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Facilis hic futuit graffiti and masculinity in Pompeii's 'purpose-built' brothel.

Phoebus / bonus futor (Phoebus is a good fukr, CIL IV 2248, Add. 215); Froto plane / lingit cun/num (Froto openly licks cunt, CIL IV 2257); Murtis * felatris (Murtis is a blow-job babe, CIL IV 2292). Long overlooked by scholarship as obscene recordings of sexual encounters, the 135 graffiti of the 'purpose-built' brothel at Pompeii (VII 12 18-20; CIL IV 2173-96 and 3101a; Add. 215-6 and Add. 465) form a rich corpus that illuminates daily interactions among clients and prostitutes in the Roman world. (1) In this paper, I demonstrate through these graffiti the multiple ways in which male clients, individually and collectively, negotiated male sexuality. Specifically, I analyze how male clients both created a hierarchy among themselves and solidified communal, normative masculinity in opposition to nonnormative males and marginalized females.

I. Introduction

In the past fifteen years, the graffiti of the 'purpose-built' brothel (hereafter referred to simply as the brothel) have entered the scholarly arena, usually as part of works devoted to surveying or analyzing erotic graffiti at Pompeii. For example, some of the brothel's sexual graffiti were treated by Antonio Varone's Erotica pompeiana: Iscrizioni d'amore sui muri di Pompei (1994; translated into English in 2002 as Erotica pompeiana: Love Inscriptions on the Walls of Pompeii). Varone surveys a wide range of erotic and love graffiti from all over Pompeii, grouping them into motifs like "Preghiere d'amore" and "L'arma d'amore." Through this typology, Varone draws out common themes in a diverse body of material. Francesco Paolo Maulucci Vivolo's Pompei: I graffiti d'amore (1995) presents samples of erotic graffiti from Pompeii, including some from the brothel, evoking how prolific this type of graffiti was. Taking a more analytic approach, Matthew Panciera's dissertation, "Sexual Practice and Invective in Martial and Pompeian Inscriptions" (2001), compares the different meanings and implications of sexual practices in the corpus of Martial's epigrams and Pompeii's graffiti.

These scholars have shed light on various features of erotic graffiti at Pompeii, but do not address how these graffiti may have worked in each specific locale or in concert with nonerotic graffiti. Varone's article, "Nella Pompei a luci rosse: Castrensis e l'organizzazione della prosti-tuzione e dei suoi spazi" (2005), however, adds a new perspective to the study of the brothel's graffiti. Varone analyzes the status and sexual practices of the individuals in the brothel through close reading of its graffiti, demonstrating the potential gains of a contextual or locus-specific approach. (2) In this article, I follow Varone in exploring the brothel's graffiti together as a corpus, but ask different questions of the material. Specifically, I seek to illuminate the underlying structure of the corpus's rhetoric. The graffiti, I argue, are more than just records of sexual liaisons or advertisements of the services of prostitutes; they represent an interactive discourse concerning masculinity. Clients and prostitutes could and did add their thoughts to the corpus over time, which encouraged multiple viewings. In addition, even illiterate viewers could be exposed to the graffiti through someone else's recitation. (3) It may not be surprising that boasts and defamation are constituent elements of this dialogue; but as I will show, the ways in which boasts and defamation are deployed and against whom, and the implications this has for a rhetoric of masculinity, reveal a discourse far different from the intra-elite masculine invective seen in the poetry of Catullus and Martial.

II. Contextualizing the Brothel and its Graffiti

At the intersection of the north-south Vicolo del Lupanare and the east-west Vicolo del Balcone Pensile, located to the east of Pompeii's forum, lies a modest, two-story structure. (4) The bottom floor contains five small rooms, each with a masonry bed, opening off a central hallway Erotic frescoes, most showing a male-female pair engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse, line the register above the doorways in the hallway. (5) The graffiti, on the other hand, are found mostly (88%) within the small cubicula. The terminus post quern of both the graffiti and frescoes is 72 C.E., when the brothel was remodeled and a coin was pressed into the fresh plaster of one of the rooms (La Rocca et al. 1981, 303). Nearly half the graffiti list only a name, about one-third are explicitly sexual, and the rest are of nonsexual content or are indecipherable.

Of the approximately fifty male names recorded, only a few present more than an isolated cognomen (CIL IV 2240, Add. 215; CIL IV 2255; CIL IV 2297, Add. 216; potentially CIL IV 2250, Add. 215; and CIL IV 2286). Many are of Greek origin, such as Phoebus (CIL IV 2182; CIL IV 2184, Add. 215; CIL IV 2194; CIL IV 2207; CIL IV 2248, Add. 215), Hyginus (CIL IV 2249, Add. 215), and Hermeros (CIL IV 2249, Add. 215). The graffiti also contain the titles of a perfumer (unguentarius: CIL IV 2184, Add. 215), one or two soldiers (castrensis: CIL IV 2180; CIL IV 2290), and a guild-member (sodalis: CIL IV 2230). (6) Based on the types of names and professions, many of the males at the brothel were most likely of lower status (slaves, freedmen, and the free poor), (7) perhaps reflecting that others had the financial means to satisfy their sexual urges with their male and female slaves at home. (8)

