" Natural" in Roman Sexuality

by Terence W.
(United Kingdom)

Quite apart from the question of temple prostitution,I think it worth remembering just what "unnatural" (para physin) would have meant to the Romans (or for that matter, to the people of Corinth or elsewhere in the Mediterranean world.)

As I understand it, based on my reading of Roman Homosexuality by Craig Williams and Love Between Women by Bernadette Brooten, "natural" use had nothing to do with gender, but was concerned with social status and sexual roles.

Male citizens were expected to take an active, penetrating role. For them "unnatural" was to take the passive part and allow oneself to be penetrated. For women and slaves, the natural role was passive, and slaves were certainly expected to submit to any sexual demands of their owners.

Homoerotic relationships within these social parameters were commonplace, as shown in much of Latin literature, and records showing that male prostitution was taxed even under the Christian emperors.

Against this background, what I find remarkable about the letter to the Romans, and the other infamous clobber texts, is how little is said about homoerotic relationships.

If such a prevalent practice was as abhorrent as modern opponents would have us believe, surely the early Christians would have had a great deal more to say of the practice?

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