Study Guide

Lysistrata Sex

By Aristophanes


In terms of sheer word count, Lysistrata must have more references to sex than any other Ancient Greek play… though some of Aristophanes' other comedies definitely come close. This play is exploding (yup, pun intended) with jokes and slapstick humor revolving around sex. The male characters even walk around with visible erections—do not, we repeat do not, go to a production of Lysistrata with your grandma.

But just because the sex angle gets played up for comic effect doesn't mean that the play's treatment of sex lacks a useful side. Not only does it give us lots of insight into the sexual practices of the Ancient Greeks (including a certain sexual position known as the "lioness on the cheesegrater"—what? what does that even mean?), it also highlights the link between sex and politics way before "the personal (was) political." 

Questions About Sex

  1. Why do you think Aristophanes chose to present his criticism of the Peloponnesian War in the form of a sex comedy?
  2. Whom does the play portray as more lustful: men or women?
  3. Why do the women of the play choose to achieve power through sexuality?
  4. What makes the women's sex-strike successful?

Chew on This

The play portrays men and women as equally lustful.

The play portrays women as better than men at controlling their sexual desires.