Pornography and Persuasion on Attic Pottery
Robert F. Sutton, Jr.
In Antigone, Sophocles lists various techniques by which the human race prevails, including "the emotions that sustain the city" ( astynomous orgas, 355). This phrase transcends our notions of "civic spirit" or patriotism to cover the full range of cultural values on which classical Athenian society was based, including those related to sexuality and gender. Social patterns were both manifested and maintained by several means, including myth, ritual, and language ( Versnell 1987: 78), as fused, for example, in Attic drama and the visual arts, particularly the paintings on Athenian vases. Vase painting was a popular medium that as the Democracy arose and flowered provided the Athenian people with a set of changing self-images with which they could define themselves as individuals and in respect to one another. While other scholars have recently explored a variety of themes through which this was accomplished ( La cité des images; Hollein 1988), this chapter considers how attitudes on sex and gender were expressed and transmitted to various elements of Athenian society by comparing the explicit representation of sexuality on Athenian vases with representations of weddings and other scenes where sexuality is expressed in polite terms. In contrast to the analysis of Eva Keuls ( 1985; reviewed in Shapiro 1986), who recently surveyed much of the same evidence, the emphasis here is on vase painting as a medium of social communication.
In examining such products of popular culture, it is best to have evidence both of the work of art in question, whether text, object, or performance, and of audience attitudes and reactions. The model I adopt here is that used most notably in recent studies of the romance novel, especially Thurston ( 1987), who discusses the feedback response between consumer and producer. Unfortunately, in analyzing Greek