Many of the female names likewise suggest lower status. Some are of Greek origin, such as Nica Creteissiane (Nica from Crete, CIL IV 2178a; see also CIL IV 2278) and Panta (CIL IV 2178b). Others have an ironic or descriptive character typical of slaves, such as Fortunata (CIL IV 2224; CIL IV 2259; CIL IV 2266; CIL IV 2275) and Victoria (CIL IV 2225; CIL IV 2226; CIL IV 2257). (9)

Many of the brothel's graffiti rely on a vocabulary of sexually explicit terms. (10) Futuere and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] most often describe male-female vaginal intercourse, although they could encompass male-male anal sex as well. Pedicure and irrumare refer to the penetration of the anus and mouth, respectively; the latter often involves an element of force and aggression. Fellare and cunnum lingere describe oral sex performed respectively on a male and female. As Amy Richlin (1992, 1-31, 64-5) explains, these terms were considered primary obscenities by the standards of Roman culture and can be found only in particular authors and genres.

In Latin literature, sexual obscenities were deployed most often in invective that diminished the standing of the impugned party and secondarily in boasts that increased the standing of the subject. Indeed, Richlin (1992) and David Wray (2001) have argued that violence and aggression were often key elements in how sexual obscenities were employed in Latin invective, and as is commonly known, their use relied on the ways in which Romans conceptualized different sexual acts. (11) First, the moral implications of penetration differed for the penetrator and the penetrated. The act of penetration was seen as (1) normative for free males, (2) a masculine act, and (3) honorable. Being penetrated was seen as (1) normative for females and slaves, (2) an effeminate or servile act, and (3) shameful. That being penetrated was simultaneously normative and shameful for females is an important component of the analysis in the latter half of this article. Sexual acts were also judged according to the potential for them to pollute the participants. As such, performing oral sex was stigmatized as particularly reprehensible for the pollution it was thought to bring upon the performer (Richlin 1992, 27, 69; Williams 2010, 218-24). In fact, accusations of performing oral sex were more powerful and defamatory than accusations of being the penetrated partner in anal sex (Williams 2010, 221-2). In the brothel's graffiti, the concepts of penetration and pollution are essential to how masculinity was defined and contested. As will be shown in the next sections, the particular configurations of the brothel's rhetoric of masculinity differed in significant ways from the rhetoric of masculinity seen in Latin invective.

III. Male Rivalry

One way in which masculinity was negotiated in the brothel was through boasts. Boasts take a wide range of forms, from laconic, one-word statements to more elaborate variations. In addition, the role of sexual objects in these boasts is minimal; rather, attention is often placed on the male subjects and their penetrative masculinity. As I will show, these two trends have interesting implications for how males engaged in rivalry with other male patrons.

In what follows, I group boasts by formula (many of the graffiti adhere to patterns), beginning with basic formulas and continuing through more complex ones. Within each formula, I present variations starting with less inventive and moving to more inventive prose. The hierarchy that I establish for these graffiti is not absolute, and readers may feel free to disagree with my assessment of one graffito as more or less elaborate than another. Rather than tracing a straight line from the simplest to the most ornate graffito, the image I would like to convey is more like a scatter plot, with a large amount of individual variation that nevertheless indicates a general spectrum from less to more sophisticated boasts.

At the most basic end of the spectrum are the numerous solitary male names inscribed into the brothel's walls. These graffiti leave the reader to infer what brought the named person to the brothel. I would suggest that these are, in an abbreviated form, a type of boast. Inscribing a name, in essence, stands in for 'x was here.' and in the context of the brothel, gains the added implication of 'x fucked here.' One graffito makes the sexual nature of these names clear: in CIL IV 2181 (Add. 215), the name Iarinus has been written together with an inscribed phallus, turning the graffito into a visual representation of Iarinus hie futuit. (12) A sample of these solitary male names includes: Neptunalis (CIL IV 2214), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (CIL IV 2234), Fructus (CIL IV 2244, CIL IV 2245a), L Annius (CIL IV 2255), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (CIL IV 2270), Ampliatus (CIL IV 2271), and Romanus (CIL IV 2281). In total, between thirty and forty graffiti present a male name in isolation. Indeed, the inscription of just a name may have been a way for less literate clients to take part in the brothel's discourse.

Some graffiti include both a male name and a conjunction or adverb that further implies sexual activity of some sort. So, for example, Victor / cum (Victor with, CIL IV 2209) and the fragmentary Felix ... / cum (Felix ... with, CIL IV 2232) imply that Victor and Felix were engaged in sexual activities with another party. Another graffito clarifies one of Felix's partners: Felix cum / Fortunata (Felix with Fortunata, CIL IV 2224). A certain Marcus bested Victor and Felix by calling attention to the wide variety of locations in which he presumably partook in sexual activities: Marcus * Scepsini ubique ... (Marcus of Scepsus everywhere, CIL IV 2201).

