Most men are potential desperadoes; but the concept of the female criminal seems paradoxical. Laws enforce a stability whose ultimate domestic unit is the woman herself; her physiology and psychology turn on the cultivation of inner space, while the man’s role calls for the conquest of outer space, for thrust and adventure, for arrowing forms of outward assertion as various as rape and theology, as admirable as scientific exploration and as deplorable as war. The most common form of female criminality – prostitution – is, however masked by toughness, an act of submission, and keeps the peace. True, the insect world (not to mention the world of literary criticism) offers striking instances of female enlargement and predation, but the unhappy history of the male praying mantis confirms that the seminal contribution to the generative process, though not negligible, is momentary and helps account for the primordial willingness of men to undergo risk.
Painting by Giorgione: The Tempest (c. 1508)