Plato\'s Philosophy of Sex
Plato was the first feminist. Only, he was concerned not with women\'s rights, as modern feminists are, but with their usefulness. Like a modern planner, he felt it was a waste of woman-power to seclude women in their homes, when they could be performing useful tasks in the factory or the office. Women should be used, just as men were, for the benefit of the community. There were no fundamental differences between the sexes which unfitted women from useful toil. Admittedly, women were on average less strong and generally less good than men, but that was only a generalisation, which did not hold in every case. Some women were just as good, indeed better, than some men . Whether a particular woman was suited to a particular task should be decided on the merits of the case, not on any general assumptions about woman-kind as a whole. The Guardians were to rise above their sexual prejudices. They might feel that the sight of old women exercising in the nude was ridiculous, but that was only a matter of custom, and should be overcome . Women should exercise the same as men, be educated the same as men, go to war the same as men, and generally be treated exactly the same, except that not so much should be expected of them . Differentiation in treatment between one guardian and another should be based on difference of talent, not on difference of sex . The only function sex was relevant for was the breeding of children . In modern terms Plato holds that while a guardian\'s chromo


somes are highly relevant to his suitability for various social roles, the possession of a Y-chromosome rather than a second X-chromosome is not.


Plato offers no justification, or account of how any justification might be obtained for his factual claim, but none is needed in the context of his argument. It is an indisputable fact that some women are stronger than some men, though women in general are less strong. Once it is allowed that the good of the community overrides all other considerations, it follows that in filling jobs we should seek to have the best person for the job without regard to sex. Whether a particular female candidate is better or worse than a particular male candidate is a question to be decided in each individual case on the basis of the merits they are found, on examination, to have. Sex is irrelevant to everything save sex, and it is only where specifically sexual functions are in issue that any differentiation can be justified.


Sex is relevant to the architect of the ideal society on two counts: it is the means of producing new guardians, and it is emotionally charged and potentially divisive. So long as the guardians are celibate, male and female guardians can co-operate on a basis of complete equality: but motherhood cannot be abolished if there are to be guardians in time to come, and once mating and child-bearing are allowed, problems arise. Motherhood is time-consuming. Modern career women may be able to concentrate on their jobs without denying their sexual appetites, thanks to contraceptives, but Plato could not want his female guardians to opt out of motherhood altogether, because that would be dysgenic. Once a rigorous selection-procedure is adopted whereby all the best people are identified and promoted to being guardians, they cannot be allowed to opt out of parenthood, or the gene-pool would be rapidly depleted of all the best genes. Children will be born to female guardians, and will have to be cared for. It would be a great waste of valuable administrative and academic talent to have top-class females acting as nursery-maids. So there must be crèches. Our society has a similar problem, when career women decide to start a family. In time past it was possible for them to hand over nursery functions to nannies, recruited from the lower, or at least not-so-top, classes, but in the second half of the twentieth century it has been difficult to accept that some women should look after other women\'s babies, because it implies, or is thought to imply, lower status. It is often felt that the solution we should adopt is that the father should stay