even if they could have stood up to him and defeated him, they may not have felt that way due to their social conditioning.

    “I’m sure having sex with your father, even if it was seen as seduction, rather than rape, would have merited at least as much recourse as venting anger at him.”

    No, I’m really quite sure that it wouldn’t have. Lot would have been held up as having consented (because men are unrapable from the patriarchal point of view) and would have even likely received the proverbial pat on the back. It would have been assumed that Lot had been entirely willing to have sex with “nubile, young women”.

    “it sounds to me as if, in the society you seem to have in mind, Lot’s daughters would have been punished for being unmarried pregnant women (as the Virgin Mary feared) – as all of Lot’s daughters became; that prospect didn’t bother them.”

    ::shrugs:: Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. Even with the risk of being reprimanded for pregnancy out of wedlock, women have still always had children and sex out of wedlock. Shaming women for having sex outside of marriage has never stopped the act from occurring, as I’m sure that you are well aware.

  32. Faith – I’ve just read your second to last response to me. When I talk about how I feel about Hugo, it doesn’t mean I think you feel the same way, and certainly not that your comment are coloured by anything – I’m just talking about how I feel. Also, my comments on Hugo’s post, are not comments on what you have written, I think you’re confusing that.

    Also, with regards women and culture, the Bible covers a massive period of time and geography, so it’s tricky to assume what social restrictions existed for particular characters when dates and places are so uncertain. Of course women are stoned etc in certain cultures, and always have been, but what I said had nothing to do with that; it had to do with the nigh on impossible logistics of identifying the time and place of events which took place in the Bible – if, indeed, they ever took place at all (to me, Lot and his daughters inhabit a fictitious space) – hence my ‘whoever…’ comment.

    Lot and his daughters were left in a situation where society, and all other people had disappeared (so there was no chance of a stoning or any other, similar punishment); his daughters were starting a new society, that is a major point of the story.

  33. “it had to do with the nigh on impossible logistics of identifying the time and place of events which took place in the Bible – if, indeed, they ever took place at all (to me, Lot and his daughters inhabit a fictitious space) – hence my ‘whoever…’ comment.”

    I don’t think that’s relevant. All of the times and places that were covered in the bible were heavily patriarchal.

    “Lot and his daughters were left in a situation where society, and all other people had disappeared (so there was no chance of a stoning or any other, similar punishment); his daughters were starting a new society, that is a major point of the story.”

    I think I’ve said all that I can say about that part, really…

    I actually think I’ve said all that I need to say about this post or matter altogether. The actions of most likely mythical people who supposedly lived a few thousand years ago aren’t really high on my concern list….

  34. Faith:

    ‘Shaming women for having sex outside of marriage has never stopped the act from occurring, as I’m sure that you are well aware.’ No I didn’t say it did! In fact I said the opposite: that women have always, and perhaps in the biblical past you have in mind, been executed for such things, but that societal prospect didn’t deter Lot’s daughters, so I doubt, witin the rational of the story, that fear of punishment for venting anger at their father would either.

    I wasn’t discussing the consequences for Lot, but the potential punishment a daughter might recieve, in this kind of milieu, for having sex with her father – that didn’t put them off either. Yes, I’m sure Lot would have got away with it, but that isn’t the issue.

  35. Yes, at least we agree about the fantasy nature of the Bible – have a good evening faith, I’m off to my Middle Eastern Dance Class – going to do some Egyptian 8s, Egypt was far less patriarchal than most other Biblical countries – apparently…

  36. Lot would have been held up as having consented (because men are unrapable from the patriarchal point of view) and would have even likely received the proverbial pat on the back. It would have been assumed that Lot had been entirely willing to have sex with “nubile, young women”.

    This is completely insane. Patriarchal cultures are replete with sexual taboos, and the fact that their law codes do not construct rape as an act a female can commit does not in any way imply that there are not sexual taboos a woman can violate that would incur punishment, ostracism, or death. Nobody would think Lot had been raped, no. They would think he had been defiled and polluted.

    “Patriarchy” doesn’t mean “cross-cultural frat house.” It’s a lot worse than that and, painful as it may be to contemplate, more complicated.

  37. “This is completely insane.”

    Hey, you’re not the first person to call my meanderings insane. I’m sure you won’t be the last. It still doesn’t change my opinion on the matter.

    ““Patriarchy” doesn’t mean “cross-cultural frat house.””

    Cross-cultural frat house! Ha! I like it! I’ll have to remember that one. Thanks sophonisba!

  38. Today in many middle eastern countries women are not permitted to travel without a male family member.

    Maybe Lot’s daughters needed a male in their family to succeed their father as patriarch in the event that he would die because he was old?

    They left everything in Sodom and Gammorrah. Their betrothed chose to stay. Maybe there was no dowry for them to married since everything was lost.

    The tradition of protecting guests is still practiced by people who also stone women to death if they travel without male family members or special permission.

    Their father would have kept the secret that he had slept with his own daughters because he would also be stoned to death.

    This is similar to the story of Judah and Tomar Gen. 38
    Tomar tricks her father in law to impregnate her.

    It is so “in plain sight”. Women in middle eastern countries without sons perish. These girls were desparate for their lives.

  39. My point was that there was no one around to stone them: the Bible states that they raped their father in order to carry on the human race – i.e. these four people were the only human beings left on earth, as far as they were concerned.

    Hence, the father would not need to keep a secret, because there was no one to tell or find out any way.

  40. I haven’t read Lot’s Daughter’s, but I did want to comment here about the dysfunction Christian families. When I first heard about Purity Balls I was so disgusted I wanted to write the News magazine I read the article in and ask if they were playing tabloid because even though I find fundamentalism and our male dominated society creepy to begin with I couldn’t believe it. We don’t just live in a patriarchy because even teenage boys are considered worth more than teenage girls. I watched The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC for awhile and the doctor’s daughter Grace is given a ring to seal her commitment to purity. Of course the doctor father ends up passing her birth control pills and telling the boy slut Ricky who knocked up another girl ignorant about sex that since he was sexually abused by his father it is quite all right for him to date Grace, after all Ricky’s life is so darn important that it doesn’t matter if he uses and discards the doctor’s daughter for sex as long as he knows that there is someone who will talk and listen to him.

    Actually since this show is by the same woman who came up with the show 7th Heaven I wonder why exactly she is such a gender traitor that she perpetuates the stereotype that is set up in the story of Lot. I mean it does seem that the father is offering his virgin daughter to a teenage boy that has been sleeping around irresponsibly for no other reason than the boy’s life is more important than his daughters. It isn’t just men who are responsible for their daughters participating in Purity Balls, you have to ask where the mothers are. Why not teach them about birth control and safe sex instead of saying, hey don’t have sex and keep your hymen intact. The article I read in that news magazine had an interview with the younger daughter and she was jealous she wasn’t old enough and her sister was getting to go to the party with dad.

    Actually the worst part is that the teenagers who eat up the tv show will type out double standard about the female slut character having sex just for orgasms so she is doing wrong and don’t declare the boy character a slut for doing exactly the same thing without thinking it is wrong. Golly gee daughters are still property to be passed along for the sexual gratification of males. I mean a mob bent on homosexual sex should be offered daughters, yeah right. Erm…why did Lot end up going back inside instead of offering himself when they didn’t want a female?