When it comes to religion and erotica, you could be forgiven for thinking that the two are mutually exclusive. When Christian clergy talk about sex it’s almost always to tell people what they shouldn’t be doing (almost everything) and when they shouldn’t be doing it (outside of marriage, with the lights on). But the caricature of repressed pilgrims masks the fact that for much of human history, and among non-monotheistic religions in particular, sexually explicit artwork was so common it was hum-drum.
Of course, everyone knows about India. Arguably the most famous examples of religious erotica come from the carved reliefs that adorn the Khajuraho temples. These sculptures feature group sex and some extremely limber participants engaged in what some scholars have hypothesized is tantric sex. The fact that it’s a UNESCO site means that you can pass the visit off as high culture to your relatives.
But it would be a mistake—an orientalist one at that—to think that erotica features in the religious life only of the Indian subcontinent. Some 1,500 years before the Kama Sutra was written, Mesopotamian artwork was putting the fertile in the Fertile Crescent.