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Moche Sex Pots: Reproduction and Temporality in Ancient South America



This article asks the question: What is a reproductive act? Ceramics produced by the South American Moche (A.D. 150–800) depict a wide variety of sex acts but rarely feature vaginal penetration. The cross-cultural literature, especially from Melanesia and Amazonia, is used here to argue that the relationship between sex and reproduction has been variably defined, with many acts—including anal and oral sex—sometimes perceived as reproductive. It contrasts notions of time found in Western ideas of procreation and in pornography to the expanded reproductive time frame of kin- and lineage-based societies and argues that Moche ceramics, with their emphasis on the movement of fluids between bodies, do in fact portray a reproductive process. In the stratified context of Moche society, where these pots were produced for elite consumers who often placed them in tombs, these representations solidified the power of ancestors, elders, and elites.

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