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Old 03-31-2013, 05:10 PM   #1
damppanties
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The element of sin in erotica

Excerpts from an article titled "Roman erotica lacks a sense of sin" in The Guardian.

Quote:
Sex is a highlight of the British Museum's exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.... The villas and brothels of Pompeii were full of erotic paintings, sculptures and kinky artefacts. Yet this art lacks something essential to modern sex.

It lacks a sense of sin.
And then later on...

Quote:
It is a huge contrast with the Christian society that grew out of the ruins of Rome and still in many ways – whatever our personal beliefs – shapes the culture of the west.

...

Yet without a sense of sin we, today, would not enjoy sex half as much, and that is why modern sexuality owes more to St Augustine than it does to the painters of Pompeii.
The article was interesting reading and a look at how sexuality and erotica has been considered throughout the ages. Made me think about how we see it in Western society today. With the recent 'Porn in the Classroom' thread and other evidence around us, I wonder if we're moving beyond the erotica as sin mindset.

Also, wondering about the connection between the sex as sin and erotica as sin connection. Is there one? Sexual morality is freer today in the West (than the middle ages, where the article stops) but we still seem to have a reluctance towards facing erotica or porn as something that is 'allowed' (in a moral, not legal sense).
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:16 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damppanties View Post

Also, wondering about the connection between the sex as sin and erotica as sin connection.
Is there one?
Sexual morality is freer today in the West (than the middle ages, where the article stops) but we still seem to have a reluctance towards facing erotica or porn as something that is 'allowed' (in a moral, not legal sense).
I think there's actually no real difference between sin-sex and erotica. It strikes me that there's little or no difference between erotica (think Ovid, for example), and a visit to a Brothel.
Of course, some may think there's a problem with committing adultery and so on. But to my mind, that's a legal problem.
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:43 PM   #3
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I'm not wholly convinced by The Guardian article.

There are many quotes from classical Roman authors about the degradation of public morality since the demise of the Republic, and that Greek (=homosexual) customs were weakening the strength of Roman institutions.

Their idea of sin might not have been the Christian one, but they recognised immorality with a different definition. The Romans were far less prudish about sex, but did see other 'sins' as immoral especially corruption in public office and lack of respect for the Gods. Ciciero's Verrine orations show that they recognised sin. But for them, sex wasn't sinful.

What we might now call pornography was normal art. Leptis Magna shows many public statues of Priapus with an oversized erection as good luck symbols.
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:47 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Handley_Page View Post
I think there's actually no real difference between sin-sex and erotica. It strikes me that there's little or no difference between erotica (think Ovid, for example), and a visit to a Brothel.
Of course, some may think there's a problem with committing adultery and so on. But to my mind, that's a legal problem.
I was thinking of sex as closer to premarital sex or casual sex, rather than a visit to a brothel or adultery. I mean sex itself, even marital, has been considered 'just for procreation' at various times in the past and in various sections of the society. Enjoyment of sex for itself is now more open and common, but watching/reading porn or erotica still carries that sense of shame with it. Whereas people wouldn't have a problem casually referring to their sexual lives.
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:54 PM   #5
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How true damppanties. We are still puritan in so many ways in the USA. I honestly believe if the Internet hadn't come along pornography would still be limited to back-room smut and girlie magazines. So many people are trying to hold us in the past but the net is not to be stopped and is rushing us to being the individuals, with all our foibles, that we are. Pornography is a word, litle more.
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Old 03-31-2013, 05:58 PM   #6
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I'm not sure if I'm answering this correctly, but I agree that the added element of sin is what makes stories fun to read.

You're teasing the reading as to where the line is drawn by society, and then you cross that line. Otherwise it's just random sex and you might as well be watching a porn video instead.

One thing I like doing is having the character(s) struggle with their sexuality and feelings, and then eventually overcome it and realize that sex is okay, and nothing to be ashamed of.
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Old 03-31-2013, 06:06 PM   #7
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One thing about sex the Romans did consider sinful was the reluctance of Patrician women to marry according to the full ancient rites. Only children of that sort of marriage could hold sacred offices. During the Empire it became more and more difficult to fill the priestly offices, and those offices increased as dead Emperors were deified.

But women didn't want that sort of marriage because they and their possessions became 'owned' by their husbands. The simpler rite left them with much more freedom to act by themselves, and to keep their own property.
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Old 03-31-2013, 06:12 PM   #8
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I'm not buying the proposition that 'society' is holding smut down, since 1968 its everywhere and freely available.

The problem I see is the Political Correctness brought to it; I grew up in the 50s and 60s when smut was suppressed but real sex wasn't, and there weren't really any age limits as there are now. What I did freely and openly in 1969 I'd be in prison for today. And that's the result of political correctness since the 70s. And the PC has infected smut.
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Old 03-31-2013, 06:37 PM   #9
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"Sin is essential to Modern Sex?"

