Believe it or not, I used to be a Sunday school teacher. In a way, I still teach Sunday school, except now I do it on Saturday nights and half my “class” is naked.
This Saturday, I will gather a group of amateur and professional actors, poets and porn stars to perform before our live studio audience—a rendition of a timeless tale of Weapons of Mass Seduction in erotic celebration of the rites of spring, the Judaic Mardi Gras or Persian New Year, the Festival of Esther, also known as Purim. This will be our fourth Commedia Erotica production of the Purim Story, now a Speakeasy tradition…like Eros Day with schmaltz. Warning: This is not your Bubbe’s Purim.
Don’t know Purim from purée? Don’t dismay. Do settle in for an Old Testament Bible lesson in the art of sexual seduction for a worthy cause. Yes indeed, Brothers and Sisters, it’s all right there in your Holy Bible, smack dab between Nehemiah and Job. The Megillat Esther is filled with sex, seduction, masquerade, exhibitionism, erotic teasing, sexual harassment, kinky sex, debauchery, feasting, dominance and submission, wild parties, political intrigue and drinking; did I mention drinking? This is a holiday in which you are supposed to get so drunk that you don’t know the good guys from the bad. Actually, thanks to Wikileaks, we don’t need to get drunk to have a tough time telling the good guys from the bad. But sacred wine and other “spirits” are an integral component of the Rites of Spring…
So, drink upand enjoy my erotic, exotic interpretation (midrash) of The Story of Esther, the teenage beauty contest winner who saves her people from genocide with nothing but her own Weapons of Mass Seduction. In a time when power was almost always gained through brute force and merciless violence– a time much like our own–this was, and still is, a kind of human miracle.
Like Cleopatra after her, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther Queen Esther made sexual seduction into a sophisticated art – teasing her victim, stimulating his fantasies, making him want her, fear he might lose her, hope he might please her. This is one of the ultimate expressions of power through sexuality, and a vital aspect of the Bonobo Way of peace through pleasure.
Dance Naked or Die
Our Purim Story, or Purim Spiel, begins with a feast of 180 days. That’s six months of solid partying (and we think Charlie Sheen is decadent)! King Ahaseurus, also known as Xerxes, is the Great Persian King who rules 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia, and the man behind this Mother of All Parties, taking place in the magical city of Shushan—in the land we now call Iran.
Every good story has a villain. And the villain of the Purim Story is the king’s favorite courtier, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haman_%28Bible%29 Haman the Agagite, who is at the king’s feast wearing his trademark tri-corner hat—the same pirate shape as the hamentaschen you eat on Purim. In modern Purim observances, when you hear his name, Haman—or, as one of my most enthusiastic Hamens, Chris Floyd, likes to exclaim, “Hey Man!”—the tradition is that you make noise; you bang the drum, and you crank your groggers, you shake your noisemakers, and you shake your moneymaker with glee. Ah, the belligerent joy of sharing a common enemy…
At the climax of this Mother of All Parties, “the king, merry with wine,” preparing to impress his royal party animal drinking buddies, calls for his chief wife, Vashti, “with her royal crown, in order to show the people and the princes her beauty.” In advanced Bible class, I learned that “with her royal crown” really meant “wearing nothing but her royal crown.” In other words, the king wants his wife to dance naked.
But will she? Vashti’s in her harem with the ladies, and this Mother of All Party-Poopers refuses to come out, saying, “No way. Go hire a hooker from the Emperor’s Club. I’m not going to parade naked before you and your slobbering drunk buddies.” The Bible doesn’t say why. Maybe she’s on the rag. Maybe she’s hung over, or making a political statement as the original anti-sex feminist, or she sees this an opportunity to come out as lesbian. Maybe she just feels put upon. If she could have sued him for sexual harassment, she probably would have, but they didn’t have lawsuits back then. They didn’t even have lawyers, though they did, of course, have Judges.
The king is not pleased with Vashti, to say the least, and all the drunken princes are outraged (not unlike the outrage of drunken frat boys when the stripper doesn’t show up). So, the king kicks Vashti out of the palace. Some interpretations say she’s executed which, I always thought, was a rather drastic punishment for refusal to dance naked at a drunken party, and not just because I’m against capital punishment.
