Sunday, June 7, 2009

Aphrodite in Myth: Lover of Men

Aphrodite is a slut. It is a bad word in our current vernacular, and it indicates a woman of low moral character and standing in society, but let us take a look at this aspect of her and what it means to us today, what it means to our ideals in Western society and why the word slut should be stricken from our vocabularies as an insult.

Men and women have, since the beginning of our written history, been treated very differently in society. This is especially true in two aspects of life. The first is self determination. Women have more often than not been treated as property. They were told what to do by parents, lovers, husbands, and even their own male children once they’d grown to adulthood. Women have rarely been able to exercise the kind of freedom to make their own choices that they have in the Western World today, but even in our world, women are still saddled with unfair stereotypes of what a woman should be. These stereotypes often make women the slaves of fashion that force them to become almost caricatures sometimes and it hurts us as a society.

The second, of course, is sex. Because men lack the ability to know, with 100% certainty, if the children the women carry are theirs, they have a built in insecurity. Perhaps in a world where bloodlines did not mean much it wouldn’t matter, we would all simply have sex, bare children, and we would all take care of them, but the world doesn’t work like that, and it isn’t merely a human sociological issue, it is very much an evolutionary trait. Lions kill the offspring of their lionesses to insure only their own offspring are brought to adulthood. The bee hive has only one queen, and only she is allowed to produce offspring (in a female dominated species it works the other way around) but we human beings are more than just animals. Sure, our very society is based squarely in evolutionary principals that are almost exclusively dominated by the need to reproduce and survive as a species, but as thinking creatures, we also have the ability to stop our mistreatment of parts of our society. And certainly we have the ability to stop the mistreatment of our mothers, sisters, and daughters.

Why should a woman be labelled a slut because she likes sex? Why should she not seek it out with whomever she wants?

To buck this trend in society the Greeks found Aphrodite most willing as a subject, and no other Goddess can be said to have been as flagrant in her disregard for the male dominated hierarchy as she was.

Eros causes Aphrodite to fall in love with Ares, but Zeus has other plans, and marries her off to Hephaestos. She goes along with the marriage, as in Greek society a woman hardly had much choice, especially a woman of high birth (as was often the case all the way through history with royal families) but she refuses to allow herself to be caged, and she will not allow her love for Ares to go unexpressed, so she has a lurid affair with him behind Hephaestos’ back. She is, of course, discovered, and Hephaestos traps them both in a fine net and exposes them to the Gods that they might be shamed along with him. He refuses her, and Zeus dissolves their marriage.

Aphrodite is now free to be with Ares, but she is not just with Ares. She bares children to him, and to other Gods and mortals alike, and in this Goddess, in this aspect of her we see the power of emotion made to hold sway, but further, the power of will to say “I love who I choose to love, and nothing you do can change that” and that was not the message the Greeks intended with this myth. On the contrary, the myth is made to illustrate the untrustworthiness of women. Their shameful behavior, but on;y if one reads it with only the male perspective in mind.

Aphrodite loves men. She can’t get enough of them, but she is also dangerous to them, because men are so easily swayed by beauty, and by men I mean mortal kind, for women too are swayed by beauty, just as she was by the beauty of Ares, who hides his dangerous aspect behind a gloriously beautiful and alluring figure.

So, as a lover of men myself, i must take this myth with that grain of salt we are all told to carry with us. Beauty and lust are great, but they can lead us down the wrong path, not because sex and beauty are wrong, but because we often hurt each other in relation to it. We too often discount each others feelings and use words like “slut” and “whore” to hurt the ones we most want to make love to.

No comments: