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Sexuality in ancient Rome, and more broadly, sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome, are indicated by Roman art, literature and inscriptions, and to a lesser extent by archaeological remains such as erotic artifacts and architecture.It has sometimes been assumed that "unlimited sexual license" was characteristic of ancient Rome; Verstraete and Provençal express the opinion that this perspective was simply a Christian interpretation: "The sexuality of the Romans has never had good press in the West ever since the rise of Christianity.In the popular imagination and culture, it is synonymous with sexual license and abuse." Roman society was patriarchal (see paterfamilias), and masculinity was premised on a capacity for governing oneself and others of lower status, not only in war and politics, but also in sexual relations.
Hypersexuality, however, was condemned morally and medically in both men and women.
Women were held to a stricter moral code, and same-sex relations between women are poorly documented, but the sexuality of women is variously celebrated or reviled throughout Latin literature.
In general the Romans had more flexible gender categories than the ancient Greeks.
The corresponding ideal for a woman was pudicitia, often translated as chastity or modesty, but a more positive and even competitive personal quality that displayed both her attractiveness and self-control.
But with extremely few exceptions, surviving Latin literature preserves the voices only of educated male Romans on the subject of sexuality.
Visual art was created by those of lower social status and of a greater range of ethnicity, but was tailored to the taste and inclinations of those wealthy enough to afford it, including, in the Imperial era, former slaves.
Roman religion promoted sexuality as an aspect of prosperity for the state, and individuals might turn to private religious practice or "magic" for improving their erotic lives or reproductive health. "Pornographic" paintings were featured among the art collections in respectable upperclass households.
It was considered natural and unremarkable for men to be sexually attracted to teen-aged youths of both sexes, and pederasty was condoned as long as the younger male partner was not a freeborn Roman.
"Homosexual" and "heterosexual" did not form the primary dichotomy of Roman thinking about sexuality, and no Latin words for these concepts exist.
No moral censure was directed at the man who enjoyed sex acts with either women or males of inferior status, as long as his behaviors revealed no weaknesses or excesses, nor infringed on the rights and prerogatives of his masculine peers.
While perceived effeminacy was denounced, especially in political rhetoric, sex in moderation with male prostitutes or slaves was not regarded as improper or vitiating to masculinity, if the male citizen took the active and not the receptive role.