Other graffiti state a male name and a sexually derived title. For example, one graffito records Epaga/thus fututor / ... (Epagathus the fucker ..., CIL IV 2242). (13) For some writers, the title alone was insufficient, and an adverb was added to differentiate good fututores from just regular jutu-tores: Phoebus I bonus futor (Phoebus is a good fukr, CIL IV 2248, Add. 215). In this particular case, the male subject is emphasized by a drawing of a face (presumably meant to resemble Phoebus) next to the text. (14) Either this same client, or one of the same name, chose to differentiate himself with a more specific title, writing: Phoebus pedico (Phoebus the butt-fucker, CIL IV 2194, Add. 465). (15)

Other graffiti build from a base of 'I fucked.' One, indeed, laconically records futui (I fucked, CIL IV 2191). Variations on this formula include the addition of objects, as in Felicia ego f(I f-ed Felicia, CIL IV 2199); if there was any doubt about the sexual nature of this graffito, another graffito immediately below it states: Felicia ego hicfutue (I focked Felicia here, CIL IV 2200, Add. 215). (16) Of the same type is futui Mula * hic (I fucked Mula here, CIL IV 2203, Add. 215) and possibly Beronice /... / jutuere (To fuck Beronice ..., CIL IV 2198, Add. 215). (17) In my reading, none of these boasts names the (presumably male) subjects, thus reducing the power of the graffiti as proclamations of masculinity tied to a particular client. If we remember, however, that reading was often conducted aloud in antiquity, any reader of these graffiti could become the appropriately masculine subject.

Another group of graffiti plays with the prevalent formula 'x fucked here.' In its simplest incarnations, the verb is left out. For example, one graffito states Sollemnes hie (Sollemnes here, CIL IV 2218a), and a similar one, Asbestus * hic (Asbestus here, CIL IV 2222). Others include a verb, such as Facilis * hic * futuit (Facilis fucked here, CIL IV 2178), Her-meros hie futuit (Hermeros fucked here, CIL IV 2195), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mouaios fucks here, CIL IV 2216, Add. 215), and Posphorus / hic * futuit (Posphorus fucked here, CIL IV 2241). (18) Another graffito specifies the profession of the client and uses a superlative adverb: Phoebus * unguentarius / optume futuit (Phoebus the perfumer fucks best, CIL IV 2184, Add. 215). The superlative in this graffito differentiates Phoebus from other clients, allowing him to claim a pinnacle of masculinity.

Adding to this formula, some graffiti mention other participants. If the names of the clients and their sexual partners are stated, a verb of sexual congress is not always needed. So, for example, Hyginus cum Mes-sio hie (Hyginus with Messius here, CIL IV 2249, Add. 215) implies sexual contact. (19) The same goes for the fragmentary Rusatia.. hie / Coruenius (Coruenius here [with] Rusatia, CIL IV 2262, Add. 465). Some graffiti include other participants and a verb. So, for example, there is Bellicus hic * futuit quendam (Bellicus fucked here a certain one, CIL IV 2247, Add. 215) and Victor cum Attine I hiefuit (Victor fukt here with Attine, CIL IV 2258).20 Another graffito describes a group of male participants, and even includes a date: XVII K Jul / Hermeros / cum Phile/tero * et Caphi/so hic * futu/erunt (17 days before the Kalends of July, Hermeros with Phileteros and Caphisus fucked here, CIL IV 2192, Add. 215). The addition of an adverb in the following graffito, Synethus / Faustillam /futuit / obiquerite (Synethus fucked Faustilla evirywhereyly, CIL IV 2288) allows Synethus to stand out in comparison to the others and draws attention to his masculine vigor in having sex in many locales. One graffito refers to the name of the client and the prostitute, and to the (outrageous) cost of her services: Arphocras hie cum Drauca I bene futuit denario (Arphocras fucked well here with Drauca for a denarius, CIL IV 2193). The high cost might even imply that "Arphocras" (= Harpocras) engaged in a sexual activity other than relatively inexpensive penile-vaginal sex. (21)

Other variations allowed patrons to display their masculinity by flaunting the number of their sexual partners. One graffito reads, hic ego puellas multas / futui (Here I fucked many girls, CIL IV 2175). (22) Placidus goes one better, including his name and emphasizing his masculinity with the arbitrariness of the object: Placidus hie futuit quern voluit (Placidus fucked here whom he wished, CIL IV 2265), but his graffito lacks the humorous punch of the following: Scordopordonicus hic * bene / fuit * quern * voluit (Garliquefarticus fukt well here whom he wished, CIL IV 2188). (23)

Seven graffiti follow the format 'x you fuck well': Felix / bene futuis (Felix, you fuck well, CIL IV 2176); Sollemnes I bene futues (Sollemnes, you fock well, CIL IV 2185 and 2186); Vitalio / bene * futues * (Vitalio, you fock well, CIL IV 2187); Victor * bene futuis ... (Victor, you fuck well ..., CIL IV 2218); December * bene futuis (December, you fuck well, CIL IV 2219); and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Syneroos, you fuck good, CIL IV 2253). (24) One graffito bests them all with a variation on a common love graffito seen around Pompeii, quisquis amat valeat: Victor bene / valeas qui bene futues (Victor--you who fock well, may you fare well!, CIL IV 2274, Add. 216; CIL IV 2260, Add. 216 has a slightly different word order). (25) The use of the second and third person in the graffiti lends an authoritative quality to these statements. A reader might not believe what a male patron says about himself--of course he says he is a good fucker!--but might find the same statement more believable if it seemed to come from a third party, especially if that source were a prostitute who had first-hand experience with the patron. (26)

