Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt


A Kemetic Practitioner, Sharon, explains views on Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt.

She uses the book “Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt” by Lynn Meskell as her reference.

Modern Day Notions About Homosexuality Contrast With Ancient Thought

She makes a great point that much of our concepts about homosexuals being a different kind of person are only 100 years old. What she didn’t say, is that this identity was constructed by many new ideas in the emerging field of Freudian thought and psychology.

Before this development in the world of psychology, “gay” wasn’t an identity. Homosexuality was defined more as an action rather than an identity.

How did people feel about Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt? 

gayegyptianart

Much of the connotations we have in the modern day and age about “gay” behavior wasn’t “gay” back in Ancient Egypt.

For example, Sharon makes the point that in this day an age, we make stereotypes about a man being gay if he cares too much about his appearance – or at least joke that he is “Metrosexual.”Yet in Ancient Egypt, it was perfectly normal for both men and women among the elite to wear makeup, shave their body hair,  wear wigs and doll themselves up in fashionable clothing. (Sometimes the men could be prissier than the women in this respect). Dressing in fancy clothing, historically, wasn’t really a taboo for men until the modern era. In fact, dressing in expensive silks and resplendent colors was a way for most men to show their status and masculinity throughout history. The days of black suits and ties for all dudes are pretty recent.

Also, engaging in “gender swapping” behavior did not necessarily make one gay. There were some Goddesses that were depicted in male clothing, but they still engaged in sex with male Gods.

Was there any type of homosexual behavior that was frowned upon? 

egypt

Rather than homosexuality itself, Sharon explains that being the “receiver” in a male homosexual act was looked down upon while being the “giver” wasn’t a problem. This is similar to norms in other Ancient cultures.

Nek: is the Ancient Egyptian word for sexual penetration.

Neku: Was a derogatory term – “to penetrate somebody”

Nekek: This was the person who had the thing “done to them.”

Sharon also says that there may have been a third gender in Ancient Egyptian Society, a sort of trans-gendered person. There is something similar to this in Hindu society today called a “Hijra.” They are people with male biological bodies who dress and act like women (The Third Gender).

There is some ambiguity since it was frowned upon to sleep with a young, effeminate male. Yet it is uncertain whether the taboo came from the fact that both participants in the act were male, or if it was because one of the participants was too young to give consent.

Homosexuality Wasn’t Really That Big of A Deal

dancers

While it may have been socially looked down upon to be someone’s “Nekek”, it didn’t receive the same vehement hatred that you see in today’s world. A Heterosexual marriage that resulted in children was seen as an ideal, since children would take care of you and perform your burial rites after death. Also, the homosexual relationships between men in Egypt were not celebrated as they were in Rome and Greece, given that fertility was a big part of Egyptian magic and life. Yet homosexual acts themselves weren’t a moral outrage like they are in parts of today’s world.

The best word to describe Ancient Egyptian feelings towards homosexuality was probably “ambivalence.” What people did behind closed doors was their own business – as it should be.

8 responses

  1. Tormund Giantsbane

    Dolling yourself up and shaving was not common.It was reserved for the elite.

    Also,I am a modern man and I don’t see any “vehement hatred” towards homosexuality in today’s world at all.

    August 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    • “Dolling yourself up and shaving was not common.It was reserved for the elite.”

      I should probably change my word choice. I said that it was normal, but I did not say that it was common. I will change this to be more specific to the elite though. When I said it was normal, I meant that it did not violate hetero-normative standards of behavior for men to wear make-up or fancy clothing.

      As regards to homophobia in today’s world, it really depends on where you are. Western Europe definitely has a great amount of tolerance. The United States is becoming more tolerant. However, there are still parts of the country where a person can be beaten senseless for committing a gay sex act.

      Also, the fact that gay acts are punished by the death penalty in Uganda is certainly a form of vehement hatred.

