01 Mar, 18
The most powerful women of all times
These are the most important women of the sexual revolution!
By DUSK and Emmeline Peaches
On March 8th we celebrate International Women’s Day! It’s time to acknowledge, now more than ever, the greatness of ‘the woman’. Here at Dusk we are especially focusing on the strength and the sexual revolution of women. A century ago we couldn’t decide things without a man, but nowadays our vibrator orders our pizza after it makes us come, so we barely need men anymore! Well, of course men have changed too and we really don’t mind if they stick around.
To celebrate International Women’s Day we have a special offer for all the strong sexual creatures: if you subscribe to 6 months of DUSK, the 7th will be completely free of charge! Plus: you will get a gift certificate ( worth €5,-/ $5 ) to spend on Amazon. Just click HERE and use the vouchercode WOMENSDAY.
This International Women’s Day we are also focusing on the women that played a big part in the sexual revolution through the ages. But also on the powerful and sexual women today. Who do you think is the biggest influencer and source of inspiration of today, Angelina Jolie,
Beyoncé, Elizabeth Hurley, Salma Hayek or maybe Madonna? Let us know through our social media channels!
Just this last year was so important for the sexuality and the sexual respect of women, in particular because of the ‘me-too’ movement.
But this fight isn’t new, through the ages strong sexual women everywhere have been fighting for sexual liberation and the right to enjoy their bodies.
Sappho (c. 630-570 BC)
Since last April the iconic art gallery, the Tate Britain, is hosting the first blockbuster exhibition championing queer art in the UK. Chief among the paintings in this exhibition is one of Sappho and Erinna by Simeon Solomon. And, looking at the glimpses we have of Sappho’s history, it’s no surprise as to why.
Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos (yes, as in the etymological origin of the word ‘lesbian’) and was iconic for her poetry, which addressed topics of love and passion. Sappho’s work was so influential and so potent that she was considered among the nine lyric poets admitted by scholars who studied Greek poetry.
She is, to this day, a symbol of same-sex desire and a strong female icon for those who need it.
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon (1864)
Cleopatra VII (69-30 BC)
Sexual partner to Caesar and Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra was the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and was a sexual icon.
Her people adored her for her authority and overt sexuality, whereas other great leaders yielded to her alluring nature. Cleopatra’s love for Marcus Antonius was also so great that upon his suicide she followed suit, with the bite of an Asp as was traditional.
While we would never endorse replicating such actions, there’s no denying that Cleopatra VII has become an undying representation of the powerful female ruler—one who was incredibly sexual and was not afraid to make this known.
She’s also said to have filled a gourd full of bees to make herself a sex toy. One has to admire her conviction to get off there (while trying not to think about what would have happened should the gourd have broken).
Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae by Frederic Arthur Bridgman (1896)
Lady Godiva (d.-1067)
The historical accuracy of Lady Godiva’s naked ride throughout the streets of Coventry is still debated by historians, but the legend of this woman is so prolific that its impact is undeniable.
Historians do know of the existence of a Lady Godiva, too, who was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. In the legend of Godiva the admirable Lady was driven to take up her undressed ride in protest of her husband’s taxation laws, which she had deemed to be unfair.
While some may consider Godiva as the ultimate object of the gaze because of this (and thus a passive subject) the authority and self-resilience of Godiva is what has persisted throughout legend—so much so that the phrase ‘Peeping Tom’ comes from the legend of Lady Godiva (referring to a man named Tom who was struck blind for daring to stare at her during her ride).
Although we’re not sure we’d ever want to be rendered blind by merely looking at the female form, we can certainly vouch for the effectiveness of Godiva’s approach in using her body as an object of power, whether a product of pure legend or a historical inspiration.
Lady Godiva by John Collier (1897)
Catherine the Great (1729-1796)
Catherine II of Russia (also known as Catherine the Great) is probably best known for the infamous horse rumour that has circulated since her demise.
As the whispers went, Catherine II perished after a makeshift rig that she used to have sex with her favourite stallion failed and she was crushed by the prized horse. The reality is that Catherine II actually died in the aftermaths of a stroke, in a very normal and non-bestial manner.
Catherine II’s clandestine actions with her favourite horse may have been ridiculous but what Catherine II did have was a room full of phallic furniture and other objects of sexual curiosity. This room, known as ‘The Erotic Cabinet’ has been kept mostly hush-hush but Catherine II’s sexuality could never be bridled.
Rumour or no, there is a reason why Catherine the Great’s sexual appetites were so potent as to become a widespread source of public attention, for better or for worst, and Catherine II never seemed to shy away from her identification as a highly sexual individual.
Equestrian portrait of Catherine the Great in uniform of the Preobrazhensky Regiment,
one of the oldest Imperial Russian guard units, circa 1762
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954)
Nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, it’s fair to say that Colette is one woman worth looking in to.
An admirer of the avant-garde movement, Colette’s novella Gigi is well-known for its intimate look at the life of a young courtesan. Throughout her career her writing continuously tackled themes of sex, sexuality, and female independence, and she was known for having many affairs with both men and women.
One of her plays even caused a riot at the Moulin Rouge and was later banned due to an on-stage kiss.
This was one woman who wasn’t afraid to but sexuality front and centre, despite all public backlash, and we applaud her for it.
Photography by Leopold Reutlinger
And That’s All For Now!
We could go on and on listing the many sex icons of history (and maybe we will if you’d like to read more) but, for now, we hope that these amazing women offer you ample inspiration to dive in to history yourselves.
After all, the only thing better than reading about sexually influential women is discovering their history for yourself.
Header Photo: The Death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur, 1892
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