Finally, there are a few graffiti that defy type, and these, too, range in both inventiveness and degree of masculinity. Standing out both for its unique formula and for the relatively rare reference to pedicure, one brief graffito states, pedicure volo (I want to butt-fuck, CIL IV 2210). Another unique example begins with a fairly standard first line, but then adds a humorous coda: hie ego cum veni futui / deinde redei domi (When I came here, I fucked and then returned home, CIL IV 2246, Add. 465). Last but not least, one boast, though much of the meaning remains uncertain, mentions both the client and prostitute, uses an adverb, and seems to refer to two sexual practices: Pdic * Aplonia ... / bene * dat * Nonius / future ... (He butt-fucks Aplonia ... gives it good, Nonius, fucking ..., CIL IV 2197, Add. 215). (27)

Male sexual boasts come in many forms. The variations on standard formulae--'Here I fucked many girls,' 'Phoebus is a good fukr,' 'Placidus here fucked whom he wished'--imply a competitive atmosphere of men outdoing one another (literally and figuratively). These boasts, then, created a hierarchy among the male clients. Clients who boasted to have fucked better or in more places, or with more women or boys than other clients, laid claim to a more masculine sexuality. Furthermore, the type of rivalry seen in the boasts did not rely on an oppositional structure of masculine versus nonmasculine; this was not a zero-sum game. Phoebus's and Placidus's claims to masculine sexuality were about which client was more masculine--a friendly competition taking place in degrees rather than absolutes.

In addition, the graffiti demonstrate a wide range of options in (1) naming the other partner in these sexual acts (12 graffiti), (2) mentioning a general category of partner (puellas, for example, or quern voluit; 4 graffiti), or (3) eliding mention of any other participant (25 graffiti plus 30-40 names). (28) The variable role of sexual objects ultimately will reveal the underlying rhetoric of these boasts. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's (1985) analysis of homosocial relationships through the rubric of "erotic triangles" and David Wray's (2001) examination of gendered dynamics in Catullus's love poetry can help illuminate the boasts' structure.

Sedgwick argues that Victorian literature often used women symbolically, with communication routed through them from one male participant to the other. In the Victorian context, the effect was that men expressed homosocial desire for each other through heterosexual desire directed towards a woman, ultimately using women to strengthen the bonds between men. Wray (2001, 64-112), building on Sedgwick, argues that in the case of Catullus's poems, sexual acts with women were meant to be proclamations of manhood to other men rather than declarations of love for, or sexual acts with, a woman. Wray sees this especially in Catullus's Lesbia poems. Take Catullus 39, for example, where Catullus's rival, Egnatius, is flirting with Catullus's puella. Traditionally, as Wray (2001, 83) puts it, this poem "has been conscripted into service as a (minor) moment in the tale of impassioned anguish that is the Lesbia novel." Wray's reading, however, is that
  the exchange or message ... is 'homosocial': an affair between men,
  between Catullus and the contubernales, and ultimately between
  Catullus and Egnatius. What the Catullus of Poem 37 has lost is
  chiefly existimatio ('face') and only secondarily the puella; his
  manhood has been impugned, and it is for that reason that the loss of
  the puella smarts. (2001, 87)

Thus, even poems of Catullus that appear on the surface to discuss the narrator's relationship with women (especially Lesbia) were overwhelmingly about the performative display of manhood for other men. In these poems, the woman "serves as a coin of exchange passed between the sender and receiver of the poem, both adult males ..." (2001, 72-3).

In the brothel, boasts were not addressed to a specific male rival, but were proclamations meant to be read (aloud) by anyone and everyone. In addition, this male rivalry was publicized and the audience/reader invited to judge the competing claims to masculinity and even to participate. Indeed, graffiti without a named subject occur only in the first person; when read aloud, they would have turned the reader of the graffito into the subject of the boast. This would have allowed any reader, by iterating a first-person boast, to take part in the competitive discourse on masculinity that was carried out through the graffiti. The "coins of exchange" were the named prostitutes: Fortunata, "Felicia," Beronice, Rusatia, Faustilla, Drauca, and Aplonia. They need not necessarily be female, either; male prostitutes were equally useful in this matter. (29) In addition, it seems not to have mattered for boasts of masculinity that the clients were paying prostitutes to have sex with them, that the "coins of exchange" used in their boasts were bought with their own coin. The underlying structure of graffiti with named objects was a triangle in which the male clients communicated their masculinity to other clients through boasts of sexual acts with prostitutes (see figure la).

The rest of the boasts, however--those with a generalized object or no expressed object--reveal the true nature of the structure to and rhetoric behind these boasts. In boasts with a generalized direct object, the position occupied by a specific, named prostitute was replaced with the category or symbol of a prostitute. What had formerly been a triangle with a prostitute as a "coin of exchange" between males becomes a triangle with a weakened or symbolic third pole (see figure lb). The boasts without any objects go further, eliminating the sexual object altogether. With this last category of boasts, the third pole has been weakened to the point of being superfluous; male clients simply engaged directly with each other. The triangle, then, has become a horizontal line between males of (roughly) equivalent status (see figure 1 c).

