chapter  16
14 Pages

Iris Marion Young, 'The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity' (1990)

At the heart of the urban labyrinth lurked not the Minotaur, a bull-like male monster, but the female Sphinx, the strangling one', who was so called because she strangled all those who could not answer her riddle: female sexuality, womanhood out of control, lost nature, loss of identity. The city offers untrammelled sexual experience; in the city the forbidden what is most feared and desired becomes possible. Woman is present in cities as temptress, as whore, as fallen woman, as lesbian, but also as virtuous womanhood in danger, as heroic womanhood who triumphs over temptation and tribulation. Writers such as Walter Benjamin concentrated upon their own experience of strangeness in the city, on their own longings and desires, but many writers more definitely and clearly posed the presence of women as a problem of order, partly because their presence symbolised the promise of sexual adventure. This promise was converted into a general moral and political threat.