No, although unfortunately it is inescapable for anyone who grows up in this society. Those of us who engage our sexuality minus sin get called "sluts."

Quote:
Yet without a sense of sin we, today, would not enjoy sex half as much, and that is why modern sexuality owes more to St Augustine than it does to the painters of Pompeii.
I would say instead, that we somehow manage to enjoy sexuality despite the load of bullshit that Augustine dumped on it.

Which shows us how very enjoyable sex is. How many ways we find to get past the shall-nots that pervade our language, our lives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JAMESBJOHNSON
What I did freely and openly in 1969 I'd be in prison for today.
I cannot imagine what that would be, because I'm betting you weren't fucking animals freely and openly in 1969 -- and under-aged was as illegal then as it is now.
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Old 03-31-2013, 10:02 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
I'm not wholly convinced by The Guardian article.

There are many quotes from classical Roman authors about the degradation of public morality since the demise of the Republic, and that Greek (=homosexual) customs were weakening the strength of Roman institutions.

Their idea of sin might not have been the Christian one, but they recognised immorality with a different definition. The Romans were far less prudish about sex, but did see other 'sins' as immoral especially corruption in public office and lack of respect for the Gods. Ciciero's Verrine orations show that they recognised sin. But for them, sex wasn't sinful.

What we might now call pornography was normal art. Leptis Magna shows many public statues of Priapus with an oversized erection as good luck symbols.
Isn't the bolded what the article is saying too?

Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
One thing about sex the Romans did consider sinful was the reluctance of Patrician women to marry according to the full ancient rites. Only children of that sort of marriage could hold sacred offices. During the Empire it became more and more difficult to fill the priestly offices, and those offices increased as dead Emperors were deified.

But women didn't want that sort of marriage because they and their possessions became 'owned' by their husbands. The simpler rite left them with much more freedom to act by themselves, and to keep their own property.
Sounds more political than moral.
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Old 03-31-2013, 10:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stella_Omega View Post
"Sin is essential to Modern Sex?"

No, although unfortunately it is inescapable for anyone who grows up in this society. Those of us who engage our sexuality minus sin get called "sluts."

I would say instead, that we somehow manage to enjoy sexuality despite the load of bullshit that Augustine dumped on it.

Which shows us how very enjoyable sex is. How many ways we find to get past the shall-nots that pervade our language, our lives.
Hmm. Do you think there's some effect of indulgence vs. overindulgence in who's called a slut?

(And then again, who is to say what is overindulgence.)
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Old 03-31-2013, 10:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JAMESBJOHNSON View Post
I'm not buying the proposition that 'society' is holding smut down, since 1968 its everywhere and freely available.

The problem I see is the Political Correctness brought to it; I grew up in the 50s and 60s when smut was suppressed but real sex wasn't, and there weren't really any age limits as there are now. What I did freely and openly in 1969 I'd be in prison for today. And that's the result of political correctness since the 70s. And the PC has infected smut.
Well, when you think of the fact that public opinion in "society" is mostly what the political elite (or people with megaphones - reporters, bloggers, etc.) say it is, then yes, the PC are changing the moral tone of the general public if what they say goes. It still is changing our conception of morality. The general populace still thinks smut is bad.
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Old 03-31-2013, 10:16 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougsan View Post
How true damppanties. We are still puritan in so many ways in the USA. I honestly believe if the Internet hadn't come along pornography would still be limited to back-room smut and girlie magazines. So many people are trying to hold us in the past but the net is not to be stopped and is rushing us to being the individuals, with all our foibles, that we are. Pornography is a word, litle more.
Interesting take that porn is being pushed into the mainstream by technology. Hadn't thought about that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyAll View Post
I'm not sure if I'm answering this correctly, but I agree that the added element of sin is what makes stories fun to read.

You're teasing the reading as to where the line is drawn by society, and then you cross that line. Otherwise it's just random sex and you might as well be watching a porn video instead.

One thing I like doing is having the character(s) struggle with their sexuality and feelings, and then eventually overcome it and realize that sex is okay, and nothing to be ashamed of.
There's no right or wrong answer really.

Yes, thinking about what we do here, I suppose it is 'sinful' in the eyes of most people. Perhaps even readers who come here stealthily. Even with authors, we've had enough threads about "how many people know you write porn" to know that authors are also wary of censure if not shame when they're outed.
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Old 03-31-2013, 11:23 PM   #14
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Roman view of homosexuality was a little different from ours

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Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
There are many quotes from classical Roman authors about the degradation of public morality since the demise of the Republic, and that Greek (=homosexual) customs were weakening the strength of Roman institutions.
But we need to be clear about what those customs were. It was perfectly all right and pretty much ignored if a Roman male had sex with a male slave so long as he was doing the fucking. What bothered the Romans was the Greek custom of men--especially young men--bottoming. That bothered the Romans because no Roman, of any age (but most especially not impressionable, young, soon-to-be-citizens) ought be anywhere but on top. For a Roman man to bottom was to be a "woman" and inferior.