      August 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      • Tormund Giantsbane

        “beaten senseless for committing a gay sex act.”
        Tell me where in the United States is it a standard procedure to stalk/place cameras in people’s rooms and beat them senseless if they find out they have gay sex.

        Also,you said the death penalty in a country indicates vehement hatred.How?
        The lawmakers write it as a code of behaviour,the policemen execute the law as is their job.
        It seems like “vehement hatred” would be more like widespread violent anti-gay protests which is not the given example.

        August 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

  2. Vehement hatred can take a variety of forms. As far as anti-gay protests go, there is the Westboro Baptist Church as a famous example. Also, when I lived in the South, there were also a number of preachers who would come to my campus and shout insults about homosexuality over a megaphone. The definition of vehement hatred is subjective to some degree, so we may not come to an agreement about whether it exists in this world or not towards homosexuals.

    Yet the point I was trying to make in my article is that the Egyptians were generally indifferent towards homosexual sex acts and there is very little material written in their society or code of laws about trying to stop it. For example, homosexuality is not even mentioned in their 42 laws of Ma’at.

    While in many parts of the world today, people see it as a more negative behavior that needs to be regulated or stopped. They see it as negative because they are actually trying to use the legal system to stop it – or this standard of behavior is enforced socially via gays getting beaten up/insulted by their peers. I remember when I went to High School, “faggot” was the most common insult kids would use on each other, and the perception that a person was gay could get them beaten up. In most of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – homosexuality is seen as a sin to be dealt with in a variety of degrees.

    So my point overall is that Homosexual Sex acts are viewed more negatively today than they were in Ancient Egypt.

    August 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

  3. Pingback: Ancient Egyptian Women – Marriage, Sexuality and Goddesses | Metal Gaia

  4. Theresa

    You can’t expect an Arab who stole and grafted themselves upon African history to give a complete explanation of ancient African culture. The two men at top picture are twins not lovers and the 2nd picture are of non indigenous African descent. The third picture I don’t see any proof of lesbians. That’s why there is a quiet movement in this country to tell our own history through our own eyes to our Black children. We can’t continue to allow those of other cultures to tell our story . GAY OR STRAIGHT JUST STOP FUCKIN LYING ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE. IN THE FUTURE THERE WILL BE SERIOUS LEGAL AND SPIRITUAL CONSEQUENCES TO YOUR ACTIONS. Just so we all understand I AM NOT threatening you with physical violence !!!!! You showed no proof about subject.

    January 27, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    • I am sorry this post offended you. Can you tell me the source for the fact that the one picture I have is of twins? I try to be accurate, but I’m no official historian. So if you have some official source that shows that, I would be happy to take that picture down and put something else up.

      I don’t necessarily have the pictures up there to be like “these are definitely gays and lesbians,” but the fact that people are depicted naked shows a greater amount of comfort with sexuality in general. I can admit, us modern folk really don’t know completely what was going on in those pictures. A lot of what I post is to inspire imagination and thought.

      Also, I’m not trying to appropriate or take over anyone else’s history.

      I understand as a white person sharing the history of a non-white people, I run the risk of engaging in appropriation, and I’m not trying to do that.

      I guess why I like to share information about non-white cultures is because I feel that the error of the way that history is taught in general is that it is a lot of white people focusing on white cultures. In school, 90% of what I learned in history class was about white men. Just recently I learned that it was a black man that invented traffic lights, and another black man that invented the concept of having a mailbox. These are things that I wish were taught more in school.

      So I try to post things on this blog about African, Native American, Asian culture etc so that people can see the great contributions these cultures have made to history, and understand that history isn’t just a white man’s game.

      But if any of my facts are in error, and you have academic sources or other good sites that can show what I wrote was wrong, please send it. I am not too proud to admit that I can be wrong. I apologize again if this post offended you.

      January 28, 2017 at 12:37 am

      • If you have some pictures you would like to recommend that would work better for this post, lemme know as well. I’m always interested in other people’s opinions.

        January 28, 2017 at 12:45 am

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