the lioness on the cheese grater: a sexual (im)position

202px Dionysos mask Louvre Myr347

In 411 BC, Aristophanes penned the play Lysistrata, a comical account of one woman’s attempt at ending a war. My Greek Tragedy girl Lysistrata persuaded women to withhold sex from their menfolk, hoping the men would conform to their wishes. Had there been credit cards, surely she’d have also suggested they get even "the old fashioned way." In a long detailed oath, over wine (most likely getting "porch drunk") women agreed, vowing not to "crouch like the lioness on the cheese grater."

I need to take a moment. There are certain things you can learn in a writing class: when not to use an adverb, the significance of a name, and even the formula to story and plot. But you can’t learn that. You can’t learn to see things as a poet might, to describe things in a way that make no sense, and by doing so, happen to make sense. You just can’t. That’s raw talent, and no matter how well-read, how practiced and knowledgeable, how many hallucinogenics and crazy LOST time jumps are involved, it’s not something you learn; it’s something you have.  

Leaving the "crouching" aspect out of this for a moment, when I hear the phrase "the lioness on the cheese grater," I begin to wonder what the writing exercise might have been. What might the brainstorming chalkboard have looked like in that conference room?

Parmesan. Fine grate. Feline grate. Feline "greater." The Circle of Life.

Then I hear the theme song to The Lion King. I think of cubs. Of a mama licking her cubs. Of big goofy paws, the way you can tell how big a puppy will grow. And then I think of the potty. I can’t help but go there. It’s the word "crouch." It’s the kissing cousin of "squat." And then I think it might involve defecating on a man’s chest. And then "cutting the cheese" begins to make some sense. Aristophanes was a naughty boy who spent too much time in the outhouse. Or, um, it’s just me.

Aristophanes could’ve had Lysistrata deliver a general message of "Hold out, bitches!" It would have sufficed, surely, but how very "milk and water" that would’ve been. But "the lioness on the cheese grater?" That’s about as awesome as it gets. I can only strive for colorful turns of phrase like that. I need to get back to my Greek Tragedy roots, here.

When a man had an erection, back in the BC, it was considered "a prodigious burden." As in, "Oh, dear, notice my loincloth poking about? Never you mind my large thick burden." Whereas today, I think men have "the burden of proof", and so very often, dig for said proof in the bottom of an orange cylinder. This might be different, if only we women were to bring "the crouching lioness on the cheese grater" back in vogue. How, dare I ask, am I going to ever top that?

I’m disturbed. I know. Even now, when singing "On Top of Spaghetti" to my sprouts, I can’t help but think sick, alarming thoughts about meatballs.



  1. Crouching on a cheese grater sounds painful! My thought-trail was more like: grater – grating – stubble – shaven men parts with a 5 o clock shade?

  2. Lordy, what translation do you have?? I've read this play about a million times including a term paper on it in college and I do not recall that phrase at all. Yours sounds like a funnier edition than mine.

  3. I suspect that classical athenian cheese graters were shaped very differently than our modern ones, and maybe the use of the word "cheese grater" was a guaranteed audience pleaser — like dildo or the like. Or else it's a really crappy translation.

    Did you know that classical athens abounded in architectural dicks? Apparently, phallic symbolism — or not even symbolism, just stone & marble penises — were everywhere. I'm thinking of adding a wooden dick (woodie, heh heh) to our house facade and telling people it's Greek Revival.

    1. I don’t get anything more out of the line “lioness on the cheese grater” then the women being on top. Was the culture that slow to where that would be deified?

      1. My highschool edition informs us in the footnotes that a lionness crouched on a cheese grater is a person standing, bending over the bed, like a crouched cat. So It’s not women on top

  4. "Oh, dear, notice my loincloth poking about? Never you mind my large thick burden."

    I'm at work and that just made me snort at my desk, resulting in several co-workers giving me strange looks. Hahaha =]

  5. Now, the “crouch like the lioness” is easy, and a fave position, but with “cheese grater” I go to parmigiano reggiano then stinky cheese and on to discharge and unpleasant odor.

    Break out the Summer’s Eve,

  6. No. Crouch which conjurs up crotch..then cheese gets involved? Dry heaves.

  7. It all sounds complicated where can i find out more about it as i am doin lysistrata in a show n ever sice i came across ths i wanted to know what thhe hell it is lol….any help? x

  8. Aristophanes was a woman, not a naughty boy.

    and I imagined it more like crouching over a man (so woman on top) and the grinding movement back and forth of sex being like a cheese grater…

  9. sorry, i was mistaken. aristophanes was a man, i was very mixed up with another play i’m currently reading

  10. Cheesegrater, crouching… Lioness…doggy or the reverse cowgirl, right?

    But yes, how can this be topped?

    Excellent play.

  11. You are thinking of your mothers cheese grater but this is 400 B.C.
    Think about it as something wooden, carved and polished smooth with a round handle on one end. The other end was half cylinder shaped carved hollow on the inside and raised little knobbys on the out side. The little knobbies were carved to make the grater.
    You can pull your hand across a grater one way and it cuts but not the other and thats just what these ladies were going. Yes, The cheese grater was the dildo of the time and was all the rage of the time. It had one end for the “outside” and the other end could be used on the inside.
    By the ladies denying themselfs pleasure, they would try harder to end the wars. Denying your lover is one thing but denying yourself is another.
    Carly Simon had a song about what was going on here…. Anticipation.


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