Selian culture, represented in its modern form by the dominant Ephyral state, has had fluctuating traditions of sexual norms and accepted behaviours over its millennia long history. The rise of the Freehold in the 17th century saw the restoration of Classical virtues, including with regards to sexual expression. Though these were seen to relax in the early 20th century, the reforms of the 1940s during the Great War against Russia saw again the restoration of prior beliefs and attitudes, adopting the mentality in both the collective psychology of the Ephyral people and in law what constitutes acceptable and immoral behaviour regarding sexual activity.
The rise and spread of the Abrahamic faiths, particularly the three dominant religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, has resulted in a curious state of affairs by which these traditionally more conservative structures where sexual license is concerned regard the strictly regulated Ephyral as practitioners of sexual liberty and abuse. However in truth, Ephyra's self-regulating society places considerable ostracism on those who violate its norms, and when those violations become crimes, are harshly punished. Sexuality is not excluded from the concept of ancestral tradition however, the kolos of Ephyra, the lens through which many citizens determine right and wrong. Modesty, and its more extreme sibling shame, form immovable crutches of sexual morality where men and women both are expected to govern their sexual endeavours strictly and as befitting their station. Fear of prosecution for certain irredeemable acts also serve as regulation. Even the men of the highest station, Senators, are not immune to the consequences of violating the kolos of sexuality, and may be ejected from the Senate to face prosecution if the act is severe enough.
The virtues of modesty, alongside self-discipline and control, elevate the concept of restraint and the management of sexual pleasure, particularly as a form of masculinity. As the art of masculinity in Ephyra is the assumption of responsibility and to govern, a lack of control over one's most basic urges signifies in this man a reduced moral 'manhood'. This concept of masculinity through control and aggression (in the pursuit and defence of honour) is manifested publicly primarily through the fields of politics, enterprise, and warfare. Though the exercise of sexuality is done privately, a man's reputation in this regard may lend itself to his overall favour or be cause for disrepute. For women, a far stricter concept of chastity and modesty is socially enforced. Women who aim to draw the attention of men in appearance or through behaviour are held in contempt, and where men do possess a freedom of sexual exercise in certain permitted non-marital relationships, women do not possess any such outlet. The entirety of an Ephyral woman's sexuality is to be exercised within marriage, and only with her husband. All else is an act against religious and sexual purity. This is perhaps a consequence of the long-standing inequality in sexual acts between men and women, where men typically take the dominant penetrative role over a submissive, passive female partner. Consequently a mistrust of unchecked female sexuality and its power to lead men astray is prevalent in Ephyra, and women are kept in guardianship to father and husband both, whose role it is amongst many others to safeguard her sexuality from other men who might seduce her, and to prevent her from seducing men, all for the purpose of protecting her and her family from shame. However, where the concept of shame may be rigorously enforced as a negative upon women, the concept of chastity is strongly promoted positively even as a means of personal quality which actively displays a woman's moral virtue and her self-control, fidelity to her husband, and obedience to her father. This is maintained through layered and modest dress and the avoidance of public interaction with unrelated men. Ephyral women are expected to be strong moral bastions for themselves, familial honour, and for their children (particularly daughters) to imitate and revere, and their actions to the contrary bring communal disapproval on her family as a unit. As a result, a free expression of female sexuality is invariably a source of shame, and is familially and socially regulated.
Sexuality is not universally condemned nor praised, but compartmentalised through a social ambivalence into negative and positive expressions. Ephyral religion and the state both promote sexuality in the form of marital intercourse for the creation of more citizens; sons to defend the Freehold and drive its public sector, and daughters to repeat the process of their mothers and bring forth the next generation, fathered by men of honour and virtue. An active, passionate, and erotic sex life between a married man and woman is no source of shame in the Freehold, and is instead upheld as the highest formation of love within a marriage to produce the highest stability and fecundity. Religious beliefs are prevalent enough that rituals combined with more modern medicines are employed for heightened sexual experiences within this moral relationship, or to seek treatment for fertility. Prostitution in the Freehold is both legal and widespread, though technically only accessible to males. In this, they are expected to demonstrate restraint in the frequency of their consorting with woman for whom lust is their trade. Though legal, prostitution is no desirable profession for those who perform it. It carries with it the stigma of infamy, one whose body has been made public through means antithetical to the concept of upstanding citizen behaviour. Their protections are minimal, and prior rights permanently rescinded.
