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There have been countless books on the world’s favorite pastime. Indeed, if you Google sex books, you will find over 150 million results!
These books range from the biology and anatomy of sex, to how-to-do-it books. They range from the scholarly to the irreverent, and some with really rubbish pictures in them and some without.
But, there seems to be a glaring omission. No one has yet compiled a tongue-in-cheek dictionary of the words, thoughts and some of the very strange deeds associated with it.
But where would you start? Well, quite obviously, at the beginning.
Consider the prehistoric man, not only trying to contend with the Ice Age, living in a damp cave with no sports channels, very little food and with big scary animals trying to eat him. You would safely assume the last thing on his mind was sex.
In between avoiding sabre toothed tigers and other hairy things that bite, he would spend some of his time carving things known as Venus figurines. These were Prehistoric Barbie dolls with huge breasts and with massive Kim Kardashian-like asses. These figurines, of which hundreds have survived, appear to have had no practical use whatsoever, other than be a sort of Stone-Age version of Playboy.
Much, much later, when the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were first being excavated, red-faced Victorian archaeologists with silly beards had to take continuous cold showers on discovering a treasure trove of erotic tableaux and other wonderfully smutty things.
So, despite our view that all previous generations were old-fashioned, prim and inhibited (well some were), the fact is that we as human beings have always been obsessed by sex. Wars won and lost because of it, people made rich by it and reputations ruined by it.
So join me if you will, on an alphabetical journey down the highways and byways of the world’s most popular pastime, discovering along the way such important nuggets as: life changing sexual advice from the Middle Ages, the somewhat disturbing history of the vibrator, the rather strange sex life of a future King of England and, most importantly of all, what on earth have armadillos got to do with the missionary position?
A for Adultery
The Athenian statesman and lawgiver Solon (640–599 BC) was firmly of the opinion that adultery was a criminal offence and prostitution was certainly not.
He recommended that all prostitutes should be imported from Asia Minor and all Greek brothels were to be publicly funded and taxed. He also rather considerately fixed an early “Retail Price Index” on the prices of prostitutes, so everyone could easily afford one.
This argument against adultery was then taken up later by the first century BC Greek philosopher, Xenarchus, who said that a man had no excuse for having sex with another man’s wife because:
For here there are very pretty lasses at the brothels, whom the boys may see basking in the sun, their breasts uncovered, stripped for action and posted in battle-line; of these one may select the girl that pleases his fancy, thin or fat, tubby or tall or squat, young, old, middle-aged, over-ripe, and not be obliged to set up a ladder and climb in secretly, nor crawl in through the smoke-hole below the roof, nor be trickily carried in under a heap of straw. Not at all! For the girls themselves use force and pull them in, dubbing those who are old, Daddy, and those who are younger, Big Boy. And any one of these may be visited fearlessly, cheaply, by day, at evening, in any manner desired; but the married women you either cannot see, or if seen, you cannot see them plainly, but always in a state of tremor and fright … in fear, and carrying your life in your hands. How then, pray, O mistress Aphrodite of the Sea, can the men press their attentions too far, once they remember the laws of Draco while dandled in the woman’s embraces?
Not all Greek men, however, were enamored of prostitution, sacred or otherwise. The permanently grumpy philosopher Diogenes (412 – 323 BC) thought the habit of paying for love ridiculous, once telling a crowd that he himself “met the goddess Aphrodite everywhere, and at no expense.”
When asked what he meant, Diogenes lifted up his tunic and pretended to play with his willy.
A for Aphrodisiacs
A candle lit dinner, soft music playing in the background… Your eyes meet, and your hands gently clasp across the table. The waiter with a knowing smile brings you the bill and then … nothing. Forget the ubiquitous blue pills, why not try some of the following?
For the Ladies
Take 20 wasp larvae and place them in one cup of sweet liquor and drink it at midday. The tonic is good for ten bouts of sex.
Mwangdui manuscript from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9AD)
Obtain the penis of a wild boar, then roast it until it is done. Eat it with galangal (a form of ginger) garlic, seven black pepper corns and sea salt. Then drink aged rice wine until you are drunk (!)
Smarakridalaksana(Enjoyment of Love), Bali (1899)
Find 90 of the little grubs that live on plants that give off milk, such as the thistle. Throw them in a litra (litre) of old olive oil. Leave in the sun for seven days. Rub it on your loins and between your backside.
Medicine Pertinent to the Infirmities of Women,Giovanni Marinello (1563)
A woman wets immediately if she is sprinkled with powder made from two teeth of a King, mixed with the two wings from a bee, powdered, and a petal blown by the wind from a funeral wreath.
Kamaledhiplava(Boat in the Sea of Love), India (c.16thcentury)
For the Gentlemen
A man who would wish to acquire vigour for coition may melt down fat from the hump of a camel, and rub his member with it, just before the act; it will then perform wonders, and the woman will praise it for its work.
Perfumed Garden of Sheik Nefzaoul, Muhammed al-Nafzawi (beginning of the16thcentury)
You will need:
4 oz pistachios
Cubebs (a tailed pepper)
Boil them all down to an elixir. Then drink.
La Ciruga,Dr. Leonardo Fioravanti (1570)
There is one drug brought from the East Indies, the Cannabis Indica, which is the most regular in its action and produces the most constant beneficial effects on anything yet tried. It appears to act as a special nervous stimulant, exciting that part of the brain which influences the sexual organs, so that they feel directly an increase of power. I do not hesitate to say that I have seen more restoration to sexual power and more cures of sterility in both senses from the use of this product than from any other means and I do not hesitate to pronounce it, in certain cases, an infallible remedy.
The Male Generative Organs in Health and Disease, Frederick Hollick (1848)
The best aphrodisiacs are rest, boredom, sleep and red meat — followed by wine, prosperity, music and pleasant surroundings
The Cabinet of Venus Unlock’d, Giovanni Sinabaldi (1658)
A for Aphrodisiac Users
Advice on starting your engine from the famous and infamous through the ages.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Greek philosopher:
When not sitting still and philosophising, he would recommend the use of oil of peppermint to stimulate sexual desire. To reduce the libido, he also suggested walking long distances through the hills barefoot.
Pliny (23 – 79AD), Roman naturalist and author:
He came up with this rather obvious suggestion that in order to fan the flames of lust: Why not to eat a hyena’s eye with a dash of dill?
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527), Italian statesman:
Whilst taking a break from plotting, he swore by the aphrodisiac powers of the mandrake plant. He even wrote a not particularly amusing comedy, LaMandragola (1524), in its honor.
Giovanni Casanova (1725 – 1798), Italian libertine:
The patron saint of shagging attributed much of his spectacular sexual energy to the fact that he always ate 50 oysters for breakfast every morning.
Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779), English explorer:
Before being killed by angry Hawaiians, Cook feasted every morning on a special, aphrodisiac dish of fresh shrimp. He often boasted that he could take on ten native girls a day. Perhaps that was the reason for the angry Hawaiians.
Madame Du Barry (1743 – 1793), Mistress of Louis XV:
She tried to keep Louis XV in her thrall by feeding him foods that would make him weak with lust: sweetbreads, venison, pheasant cooked in white wine, truffles, capon in sherry broth, to name just a few.
Mae West (1892 – 1980), Actress:
The legendary sex queen recommended eating almonds to increase one’s sex drive.
A for Armadillos
All through the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church, through its priests and bishops, consistently preached that there was only one form of marital sex: husband above and wife below; and it was only for procreation. But, “What about the armadillos?” I hear you ask. Read on, and all will be revealed.
Meanwhile, back in the Middle Ages, foreplay was frowned upon, oral sex was forbidden, and God help you if you got up to anything else. There were a number of Medieval “how to do it properly in the eyes of the Lord” handbooks which gave priests advice on what penance to give out when a couple strayed from “the missionary position”. Hands to naughty bits was generally the most minor offence, while oral sex was more taboo, and a guaranteed first-class ticket to hell was anal sex — “from behind like beasts” —which, over time, evolved into a capital offence.
On the subject of handbooks, it is generally believed that the first European sex manual was Speculum al foderiknown as The Mirror of Coitus, or popularly known at the time as “a mirror for fuckers”. This was a fifteenth century Catalan text which was discovered with great excitement by sweaty palmed academics in the 1970s.
In Pierre Payer’s 1985 book Sex and the Penitentials, he produces a wonderful chart showing when sex was technically allowed in the Middle Ages. You were not allowed to have intercourse when the wife was menstruating, pregnant, nursing, during holidays, Wednesdays (?), Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, in daylight, naked or in church. And, most importantly of all, sex was not for fun; if you did indulge it was only to conceive a child and absolutely, definitely, without any kissing.
The missionary position, despite its image of prudery, has been used since time began. The missionary position’s use appears in ancient pottery and in the art of early Greeks, Romans, Indians, Chinese and Japanese. The majority of the positions described in the Kama Sutra involve the woman lying on her back with her legs in a variety of positions.
Apparently the ancient Chinese preferred male-on-top because of their belief that males are born face down and women face up. But the Kagaba natives in Colombia preferred the missionary position because if the woman moved during intercourse, the earth would slip off the shoulders of the four giants who held it.
In Greece, the missionary position was very rarely used. As men tended to marry very young girls, typically only14 or 15 years of age, there tended to be a significant difference in height. Therefore, as illustrations on pottery of the time suggest, the rear-entry standing position was the way to go.
However, during the second century, the Greek philosopher and interpreter of dreams, Artemidos, praised the missionary position declaring it “the only proper and natural” position due to the flow of semen as well as affirming the domination of men over women.
Others who were adamant that the “missionary” way was the only way included Alexander of Hales (1185 – 1245) (a medieval scholastic and theologian, who suggested in his De secretis mulierum that non-missionary positions would result in birth defects) and Nicholas Venette (author of a late eighteenth century sex manual that praised the missionary position as the “common posture … which is most allowable and most voluptuous”.)
And it also appears that the missionary position is the one favored by armadillos.
A for Arm Pit
A fetish for armpits is known as maschalagnia and, although it is pretty weird, it is not as strange as it sounds. In 2007, The Journal of Neuroscience had an article in which scientists showed that male sweat contains a compound capable of heightening sexual arousal. It went by the rather snappy name of Androstadienone
A century earlier, the acclaimed French physician Charles Fere (1852 – 1907) describes a patient’s peculiar predilection in his book L’instinct Sexuel (1902):
It was twenty years ago, I used to hunt with a man already in his sixties, very healthy, without any apparent defects and whose family didn’t present any grave neuropathic traits. This man had the habit of pestering girls and women, sometimes even quite old women, in a manner that surprised me greatly. He attacked only women who worked in the fields, in short sleeved shirts. He would creep close enough to them so that he could put his hand in their armpit. Once he had achieved his goal, which baffled his victims, he would leave satisfied. But for a long time, he would lift his contaminated hand to his nose with an expression of rapt joy.
On asking him why he did such a thing. He answered me as though it was the most natural thing in the world. “It is a smell that resurrects me and makes Lazurus ready for a long bout”.
He then told me that when he was young, the women whose juices had the ripest scent were capable of inspiring him to perform amazing sexual exploits, and that during recent year they were the only ones who could give him an erection.
Is that why you always see small groups of furtive men in raincoats at the finish line of Women Marathons?