I once took a history class in which the professor convinced me beyond all doubt that we inherited an enormous amount of our cultural legacy from the ancient Romans. Highways, water systems, coins, mass entertainment, the legal system, the calendar, and the list goes on and on.
A book I’m reading for sociolinguistics cites research on “sexual categorization in ancient Rome” that illuminated yet another area in which our society inherits its attitudes.
The modern LGBT community loves to cite the ancient Romans as evidence of casual and accepted homosexuality, but this is very much a mischaracterization of the situation.
Rome had no conception of homosexuality at all, and no, this is not because homosexuality, as we conceive it today, was so common as to be unremarkable. Rome had no conception of heterosexuality either. Rome’s sexual categorization was divided into “active” and “passive” participants.
Sex was defined as penetrating an orifice with a penis. Sex was something men did to (not with) other people. Lesbianism was inconceivable — without a penis, women could not “do” anyone.
Instead of heterosexuality and homosexuality, the Romans had 9 sexual orientations which encoded the sex of each participant and the orifice being penetrated.
All of the “active” roles were normalized for males. As long as males were penetrating, even if they were penetrating males, they were doing sex in the accepted and non-deviant way. “Passive” was the deviant role for men.
All of the “passive” roles were normalized for women.
There were no equal relationships in Rome, same sex or otherwise. Instead, men kept people around for fucking, of whatever sex happened to be available. Sex, of any sort, was a display of dominance and male supremacy, not a sign of sexual preference. To call it “rape culture” would be an massive understatement.
In fact, “the labels for a vaginally penetrated woman, femina and puella, mean simply ‘woman’ and ‘girl’.”
I want you to think about that for a moment.
The word for woman, and indeed even girl, was a synonym for her position when having one of her orifices penetrated.
We know, today, that women are thought of as fuckholes, but in Rome, that idea wasn’t even in the closet. Can you imagine if day-to-day life consisted of hearing statements like, “There were ten men and ten fuckholes shopping at the market today,” because that’s just how half the population is named?
So it is against this inherited cultural legacy of undisguised male sexual domination:
- That these MtFs couldn’t understand “how do u lesbian”
- That these rednecks didn’t feel that sexually abusing other men made them “gay”
- That MtFs define themselves as women based on the way they’d like to get fucked.
Because of course that’s what we are. Men have always thought it and apparently can’t let it go so easily.