The Impenetrable Penetrator

in Impotence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780226500768
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226500935 | DOI:
The Impenetrable Penetrator

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Ovid's Amores and Petronius's Satyrica provide the two most famous literary accounts of the ancients' view of impotence. In Amores 3.7 the Latin poet amusingly describes his inexplicable inability to perform with a woman he has long lusted after. Following this disastrous encounter the narrator is enraged to find his refractory member suddenly full of vigor. Coming across such a familiar scenario it is tempting to assume that men in ancient Greece and Rome regarded impotence in exactly the same way as do men in the twenty-first century. Penetration was central to the ancient world's notion of healthy male sexuality, but whom might the man penetrate? Historians are largely now in agreement that the concept of sexuality is a discourse—a way of organizing and controlling desires—that only came into being in modern times. This chapter provides an overview of manhood in Greece and Rome.

Keywords: manhood; impotence; Greece; Rome; penetration; sexuality; Ovid; Petronius; Amores; Satyrica

Chapter.  10149 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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