In the text, A Male Mencius’s Mother Raises Her Son Properly By Moving House Three Times, it became clear that fluids would echo the Murngin mythology in its focus on fluids and consumption as vital and prominent features of sexual relationships, gender roles, and marriage. From the start, the narrator makes a point of distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate use of the anus. They object to homosexual intercourse as a perversion of the natural flow of things from the body; they argue that “that sinkhole was created to eliminate bodily wastes, because the foul matter and rank odours produced inside the five organs needed somewhere to drain away” (100). In this form of intercourse, rather than expelling, the anus consumes. This reminded me of the consumption of the sister by the snake, since the phallus in that case engages in an act of consumption in a similar way. Interestingly, in the Chinese tale, the alteration of a “natural” cycle of flow outwards in humans spreads to plants as well. The banyan tree leans down to a smaller tree and envelops it into itself, becoming one (101). This brings to mind the snake’s cycle of flight and descent, of ingestion and expulsion, which causes permanent effects in the natural landscape. One might wonder whether this similarity provides room for a positive reading of homosexuality, one that is more generative.

Later, fluids become more prominent in the narrative. The primary conflict of the marital chapters revolves around images of semen and blood; they become inextricably tied to youth, health, beauty, and filiality. Within the context of the book, filiality appears to be comparable to submission, since Jifang notes that “when a man has wife and children, his filial piety weakens”, and the footnote of that passage quotes a decree saying that “when officials have high rank and emoluments, their loyalty of the ruler slackens” (118). With the growth of Ruilang’s phallus, his power and masculinity waxes and his submission to Jifang wanes. On another level, the loss of semen is equated with the loss of life force (119). Upon realizing the implications of the loss of beauty and perhaps subconsciously the growing power of his own masculinity, Ruilang castrates himself. It’s really fascinating to compare this section of the text with the circumcision ritual of the Murngin and the story of the two sisters; instead of removing a piece of himself to ascend into the hierarchy of men, Ruilang is excising himself from the male world. The loss of semen is transformed by this castration into a loss of blood, which instead of memorializing (as in the Murngin ritual) enacts the tragedy of the two incestuous sisters. Like the snake, the powers of the law are drawn upon the happy couple and result in tragedy.

I’m not sure that I’ve reached any real conclusions, but it seems as if this comparison could be productive. There are more fluid-related moments to turn to in the Chinese tale, but these are the few that struck me as most evocative of themes we found in the Murngin myth.

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One thought on “

  1. I think this is a really excellent post, Mallory! I wonder if the poem before the myth also refers to improper uses of the anus, in particular, where is reads: “Face to back, opening the firmament/For lack of a woman, making do with man” (99).
    On a somewhat-related note, it’s interesting to think about sodomy laws and how they at least theoretically prohibit anal sex regardless of the sex and gender of the partners, though they’ve mostly been used to target homosexually active people. While this passage I quoted refers to male-male anal sex, I would think that male-female anal sex would also be in a “Face to back” position. Considering the text and your analysis, I guess the taboo on anal sex is not homosexual-specific but rather unacceptable because the anus’s main biological purpose is to eliminate waste and because sex here is meant to center or even limit itself to penile-vaginal intercourse for procreative purposes.

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