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Ancient Greece has often been regarded as among the first societies to accept human sexuality and display it openly. Indeed, art works depicting nudity and sexual relations are a wider part of Greek cultural heritage. They provide proof that Athens society was more open about their sexuality and sexual relations as compared to other European societies at the time. In the article “Women and Boys in Classical Athens” by James Davidson, various sexual relations that existed in the ancient Greek society are examined. The sexual variations that existed in this classical society included same gender relations and categories the prostitutions practiced based on the inherent characteristics in every group.
In Athens in classical era, prostitution was divided into many categories based on the characteristics of the prostitutes in the trade. These categories ranged from the lowly regarded prostitutes to the courtesans who provided services to the nobility. The lowly placed prostitutes were referred to as the pornai. This group was mainly regarded as the lowest in the social ladder, since the prostitutes originated from slaves. The prostitutes also comprised of girls who had no fathers or were abandoned or left by their fathers. These girls were employed in the red districts brothels in classical Athens to provide sexual services to male clients in return for money. The reason that made pornai the lowest form of prostitution besides the slavery origins of the prostitutes is that, the women were property of the pimps. This means that the money that they earned from their trade went to their purported owners. Pimping in classical Greek period was considered an earning professional career, just like that of a tax collector (Golden pg23). The classical Greek society considered prostitution as an important measure in the society to help contain adultery and, therefore, the trade was carried openly and was legalized by the administrators. This implies that centuries ago prostitution was legal in the Greek society and was even taxed as all the other businesses. For this reason, therefore, pimping or owning women was regarded as any other money earning venture. The pornai prostitutes could overtime buy their freedom from their earnings or getting old and hence unattractive forcing their owners to release them from their sexual slavery.
Those prostitutes who managed to earn their freedom moved on to the next class of prostitution, which was: the independent prostitution. The independent prostitutes also comprised of free women who could not secure employment or those who lost their husbands and had no other source of income. The independent prostitutes sold their bodies in the street to anyone who could afford. The main difference between the independent and pornai prostitutes was that the independent kept all their earnings after taxes, while the pornai’s earnings went to their owners. This group was also broad in their trade than the pornai in that they had to openly display their bodies in the streets. The fees charged for their services depended on what their client were willing to pay (Ormand), but generally, the younger the prostitutes the higher the prices she could attract. The highest category of prostitutes in the classical Greek society, were those women who did not only provide the sexual services, but also were companionship for their clients. This group referred to as the hetaerae comprise of well educated women with the capability of joining their companion in their discussion. They provided their services exclusively to the male noble members of the society. This implies that their services were expensive and only men with means could be able to afford them. Some served a specific client for a period meaning that they became mistress until their companions grew tired of them or their services. The hetaerae were independent prostitutes therefore they kept what they earned and could make their own decisions or choose their clients. The women in this category of prostitution were widely regarded as the most liberated women in the classical Greek. This is because they had the capability to amass massive amounts of wealth from their trade, and were mostly in control of their lives and resources. In other words, the women in the hetaerae category of prostitution had more freedom than most other women. Especially if compared to the women married to wealthy men in the ancient Greek society.
The classical Athens society did not only trade prostitution services from women only, but from male as well. The classical Greek society as noted earlier was a society that was very open in terms of sexuality. Therefore, there were same gender relationships in this society. For the male or female who preferred same sexual relation, prostitutes to provide these services were available. The male prostitutes in the classical Greek society were mainly young boys of less than twenty five years of age (Golden pg33). Male prostitution, however, unlike the female prostitution was categorized into two groups, which were a prostitute and the kept boy. The prostitutes sold their bodies in the brothels or the red district. While the kept prostitutes, were kept by their lovers in exchange for money and other living expenses. Male prostitution, however, differed from that practiced by the women in that, after a certain aged male prostitutes begin to be shunned by the society. This means that it was only deemed appropriate to be practiced by boys in their adolescence and not by mature male. Thus, although the classical Greek society was more sexually liberated male prostitution was still not fully acceptable. This is demonstrated by the fact that those men who practiced prostitution in their youth were considered appropriate for offices or electable social responsibilities. This was because they were considered capable of selling public interest for their own gains, just as they had sold off their bodies and dignity. Davidson`s description of the differences in prostitution was used to emphasize social stratification in the classical Greek society. But the differences in the forms of prostitution are, however, in reality negligible. At the end of the day the women and men engaging in the prostitution trade sold their bodies and therefore their dignity. The amount paid for these services, does not make differentiate prostitution. In this classical society female prostitution across all aged gaps was deemed appropriate (Ormand p36). However, male prostitution was only seen as acceptable, when the prostitutes were in their youth. Thus, young boys could sell their bodies to the older men. But the older men could not engage in prostitution and one could lose citizenship, if caught practicing prostitution after a certain age. This we can argue is double standards, in that it only views prostitution from one side thus the sellers are seen as deviants, while buyers are not.
The Ancient Greek society is among those that were civilized in the earlier centuries. Among many character traits that came with this society was an acceptance of diverse forms of human sexuality. Ancient art works depicting sexuality as well as poetry and books examining sexuality, are part of Greek cultural heritage .They provides proof that the Athens society was more open about their sexuality and sexual relations as compared to other European societies at that time. The classical Greek society openly embraced prostitution and differentiated the various forms of prostitution present in the earlier society. However, in reality the differences are negligible, because at the end of the day the women and men engaging in the prostitution trade sell their bodies for monetary or material gain and therefore trade their dignity.