Pleasure, Procreation, and Punishment: Shocking Facts about Sex and Marriage in the Ancient World

Pleasure, Procreation, and Punishment: Shocking Facts about Sex and Marriage in the Ancient World

Much of what is considered normal in the present day might have been seen as shocking in the past and vice versa. This idea applies to many of the aspects of daily life, including customs related to sex and marriage. The following is a series of surprising facts about sexual and marital life in the ancient world.

Honey and Pepper to Increase Pleasure

Ancient Greeks had a number of concoctions meant to enhance sexual performance. One of them was meant to cause a lasting erection and it involved smearing the penis with a mix of honey and crushed pepper.

Another Greek text suggested: “ Grind the ashes left after burning a deer’s tail, and then make a paste of the powder by adding wine ”. By smearing the penis with this mixture, the desire to have sex would have supposedly been enhanced.

Dionysus with sileni in a vineyard. Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Priam Painter, (6th century BC). From Monte Abetone (Etruria). Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia (Rome). Dionysus was a Greek god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, ritual madness, fertility, theater, and religious ecstasy.

The Greeks also used an unknown Indian plant which was said to cause powerful erections after rubbing it on the genitals. Some Greek men claimed that under the influence of this plant they achieved sexual climax up to 12 times, while some Indians claimed that they climaxed 70 times. In order to cancel the effects of these potions, individuals would apparently pour olive oil onto the genitals.

Arranging a Marriage at the Auction and the Importance of Virginity

Although arranged marriages are an accepted cultural practice for some cultures today, it is worth noting some of the ways ancients went about this practice as well. For example, arranged marriages were a common practice in Ancient Mesopotamia and the union took the form of a legal contract between two families. Also, the couples never met before the marriage ceremony.

In Sumer and Babylonia, marriage was simply viewed as a way to ensure procreation, therefore as an enforcer of the continuity and harmony of society. It had nothing to do with the personal happiness of the couple involved. Romans also practiced marriage arrangements.

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In his “Histories”, Herodotus spoke of the existence of marriage markets where young women were sold to men looking for a wife. This happened once a year in the villages of ancient Babylon. At these “bride auctions” many young women who were eligible for marriage were gathered in front of a group of men seeking a wife. Each of the women were sold to the highest bidder. Rich men competed for the most beautiful of the young women and the ugliest women were handed over to the commoners - who could not bid on the beautiful ones.

In the ancient times, the rules of marriage were a lot stricter for women. In ancient Israel, for example, women had to be virgins before marriage. On the other hand, men were not expected to be virgins when they became husbands. Also, if a man accused his wife of not being a virgin at the time of marriage, she faced the risk of being stoned to death. If the charges were disproved, the man was only flogged or forced to pay a fee for his wrongful accusation.

‘The Babylonian Marriage Market’ by Edwin Long.

Prostitution Practices to Appease the Gods

Male prostitution was widely accepted in Greek and Roman societies. In Athens, the income of both male and female prostitutes was subject to taxation. Therefore, the activity was actually regulated by the state.

When it came to male prostitutes, the majority of the clients were also male. Still, even though male prostitution was legal, a man performing services for a fee would have his civil rights removed. He was banned from many aspects of public life and could not serve as a magistrate nor was he allowed to speak in the assembly. As a result, the majority of male prostitutes were slaves or foreign residents.

Man soliciting boy for sex in exchange for a purse containing coins. Athenian red-figure kylix, 5th c. BC. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In ancient Babylon, there was a custom that all women had to perform a sacred duty to the goddess Mylitta. This was a form of sacred prostitution involving the woman going to the sacred temple of the goddess and having intercourse with a stranger in exchange for a fee. In his “ Histories”, Herodotus describes how women “are continually entering and leaving this place. Whenever a woman comes here and sits down, she may not return home until one of the strangers has tossed silver into her lap and has had intercourse with her outside the sanctuary”.

The earnings were dedicated to the goddess and, while beautiful women were done with their obligation quite quickly, less attractive women had to wait longer, sometimes even years.

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Some cities of ancient Rome had statues of the god Priapus with an erect penis. These statues were placed in market gardens in order to discourage trespassing. The god was said to inflict intruders with severe sexual punishments – be they women, men, or young boys.

Priapus depicted with the attributes of Mercury in a fresco found at Pompeii, between 89 BC and 79 AD, Naples National Archaeological Museum ( CC BY SA 2.0 )

‘Til Death Do You Part…

In ancient Mesopotamia, Hammurabi’s Code regarded adultery as a crime punishable by death. In Rome, the Julian Law on adultery stated that a woman caught in infidelity could be killed - and it was her father who made the decision. In Athens, adultery was a serious offense that was originally punishable by death. Later on, killing the adulterer was replaced with fines and public humiliation.

