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Sexy Romans!

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Also known as: Five_X talks about his favourite subject.

Why am I doing this? Well, no particular reason. I just felt like educating all you people on a topic that is, to me at least, quite fascinating: sexuality in Roman society.

Now, Roman society in general is really interesting to me, but of course sexuality is a definite part of that. What makes it intriguing, though, is how the Romans viewed sex and sexuality, in contrast to our own, modern senses. A lot has changed since roughly the first century BCE, and so in this blog post I'll try to inform you all in matters relating to Roman sex.

First, the most important detail to know about sexuality in Rome is that there was no real "sex taboo" like we have today. Sex was a completely normal and expected part of Roman society, especially amongst the upper classes.

A good example of this is the Roman veneration of the penis, and phallic symbols in general: Roman boys would wear phallic symbols on necklaces as a sign of virility and good health, and regular people would hang phallic signs outside of their homes to ward off evil and to promote good luck in the area. The penis was even a sign of strong piety, and really makes a good emblem of the Roman masculine ideal. In contrast to many, many other societies, the penis was seen as one of the most primary symbols of fertility, rather than the image of the pregnant woman or anything like that that pervaded other places in ancient times.

Of course, the penis was also seen as a definite sex symbol, and really you could say that Roman society was "obsessed" with the penis. Unlike the Greeks, Romans loved big dicks and big balls, seeing them as a sign of manliness. It's definitely quite obvious where modern perceptions of the penis come from in this regard!

Now, while there was a definite focus on the penis and male sexuality, Rome is very much unique in that it valued female sexuality nearly as much; Rome was one of the view societies in the ancient world that paid much attention to the female side of sex beyond pregnancy, fertility and child-rearing. A man was very devalued if he couldn't please a woman, and it was really an almost sacred thing, for both partners (or more; the Romans loved group sex) to reach satisfaction and feel pleasure during sex. The Romans definitely appreciated the female orgasm, and in fact viewed it as necessary.

In this way, sex in ancient Rome was a social equalizer, boiling down the whole state and society into one microcosm of dominance, submission, and equality. The two most prolific sexual positions in Rome were what we would call "cowgirl" and "doggystyle." The former was greatly enjoyed by men and women alike, and can be seen in numerous sexual references in Rome to men being "stallions;" the word "stud" used today for a hot, sexy guy naturally comes from "stud" as in a strong male horse used for breeding, the slang usage of which links to the whole Roman sexual ideal. Doggystyle, or "a tergo" as it is called in Latin (literally meaning, "from behind"), was common between men, but also occurred in male-female sex, which I'll get to later.

Now would be a good time to go into homosexual practices in ancient Rome.

Rome and in fact Latin itself make no distinction between "homosexual" and "heterosexual." Instead, they based their sexuality on roles, namely masculine and feminine, or penetrator and penetrated. Sex between free Roman citizens was generally considered wrong and was rarely done (at least, not on the record!), and instead Roman men most often had sex with prostitutes, slaves, prostitute slaves, and other "immoral" entertainers. While Romans certainly loved youthful boys, depicted sexuality is more often between masculine men, or by masculine men to less masculine men. Really, unlike the equal Greek eros, this was really some dom/sub kind of stuff. Gay sex in Rome was generally less equal than marital, heterosexual intercourse.

The idea of this "domination" mindset really stems from the Roman ideal of conquest, and that certainly blended into Roman sexuality and society... but I'll cover that later; I'd rather not ramble on too much!

Specific sex acts:

Romans definitely had a lot of the same moves we use today, but they viewed them differently. For example, blowjobs were considered perfectly fine... but if it was male/male, then whoever was dominant was cheered on, and the sub was laughed at. Blowjobs really weren't uncommon amongst Roman male citizens; a historical example is in how Octavian was accused of getting his position in Caesar's command by sucking him off. Given what Caesar was like, this could be true or false!

On the other side of the spectrum, female oral sex, that is, eating girls out and licking the ladyparts and whatnot, was viewed as very dirty. Men who did that were generally viewed as a bit off, and that kind of fellatio was rather uncommon. Romans really were picky about sexuality and the mouth, really.

Another sex act, anal sex definitely did happen. Amongst men, it hardly needs explanation at all, but when it comes to man/woman, it's interesting: Romans had access to various sorts of contraception, and yet while anal sex was primarily viewed as something kept to male/male, it was common enough for preventing pregnancy and all that. Typically, anal was the order of the day for female prostitutes, because obviously they didn't want to get pregnant. It was much, much less common amongst married couples, since they were married and having kids was basically expected.

Just a few final notes:

Homosexuality was banned between soldiers. As manly men they were expected to control themselves, and sexuality in the army was frowned upon very much. War rape did happen, but was very common; rape was a crime punishable by death or exile, and Romans took it very, very seriously. To satisfy the soldiers, there would instead sometimes be prostitutes, both male and female, that the armies would visit and pay, though in general the soldiers were expected to stay away from sex because they were on duty and were supposed to show the discipline of Rome, instead of giving in to sexuality.

Children were very much protected, and it was considered extremely foul to use crass language around them. Naturally, they were also protected sexually, and even trying to have sex with a kid was a very grave offence.

Adultery was technically off-limits, though married men (and sometimes women, depending on the time period) could have sex with slaves or prostitutes. Some people, like Caesar, screwed that rule and had sex with lots of people; it was considered worse for a man to have his wife sexed up behind his back than for a man to have sex with another man's wife. Sex really pervaded the senatorial lifestyle, and that was a place where while there were set rules, people often went around them.

Well, that's it for my lecture thingy! Any questions? I'm fairly sure I can answer them, and I'm fairly sure I got all my information correct. There's a lot to cover, and I didn't even get to half of it. I just picked some of the interesting bits.


  1. Shoku_warrior's Avatar
    I did NOT know that bit about Octavius and Caesar! Also on the topic of the penus, it seems that this obession has been passed down to modern armies (the insignias of the U.S. Army ranks provide a good example of this, I believe.)

    You talked plenty about man on man action, but what can you tell me about lesbian sex in Rome, five-sensei? :3
  2. Five_X's Avatar
    Lesbian sex, eh?

    Well, frankly, we don't know much about it, since there are no real female Roman writers, so we don't have access to that perspective. Due to the nature of the penetrator/penetrated dynamic that formed the basis of Roman sexuality, male Roman writers were incredibly confused by lesbian sex, assuming that lesbians must've all been really manly and had giant clits and such! Really hilarious stuff.

    Most Roman writers just laughed at the idea of lesbian sex, though Ovid was rather interested in it. Based on Sappho and the general Greek idea of mostly non-penetrative sex, it's more likely that antiquity's lesbians were more about scissoring and playing around with their fingers.

    Ovid was a seriously amazing dude. One of the first men to openly advocate a primarily heterosexual lifestyle. Based on his works and opinions, he was really hardly different from an average straight guy from modern times!

    I might do a whole blog post on him; he's really cool.
  3. Imperial's Avatar
    I don't know why I'm reading this so long after the fact, but one thing struck me: You say that kind of fellatio was uncommon. That's not fellatio at all. Oral sex on a woman is cunnilingus.
  4. Five_X's Avatar
    Semantics, my good man! After all, if a lady's clit is as big as some Roman men believed it needed to be for lesbian sex, who's to say fellatio was then out of the question?

    But yes, I know there's a distinction. I guess you could call it... a slip of the tongue.