The popular perception of Western history is that humans have become less puritanical over time; compare, for example, how the sight of an ankle (on a man or woman) was considered shocking in the Victorian culture of the 18th and 19th centuries. Given our current attitude toward clothing, something has clearly changed, since even the percentage of socially acceptable bare skin has increased linearly since then.
However, there are certain subjects on which we are much more modest than our historical counterparts. Concrete example: oral sex, which is likely to provoke reluctance in, say, media executives and priests today. Yet ancient Egyptian priests would have happily and publicly discussed oral sex with you, as it was a crucial aspect of both their culture and religion.
“Sucking itself… it’s thought to be a symbolic representation of how the earth can create things from itself.”
To understand why, look no further than Henuttawy’s Book of the Dead. It is found in a funerary papyrus in the British Museum, a sentence which, read aloud, makes the document sound quite serious and perhaps even wholesome. Yet in this sacred scroll, the Egyptians depict their earth god Geb – a deity so important that the planet itself was called the “House of Geb” – performing an act that gives a different meaning to his nickname as the father of serpents.
Henuttawy Book of the Dead section (© The Trustees of the British Museum)
“Sucking yourself in” was the expression used by Dr. Richard Bruce Parkinson, professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford. Unpacking the image for Salon, Parkinson explained that “it is thought to be a symbolic representation of how the earth can create things from itself. This seems to be the image of an autonomous act; In Egyptian mythology, everything related to creation is often conceived as a sexual act. »
Although Geb’s act of self-pleasure is undoubtedly memorable, it was not a solitary depiction in Egyptian artifacts. Parkinson also recalled how Atum, the creator God in a popular myth, “begat the first generation of gods after him, as the sole creator, through an act of masturbation.” Depending on the source, the act of masturbation is either manual (involving only the hand) or can involve both Atoum’s mouth and hand. Regardless, it is clear that the Egyptians who shared these stories so frequently that they became part of a common conversation did not consider them particularly shocking, even though it led to images that Parkinson says are “striking to modern eyes”.
“I think it’s quite amusing to realize that a male deity performing this act on himself, (which) for us is basically something pornographic” was commonplace for the Egyptians to the point where, unlike today Today, one could “expect to see the highest, most prestigious levels of religious imagery.
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Bronze figure of Amun-Kamoutef (© The Trustees of the British Museum)
As the above bronze figure of the fertility god Amun-Kamutef reinforces, Egyptian respect for sexuality was not limited to its masturbatory and oral manifestations. Parkinson pointed out to Salon that while we don’t know much about Egyptians’ everyday perceptions of sexuality, “there is a lot of sexual imagery in religious iconography.” It is very common to see gods with erect phalluses, which is an expression of strength, masculinity and also virility. And when the god of the dead Osiris resurrects, one aspect of that is his ability to get an erection.
It is very common to see gods with erect phalluses, which is an expression of strength, masculinity and also virility. And when the god of the dead, Osiris, is resurrected, one aspect of that is his ability to get an erection. »
It is of course important not to exaggerate the Egyptians’ permissive attitude towards sex. In fact, in many ways the ancient Egyptians were just as intolerant like their Old Testament Jewish counterparts. Extramarital affairs and adultery were severely condemned, and the consequences of being arrested were fatal for women. There is also evidence that the Egyptians did not approve of oral sex when performed by a man with another “copulative man” or penetrated during intercourse. Yet this does not mean that the Egyptians were homophobic (in the modern sense); their language did not contain words for “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” or “bisexual.” They did not conceive of “gender” as a construct, although their notions about it can be broadly interpreted as binary. The Egyptians simply did not conceive of sexual acts in a way that fit neatly into modern heteronormative discourse. For example, in the Old Kingdom tale “The Fights of Horus and Seth,” the falcon-headed god Horus catches the sperm of another god, Seth, in his hand as the latter attempts to drain it. penetrate anally. When Horus shows Seth’s sperm to his mother Isis, she cuts off Horus’ hand and throws it into a river while putting Horus’ sperm on Seth’s lettuce, which Seth then consumes.
It goes without saying that such stories defy conventional categorization.
Perhaps because Egyptian sexual mores seem foreign today, they have also inspired much misinformation about their culture that periodically circulates. A popular online urban legend argues that the Egyptians invented lipstick because it helped women’s lips look like engorged lips. While encouraging clitoral pleasure during sex is certainly laudable, the idea that the Egyptians were such extraordinary lovers that they displayed it on their faces is not supported by any historical evidence.
“It’s a culture that has been viewed through a colonialist and orientalist lens, which means there are so many inaccurate urban myths.”
“It’s a culture that has been viewed through a colonialist and orientalist lens, which means there are an awful lot of inaccurate urban myths,” Parkinson told Salon. As for the lipstick myth, “there is a scene in a papyrus in the Turin Museum that shows a lady painting her lips, but she is using something that looks like a brush. So there is paint for the lips. lips, but no lipstick. Is there any evidence that it had anything to do with oral sex? Absolutely not, no!
Overall, the Egyptian view of oral sex reflects a culture that took certain aspects of sexuality for granted and are now considered outside the parameters of polite conversation.
“There are love songs in ancient Egypt celebrating sexual desire and its consummation, but as with all literature, you cannot use them as a documentary source on social realities,” Parksinson observed. “It seems, however, that overall, compared to European attitudes, there was a simple and open view of sexuality, that is, the kind of sexuality that results in children, and therefore normal heterosexual relations. ” Sexual desire itself was “highly celebrated, and this type of sexual activity was also used as a metaphor for life after death.” People would attain eternal life in a process of rebirth for which sexual imagery was often used, as with creation.”
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