The use of personal or household slaves in sexual manners is not uncommon either, but again held to the same standards of self-control and regulation. For citizen men, sexual access to freeborn women of non-citizen status is dependent only upon their consent, where citizen women may be protected or held to account if seduced or has turned adulteress. The patriarchal nature of Ephyral culture places superiority on age, and homosexual relationships between men occur with some regularity. Their social acceptance however is not based on a dichotomy of heterosexual and homosexual, and indeed no such words exist in the Ephyral language, but rather a dichotomy on power. There is no social consequences for a citizen who, assuming all other moral criteria are met, acquires sexual pleasure from another man, so long as he as a citizen does not allow himself to be penetrated, nor his younger, inferior partner a citizen himself. Attraction to youths of late teen years is not an unusual phenomena amongst men universally, and in Ephyra is regarded with a degree of commonality subject to standards of Ephyral kolos. So long as he does not pair himself with another citizen's wife or daughter - or a citizen male - then this exercise of sexuality is restricted only by moral censure on his state of self-control.
On such a note, the true dichotomy of Ephyral sexuality outside the weight of moderation and restraint relies not on the actual biological sex of the partners, but the positions which they take, known as the penetrator-penetrated binary, otherwise realised as the dominant-submissive, and the active-passive. This rigid assessment of sexual expression is accurate for the Ephyral. Whilst the actual social standing and relationship of any given partners brings severe weight to the sexual activity's moral validity one way or the other, it is through the habitation of these 'positions' that sexual norms are realised. This is viewed through the dominant masculine, and the submissive feminine.
I. Literary and artistic sexuality
II. Sex, religion, and state
... - Moral and legal theory
...... - Ritual and sexual purity
...... - Sex violation
III. Male sexuality
... - Male nudity and the body
... - Penetrator-penetrated model
...... - Male-male sex
......... - Male-male sex as a perversion
...... - Effeminacy
... - The rape of men
... - Sexuality in the military
IV. Female sexuality
... - Female nudity and the body
... - Submissive femininity
... - Female-female sex
... - The rape of women
V. Sexual maturity
... - Rites of passage
Themes of sexuality have long been prevalent in literary and artistic sources, dating back as far as the Ancient Period of Selia, and more recent innovations within the timespan of the Freehold itself. Literary sources both ancient and modern cover sexuality primarily in the contexts of law, examining cases brought by litigants surrounding matters of illicit seduction, adultery, or more severely crimes of abduction and rape; medical texts which have over the centuries developed in their understanding of reproductive biology and the hypothesised nature of sexuality; political discourse, with sexuality and alleged malpractices being a favoured weapon by politicians to disparage their opponents, mostly through allusion to effeminate and submissive practises; and finally creative works, with poetry, novels, and other works of pleasurable reading referencing in vague or even explicit terms sexual feelings and encounters between real or fictional individuals.
The sexuality of the past is understood primarily through the lens of today, with the Classicalist philosophy on sexuality developed by the first Archon of the Freehold having been directly inspired by the works of a number of Classical Period philosophers and writers, and reinforced to this day by social custom. In literary works, a difference is noted between informative or accepted reading versus items considered scandalous, such as explicit 'sex manuals' written by infamous courtesans, high class prostitutes who retired with wealth and splendour, which are regarded today as glorified smut, not fit for consumption especially by citizen women, who are feared to be lead astray by the so-called allure of a 'free' life of prostitution. Sex however featuring in higher classes of novel, poetry, and theatre concern it in themes subsidiary to romance, war, or intrigue, and not as the topic into itself. Many of these rejecting attitudes however come from the aristocracy in historical senses, and it is understood that more indecent and provocative works were the subject of entertainment amongst citizens of lower wealth classes, particularly in the past.
With sex deemed an impolite topic for public conversation, so to is it deemed largely improper for higher literature, but it nevertheless has its market and finds its popularity amongst citizens and non-citizens alike.
In art, sexuality has long found its dominance. The Selian Renaissance, rediscovering old techniques for the shaping of stone and the use of paints, did not take long to see the return of many a piece decorating the male and female body, quite to the shock of many and curiosity of others. Erotic paintings then and today line the walls of brothels and pleasure houses and other establishments of sensuality, and can be found amongst the possessions of wealthier citizen families; particularly old pieces worth fortunes. Rarely are these displayed openly however, and are more likely kept in the secluded bedroom, away from the eyes of anyone but the household head and his wife.