The option to frame a masculine discourse without a triangular relationship, I argue, illuminates and contextualizes the entire corpus of boasts. That is, even in the graffiti that do name the boast's sexual object, the object is already/nevertheless superfluous, the rhetorical line between the client and the prostitute dotted rather than solid. The ultimate effect of the symbolic and superfluous nature of the third pole of the triangle was to reinforce the ideological primacy of the active male subjects and their (competitive) connections with other male clients.


IV. "Us versus Them"

The graffiti discussed above reveal that male clients asserted their masculinity vis-a-vis other male clients through increasingly elaborate, detailed, or superlative boasts of penetrative sexual prowess. In the following sections, I will examine how the rhetoric of masculinity not only used boasts to fine-tune a hierarchy among male clients, but also solidified communal masculine identity in opposition to two sets of Others: penetrated or polluted males, and sexualized female prostitutes.

Penetrated or Polluted Males

While Latin literature abounds with invective slurs against males who are penetrated and polluted (through oral sex), only a few graffiti in the brothel follow suit. One graffito says, ratio mi cum ponis / Batacare te pidicaro (When you hand over the money, Batacarus, I'll butt-fock you, CIL IV 2254, Add. 216). (30) Batacarus, as the one handing over the money, must have been a client at the brothel. The graffito-writer, then, used this graffito to portray Batacarus as a penetrated (and therefore emasculated) male. A sketched phallus at the beginning of the graffito may have added an element of violence and aggression, turning the graffito into a potential threat. In addition, prominence is given to the name of the impugned party--Batacarus is the first word of the second line--rather than to the name of the writer, who is anonymous. Indeed, the first-person perspective of the graffito allowed every reader to become the masculine penetrator, and reinforced the superior status of the reader(s) vis-a-vis the penetrated Batacarus. (31) The collective quality of this statement is an important aspect of how masculinity was defined in the brothel.

Another emasculating, potentially violent graffito occurs in the fragmentary irrumo ... (I face-fuck ..., CIL IV 2277). Unfortunately, only a few letters can be discerned in the latter part of the graffito, making interpretation difficult. As irrumare often has an element of force behind it, this graffito may have been a threat against a male or female prostitute, or perhaps another male client. It is impossible to determine which of the aforementioned scenarios might be correct, but if the graffito named a male sexual object, it would effectively render that male both penetrated and polluted. In addition, as in the previous graffito, the first-person verb form would have made any and all readers the subject of the sentence. By voicing the graffito out loud, a reader would have affirmed his virile masculinity.

The last instance of defamation, unlike the first two, lacks an element of aggression. The graffito claims, Froto plane / lingit cun/num (Froto clearly licks cunt, CIL IV 2257). (32) This attack against "Froto" (= Fronto) calls into question his status as a penetrating male; indeed, cunnum lingere was often conceptualized as penetration of the mouth (Parker 1997, 51-2). Furthermore, this graffito calls attention to Fronto's polluted status and implies that Fronto has no shame, since he has made no secret of his cunnum lingere. (33)

Unlike the boasts seen above, sexuality in these graffiti is presented as a zero-sum game in which the degradation of one male leads to the responsive elevation in masculine sexuality of another. In these graffiti, however, it is not simply one male client who can benefit at the expense of Batacarus, Fronto, or whoever was the object of irrumare in CIL IV 2277. Rather, the lack of named accusers allows any, and potentially every, male to rise in status compared to Batacarus and Fronto. Batacarus and Fronto become the 'fall guys' against whom the rest of the clients unite, and in the process, the rest of the clients reaffirm their own normative male sexuality.

These defamatory graffiti seem to take the shape of a triangle, with a male writer communicating with a male reader through a male object of derision (see figure 2a); however, the alignment of the writer's and reader's interests against a mutual ideological Other draws these two poles of the triangle together (see figure 2b). Moreover, the ways in which this dialogue invited all male clients to participate through first-person boasts resulted in a structure amassing normative male clients at the top of a now-vertical line, with Fronto, Batacarus, and any other penetrated or polluted males at the bottom (see figure 2c). This structure in many ways parallels Freud's A-B-C model of humor, which Richlin (1992) has shown is appropriate to the context of Roman sexual humor. In Freud's model, A tells a joke about B to C, thus drawing A and C closer together (Richlin 1992, 60-1). Indeed, as Richlin explains, "All join together in laughing at B ... The more pertinent a victim B is--the greater the number of Cs who are normally vexed by such a B--the greater the audience's solidarity" (1992, 61). In both models, the end result is an increase in group cohesion. In the brothel, moreover, the structure was reifying, reactive, and zero-sum: the boundaries around normative and nonnormative male sexuality were strengthened by this vertical and absolute polarity; to strengthen or solidify one pole was to do the same, reactively, to the other; and finally, for normative males to gain, nonnormative males had to lose.


