The cultural reality across time in the Selian states, and in the present day Freehold, have continuously reflected a significantly strange attitude to sex, it's depiction, the nature of sexuality in terms of masculinity and femininity, sexual roles, acts, morality, immorality, rape, and the depiction of nudity and the symbolism of the body. Because of this the nature of Ephyral sexuality is subject to study and interest for its seemingly odd and downright bizarre trends and conventions.
I. Sex in art and literature
... - Visual portrayal of sex
... - Sexuality in literature
II. Sex and the state
... - Concepts in morality and law
...... - Sexual modesty and morality
...... - Immorality in sex
...... - Illicit sex
III. Nature of sex
... - Penetrator-penetrated binary model
...... - Penetrator
......... - Masculinity
...... - Penetrated
......... - Femininity
IV. Male sexuality
... - Male nudity
...... - Phallic sexuality
......... - Castration and circumcision
... - Effeminacy
... - Male-male sex
... - Moral regulation
... - Rape of men
... - Mythological analogy
V. Female sexuality
... - Female nudity
...... - Female genitalia
...... - Breasts
... - Female-female sex
... - Moral regulation
... - Rape
...... - Rape, society, and the law
...... - Mythology of rape
VI. Sexuality and children
... - Sexual maturity and rites of passage
VII. Sex, marriage, and society
... - Marital sex
...... - Wedding night
...... - Adultery and fidelity
... - Slavery and sex
... - Prostitution
...... - Sexual infamy
VIII. Sex acts and positions
... - Male-female sex
... - Anal sex
... - Oral sex
... - Group sex
... - Masturbation
... - Bestiality
One of the foremost ways one could discern the nature of sex and it's view by the Ephyral is through their expression in the arts. These have been used as contemporary sources throughout history to determine historical Selian sexuality and the sexuality of various other nations and lands. What is known is that the actual visual depiction of sex itself was almost always more controversial than the literal depictions, save for some of the most expressive and outright vulgar writings by individuals whom are most renowned for that very thing. This would tend to vary by the nature of the art due to the way nudity is interpreted. Statues of gods, goddesses, and great heroes including generals, statesmen, kings, tyrants, archons, as well as female rulers in their rarity and often the influential women alongside husbands and fathers, are overwhelmingly carved in a fashion of conservatism.
Men and gods would be depicted as mature, powerful figures, either clothed or armoured in the attire traditional to their time and place. Their powerful physicality was displayed through this depiction, not apart from it, and the depiction of male figures particularly as nude is thought of as often shaming. This is not universal and some states in Selia went through phases of heroic nudism, where great figures would be depicted without clothes. So long as the man or god being portrayed was done so gloriously, this was not an insult. This trend never caught on however, and gods like Ishax or great tyrants like Lykos are depicted armoured or garbed in the regal attire of their status, rather than naked.
Women displayed, which was far rarer, were again displayed conservatively but with attentions to their femininity. Often, such women were sculpted as wearing the traditional long dresses of their homeland and status but in such a manner that rendered their physical bodies 'visible' beneath it, denoting these women as traditional but feminine all the same. Goddesses were also routinely displayed like this, though a few such as Vēleys were depicted naked for their sphere of sexuality. Lysharar is a goddess whose naked form is the representation of purity and innocence.
In regular art, nudity was more vulgar, and was routinely displayed on the walls of brothels and in the homes of the elite whom were to be considered more sexually open than the standards of any particular time. A lot can be interpreted from these, and from many writings, which can exist to commend or to mock. For example, across Selia, a general trend of acceptable body-proportions, particularly in women more than men, was uncovered. The reason for the female-focus is the abundance of male writers and artists and the near total lack of female, and whilst male-male sex is not remotely unheard of, the way by which a man comes to want to engage in sexual acts with another man typically do not use the same standards as might be used by a woman, and instead actually focus their sights on the more feminine men.
In visual portrayal, men and women are displayed in the most common and traditional sexual positions, though sometimes in more 'exotic' and by both contemporary and modern standards, depraved. Statues rarely ever depict sexual activity and focus more on the physicality of the depicted individual, as explained above. Sexual art is most commonly displayed, as mentioned, in brothels where such activity takes place, and is considered circumstantially erotic, but inappropriate elsewhere. Writings from a number of significant men in the form of autobiographical works mention in a few cases, a feeling of discomfort when in the home of someone who openly displayed such art.
The most typical sexual position depicted is a male-female coupling with the man behind the woman. Rarer depictions show male-male and female-female activity, but these are not overly common and few historical examples exist. The next most common theme is half-naked depictions and these are readily more accepted. For men these tend to cover the genitalia, and the same is true for women. The breasts are exposed in some circumstances but not in others and this depends in the situation depicted in the art. The statues of a number of gods and goddesses also hide the lower genitalia of either sex but routinely display bare breasts.
Alongside visual art, literature has played a very common role in the depiction of what appropriate sexual content and idealised body-proportions were. The famed historical writer Aqoly (Anakos Aqolios Maleris, c. 224 BCE) was most famous for writing mockeries particularly of the sexual depiction of women. In them, he mocked particularly the concept of larger breasts, though the exaggerations used make it difficult to actually pinpoint the realistic size he was mocking. He is also famed for having made particularly vulgar remarks to women in person alongside this, and was a disliked man in his contemporary era.
Contrarily the writings of a Selian king, descended from a general following the decline of the Arconian Empire into a succession crisis, by the name of Balaeniks II, who at the time of his rule in c. 233 BCE ruled over much of Syria and southern Anatolia, depicted particularly favourable views of women with particular body proportions, including his own wife, Daenaera. He described her presentation to him in his writings dated to 229 BCE, not long before his death (and several years after her own), and wrote in great detail about the form of her body and its pleasing figure to him. From his writings we discern that smaller breasts were favoured at least during his time, and this seems to match up with other cultural practices performed by women including to the modern era.
