Fantastic sex: fantasies of sexual assault in Aristophanes

Robson, James (2015). Fantastic sex: fantasies of sexual assault in Aristophanes. In: Masterson, Mark; Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin and Robson, James eds. Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. Rewriting Antiquity. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 315–331.



Rape is a common motif in Greek comedy. But whereas the victim in New Comedy is routinely a citizen girl whose resulting pregnancy is key to the play’s plot, rape in Aristophanes is always projected, never realized, with the would-be victims ranging from a slave-girl to a prostitute, a citizen wife and even a goddess. This chapter examines several passages containing fantasies/threats of rape, exploring how they both reinforce the power dynamics of gender and social roles in classical Athens and are also revealing of male attitudes to rape. Taken as a whole, these passages display a complex mixture of male delight in rape as uncomplicated and unbounded sex with recognition of rape’s ability to harm and degrade a woman.

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