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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Sex in the World of Myth

In Sex in the World of Myth, David Leeming argues that sex is as important in myths as it is in our daily lives. Casting myths as our cultural dreams, Leeming shows that sex is pervasive in all mythologies because it has obsessed and confused us like nothing else. He reveals how sexual myths, like all myths, can have many purposes. The reproductive acts of the ancient Greek goddess Gaia, for instance, may reflect a pre-Olympian matriarchal social system, while tales of the unbridled sexual deeds of the Polynesian Maui, and many others, speak to a natural fascination with the power and mystery of sexual drives. Both a survey of the sex lives of the world’s mythological figures and their deep meaning, Sex in the World of Myth demonstrates that even when such myths are meant to elicit laughter or titillation, the participation in them of sacred heroes and deities means they are in some sense religious—tales offering us partial answers to the nature of existence in general, and of human sexuality in particular.

256 pages | 50 color plates, 50 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018

Folklore and Mythology

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

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"Sex in the World of Myth is destined to become a classic in its field, as searching and humane as the work of Joseph Campbell and so beautiful in its scholarship. Leeming is not merely learned but emotionally profound. Critically, he understands that lack of respect for the female is the great wound at the heart of human sexuality, and this book serves as a starting point to heal it."

Antonella Gambotto-Burke | Australian

"The discussion of the historical diversity of attitudes toward gender and sexuality as revealed in myth is timely, and the range of cultures Leeming approaches is refreshingly wide."


"Even for people who know a lot about world culture, there is bound to be something new here, and many readers will find a great deal that is informative. . . . This is an entertaining and interesting read that works well for browsing."


"This is a highly recommended, non-judgemental survey of how throughout time we have imagined the creation of Earth and its life in terms of our own procreation."

Fortean Times

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