Sexualized Female Prostitutes

Many of the rhetorical strategies employed by graffiti concerning penetrated or polluted males are also found in graffiti about female prostitutes. The role of female prostitutes in the brothel's graffiti is not restricted to appearances as the (symbolic) objects of male boasts, as described above. A number of graffiti conceptualize female prostitutes in the role of sexual subjects as well. These graffiti often draw attention to the sexual acts in which the prostitute engages, or the prowess with which she does so. These graffiti may be seen as boasts written by the prostitutes themselves, as compliments written by appreciative clients, or as advertisements meant to drum up service. (34) Ultimately, we cannot know who wrote the graffiti and which, if any, of these possible interpretations the writer intended (a good guess would be a combination of all three). In this section I focus not on the intentions of the writers, but on the impact of these graffiti as a group for a rhetoric of masculinity.

The overwhelming effect of graffiti in which females are the subjects is to stress their sexuality. (35) As mentioned above, being penetrated was seen as simultaneously normative for females and shameful. Likewise, performing sexual acts was normative for prostitutes but could nevertheless incur societal shame; indeed, this latter facet of prostitutes' sexuality will be shown to be useful ideologically for solidifying masculinity.

A few of the graffiti play with the idea of the female prostitute as penetrated in the act offututio. One graffito, for example, states, fututa sum hie (I was fucked here, CIL IV 2217), calling attention to the female prostitute's state of having been penetrated. (36) Another graffito reads [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] * [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mola the fucktress, CIL IV 2204). (37) This rare title gains a sense of monumentality and (humorously) honorable status by the large size of the letters and by the interpunct, which often divides words in stone-cut inscriptions. Not only is Mola (presumably) penetrated in the act of fututio, as is the unnamed female of the previous graffito, but with the agentive -[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ending, Mola appears to revel in her sexualness. Another graffito perhaps serves as commentary, resolving any potential doubt that Mola is the penetrated partner in the sexual act, by having a phallus penetrate her name: Mola (phallus) /... (CIL IV 2237, Add. 215). (38) Like the[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] graffito, another graffito suggests a certain promiscuity or pride that seems to go beyond the normal call of duty: las cum Mag/no ubique (Ias with Magnus everywhere, CIL IV 2174) stresses the frequency with which, or the multitude of locations in which, Ias has had sexual relations with Magnus. Indeed, by presenting Ias's name first, where one would expect the male client's name (see, e.g., CIL IV 2209 and CIL IV 2224, discussed above), the graffito shifts the focus away from Magnus's normative and acceptable sexual act towards Ias's excessive sexuality.

Most of the graffiti with a female subject, however, tie her to the act of fellatio. These graffiti, then, highlight the prostitute's condition as both penetrated and polluted. The barest incarnation, 'x sucks,' can be seen in the following description of Nice: Nicefellat (Nice sucks, CIL IV 2278). (39) The same formula was used in two identical graffiti: Fortunata fellat (Fortunata sucks, CIL IV 2259; CIL IV 2275). Fortunata seems to reappear, with a shortened or misspelled name, in the graffito Fortuna sic (Fortuna in this way, CIL IV 2266), which may be a clarification of the graffito above it in another hand, vere / felas (You truly suk, CIL IV 2266). (40)

Other graffiti add details that make the portrayal more sexualized. One graffito, Myrtale / Cassacos / fellas (Myrtale, you suck the Cassaci, CIL IV 2268), suggests that a prostitute fellated an entire branch of someone's family tree!(41) Whether or not this graffito might also imply that Myrtale fellated more than one person at a time, or in rapid succession, is left to the imagination of the (ancient and modern) reader. Another graffito on the same wall, Murtale I Ccassi (Murtale [you suck?] the Ccassi, CIL IV 2271) would probably have been read in light of the first, thus conveying a similarly sexualized portrayal. Another graffito enhances the standard formula with an adverb: Murtis * bene /felas (Murtis, you suk well, CIL IV 2273, Add. 216); and another turns the practice of fellatio into a title: Murtis * felatris (Murtis is a blow-job babe, CIL IV2292). (42)

The graffiti discussed in this section highlight the 'sexualness' of female prostitutes, in part by the prominent placement of the prostitutes' names and acts, and in part by the elision of sexual partners. In addition to depicting prostitutes as hypersexual, these graffiti present a model of female sexuality that stands in marked contrast to the pudicitia and verecundia of respectable femininity. (43) While male patrons could reinforce their claims to proper masculinity in their boasts, this set of graffiti would only call attention to prostitutes' wow-adherence to societal norms. In addition to prostitutes being, by definition, practitioners of disrespectable sexuality, these nonnormative depictions of femininity replicated, reinforced, and permanently inscribed prostitutes' marginalized social standing.

Furthermore, as with the graffiti concerning penetrated or polluted males, the sexualized portrayal of female prostitutes was ideologically useful in the brothel's discourse on masculinity On the surface, these graffiti seem to take the form of a horizontal line--a communique between graffito writer and prostitute (see figure 3a). This structure is clearest in the second-person graffiti, such as Murtis * bene / felas (Murtis, you suk well, CIL IV 2273). When employed in the service of a rhetoric of masculinity, however, the structure takes the form of a vertical line with female prostitutes at the bottom and normative male clients at the top, regardless of the original intent or structure of the graffiti (see figure 3b). More precisely, it is the shame-inducing, communal hypersexuality of the prostitutes that forms the bottom pole, rather than any individual prostitute. Communal masculine identity was solidified by the polarized distinction propagated by the graffiti between socially respectable (i.e., male client) and disrespectable (i.e., female prostitute) sexuality.

In sum, even when females were the subjects of the graffiti, they nevertheless filled a symbolic role in a male-dominated discourse. In the end, female prostitutes were exploited not only sexually, but also ideologically.


V. Final Considerations

These graffiti form the backbone of an interactive discourse in which masculinity was proclaimed and contested. Boasts about male sexuality functioned in an atmosphere of rivalry to establish a relative hierarchy among (normative) male clients, while an oppositional attitude towards nonnormative males and sexualized females consolidated communal masculinity and elevated the male clients, through their normativity, to a superior status. Boasts comprise the majority of this discourse (41 graffiti, plus 30-40 names), contrasting with the preponderance of invective in the discourse of masculinity seen in Latin literature, and illustrating the specificity of how masculinity was negotiated in the brothel. Although the male clients were low-status and consequently had little to lose in terms of political, economic, or social power, they nevertheless used the brothel and its graffiti as a competitive arena. (44)

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(1.) For the appellation 'purpose-built/ and other names for this structure, see McGinn 2002, 13. I count graffiti co-listed under the same number (e.g., CIL IV 2178a and 2178b) separately, which may result in a slightly higher total number of graffiti than other scholars' counts.

(2.) For other contextual approaches to graffiti, see, e.g., Franklin 1986, Milnor 2009, Baird and Taylor 2010, Benefiel 2010a and 2010b.

(3.) For ancient literacy, see, e.g., Harris 1989, Beard et al. 1991, and Johnson and Parker 2009; for reading aloud in antiquity, Harris 1989, 226.

(4.) Since the upper story has none of Wallacc-Hadriirs (1995) criteria of an ancient brothel (masonry beds, erotic frescoes, and erotic graffiti; see also McGinn 2002), I will not address it in this article. I would like to thank the Soprintendenza Archeolo-gica di Pompei for permission to enter and photograph the upper story For documentation of the upper story, see Bragantini 1997, plates 32-43.

(5.) For scholarship on the brothel's frescoes, see Myerowitz 1992, Clarke 1998, Varone 2001, Clarke 2003, and Levin-Richardson 2009.

(6.) For the Greek names, see also Solin 2003, 55, 303-6, 734-6. For analysis of these identities, sec Varone 2005. For other interpretations of castremis in CIL IV 2180, see Franklin 1987, 99-100 and Varone 2005.

(7.) Ascertaining status from names is not unproblematic; see, e.g., Benefiel 2010b, 26.

(8.) See also Clarke 1998, 199. It is unclear whether some of the males were prostitutes rather than clients (see Cantarella 1998, 102-4, 113-5). The graffiti might not exactly mirror the workers and patrons of the brothel; certain groups of individuals (perhaps higher-status males, or females) might not have wanted to record their visit to the brothel, and others may have been illiterate. For brothel patrons in Latin literature, see Flemming 1999, 45. For sex between masters and slaves, sec Bradley 1984, 115-8; Walters 1997, 39; and Varone 2001, 155-8. For a literary treatment of sex between slaves and mistresses, see Edwards 1993, 49-53 and Parker 2007.

(9.) 9. For the overlap of prostitutes' names in the brothel and other locales, see Cantarella 1998, 91-2 and Varone 2005.

(10.) For Greek and Latin sexual obscenities, see Adams 1982, Bain 1991, Henderson 1991, Richlin 1992, and Panciera 2001.

(11.) For a summary of Roman sexual mores, see Parker 1997.

(12.) Zangemeister (at CIL IV 2181, Add. 215), however, voiced uncertainty about whether the figure is indeed a phallus.

(13.) The third line of the graffito is unclear.

(14.) See Zangemeister at CIL IV 2248.

(15.) The rarity of a name with a first-person verb leads me to take pedico as a noun rather than a verb.

(16.) The lack of final-m need not indicate the nominative case: Vaananen 1959, 73.

(17.) CIL IV 2203 lists a fragmentary second line, but I am not convinced that it is in the same hand as the first line of the graffito. The second line of CIL IV 2198 is indecipherable, being variously transcribed as //abenda by Zangemeister and valentes by Fiorelli (both at CIL IV 2198).

(18.) For more on [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], see Franklin 1986, 327.

(19.) One could categorize these graffiti also as elaborations of the names discussed above. Whether these graffiti indicate that the named persons had sexual activities with each other, or with a third party, remains unclear; see the discussion in Panciera 2001,217-20.

(20.) CIL IV 2247 contains a second line, but 1 agree with Zangemeister (at CIL IV 2247) that it has been composed in another hand.

(21.) This graffito might function as invective, if we take it in light of Martial's epigrams (see especially 9.4) that associate a high cost for sexual service with marginal sexual acts (being penetrated or performing oral sex; see Panciera 2001, 46-8).

