Feminine Sexuality in Mythology

By Catherine Trevino

Ancient myths are intriguing as they are enchanting. They can reveal many societal beliefs and values that are still present today. Feminine sexuality, including sex work, has existed for a very long time and is reflected in different cultural myths. These femme deities represented different forms of strength, fortune, and mysticism. They are very indicative of their time period and cultures.

 Xochiquetzal by Perla Lara

 Xochiquetzal by Perla Lara

Xochiquetzal is the Aztec “patroness of lovers and prostitutes.” She encouraged sex for pleasure and enjoyment, not merely for reproductive purposes. She is described as perpetually wise and youthful and followed by birds and butterflies. She is a goddess of fertility and also brings good fortune to weavers, craftspeople, lovers, and sex workers. Cross-dressing, homosexuality, and sex work were all common occurrences until the arrival of Spanish colonizers. Upon discovery of these practices, the colonizers were outraged and wanted to eliminate what they viewed as “immoral sin.” Spanish colonizers were cruel in their measures; banning pagan rituals and sentencing many to death.

Queerness never disappeared but became more subdued and concealed as the Natives were forced to assimilate and adopt the European colonizer’s customs.

Xochiquetzal and “the age of the flowers” is a reminder of a more tranquil and vibrant time.

White Peony by Will Yunshu Chen

In the Chinese ancient myth, “A journey to the east,” the central character is a young woman who goes by the name “White Peony.” She is known as the sex worker that became a deity. White Peony was a young woman said to have the sweet fragrance of peonies that naturally emitted from her body (hence the nickname). She joined a brothel and became one of their most famous performers. White Peony attracted many different visitors of varying professions and backgrounds. Some myths describe her as being slightly mischievous toward her wealthier clients. One of these visitors was a greedy and unscrupulous merchant. She infamously farted in his face while he was licking her anus.

Another one of her clients was the highly cultivated Lu Dongbin. He was known for his contributions to Taoism They slept together many times but he never ejaculated, in order to preserve his Yang essence. White Peony learned the way to make him ejaculate was to tickle his groin. Thus, she absorbed his Yang essence and became immortal.

Bashat by  Cinnamon Babbitt

Bisexuality is also evident in ancient mythology. Bastet, an ancient Egyptian goddess, was known to have sexual relations with both male and female deities. She was associated with felines, (mainly cats), and was characterized as sensual, powerful, and independent.  She was often portrayed as a woman with the head of a cat and holding a sistrum, which is a musical instrument used in ancient times. Bashet had many hats. She is the goddess of music and dance as well as a healer, associated with household protection and the prevention of illnesses. Her temple was made of pink granite and many cats lived there.



Mami Wata by  Bria Benjamin

Mami Wata by Bria Benjamin

Another deity possessing mysterious and immeasurable powers is Mami Wata. She is associated with the water and also believed to have healing abilities, both physical and spiritual. Mami Wata is sometimes perceived as the embodiment of various and multiple water spirits. She is sometimes portrayed as half-mermaid or half-reptile. She is very beautiful, alluring, and mesmerizing. She is associated with “wealth” in the form of shelter, clothes, and food. Mamaissii Vivian Hunter Hindrew describes “the history of the priesthood of Mami Wata as overwhelmingly matriarchal, meaning that the Mami Watas are a part of the old African matriarchal, sacerdotal religious systems that once ruled and denominated Africa and many parts of the ancient world for thousands of years.”

Mami Wata has also inspired artists such as Aya Rodriguez-Izumi  and Nona Faustine.


Pomba Gira is the dynamic and bold Brazilian goddess. She is the valiant deity of witchcraft and flagrant sexuality. The most revered and popular among working class people, mainly femmes and queers. She was called upon to answer concerns of the heart involving intimacy, sexuality, and romance. Her spirit transcended confining societal norms and she was sought when people wanted to embody a bolder version of themselves, such as a woman who wants to be forthright and confident with her needs.

Pomba Gira by  Monica Johnson

Pomba Gira by Monica Johnson