Written by Anne Marie Ward
Art by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash
Classical art occupies negligible real estate in my brain, but lately, Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus pops in my mind, like a burst flashbulb. Though true Italian Renaissance icons, both Botticelli and his painting, my search engine had to correct me and let me know his name was spelled with two Ts. Yet, despite this, of course, I know something of the image: nude, fully-grown goddess, of love, clutching her pale breasts and golden tresses as she stands on her pink scallop shell, surrounded by deities of the wind and springtime.
Venus: goddess of love, goddess of sex, goddess of pleasure and beauty, too. But Venus was born from her father’s castrated penis; when the severed organ mixed with seafoam and she came up onto the sands of Cyprus. Botticelli neglects this imagery of red blood in his blue water, and her golden hair reveals no glint of the violence she inherited.
What else is she the goddess of, then, in the realities of love for summer after a plague, in the flourishing and rebirth we hope for? She’s the goddess of jealous lovers, for sure. She’s the goddess of bruised thighs and hickies, of breakup haircuts after quarantine relationships.
Goddess of bodega condoms and IUDs. She’s the goddess of lichen sclerosis and STIs and endometriosis and ovarian cysts and vulvodynia caused by trauma. She’s the goddess of girl dicks, of genitalia beyond the binary, and purple strap-on dildos and vibrators and plugs.
Her altar is a nipple barbell with little rhinestones on the end, the period-sex towel covered in stains and water-based lube, and the inside of a lover’s hot cheek. Of asking, “Is this okay? Does that feel good?”