Not what you think and not where you think.
It came when his videotaped bizarre deposition in the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit was shown on various media. It was remarkably disgusting, even for Trump, when he robotically claimed yet again, among other things, that his celebrity allowed him to assault women.
Then he rambled on to say that this male behavior has been going on for “millions of years,” as if because men have been sexually violent to women for a long time, it makes it all right, or not within his power to control himself.
A few months ago, I was prompted by a wonderfully enchanting essay in the New Yorker about a new Ovid translation by the always wonderfully enchanting Daniel Mendelsohn, to locate a nice edition of Ovid I had on my shelves, one I’d never opened.
My hard luck. Instead of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the primary subject of Mendelsohn’s essay, my Ovid was limited to On Love: Being the “Ars Amatoria” and the “Amores.”
Ovid, born Publius Ovidius Naso in 43 B.C.E., used the word “love” to entitle his work, a lyrical advice manual for men about how to sexually assault women, even rape them if they persist in resisting. (Not to worry, though, Ovid says; after it’s over, the woman will be grateful. Oh yes, he does say that.)
Ovid offers elaborate details. More correctly, it should be the word “lust” (libido or cupiditas) in the title, although Ars Libido loses that nice alliteration (always great for titles), as well as logic. (Is there art in lust? Doubt it. Not even if you bring posies.)
In effect, Ovid’s Ars Amatoria would be the reading material Trump devours when he’s on the toilet, except that Trump is probably illiterate and would never appreciate the subtle, lengthy approaches Ovid recommends.
I got fairly disgusted with Ars quickly, especially because, even with the grace of poetry, it really does read like discovery in a MeToo trial. Has it always been thus?
Don’t answer. Please.
But since a further section of Ovid’s Ars is entitled, “Advice To the Girls” [sic!], I figured he who advises “young men” how to grab women should be given a chance to tell girls how to fend off male attacks and/or to progress into a worthwhile relationship with a young man.
Even as I type this, I can hardly believe what I’m going to tell you: Ovid’s advice to young ladies reads like a teenage girls’ magazine from the 1950’s. He tells girls how to dress, how to put on make-up and what make-up to put on (he likes smoky eyeliner), depending on the shape of the face and the color of the skin, both of which must be considered when the girl chooses a hair style (“don’t allow your hair to be lawless”). Jewelry is not neglected, either, nor the color choices in dresses.
And he really gets into the weeds when he tells girls they’d better shave the “goat hair” on their armpits and legs. (Later on, he also deals with abortion. He’s anti.)
Ovid is unforgiveable. Nor can he placate me with one poem in which he specifically, if lyrically, tells us everything about a shameful night in bed when he couldn’t get it up.
Ovid’s 2000-year-old attitude to women hasn’t aged even a decade. Reading him felt exactly like confronting the existence of Trump. How disheartening and enraging.