(22.) This graffito could also fall under the formula involving boasts ofjutui.

(23.) Scordopordonicus: see Zangemeister at CIL IV 2188. Adams (1982, 121) suggests that these examples of quern might be symptomatic of "the encroachment of the masculine forms of the relative on the feminine." Given that jutuere could refer to male-male sex, and that the penetrative party in homoerotic as well as heteroerotic sex did not suffer any social disapproval, I do not find his explanation convincing. It seems equally plausible, if not more so, that these graffiti reflected the arbitrariness of the object of the act--that is, Scordopordonicus and Placidus were properly masculine whether they had sex with females or males. See also CIL IV 2247.

(24.) In the latter part of CIL IV 2218, there are a few letters after Jutuis that are indecipherable. In CIL TV 2253, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] may agree with the proper name, although given the fairly consistent structure of name-adverb-verb in the corpus, I would argue that the author mistakenly wrote omicron in place of the adverbial omega. Bain (1991, 56) likewise emended [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. For more on Syneros, see CIL IV 2252 and Franklin 1986,325-6.

(25.) For quisquis amat valeat, see, e.g., CIL IV 4091; Varone 1994, 60 (= Varone 2002, 62); and Milnor 2009, 301-2.

(26.) This may suggest that other parties, including female prostitutes, had an active role in writing praise for male clients. For potential female authorship of graffiti, see, e.g., Varone 1994, 81 (= Varone 2002, 83) and Levin-Richardson, Forthcoming. However, male patrons were probably aware of the added credibility gained by second-and third-person testimonials, and may have written such graffiti themselves. The question of authorship remains unanswerable, but given that male clients had a greater stake in their reputation than did prostitutes, it seems more likely that the male clients were the authors.

(27.) The end of the first line has been rendered unreadable by damage, while the last line has not been deciphered satisfactorily.

(28.) Boasts with named other participants (all in CIL IV): 2192, 2193, 2197, 2198, 2199, 2200, 2203, 2224, 2249, 2258, 2262, 2288. Boasts with a general object (all in CIL IV): 2175, 2188, 2247, 2265. Boasts with no direct object (not including isolated names) (all in CIL IV): 2176, 2178, 2184, 2185, 2186, 2187, 2191, 2194, 2195, 2201, 2209, 2210, 2216, 2218, 2218a, 2219, 2222, 2232, 2241, 2242, 2246, 2248, 2253, 2260, 2274.

(29.) Graffiti stating that Scordopordonieus or Placidus could fuck quern voluit, or that Bellicus could fuck quondam, suggest that male prostitutes were available and acceptable sexual objects. However, all of the graffiti with a named potential male object use the formula 'x with y,' as in Hyginus cum Messio hie (CIL IV 2249) rather than an accusative direct object. Few graffiti use this formula to refer to a female (e.g., Felix cum Fortunate: CIL IV 2224).

(30.) I agree with Fiorelli (at CIL IV 2254) that the third line seems to have been written in a different hand, and thus I have not included it above. I have taken pidicaro as a misspelling of pedicabo, although it could also be the syncopated future perfect.

(31.) The hierarchy between the graffito reader and Batacarus is complicated, however, by the reader's seeming status as someone who has accepted money for sex (as one of the referees has brought to my attention).

(32.) For other examples, see CIL IV s.v. cunnum lingere.

(33.) For the added shame of committing transgressive acts in public, see, e.g., Cicero, Cael 47 and Martial 1.34.

(34.) For female uses of obscenity in graffiti, see Levin-Richardson, Forthcoming.

(35.) The two exceptions are CIL IV 2202: Restitute * bellis * horibus (Rcstituta with the pretty face; cf. Add. 465, however) and Victoria invicta hic (Victoria was unconquered here, CIL IV 2226).

(36.) For fututa, see also CIL IV 2006 and CIL IV 8897.

(37.) For another fututrix, see CIL IV 4196.

(38.) The meaning of the latter part of the graffito is unclear. For female sexual agents in the Roman imaginary, see Kamen and Levin-Richardson, Forthcoming.

(39.) Zangemeister (at CIL IV 2278) reports that the first four of five letters of the graffito before Nice have been erased.

(40.) Another possible reading of the graffito Fortuna sic is "Fortuna likewise." 1 follow Fiorelli's reading of the first line of the latter graffito as verc (at CIL IV 2266).

(41.) Cassacos may refer to several men with the name Cassacus (we unfortunately do not know who the Cassaci were).

(42.) The more common form of the name is Myrtis (Solin 2003, 1178-80). For other fellatrices, see CIL IV 1388, CIL IV 1389, CIL IV 1510, CIL IV 4192, and CIL IV 9228.

(43.) For the role of these virtues in elite femininity, see, e.g., Kaster 2005, 13-65 and Langlands 2006.

(44.) I would like to thank Deborah Kamen and Rebecca Benefiel for commenting on drafts of this article, as well as the two anonymous referees for their feedback. A version of this paper was given at the University of Leicester's 2008 conference, "Ancient Graffiti in Context." I have chosen not to correct any orthographic or grammatical mistakes made in the graffiti, and translate accordingly. All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
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