Here at the Speakeasy, we do not abide by Biblical morality, and we do not execute our Vashti. We simply strip her down and tie her to the Bondage Cross, where she is flogged and erotically tortured throughout the rest of the Purim spiel.
Comely Esther, Pimping Cousin Mordecai and the Art of Masquerade
King Ahasuerus needs a new queen, a trophy wife, a virgin. The virgin fetish was big in Bible times. Some folks are still into the virgin fetish—we even have http://bloggamy.com/2008/03/09/yalenyc-tour-part-iii/ born-again virgins—which can be a problem, in my opinion as a http://drsusanblockinstitute.com/ sex therapist. But they didn’t have sex therapists back then…So the king wants a virgin. e holds a Greater Persian Beauty Contest where all the hottest virgins in his kingdom compete to be queen.
One of the virgins is named Esther (the Hebrew meaning of which is “hidden”). Esther, whose real name is Hadassah, is a “comely” young lady, coached by her older cousin Mordecai. I call him Pimping Cousin Mordecai because, in a way, Mordecai is the Original Righteous Pimp. He instructs Esther to bat her “comely” virgin eyes, but keep a lid on her religion. See, back then in ancient Persia, it wasn’t too cool to be Jewish. Of course, it’s still not too cool to be Jewish in modern Iran. Nor is it too cool to be Muslim in Israel. Ethnic, religious, racial and sexual intolerance is a curse of civilization. That’s one reason we’re telling this story.
Another reason is that masquerade is an important aspect of the art of seduction. To seduce someone, you often have to disguise your true self, your faults, weaknesses and controversial traits, so that you may enter the world and penetrate the spirit of your “victim.” Esther conceals her true personal identity in order to penetrate the spirit of the king. That which conceals also reveals. And the spirit of the king is in the harem…
Within the sensuous, mystical, fairy tale prison of the harem, Esther and the other virgins are “purified,” that is, bathed and perfumed, rubbed down and dolled up for “180 days” (Yes indeed, when it came to spa beauty treatments, those ancient Persians out-Japped the JAPs). Esther and the other virgins are also instructed in the arts of seduction. Though they are all in the harem learning to be seductresses together, only one will be Queen, so there’s a bit of competition, rather like “Persia’s Next Top Model” meets “Who Wants To Marry A King?”
Some of this seduction instruction is done by other women, and some is done by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunuch eunuchs—Biblical post-op transsexuals or transwomen, men who have been literally castrated for one reason or another. Their main job is to take care of the harem girls without impregnating them, which is the sole prerogative of the king. Aside from the humiliation factor, the excruciating pain of having your penis and/or testicles cut off–nonconsensually, for the most part—must be awful. On the bright side, at least as a eunuch, you can always get a job in a harem (the ancient origin of a transgendered community). Each harem lady gets her own human safe sex toy, her personal eunuch.
Queen of the Trophy Wives
I imagine that Esther received many lovemaking lessons during her six-month intensive, perhaps from eunuchs as well as some of the older, more experienced ladies of the harem, each showing off her skills in the art and science of seduction, including, I would think, the use of toys. Of course, they didn’t have vibrators, poor things. But I’m sure they had a variety of natural and hand-carved dildos.
So…many orgasms, beauty treatments and how-to-please-your-man tutorials later, the time comes for Esther to “go in unto” the king. That’s the Bible’s way of saying they have sex.
Whereupon she gives him the best head he’s ever had. Just kidding; the Bible doesn’t say she gives him head; I’m doing a little interpretative extrapolation here. The king, clearly a hedonist, falls madly in lust with Esther after just one night, which I figure must have been one seriously hot night.
