Women of Myth: Aphrodite

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Aphrodite is a bit of a handful, to say the least, and I might love her for it. Her birth story kicks things off with a bang: she rises out of the foam on the waves of the sea (said foam produced when Cronus, father of Zeus, cuts off his father Uranus’ genitals and tosses them into the sea, Greek mythology goes from 0 to 100 baby real quick). With antecedents like that, it’s no wonder she is the goddess of love and procreation (not, you’ll notice, of marriage). She’s also the goddess of beauty and pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure. Her beauty is so overwhelming that the other gods become jealous and decide to marry her off to Hephaestus, the ugly and deformed god of the forge and fire, thinking that will make her less of a threat to other divine unions (this is such weird reasoning and not a good plan, gods). This “precaution” is for naught, as Aphrodite takes many lovers, both mortals and gods.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Some of Aphrodite’s best-known gentleman callers are Ares, the handsome god of war and father of her child Eros (Cupid or Amor in the Roman tradition), as well as Adonis, a mortal man of staggering beauty. Aphrodite finds Adonis as a baby and gives him to Queen Persephone to protect in the Underworld, which…is that really the best place for a baby, Aphrodite? When Adonis is grown (and super handsome) Aphrodite returns to claim him, but Queen Persephone wants to keep the gorgeous dude for herself. Zeus decrees that Adonis shall spend one-third of the year in the Underworld, one-third of the year with Aphrodite, and one-third of the year with a woman of his choosing (Adonis immediately chooses Aphrodite, he knows what’s up). When Adonis is later killed hunting a boar Aphrodite travels again to the Underworld to beg for his return, and again Zeus intervenes. In a parallel with Persephone’s own story, Adonis is allowed to spend half the year above ground with Aphrodite and half the year below it with Persephone and the dead.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Aphrodite is typically depicted as dangerously vain and temperamental, because of course the most beautiful goddess in the world has to be silly and self-obsessed, because patriarchy! That whole Trojan War thing is kiiiiind of partially her fault: she’s hanging out at a wedding with Hera (queen of the gods, goddess of women and marriage) and Athena (goddess of wisdom and war) when a golden apple is tossed into their midst with a note that reads “to the fairest”. The three goddesses begin arguing about which of them is the most beautiful, and they call upon a mortal man, Paris, to cast his judgment.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

These divine beings, each of whom is notably more badass than some random dude and thus shouldn’t care about what he has to say ANYWAY, offer him bribes if he’ll award the prize to them: Hera promises him power, Athena offers wisdom and glory on the battlefield, and Aphrodite, who knows her man, offers him Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman, and while she’s at it she fires up his lust until his desire for Helen outweighs his reason. He awards the Golden Apple to Aphrodite, kidnaps Helen from her husband, the King of Greece, and flees back to Troy, and we all know how well that turned out. Aphrodite is on the side of the Trojans and their heroes, and she even enters a battle on their behalf only to be extremely mildly wounded a hot second later and have to be carried dramatically off the field.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Speaking of the Trojans! Long before the Judgment of Paris, Aphrodite seduces a mortal Trojan man named Anchises, and then their son Aeneas fights in the Trojan War and manages to escape Troy as it falls and then he goes on a journey you might have heard of in this book called the Aeneid, and then this OTHER dude named Julius Caesar claimed Aeneas was his ancestor, so Aphrodite is kind of a big deal all over.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Both Aphrodite and her son Eros have the ability to conjure up love and desire in both mortals and gods, and her consort Hephaestus forges a powerful bow with special arrows for Eros. A single prick from one of these arrows causes the victim to fall powerfully in love with the first creature they see, although of course Aphrodite and Eros each manage to injure themselves with their own weapons at one time or another, and then cue romantic shenanigans!

Despite being pretty excellent in areas of romance, personal beauty, and founding the bloodline that led to the Roman Empire (allegedly), Aphrodite is not super terrific about lifting up other women. She’s hugely prone to jealousy, she’s quick to offend, and she’s capricious. Among her human casualties are Hippolytus (devotes himself to Artemis instead, so Aphrodite makes his stepmother Phaedra fall in love with him, disaster ensues), Cretan queen Pasiphae (according to some myths she promises to worship Aphrodite, breaks promise, Aphrodite makes her fall in love with a bull, Minotaur ensues), and Psyche (breaks a promise to Aphrodite’s son Eros, so Aphrodite forces her to perform a series of impossible tasks, heartache ensues). While jealousy, volatility, and caprice are pretty par for the course among (male) Greek gods, writers both ancient and modern tend to get reeeal judgmental whenever Aphrodite is involved, whereas those same qualities are signs of power and agency when the god in question is, say, Zeus, the ultimate frat boy.

