How is female sexuality exploited in Aristophanes' "Lysistrata?"

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning your question about Lysistrata, there is plenty of female sexuality in the play, but I'm not sure "exploited" is the best word to explain how it is used.

Exploited has a connotation that suggests someone or something is being used.  The women in the play use their sexuality to protest the war themselves.  They are not really being used by anyone.

The enotes Study Guide on the play says the following:

It is sex that permits the women to seize control. The men are held captive to their carnal desires and are unable to deal with the women as they had previously. Sex is both the women’s weapon and their prize to withhold. Sex gives the women a power they would not ordinarily hold; and with the simple banding together of the women, the desire for sex leads the men to capitulate. One of the women, Myrrhine, uses her sexuality to tease her husband, and to assert her power over him. Near the end of the play, as Lysistrata tries to negotiate a peace, she uses sex to motivate the men, by parading a nude representation of reconciliation in front of the sex-deprived males. When this maneuver fails to work, Lysistrata plies the men with wine, in a ironic reversal of the traditional male effort to seduce a woman. When the men begin drinking they become even more desperate for sex, and finally agree to a truce.

If you could establish with evidence that the other women do not really feel about the issue as Lysistrata does, you could make an argument that they are exploited by her.  Otherwise, the only other possibility of exploitation is that the writer, Aristophanes, exploits female sexuality to write his play.  But that seems like a weak argument. 

As the passage from the Study Guide above mentions, sex is the women's weapon.  They may be doing some exploiting, but they are not exploited. 


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a couple of ways to interpret this question -- I am not sure which you intended to ask.

First, the women in this play are exploiting their sexuality to try to accomplish their goal.  They want to stop the war.  Because of this, they are going to refuse to sleep with their men until the men promise to end the war.  So in this way, they are exploiting their sexuality.

Second, you could argue that Aristophanes is exploiting female sexuality (or at least men's interest in female sexuality) by writing this play.  He is hoping to use men's interest in sex to draw people to watch the play.  In that way, it is like having sex scenes in movies today.