And with that, he crowns Esther queen of the trophy wives and holds another big bacchanalian bash. The Bible’s pretty coy about exactly what Esther does there, but I like to imagine that she strips down to her crown; after all, that’s the king’s fetish, and Vashti’s defeat. I imagine Esther dancing naked above crowds of besotted princes drooling at her comeliness, her fellow harem girls cheering her on like a bonobo sisterhood: Go Esther! Go Grrl! But make no mistake: Esther’s go go, but she’s no bimbo…She’s about to get into some high stakes political action.
Seducing the King’s Trust
Meanwhile, Pimpin’ Cuz Mordecai, hanging around outside the harem to keep an eye on Esther, overhears a couple of disgruntled eunuchs plotting to poison the king. Mordecai informs Esther who tells Ahasuerus who has the disgruntled eunuchs executed (they sure didn’t have a lawyer). Then he has his scribe (still another eunuch) enter the event into his Royal Diary. This might just seem like byzantine Persian politics or eunuch roulette, but it’s actually an important aspect of the seduction of the king. After all, when you save someone’s life, you win their trust.
But just to get a bit more Byzantine…even as Esther and Mordecai are seducing the trust of the king, so is our villain. Haman (remember to make noise!) is promoted to be the king’s prime minister. All the people of Shushan bow down to him. The only exception is Mordecai who won’t bow down to anyone except “God,” and maybe his accountant, but certainly not this Haman character.
Haman’s mad as hell. He’s a gangsta who demands respect and, when he doesn’t get it, he vows to kill not just Mordecai, but all the Jews, and all their accountants! And, since Haman is now the king’s pet, he uses Ahasuerus’ royal seal to issue an edict that all princes in all provinces must prepare “to destroy, to slay, to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the 13th day of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” To explain his evil edict to the king, he plays the race card, saying “these people are different…so let them be destroyed.” Haman, a bit of an astrologer, picks the day by choosing lots, also called “purim,” thus the name of the holiday and another excuse to gamble and play games on Purim.
Kill All The Jews!
But the 8-letter word is “genocide”. Sorry, this part of the story isn’t so sexy, but sometimes life isn’t just a barrel of orgasms. This wouldn’t be the first, nor would it be the last, time the “Jewish people” have been threatened with extinction, but it might be one of the most melodramatic…
Mordecai stages a protest outside the harem. He puts on “sackcloth and ashes” and roams by Esther’s window wailing, “Oy gevalt! They’re gonna kill us all! AND they’re gonna clean out our bank accounts!” Esther’s eunuch comes out to see what the racket’s about. Mordecai gives him the bad news, adding that it’s up to the new Queen Esther to change her king’s mind.
Esther is not happy to get this assignment. In fact, she’s scared to death. Because even though they didn’t have lawyers then, they did have laws, and according to the law, anyone who approaches the king without being invited is executed on the spot, unless the king holds out his golden scepter. Even though Esther’s the queen, the King hasn’t invited her in to see him. He’s probably busy exploring some of the other virgins in the harem; he might be in love with Esther, but he’s not monogamous. So, according to law, she could be killed instantly. Considering what happened to Vashti, this isn’t just Jewish paranoia.
But Pimpin’ Cousin Mordecai doesn’t want to hear it. He reminds Esther, “The lives of all our people have been condemned. You might think that after all that beautification, you’re assimilated and can pass for Persian, but Haman’s henchmen would not agree. And perhaps you were blessed with your ‘comeliness’ for a nobler purpose than just keeping a horny King happy and getting your feet rubbed by eunuchs.” Talk about inflicting guilt; Mordecai does a number on our Esther.
But guilt like that can do some good. Guilt over sex is usually dumb guilt. Guilt over not doing what you can to help save people’s lives when you have an opportunity to help is generally good guilt.
Touching The King’s Scepter
Shivering in her sandals, Esther goes to the king’s court. Upon spying her there without an invitation, the guards grab her and prepare to execute her on the spot. But the king sees it’s his favorite wife, his comely Esther, the one who not only makes him hot, but helped him avoid assassination. He is utterly bewitched and entirely seduced by her. So, just in time, he holds out “his golden scepter” and saves her life.