Writings also go further into the nature of sexuality and not just sex and it is from them and the ancestral custom of the Selians, particularly Ephyra itself, that we discern the notions of masculinity, femininity, and qualities of expressed sexuality considered moral, and their corruption, abandonment, or opposites as immoral.
Sex and the state have a relation to one another through the state's inseparable connection to the religion and religious ideals of the Freehold, which are supportive of traditional sexuality and activity, as well as regulated. In the religious sense, concepts of ritual and 'magic' to regulate sexuality or provide boons are not at all uncommon, and the deification of sexuality is quite common.
These can be in more explicit or more traditionalist attitudes. Rhea, the goddess of the state, exists also as a deity of childbirth and marriage, and is a representation of the state's encouragement for true citizens to reproduce and maintain the heritage of the Freehold through blood and soil. Vēleys, a goddess whose sphere is womanhood, beauty, and love, is often associated with raw female sexuality and potency, a fiery goddess whose inflamed passions are in many stories routinely controlled and exorcised by moral male figures of heroism, as well as other gods, particularly Nalārion, the embodiment of man. By many stories Nalārion is also the brother of Vēleys, and this union is regarded as a religious approval of incest, as it falls to the brother of this goddess to best restrain her sexual potency.
Lysharar exists as a goddess of virginity, female fertility, as well as the moon in conjunction with the menstrual cycle. Nalārion himself is associated with war and all things related to it, including rape, in which he is a figure of unbridled masculine power in the same manner as Vēleys represents feminine chaos. In the reverse of those stories, Nalārion is the one who is restrained by a female hero or goddess, representing an idea of destructive masculinity and chaotic femininity, which must be controlled by the regulated expression of its opposite.
Elenikses too represents the brutality that sex can be made manifest in, a goddess of war and slaughter. It is often again a male hero who defeats and controls her.
The well-being of the state at large is therefore regarded as inseparable from sexuality. Whilst those stories depict female aiding of the destructive male, it is done so in a more guiding manner, whilst the male heroes routinely dominate the chaotic female in question. In all this has resulted in a society where the men regulate their own sexuality and masculinity, utilising it but never surrendering to it, whilst also controlling the sexuality of their women, whom are regarded as more easily susceptible to the chaos of their own sexual pursuits, presenting an abandonment to the in-group.
The maintenance of religious cults to gods and goddesses of sexual nature, especially Rhea, is considered to be paramount. Through the institution of marriage, children are produced, and the state is perpetuated. The making sacred of sex, and the sacred nature of the state, ties the two together and the Ephyral do not have a sense that one can be removed from the other. States without sexual restraint are decadent and immoral, and the Selians have routinely pointed to the east as a permanent example and now to the west as a more modern demonstration. States that fail to reproduce simply die.
Sexual modesty and morality is a concept that is held as a paragon virtue of true citizenry, both for men and women. Religiously, this is embodied by the goddess Kosāves, which is also a written noun that means 'purity' and 'chastity'. It is a promotion of sexual regulation, and an avoidance of sexual abandonment. Men, by this value, regulate their own sexual activity so as to not appear weak and effeminate, easily swayed by the promise of sex. The sexually moral man is the one who engages in sex with control, typically with his wife, though if he takes sex from a prostitute or a slave, he does so infrequently and without self-degradation in the performance of it. He is a man whose sexual past cannot be used against him. This is particularly important in politics as a man who is regarded as incapable of governing himself would be seen as less than capable of governing the state.
The concept is arguably stricter with women. For women it promotes the ultimate restraint. Virginity is expected until her wedding night, and within marriage she is expected to withhold sex from all but her husband, but like her husband display a sense of self-discipline when engaging in it. However a lot of this control is ceded to her husband as women are again considered more likely to be slaves to their own desires, which is regarded as a reason why they have never built or guided civilisations, and reproduce with the men who did to produce the men who will. Therefore whilst the man is afforded the greater freedom of sexual activity, though subject to intense public scrutiny, with prostitutes and slaves, the woman has practically none. As her environment is the private, the home, public scrutiny is harder and can only occur with private scrutiny, which is maintained by the husband and can even be enforced by the slaves or servants in his employ.
Hyper-sexuality in men and women is heavily condemned. In men, it is a sign of utter weakness, an inability to rule himself or others. In women, it's a sign of self-slavery to her own corrupt desires.
There exists a category of acts that are considered immoral and for all intents and purpose, nakosāves, or 'impurity'. These are sexual acts committed that render one in violation of ancestral and moral principles. The Virgins of Lysharar would incur this through sexual activity, by consent or by force, as would the man who rendered her so impure.
These are things that could result in charges being brought, rendering them a form of illicit sex, but not all things are concerned with sex itself. Cross-dressing for example is not a demonstration of illicit sex, but a man who dons a woman's dress or a woman who dons a tunic and toga could be subject to legal ramifications on the basis of a sexual violation.
Illicit sex is an act of illegal sex deemed to be an act of nakosāves. Such things include the act of criminal seduction, rape, direct-descent incest, bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia, and a number of other acts. These face legal charges, if the perpetrator is not initially killed, and many carry a capital punishment as a result..
Penetrator-penetrated binary model
Sex itself in Ephyra does not follow a model by which both partners seek to pleasure the other. As in many things, it is hierarchical. The penetrator-penetrated binary model, otherwise known as the top-bottom, active-passive, and dominant-submissive, is a form of sexual dichotomy that heavily reflects the nature of the Ephyral society. The Ephyral have no concept of heterosexual or homosexual dichotomies, just penetrator and penetrated, and the morality of the sex dependent on the status of the occupant of each role.
The first role is that of the penetrator. This is more or less what it states to be, the partner that penetrates. In all morally approved instances of sexual encounters the penetrator is a man. This is in line with the idea of the citizen's virtue and protection of liberty, including that of the body. A citizen does not subject his body to the sexual pleasure of others and therefore instead derives pleasure from the use of others. A man who enjoys sexual relations with men and women both, so long as they are of inferior status and the act itself is not offensive nor betraying of a weakness to indulgence, is affected by no moral censure.
