Literature Study GuidesThe Second SexVolume 2 Part 3 Chapter 13 Summary

The Second Sex | Study Guide

Simone de Beauvoir

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The Second Sex | Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 13 : Lived Experience (Justifications) | Summary



In Chapter 13, titled "The Mystic," the woman in love seeks to idolize the man she loves. There is another sort of woman who seeks not god in the man, but chooses to worship "the divinity in God himself." Although there are men who make similar choices, there is a prevalence of women who "abandon themselves to the delights of celestial marriage." According to Beauvoir, the mystic gropes "for the supreme source of value," finding it at times in the figure of a mortal man who holds the secrets she seeks. Such projections of love (erotomania) take sometimes platonic, and sometimes sexual forms. The mystic borrows from earthly love both the words and the physical effect. Beauvoir cites Italian Renaissance artist Bernini's famous statue "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa" as an example. Like all women in love, the mystic seeks to forget herself in love, to annihilate herself in achieving ecstasy: "They actively apply themselves to self-annihilation by the destruction of their flesh."

"Mystical fervor, like love and even narcissism," Beauvoir concludes, "can be integrated into active and independent lives." Although the mystic has no grasp on the real world, she who does is able to accomplish her freedom authentically, by projecting "a positive action into human society."


At the most valuable points in her argument, Beauvoir brings home the potential for freedom, for spinning gold from the dross of feminine impulses only harmful in their immanence. Here the mutilated woman becomes the socially conscious woman, whose freedom is gained in a transcendent subjectivity, in acts of charity for others.

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