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10 Bizarre Sexual Facts From Ancient Egypt

by Joe Duncan
fact checked by Jamie Frater

When it comes to humanity, very little in life shows us who we really are more than how we express ourselves through sex. From sex habits to sex laws, our sexuality tells much about humans in many, many other facets of life, such as how we view and care for one another, how we think of our place on the social ladder (and the places of others), and, of course, what we find desirable or undesirable in other people.

Sex is one of the most fundamental forms of both communication and introspection that we have, and it’s been this way since the dawn of time. Ancient Egypt was one of the marvels of the ancient world, exotic and unusual in almost every way. It seems that we can hardly get enough of their unorthodox practices and bizarre beliefs; even by ancient world standards, Egypt was definitely a weird place. Here are ten bizarre sex habits from the world of ancient Egypt.

10 Masturbation And Creation

Christians believed that God spoke the world into existence; Genesis tells us that God said, “Let there be light,” before a succession of other statements which literally spoke everything into existence through the use of mere words. The formless chaos became formed and predictable, and life came into existence. But the ancient Egyptians were no prudes; they were a lot kinkier and a lot more bizarre.

In one ancient Egyptian creation myth, the world and all of creation came into existence through nothing other than an act of masturbation. (And here we thought masturbation was a useless endeavor.) Somewhat similar to the Christian telling of creation, in the Egyptian version, the universe started as absolute nothingness, like the formless abyss of the Christian tale, but there was one living god, Atum, who masturbated, and through that act, he gave birth to a pair of twin gods. Thus, the first act of creation was performed.[1] This myth laid the groundwork for what would be a uniquely strange culture in the way of sex, and it would actually be present in other sex rituals that people would perform.

9 Pharaoh Masturbation

From this myth came sexual practices and ceremonies that involved masturbation, which the ancient Egyptians saw as a life-giving process of creation. The ancient world, especially ancient Egypt, was obsessed with growth, birth, creation, and that which gave life, with many myths and legends springing up in and around the concept of fertility. So, in a way, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, regardless of how bizarre it is to us today, that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt are said to have ceremoniously masturbated into the Nile river, which was also revered for its life-giving properties.[2]

The symbolism here is pretty powerful when we consider the fact that the ancients viewed time in a circular format, rather than a linear succession of moments. In fact, the ancient Egyptian word for “semen,” “progeny,” and describing the floods of the Nile were all the same word, mtwt. The ancient Egyptians knew the life-giving, fertilizing ways of the predictable floods of the Nile—and they saw the same properties in semen.

8 Food Of The Gods

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Another unusual sex myth which sprang up from this ancient culture was that of Horus and Seth (or Set), which was highly sexually charged, with an ultra-kinky element to it. Horus and Seth were a pair of gods that were always fighting with each other, perpetually in bitter conflict, and their story is representative of a lot of how the ancient Egyptians viewed life. The two would basically fight over who would inherit the throne of ancient Egypt from Osiris, Seth’s brother and Horus’s father, and Horus would end up taking it—Seth would constantly challenge him for it, though.

Much like the ancient Greeks and Romans, the ancient Egyptians likely viewed homosexual acts as tolerable, even socially accepted, and the dominant party would warrant a higher social status; in homosexual interactions, the receiving party was considered the submissive, and the giving party, or the party pleasured, was the dominant party. This carried over into the myth.

Seth and Horus were battling for the throne one day and were basically trying to pin one another, forcing the other to be a submissive sexual partner.[3] Seth was trying to shame Horus by making him accept the female sexual role, thereby garnering the support of the other gods. However, the plot was foiled by Isis, who managed to keep Seth’s semen from coming into contact with Horus. In turn, she managed to trick Seth into eating Horus’s semen, thereby handing the victory to Horus.

7 Incest

There is an abundance of evidence showing that marriages or sexual relations between members of the “nuclear family“—parents and children—were common among royalty or special classes of priests since they were the representatives of the divine on Earth. They were often privileged to do what was forbidden to members of the ordinary family. During the Ptolemaic period (305 to 30 BCE), King Ptolemy II even used the practice as “a major theme of propaganda, stressing the nature of the couple, which could not be bound by ordinary rules of humanity.”

Even King Tut was not spared from the practice of incest in ancient Egypt. His parents—Akhenaten and Akhenaten’s sister—were brother and sister. DNA analysis has recently been completed on 11 mummies that were closely related to Tuthenkamen. The results revealed that Tutankhamun was, beyond doubt, the child born from a first-degree brother-sister relationship.[4] Tut was also wed to his half-sister. Of course, serious health issues surrounded these relationships, as inbreeding among successive generations took its toll on the family. While the practice helped solidify the ruling family’s power, it was not only seen in the royal class, even though it was forbidden by law.

