Gilgamesh: Women’s Sexuality Essay

Gilgamesh: Women’s Sexuality Essay.

In the epic poem “Gilgamesh,” the main character was two-thirds God and one-third human. Gilgamesh presented himself with a god like mentality. His power was neither gained nor deserved. He’s a selfish leader who held his power by striking fear into the hearts of those forced to succumb to him. The gods created Enkidu, a man so fearful and threatening, to bring down and end Gilgamesh’s reign of terror; but the outcome was least expected. They became great friends and companions.

Though in text, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are the ones with all of the spoken power, it is the women characters that exert their power over man having a major influence on their decisions. The women set the stage for us to see how even the most powerful of gods are controllable by something as simple and human as the sexuality of a woman. One empowering female in this poem is Shamhat, the temple prostitute. She was sent from the temple of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, to seduce Enkidu.

She is told, “Now use your love-arts. Strip off your robe and lie here naked, with your legs apart.

Stir up his lust when he approaches, touch him, excite him, take his breath with your kisses, show him what a woman is” (p. 78). When Shamhat presents herself to Enkidu, he could not resist her. It was said that she tamed the wild animal. She then taught him her ways of civilized humans and he left behind all that he knew. This shows that the power of a woman’s sexuality is only natural to man, and can over power even their greatest desires in life. The goddess of love and war, Ishtar, is another example of woman’s power taking a toll on man.

When Ishtar laid eyes on Gilgamesh, she was drawn to him, asking him to be her groom and marry her. Gilgamesh declined her offer because he heard of her ways with men and how she manipulated and exploited them. Ishtar became outraged with him and so, called on her father, Anu, to release the “Bull of Heaven” and punish Gilgamesh. Anu mentioned to her that it was her own fault for provoking him. Ishtar warns him, “If you refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths.

I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of the dead will outnumber the living” (p. 32). Anu obeys her requests and sent the beast down, only for it to be defeated by both Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Ishtar is not threatened by their survival and victory, yet she then threatens them again. By displaying her rage and anger accumulated from rejection by man, she proves just how much power she truly has over man. She was feared by Anu and received what she asked.

Women not only use their sexuality for lust and sex, but also show men that they are not inferior to them, they can be just as frightening and powerful. In the epic poem “Gilgamesh” there was a significant influence in gender roles. Even though men were considered to be the wisest and most powerful of humans, the two women Ishtar and Shamhat, had the power to influence Gilgamesh, Enkidu and even Anu, the father of Ishtar, in their own ways. These two women are not seen as objects of man, but as two empowering women exerting their power over man.

Gilgamesh: Women’s Sexuality Essay

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