Sweet Nothings Holiday 2016 Women of Myth: Aphrodite. Photo (c) Michi Rezin

Let us all learn from Aphrodite: be gloriously confident in your overwhelming beauty and majesty, own your power, but maybe don’t be a dick, even if someone mildly offends you.

Also for your enjoyment: Dirtbag Aphrodite at The Toast.

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LINGERIE:Goddess‘ bra and knickers by Buttress & Snatch (c/o). Buttress & Snatch is an independent label from the UK specializing in bold, playful lingerie and swimwear. I did not know what style they planned to send when they offered me a set, and honestly I cried when I opened the box. Previously: review of the Curvy Maria collection.

CAPENatalie‘ by The Giving Bride (borrowed), also soon to be available at Sugar Cookies. The cape is available with and without Swarovski embellishment, and there is SO MUCH SILK in it y’all, wheeeeee! It is glorious. It’s also available in ivory as well as in black, and HELLO the black version would be the most amazing thing to wear to a party where you plan to throw a drink in someone’s face and stir up trouble, Aphrodite would totally approve.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Michi Rezin

9 Comments on Women of Myth: Aphrodite

  1. Rare.Device
    December 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm (8 months ago)

    Oh my GOD. You look stunning, that Buttress and Snatch set is amazing, and all that billowing silk is just too much, I love it. I’m also completely dying over your myth retelling here :)))

    Reply
    • Sweets
      December 8, 2016 at 10:32 pm (8 months ago)

      Thank you so much! I knew the cape was lovely when I tried it on, but then we got to the beach with all the wind and we basically screamed because it was so pretty. It was so much fun to wear, I’m sad I had to give it back!

      Reply
  2. Andra
    December 9, 2016 at 7:05 am (8 months ago)

    I have no idea how you manage to produce magic every single photoshoot. This is awesome and that cape is amazing <3

    Reply
  3. Roxanne
    December 10, 2016 at 8:12 am (8 months ago)

    Wow!!! You look amazing and are a creative genius!!!! Blessings!!!! Roxanne

    Reply
    • Sweets
      December 10, 2016 at 8:54 am (8 months ago)

      Thank you Roxanne! So much love to you!

      Reply
  4. Serena
    December 16, 2016 at 11:10 am (8 months ago)

    Excuse me, I need those hair stars (need not want.) Where please?

    Reply
  5. F
    June 24, 2017 at 5:15 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi Sweets,

    I don’t know if you check the comments on this post anymore, but I wanted to tell you how much this photoshoot means to me.

    I’m 16 and I love the fashion and design of lingerie. I got fitted at a boutique last year and it opened up this whole new world to me… until I realized that for someone who wears a 32F/FF, that world is a little bit narrower. Whatever, right? We still have all these lovely companies that specialize in full-bust wear, and not every brand is for every customer. I live my life, I kick ass.

    Recently someone, looking at a photo of me in a low-cut maxi dress, reported to me that she thought I had freakishly big boobs. “What size even ARE you?” “32F. Yeah, it’s horrible. I have to go right now immediately.” I felt like I had been punched. I deeply resented the fact that full-busted women are considered automatically pornographic. I scanned my memory for consolations, and all I found was that men are supposed to like it, and that bigger women are supposed to be spunky and sassy and brave for showing their bodies, always the funny side characters. I’m not the first to encounter this, but it was my first time coming face to face with it, and it is bad.

    I search for these photoshoots to remind myself that I can be elegant and sophisticated. I can be Aphrodite or Psyche or Irene Adler or any of my own heroines. As you depart the blogosphere, know that you inspire me, and so many others.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      June 25, 2017 at 8:53 pm (2 months ago)

      Dear F,
      I don’t even know what to say. I am so moved and so humbled by this. I genuinely started writing this blog for 16-year-old me, who struggled so hard with such profound and painful feelings about my body and my self-worth. I am so sorry that people feel entitled to comment on your body, which is no one’s business but your own. Someone else’s preconceived notions of you and your appearance have nothing to do with you, what you choose to wear, and how you choose to live your life. I am so thrilled that you are not only well on your way in your bra-fitting journey (yay!), but I also feel so strongly that you will absolutely be the heroine you want to be, regardless of other people’s nonsense. Have so, so, so much fun along the way, and I think you are absolutely elegant and sophisticated and magnificent. Lots of love,
      Sweets

      Reply

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