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It was considered natural and unremarkable for men to be sexually attracted to teen-aged youths of both sexes, and pederasty was condoned as long as the younger male partner was not a freeborn Roman."Homosexual" and "heterosexual" did not form the primary dichotomy of Roman thinking about sexuality, and no Latin words for these concepts exist.
While perceived effeminacy was denounced, especially in political rhetoric, sex in moderation with male prostitutes or slaves was not regarded as improper or vitiating to masculinity, if the male citizen took the active and not the receptive role.
Hypersexuality, however, was condemned morally and medically in both men and women.
Women were held to a stricter moral code, and same-sex relations between women are poorly documented, but the sexuality of women is variously celebrated or reviled throughout Latin literature.
In general the Romans had more flexible gender categories than the ancient Greeks.
A late 20th-century paradigm analyzed Roman sexuality in terms of a "penetrator–penetrated" binary model, a misleadingly rigid analysis that may obscure expressions of sexuality among individual Romans.
Forms of expression with lower cultural cachet in antiquity—such as comedy, satire, invective, love poetry, graffiti, magic spells, inscriptions, and interior decoration—have more to say about sex than elevated genres, such as epic and tragedy.
Information about the sex lives of the Romans is scattered in historiography, oratory, philosophy, and writings on medicine, agriculture, and other technical topics.
were published under the name of famous heterai (courtesans), and circulated in Rome.
The robustly sexual Milesiaca of Aristides was translated by Sisenna, one of the praetors of 78 BC.
Sexuality in ancient Rome, and more broadly, sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome, are indicated by Roman art, literature and inscriptions, and to a lesser extent by archaeological remains such as erotic artifacts and architecture.
It has sometimes been assumed that "unlimited sexual license" was characteristic of ancient Rome; Verstraete and Provençal express the opinion that this perspective was simply a Christian interpretation: "The sexuality of the Romans has never had good press in the West ever since the rise of Christianity.
In the popular imagination and culture, it is synonymous with sexual license and abuse." Roman society was patriarchal (see paterfamilias), and masculinity was premised on a capacity for governing oneself and others of lower status, not only in war and politics, but also in sexual relations.