A Look Into Love: Exploring Eros

Three Trinity students consider what love means through the Greek concept of Eros

Eros in the Greek – Ria Walls

When we think of love, eros (ἔρως) may be the first concept that we associate with the word. In the Greek language, eros means passionate love in a lustful, desiring, sexual way. 

Personified in mythology, the Roman counterpart is the god Cupid, a name that we know well even in the 21st century. We have heard stories of the cunning god shooting his arrow, leaving the recipients at his mercy. The theory of theia mania (madness from the gods) may seem far-fetched today, but when we consider the idea of being driven crazy by love and look at the irrational actions we perform when cast under the spell of it, the Greek concept rings true. Whether you relate to Beyonce’s Crazy In Love in that you’re head over heels in the best way, or you cry in your room as you obsess over a lover, eros affects us today in more ways than we think. 

To look back at those before us, Hesiod, in reference to eros, described him as the god who “loosens the limbs and weakens the mind.” On top of this, as someone hit by the effects of eros, Sappho described the very physical feelings of this extremity of love: “Eros shook my soul like the wind / Attacking the trees on a mountain.” My favourite description of this type of love by Sappho is the use of the term bittersweet, or sweetbitter in some translations eros can be sweet at first, and then the bitter sting follows. 

Eros can be dangerous. A force to be reckoned with. We all know it well. A little too well. 

Rewriting Eros in pornography – Emma Whitney

Sexual liberation has changed its course. From its proliferation in the women’s and LGBTQ+ movements, the name of sexual liberation has been used to excuse and promote violence and sexist power dynamics against women. Some argue that pornography is liberating for women and for some individual women that may be true.  However, in my view, it has, as a whole, harmed progress in the acceptance and celebration of female sexuality. There is an important distinction to be made between pornography and erotic works. In contrast to pornography, within erotica women can be at the forefront of their own desire, rather than being seen as objects to be conquered. Questions remain as to whether or not pornography can be truly ethical and empowering.

There is a softness to be found in erotism.”

Erotica and erotism are wonderful, pure, and native to the human experience. What is erotic is not necessarily hardcore, graphic, and usually false depictions of sex but rather; a hand on the knee on a first date, a meeting of eyes from across the lecture hall, that stare between you both as you are about to kiss for the very first time. There is a softness to be found in erotism. The beautiful thing that is sex; two bodies coming together, portrayed and enjoyed in works of art, literature, music. 

There has always been high demand for romance novels, primarily from female readers, because women’s desire to be desired and loved as equals is often neglected. TV series such as Bridgerton and Jane Austen novels have always proved immensely popular with women of all ages. Experiencing erotism through a book is especially empowering for women as women tend to experience arousal through using their imagination or non-visual stimuli. Of course, it depends on the individual, but many women would find romantic tropes such as Mr. Darcy-like characters chasing after their beloved in a storm on horseback are more romantic and appealing than exaggerated scenes of their gender being mistreated on camera. 

Eros is a very special type of love to encounter, and it is important in this day and age where loving sex and romance can be forgotten to keep and cherish it.”

Of course, some of the most special eros that we experience arise from ordinary life and ordinary interactions. How magical it is to experience the fizzle of excitement and the franticness of making your way up to their bedroom. The giggling when awkward mishaps occur (and if you do not laugh once, then you are probably doing it with the wrong person). The tenderness of debating what kind of lighting is appropriate (ambient or natural are equally winners). The little bumps that happen are all part of it. Eros is a very special type of love to encounter, and it is important in this day and age where loving sex and romance can be forgotten to keep and cherish it.

Eros and passion – Alice Matty

Eros. Undoubtedly, passion in love can sometimes feel like an additional bonus, yet is almost more of a prerequisite. 

Sensual attraction is an element of romantic relationships that tends to be overlooked. There is something stimulating about the interlocking of fingers, brushing your fingertips against the skin of a beloved, a seductive act of intimacy that can transcend to sexual attraction. Physical touch is a love language, which may be necessary as an indication to one that they are coveted, a way to differentiate between a romantic partner and otherwise. Tactile interactions are central to the human phenomenon of love.

In media sources and within wider society, any relationship that has passion is portrayed as being bound to prevail. No obstacles can be seen to intervene between two individuals infatuated with one another, confined in the intense grasps of lust and sexual desire. For what is love without passion? However, what becomes of love when passion is all that exists?

We become objects. Merely vulnerable, lustful targets bursting with sexual promise for the eye of the lewd beholder. Instead of allowing us to connect with another on a deeper emotional level, eros comes to serve the purpose of fulfilling one’s personal sexual needs. The function of the relationship shifts its lens to the person who’s feeling sexually attractive, rather than shining on the partner who should be the focal point of that love. When erotic tendencies dominate, it can make you feel wanted. In turn, women tend to abandon their boundaries in efforts to please a sexual partner, rather than respecting their own needs. The short-term validation is seemingly worth the discomfort of otherwise being discarded, inefficacious.

It justifies going home in tears each night because the sexual energy of the relationship felt so gratifying in the moment.”

Eros is an addiction that can be almost impossible to detach yourself from. It can make you feel loved, in the face of no other redeemable actions accompanying the passion. Despite feeling disrespected, physical chemistry that is so intense can make one feel that the degrading romance is worth it. It justifies going home in tears each night because the sexual energy of the relationship felt so gratifying in the moment. I convinced myself it almost made up for the emotional neglect. 

Intimacy can exist without passion. This is perhaps the basis of platonic relationships. A lack of eros does not mean an amorous relationship cannot thrive, although sexual desire may the basis for a romantic partnership. However, in order to maintain longevity, the foundation of a healthy and promising relationship must be built on an emotional connection before transcending to a sexual, erotic attachment. Don’t mistake passion for love, which can lead you to stay in a space that is no longer safe one in which you and your body are not respected.

Alice Matty

Alice Matty is a Sex and Relationships Deputy Editor and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying Economics and Business.