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Sexuality, Gender, Masculinity And Status

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In ancient Rome there was no notion of sexuality because sexuality is a modern concept, so there was no term for labeling one’s sexual preference. Instead, in ancient Rome, there was only sexual desire and inclination. Only specific sexual acts could be categorized and assessed because there was no term for a person’s sexual orientation as either homosexual or heterosexual. Humans inherently differ in sexual preferences in many ways. One of which is liking a specific sex of partners, yet this not necessarily the most significant difference in sexual preferences.1 In ancient Rome a male citizen could perform sex acts, under certain circumstances, with the gender he preferred, without fear of ridicule. Society was less concerned with the gender or age of a man’s sexual partners than with the perception of the masculinity of all male partners involved. Other things were more important than gender when it came to sex, such as penetration, masculinity and status. To exemplify that society was less concerned with the gender of a man’s sexual partners than the perception of masculinity, I will evaluate masculinity in ancient Rome, the social hierarchy of being the receptive versus penetrative partner, laws, cinaedus, effeminacy and pathics, pederasty, slavery and prostitution. The perception of men’s masculinity was such an integral part of Roman society that it was insulting to be considered not masculine if you were a freeborn man. The reason for Roman society’s obsession with
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