How come sculptures of Greek and Roman men had penises but the women had no vulvas
Features Friday, April 17, 2015 - 05:30
If sculpture and art are to be taken as a partial reflection of reality, then Greek and Roman women somehow did not have vulvas – the outer genitals of a woman. On a visit to the Greek and Roman galleries of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Syreeta McFadden says she noticed that none of the statues of women had any indication that they did indeed have genitals, whereas the statues of men “rock out with their cocks out; dicks are everywhere.” She wrote: “Penises of all sizes surround me: curled and flaccid, pert and alert, balls dropped and shrunken. I wandered around, looking closely at all of the female nude statues and fragments. There are no vulvas, no protruding labia, anywhere. There’s no suggestion that vaginas existed.” McFadden then talks about the representation of the female form in art, and how myths and legends and even festivals were appropriated from the feminine to the masculine. She says: “Patriarchy has tried to erase imagery of the feminine since time immemorial. Destroy the image and you can control the narrative. Easter was appropriated from the pagans celebrating the return of Astarte. Before her, the fertility goddess Inanna descended to the underworld not to rescue her beloved male companion but to extend her own power; she banished her husband there in order to return to earth. Even the Venus of Willendorf has a vulva.” McFadden also discusses how the female body gradually acquired the attribute of obscenity, and as this happened, social attitudes towards women also began to change for the worse: “Yet, somewhere along the line, the vulva became synonymous with the obscene. As ancient Greek society – Athenian society – developed, feminine power and, by extension, the vulva was denigrated. The surviving sculptures enforced Greek male ideals of the female body, and recorded history shows a shift in attitudes toward women. Sex and female sexuality were now rendered as symbols of shame, carnality became inconsistent with “reason”, and reverence for fertility in the culture was shattered.” Read the full report here  

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