Homosexuality in Ancient Rome - Female-female Sexuality

Female-female Sexuality

See also: History of lesbianism and Tribadism

References to sex between women are infrequent in the Roman literature of the Republic and early Principate. Ovid, who advocates generally for a heterosexual lifestyle, finds it "a desire known to no one, freakish, novel … among all animals no female is seized by desire for female." During the Roman Imperial era, sources for same-sex relations among women are more abundant, in the form of love spells, medical writing, texts on astrology and the interpretation of dreams, and other sources. A graffito from Pompeii expresses the desire of one woman for another:

I wish I could hold to my neck and embrace the little arms, and bear kisses on the tender lips. Go on, doll, and trust your joys to the winds; believe me, light is the nature of men.

Greek words for a woman who prefers sex with another woman include hetairistria (compare hetaira, "courtesan" or "companion"), tribas (plural tribades), and Lesbia; Latin words include the loanword tribas, fricatrix ("she who rubs"), and virago. An early reference to same-sex relations among women as "lesbianism" is found in the Roman-era Greek writer Lucian (2nd century CE): "They say there are women like that in Lesbos, masculine-looking, but they don't want to give it up for men. Instead, they consort with women, just like men."

Since Romans thought a sex act required an active or dominant partner who was "phallic", male writers imagined that in lesbian sex one of the women would use a dildo or have an exceptionally large clitoris for penetration, and that she would be the one experiencing pleasure. Dildos are rarely mentioned in Roman sources, but were a popular comic item in Classical Greek literature and art. There is only one known depiction of a woman penetrating another woman in Roman art, whereas women using dildos is common in Greek vase painting.

Martial describes lesbians as having outsized sexual appetites and performing penetrative sex on both women and boys. Imperial portrayals of women who sodomize boys, drink and eat like men, and engage in vigorous physical regimens, may reflect cultural anxieties about the growing independence of Roman women.

Read more about this topic:  Homosexuality In Ancient Rome