6 Necrophilia And The Embalmers

It makes sense when we consider the Egyptians’ sex obsession and couple it with their bizarre death obsession (or, more appropriately, obsession with life after death) that necrophilia might be part of their culture. The Greek writer Herodotus tells us a lot about the practices of other cultures in the ancient world, especially when it comes to sex; he told us plenty about the sexuality of the ancient Babylonians. He had some things to say about Egypt as well—particularly concerning necrophilia.

Herodotus said that in ancient Egypt, one would want to let the bodies of their loved ones sit out for three or four days to dissuade the embalmers from having sex with the corpses, as embalmers wouldn’t want to have sex with a body that was already beginning to rot.[5] So, apparently, it happened at least frequently enough for Herodotus to mention it.

5 Necrophilia Gods

Photo credit: Nile TV International

Further, the Egyptians had necrophilia built right into their mythology. Remember Seth and Horus? Seth was the brother of Osiris. After Osiris died, which set off the bitter rivalry between Horus and Seth, another god named Re had pretty extensive sexual relations with the dead body of Osiris. Even crazier than that? Re is a different name for the same figure that first masturbated the world into existence, Atum. Also, Horus, the son of Osiris, was created through the union of Isis and the dead body of Osiris; Horus was a god born out of necrophilia.[6]

If the Egyptian gods did it, it’s safe to say the Egyptians themselves did it on some level too. Atum, aka Re, masturbated the universe into existence by creating the first two gods. Later, Osiris comes along and dies, and then Isis has sex with the dead body of Osiris and gives birth to Horus. Then Horus and Seth battle constantly to have sex with each other in a strange struggle for dominance.

4 Circumcision

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Aside from the ancient Hebrews, circumcision was an unusual thing in the ancient world that many must have seen as absolutely insane. (Imagine being from a culture that had no circumcision at all and discovering a people who did it.) Today, many societies have augmented the practice into their culture, at least partially, through thousands of years of Judeo-Christian domination. But in the fifth century BC, the time when Herodotus was writing, the Hebrews were a very small culture, and Christianity didn’t even exist.

The ancient Egyptians, however, definitely practiced circumcision, as Herodotus again notes.[7] He tells us that Egyptian men were circumcised, but people from other countries who traveled to ancient Egypt were not and didn’t have to be circumcised. The Egyptians not only had circumcisions but also textual mentions of the practice of mass circumcision exist, with one text noting the circumcising of up to 120 men in a single day. In other words, the Egyptians had circumcision parties.

3 Sacred Prostitution

Like in ancient Babylon, prostitution was seen as a divine and respectable act done for the gods.[8] Prostitutes were afforded a relatively high social status in ancient Egypt, especially if we compare it to prostitution today. In many nations, prostitution is illegal and relegated to clandestine affairs done behind closed doors. Ancient Egyptian prostitutes, however, were able to work openly and freely and would tattoo themselves and wear red lipstick and other makeup to signify and differentiate themselves from non-prostitutes.

Prostitution was likely an extremely common practice that the Egyptians viewed as just another trade—one that carried a bit of social status. Unlike Babylon, however, prostitutes were limited in the places where they could service clients.

2 Gender Fluidity

The ancient Egyptians even had a concept of gender fluidity that deeply permeated their culture, especially regarding the gods and the afterlife. The gods were constantly going through rebirths, with cycles of life and death which matched those of the Earth, with crops growing, being harvested, and growing again. And sometimes, sex changes would transpire. This was even believed to happen to humans posthumously. It was believed that women would have to transform into men to achieve a successful transition into the prized, beloved afterlife that this culture did so much to obtain.[9]

Aside from this, the genders weren’t very differentiated in ancient Egypt, and women did most of the same things men did, which was extremely unusual for the time, to say the least. Their highly sexualized gods also had various features of the other gender. For example, depictions of Egyptian goddesses featuring beards have been uncovered.

1 Contraception

Much like today, the ancient Egyptians also had a desire for working contraceptives. They enjoyed a sexually liberal society and, accordingly, enjoyed sex for the sheer pleasure it brings. Thus, good contraception was a valuable thing to have.

Condoms made from sheep intestines served to protect from pregnancy and also prevented the spread of STDs. They even knew what has been confirmed today, that acacia gum, from the acacia tree, worked as a spermicide and would reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.[10] Women would even take animal dung (including that of crocodiles) and shove it into their vaginas in hopes of blocking the sperm and, thus, preventing pregnancy. When it came to both sex and contraception, the ancient Egyptians took it seriously and did it like no others.

I like to write about history and dark stuff.

fact checked by Jamie Frater