Everybody has heard about the myth of Oedipus; a young man who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Freud used this Greek myth, as the organizing principle to explain his theory of infant sexuality.
Welcome to the new sister complex, The Lot Complex, which Robert Polhemus, Chairman of the English Department at Stanford University, tells us about it in his new book, Lots Daughter’s: Sex, Redemption and Women’s Quest for Authority (Stanford University Press, 2005). The Lot Complex is about the intercourse of older, powerful men (fathers) and young women.

You may remember part of this biblical story from the Book of Genesis (Chap.19, 1-38). Lot was a righteous man, and because of it, he was allowed to escape the annihilation of the city of Sodom. He left with his wife and two daughters, making it clear to them not to look back at the burning city, just as he had been commanded,. But his wife couldn’t resist a backward glance, and because of it she was turned into a pillar of salt.

The rest of the story is that he lives in a cave with his two unmarried daughters. Believing that all humankind had been annihilated, they broke the incest taboo. It was a desperate price for ensuring that humankind had a future. They conspire to get him drunk and then seduce him.

Some version of this myth appears in every culture, it is an archetypal story. A young woman with an older man who, if he isn’t actually the father, is old enough to substitute for him. This is how she takes his power, and depending on the version, brings down the King, saves her tribe, or founds a civilization.

This is an enormously rich, academic text that is convincingly detailed with myths, paintings, novels, movies and scandals. From Lot, to Dickens, the Bronte’s, Shirley Temple, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Polhemus shows us how older men still have the power, run everything (from churches to multi-national corporations), enforce the laws ( or ignore them), and make wars ( but do not lose their lives in them). Over the ages, the same story is played out, although Polhemus says, nowadays with less disgrace.

Times are changing, daughters have more opportunities to increase their freedom and power. Let’s just give them the power, elect one President, and move on.

PS. This bible story can give you the creeps, and I feel compelled to add, this does not mean fathers lust after their daughters. The unconscious mind is not so captured by the dark-side, that defenses can’t contain it. I have 5 daughters, both biological and adopted, with whom I am blessed to have a relationship of love and friendship; that’s what sustains generations.