The Sex of Sexuality
By Labanya Maitra
Mythology can be seen as slightly more than fables and fairytales. Like all other literature, mythology also derives its roots from the cultures it stems from. In most mythologies, goddesses are often portrayed as strong, full of energy and power, and sexual beings.
We can traverse through the different cultures but each of them have portrayals of strong, sexual women. Aztec mythology has a number of goddesses for lust, carnality and sexual desire; Ixcuiname, Tlazolteotle, and Xocotin are a few. Asarte and Qetesh are the Canaanite goddesses of sexual love, Rati is the Hindu goddess of passion and lust, and Inanna or Ishtar the Mesopotamian deities of sexual love, fertility and warfare. Many of the goddesses of love are also the goddesses of war, making them powerful and prominent in history.
Sometime between the time our mythologies emerged and today, we started believing that female sexuality is a thing to hide under a veil of patriarchy.
In India, for instance, the Khajuraho temples are covered with erotic sculptures of men and women having sex with each other, or embracing each other; there is homosexuality, there is heterosexuality, there’s masturbation and there’s everything in between. But in the same country, the majority of women are expected to be covered from head to toe, their sexuality only permitted in the bedroom.
But as the saying goes, the times they are a-changin’.
With the advent of Instagram and other photo-based social media, everyday women have started reclaiming control over their bodies in the public sphere. The female nude has emerged out of the niche art spaces and now lives on our phone screens as a thing of beauty.
For most people, however, sexual women can often be written off as being pornographic or prostitute-like. While there is nothing wrong with either of those things, it diminishes the value of female sexuality in the eyes of the outsider. As long as words like “whore” or “cunt” are still used as insults, and female orgasms are few and far between, there is room for society to grow in the path of reclaiming female sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no scarcity of sexualizing women, but what we’re talking about is deeper than that. The understanding that women, too, are sexual beings for reasons other than to satisfy the male gaze needs to be less, well, shocking. These women don’t just exist in the mythical dimension, and they certainly don’t need “something to be left to the imagination.”
After all the discourse and theories on feminism, it’s not asking for much to expect social platforms to hold equality as a basic standard. Censoring female nipples should only be acceptable if you’re also censoring male nipples. Ideally, however, no good comes from censorship. Acceptance is a virtue that human society should also reclaim, as is tolerance.
The gods and goddesses were evidence that over the course of history there was a time when human civilization did not view sex as something that was taboo. While there are also instances that show the opposite, the thousands of years of civilization should help us on the path to becoming more human – passionate, ambitious, sexual humans – than veer us off of it.
As we slowly make our way back to the path of sexuality, armed with the summer of love and tantric yoga, just take a minute to think about your own sexuality. Pour yourself a glass of wine, climb out into the fire escape, and scroll through #vagina on instagram.
Under the Covers is launching an online platform about female and female-bodied sexuality in November this year.