The role of the penetrator is seen as naturally dominant, superior, and strong. It is the role of the victor over the vanquished and the glorious over the subjugated. For a male penetrator to have sex with another man in the active role is not damaging in the least to his public standing, and can even be somewhat beneficial to it, as he has demonstrated physical
and social superiority over a man. This interaction necessitates of course that the man rendered receptive not be socially superior penetrator, though him being so is more likely to incur censure on the receptive partner than the active.
In historical context the role of the penetrator is regarded as directly equivalent to masculinity. The role also has connotations of violence. In war, the capture of a settlement would often result in a sack with inevitable rape. This form of sexual conquest was not remotely discredited by the contemporary writers of the time but in fact glorified as the heroic soldiers asserting their masculinity and dominance over the men and women they conquered.
Masculinity in sex is derived from the citizen's fulfilment of the penetrative role over both women and men. The idea of liberty, a protection and value in citizenship, adheres to the idea of body-liberty also, that a citizen is protected from having his body being used to please others. However to voluntarily use it for such a purpose is equally as heinous. Therefore the idea of a citizen's masculinity is outright inseparable from sexual dominance, and the greatest affirmation of masculinity is attained through the sexual domination of those that could use his. Men.
Women, thought of as naturally weaker and sexually subject, are not as validating to have sex with for masculinity than another man. However the masculinity of the man penetrated is utterly destroyed in the act, and he becomes as a woman in a man's form. Engaging in sexually dominant activity for the first time is a sign of manhood and this is not dependent on the sex of the subject, indeed, it is often female. The active pursuit of male sexual partners by a man, even if he is dominant in doing so, is not encouraged nor socially conventional.
In fact a necessary aspect of masculine sexuality is self-discipline as restraint. Whether the subject of attention is male or female the citizen should exercise restraint so that he is not tempted into indulgence. A significant support of this is religion, and the contempt of the goddess of temptation, Mesinis, who targets the moral, virtuous citizen of rank, and lays in his path an array of sexually appealing men and women he has all the power to enjoy. This is analogous to the benefits of power and the idea of self-discipline is both important for reaching such power and maintaining integrity when there.
Massive social censure awaits men who indulge in such temptations, and the failure to govern oneself is regarded as a failure to govern one's family. Whilst citizens have every right to take sexual partners outside of marriage, such as male or female slaves and prostitutes, non-civic freemen and freewomen, or even citizen men (who will lose standing after), excessive indulgence in doing so is regarded as hypersexuality, heavily condemned, and can result in divorce if married or failure to marry if not.
The role of the penetrated is treated with apathy. Where the penetrator is masculine, dominant, strong, and superior, the penetrated is feminine or effeminate, submissive, weak, and inferior. It is the archetype of the inferior status that a citizen may legally and socially derive sexual pleasure from. In the majority of cases this would be a man's own wife. Women of all races and classes at large are regarded as naturally fitting into this role, as are non-citizen men. Because women, including of citizens status, almost universally reside in this sexual role, it is part of a cycle that is the nature of their status. Women who are citizens are not full citizens and typically refered to as the wives and daughters of citizens as opposed to being named citizens in their own right. Along this line, the word citizen is in reference to men, not women.
Women do not enjoy the status of citizenship that men hold because they are sexually servile. Their bodies are designed for the receiving role, to give pleasure to the penetrator. And it is in turn because they are sexually servile that they do not enjoy the status of citizenship men hold.
Men however can just as easily hold this position and those that do are held in contempt for it. Unlike women they possess the natural means of sexual dominance and therefore to be resigned to submission is a lack of masculine strength and superiority, feminising, and degenerate.
The wives and daughters of citizens who are sexually servile receive no ill-treatment for that fact. So long as they behave morally within that sphere, do not adulterate, are not hypersexual, then the women who hold this role naturally can be highly praised and commended for their moral virtue and chastity, and fidelity to their husbands. By contrast, the man who subjects his body to other men is undeserving of any respect or recognition, including by women. He is not masculine, he lacks the moral virtue and honour that makes a woman in her role so elevated.
Non-citizens are regarded as naturally submissive, particularly those conquered, as many of their men and women both were enslaved, and of cultures that the Ephyral considered to be naturally feminine and contemptible. Because of this, non-citizen men who submit to other non-citizen men or citizen men are not especially condemned as they are performing no act that the Freehold does not already believe they are suited for.
Sexual femininity is the nature of the chaste woman. She is dutiful, pious, maintains fidelity, chastity, and dignity. Her role as the deferential to the masculine dominant is not condemned nor mocked. It is, of course, an embodiment of submission and weakness but not in a manner the Ephyral regard as contemptible. Her sexual submission is the manifestation of her dutiful and dignified role as a member of the female sex, a wife and daughter of citizenry. Her physical weakness is something that inspires masculinity to protect. Her feminine virtue is of worth and worthy of defence.
Women are just as much held, if not more so, to ideas of sexual morality. Hypersexual women are insulted as whores. Adulterous women are shamed and disowned. This marks a stark difference as men have the legal ability to have sex with men and women both of inferior status. Women do not, because their natural role as the submissive places them in the inferior position to all. The extent to which this difference was applied however is dubious. Records exist both of men who are aware of their wives utilising free men or slaves for sexual pleasure and tolerating it, and of those who killed the male partner and divorced the woman. It might be assumed however that the men who tolerated this were not common however due to a precedent that might see the husband of an adulterous woman tried for illegal pimping if he takes no action.
It is only within marriage that women are expected to exercise their sexuality, but also exercise it with control and dignity.
