Para-philias transgressive sex in Ancient Greece

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The thesis explores sexual behaviour that the Greeks considered to transgress natural, social, legal and religious boundaries. The title, ‘para-philias’ - para (beside) + philia (love) - is a play on the modern psychological term ‘paraphilias’ used to categorize sexual activities deemed as mental disorders. I address four different examples of sexual behaviour that were considered transgressive, the act of looking at someone in a sexual, private situation, without being entitled to do so, ‘Sexual visual transgression’ (chapter 1); sexual contact between adults and prepubescent children, ‘Child sexual abuse’ (chapter 2); sexual intercourse between humans and animals, ‘Human-animal sex’ (chapter 3); and sexual intercourse between living humans and corpses, ‘Sex with corpses’ (chapter 4). I explore the above-mentioned activities and the transgressive aspects they share and provide an explanation for why the ancient Greeks considered these sexual activities to be beyond the scope of correct sexual behaviour. I analyse the sources that provide information on these practices, as well as the social context in which they were practised, exploring how these transgressions would have been perceived by people of different socio-economic backgrounds. By providing the points of view of citizens and non-citizens, rich and poor, men and women, free and slave, I show how the conception of normal and abnormal sexual practices was extremely flexible, changing according to the individual status of the intervenients and consequently provide a more accurate scope on sexual transgressions in ancient Greece.

    By shedding light on the sexual behaviours that the ancient Greeks deemed transgressive, a topic that has never been explored in detail before in classical scholarship, this thesis provides a new insight into the dynamics of the sexual life of the ancient Greeks, exploring the concept of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ sex while framing these two concepts within the particular social contexts of ancient Greece.
    Date of Award5 Dec 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    Sponsors Roehampton VC Scholarship
    SupervisorSusan Deacy (Director of Studies), Fiona McHardy (Co-Supervisor) & Mike Edwards (Co-Supervisor)


    • Ancient Greece
    • Sexuality
    • Transgression
    • abnormal sex
    • normal sex

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