Monday, October 13, 2014

Sexuality and the Book of Genesis

Crumb’s illustrated version of Genesis starts off by stating, “Adult supervision recommended for minors” right on the front cover of the comic book.  As soon as the reader sees this, they know that the illustrations are bound to be full of explicit adult content.  Within the first three chapters, the initial warning about the explicit content is relevant as nudity is frequent and the first sex scene of the comic is present.  Crumb chooses to interpret the book of Genesis to be as sexual as possible in order to portray the animalistic tendencies of man shown throughout the entirety of the rendition of Genesis.
Crumb’s illustrations of people are unlike any Christian art form that I have seen.  In many Christian paintings, the people are fair skinned, thin, and appear rather conservative.  The paintings tend to be light in color in general.  Crumb’s illustrations of people are dark, revealing, and are considerably larger than those of typical Christian art, especially his depictions of women.  In chapter three, the text states, “And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that is was lust to the eyes and lovely to look at.”  Underneath this text is Eve, with her back turned to the reader, facing an average looking tree bearing fruit.  Crumb chooses to make the backside of Eve appear lustrous rather than the tree in order to emphasize her sexuality.  The lustrous Eve depicts human sexuality that cannot be controlled, as she is going against God’s word and eating from the forbidden tree.  This shows how man is animalistic because the human need for sex as pleasure and for reproduction is more important than following the given rules of society.
In chapter 19, Lot’s two daughters create a lasting impression on the reader.  Lot states, “Please, my brothers, do no harm!  Look, I have two daughters who have known no man!  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do to them however you please!”  In this situation, Lot wishes to use his daughters in order to prevent the men in Sodom from having sex with the messengers.  Crumb shows the faces that the men possess when they are denied from having sex with the messengers as full of rage.  This rage is a result of the men being denied the sex they desire and therefore shows how man is a beast that refuses to accept anything that is not what they desire.
Later on in chapter 19, Lot’s older daughter says the following, “Our father is old, and there is no man on Earth to come to bed with us like the way of all the world!”  This quote shows both of the daughter’s feelings of discontent with the given situation due to the fact that nobody will be able to take their virginities.  They both agree to get their father drunk so they can lie with him, despite the obvious taboo.  Crumb illustrates the face of the younger daughter as she sleeps with her father in a rather interesting way, as she appears to be in a state of bliss.  Her eyes are rolling, her mouth is parted, and she looks pleased with her current state, despite the obvious problem with the situation.  The two women choose to live with a taboo for the rest of their lives for sex.  With this in mind, it can be said that remaining a virgin for all of one’s life is considered to be shameful to society.  Sleeping with a family member in order to not be shameful is an animalistic tendency of man, as it only exists to please a desire.

Human sexuality is shown throughout the illustrated version of Genesis through the ample bodies of women, multiple sex scenes, and behavior of many characters.  This sexuality, however, is depicted in a different way than the non-illustrated version of Genesis as it makes it out to be animalistic.  Eve acts as a symbol of lust showing that man would rather have sex than do what is right.  The men of Sodom act as a symbol of greed as they would rather rage and harm those who stop them from getting the sex that they want.  Lot’s daughters are a symbol of pride, as they would rather lose their virginities to their own father rather than remain virgins forever and be shamed by society.  These are three examples of the seven deadly sins depicted in the first half of the illustrated version of Genesis.  If the people in this book were truly good and human like God intended them to be, these sins would not be committed for something as simple as sex.  Crumb decides to show the people committing one of the seven deadly sins to show that humans are animals.  People will always lust, beg, fight, and even kill for things that they want.  Is this the way that God intended mankind to be? No.  It is simply a result of the nature of man.  Crumb purposely draws his images with this interpretation and knowledge in mind.


  1. Crumb does emphasize the moments of sexuality in book through his illustration. Although you do mention several examples of sexuality in the illustrations and provide some brief explanation of what these mean, it would be interesting to discuss how these moments would be viewed differently when presented in another way. Also, I did not notice any discussion of the reasoning for choosing to emphasize sexuality or why to illustrate it in the way that he did.
    Your thesis appears to be a statement that Crumb chose to emphasize sexuality, but there is never any mention of why. The thesis appears to be more of a statement than an argument. The body paragraphs appear to be more of an explanation or summary of moments and how Crumb illustrated them, rather that analysis. The analysis that is made does not appear to be properly supported, only mentioned.

  2. So what does the emphasis on animalistic sexuality *mean*? For instance, we might argue that it justifies God’s actions, or we might argue that it undermines them (particularly the expulsion from the garden).

    “This shows how man is animalistic because the human need for sex as pleasure and for reproduction is more important than following the given rules of society.” -- one interesting part of this is that she is portrayed as an object of lust before she’s quite done plucking the fruit. Crumb puts the cart before the horse in an interesting way. I wonder what, if anything, you make of that.

    “This rage is a result of the men being denied the sex they desire and therefore shows how man is a beast that refuses to accept anything that is not what they desire.” -- this is such an interesting moment. The men of Sodom don’t just want sex, or even rape, or to rape other men. They specifically want to rape the messengers of God. Why? And why are the messengers so desirable? Can we connect it to the depiction of Eve and later of Sarah?

    The incest is an important moment, but I think this part needed work. Are the daughters acting out of desire or our of desire or need to reproduce, and do societal rules apply when they believe the world has essential ended? There’s an interesting tangle of desires and needs here which needed more space.

    Overall: Your conclusion doesn’t really stitch together your diverse thoughts. You’re thinking/working clearly with sexuality in Genesis, but what do you have to say about it? A narrower focus would help - do Eve’s story and the extended Lot story really fit together well, for instance? The raw materials are fine, but it’s a little scattered.