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History of Sex in Egypt

Unlike the current days, sexuality in Egypt at the time of Pharaohs used to be open, untainted by guilt. Sex was an important part of life – from birth to death and rebirth. Singles and married couples made love. The gods themselves were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex in the afterlife. Sex was not taboo… Even the Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation… with hints of necrophillia! Masculinity and femininity itself were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children…

Egypt was and is a civilization of vast diversity. Ancient Egypt had many different sexual behaviors and diversities: homosexuality, transgenderism, incest marriages, exhibitionism, prostitution, adultery, bestiality, necrophilia, and others. There were different customs among nobility, common people, and slaves. Nobility had a wide range of marital customs and practically all sexual behaviors were both accepted and condemned depending on the time period and the ruling class. This was similar with the common people, only there seems to be a more strict regime in marriage, and a variety of punishments to those who broke the laws. What was acceptable among slaves and concubines was dependent upon their owners. Although Egypt has similarities to other civilizations, they also had unique sexual imagery and customs.

Egyptians thought highly of cleanliness and shaved not only their heads, upon which they wore wigs, but also their pubic hair, which prevented forms of pubic lice. Circumcision was also practiced which
eliminated smegma (dirt and bacteria build up under the foreskin).

Contraception and Potions
Different types of contraception were attempted, such as the use of animal dung as a form of a spermicide. If this failed, potions were derived to induce miscarriage. Potions were also used as aphrodisiacs.

Lineage of Pharoahs
Ancient Egypt’s lineage was traced through women and property was passed through women. For this reason, Ancient Egypt originated as a matriarchy. The pharoahs were trustees of the property passed down and their reign was decided by their matrilineal status. Because of the matrilineal structure, husbands would lose their property and status if their wife died. The property was passed down to the daughters and granddaughters. Many incest relations began with fathers and daughters and granddaughters because the men wanted to stay with the property. There were also numerous brother/sister incest marriages.

 One Creation Story
Chaos (probably the Roman name equivalent of the Egyptian deity), the god of creation, masturbated, and from his ejaculation he created the other gods.

Isis and Osiris
Osiris was hacked into pieces by his brother Seth. Isis pieced him back together but was unable to find his phallus, so she created a new phallus. Egyptians would have a celebration of this event, during which women would walk through the streets singing and walking with puppets that had extremely large genitals.

Bes was the dwarf god with a very large phallus. He was considered a protector of women and some would tatoo Bes on their thigh. Bes is celebrated in physical sex and rooms came to be known as ‘Bes Chambers.’

Hathor was the goddess of love and music. In one story she exposed her genitals to her father, the sun god who smiled.

Bastet was the cat goddess, associated with Hathor, and also a fertility goddess. During the festival for Bastet, women would expose their genitals.

Cult of Apis
For 40 days, women would go to the Temple of Apis, the Bull. They would expose their genitals to the statue. Once they left, they never returned again.

Temple of Amun
The Temple of Amun had different practices over Egyptian history, but at one point, a woman would go into the temple, have sex with whomever she pleased until menstruation, after which there was a celebration. Then she was married.

It all begins with masturbation  when the creator  Atum – Ra  ‘took his phallus in his grasp that he might create orgasm by means of it, and so were born the twins Shu and Tefnut.’  Pyramid Text

Seth’s sister- wife Nephthys was barren and disguised as Isis she and Osiris (her brother / brother in law) got drunk and had sex. Jealously  Seth murdered and dismembered the body of his brother Osiris and scattered the pieces across the land.

Isis reassembled the body of  Osiris long enough for her to be impregnated by a new erect phallus protruding from the mummy-wrapped body of her husband and their son  Horus was born and as he grew he sought revenge for the death of his father. Seth, as the brother of Osiris, sought dominance in the world instead of rulership going to the son of Osiris. He made advances to his nephew Horus in an attempt to humiliate him, proclaiming things such as “How lovely is your bottom.” Then Seth said to Horus: “Come, let us have a feast day at my house.” and Horus replied: “I will, I will.” Now when evening had come, a bed was prepared for them, and they lay down together. Seth let his member become stiff, and he inserted it between the thighs of Horus. However Horus, on his mother’s advice, placed his hand between his thighs and caught the semen of Seth in his hand. Horus and Isis then set about impregnating Seth instead, with the semen of Horus. Isis spread powerful unguents on Horus’ penis, he ejaculated into a jar, and they spread it on a lettuce. Seth ate the semen-covered lettuce, and thus Horus achieved sexual dominance over his uncle. Seth then asked the gods to bring the semen forth from the ‘impregnated’ one, to humiliate Osiris’ son. The semen came out of Seth instead. The gods laughed. Horus became king of the land and angry Seth was seen as the destroyer,  a good representation of Satan.

