Attitudes on sex and sexuality varied from kingdom to kingdom. In the Greek culture for instance, sex was embraced as it was considered natural and good. In many of the cultures, sex was an important part of the community because it ensured the continuity of lineages. The earlier communities also had differing perspectives on several issues related to sex. Some of the issues include lesbianism, homosexuality, bestiality and necromancy. In some communities, bestiality and necromancy were tolerated. Prostitution was also a prevalent issue in many of the early communities. Among the Greeks for instance, prostitution played an important role in maintaining order and societal values. In many of these cultures, men were generally held in high regard compared to women. Women's roles revolved around child-bearing and household care. This paper explores the various perspectives on sexuality among the early cultures.
The Roman and Greek cultures of sexuality were similar mainly because the Romans borrowed some of the Greek perspectives on sex and sexuality. Before the Romans took to power, the Etruscans were the ones who were in control (O'Mara, 2017). They were the ones who had borrowed a lot of Greek concepts. When the Romans took over the kingdom, they inherited most of the practices and therefore Greek culture in Rome was still prevalent. Rome, like many early cultures was an intensely patriarchal society. Women struggled to have their own identities. Sex was greatly emphasized in the Roman Empire. The authorities tried to restrain sexual activities in the empire. Some women however, refused to constrain their urges and would do as they pleased (O'Mara, 2017). Paintings and sculptors in the kingdom emphasized the Roman manhood. For instance, the god Priapus was depicted as having a large manhood. Also, the painting of Mercury emphasized his speed and big manhood. Most of the Roman decor imitated an erect phallus.
Women in the Roman Empire were expected to maintain one sexual partner. Cuckolding and seduction were looked down upon. The Zoroastrians prohibited sex during menstruation (O'Mara, 2017). Abortion and adultery were also considered as sin. Also, the men who refused to recognize their illegitimate children would go to hell. Incestuous sex and marriage were tolerated in the empire. These incestuous relations were not only limited to nobles but also the common folk. Among the Jews, couples had a duty to please one another during sex. Sexual activities were to only occur among married couples. Polygamy was only allowed to a small extent. Only the elites would be allowed to practice monogamy. The Jews strictly prohibited homosexual relations. Individuals were expected to marry at a young age and to reproduce.
In the Egyptian culture, incestuous relations were allowed. Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh got married to her half-brother (Bixler, 1982). Egyptian women enjoyed more rights compared to women in other cultures. For instance, they were allowed to own property but could not have government jobs. They were however, allowed to run affairs whenever their husbands were way on other business. Egyptian women also enjoyed economic independence and could control a third of their family's finances. In the Greek culture, women were greatly disadvantaged. They lacked their own identity. They were regarded as properties of their fathers, then their husbands and finally their children (O'Mara, 2017). The Greek society was highly misogynistic. For instance, voting was only allowed for men. The women were only expected to produce soldiers for the community. The Greeks, especially the Spartans placed a great emphasis on their males. Marriage among individuals of the opposite sex was highly encouraged because it led to the production of warriors who would fight for the community. Celibacy in the Greek society was punishable. The women who lost their lives while giving birth were honored by the community. Also, all male children would be screened at birth for defects.
The modern society holds many different views on sexuality. For instance, romantic relations among people who are related is strongly abhorred in the modern society (Herzog, 2012). Incest was however, very common in the early cultures. Prominent individuals in the early cultures would marry in their families as a way of preserving the leadership. Incest in the modern society is not only a taboo but has also been outlawed in various countries. It is perceived as an activity which destroys the structure of the family. Through incest, genetic diseases and complications may be transferred between partners (Alvarez & Quinteiro, 2011). I believe the early cultures did not understand the dangers of incest. The prohibition of incest in the modern society is fueled by the dangers it poses. Many modern societies practice monogamy. Monogamy is a practice that was first adopted by Christians. Christian teachings emphasize how the body is a temple of God and humans should not therefore engage in fornication. Christianity teaches that sex should be between married partners and prohibits acts of adultery. I believe monogamy is practiced in most parts of the world due to the prevalence of Christianity. In the Islam religion, husbands are allowed to have more than one wife.
