Friday, September 9, 2011

Artemis, the virgin.

As with Hestia and Athena, so with Artemis. An aspect of this goddess that I know I have issues with is the notion of her virginity. I understand, of course, that this virginity can be metaphorical as well as literal, and that is usually the way I take such things, but there is a notion woven into the notion of virginity that has always bothered me, and that is one imposed more by our Judaeo-Christian culture than by the ancients, to whom virginity was a means to preserve the value of a female child, especially among the citizen classes. 

It is the idea that sex is a pollutant, that virginity is somehow pure while sex is somehow dirty that bugs me. Because I am a man, of course, the concept of virginity has always been different for me than it is for a woman in our culture. In spite of the great strides toward equality and freedom, we still teach women that it is not OK for them to be sexually free and liberated while teaching men that is exactly what they should be. Because I am also a gay man, I have not had to deal with this from the perspective of finding a potential mate either, but I have seen the effect that our culture's sexual hypocrisy has on women. The guilt, the shame, the feeling of being dirty that is imposed upon them from our culture. It shames me to see it.


On the other hand, there is also the pressure placed on men, often by women, to be less free and to be the way they want men to be rather than what men are. I don't agree with that either. I don't think we achieve sexual equality by forcing men to chain their sexuality down, but by making it clear that all matters of sexuality are personal. That we all make choices and follow impulses based on our own mental make ups, not on social expectations, and if a man wants to be monogamous, that is his right, and if a woman wants to be polyamorous, that should be her right as well.

Now, although the haughty notion of virginity as "pure" bugs me, I think the metaphorical implications of Artemis and her virginity are very important to us as people, male or female. The virgin nature of a deity, that she is a being, whole and entire in her own right and not in need of being made whole by a mate, is a powerful message. But, psychologically, it is an almost omnipotent concept, one we should all take hold of and meditate on.

You are whole. You are entire. You are capable and well on your own. When you choose to be with someone, be it a marriage or a one night stand, it should be because you seek mutual pleasure, mutual understanding, mutual comfort and mutual companionship, not because you are lonely and need them to fill some part of you that is missing. The same can be said for anyone seeking to have children. You should have them because you want to love and raise children, not because you want to be a mother or because you have some social pressure to do so.

Understanding that her virginity is an expression of self confidence, self assuredness, self worth, is a way in which we can all learn a valuable lesson, but taking the time to truly learn that lesson, to truly take it to heart and incorporate it into your being, that can be the hard part. But totally worth it.


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