Irrumatio is an archaic Latin term describing the forced, sexual
penetration of a person's mouth by a penis. Although there isn’t a simple
equivalent in English, the word irrumare can be translated roughly as "to
force to fellate". While Modern English does make reference to irrumatio-like
acts (known as "forced fellatio" or, slangily, as "face fucking", "skull
fucking", and "throat fucking"), all oral-phallic sex is now grouped under the
term fellatio, regardless.
To the Romans, however, sexuality was viewed in terms of "activity versus
passivity". Penetration was considered active and masculine; being
penetrated was, conversely, viewed as both passive and feminine. As a
reflection of this, Latin contains both "insertive" and "receptive" verbs for
vaginal, anal and oral penetration. And, while all penetration was
believed to degrade the passive individual at the expense of the penetrator's
masculinity, it was the penetration of the mouth that was considered the most
While the act of fellating was already considered passive, the
term irrumatio further emphasized this passivity, focusing on the degradation
of the fellator. The negative connotations of irrumatio gave rise to its use as
a means of extreme humiliation. It was considered a just punishment for
adulterers, as well as a particularly hostile means by which one
could assert rank. Irrumatio was also commonly associated with acts of oral
Reference to irrumatio appears frequently in Roman texts, often
figuratively, or in suggestive double entendre. In one instance, the Roman
poet Catullus writes:
Gellius audierat patruum obiurgare solere
si quis delicias
diceret aut faceret.
Hoc ne ipsi accideret, patriu perdepsuit ipsam
uxorem et patruum reddidit Arpocratem.
Quod voluit fecit: nam quamvis
verbum non faciet patruus.
Gellius had heard that the uncle was
if one did or said anything naughty.
should happen to him he worked over
his uncle's wife and rendered the
uncle an Harpocrates.
He did what he wished, for even if (or however much) he
his own uncle now, his uncle won't say a
Here, Gellius escapes his uncle’s public condemnation by sleeping with his
aunt; in doing so, Gellius's uncle is forced to silence for fear of being outted
as a cuckold. Irrumatio first enters into things figuratively, meaning to
silence (as in, "to silence someone by irrumatio"). In associating his
uncle with Harpocrates, the Egyptian/Greek god of silence, the former
meaning is repeated alongside the god’s childishness. This then leads to the
second meaning of irrumatio; because Gellius has so clearly demonstrated his
dominance, we are left with ambiguity over the poem’s end, unsure (as in the
second line) whether Gellius's irrumation is literal or purely talk.
of Sexual Terms – irrumatio" Dictionary of Sexual Terms and Expressions
Sex Hot Sex from the Frescos in Pompeii" by Sacha Tarkovsky, Focus Article
Sex in the
Ancient World from A to Z by John Grimes Younger (2005)
homosexuality by Craig Arthur Williams (1999)
Sexual Vocabulary by James Noel Adams (1990)
by Julia Haig Gaisser (2009)
Provocations by William Fitzgerald (2000)
Sexualities by Judith P. Hallett & Marilyn B.