The mediaeval approach on sexuality was quite different from the one held today. The mediaeval church perceived sexuality as an activity that allowed couples to procreate. In the modern society, couples engage in sex for pleasure and not only for procreation. In mediaeval Europe, bishops and priests who wanted to express their sexuality would be allowed (O'Mara, 2017). The men of the cloth would frequently keep concubines and lovers. In today's society however, many catholic bishops and priests have taken up celibate lifestyles and society does not allow them to express their sexuality. It is scandalous for such men and women to have lovers and concubines. The mediaeval church also perceived passionate love as a sin. Sexuality and marriage were supposed to be somber affairs and passionate love-making was frowned upon. In today's society however, passionate love-making is welcomed and encouraged. The Greek culture's approach on sexuality was also quite different. In the Greek world, sexual rituals and temple prostitution were allowed. The Greeks also allowed public brothels as a means of controlling adultery (O'Mara, 2017). The modern society generally holds liberal views on sex and sexuality. Special interest groups such as gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are tolerated. Sexual rituals are, however, not common. There are also mixed feelings in regards to the issue of prostitution. It is tolerated in some communities but it is still illegal in many countries. Prostitution is not encouraged in the modern society because it encourages the spread of diseases and also destroys marriages.
Sexuality in the Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures was embraced. Sex was seen as natural and good. The modern society also holds a similar perspective on sex. Marriage is also important in the modern society just as it was in the early cultures. In the Greek culture, selective breeding was practiced in order to have better soldiers (O'Mara, 2017). The Spartans boasted of a powerful army which I believe is attributed to this practice. I believe if such a practice was embraced in modern society, many countries would have better soldiers. In the Greek culture, babies were screened at birth for defects. The practice is not very prevalent in many modern societies and I believe it is an important lesson we can learn. Screening of newborn babies ensures that children are accorded the care they deserve in case they are found to have some birth defects.
Evolutionary Psychology / Sexual Selection
Evolutionary psychology is a field that focusses on how evolution shapes one mind and behavior. It attempts to explain specific traits in individuals. Sexual selection, on the other hand, is a practice where individuals of a particular sex are able to secure mates and to reproduce at the expense of others. It is a practice where individuals of certain desirable qualities are allowed to reproduce and produce offspring with the desired characteristics. It is a practice that was common in the Greek culture where skilled warriors would be allowed to mate with females while the unskilled warriors denied such opportunities.
Promiscuity / Sperm Competition / Polygyny & Monogamy
Promiscuity is the act of engaging in sex with various sexual partners. Sperm competition was prevalent in Greek and Roman cultures where women would compete to have children with skilled warriors. Polygamy is the practice of having more than one wife while monogamy is the practice of having one wife. The Roman society was largely polygamous. Christianity popularized monogamy.
Catholic Marriage / Courtly Love / "Spiritual Friendships
Courtly love is love where chivalry and nobility is emphasized. This type of love was common in mediaeval Europe. Catholic marriages in mediaeval times emphasized procreation over pleasure. Spiritual friendships were common in the Catholic religion during mediaeval times where individuals would be encouraged to maintain friends who professed the Christian faith.
Women's Status in Islam (incl. Hijab, Harem, etc.)
The Islamic religion is highly patriarchal. Muslim men are allowed to have multiple wives while the women can only be married to one husband. The women are also expected to wear hijabs which cover most of their body. The men enjoy more sexual freedom compared to women.
Victorian 'Repression' / "Scientia Sexualis"
During the Victorian era, there were many harsh restraints on people's sexuality. The ladies were especially disadvantaged. They were tabooed from expressing themselves sexually. They were expected to stay "pure" until marriage. The culture was very repressive. "Scientia Sexualis" is the science associated of sexuality.
Alvarez, G., Quinteiro, C., & C., F. (2011). Inbreeding and Genetic Disorder. Advances in the Study of Genetic Disorders. doi:10.5772/18373
Bixler, R. H. (1982). Sibling incest in the royal families of Egypt, Peru, and Hawaii. The Journal of Sex Research, 18(3), 264-281. doi:10.1080/00224498209551152
Herzog, H. (2012, October 11). The Problem With Incest. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animals-and-us/201210/the-problem-incest
O'Mara, L. (2017). History of Sexuality, Lecture 03 [PowerPoint slides].
O'Mara, L. (2017). History of Sexuality, Lecture 07 [PowerPoint slides].
O'Mara, O. (2017). History of Sexuality, Lecture 04 [PowerPoint slides].
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