Which isn't to say they totally approved and accepted homosexuality, but their view wasn't quite the same as the later Christian view of "totally unnatural and unacceptable."
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:00 AM   #15
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Question No sexual sin in Roman Erotica? Please!

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Originally Posted by damppanties View Post
Excerpts from an article titled "Roman erotica lacks a sense of sin" in The Guardian.
Wow. If you know what Romans considered sexual sins, then there's plenty of it to be found in their erotica. i.e. sacrilegious as well as immoral as well as illegal sex.

One of the hugest sins was that of the Vestal Virgins. No sex, no sex, NO SEX (with a man, at least. I don't know if they got away with lesbian sex). What could be a hotter story than that of the Vestal and her secret lover, both of whom would be horribly killed if caught--or if she ended up preggers? Quoting from Wiki here:
Quote:
When they entered the collegium, they left behind the authority of their fathers and became daughters of the state. Any sexual relationship with a citizen was therefore considered to be incest and an act of treason. The punishment for violating the oath of celibacy was to be buried alive in the Campus Sceleratus or "Evil Field" (an underground chamber near the Colline Gate) with a few days of food and water.
Their paramours were whipped to death.

And as you can see, incest was also a sin and illegal:
Quote:
In Roman law...marrying a close relative was not only sacrilegious to the gods but also illegal...parent-child unions and deliberate fraternal unions [were] against the ius gentium, the common set of moral and legal doctrines that bound not only Roman citizens but all civilized peoples....For the Romans, such close-kin relationships [parent/child or brothers/sisters] fell into the category of disgusting and unacceptable behavior
.
There were all sorts of incest stories--as gossip, as history, as erotica.

Also, wives were supposed to remain faithful to their husbands--who were often heads of the household and could kill them for their infidelity. Thus we have some very sexy stories of ladies with secret lovers--including, of course, gladiators.

The Romans had plenty sexual "sins" that were very perilous to engage in. The Roman erotica writer, however, would not have had to spell out to the Roman reader how "forbidden" this sex was. That lack of spelling it out might make modern readers think there was no sin to such sex--just as a reader in the future might read certain incest stories found here on Lit and mistakenly think we didn't see incest as any big deal because the writer is so casual about it. But we don't need it spelled out to us that incest is still considered "forbidden" and thus, what we're reading is full of "sin."

I think these folks fell down in their research of Roman sexual sins and how Roman erotica would be seen and read by most Romans.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:07 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damppanties View Post
Hmm. Do you think there's some effect of indulgence vs. overindulgence in who's called a slut?

(And then again, who is to say what is overindulgence.)
Answered your own question there!
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:18 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
I think these folks fell down in their research of Roman sexual sins and how Roman erotica would be seen and read by most Romans.
My impression is that the article's authors made the classic blunder of looking at Roman society from the modern and Christian point of view, instead of from the context of Roman society itself. I've found that there seem to be two camps of general belief regarding the Romans: A) they were gods of civilization, or B) they were amoral perverts who fucked anything and everything.

Neither is true, but those persistent generalizations seem to continue to hold sway with the general population.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:22 AM   #18
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"Yet without a sense of sin we, today, would not enjoy sex half as much, and that is why modern sexuality owes more to St Augustine than it does to the painters of Pompeii."

For sin to have any effect – either way – one would have to believe in the concept of sin, and I don’t think that is by any means a given. It is certainly not an idea to which I subscribe.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:37 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SamScribble View Post
"Yet without a sense of sin we, today, would not enjoy sex half as much, and that is why modern sexuality owes more to St Augustine than it does to the painters of Pompeii."

For sin to have any effect – either way – one would have to believe in the concept of sin, and I don’t think that is by any means a given. It is certainly not an idea to which I subscribe.
I think they subscribed to the common misperception of "sin = anything outside the social or cultural norms." The latter may often be based on the former, but they are not the same thing. It's like saying, "all dogs are mammals; therefore, all mammals must be dogs."
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:44 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
Wow. If you know what Romans considered sexual sins, then there's plenty of it to be found in their erotica. i.e. sacrilegious as well as immoral as well as illegal sex.