Male sexuality as a whole can be perceived as existing within a form of 'conquest mentality'. This is most physically embodied by the sexual dominance of men over other men and women both, the virtues of masculinity which praise dignity, authority, and courage, and the dignity and dominance of citizenship and the rejection of servile activity both socially and sexually.
In war this conquest mentality would be applied to nations conquered, even so far as to depict the nation being conquered in a feminine form, being subject to abduction by a number of masculine embodiments of the state. Strong governance of the self, justifying governance over others, and a freedom from tyranny by monarchy is considered imperative to this. Under tyranny the rights of citizenship mean less, therefore the values to maintain it cease purpose.
By this end the Ephyral men consider themselves not only of dominant sexuality through the conquest mentality and personal control, but superior to all states whom exercise their values and citizenship under the subjection of despots.
The public nudity of a citizen is received negatively in the Freehold. A citizen clothes himself in his citizenship and the attire that represents it. Public nudity has connotations of defeat, slavery, and submission, as captives in war and slaves at auction are traditionally stripped bare. The opposition of nudity in Selian culture has little to do with sexual repression and more to do with the standards of citizenry and the distinguishing of the citizen self from the slave.
For this reason, gods and men of note would be honoured in statues that kept them conservatively dressed but did not hamper their masculinity. Aside from the intermittent phases of heroic nudist art that occurred in several states, and discounting the cultural rituals and festivals that often necessitate a near-nakedness, citizens find it most shameful to be depicted or physically be naked. It is an affront to their peers and those of higher civility, as they disregard the rights and the obligations of their own citizenship and infringe upon the rights of their fellows.
For men of political office, to display oneself naked is to risk expulsion from the Senate, and the act will be humiliating to a man's family also. It may then even be his wife's prerogative to seek divorce for his shameful and offensive behaviour.
However, it is typically full nudity that is required for full offence. Though stripping down to near-nudity is by no stretch of the imagination a socially acceptable act, the covering of the genitalia is much better socially than exposing it. Men engaging in physical sports and activity may well wear a garment similar to traditional male underwear, to allow for the physical demonstration of masculine dominance without actually causing social offence, though this is one of the very few examples were such a thing would be outwardly acceptable.
A citizen dresses honourably and respectably, and would wish to be honoured as such, depicted as mature, strong, bedecked in the traditional attire of his homeland or in the armour of old. Though the appearance of a bare torso itself with attire remaining waist down is far less outrageous, and is regarded as a legitimate way men might demonstrate their physical form without social offence.
Examples where full or partial nudity in a public or near-public setting would be more accepted than otherwise include (but are not restricted to) religious rituals that necessitate it, physical sports, and communal bathing.
If a citizen is forcibly unclothed by another or a group, those responsible may well face severe penalties under a crime against morality, as the unwarranted and undeserved humiliation of a citizen is socially considered a heinous crime.
Castration and circumcision
The hsitoric Selian, and modern Ephyral view of circumcision is one of utter barbarity, to the extent that circumcision is completely outlawed in the Freehold, with no exceptions to religiosity. The Jews, a people whom perform ritual circumcision, are socially regarded as savages for their mandating of the practice, as well as the Islamic practice of mutilating the female genitalia.
Castration too is considered abhorrent, but only upon freemen. Whilst circumcising a slave is also considered to be an unnecessarily revolting practice, the castration of male slaves, especially those offered in brothels, is not an unheard of practice, though it has been banned and reinstated multiple times in history.
A man who has been castrated, and no longer able to father children or produce the necessary testosterone to fight, is hardly regarded as a man at all by any stretch, and more like a woman.
Effeminacy as a perceived state is a man who is thought of as lacking masculinity, either through physical form, behaviour, or actions. The idea of effeminacy has also been applied to foreign cultures as a whole, particularly those of the east, where the less militaristic men whom wore perfume and make up along with their women, and their public use of eunuchs, were disparaged as being effeminate and women.
It is not a legal definition, though the repercussions from being perceived as such socially are very real. A man might be regarded as effeminate for engaging in more culturally feminine activities domestically, beyond what is perceived as natural during childhood (as children are often working domestically within a house). Ideologically, he might be regarded as effeminate for opposing the militaristic nature of the Freehold, or otherwise standing against some of its core tenets and masculine ideals.
By far the quickest way a man might incur such a status on himself is by using his body to pleasure another man. The act of doing this does have the repercussion of sexual infamy also, especially if the act resulted in a divorce from his wife. Cross-dressing is another way to achieve such a status.
The outwardly effeminate of men are often mocked and regarded as inferior. The more physically feminine men might be the object of sexual pursuit from the socially acknowledged masculine men, and are regarded as an equally valid sexual option as women.
Male-male sex in the Freehold, particularly the Selian areas, is not a common or routine occurrence but not morally rejected outright. Male citizens are socially free to engage in sexual activity with men in society whom are their social inferiors, such as freemen or slaves. This is the most common form, with men typically using either male prostitutes or slaves for such activity.
A specific desire for male partners is considered abnormal, whilst typical attraction to inferior men alongside women is considered healthy and otherwise regular. The physical act is only scandalous should a citizen take the receiving rather than the dominant role, or otherwise act in a manner that suggests a lack of discipline. Archons of the state have been known to use male slaves for sexual purposes, as have tyrants and kings of pre-Freehold states.
The connection however is interpreted as purely sexual and not romantic. Romantic attraction towards men is considered effeminate and weak, making one a woman, whilst sexual attraction at a healthy level, and remaining dominant as a citizen, is typically unremarkable. The majority of citizens likely will not engage in the practice, or do so once or twice. The overwhelming majority of the time, a citizen engages in sex with his wife only. This has been, by many individuals, declared the most moral course, as the man shows the restraint to abide by choice what his wife complies with by law.
