The Epic of Gilgamesh
How we cite our quotes:
"You loved Ishullanu, your father's date gardener,
who continually brought you baskets of dates,
and brightened your table daily.
You raised your eyes to him, and you went to him:
'Oh my Ishullanu, let us taste of your strength,
stretch out your hand to me, and touch our vulva.'" (6.62-77)
Dirty pun alert: apparently, in ancient Babylonian, the same word was used for "vulva" (female sexual organs) and "date palm." Supposedly, this was because they looked the same. (Don't ask us.) Given that this is part of a Gilgamesh's rejection of Ishtar, it looks like Gilgamesh doesn't approve of Ishtar's behavior. So, is the problem here that Ishtar has a tendency to destroy the mortals she sleeps with—or is it that she's sleeping with them at all?
"May you not be able to make a household,
and not be able to love a child of your own (?)!
May you not dwell in the … of girls,
may dregs of beer (?) stain your beautiful lap,
may a drunk soil your festal robe with vomit (?), (7.94-98)
Here, Enkidu is dying and cursing the Shamhat. Even though not everything in his curse against Shamhat is overtly concerned with sex (though there is that wish that "a gateway be where you take your pleasure"), you could say that, in a more subtle way, everything in it is concerned with sex. That's because, what Enkidu is describing, and hoping befalls Shamhat, is basically the life of an elderly street prostitute—a woman who has spent her entire life being exploited by others for sex. Nice, Enkidu.
Let my mouth which has cursed you, now turn to bless you!
May governors and nobles love you,
May he who is one league away bite his lip (in anticipation of you),
may he who is two leagues away shake out his locks (in preparation)!
May the soldier not refuse you, but undo his buckle for you,
may he give you rock crystal(?), lapis lazuli, and gold,
may his gift to you be earrings of filigree(?)." (7.138-151)
Here, Enkidu turns his former curse into a blessing—but note that the focus is still squarely on sex: Enkidu wishes that all rich and powerful men be consumed with sexual desire for Shamhat, and reward her appropriately for her services. Does this series of blessings show a more positive view of women's sexuality than the previous quotation, or is it just the flip side of the same narrow-minded view?