Updated: DECEMBER 21, 2021
Greek sex is an outdated euphemism for anal sex.
Ancient Greeks were accepting of romantic or sexual relationships between males. However, homosexuality and anal sex (particularly between consenting men) was not a universally accepted practice outside of Greece, and was therefore the target of jokes in Roman comedies and plays.
Romans often used Greek settings and characters as the backdrop for explicit acts of anal intercourse, indicating that the Romans may have considered anal sex to be specific to Greek culture.
The use of the term as a joke or something worthy of derision goes to the long history of homophobia. On the other hand, using it as a code within the gay community, particularly in times and places where homophobia was/is rampant or anal sex criminalized, served as a way to "hide" and maintain a degree of safety.
More About Greek Sex
Looking back on things, attempting to attribute such a widely-used sexual practice to one specific culture is a pretty silly concept now. Greek sex, like French kiss, seem to be anachronisms that have long since been surpassed by better knowledge of our history. The Greeks have long been held up as the exemplar of male homosexual behaviour, when in reality, male-identified folk have been touchin’ and lovin’ all around the world throughout human history. And surely, not all Greeks were even having anal sex! They weren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last.
Anal sex itself goes back much further than the ancient Greeks, and it certainly was not specific to man-on-man sex. People have partaken in anal sex for both pleasure and practical reasons across cultures. Given how curious people are, it surely didn’t take long to discover that the anus and, for those who have them, the prostate, feature sexy, tingly nerve endings that feel good when stimulated. At the same time, many cultures also deduced that, unlike vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse did not result in babies. It can be argued that anal sex could be considered the world’s first birth control practice.
Attaching the term Greek to anal sex, whether referring to the practice or homosexual desire, was both a coding and a judgement. The two acts were “othered” to distinguish them as inferior and sullied when restrictive European cultures began using the term.
However, this codified language also helped to protect those who could be persecuted for participating in either or both. Other than some instances in sex work, the term Greek sex has pretty much fallen out of favour in common usage. Many communities are far more comfortable referring to anal sex and men loving men in proper terms, with less reliance on code or euphemisms.