1. What for the Romans were the outward signs of effeminacy?
2. Which types of male homoerotic relations are ridiculed and censured? (anal
penetration, fellatio, older men [= hairy])
3. How are lesbians portrayed by the male authors?
Sexual labels as abuse One of the commonest accusations in graffiti, political
slogging matches, lampoons, and courtroom attacks is one of "pathic" homosexuality.
This takes the form of one of three types of behavior:
• having been, as a citizen, the puer of an older man some years previously;
• continuing as an adult to enjoy be penetrated anally;
• to enjoy performing fellatio.
Attacks of this nature occur everywhere in Roman society from the misspelled graffiti at
Pompeii to the forensic speeches of Cicero (it seems to have been something of a societal
preoccupation). This shows that a man could discredit another man by claiming he was
sexually passive. There was a connection in Roman society between social status and
availability for penetration. Roman citizen boys wore the bulla as a sign that they were
not to be violated— high status men and women had the right of bodily inviolability—
assault on the body (whipping, torture, penetration) was a humiliating mark of low status,
invasive punishments. (One could however lose one's inviolability, as in the case of the
adulterer: he could be beaten, killed [if he was of low status], raped, castrated, urinated 2
upon). Interestingly, a passive man is described as having "a woman's experience," while
a woman who allows anal sex is described as a "boy."
Labels What labels were there for a man who was sexually passive? The oblique
noun impudicitia (sexual honor has been violated); if a man has been anally penetrated he
is then impudicus. Pathicus could signify something similar (probably from patior, to
submit, undergo, suffer).
Effeminacy: the cinaedus A more negative aspect of the Roman stereotype of
male sexuality has to do with the proclivities attributed to the effeminate man. Cinaedus
is not anchored specifically in anal penetration (it is a sexual identity however). The
Greek word kinaedos meant an effeminate Eastern male dancer who entertained the
audience by lasciviously shaking his hips (in such a way as to suggest anal intercourse
see list of verbs) and clashing a tambourine. Their reputation was as soft effeminate men.
Thus to call a man a cinaedus (i.e., a mature man) was to call him soft, eastern. a dancer,
and apt to be anally penetrated and to enjoy it, to be indiscriminate in their partners. Thus
not every man who submitted to anal penetration (for instance, rape) could be labeled in
this way. It was thought cinaedi could be picked out through such characteristics as their
curled hair, perfume, mincing gait, colored clothing, long or short un-girt toga, dancing at
parties etc. The cinaedus was an object of scorn; they were men who had abrogated their
Cinaedi were handy and pleasurable sexual outlets but they were also targets for
ridicule and censure; although hardly outcasts. The effeminacy of the cinaedus is even
said to be a veneer for excessive heterosexual activity; interestingly, some cinaedi are 3
also described as women-lovers: a cinaedus might be womanizer without losing his
identity as a cinaedus. It is the lack of control which is paramount; effeminate men are
often claimed to be overly active with both sexes, even orally: an observable predilection
for fellatio was n