Because of this, such statesmen and writers showed contempt for the men that engaged in sex with their male slaves, or slaves in general, as they were indulging in a weakness. In contrast, many thought this was too puritanical, and unless a man's rationality and judgement becomes affected by his sexual desires than the sexual use of his slaves is of no concern. The argument was less about the sex of the slaves but more about the slaves in general, with their sex highlighted solely to paint a direct polarisation to a man's own wife. Where the wife is a freeborn female citizen, the slave is non-free male property.
Men are expected to regulate their sexual urges to the utmost, though many have differed on what that means. Even within marriages, a certain degree of regulation is maintained by both partners, as too-frequent indulgence is thought to weaken men both physically and mentally and provide his wife with power over him, or otherwise attune her to sexual hyperactivity and increase the threat of adultery or whoring.
Because of this, men are expected to regulate not just themselves but their wives. A restrained sexual urge is believed by many Ephyral to be strengthening, and though the regular indulgence between a married couple is not considered a weakness, too frequent is. The vast majority of Selian couples do not copulate nightly, but perhaps every two or three days. It is believed this is less strictly followed in the higher classes and the lower prole classes. This type of regulation doesn't apply to non-Selianised residents, who mate by their own cultural ideals.
A man who can govern his own self is capable of governing others, a man who can't is not. This includes a family, military personnel, or political office. In this way, a man's sexual activity can really impact everything about his life, and the nature of sex within an individual's life is not considered a private matter in the same way it is in other nations.
Rape of men
The rape of men in Ephyra is a far more significant area of examination than the same phenomenon might be in other countries, solely due to its higher frequency. The concept of sex within a conquest mentality, of dominant and submissive roles as opposed to male and female directly, and the affirming of one's own masculinity via the deprivation of another's, are all factors that see Ephyra both on average and more specifically in the ethnic and culturally Selian areas, have a far higher rate of rape committed by men against men. Assessment of motives usually see factors of personal dispute, where the victim usually knows the perpetrator; however such acts can also be motivated by the social status of the victim, sexual attraction, and power addiction.
The rape of men does not occur more or as frequently as the rape of women, either by national averages, or even in the heavily Selianised areas. Statistics for rape in general are difficult to ascertain due to high numbers of unreported incidents and other complications, but across the Freehold, it is believed that between 10-25% of rape victims are male. This figure jumps as high as 45% in some areas in Selia itself, and varies between 25 and 45% in other Selian areas. Whilst rapes in general have declined over recent years, their proportion remains similar.
Male fear of rape has a strong historical precedent, due to actions suffered by Selians committed by other Selians, committed by Selians to barbarians, or by barbarians to Selians. For much of history, banditry, piracy, and war presented themselves as common threats with death and rape both as inevitable consequences. Although particularly in the case of war, and to some degree in banditry and piracy, most men of any target settlement or area often have to be killed to secure control of an area (as they represent the fighting force), those that were taken alive due to being disarmed, unarmed, or surrendered, often faced rape as a consequence as inevitable as befell the women. War-time mass rape would be the most commonly seen form of this, with rape manifesting in the aftermath of heavy fighting and bloodshed, committed indiscriminately, but with the added psychological terror and feminisation of the surviving men.
In the modern day, the rape of a man is as much a crime as the rape of a woman, with the rape of adolescent men not yet fully adult being a capital crime. Unlike men who give themselves willingly into the female sexual role, male victims of rape suffer no social stigma as being a passive homosexual, and are considered dishonoured by external forces rather than having committed a wrong themselves. The crime therefore lies with the perpetrators, not the victim. However, it is not an uncommon occurrence for women married to a man who was raped to seek divorce, not out of malice, but simply on the principle of protection. If he was unable to defend himself from such attack, he would be unable to defend her. Whilst not a stigma in and of itself, this does show how the male victims of rape can experience long-term damaging consequences even outside of psychological trauma. Age statistics in male-male rape are quite clear. The majority of victims are in youth and young adulthood, with approximately 40% of male rape victims being between the ages of sixteen and thirty, and another 25% between twelve and sixteen. Younger than twelve and older than thirty see a marked drop in rates. By contrast the vast majority of those who commit rapes targeted at men are older, with half being between the ages of twenty and forty, and the remaining half variably younger and older.
By law, crimes of rape against a citizen man are held to greater abhorrence due to the right of the citizen to not have his body subjected to the pleasures of others. This fundamental right, to differentiate the man from the slave (and to some degree women), is forfeited in passive male-male sex, but violated in rape; and as it is a specific right to protection from sexual use that all other classes lack, the act of rape against a man of citizen class be he voter or not is held as a grave crime.
Many myths and plays saw men convicted of raping their fellow citizens stripped of their rights and protections, and in many cases subject to a revenge rape by the victim, with possible addition of his male family, friends, or wider community. However no evidence exists at all for this ever having occurred as any legal punishment, with the plays perhaps borrowing from rural acts of mob justice, capitalising on what they perceived as fateful irony. This revenge of the assault was portrayed as the dishonoured man reclaiming his virtue and sovereignty of his body by subjecting his attacker to the same treatment he experienced. A similar event is portrayed in plays for female victims, where revenge is carried out on her behalf.
Whilst Ephyra sees a far higher rate of rapes against men than elsewhere in the world, it also sees the matter taken very seriously, especially against citizens, with the subject being noted on for many centuries before the modern day.
Female sexuality is held up as a pillar of the stability and order of the state, as its control and exercise within the home and family are an integral part of its function, and the function of the family is of vital importance to the state. Women therefore are only able to exercise their sexuality with social approval within the family and with one concurrent husband. Women are honoured for their integrity, dignity, and fecundity. The control of female sexuality, both by the woman in question who strives to fulfil the moral virtues of integrity and purity, and by both her family and the social environment, is considered vital for the maintenance of the state as the presence of virtuous and fertile woman is an absolute necessity for the continuation of the state, and their absence in favour of promiscuity and fornication is considered an outright assault on the future of the nation.
