Inside a Pompeiian brothel, for a view of Roman masculinity

The Roman masculinity experience: A surprising model of Roman sex work.

Rebecca Langlands reviews “The Brothels of Pompeii: Sex, class, and gender at the margins of Roman society,” by Sarah Levin-Richardson:

Levin-Richardson’s main thesis is that the brothel catered to a clientele of lower-class men, including slaves, and that it offered them something more than simply sex (which was probably available to them elsewhere). In essence, what it gave them was the “Roman masculinity experience”, crafted for them in the layout of the rooms, the decor, the accoutrements and the culture of the establishment, as well as by the hard work of those who laboured there. A visit to the brothel allowed these downtrodden men, many of whose names are still scrawled on its walls, to experience, for a few stolen hours, a free and wealthy Roman man’s sense of empowerment, expressed with a swagger through sexual acts and social interactions. There was a cost, of course, for the sex workers, whose experience is evoked in the seventh and eighth chapters, fleshed out further with comparative material on the lives of their equivalents in twenty-first-century America, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Not different from sex work today.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner