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How did Anal Sex and the Greeks get Associated?

Maybe you’ve heard it before That the ancient Greeks were really into anal sex. “Greek love” and ‘Greek style’ are some common punch lines used when talking about homosexuality. Could people have gotten it wrong? We do know the Greeks were pretty well beyond the boundaries, sexually, but is this urban myth true? Was anal sex more prevalent in ancient Greece?

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The only way to understand the sexual culture of Greeks is by going back to the past. We need to first look at the relationships between men and women and then compare them to the relationship between males.

This article explains the roots of this urban myth.

The relationship between men and women

The Hellenistic period in ancient Greece was highly misogynistic.  Women were looked down upon and regarded as lesser people. Men had all the rights and filled all power positions. A woman’s place was in the household and their purpose was only to bear children. Girls were actually married off at 14 or 13, for dowry. They were considered as property and weren’t given a shot at education. Sometimes, prostitutes got more respect and attention than the average household woman.

This led to the formation of very close relationships between men and other men. The males wanted to interact with what they considered equals. For this reason, they preferred the company of their fellow men to that of women.

A Different Kind of Mentorship

It’s not the kind of relationship you have in mind. It was not specifically about sex. Some Greeks had long-lasting and loving relationships with their counterparts. However, the most common phenomenon was the intimacy between older men (erastes) and younger males (eromenos). This is also known as ‘Paiderastia’ in Latin or ‘Pederasty’ in English.

The Eromenos were submissive, while the older men dominated, teaching the boys about the accepted ways of the society. However, we haven’t gotten to the heart of the question yet. Was there some guy on guy action?

The young male lovers were the centre of the men’s attention. The women were just non-participants, more like a third member of this relationship. It’s very likely that there were some sexual acts between them. However, there was no penetration in these situations. There were cases of intercrural sex – involves insertion of the penis between the thighs or the receiver, but this kind of sex was frowned upon in same-sex relationships, as was anal sex.

The older partner was responsible for intellectually mentoring the young fellow till he came of age. Men did lust after boys. They were attracted to well-built physiques and handsome faces. An erastes’ main goal, however, was to foster a relationship with their young ‘lovers’ and protect them from harm.

Homosexuals or Not?

Today, that kind of relationship between men would be considered abuse. The Greeks saw it from a different perspective. However, you must understand it never happened between colleagues. Sex between grown men was thought to feminize the recipient. You wouldn’t want to be considered as ‘feminine’ in a society that looked down on females.

That said, it’s clear that the Greeks weren’t much into anal sex. If it happened, it was done in secret or with a person of low status, such as slaves. No self-respecting gentleman wanted to be associated with it.