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The ancient Egyptians respected women, used birth control, and practiced premarital sex

For the ancient Egyptians, sex was a natural activity, just like eating and sleeping. Nothing to be avoided or embarrassed of. They had many expressions for sex. For example: ‘to unite oneself with,’ ‘spending a pleasant hour together,’ ‘entering a house,’ ‘to enjoy oneself with,’ or ‘charge towards her grotto.’ They even used the phrase ‘to sleep with.’

Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun and his wife (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Sex was part of the great cycle of creation, life, death, and rebirth.

A statue of an Egyptian man and his wife (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s have a look at how it was to love in a civilization that existed for nearly 3,000 years (3150-332 BC).

1. Virginity was not important

The ancient Egyptians didn’t care if a woman was a virgin or not. To be precise, they didn’t even have a word for a virgin. Premarital sex was acceptable as long as it was practiced between two unmarried people.

Once married, the couple had to remain faithful to each other. The Egyptian society didn’t tolerate adultery. Adulterous behavior resulted in a divorce. However, the punishment could be also whipping, mutilation, or even death.

A husband usually got away with having sex with another woman, especially if she was unmarried. However, a wife had to remain faithful to her husband. It was the only way to ensure the legitimacy of their children.

2. Contraception methods were fairly effective

Egyptian god Sobek had the shape of a crocodile (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The ancient Egyptians used various contraception methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The most efficient contraceptive was the mixture of honey, acacia, and colocynth. The Egyptian women would soak linen into the mixture and insert it into their vaginas before sex. Acacia contains lactic acid, which is a scientifically confirmed spermicide. Scientists also proved that colocynth is a natural abortifacient drug. Modern Arab women still use colocynth as contraception.

Another contraceptive used by the Egyptians was a mixture of crocodile dung and fermented dough, which was inserted into a vagina. Even though chemically ineffective, the dung at least served as a kind of diaphragm.

A proven method of contraception was to extend breastfeeding up to three years. Lactation inhibits ovulation and thus prevents pregnancy.

Egyptian men, too, tried to prevent unwanted pregnancies. They were one of the first to use condoms made of linen sheath.

3. The wedding in Ancient Egypt was super simple

The ancient Egyptians didn’t have a marriage ceremony. A woman simply came to live with a man in his house and told her parents about it. Once the couple lived under the same roof, they were considered husband and wife.

Women married at the age of twelve or thirteen. Men married being between sixteen and twenty years old.

The ancient Egyptians expected that couples would have lots of children and remain faithful to each other. In a lot of cases, the couples were genuinely in love.

Contrary to the popular belief, the ancient Egyptians didn’t marry their relatives. Marriages between daughter and father, sister and brother, or cousins didn’t happen.

Only the ruling elite engaged in incestuous relationships. The practice led to serious genetic defects among their offspring. Pharaoh Tutankhamun was a famous example of inbreeding among royals.

4. A couple could ask for a trial marriage
The ancient Egyptians had a fertility test, which sounds super strange today. A woman put garlic into her vagina. If the smell of garlic was detected on her breath, she was fertile.

Obviously, not all men believed the above test. As a result, the Egyptians had trial marriages to prevent marrying infertile women. The trial period usually lasted for one year. If a woman became pregnant, the trial was over and the couple got married.

5. There was no social stigma for being divorced

Divorce was possible and considered normal. The most common reasons for divorce were infertility, adultery, and abuse. The divorce procedure was simple. A spouse moved out of the house and the property was divided. Both men and women could ask for a divorce.

The Egyptian women had a certain amount of rights. Thus, they could easily divorce and remarry. Yet, getting remarried after thirty was difficult because the ancient Egyptians considered older women infertile. In any case, there was no social stigma attached to a divorcee.

6. The ancient Egyptians had a recipe to ignite passion

The fragments of the Turin Erotic Papyrus(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
A husband would visit a doctor if the passion in the marriage was gone. The doctor would prescribe him a special potion for his wife to drink. Among other ingredients, the potion comprised:

dandruff from the scalp of a dead person who was murdered;
blood of a tick from a black dog;
a drop of blood from the ring finger of husband’s left hand;

If a wife drank such a potion, she supposedly fell in love with her husband again. Certainly, if he convinced her to drink this disgusting drink, she definitely loved him.

In case a man had issues with erection, he had to rub his penis with ground acacia seeds mixed with honey. If this method didn’t work, then the man had to rub his penis with foam from the mouth of a stallion.

7. Masturbation was considered a divine act

Min was an ancient Egyptian god of male sexuality. The Egyptians depicted him with an erect penis (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

According to Egyptian mythology, the first Egyptian god Atun created the universe by masturbating. As a result, masturbation was seen as a life-giving process.

The Egyptian pharaohs ceremonially masturbated in the Nile River in front of the crowds to ensure prosperity. Afterward, other men would follow the pharaoh and also ejaculate into the Nile.

Masturbation was not only accepted and common, it was considered divine.

8. Women in Ancient Egypt were equal to men

In Ancient Egypt, children of both sexes were desired. Indeed, men and women had equal rights in every area, except occupation.

Women’s jobs were limited to cooking, sewing, and housekeeping. They helped their husbands at agricultural work. The women managed family farms while their husbands were away.

The women could own and inherit property. They could run their own businesses. They could go and had their case heard at the court. The women could even adopt children.

The ancient Egyptian women could travel, had premarital sex, and divorce their husbands.

Interestingly, women also became pharaohs. Although this was rare, it did happen. Queen Hatshepsut is the most famous example. On other hand, royal women could wield significant power through their husbands. For example, Nefertari, wife of Rameses II the Great, was one of the most influential people in Egypt.

Women in Ancient Egypt enjoyed more rights than women in other societies, including some of the modern ones.


In many aspects, the love life of the ancient Egyptians is reminiscent of love life today. Premarital sex, the triviality of virginity, and divorce are traits we have in common with the ancient Egyptians.

Of course, there are also enormous differences. For example, contraception methods are far more reliable today than 5,000 years ago. Also, men are not ceremonially ejaculating in rivers anymore.

By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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