I’ve always considered this a very erotic, phallic image: the king saving Esther by holding out his long, hard scepter for her. Not that Esther deep-throats the thing, but the Bible does say, rather suggestively, that she “touches the tip of his scepter.” I imagine her seducing him all over again as she touches the tip of his scepter, looking up boldly yet coyly into his eyes, entrancing him with her sensuous grace and quiet passion.
Like many powerful but helplessly horny men who will do anything for the women they desire, the king proclaims that he’ll give Esther whatever she wants. He’ll even give her half his kingdom, which at 127 provinces, is a lot of prime real estate.
But Esther is a cool seductress. She doesn’t tell him what she wants. She maintains the masquerade. She knows a spoiled hedonist like her husband can’t be given all the goods at once, or the spell of seduction is broken. So she invites the king to a private dinner at her place.
This is another important aspect of seduction: You must isolate your victim. Take him away from familiar surroundings into your sphere of power. Take him to your place, make him vulnerable to your influence. Entice him into your domain with something he desires. So Esther invites her party animal king to a party, a banquet of delicious surprises. Just to make things interesting, she also invites Haman. This really excites the king; Esther knows that besides being a hedonist, he enjoys sharing his pleasures with his princely drinking buddies. The kinky hint of a threesome lurks between the lines of this high stakes political banquet.
Tease and Denial Dinner
Esther entertains like a great geisha, plying her king and his prime minister with wine, sweetmeats and erotic treats. Haman’s excited too, puffed up with pride to be at a private dinner party with the king and his favorite wife. Maybe they have a threesome, or Esther orchestrates an orgy with the two men and several harem girls. At least that’s one possible interpretation of “private entertaining” when you’re the queen of the harem.
When the king is pleasantly drunk, well-fed, and well-shtupped, he asks Esther again: What does she want? He’ll do whatever she requests. But Esther still doesn’t tell him what she wants; she plays her potentate like an instrument. She teases the king into a frenzy, then stops and asks him and Haman to come back the next night for more.
That’s it, Esther, always keep ‘em coming back for more. Mix pleasure with a little pain. Combine passion and delight with tease and denial. When you give your lover pleasure after pain, you make him weak in the knees. This is the heart of the art of sexual seduction.
Hamen’s Walk of Shame
So now, as you can imagine, the king has royal blue balls. He departs in a state of erotic agitation, utterly under Esther’s erotic hypnotic spell. On his way home, Haman runs into Mordecai who still won’t bow down to him. This makes Haman so mad that he can’t wait until the 13th of Adar to kill Mordecai. His wife Zeresh tells him to build a gallows right in his own front yard, and he gets up early the next morning to procure the king’s permission to hang Mordecai that day. Of course, he has no idea that Mordecai is Queen Esther’s cousin. He doesn’t even know that the king’s wife is Jewish.
Meanwhile back at the palace, Ahasuerus, still excited by Esther’s teasing, can’t sleep. He can’t turn on the TV; they had plenty of eunuchs back then, but no TV’s. No Twitter even. So he has one of his eunuchs read to him from his Royal Diary. This is another one of those Byzantine moments in the story. Remember when Mordecai saved the king’s life by turning in those eunuchs who were plotting to kill him? That’s the entry the king hears, and he decides he’s got to honor this Mordecai in some way. At this point, Haman strides into the palace, hell-bent on getting Ahasuerus to let him execute this very same Mordecai. Will Mordecai be honored or executed? Ahasuerus, being king, speaks first: “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?”
Haman assumes Ahasuerus is talking about him and suggests that “such a man” be given the king’s robes to wear and the king’s horse to ride while one of the king’s princes walks before him through town proclaiming his honor to all. Ahasuerus loves the concept, and commands Haman to do just that…for Mordecai the Jew.
Haman is in such shock and pain, he feels like a freshly castrated eunuch. But he obeys; he has to, he’s a company man. This is the greatest humiliation of his life (so far), his Walk of Shame, leading Mordecai through the streets of Shushan on the king’s horse. According to the Talmud, Haman’s daughter, thinking that it must be Mordecai leading her father on the horse, dumps a chamber pot on her father’s head as he passes by. Covered in his own daughter’s waste, Haman is more determined than ever to kill, kill, kill Mordecai and all the Jews…
After his Walk of Ignominy, Haman vainly attempts to wash off his shame, along with the mess, before dinner with the king and queen.