In ancient India, there was a practice called “sati”. This was based on the belief that a widow was not entitled to move on with her life after her husband had passed away. Therefore, the widow had to jump on her dead husband’s pyre (funeral fire) and be burned alive. In another version of the same practice, the widow was buried alive next to the corpse of her deceased husband.

A painting from c. 1800 depicting the practice of sati (suttee) or widow-burning.

Five Fascinating Facts About Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Ancient World

For us, the idea of sex and marriage is very different than it used to be for the people that existed in ancient civilizations. For many in the ancient world, choosing who you can marry was as alien a concept for them as the existence of aircraft in the future. Similarly, today, owning slaves and marrying someone after bidding for them in an auction is something that will repulse everyone.

However, some of these customs were an essential part of the ancient world, and no matter how shocking and sad they were, people (especially women) could not escape from them. From increasing stamina in sex to the horrible practices of burning women alive, these are some of the weirdest, saddest, and downright horrific practices revolving around sex and marriage in the Ancient world.

1 The Sambians: The semen-drinking tribe - Papua, New Guinea

To become a man in this primitive tribe, boys are removed from the presence of all females at the age of seven, living with other males for ten years. During the ten years, the skin is pierced to remove any contamination brought upon by women. For the same reason, they also regularly incur nose-bleeding and vomiting caused by consuming large amounts of sugarcane.

To top it off, they are required to ingest the semen of their elders, which is thought to sustain growth and strength. When they are finally introduced back into the tribe, they continue to engage in nose-bleeding at the same time as their wives' menstrual cycles.

What about premarital sex?

Traditionally, premarital sex has been discouraged if not taboo, and in the contemporary Orthodox world it is strictly forbidden. Many ultra-Orthodox communities are stringent about separating males and females in large part to reduce the likelihood of romantic encounters between the unmarried. Though there is no such gender separation in more liberal Jewish communities, even contemporary Reform and Conservative rabbis have upheld Judaism&rsquos traditional preference that sex be reserved for marriage. A 1979 Reform movement responsum declared &ldquopremarital and extramarital chastity to be our ideal.&rdquo Even in 2001, when a committee of Reform rabbis published a report on sexual ethics that dropped references to marriage as the sole appropriate context for sexual activity, the movement continued to urge fidelity and exclusivity in sexual relations. The committee issued a separate statement on adultery that described extramarital affairs &mdash whether conducted in secret or with a spouse&rsquos consent &mdash as sinful and forbidden.

The Conservative movement has taken a similar line. While officially maintaining that marriage is the only appropriate context for sex and firmly rejecting adultery, incest and general promiscuity, the movement has acknowledged that &ldquoa measure of morality&rdquo can be found in non-marital sexual relationships provided they comport with Jewish sexual values, including mutual respect, honesty, health and monogamy.

Both the Reform and Conservative movements have affirmed that their attitude toward sexual ethics applies equally to heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

What Anal Sex Really Feels Like, According To Women Who've Tried It

Over the past decade, anal sex&mdashor at least, talking about anal sex&mdashhas become significantly less taboo, perhaps because butts have taken on an entirely new status (thanks, social media!). or because society has become more sex-positive overall (yay!). But still, actually having anal sex remains

among women, no matter how often it's discussed.

"Unfortunately, there is still a tendency to stigmatize acts that might be considered 'non-traditional' for some people, due to lack of information," explains Alexis Clarke, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in sex and relationships. But the thing is, anal sex can oftentimes become the preferred method for women who don't have vaginas, for those for whom vaginal penetration is especially painful, and for women who simply experience more pleasure that way, Clarke explains.

For some women, it's is the cherry on top of a sexual sundae: a little extra treat that elevates something that was already delicious on its own (talking about sex here). But for others, butt sex is more like pâté: intriguing, worth a try, but absolutely not up their alleys (as in, a penis will probably not be going up that alley ever again).

If you've yet to add anal to the menu but are curious to taste test it, there are some things you should know first:

