Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You sure you want to go back to this?

Wives were generally held to one standard of behavior, strict marital chastity, and husbands to quite another one. Men, husbands included, were allowed considerably more freedom to have sex with other women, particularly women deemed not to possess status and honor. So, although sex with the wives of other men or with freeborn virgins was not approved, other kinds of sexual activities were openly tolerated, and even encouraged. These included sex with courtesans and prostitutes and also sex with boys, typically slave boys. An oft-cited statement of the fourth century BC Greek orator Demosthenes, but indicative of later attitudes as well, is illustrative of the sexual latitude allowed to men: “We [men!] have heterai [concubines, courtesans] for pleasure, female slaves for our daily care [a sexual euphemism] and wives to give us legitimate children and to be guardians of our households.” Quite simply, in the ethical conventions of Roman society, a married woman’s sexual behavior was a matter of great concern, but men, single or married, were allowed great latitude in their sexual activities.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 157

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