Shortly after The DaVinci Code was published, at least six books followed that examined many of the novel’s claims, such as the Bible was altered, Emperor Constantine hijacked the Council of Nicea, and DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper has Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ right side, not the apostle John. By answering these I would just be recreating the wheel. This essay is about one issue that I think has been overlooked; specifically the conflicting ways that The DaVinci Code portrays women.

By reclaiming the power of the sacred feminine, The DaVinci Code asserts that the woman can enable a man to experience the divine, through a ritual that it calls “sacred marriage” (hieros gamos in Greek); more commonly known as “having sex”. At orgasm there is a point at which a man’s mind is cleared of all thought and it is at this point he is opened up to God [1].

The ability of the woman to facilitate interdimensional intercourse between the divine and the mere male is possible, The DaVinci Code claims, because women are inherently more in touch with the divine than are men. This intimacy is due to the woman’s ability to bring new life into the world [2]. On the face of it, this doctrine means that women are due greater honour and respect than our male-dominated society gives them, so it is an extra unit of artillery in the battle to achieve equality between the sexes. But in fact it undermines gender equality in two ways: the male is subjugated to the female, at least in his spiritual status. This strokes the female ego, emphasising her gender identity and granting her dominance over the male [3]. Paradoxically, The DaVinci Code reinforces the idea of the female as an object for use by the male (even if his motives are pure). When the novel touches on “sacred marriage”, it focusses only on the man’s experience: nothing is said about what the woman gets out of it. Is she always in the presence of the divine, an experience that the male only finds at orgasm? Nothing in the actions of Sophie or the few other women in the novel indicates this to be so. As to how the woman benefits from “sacred marriage”, the text is silent. The DaVinci Code accords the woman an ontological superiority (or at least a relational/ spiritual one) but this is only to serve the male in another way: cooking, cleaning, children, and now, church. If this ostensibly “spiritual” ability of the woman was meant to put her on a pedestal, it actually opens a way to humiliate her. Sex becomes a spiritual service that a woman is bound to perform for the good of the male. The woman is not treasured because she simply is – as it should be – but her value is measured only by what she provides for the male.

The doctrine of “sacred marriage” is nothing more than a form of ancient prostitution, with payment not in money but in higher social status. Its veneer of spirituality doesn’t hide the fact that it degrades women to the level of the social gutter. Most prostitutes at least receive money, objective legal tender that can buy food, clothes and so on. But women who accept and practice the doctrine of “sacred marriage” prostitute themselves for respect, which is dubious currency at the best of times. Moreover, it’s only redeemable with those who buy into the idea, like Bartercard.

Imagine how this doctrine would work out in practice. There would be no more jokes involving priests and prostitutes because they would have an equivalent social status. Instead of reading the Bible and praying, your devotional time can be spent drooling over Miss June. Cancel your subscription to Daily Bread; you can get closer to God through Playboy. I doubt that the “True Love Waits” movement would take kindly to this but at least wives won’t have to drag their husbands to church anymore. On the down side, pleading a headache won’t be the excuse it used to. How can you argue against: “If we don’t have sex, it’s an offence to God! We’ll be neglecting the eighth means of grace.” Women would have to control the finances, or he’d spend that week’s tithe on a lapdance: “But I was communing with God, dearest!” You couldn’t complain that he didn’t take his spiritual duties seriously.

There is one other point to bear in mind: if an orgasm or an empty mind is all it takes to reveal heaven to the male, why do men need women at all? They can masturbate; and the same state of thoughtlessness can be achieved through certain types of meditation, as The DaVinci Code mentions. Presumably the first choice is faster and as easy to achieve as it is short-lived, while the equivalent meditative state takes longer to reach but it would also last longer. In any case, women are not honoured by The DaVinci Code’s portrayal of them as a gateway to God. This gateway the girl has isn’t through her higher, quintessentially human qualities such as reason. It is by sex, a function that doesn’t require any relationship or communication between the male and female. The man doesn’t even need the woman’s permission: whether she is willing, paid or forced doesn’t affect the man’s experience, because it is his orgasm which opens the door to the divine. The woman becomes merely a way to serve another male desire.

Seen in this light, how much does the doctrine of The DaVinci Code honour and empower women?

copyright Troy Grisgonelle 2008

[1] The opportunity for such a vast range of gibes is so vast that I cannot but ignore it.

[2] Brown doesn’t explain why being able to gestate qualifies the woman as the man’s spiritual superior: it is the result of an act for which the man is needed (before IVF anyway). Why is bearing life the qualification for being a mediator between human and divine? Why not strength or intelligence? The ability to nurture life may get the Guernsey because we depend on the renewed life of the planet for the growth of crops and vegetation, so the human race can continue; nevertheless, why should that have a higher status than strength or even death? Death is required for the generation of new life: to feed, other organisms – plant and animal – have to die. This could go on, but it’s only opening up another avenue to consider.

[3] If females are considered as lesser than males, then equality can be gained by the female pulling the male down. But this infringes upon the male’s self-actualisation, and is a tit-for-tat action: females doing to males what they accuse males of having done to females over past centuries. This shows that women are no better than men and gender equality is demonstrated ipso facto. If we seek equality, males and females should strive to honour and respect the other and encourage them to be the best they can.