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Were ancient people more bisexual than modern people? watch

    • Thread Starter

    I've been reading a fair bit about the proclivities of the classical world (particularly a book called Roman Homosexuality) and it seems pretty clear that it was considered quite normal for a man to be attracted to both woman and youths (males). It's important to make the distinction that being attracted to men would be considered odd (though it did happen), but attraction to youths was not.

    The classical Romans did rail against effeminacy, but interestingly enough there are quite a few references to men putting on makeup because they want to attract women. Here is a passage from Pseudo-Lucian's Affairs of the Heart, recounting a debate between two men about the relative merits of women and youths

    Charicles a young man from Corinth who is not only handsome but shows some evidence of skilful use of cosmetics, because, I imagine, he wishes to attract the women, and with him Callicratidas, the Athenian, a man of straightforward ways. For he was pre-eminent among the leading figures in public speaking and in this forensic oratory of ours.

    He was also a devotee of physical training, though in my opinion he was only fond of the wrestling-schools because of his love for boys. For he was enthusiastic only for that, while his hatred for women made him often curse Prometheus.

    I could see concrete evidence of the inclinations of each. For my Athenian friend was well provided with handsome slave-boys and all of his servants were. pretty well beardless. They remained with him till the down first appeared on their faces, but, once any growth cast a shadow on their cheeks, they would be sent away to be stewards and overseers of his properties at Athens.

    Charicles, however, had in attendance a large band of dancing girls and singing girls and all his house was as full of women as if it were the Thesmophoria, with not the slightest trace of male presence except that here and there could be seen an infant boy or a superannuated old cook whose age could give even the jealous no cause for suspicion. Well, these things were themselves, as I said, sufficient indications of the dispositions of both of them.
    To the extent that the Romans did not like effeminacy, luxuria, and the like, it was impermissible for a Roman man to allow himself to be penetrated, or to sleep with another free man's wife or sons or daughters (though there were many such scandals). But otherwise, as long as you were sleeping with your slaves or prostitutes, of either sex, and meeting your responsibility to marry and produce children, to be involved in politics etc, you would be considered an upstanding citizen.

    Ancient Romans lived in a cultural environment in which married men could enjoy sexual relations with their male slaves without fear of criticism from their peers; in which adultery generally aroused more concern than pederasty; in which men notorious for their womanizing might be called effeminate, while a man whose masculinity had been impugned could cite as proof of his manhood the fact that he had engaged in sexual relations with his accusers sons
    An interesting aspect of ancient sexuality is that in Rome, they had three words for various sexual fetishes (for want of a better word); irrumator was a man who penetrates orally, fututor was a man who penetrated vaginally and pedicator a man who penetrated anally. This was without reference to the gender of the recipient. Some of the literature talks about a particular irrumators whose fetish was for the act, not the gender.

    So, given all these facts, were ancient people more bisexual than modern people? It seems like bisexual practices were far more common in those days than they are now.
    • Thread Starter

    I would just add that I think it's interesting how the considerations of effeminacy are thrown on their heads viz. the Pseudo-Lucian passage; the one wearing the makeup is the one trying to attract women

    Several tribes of Papua New Guinea, including the Sambia and the Etoro, believe that semen provides sexual maturation among the younger men of their tribe. To them, sperm possesses the manly nature of the tribal elders, and in order to pass down their authority and powers, younger men of their next generation must fellate their elders and ingest their semen. This custom commences among prepubescent males and postpubescents

    The Etoro, or Edolo, are a tribe and ethnic group of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Their territory comprises the southern slopes of Mt. Sisa, along the southern edge of the central mountain range of New Guinea, near the Papuan Plateau. They are well known among anthropologists because of ritual homosexual acts practised between the young boys and men of the tribe. The Etoro believe that young boys must ingest the semen of their elders daily from the age of 7 until they turn 17 to achieve adult male status and to properly mature and grow strong.
    brb never going to papua new guinea
    • Thread Starter

    (Original post by G8D)
    My knowledge is by no means extensive but it seems clear that sexuality nowadays should not be considered 'progressive' or 'progressed'. In truth, sexuality and opinions therein has always varied throughout history and it will continue to do so into the future. I wouldn't go as far as suggesting it's cyclical but it certainly evolves differently across culture and context.

    IIRC the Athenians were quite partial to young boys and assisting them in becoming 'men'.
    Indeed, though I think that the question of the distinction between social pederasty between citizens, as oppposed to same-sex sexual practices, is deeply complex and hard to extricate one element from the other.

    From what I've read, it does seem that the erastes (older partner) would usually be in his 20s, the eremenos (younger partner) would be maybe 15 or 16. It's not the extreme age differential we might have thought previously.

    Also, it seems that not just Athens but across the ancient world it was very common to see a sort of general societal bisexuality, where chasing both women and "boys" (youths, lads etc... guys I think from about 15 up) was quite common. And chasing young men (early 20s) wasn't unusual either, see this poem from Maleager in the Greek anthology

    The South Wind, blowing fair for sailors, O ye who are sick for love, has carried off Andragathus, my soul's half. Thrice happy the ships, thrice fortunate the waves of the sea, and four times blessed the wind that bears the boy. Would I were a dolphin that, carried on my shoulders, he could cross the seas to look on Rhodes, the home of sweet lads. . . .

    Love in the night brought me under my mantle
    the sweet dream of a softly‑laughing boy of eighteen,
    still wearing the chlamys; and I,
    pressing his tender flesh to my breast,
    culled empty hopes. .
    I suppose it's important to say that when they say "boy", we're not talking about a 9 year old. It's not paedophilia. It's more adolescent or young man.

    And reading Catallus, it seems that chasing boys was not an unusual activity for an ordinary Roman/Greek citizen. At least, I am certain (as you alluded to with your comment about progressiveness) that it was far more widespread than it is now for non-gay men
    • Thread Starter

    (Original post by Greg Jackson)
    brb never going to papua new guinea
    Ugh. I'd read about that before. Even by classical standards, that's pretty revolting, and actually involved a significant amount of violence (breaking their nose, beatings)

    Funnily enough, the Papuan view came from an almost extreme form of misogyny (that semen = power, and women are attempting to suck your power out of you, so you should only give them some of your power for procreative purposes)


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