  1. Try anal training. If you're worried about tearing or pain, you can work your way up to full-blown anal by starting with a butt plug, anal beads, or fingers. "If you're comfortable with any of these things in your anus for about 15 to 20 minutes, there's a good chance you're at a point where you can successfully insert a penis" or a dildo, explains Shawntres Parks, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego. The biggest challenge, she says, is getting the sphincter to relax enough for something to penetrate it. Don't stress, it's not unusual for it to take a few tries. But when you feel your sphincter relax whether it's a toy, finger, or penis coming through, you'll know you're ready.
  2. Lube, lube, lube. To make things way more comfortable, remember that lube (and lots of it) is your best friend. "The anus is not self-lubricating in the same way that the vagina is," says Parks. So it'll need a little extra help from a store-bought friend to make the experience smoother. Parks recommends water-based lubes since anything petroleum- or oil-based will break down the materials in your condom (if you're wearing one) or a silicon strap-on.
  3. Prep the pipes.Anal douching is always available to you, but your best bet is just going poop before the act. If you're having trouble, Parks says to try an herbal supplement or tea such as Smooth Move that goes easy on the stomach. "If you try it the night before, by the time you wake up in the morning you'll probably have a bowel movement" and again later that night, says Parks.
  4. Talk it out. Be sure to communicate with your partner about how you're feeling when it comes to anal. If something doesn't feel right: stop! Even after the act, Parks says the conversations should continue. Check in afterward and ask your partner what they thought of the experience, how it made them feel, and what they might like to do differently next time.
  5. Cleanliness is key. If you're planning to transition from anal to vaginal sex, be sure to thoroughly clean yourself in between, especially if you're not using a condom you can change, says Parks. "There's a big increased risk of STIs when you're transitioning from anal sex to vaginal sex because of that transfer of fecal bacteria into the vagina." When shopping for body-friendly wipes, Parks says to "look for things that don't have harsh chemicals" and try them out for a few days. If you find you're able to use them on a day-to-day basis without irritation, then they're probably a good bet for a post-anal wipe down.
  6. Hop in the shower after. In addition to wiping yourself down, you and your partner should take a shower to clear yourselves of any bacteria. "The challenge sometimes with showering happens when couples are trying to build up arousal," says Parks. The time spent in the shower might kill the mood for a round two of vaginal or oral sex. She recommends showering with your partner to keep the sexy time going during the transition. It'll get you both clean and

Before your first go, you'll also want to peep these stories from women who have dabbled in butt sex and lived to tell the tale. Read on, and let their experiences guide yours.

"It was the most intimate night of my life."

"My ex and I had been dating for about three years before we ever tried anal. We did it not because we were bored with our sex life, but because neither of us had ever done it, and we wanted to 'have a first' together. He had slept with a lot of women in his teens and early 20s, so I loved the idea of doing something with him that he'd never done before.

We talked about it for months before finally going through with it. It wasn't really planned, but one night after we both had a couple of drinks, we started hooking up in my bedroom, and he whispered in my ear, 'Should we try it?' I shook my head yes. We slathered ourselves in lube&mdashI'd always heard that you need to use way more than you think you do&mdashthen had him enter very slowly, like, centimeter by centimeter, in the doggy position. Within about five minutes, he was pretty far inside, and it felt like nothing I'd experienced before&mdasha fullness that made me feel like I'd never had sex before.

What made the whole thing that much better was how he kept asking if I was okay and the look of sincere and utter pleasure on his face, as if he was having an otherworldly experience, too. We made a ton of eye contact&mdashI liked turning my head and watching him lose himself to the pleasure&mdashand we kissed a lot as he got close to coming. Despite my nerves, I actually orgasmed, too (I rubbed my clit to put myself more at ease). It was the most intimate night of my life. We did it a handful of times after that on 'special occasions' (I have a fear of stretching out, ha), and all were amazing, but none can compare to that first-time feeling." &mdashMarianne E.

Speaking of orgasms, there's a lot you might not know about them.

"My first experience was accidental anal."

"I was drunk, and it happened by surprise within a hookup situation because there was not enough communication. Fortunately, I enjoyed myself and had a positive experience overall. I began to realize that I liked the feeling and got pleasure from it. Now in my current long-term relationship, it's one of the activities in the rotation.

Most important, you need to properly warm up. Just like a vagina, it is easier and more pleasurable when the hole is ready to go. Proper foreplay is essential&mdashbring in lube, fingers, mouth, toys, whatever you prefer. It could take more time than vaginal sex. I think of anal as the second course, because it's better once you're already excited and feeling great. My advice is to trust your body, and if you feel up for it, go for it! " &mdashMichelle R.

"We probably should have used lube."

"I tried anal for the first time with my ex. I was incredibly comfortable with him, but using lube would have made it a more pleasant experience for both of us, since there is no natural lube. I would recommend doing it with someone who you feel comfortable with because it definitely is a much more vulnerable area." &mdashSandra O.

"It was just something we tried a couple of times out of curiosity."

"We tried it for the first time a year and a half into our relationship. We were in a place where we were comfortable with each other and eager to explore more, so one day, we tried it out of curiosity. I did some research beforehand just to make sure we would both be safe and comfortable doing it. The first time we did it, we used a generous amount of lube and made sure to prepare first. It was definitely interesting for both of us and something neither of us had done before.

After that we only tried it one more time, and we ultimately decided it wasn't something that we wanted to continue doing. It was more special doing it with my partner rather than a random hookup, because I felt safe and comfortable throughout all of it." &mdashElise T.

"It can feel amazing. as long as you use the bathroom first."

"If you're backed up or on an empty stomach, it sucks. You definitely feel like you're going to poop, either all over yourself or on his d*ck.

But if you're not and you do it nice and slowly, it's euphoric. It's different from regular sex because it feels like he's going way deeper. Anal doesn't help me orgasm more easily, though." &mdashMadeline R.

