I emphasize masculine reflection on female sexuality as the underlying theme of the Arabian Nights. The frame story relates a threat to the marriage institution, uniting the two elements subjugated by the sociopolitical system: women and slaves. The narrative thus exteriorizes repressed patriarchal fears about the oppressed. But because Shahrayār’s solution (marrying and killing a woman every night) is equally destructive to the community, a woman intervenes to curb his excesses. Shahrazād tells of powerful, promiscuous women but also of virtuous, loyal ones; as stated at the end of the tales, “Not all women are alike.” Hence the effect of the reading experience is one of catharsis: the worst masculine anxieties are expressed to be purged. The denouement is a reconciliation of the patriarchal fear of female sexual empowerment and family law, whereby the role of women is indispensable.


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pp. 239-260
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