There is a way to recast sexual relations – and it all starts with Venus | Bettany Hughes

The goddess’s long life story tracks centuries of men’s fear and prejudice, with women the victims

Venus, ancient goddess of love and beauty, is an apparently irrelevant, invented deity of the long dead. But Venus merits scrutiny. Chart her life story across 5,000 years and you chart the evolution of our conflicted relationship with sex and with the female body. Now the Weinstein floodgates are open, root and branch reform is, rightly, demanded. But to address a problem, you have to understand its size, its shape and its provenance.

Over the last decade I’ve been investigating Venus – the influential incarnation of human desire and beauty across millennia – to help explain the state we’re in: why we deal with lust, love, sexuality, sexual transgression and the female form the way we do. It’s about finding the roots of our prejudice, because once you understand the depth of a problem, you can better deal with it. With a track record spanning 50 centuries, Venus is a barometer of sexual mores and sexual prejudice. Her narrative also, arguably, offers a solution to their misuse.

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