woman as landscape

I’m curious about the whole idea of comparing a woman’s body to a physical landscape. Is it sexy only because literary history has taught us it’s sexy? Or is there something inherently erotic/romantic about the metaphor?

Top-of-my-head examples: John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland” (although is she a theme park or a nature preserve in the song? hard to say) and the Great Lakes Swimmers’ “Your Rocky Spine” (Listen to it! It’s so bee-ootiful.):

It’s not a new metaphor. Way back in 1600, John Donne’s Elegy 20, “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” trumpets her naked bod as the explorer’s prize:

O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d,
My mine of precious stones, my empery;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!

Sex as discovery and claim-staking is a pretty sexy idea, old as it may be.

Here’s what I want to know:

1. Can the metaphor stick for the male body, too? Do we have any examples of women describing their male lovers as uncharted landscapes?

2. Is it sexist? I mean, if the woman is virgin territory, then the man is the conquering hero, right? In grad school I remember learning how narrative (whether drama or literature or film) automatically and necessarily posits the feminine as the passive territory to be moved through by (male) protagonists. One of the feminist theorists we read on this was Teresa de Lauretis.

3. What’s so sexy about woman as landscape? My current theory is that it’s based on exaggeration: the body writ large, so that it becomes more powerful and profound than it could ever be in real life.

Any thoughts? Let us know in a comment…

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