Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ancient Egypt's Relaxed Sexual Morality

India at the time of the Buddha seems to have had the same relaxed attitude towards sex, covering temple exteriors with life like figurines in poses taken directly from the Kama Sutra, practicing polyamory, viewing the lingam as a "wand of light," mating with devas and nagas, and considering it chastity to abstain from sexual misconduct rather than practice celibacy like a brahmin student.

According to the Numerical Discourses (A.N. X.206) "sexual misconduct" means intercourse with someone off-limits because of that person's dependence on someone else (a relative, guardian, spouse, or betrothed partner). Independent consenting adults can do what they want and be "chaste." The Buddha did not say, "Don't have sex." What he said was, "Don't engage in misconduct," which means doing harm to oneself, others, or society as a whole.

What is "chastity" if it's not celibacy (complete abstinence)? Chastity is a person's sexual behavior that is acceptable to the moral norms and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion. In the Western world, the term has become closely associated (and is often used interchangeably) with sexual abstinence, especially before marriage. But the term remains applicable to all persons and has implications beyond sexual temperance.

Sex in Ancient Egypt

Modesty, as distinct from fidelity, was not prominent among the Egyptians; they spoke of sexual affairs with a directness alien to our late sexual morality.

Ancient Egyptians adorned their very temples with pictures and bas-reliefs of startling anatomical candor and supplied their dead with obscene literature to amuse them in the grave.

Blood ran warm along the Nile: girls were nubile at 10, and premarital morals were free and easy; one courtesan, in Ptolemaic days, was reputed to have built a pyramid with her savings; even sodomy had its clientele.

Dancing-girls, in the manner of Japan [and ancient Greece, which celebrated sacred sexuality and even practiced it within temples], were accepted into the best male society as providers of entertainment and physical edification.

They dressed in diaphanous robes, or contented themselves with anklets, bracelets, and rings. [Like Greece, there is evidence] of "religious prostitution" on a small scale.

As late as the Roman occupation, the most beautiful girl among the noble families of Thebes was chosen to be consecrated to Amon. When she was too old to satisfy the "god" [In Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Christian terms, an extraterrestrial ruler, angel or "space messenger," human-hybrid, deva, gandharva, yaksha, asura, naga] she received an honorable discharge, married, and moved in the highest circles.

It was a civilization with different prejudices [than] our own.

More Ancient Egypt

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