"I was always afraid it would hurt, but anal sex actually isn&rsquot so much painful as it is uncomfortable. But! The discomfort is so extreme for some people that they can barely do it&mdashlike my best friend, who&rsquos tried a few times with her fiancé and barely gotten it in, no matter how much lube they use. The key, apparently, is to be relaxed, which you really aren&rsquot gonna be&mdashin fact, knowing it&rsquos about to happen will make you tense up more than usual&mdashunless you happen to love it.

I&hellipdo not love it, but my boyfriend is super into it, and he&rsquos very respectful and lovely about not pressuring me. We maybe do it once every couple of months. He&rsquos a big advocate of using a butt plug beforehand to 'loosen everything up.'" &mdashAnna B.

"There's nothing fun about it for me."

"It's not the worst thing ever, but kind of like the same way flossing isn't the worst thing ever. There's nothing fun about it for me. It's not that it's painful, it's just mildly uncomfortable and really not my thing." &mdashJo R.

"I tried it once a long time ago. The guy I was seeing wanted to do it, and I was resistant but eventually gave in. He tried to put it in, but it just hurt too much. I don't think he used lube, and it's just really tight. Maybe I'd do it again with the right person if I had a lot of trust in him. Either way, it's not something at the top of my list." &mdashClara A.

"Amusingly, my first sexual intercourse was via anal penetration. My high school sweetheart was raised strictly Catholic and was 'saving it for marriage.' While I was disinterested in this wait time, he did explain that, to him, anal sex didn't count since it couldn't lead to procreation.

His being exceedingly well-endowed made taking it slowly and using plenty of lube the obvious choice. The oddest thing I noticed was that the initial penetration would generate a tight sensation in my throat, similar to what you might feel after a bad scare. But it was an exciting feeling, not scary at all. It's a slow but pleasantly luxurious sensation of being gently and benignly pulled inside out. It certainly was extremely erotic, and I felt aware of my entire body as an erogenous zone. I discovered I was able to orgasm via anal penetration, and anal play is something I enjoy to this day." &mdashMollena W.

"It's the perfect balance of dangerous and sexy."

"I used to be obsessed with anal. At one point in high school, I was having more anal than regular sex. When done right&mdashand by right, I mean when the guy doesn't shove his d*ck into you like a horse in heat&mdashanal can teeter on that dangerous line between pleasure and pain. He feels bigger than ever and completely fills you up. As he's going in, you have to hold your breath because you feel like your body doesn't have room for air and his d*ck at the same time, but once he's in, the pleasure radiates through your whole body." &mdashNina T.

"It really strengthens the connection with your partner."

"The key to good anal&mdashyes, that's a thing&mdashis having a partner you trust completely and who will do it right. That means lots of lube, starting small with a pinky finger just like in Fifty Shades, then working your way up to small toys or butt plugs. After that, anal can be amazing! It is super-intense, and your lover has to be extremely delicate and careful and be a good listener and super patient&mdashand you as the receiver have to have a lot of trust in that.

The anus is, after all, an exit, not an entrance, and so it could really, really hurt. This is not an act that should ever be undertaken with a random dude or at a random moment you both have to want it, and you both have to be prepared. No assholes allowed in the asshole! I think that's one of the best parts of the whole ordeal. It takes so much time, trust, and communication that it just amplifies everything physical going on because you are so connected with your partner." &mdashTess N.

"I have stronger orgasms during anal."

"For me, being penetrated during anal sex can cause a little soreness during insertion and in the first few minutes. Lots of lube, slow, gentle motions, and patience move it quickly to the next phase, which is an exciting, pleasurable pressure. I find that I can have stronger orgasms while being penetrated anally, but these are clitoral or vaginal orgasms, not anal orgasms&mdashthose are quite elusive. For me, it's probably the added stimulation, the intimacy, and the emotional intensity of anal that make orgasms stronger.

But if the angle is wrong in anal sex, with too much of a sharp upward or downward angle, a sting-y and unpleasant pain can be the result. Having the right angle of entry is important for me. Also, pegging someone with a strap-on can be very pleasurable with an insert-able double-ended dildo, or even just the harness or base of the strap-on grinding up against the clitoris." &mdashMargaret C.

6 Things You Need To Know About The History of Blowjobs

Blowjobs are a staple in (and out) of the bedroom, have you ever thought bout the rich historical legacy of this most famous form of foreplay?

Even though BJs haven&apost exactly been a topic of conversation up until a few decades ago, they&aposve been a deservedly popular sex act for thousands of years. So without further ado, the bountiful history of the glorious blowjob, courtesy of a new report from Mic:

1. The first documented blowjob resurrected an ancient Egyptian God.
Though only from mythology, the first "documented" blowjob was between the Egyptian god-king Osiris, and his sister-turned-wife Isis. The story goes that when Osiris was murdered and chopped up into pieces by his brother, Set, Osiris’ wife Isis put his body back together, but unfortunately couldn’t find the penis. Clearly thinking: “what’s a man without a penis?” she crafted a makeshift dick out of clay, stuck it onto Osiris’ crotch, and 𠇋lew” life into him by sucking his clay penis. Which is why amazing blowjobs take your breath away even today.

