WAYS OF THE WORLD
‘Continental people have sex life;
the English have hot-water bottles.’
George Mikes, How To Be An Alien, 1946
Architects discovered evidence indicating that sex in Roman times was an everyday part of life regardless of orientation or social standing. Common decor included walls covered with explicitly sexual frescos, gardens filled with representations of giant phalluses and brothels and taverns brimming with business. As a religious people, they saw sex as a gift from the gods, especially Venus and the Vestal Virgins who were honoured as divine, and phallic amulets featured in nearly every doorway to ward off evil. It was considered a scandal to expect a woman to sleep only with her husband, and same-sex liaisons were the norm. The only sexual taboo was the oral act which was seen as unclean, but sex was generally revered and respected until the emperors began to use it as a tool of power and then it became a battlefield.