Statues have long presented the most accurate and detailed representations of the human form, however, Selian and Ephyral views on nudity have long discouraged the display of citizen men and women deprived of their clothing. Despite this, it has been done, focusing however on presenting them in heroic or defiant themes, or as gods and goddesses to transcend any notions of weakness and defeat inferred from having been stripped.
Religious traditions, inseparable in many ways from the operations of the state, both support and give strong regulation to the sexuality of the Ephyral through ritual and myth, be they exercised as public cult to major deities, or in private homes as ritualised magic. Contrary to being entirely advocated for supported, sexuality is subject to ambivalence by the state, which aggressively compartmentalises legitimate and illegitimate exercise of sexuality, tying them inextricably to the stability of the state and society with the support of religious traditions. One of the most vital of these organisations is the cult to Lysara, goddess of home, hearth, and the family, the latter being the social blocs the state is perceived as being made up of. Lysara's priestesses are renowned not just in Ephyra but across the world for their famed vows of perpetual virginity on pain of death. This perpetual virginity exists in the Ephyral psyche as the truest manifestation of pure female sexuality, the controlled exercise of which is considered the foundation of social order, as only through faithful female exercise can future citizens of the state be born. Female sexuality is subject to patriarchal control to safeguard it, so that young women enter marriage as virgins and exercise their sexuality in a legitimate and endorsed environment. The perpetual virginity of Lysara's priestesses represents a complete absence from infidelity, and all sexual exercise, embodying the perpetual potential for the furthering of the state. Accordingly, they cultivate the fire of Lysara, a burning flame in the heart of her temple in the capital which represents the collective hearth-fires of all families of the state. This fire has become further linked with the sexual purity of the cult, and allowing the fire to be extinguished is one of the few acts a Lysaran virgin can commit that exceeds the grave act of allowing herself to be sexually used.
Marriage itself as a social institution is regarded as the direct consequence of sexual desire manifested properly, a sexual desire to procreate which operates as the very heart of the Freehold's ability to self-perpetuate, and a duty taken on by all its citizens to create the future of the Freehold through the legitimacy of marriage. Marriage produces children, and the basis for a household, the building bloc of the family which is the focus of Ephyral society. This unity of man and woman for the objective of procreation is also represented in divine mythology, with many of the major gods and goddesses being organised into monogamist pairs. Isaks, the chief god of the Ephyral state, associated with the sky as an all-encompassing perpetuity, and lightning as a sign of divine power, is wedded to the goddess Rhea, who acts as the patron of marriage and childbirth. This binding of powerful man with fertile woman is considered a theme of marriage, with the qualities expected of a husband derived from the traits of Isaks, and likewise with a wife to Rhea. Veleys too, goddess of love, beauty, fertility, sexual desire, and the patron of women and girls, commands a position of importance in Ephyral worship, as it is through her cult private and public that magic concerning fertility and sexual enjoyment between a husband and wife are typically performed. The patron of man, Nalarion, again represents a uniqueness of gender expectations, as he commands the sphere of war, honour, the military state, and conquest, including that of sexual conquest (often associated to Ephyral imperialism). Nalarion and Veleys are often represented as wedded to one another, their aspects of femininity through the traits of beauty, fertility, and love meeting and tempering the warlike impulse of man, who in turn conquers her and between them a synthesis of a strong marriage is born.
Sexuality features heavily in myth including themes of gender norms, bestiality, incest, divine impregnation, rape, and love, relating both to gods and mortals alike. The gods are seen as adherent to their own equivalent of sexual morality as part of Ephyral kolos, custom, holding themselves and each other to the same account and discipline expected of the people to maintain the divine peace. Representations of negative sexuality, such as adultery, lust, seduction, as well as positions deemed in and of themselves offensive, also feature heavily as negative reinforcement, with these characters often associated to poor outcomes in life. The maintaining of this divine peace with the gods through adherence to expectations of purity, and to marry and produce more citizens, is advocated by the state as a duty of all citizens alongside their other roles, women as dutiful wives and nurturers, and men as warriors and builders of the state.