The man himself, Osiris. (Source: British Museum)

2. Pompeiians were very sexual people.
Pompeii is best known as the Italian city that drowned in molten lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, but the ancient city was actually a lot saucier than you𠆝 think.

About 50 years ago, erotic fresco paintings were discovered in the baths of Pompeii, depicting lesbian sex, group sex, and lots and lots of blowjobs. Historians believe the paintings were intended to get visitors, who would need to go through the baths to get to the city center, into the “Pompeii state of mind,” which was sexual and horny.

(Source: Bridgeman Art Library)

There’s even an extravagant two-story brothel in Pompeii called The Lupanare, that houses equally titillating erotic paintings, and rumor has it, a prostitute named Myrtis had a sign on her door that pointed out her specialty –yep, blowjobs.

3. Ancient Greeks loved blowjobs, too.
In the times of Plato and Socrates, blowjobs abounded, and were artfully called “playing the flute.” Grecians happily lifted their togas for someone to come along and play their flute *wink wink* and it was actually pretty common for oral sex to be exchanged between two straight men. Though not always.

Some of the earliest phallic poetic references came from ancient Greece, as the great poet Archilochus wrote, "As on a straw a Thracian man or Phrygian sucks his brew, forward she stooped, working away." Or in other words, she really knows how to use her mouth. 

4. An entire chapter of the Kama Sutra is dedicated to oral sex.
In Ancient India, fellatio was ritualized, and the original Sanskrit version of the Kama Sutra even has an entire chapter on 𠇊uparishtaka,” or “oral congress,” which is basically the art of blowjobs. The chapter goes into detail on eight different ways to give head, and some of them are pretty complicated, and look like they require a good amount of flexibility.

5. Blowjobs were a punishment in ancient Rome.
In Ancient Rome, giving a blowjob was a terrible, horrible thing, and was even worse than anal sex. And for ancient Romans, anal sex was an unforgivable vice. However, it was totally fine to receive a blowjob, and petty crimes were often solved with forceful blowjobs.

For example: Imagine you’re an Ancient Roman, and you own a fantastic onion field. So many onions. Suddenly, a peasant runs through your field and steals some of your onions. That jerk! Instead of having his eyes gouged out or his arms chopped off, you can simply pull down your pants and order him to give you a blowjob. The end.

Fun fact: having bad breath in ancient Rome was frowned upon, because it might have meant you just gave someone a blowjob.

6. Oral sex could get you executed in the 19th century.
Thanks to certain churchgoing killjoys, any sexual act that didn’t lead to your wife popping out babies was a mortal sin, and that included oral sex. So if a woman got a little tipsy on some toilet hooch (booze was more or less frowned upon) and got caught giving a man a blowjob, it was off with her head. Aren’t you glad those days are over?

(Source: Francois Guillot/Getty)

There you have it. A brief history of the beloved blowjob, a sex act that has been through it all. 

Sexuality in Ancient Egypt – Ancient Egyptian Family

What is more interesting than pyramids, rich and powerful pharaohs and mummies? Sexuality. Take a look at what governed the Ancient Egyptians’ daily life.

Ancient Egypt is celebrated for its remarkable discoveries in the fields of architecture, medicine, and government. However, many historians leave out the most important and more interesting topic: sexuality. According to the 1969 study of Yehudi Cohen, all societies associate sexual behavior with symbolism besides its normal biological function. It is important for us to understand that sexuality is an ever-changing category.

Over the centuries, religious beliefs, current affairs, moral issues, political conquests, and the growing need for people to express their opinions have contributed to the most current definitions of sexuality. Because of this, many of the norms of the past are considered taboo today. During the Dynastic Period of Egypt, sexuality was often linked to all stages and aspects of life, including the afterlife, as well as religion. The expression of sexuality was quite vast. Over the next few articles, we will take a closer look at some facets of Ancient Egypt including family dynamics, iconography and beauty, and religion including creation myths and the afterlife.

Family bonds

To begin this series, let’s take a look at sexual expression within the family unit. Studies by Hendrix and Schneider reveal three important assumptions about families. First, the nuclear family, which includes two parents and at least one child, is the minimum family unit everywhere. That being said, we assume that a man and woman come together for the sake of procreation. Based on this statement, it can also be assumed that having more wives was not only reserved for sexual pleasure, but to also form alliances with neighboring families or societies.

