Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why So Much Sex?

Léda ou La Louange des Bienheureuses Ténèbres by Louys
You may be thinking as you browse the various titles here, why so much sex? The seductive moonings of innocent young landowners 1, man-on-man lovin’2, slave-girl sex (consensual and not)3, cheating wives who murder their husbands and are subsequently killed by their sons (I guess that might be hot to somebody)4, ancient lingerie (eww)5, sex with castration and sex involving transgender participants6, man, I even talk about Earth sex7! Am I a sex-crazed maniac?
Um, not so much.

Actually, the whole field of gender and sexuality in ancient Greece and Rome is so valid that I actually took a class with that very title as an undergrad. And, though many of our founding mothers and fathers weren’t so keen on discussing it (they much preferred to read Thucydides apparently), sex happens a lot. And, with varying degrees of licentiousness, the Greeks tended to include that important facet of their lives in their stories.
Sure, sure, you might protest, but why do you have to spend so much time talking about it? Well, for one thing, because it’s so often misrepresented everywhere. I mean, people love the idea of coming a finding an Archetypal Goddess (don’t let me stop you, more power to you!), but rarely do they bother to look into why Athena, Artemis, and Hestia stay virgins (although the goddesses’ chastity is often cited by such people as proof of their righteous independence). And let’s not leave the blame with just the well-intentioned new-fans, think of movies like the movie 300 with it’s “Athenians? Boy lovers!” comment and, like, every other contemporary homophobic and/or misogynist reframing of the heroic masculine Classical myths.

The truth is, I am personally interested in gender and sexuality outside of the Classical context (in part because people remain as shockingly badly informed about these things in our own times and places just as much as about a culture we are still trying to piece together), so that is definitely part of why I keep bringing it up, too. And, because, hey! Prude or promiscuous, learning about other people’s sex lives is titillating! And finally, perhaps most importantly, there’s so much sex in ancient Greek myths that no collection, no matter how “kid-friendly”, can avoid the subject matter completely. What’s the best way to deal with this? Enjoy it!

1 comment:

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