This is embodied religiously by the Virgins of Lysharar, who face death for the violation of their vows. Dignified and respectable woman distance themselves from the women who by profession or personality make themselves sexually available, such as prostitutes and by social perception, actresses. The exercise of sexual passion within marriage with a husband is socially approved in art, literature, and general discourse. The sexuality of women is therefore socially directed towards this goal. Single union with a husband with whom sexuality can be mutually exercised, moral purity and dignity maintained, fecundity ensured, and the survival of the nation and the stability and order of the state ensured.
Female sexuality is not one of a conquest mentality like with men, but one of order and scrupulousness.
Nudity for women is more or less along the same lines as men. Respectable women of citizen standing, or more accurately, women who are the wives and daughters of citizens, if publicly unclothed, present an affront to the dignity of their status and their family. As with men therefore, the forced removal of a woman's clothing in public is a serious offence of social order. The female body has been regularly depicted and written about.
The ideal body shape maintained within society for women is wider hips and small breasts, as larger breasts are seen as comical. Statues of Ephyral woman from previous times tends to depict the moral and dutiful Ephyral matron as respectably clothed, standing tall, and with no lack of dignity. Female figures associated with fertility such as goddesses, and a number of historical woman, might be displayed bare breasted. The goddess Vēleys is often depicted entirely nude. Depiction of nude women comes primarily in the form of erotic art, considered generally vulgar and fitting for brothels but not of social approval.
The female genitalia, known in High Ephyral as the zalris, is acknowledged and accepted as the distinctive, at least in external form, female sexual organ. Unlike many languages, particularly English, the use of the term zalris has little insulting connotation. Though the topic of female genitalia is perhaps not considered appropriate in public or at many private events and daily life, the word is not used as a label. This is also a body part for which practically no alternative names exist, with the etymology of zalris being unknown but perhaps related to zarhos, which means 'hole', or 'space'.
Literary allusions to the vagina are scarce save for those well known for being in-depth on the matter. Visual depictions are also very rare, as works of art from on pottery to statues which depict naked females routinely have the thighs obscure the area in question, or simply do not depict it because of it's horizontal plane underneath the body as opposed to being vertically aligned and protruding like the male organ.
There is a value of female virginity, and a concept therefore of first penetration into the genitalia. First-time brides are expected to be virgins on their wedding night. The act of ending a woman's maidenhood is considered vital act of binding for marriage, though this obviously becomes irrelevant in the case of re-marriage. It can be also assumed therefore that there is an aspect of modesty and protectionism towards the female genitalia. Women do not show it in public, or even in private save for acts of sex with their husbands. A woman who is forcibly exposed in such a manner is regarded as a victim of a sexual assault, though this does not apply to slaves and prostitutes and even in some cases to non-citizen freewomen.
Throughout much of history, constant reference has been made to the absence of female pubic hair through artificial removal, and today it is known that the majority of women maintain either hairless or finely kept pubic areas, with the idea of unshaven pubic regions being considered barbaric. In both statues and art which do depict hair on the head, no effort is made to portray the figure in question with any pubic hair.
The vagina is regarded as the focus of female sexual pleasure and a physical manifestation of temptation.
Breasts are not principally recognised as sexual organs in Ephyral culture. The female breast or the nelva is a representation of motherhood, nurturing, and femininity. This is not to say that the breasts are not seen sexually. In both ancient and common discourse, idealised breasts are regarded as enhancing to the sexual attractiveness of a woman, and manipulation of the breasts is highly common as a means of sexual interaction both by the woman to whom they belong and her partner. It is simply that within the cultural niches of the Ephyral and Selians at large, the breast occupies two more principal features, though one of these has become more irrelevant.
The first is motherhood. The breast nurses the infant and therefore represents the single most important duty of the mother. To care for her offspring. The second of these is vulnerability. It is a common cultural practice for women at funerals, particularly those of direct relation to the deceased, to expose their breasts as a sign of vulnerability and grief. Records are also made of the practice for women to bare their breasts as a plea of mercy, to remind soldiers (who were usually Selian also) that they are nurturers and givers of life, and perhaps to dissuade them from rapine acts. Whether this actually occurred or not is unknown, and today it has particularly lost meaning as such, but in art and literature both, female characters who are in a position of weakness and vulnerability, particularly to a male character, will deliberately expose their breasts to them. The depiction of female characters who are about to experience sexual violation often also portrays one or both breasts bared as a means to convey their helplessness.
The Selian woman does not bring her breast to exposure therefore in public. This is partly because of the clothing inconvenience but also because of reasons of modesty. If she has no reason to bare her breast then it is sexual, and immoral. Interestingly, grown women of the Freehold do not wear bras or any breast concealing garment under their tunics. And because the material of the tunic is rarely exceptionally thick, and the Rhyosian tunic features an open right-side, the shape of the breasts is often visible beneath the fabric and when reclining, the right breast of a woman may be visible to those sitting in the correct location.
Both writings and art display the ideal female breast as being on the small side. Large breasts are regarded as comical and unattractive. There is a cultural practice therefore of binding the chests of girls both before and during puberty in an attempt to create for them an ideal breast size, keeping the band tightly secured. Such a band is also worn when women engage in physical activity as a means of securing the breasts, but in any other situation they are not worn.
Female-female sex, or lesbianism, is a controversial but also unique topic within Ephyral culture. Interestingly, because sex is defined as male penetration into a penetrated male or female partner, the sexual acts that could occur between two women are not considered to be sex in and of itself, thus two women can never actually have sex. Because of this, if a woman who was married were to derive sexual pleasure from another woman, no adultery has been committed. Because of the dichotomy of sex, female-female is considered far less common than male-male, as women occupy a position of inferiority on the sexual dominance hierarchy, and do not utilise brothels for sexual needs. Higher class women however might utilise their female body slaves in sexual manners, both performing and being performed upon.
It is not exceptionally rare either for two freewomen to sexually experiment, and a number of paintings particularly from the declining period of the Freehold in its first phase depict two or more women engaged in sexual activity.