The second assumption about families is that all societies have free choice in mate selection. If both mates are able to choose each other, it is the best guess that they are first attracted to each other by physical appearance. The final assumption is that marriage is the primary sexual mating relationship in all societies. This means that in most cultures people will form a bond to provide themselves with a sexual companion not only for bearing children but to also have for pleasure.

Role of the wife

The social role of the wife in Ancient Egypt was exceptionally high in comparison to many other cultures. In most cases she was considered equal to her husband. If a woman was married to a king, often times she was his primary adviser and held the throne when he died. His wife and no other woman could only fulfill this role because only she was considered “the god’s wife” and good enough to take over. Fieldwork by Hassan and Smith in 2002 reveals that many kings came to power by associating themselves with certain female goddesses.

Adultery and rape

Although most pharaohs and some commoners had acquired more than one and perhaps several wives, sex outside of marriage was considered taboo. Adultery was considered a “heinous offense” and was often viewed as a punishable crime. Rape was considered appalling and the assailant was usually punished as well. One might think the opposite considering that sexuality was such an open aspect of life, but even in the case of the Egyptians, there were boundaries.

However, premarital sex was not considered taboo in any way and was often practiced. As mentioned, when married most often a ruler would take a wife to create a political alliance with prospective allies. However, this was an area taken advantage of since we know today that Ramses II had fathered over 90 children. In ancient times, having more children helped a man to rise to a higher social status. Men were often chastised for fathering no or few children. Obviously, Ramses enjoyed the idea that his “bonds” could be used in ways other than political means.


Another stigma associated with the family of Ancient Egypt is that of incest. By definition incest is an “act among kinsmen”. This practice was more common in the urban areas and amongst the pharaohs and nobility. This could be due to the fact that royal succession was linked to elite groups and therefore only certain people were “pure” enough to form a bond with. We see this practice in English, Greek and Roman ancestry as well, especially amongst cousins.

The gods of the Egyptian pantheon, including the famous brother-sister couple Osiris and Isis, justified the idea of incest. Incestuous relations in Ancient Egypt seem to be successful in that siblings are usually separated during the sensitizing years. Segregation between sexes at early ages sometimes lead to voluntary sibling marriages at older ages. In other words, if they are not raised together, they do not associate themselves as being family and therefore will be more likely to form a sexual bond when they are older.

5 Surprising Things That the Bible Says about Sex

The Bible is a book about God, about us, and about how God saves us through the person and work of Jesus Christ therefore, it isn’t terribly surprising to discover that the Bible has a great deal to say about sex. Human beings are sexual creatures – God made us male and female – therefore the story of creation, fall, and redemption is necessarily, at least in part, a story about human sexuality.

Parts of that story are relatively well known, but other parts can be quite unexpected – even shocking – to the first time Bible reader. Among the most surprising revelations would be the following:

1. It’s good

In our contemporary culture, Christianity is generally portrayed as sexually repressive in the extreme. Christians are known for being opposed to gay sex, pre-marital sex, and extramarital sex and therefore the assumption is that Christians believe that sex is bad in and of itself – but nothing could be further from the truth!

The Bible says that the first husband and wife were: “both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 ESV).

Before the fall – before sin – sex was part of the created order. It was good – VERY GOOD – and was engaged in freely, without inhibition of any kind by the man and the woman.

The Bible says that sex was affected by the fall but it remains something to be celebrated and protected throughout the entire canon of Scripture. In the Book of Proverbs, the wise father instructs his son to:

rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18–19 ESV)

Likewise in the New Testament, it says:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled. (Hebrews 13:4 ESV)

Sex between a husband and a wife is never a cause for shame. It should be honoured, cherished and enjoyed as the gift and the good that it is thanks be to God!

2. Husbands owe it to wives

Many historians think that the most surprising thing the Bible says about sex is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4:

the husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3–4 ESV)

One scholar, for example, puts it this way:

The marked mutuality of Paul’s comments (the husband has authority over his wife’s body and she has authority over his) was, however, revolutionary in the ancient world where patriarchy was the norm. For the husband to have authority over his wife’s body was nothing special…. Paul’s following statement affirming the reverse, that “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does,” clearly pointed to a radical and unprecedented restriction on the husbands’ sexual freedom. It communicates, negatively, his obligation to refrain from engaging in sexual relations with anyone other than his wife and, positively, his obligation to fulfill his marital duty to provide her with sexual pleasure and satisfaction. [1]

The idea that sex was to be mutual and that the husband owed it to his wife – and that the wife had a right to claim it from the husband – was revolutionary! It was unprecedented! No one had ever said anything like this, anywhere else in the ancient world.

Far from parroting the sexual norms of the culture, Christianity taught that sex within a marriage should be free, generous and reciprocal. That council was at odds with the norms of the first-century Roman world and it remains at odds with the wisdom of our culture still today. Young couples nowadays are often told that they should only have sex when both parties desire it – however, the Bible says that sex should be given in a marriage whenever either party desires it. Of all the things said in the Bible about sex, this could be the most surprising of them all.

