The Second Sex


Existence Precedes Essence.The Second Sex, published in 1949, is one of Simone de Beauvoir's most famous and most shocking work, during it's time. One of de Beauvoir's greatest influences waspartly explained by her exceptional position in a male-dominated, intellectual world of French existentialism. One intellectual and influential role in de Beauvoir's life, was her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, a famous French existentialist. From the time this couple fell in love at the Sorbing until Sartre's death in April of 1980, they accomplished an "existential" role in each others life. The two never shared permanent domestic space, owned common property, or had any children; and both had many separate affairs and relationships. Simone de Beauvoir's existential views, such as, "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman(de Beauvoir 301)," was a major point of her philosophies. In the The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir explains, how each female creates and re-creates her "essence" through her own choices and actions.
Overall, there are several major themes that are focused on in The Second Sex. The destiny, history, myths, and situations of women's life today, are the principal subjects of the book. In The Second Sex, Part IV called, "The Formative Years," the information within chapter XIV, "Sexual Initiation," is focused on closely. Simone de Beauvoir expressed, that love and sex should be possessed within free relationships built on desire and equality, and stressed the importance of openly discussing the traumas surrounding menstruation and sexual awareness. She rationalizes, "in a sense, women's sexual initiation, like man's, begins in earliest childhood...But the erotic experiences of the young girl are not simply an extension of her former sexual activities; very often they are unexpected and disagreeable; and they are always in the nature of a new event that makes a break with the past(de Beauvoir 414)." The sexual awareness of a young female is perhaps, not only an instinct, but in fact is created through individual thoughts and experiences. "Psychiatrists all agree on the extreme importance of a women's first erotic experiences: they're repercussions are felt throughout the rest of their life(de Beauvoir 414)." The female's sexuality is continuously created and defined throughout their life. The process of growing from child to young woman, and eventually to an adult is accepting the perplexity of becoming a woman. Simone de Beauvoir explains how a, "women's eroticism is much more complex, and it reflects the complexity of the feminine situation. We have seen that instead of integrating the powerful drives of the species into her individual life, the female is the prey of the species, the interests of which are dissociated from the females interest as an individual(de Beauvoir 415)." In the world, women have played a submissive role to men. Men and women are different, and that undeniable fact is precisely the debate over what constitutes femininity in societies definition. The gender roles of women is a topic that de Beauvoir focuses on, in the importance of creating a females sexual initiation and relationships. "It is striking that in woman there is a choice of two systems, one of which perpetuates juvenile independence while the other consigns women to man and childbearing. The normal sexual act in effect puts women into a state of dependency upon the male and the species. It is the male-as in most animals-who has the aggressive role, the female submitting to his embrace. Normally, she can be taken by the man at anytime, whereas he can take her only when he is in the state of erection. Apart from cases of vaginismus, when the woman is sealed more effectively by the hymen, feminine disinclination can be overcome; and even in viginismus there are ways in which a male can relieve himself upon a body that his muscular power puts his mercy. Since she is object, any inertia on her part does not seriously effect her natural roll: a statement supported by the fact that many men do not trouble themselves to find out whether the women who bed with them desire coition or merely submit to it(de Beauvoir 417)." A females expectations are sexually associated with a man's aggressive sexual expectations, thus causing a female to compromise herself, and destroy what she has created as her essence. "From primitive times to our own, intercourse has always been considered 'service' for which the male thanks the women by giving her presents