The History Of Anal Sex

Posted on February 28th, 2010

“Going through the back door.”  “Driving the Hershey highway.”  “Rear entry.”  “Going Greek.”

Whatever you call it, anal sex is surrounded by an aura of mystery and taboo in modern Western culture.  In the Middle Ages, when religion regulated morality in every day life to an extreme degree, the church viewed sex as a devious and unclean act, and associated lust and sexuality with original sin and the Fall of Man.  Sexual intercourse for any purpose other than reproduction was viewed as a depraved practice.

But rewind a bit, and you’ll discover a radically different picture.  In Ancient Greece, many adult men took on younger male lovers, though historians debate about how frequently sexual intercourse actually occurred.  Relationships of this nature were considered an essential element of the education of adolescent boys, particularly in Athens and Sparta.  Many courtesans also engaged in heterosexual anal sex, as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Ancient Rome’s infamous orgies and Bacchanalian festivals lead to hedonistic pairings that were both heterosexual and homosexual, though it was considered immodest or unchaste for male citizens to take the receptive role in anal sex.  Free men, however, often took the active role with young male slaves, as the practice was significantly less stigmatized.

Japanese erotic art, known as shunga, shows evidence that penetrative anal sexual intercourse occurred in both heterosexual and homosexual couplings, and erotic vases made by the Moche people of Peru feature countless illustrations of heterosexual anal sex.  In fact, they depict anal sex more than any other sex act!
After the sexual repression of the Middle Ages, during the Renaissance, attitudes towards anal sex became more permissive.  King James I openly had a male lover, the Duke of Buckingham, and homosexuality was tolerated amongst artists.

By the Victorian era, however, sex – of any kind – was once again considered shameful and sinful.  A law was passed that stated that “gross indecency” between men would receive a punishment of two years’ hard labor.

Only after the Second World War and the publication of the research of Alfred Kinsey and Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex did sexual attitudes again take on a more exploratory approach in the 20th century, though even in the wake of the sexual revolution anal sex is still often considered mystifying, immoral, or taboo.

Some things never change, but sex certainly isn’t one of them.

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Posted in Sex and Intimacy


  1. sex friend

    wow… it seems we haven’t “come a long way” sexually like we might like to think. It’s been going on for centuries anyway!

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