3. Married couples should have it often

Queen Victoria famously instructed the Christian ladies in her realm to “Lie back and think of the Empire” a view of sex that seems pessimistic and pragmatic in the extreme. Thankfully the Bible presents a very different view. In addition to the goodness, generosity, and reciprocity mentioned above, the Scriptures also recommend a level of frequency that many modern Bible readers find quite surprising.

The Apostle Paul told his people:

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5 ESV)

At most, married couples could set aside a few days for dedicated prayer and spiritual observance – only if both parties were in agreement – but then they must come together quickly lest they be tempted to sexual immorality.

As in the Old Testament, so in the New, frequent marital intercourse is prescribed as a guard against a wandering eye and a lustful heart. The assumption is that if we drink deeply from our own cisterns we will be less tempted to draw from our neighbour’s well. (Proverbs 5:15) There is great wisdom – and great joy – in following this inspired instruction.

4. It’s not just about the kids

You don’t have to read very far in the Bible to discover the connection between sexuality and procreation. In the very first chapter of the very first book it says:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:27–28 ESV)

God made them male and female and he told them to be fruitful and multiply. The message seems rather obvious: having and raising godly babies is part of how we exercise dominion over the earth.

That’s true, but it isn’t the end of the story – it isn’t even the start of the story! In fact, the first thing that God says about a human being in the Book of Genesis is that: “It is not good that the man should be alone I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).

Human beings are intended to resemble and represent God – therefore the man ought to have a complementary and co-equal partner. Therefore God created Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side. The Bible goes on to say:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 ESV)

Sex in the Bible is first and foremost about intimate friendship. It is about cleaving to your God-given other. It is about becoming “one flesh”. This Hebrew term implies more than, but not less than, physical union. It means almost becoming one person. Sex is about pursuing physical, emotional, sexual and ontological union. It is about submission, exploration, discovery, and delight.

Done right, under blessing, it often results in children, but it isn’t ultimately for that. It is for the glory of God and the comfort of mankind. That’s a subtle and yet very significant distinction.

5. It’s not what makes you truly human

Despite all of what the Scriptures say in support and celebration of human sexuality, the Bible makes it very clear that you can be fully and entirely human without ever having it.

Or the Apostle Paul – at least for the better part of his life. [2]

In fact, there are so many lifelong celibates in the Bible that some early Christians actually began to wonder if abstinence represented a sort of inside track to spiritual fulfillment. They wrote to Paul and asked him about that very thing. In response to their question, he spoke about marriage as a general rule (1 Corinthians 7:2) the need to be generous and reciprocal in the marriage bed (1 Corinthians 7:3-4) and the need for married couples to have sex on a regular and consistent basis (1 Corinthians 7:5).

But then he said something very surprising to the modern reader. He said:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. (1 Corinthians 7:7 ESV)

Paul says that he wishes there were more lifelong celibates! He wishes there were more people who could do as he did – travelling the world, serving the Lord, feeding the flock and building up the people of God without worrying that he was neglecting his natural family. Paul says that if he had his way there would be MORE people like that – but each has his own gift from God. God gives to some the gift of marriage and to others, the gift of celibacy and Paul must submit to the Sovereign will of his Maker.

What a surprising statement!

Everything about that statement agitates and disturbs the modern mind!

So many people today define themselves by their sexuality. They ARE who they have sex with. But the Bible doesn’t take that view. The Bible says that a person is a human being because they were created in the image and likeness of God. Meaning, before you have sex – before you have anything – you have maximal value and significance before God! You are an image bearer! You are a ruling creature under God and over everything else.

The implications of that insight are absolutely staggering.

It means for starters that sex is natural for human beings, but not necessary. A person can live a full, blessed, rich, useful, meaningful, God-glorifying life without ever having sex with anyone.

Sex is good but it’s not ultimate.

To many people in our culture, that would be the most surprising thing the Bible says about anything.

The Bible says that marriage is good, sex is good, singleness is good and celibacy is good. They are all precious gifts given according to the wisdom and timing of the Lord for his glory and our everlasting good.

To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.

[1] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, Pillar New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 280-281.

[2] The Bible doesn’t say whether or nor Paul was ever married. It simply says that he was single when he entered the story and remained single throughout.

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To violate a Vestal Virgin’s vow of chastity was to commit an act of religious impurity (incestum), and thereby to undermine Rome’s compact with the gods, the pax deorum (‘peace of the gods’).

In turn, a Vestal Virgin ran the very real risk of being buried alive if ever convicted of fornication.

Roman religion reflected, and at the same time regulated, sexual mores, with the male-female duality enshrined in the pairings of the twelve Dii Consentes, or major gods (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Olympian gods): Jupiter-Juno, Neptune-Minerva, Mars-Venus, Apollo-Diana, Vulcan-Vesta, and Mercury-Ceres.