The fertility god Min, was depicted as a mummified man with an erect penis, wearing a feathered crown and carrying a flail. Lettuce was his sacred plant, and an aphrodisiac to the ancient Egyptians – the cos lettuce was tall, straight and secreted a milky sap which looked like semen. The blue lotus flower (no longer positively identified) which is a common image given much significance is also considered to have been an aphrodisiac or drug in some way.  Min was a god of fertility and sexuality. He stood with both legs together and the way he holds his flail in a V shape with his upraised forearm thrust inside the V seems to indicate intercourse. Paintings and reliefs don’t show his other arm, but statues reveal this hand holding his penis.

Geb the god of earth was recognised for his procreative role. Usually he is shown on his back with an erection pointing towards his wife Nut (the sky). He acted as judge between Horus and his uncle Seth in their battles for supremacy over the earth and chose Horus, although Ra favoured Seth. Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) were said to be always engaged in sex so an outraged Ra had them separated by their father Shu (air).

Circumcision  was practiced in Ancient Egypt with one record as far back as over 4,200 years ago mentioning the circumcision of 120 boys in a single ceremony discount levitra online. It appears to have been carried out at puberty and on reaching adolescence the side-lock worn by young male children also disappeared. The rite was called the Sebi and became compulsory for all priests of the temples if not for all youths. It may have been for ‘cleanliness’ in a hot dusty land as Herodotus said, but it also appeared to have religious and ethnic significance as it differentiated them from foreigners. A religious custom, as we know, also adopted by the Israelites. The Egyptians also shaved their pubic hair, probably at first  as a means of preventing lice but developing as a fashion. Appreciation of physical appearance and the use of beauty aids and techniques have been common in all societies and are reflected in their customs.

Sex was on the mind of the common workers and the ancients were not above gossip, as a graffiti above appears to illustrate Queen Hatshepsut having sex with her chief steward, architect and probable lover, Senenmut. It could be considered political satire, social comment or activism but then again it may just be early porn. In a xenophobic way we tend to reverentially deny the ancients any of the more human traits but are all to willing to accept them as murderers or depraved sacrificers, but it is possible and probable that they simply liked a dirty joke. I am sure humour is not a new invention.

Egyptian males had false penises attached to their mummies while Egyptian females were given artificial nipples. They  would thus be able to engage in sex in the afterlife as part of the joys of paradise..

Click Pic  above for a fascinating site on the Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, perhaps the first evidence of male lovers. The tomb at Saqqara near Memphis shows them holding hands, feasting together, and in their sacrificial chamber they are shown twice in very loving embraces. They were both manicurists for the king Neuserre, and both referred to by the word hm (priest). The walls of the tomb are very elaborately carved with pictures and text, depicting the two men in various scenes. There are few female figures and besides family, 76 of the 97 individuals are men.

Other images such as Ptah embracing King Senwosret display a remarkable intimacy between King and god and the image of Geb and a male sky god are ambiguous at the very least. A huge number of such images exist on the papyrus of Turin. A surviving relic which is illustrated with graphic images of assorted sexual positions, naked eroticism, love, intimacy and even sex aids. To date no one agrees as to the purpose of this papyrus. Social commentary, political satire, a recording of sexuality or just a titillating book? They were known to catalogue everything but they also wrote fiction so why not erotic fiction as well.

Egyptians were naked to a large extent. The heat and the poverty of the masses limited the amount of clothing owned or desired. Dancers, musicians, soldiers and common workers wore little or nothing. Bear breasts were common for women and children of all classes were mostly naked until puberty. Eunuchs existed, homosexuality existed and sex had little of the stigma that some other and later cultures developed. There was also considerably more equality between the sexes than developed in other societies.

References and further Reading

The Book of the Dead (hieroglyphics and translations).
V. Dasen. (1993) Dwarfs in Ancient Egypt and Greece. New York: Oxford University Press.
C. Eyre. (1984) “Crime and Adultery in Ancient Egypt.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 70 (pp. 92-105).
H. Frankfort. (1948) Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation. New York: Columbia University Press.
M. K. Hopkins. (1983) “Brother-Sister Marriage in Roman Egypt.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 22 (pp. 303-355).
J. Lindsay. (1965) Leisure and Pleasure in Roman Egypt. New York: Barnes & Noble.
L. Manniche. (1977) “Some Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Sexual Life.” Acta Orientaia. 38 (pp. 11-23).
L. Manniche. (1987) Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: KPI.
D. Montserrat. (1996) Sex and Society in Graeco-Roman Egypt. New York: Kegan Paul International, Distributed by Columbia University Press.
R. Parkinson. (1995) “‘Homosexual’ Desire and Middle Kingdom Literature.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 82 (pp. 57-76).
S. B. Pomeroy. (1984) Women in Hellenistic Egypt. New York: Schocken Books.
G. Robins. (1988) “Ancient Egyptian Sexuality.” Discussions in Egyptology. 11 (pp. 61-72).
G. Robins. (1993) Women in Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press.
B. Shaw. (1992) “Explaining Incest: Brother-Sister Marriage in Graeco-Roman Egypt.” Man. 27.2 (pp. 267-299).