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Sensual purrs

The feline nature of women

Elegance looked at Woman and after adoring her, 
wanted to overcome it. 
He did it by collecting lines and hair, 
glass eyes and become a cat, the most beautiful being. 
William of Aquitaine
Count and first French troubadour. Eleventh century.


Where does the association between women and cats come from? Is it real or is it just a literary whim? Is it feline sensuality what Cleopatra and Catwomen have in common? Some clues to these questions can be traced in history, religions and ethology.

Among the many associations that are usually made in everyday life, there is one that does not present much discussion and that is the one that relates women to felines. 

In the role play of a traditional home (with the relative cultural contribution of machismo, by the way), the woman boasts of the gift of sensuality, while the man does of the intellect. The elusiveness of seduction is thus contrasted with the pragmatic features of logic. The feminine seems to be defined by the intimate and the unpredictable, and the masculine by the public and the obvious or expected. In short, it is about the old dichotomy between the virtues of the irrational and the rational.

Despite the current strong trends, where women have more and more interference in the professional, economic and political world, the feminine affinity with felines continues to be valid in the social imaginary. Just as the dog is "man's best friend," the cat is supposed to be the woman's best accomplice. 

There are records of this affinity from the year 2100 BC. C., in Egyptian inscriptions of the XI dynasty, and it becomes evident five centuries later with the presence of Bastet (also known as Bast), an enigmatic goddess with the body of a woman and the head of a cat who represented in Egypt fertility, love and home protection. One of the largest sanctuaries in Bastet was located in the city of Bubastis, present-day Zagazig, in the Nile Delta. In this sacred center, it is estimated that more than 700,000 people attended each year to celebrate the annual Bastet festival or «Fiesta of drunkenness ”, which consisted of a voluptuous gathering where diners manifested their devotion by drinking excessively and indulging in the pleasures of the flesh. 

Another female-feline deity in Egyptian mythology is Sekhmet or Sekhmet, who was represented as an aggressive lioness and was linked to the vicissitudes of war. Some versions hold that Sekhmet is the form Bastet took when he got angry. 

The religious cult of cats in ancient Egypt was later assimilated by the Greco-Roman culture under the figures of Artemis (Greece) and Diana (Rome), but emerging Christianity considered it a pagan cult and did not take long to stigmatize cats, especially if they were black, with demonic practices. Although in ancient Christian texts no concrete associations between women and cats have been found, in later interpretations, particularly libidophobic, the sensual feminine character and the supposed friendship of the Devil with cats began to be questioned. A critical historical moment occurred in the Middle Ages, when the 13th century pontifical Inquisition associated sensuality with the devil and began a hunt for women and cats, under charges of witchcraft, which lasted centuries and left a regrettable toll of victims in both species.

Literature in many cases has also drawn its attention to feline sensuality. The image of a cat on the roof, silent, watching the moon without haste, has awakened the muses of many poets. Some of them feed the suspicion that felines possess an extraordinary sensitivity, and others assure that they guard with suspicion the unspeakable secrets of Eros. This would explain numerous poetic exaltations such as "Fervent lovers and austere sages / like, in their maturity, / of strong and sweet cats ..." (Charles Baudelaire); «The cat, / only the cat / appeared complete and proud: / was born completely finished, / he walks alone and knows what he wants.» (Pablo Neruda); «You are in another time. You are the owner / of a closed environment like a dream. » (Jorge Luis Borges); «The cat is disturbing, it is not of this world. He has / the enormous prestige of having already been God. " (Federico García Lorca); and «Blessed is the cat in my house / because there is no other Paradise for him / nor more Eternity / than the place in the sun where he now sleeps. / So my home is safe / while he dreams. " (Eliseo Diego).

Various scholars of ethology maintain that the female-cat alliance is due to a kinship of bodily languages. The undulating gait, the mysterious gaze or the suggestive gesture are common elements in women and cats, and are directly linked to sensual features. A "feline" woman is an organism naturally predisposed to pleasure; It is not exactly a housewife dominated by her husband, it is in any case the hell so feared (and desired) of the machistas, that space where the man is violated by seduction. 

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about sensuality lies in its amoral nature. The sensual cannot be moral, since the voluptuousness of the senses cannot be subject to any social norm or convention. But it is not immoral either, as some religious theorists believe, because it is not opposed to morality, it simply dispenses with it. Both sensuality and desire live in the universe of subjectivity, and do not have an ethical sense as philosophy or theology can. 

It is clear that female archetypes are intimately related to felines, especially when the reference is erotic. In the popular slang of Argentina, for example, the prostitute is called "cat". 

The male archetypes, on the other hand, are projected more towards the figure of the dog, accentuating the benefits of obedience, fidelity, territoriality and strength.

It is unthinkable to train police cats to search customs for drugs, or to intimidate violent soccer fans. Cats are also not used to prevent theft from homes, or to bring their owner's slippers or the morning newspaper. Tame some feline urges is as naive as simplifying certain female emotions. Dogs can be guardians, detectives, trackers, or hunters of foxes, ducks or wild boar. Cats, on the other hand, can only be cats. 

With so many opposing representations, how do you achieve harmony in a home, where women, men, cats and dogs coexist? Taoists find the answer in the creative duality of yin and yang, quantum physicists in functional chaos, religious people in miracles, and skeptics in crisis. But there are certain feminine / feline looks that transgress any theory and vindicate the mystery of sensuality.

One of the characteristics that most distinguishes cats is their ability to hunt. As solitary hunters, cats have developed great subtlety in their movements that, added to their cunning and speed, make them expert predators. Unlike group hunters, such as wolves, who need strength and stamina to ambush or tire their victims, cats appear to "seduce" their prey until the moment of final surprise. This hypnotic seduction charged with adrenaline and mystery has many times been related to female sensuality. For this reason, a "fatal woman" is often seen as a sexual or amorous predator, from whom her prey (seduced people) have very little chance of escape. "Relax and enjoy," says popular wisdom.


Alejandro Crimi,
Argentine Writer

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