A number of annual religious festivals, such as the Liberalia, Floralia, and Lupercalia, to say nothing of the banned Bacchanalia, incorporated an important and ritualized element of sex.

The Vestal Virgins tended to the cult of the fascinus populi Romani, the sacred image of the divine phallus and male counterpart of the hearth of Vesta. Like the eternal flame, also guarded by the Vestal Virgins, or the Palladium, Lares, and Penates of Troy, the fascinus populi Romani assured the ascendancy and continuity of the state.

Similarly, during the Liberalia, devotees of the god Liber Pater carted a giant phallus through the countryside to fertilize the fields and safeguard crops—after which a virtuous matron would crown the phallus with a garland or wreath.

Smaller talismans in the shape of a penis and testes, often winged, invoked the protection of the god Fascinus against the evil eye. These charms, or fascini, often in the form of a ring or amulet, were most commonly worn by infants, boys, and soldiers.

As you are no doubt aware, the Romans often lost sight of their high ideals—although later Christian writers may have exaggerated the extent of their depravity.

In particular, it was entirely accepted, and even expected, for freeborn men to have extramarital relations with both female and male partners, especially adolescents, provided that they:

  • Exercised moderation,
  • Adopted the active, or dominant, role, and
  • Confined their activities to slaves and prostitutes, or, less commonly, a concubine or ‘kept woman’.

Married or marriageable women who belonged to another freeborn man, and young freeborn males, were strictly off limits.

The Stoic philosopher Musonius (d. c. 100 CE), a rare voice at the time, criticized the double standard that granted men much greater sexual freedom than women, arguing that, if men are to presume to exercise control over women, they ought, surely, to exercise even greater control over themselves.

Most extramarital and same-sex activity took place with slaves and prostitutes.

Slaves were considered as property and lacked the legal standing that protected a citizen’s body.

A freeman who forced a slave into having sex could not be charged with rape, but only under laws relating to property damage, and then only at the instigation of the slave’s owner.

Prostitution was both legal and common, and often operated out of brothels or the fornices (arcade dens) under the arches of a circus.

Most prostitutes were slaves or freedwomen. A freeborn person who fell into prostitution suffered infamia, that is, loss of respect or reputation, and became an infamis, losing her or his social and legal standing.

Other groups that incurred infamia—a concept that still retains some currency in the Roman Catholic Church—included actors, dancers, gladiators, and other entertainers, which is why Roman women were forbidden from being seen on stage.

Members of these groups, which had in common the pleasuring of others, could be subjected to violence and even killed with relative impunity.

A freeborn man’s libertas, or political liberty, manifested itself, among others, in the mastery of his own body, and his adoption of a passive or submissive sexual position implied servility and a loss of virility.

Homosexual behaviour among soldiers not only violated the decorum against sexual intercourse among freeborn men, but also compromised the penetrated soldier’s sexual and therefore military dominance, with rape and penetration the symbols, and sometimes also the harsh realities, of military defeat.

According to the historian Polybius (d. c. 125 BCE), the penalty for a soldier who had allowed himself to be penetrated was fustuarium, that is, cudgelling to death, the same punishment as for desertion.

By some twisted Roman logic, a man who was anally penetrated was seen to take on the role of a woman, but a woman who was anally penetrated was seen to take on the role of a boy.

In one of the censored poems of Martial (d. c. 103 CE), the poet’s wife catches him with a boy. When she offers him anal sex to encourage fidelity, he replies that anal sex with a tight boy is beyond compare to anal sex with a woman: ‘you, my wife, have got no more than two cunts.’

Latin does not have a strict equivalent for the noun ‘homosexual’, which is relatively recent both in coinage and concept but a minority of men did, then as today, express a clear same-sex preference or orientation—most famously the poet-emperor Hadrian, who founded a city in memory of his beloved Antinous and even had him deified.

Since Roman men could and often did indulge in extramarital sex, it might be assumed that Roman marriage was all duty and dour.

However, the houses and bedrooms of the nobility were often decorated with erotic scenes ranging from elegant dalliance to explicit pornography.

The poet Horace (d. 8 BCE) had a mirrored room for sex, and the emperor Tiberius (d. 37 BCE) stocked his bedchambers with the saucy sex manuals of Elephantis.

In Ancient Rome as in Victorian England, virtuous restraint often went hand in hand with licentious abandon, the one put on display in the public arena and the other hidden away in closed rooms and shady nooks.

And so, according to Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and unhappy tutor to Nero:

Virtue you will find in the temple, in the forum, in the senate house, standing before the city walls, dusty and sunburnt, her hands rough pleasure you will most often find lurking around the baths and sweating rooms, and places that fear the police, in search of darkness, soft, effete, reeking of wine and perfume, pallid or else painted and made up with cosmetics like a corpse.

Watch the video: Top 10 - Crazy SEX Facts From Ancient Times