Chapter

The Asexuality of Dionysus<sup>†</sup>

Michael Jameson

in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748613199
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651016 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.003.0018
The Asexuality of Dionysus†

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Dionysus was, of all gods, the most closely associated with the phallus, the erect male member, at once the instrument and symbol of male sexuality. His myths and cults also refer to the liberation, if only temporary, of both women and men from social controls, including sexual controls, which in most cultures are among the most rigid. The god himself is represented to a surprising degree as detached and unconcerned with sex. One can refer to Dionysus's detachment as ‘asexuality’, but one might also speak of his bisexuality, the coexistence of elements of both genders that may, in effect, cancel each other out, or even of his transcendence of sexuality. There are frequent references to his effeminacy, such as Aeschylus's lost play Edoni. Is this paradox, the effeminate god of the phallus, the phallic god of women, illusory, trivial or quite central to the conception of the god and the nature of his cults? The subject can be examined under, roughly, three headings: iconography, myth and cult.

Keywords: Dionysus; phallus; cults; myths; iconography; sex; asexuality; bisexuality; effeminacy

Chapter.  7252 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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