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Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome$
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Mark Golden and Peter Toohey

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780748613199

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.001.0001

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The Asexuality of Dionysus†

The Asexuality of Dionysus†

Chapter:
(p.319) 18 The Asexuality of Dionysus
Source:
Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome
Author(s):

Michael Jameson

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.003.0018

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

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