| Quote #4
The sight was quite enough; the flame of love
One way of reading this passage would be to say that it shows the dark side of sexual desire. According to this interpretation, Tereus's overwhelming desire for what can't be had – his wife's sister – boils up to such a point that he violently rapes her. (For good measure, Ovid also throws in a racist interpretation of Tereus's crime, when he claims that Tereus was especially liable to these passions because he was a Thracian.) Today, however, many people think that rape is not necessarily motivated by sexual desire, but is more an act of aggression and domination. Could Ovid's story of Tereus also be interpreted in this way? Why would Ovid think there might be a "dark side" of sexual desire anyhow?
| Quote #5
(Iphis to herself):
These lines by Ovid show same-sex desire, when the female Iphis lusts for the female Ianthe. Things are a bit complicated, in this case, because Iphis has grown up disguised as a boy, and is currently engaged to marry Ianthe. (This is partly what she means when she says that "nature […] / does not want it" – nature is the one that has given her the wrong equipment for a conventional, opposite-sex marriage.) In the end, things work out for Iphis when Isis turns her into a boy, thus making marriage possible. All the same, this passage is notable for shedding light on the wide range of human sexuality.
| Quote #6
[Pygmalion] is enchanted and, within his heart,
The story of Pygmalion – an artist who makes a statue, then falls in love with it, then marries it after the gods miraculously bring it to life – is easy to mine for images of stereotypical male sexual desire (focused on appearances, based on an unequal power dynamic, to some degree narcissistic, and so on). Still, though, Ovid displays some tact in handling the story. Even though Pygmalion is controlling, he is also worried for the statue's safety – as when he is afraid he will leave a bruise on its skin. Taking all of the relevant factors into consideration, do you think that the story of Pygmalion portrays sexual desire in a positive light or not?