Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sexuality in Ancient Rome


As Pompeii's House of the Vettii finally reopens after a long process of restoration, news outlets appear to be struggling with how to report on the Roman sex cultures so well recorded in the ruins of the city.

The Metro opened with the headline "Lavish Pompeii home that doubled as a brothel has some interesting wall art", while the Guardian highlighted the fresco of Priapus, the god of fertility (depicted weighing his oversized penis on a scale with bags of coins) as well as the erotic frescoes found next to the kitchen.

The Daily Mail, on the other hand—and arguably surprisingly—said nothing about the explicit frescoes and instead centered its story on the house's "historic hallmarks of interior design".

As a scholar who researches modern and contemporary visual cultures of sexuality, I was struck by how the heavy presence of sexual imagery in the ruins of Pompeii seems to confound those writing about it for a general audience.

Read more here.

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