One of the hugest sins was that of the Vestal Virgins. No sex, no sex, NO SEX (with a man, at least. I don't know if they got away with lesbian sex). What could be a hotter story than that of the Vestal and her secret lover, both of whom would be horribly killed if caught--or if she ended up preggers? Quoting from Wiki here:

Their paramours were whipped to death.

And as you can see, incest was also a sin and illegal:
.
There were all sorts of incest stories--as gossip, as history, as erotica.

Also, wives were supposed to remain faithful to their husbands--who were often heads of the household and could kill them for their infidelity. Thus we have some very sexy stories of ladies with secret lovers--including, of course, gladiators.

The Romans had plenty sexual "sins" that were very perilous to engage in. The Roman erotica writer, however, would not have had to spell out to the Roman reader how "forbidden" this sex was. That lack of spelling it out might make modern readers think there was no sin to such sex--just as a reader in the future might read certain incest stories found here on Lit and mistakenly think we didn't see incest as any big deal because the writer is so casual about it. But we don't need it spelled out to us that incest is still considered "forbidden" and thus, what we're reading is full of "sin."

I think these folks fell down in their research of Roman sexual sins and how Roman erotica would be seen and read by most Romans.
Yes, I'm aware of the Vestal Virgins and the head of household issues. However, I suppose in the article the issue of no sexual sin is much more nuanced. It's more like non-taboo sexual sin in Rome wasn't present, rather than no sexual sins at all.

Consider other eras for example, the Victorian comes to mind, where sex in itself (not sex with people who had dedicated their life to religion like the Vestal Virgins or adultery or the like), normal, everyday sex was considered base. The sexual act it self was a sin if it was for pleasure other than to the end of reproducing.

I'm thinking of the depictions of sexual freedom in old temples in India as an example in relation to the Roman conceptions of sexual freedom. This is not to say that there weren't other laws that didn't prohibit certain kinds of sex or sex with certain people (the whole class and untouchable thing comes to mind), but the general attitude towards allowable sex was one of freedom and something that was just... done. Like it was natural.

At least that's what I think the authors of the article are getting at. Not that there was unlimited sexual freedom or degenerate sex with anyone and everyone all of the time.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:54 AM   #21
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Or... much less nuanced.

Seems to me, the author's basic thrust hehe, is that sin is GOOD because sex is better if you're sinning. More fun, somehow.

Which is pretty fucking debatable.

And although I too have subscribed to the idea that the Victorians were prudes-- turns out that's no more true than any other generalisation.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:01 PM   #22
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Well I guess it's strokes for folks! Some people get turned on by the idea of sinfulness, they like a bit of naughty with their nice. So-o-o many others are so petrified of sin that they're hardly willing to have sex with people they have married legally, religiously and had children with. Although those are unlikely to come on here of course to put their point of view up.

Other societies in time and space do have different ideas about what's sinful and what's permissible pleasure, and we all play about in those frameworks of moral philosophy figuring out what turns us on within and against the rules.

My main thought is: God, I agreed to take the Piglet to the British Museum during the Easter Holidays to look at the Egyptian collections and I will have to avoid this exhibition which I'ld like to go and see. Not because I'm prude-y about what the Piglet sees, but because I don't want to deal with the prude-y teachers if she writes her What I Did in the Holidays essay all about Roman sex.

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Old 04-01-2013, 02:45 PM   #23
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Evidently, this guy has an actual fetish for sin-- a kink. And he doesn't recognise it as such. He thinks everyone thinks sin is sexy.

That would be like some dude thinking that everyone wears pantyhose when they fuck.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:45 PM   #24
damppanties
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NaokoSmith View Post
My main thought is: God, I agreed to take the Piglet to the British Museum during the Easter Holidays to look at the Egyptian collections and I will have to avoid this exhibition which I'ld like to go and see. Not because I'm prude-y about what the Piglet sees, but because I don't want to deal with the prude-y teachers if she writes her What I Did in the Holidays essay all about Roman sex.
Bwahaha!

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Originally Posted by Stella_Omega View Post
Or... much less nuanced.

Seems to me, the author's basic thrust hehe, is that sin is GOOD because sex is better if you're sinning. More fun, somehow.

Which is pretty fucking debatable.
Well, yes. Though I was more interested in the prevalence of the sex as sin stuff in a society rather than the value aspect, really.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stella_Omega View Post
And although I too have subscribed to the idea that the Victorians were prudes-- turns out that's no more true than any other generalisation.
Noted.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:45 PM   #25
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It's a misdiagnosis. Erotica doesn't need sin, but good stories need conflict, and sin is an easy source of conflict. That is a good share of the reason why incest, nonconsent, and loving wives are popular categories. You can write good erotica without sin, but the conflict has to come from somewhere else (hate sex, loss of inhibitions, whether the couple will fall in love, etc.), or the story is just a play-by-play of two people having sex.
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