Whilst not considered sex, it is overall considered immoral, as it removes the check on sexual indulgence that the patriarch of the family is expected to enforce. Two women seeking pleasure from one another will not show restraint and become decadent in their frivolity. Men have been known to sell slaves from the house who have behaved in such manners, or to prohibit a free woman from entering his house at all, or without supervision. Because of this, it is typically an act that occurs in discretion between the partners involved.
Greater regulation and control of sexuality is required by women than men from a social and lawful perspective, as because adultery is an act committed as the seduction of a woman by a man, it is therefore possible for a man to have sex with a woman not his wife without it being a transgression. However, because each citizen woman is a wife or a daughter, the only sexual partner available is their husband.
Women who violate this do not typically face accountability for their actions in the traditional sense. It is only if her lover is found to have committed an act of seduction that she is punished also. Women who take pre-marital lovers, or whom are adulteresses, are shamed publicly, often for the rest of their lives. The former may be excused if she is taken as a wife by the man to whom she gave her virginity, but the latter is typically not excused. Such women are called suni (sing. suna), meaning 'slut' or 'whore'. They are declared infamous by act of sexual transgression. This is a highly serious retribution, with many consequences. Such women may never re-marry, crimes committed against them are punished less severely, they cannot represent themselves legally or be called for testimony, and so on.
Great moral emphasis is placed on female sexual regulation by the state, religion, and by women themselves. The chaste women is the ideal moral virtue for all women, embodied by a number of historical figures and by Ephyra herself. The stability of the state and of society is considered tied to female sexuality, for if unbound, becomes chaotic. The Virgins of Lysharar exist as the spiritual embodiment of perpetual chastity.
Civic women remain virgins until their wedding day, and act sexually only for their husbands, allowing no other man to their bed and even limiting their interactions with men to whom they are not related, so as to not invite rumours of infidelity or lack of morality.
Rape, society, and the law
Rape is at best a complicated matter both in regards of social views and in regards to the law. A simplistic definition of penetration without consent would typically suffice, but Ephyral society views the severity of rape differently, depending on the perpetrator and the victim. The rape of a virgin civic woman, or an adolescent / young male, by anyone, but especially those of non-civic status, are amongst the most severe crimes that can be committed. By contrast, a non-civic provincial woman's rape is of far less concern to the general citizenry of the Freehold, and those persons held as slaves cannot be legally considered raped at all, with the only crime being a damage of property if the slave belongs to someone else.
Rape is further muddied in its observation by the fact that marital rape is not illegal so long as it is not ruled as intended to abuse, but rather for the creation of offspring. Regardless, marital rape is considered low within Ephyral marriages compared to cohabiting relations between other groups. To therefore try and pinpoint accurate rape statistics in the entirety of the Freehold is next to impossible, as a physical act of rape may occur without it being a crime, or without it being reported for various reasons. It is however strongly believed by many, inside and outside the Freehold, that rape is significantly more common than in other European nations. Women and girls are the majority of rape victims in the whole Freehold at upwards of 90%. In Selian majority communities however, this drops to about 60%. However, almost all rapists are male. The overwhelming majority of victims are between ages thirteen and thirty, more than all other age categories combined.
Despite this attitude to rape both by the law and by society, the law does recognise those subject to rape as being blameless, though it is known that juries often factor into consideration factors surrounding the rape, especially those brought up by the defence, that may lessen the sentence of the accused if found guilty based on certain actions of the victim. By the society of the Ephyral, rape is wrong. However this is often clouded circumstantially by certain mythologies surrounding rape, as well as rape resulting from war and slavery. A more accurate point perhaps would be that the rape against citizens of good standing is morally wrong. This does not equate to moral justification of the rape of non-citizens, but rather an absence of interest by the general population, who consider most non-citizens to be various breeds of barbarian, for whom rape is no significant event. Rape against citizens does however carry a capital penalty, typically death in the amphitheatres. Rape against certain victims however carries the penalty of crucifixion. The rape of a non-citizen typically warrants imprisonment, unless the rape itself was of a nature to warrant death.
Rapes within Selian communities rarely carry gang elements, and are often single perpetrators against single victims. However, outside of Selian majority areas, the commonality of gang-rape increases along with the risk of rape in general. Within society, this has led to stereotypes and assumptions regarding certain areas and peoples. Women particularly who go out late at night, or frequently engage with the company of unrelated men, are considered to be endangering themselves more to rape, and highlighting themselves as available targets. Because of this, even amongst women, one will have trouble finding universal sympathy for victims of rape if it occurred in circumstances that might be seen as preventable.
Social attitudes towards rape may derive from the commonality of it in the past, and the increased risk. Families on farms or otherwise in isolation, as well as those in urban areas with poor patrols by city-watch, would often be at high risk of multiple forms of attack and banditry by fellow citizens, foreign Selians from other states, or invading barbarians. Many sardonic attitudes towards death that might occur from such banditry, disease, war, and natural disaster emerged, and alongside it, rape also. To men and women, and boys and girls all in Selia for many centuries, the threat of rape was a real and present one that many people, for lack of a better phrase, learned to deal with. Expectation was on the rypios to take his sword and kill his wife and daughters, in order to prevent their rape, if fighting off the enemy became impossible. Soldiers and other men might also attempt to take their own lives to evade capture, as male prisoners of Selian armies would often experience sexual attacks by their captors as a manifestation of sexual conquest, a means to feminise the enemy and psychologically weaken them, and to otherwise affirm the superiority of the victorious state via the degradation of its citizens.
