Articles on Sexual histories series

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The “Burney Relief,” which is believed to represent either Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, or her older sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the underworld (c. 19th or 18th century BC) BabelStone

In ancient Mesopotamia, sex among the gods shook heaven and earth

Sex was central to life in ancient Mesopotamia. And the authors of Sumerian love poetry, depicting the exploits of divine couples, showed a wealth of practical knowledge about the stages of female sexual arousal.
A fragment of a wall painting showing two lovers in bed from the House of L Caecilius Jucundus in Pompeii, now at Naples National Archaeological Museum. Wikimedia Commons

Friday essay: the erotic art of Ancient Greece and Rome

From phallus-shaped wind chimes to explicit erotica on lamps and cups, sex is everywhere in ancient Greek and Roman art. But our interpretations of these images say much about our own culture.
Titian’s 1583 painting Venus of Urbino: historically, pleasure was not the only, or even the main, expectation from sex for women. Wikimedia Commons

From reproducers to ‘flutters’ to ‘sluts’: tracing attitudes to women’s pleasure in Australia

Australian women were once largely seen as reproducers, rather than lovers: sexual pleasure was suspect. Attitudes have changed, yet our culture is still troubled by female desire.
The Fall of the Titans, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, circa 1590. Wikimedia

Friday essay: the myth of the ancient Greek ‘gay utopia’

The dream of a "gay utopia" is a constant in gay and lesbian historical imaginings over the last 200 years. But the Greek attitude to same-sex attraction was not nearly as permissive as many have assumed.
Brothels in Pompeii were decorated with murals depicting erotic and exotic scenes: but the reality was far more brutal and mundane. Thomas Shahan/Wikimedia Commons

The grim reality of the brothels of Pompeii

Though their activities were depicted alluringly in murals, the sex workers of Pompeii were slaves who lived hard lives.
People in Melbourne protest funding cuts to the Safe Schools program in 2016. AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

A nursery of unconventional ideas – sex radicalism in Australia

From William Chidley to Germaine Greer Australia has spawned more than its fair share of radical thinkers about sex, and Australians have often embraced their ideas, despite persecution by officialdom.

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