Thursday, July 22, 2010

History of Sex - Exploring Sexuality in Ancient Rome

History of Sex - Exploring Sexuality in Ancient Rome


Author: Brian Welsch

Many people believe that homosexuality is a new phenomenon. Some people think that there were no gays or lesbians back “in the good ole days.” However, the fact is that homosexuality was around as long ago as in ancient Rome . Sexuality in ancient Rome was something that was even more open back then than it is now. Like many things, sexuality has gone from acceptable to unacceptable time and time throughout history. In some ways, acceptance of alternate sexuality is like fashion. Some centuries it is in, and some centuries it is out. However, sexuality in ancient Rome was different than most times. Homosexuality was such a norm that there was not even a name for it—it simply was.

Homosexuality In Public Bath Houses

Public bath houses were hot beds for homosexual behavior. Today, having sexual relations in a public rest room is punishable as a crime. In ancient Rome , this type of behavior was the norm. Today men tap their feet under bathroom stalls to signal a desire for a sexual encounter—in ancient Rome , men would scratch their head with one finger to let others know that they were looking for a sexual partner. Unlike today where the man would be considered a pervert or abnormal for such behavior, it was not out of the norm to find sexual partners in the bath house and have sexual relations there.

However, the idea of the Roman orgy is more of a myth than a reality, according to many scholars and academics. The Greeks were more known for their excessive partying and orgies than ancient Romans. Sexuality in ancient Rome was very erotic and more open than what we have today, but it was still private.

The Role Of Sex In Ancient Rome

Sexuality in ancient Rome was something that was very important. Homosexuality was a huge part of life for most men in Rome , especially those in power. However, it was important that the person in power be the active sexual partner. Being the active partner showed manliness, which was a prized Roman virtue.

It was acceptable for a man to have sex with women and male prostitutes as well as slaves, as long as he was the active partner. However, it must be noted that while slaves were seen as simply things and the master could penetrate them whenever he wanted, it was looked down upon to have sex with your slave for pleasure. Rather, the act of penetration was seen as a punishment akin to a beating.

Erotic sexuality in ancient Rome expended to emperors as well. The emperor Nero was the first to actually marry a male. Of the first twelve emperors of Rome , only one, Claudius, did not have a male lover. All of the other emperors had man or boy lovers. Claudius' lack of a male lover actually drew criticism from the biographer Suetonius.

A famous poet from Rome even wrote about his homosexual preference. He writes that after he was discovered inside a boy by his wife, his wife offered herself to him. He lists off married mythological personages who were involved with boy lovers and concludes by rejecting his wife outright saying that she merely has two vaginas and cannot offer him what the boy could. Like this famous poet, many men in power experienced erotic sexuality in ancient Rome .

Female Sexuality In Ancient Rome

While males experienced sexual openness and the ability to have both male and female lovers, female homosexual relations were not an accepted sexuality in ancient Rome . Female lovers were considered disgusting and vile. Even a woman who took an active role in sex was considered disgusting. The same male poet who wrote about his preference for young boys also wrote with disgust and contempt of female homosexuality. There are even reports of husbands killing their wives for homosexual affairs.

Conclusion

Sexuality in ancient Rome was erotic and open. Emperors kept male lovers, and homosexual relations, even while married, were the norm. However, open sexuality in ancient Rome did not extend towards females. There were double standards with sexuality in ancient Rome , but for the most part, the men could do as they pleased sexually without fear of punishment or chastisement.



Original article : History Of Sex - Exploring Sexuality In Ancient Rome



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