• Penetration and Its Discontents: Greco-Roman Sexuality, The Acts of Paul and Thecla and Theorizing Eros Without the Wound

    Maia Kotrosits (see profile)
    Gender Studies
    Greece, History, Ancient, Christian literature, Early, Sex, History, Rome (Empire), Sex (Psychology)--Study and teaching
    Item Type:
    Ancient Greek history, Early Christian literature, History of sexuality, Roman history, Sexuality studies
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    The notion that sexuality in the Greek and Roman periods was predicated on a social-sexual hierarchy that casts relationships in the binary terms of active/passive and penetrator/penetrated has been both influential and controversial over the last 30 years. Both the articulation of this hierarchy and its critique have been haunted by various gendered and identitarian investments, leading to several theoretical and historical impasses. This essay offers up a second century Christian text, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, as an intervention into this debate and the impasses it produced -- that is, as an inquiry into the continuing predominance of penetrative models for relationality in contemporary theory, as well as the near-total subsuming of ancient erotic relations under the rubric of gender. Indeed I read the Acts of Paul and Thecla as an archive of erotic experiences that don’t fit comfortably within penetrative and active/passive frameworks, and do so with gender working as a language inflecting (but not determinative of) erotic life. I thus hope to widen our aperture for ancient sexuality, as well as for contemporary theories of sexuality that imagine penetrative wounding as primary models for sex and relational encounters at large.
    This is a pre-copyedited version of an article accepted for publication in the Journal of the History of Sexuality (September 2018, 27:3). The definitive publisher-authenticated version will be available through the University of Texas Press. Please ask author’s permission when citing (maiakotrosits@gmail.com).
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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