Mistress Goddess Queen Esther
That night, Esther throws the dinner party of her life, with more wine and sex and sweetmeats, plus, I would imagine, a few of her harem sisters and maybe a eunuch for spice. Her artful seduction has her king down on his royal knees again, like a submissive CEO with his Mistress-Domme, begging her to tell him what she wants. But she’s a cool mistress, that Esther…
“What is your petition, Queen Esther?” begs the king, “It shall be granted you. What is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”
At this point, when Esther knows she’s got the king by his royal cajones—when she knows he’d buy out Neiman’s for her, if only there were a Persian Neiman’s—our gal lays her cards on the table. In this twisted tale of masquerade, Esther is finally, boldly honest about whom she really is and what she really wants. “I ask for my life,” she says simply, “and the life of my people.”
At this point, the king is her slave, her doggie on a golden leash. Like a lot of powerful guys, he’s a slave to his sex drive. Esther understands this. And he’s a good guy. He may be a drunk, but he’s not a skunk. He agrees to all of Esther’s demands. But he’s curious. Who would destroy his Esther and her “people,” he demands to know. Slowly, dramatically, Esther fingers Haman, and not in a good way.
The king’s in shock; he steps outside to think. Haman knows he’s in deep doo-doo and gets down on his knees to beg forgiveness from Esther. What a woman, that Esther—royal goyim on their knees before her, one after the other. Haman’s literally falling upon Esther’s lap when the king walks back in and assumes the worst. “Will he even assault the queen in my presence?” he bellows. And within moments—no lawyers, no trial, no questions—Haman the Aggravating Agagite is taken away by eunuchs who hang him on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (Of course, we always just hang and flog our Haman on the Bondage Cross).
Then the King gives Haman’s property to Esther, makes Mordecai his new Prime Minister and revokes the genocide edict; the 13th day of Adar becomes a day of “gladness, feasting and holiday-making,” eating hamantaschen in the shape of Haman’s hat, and getting royally drunk. This is the joyous, sexy holiday of Purim.
The Problem with Purim
But the story isn’t quite over, and its Biblical finale is, by no means, that barrel of orgasms. There is a disturbingly dark side to Purim’s *happy ending.*
Though the king revokes the genocide edict, he cannot call off the hordes of swordsmen hell-bent on killing Jews; he gives his royal permission for gangs of Jewish swordsmen to kill thousands of their enemies in “self-defense,” including Haman’s 10 sons, some of whom are too young to even lift a sword. According to the Bible, this awful orgy of bloody revenge is all part of the “gladness, feasting and holiday-making.”
For a peacenik like me, who so appreciates Esther’s ability to seduce her king away from killing, it makes me want to toss my hamantashen and cry in my wine. Is this what they mean when they say you can’t tell the good guys from the bad? Must the oppressed become the oppressor? Must the cycle of violence go on?
Not that I’m surprised. The Biblical and real histories of Judaism—like its offspring: Christianity and Islam—are densely littered with the dead victims of God-loving, righteous, racist mass murder. Check it out; it’s all right there in your Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita and other so-called holy books.
Therefore, much as I adore the character of Esther, the trophy wife queen who uses her powers of mass seduction to save her tribe from genocide, and her Pimpin’ Cousin Mordecai, they both disappoint me in the end with their descent into vicious bloodthirsty revenge.
Thus, I’m not pious about Purim (nor any other religious holiday). I just want to offer up my rather personal, exotic, erotic interpretation (midrash) of Esther’s Story, and I hope that it inspires you to use the art of sexual seduction to create peace in your life and our world. I also hope you don’t take yourself (Haman) or your religion (Mordecai) so seriously that it leads you to kill those human beings who don’t bow down to you or your God.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is an internationally renowned LA sex therapist and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://drsusanblock.com/blog/ Follow her on Twitter @DrSuzy. Email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© March 16, 2011.