A further, and often condemned factor, are those persons declared legally infamous. Women found to have been involved in criminal seduction, as well as the male perpetrator, constitute those of legal infamy, as are men who are divorced due to passive homosexuality. Further acts such as crimes of mistrust and even some professions, such as prostitution, all result in far lower rights and protections for such people. Such individuals who are raped are very unlikely to receive any judicial action, because the nature of infamy means that by act or profession, they are inherently not trustworthy. Typically, unless witnesses can be found to support the account of the victim, no action is taken. Until the 20th century, actors and actresses were also considered in this category due to their profession being the pretence of being another. This was revoked in 1955 due to the ever growing popularity of film and the public adoration of actors and actresses. However even today, those men and women that act professionally, including high profile individuals, are at a higher chance of attempted or actual rape than other citizens, often resulting in foreign actors refusing to film or visit the Freehold. Though these cases are prosecuted as per the otherwise legal standing of the victim, there has been little to no cultural shift following this, and trials often include references to previous precedents and law. One high profile case involved the rape of actress Malora Aktelinia Agtalar in 1989. Though all three of her attackers, in what was an unusual case of gang-related rape, were found guilty, with two executed in 1993 and the last (whose involvement was proven under less substantial evidence) in 1995, the defence for the three attackers repeatedly made reference to previous law and custom in an attempt to dispel the charges under the reasoning that Agtalar, as an actress, had no moral right to bring to court her attackers. The jury was however unanimous in ruling in Agtalar's favour, and since the 1989 case, sexual assaults and rapes against actors and actresses have diminished yearly.
Motivations for rape as a crime are massive, and has to specified as a crime due to the motivation for the act of physical rape being in cases of slave prostitution, merely a desire for sex paid for commercially. Physical attraction to the victim, position of power, an exercise of power, or even part of a family feud, are just some of the reasons assumed for rape. Rape is considered a distinct crime from sexual assault.
Because the crime of rape against citizens carries capital punishment, substantial evidence is deemed necessary for conviction. Because of this, rapes committed against non-citizens, despite being seen as less severe, score more conviction rates than those against citizens, as the latter typically demands greater evidence. However, the cases that do result in conviction are substantially small, and as the number of rapes that go to trial are considered themselves to be just a small fraction of rapes that occur, rape is a crime that is often committed to no judicial response. A possible deterrent for reporting is the fact that if it later comes to be believed that the alleged victim of the rape in fact consented to sexual activity with her supposed attacker, this opens up the defendant to a charge of criminal seduction that also, if resolved against the defendant, will punish the woman too.
All of these factors and more have created an idea, especially amongst outsiders, that Ephyra fosters a rape culture or rape cultures in plural, due to the cultural autonomy of certain areas whose attitudes to rape are perhaps even more dismissive or hostile to the victim. Cases where tribal courts and other gatherings have killed victims of rapes are known, though these are illegal and are fought against by the Freehold. However, the cultural attitudes to sex and general dominance, the ability for a rape case to become a seduction case, and the generally high numbers of rapes versus low number of trials and even lower convictions, mean that the Freehold is objectively a more dangerous place when it comes to the crime of rape, with women and girls being at greater risk in general, but astronomically so in non-Selian areas. Men and boys face greater risk in Selian areas.
Mythology of rape
Rape features extensively in the mythology of the Selian religion, and in particular to the Ephyral city-state. The portrayal of rape in mythology is not exclusive to Selia, however, complications with regards to the views of rape emerge from aspects of the mythology due to the act never being clear-cut as a wrongful act. Perhaps the most significant of these events is the mythical rape of Ephyra by Nalarion, the god of war and embodiment of masculinity. If not for the act of rape, Lykos the Patriarch would not have been born to raise the city of Ephyra from the few villages it consisted of at the time. Another example, though less significant, is the union of the primeval spirit of the sea water, Elassir, and her nephew, the first entity to hold the realm of a sea god, Amatagos. In mythology, the chaotic Elassir desired the submerging of all earth beneath the waves of her water, so her sister Velhea, the goddess and primeval goddess of the earth, mated with Kogossos, primeval god of the Sky to birth Amatagos. Amatagos took to the sea where he subdued Elassir, chaining her to prevent her from destruction. However it is further stated that Amatagos and Elassir produced offspring, and whilst some sources do not state as such, a few have called Amatagos' union with Elassir one of rape. However yet again, because of Elassir's destructive nature, and the some positive and good offspring she bore, the act of rape itself is commonly considered valid.
In many other stories of gods and mortals, rape occurs, or even the perception of it. The goddess Veleys, disguised as a mortal, is not seduced by a mortal man with whom she has an encounter but is forced upon. However, though the mortal was under the impression of an act of rape, Veleys herself was secretly desiring the encounter, having been cursed in one mythical story to 'love a mortal who shows to her nought but desire'. The interaction of other gods with mortals is sometimes considered rape, if not through force, then through deception, as in a number of stories, gods have disguised themselves as mortals to whom a woman is affectionate in order to mate with her. Though less common, stories are known of goddesses taking the form of a mortal man's wife for this end, and both gods and goddesses are known to have engaged in sexual acts with mortals and each other whilst the other is asleep.
However, these stories stem from a time where rape was an act not considered an unthinkable, wholly criminal, and repugnant act. Though by no means thought of as favourable by society, it was far more common and in some instances, legal, and justifiable such as in times of war. It was a common threat especially in the crowded plebeian slums, where both targets and perpetrators might be found aplenty, and also far from the cities on the hills and the fields in isolation, where if a marauding group had the ability to kill or subdue the landowner and his adult sons, they could act as they pleased with impunity against him and his family.
The mythological way of looking at rape is that it is wrong, until it is right, and is defined as such by the outcomes not the act. This answer does not satisfy many, and rape remains a highly serious offence under Ephyral law. But in a curious manner, any man or woman subjected to rape retains more honour for themselves than one who offers themselves willingly in an act of prostitution or seduction. The priestess Ephyra is preferred raped in the story, for if she consented, she would be in violation of her sacred vows. The issue is greatly complicated and cannot be clearly defined, however most citizens if not all, save for the few who engage in the act themselves, would agree that rape is vile, but that other things are perhaps just as vile.