Whose Sexuality Is It Anyway? The Virgin Goddess and Asexuality in Greek Myth




Allen, Taylor Burke

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This thesis explores the virgin goddesses of the Olympic pantheon, specifically Athena and Artemis, and asexuality in Greek mythology. The analysis consists of three chapters, each narrowing toward presenting Athena and Artemis as additions to the historical tradition of asexuality. The first chapter examines gender roles and sexuality in classical Athens, specifically identifying compulsory sexuality in society, the necessity of control of female sexuality, and the subversive nature of celibacy to the polis. The second chapter analyzes gender roles and sexuality on Mount Olympus, looking to answer the questions of “why were only goddesses eternally celibate?” and “why were only certain goddesses eternally celibate?” This chapter concludes that only goddesses were explicitly celibate for three reasons: male gods’ sexuality did not impact their power, characterization, and spheres of influence like female goddesses’ sexuality did, entering into a relationship was inherently femininzing in a world wherein the masculine maintained more agency, and an eternal vow of celibacy was the best way to protect oneself from sexual violence. Furthermore, this chapter determines that Athena’s celibacy was tied to her role as protector of the polis; like the polis, she had to remain impenetrable. Artemis’ celibacy was tied to her role as goddess of transitory states and adolescence; she could not be confined within a relationship any more than she could be confined within city life, and her status as a permanent adolescent removed her from the world of sexuality. The third and final chapter identifies asexual resonances in Athena and Artemis’ mythos. Based on these resonances, this thesis recommends Athena and Artemis as additions to the asexual historical tradition.


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