Mark Lamster | Essays

Ovid: On Picking Up Girls (Literally)

And if she doesn't give [kisses] freely, just take them anyway, ungiven. Maybe at first she'll fight, and call you "wicked rogue"; but her wish in fighting is really to be won. Only be sure your clumsy force doesn't bruise her tender lips or that she can complain of roughness. A man who has taken kisses and nothing more deserves to lose even what was already granted. After a kiss any failure in the fulfillment of desire — well, really, that's not modesty, it's just bad manners! Invoke violence if you like; this is a violence girls appreciate.The thing that they enjoy, they often like to think they give unwillingly. A woman suddenly seized in an impulse of violent passion is pleased and counts the outrage as a compliment. But when a woman who could be compelled goes off untouched she may put on a show of pleasure but will in fact be depressed.
As this most un-politically correct of passages from Ovid's "Art of Love" suggests, the great poet advocated a rather aggressive tactic when confronted with the age-old "hard to get" ploy. It was the inspiration for the great Rubens painting above, the "Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus." A somewhat more conservative course of action is recommended in these modern times. Still, the classics are not without insight. Translation by Elizabeth McGrath from the Corpus Rubenianum.

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