As we human beings have changed and evolved over
our thousands of years of recorded history so have our attitudes and
expressions of all things sexual. The only thing that hasn’t changed
much is society’s desire to exercise a certain amount of control over
an individual’s sexual behavior. Whether it be through church or
state, educational institutions or popular media of the time, there have
been rules and regulations, views and taboos about what we should do
sexually, how we should do it, who we should do it with and even how we
should think about doing it.
A particular area of interest, naturally, has been
the body and specifically those parts that are obviously connected with
sex. We’ve alternately hidden and displayed, worshipped and derided
male and female genitalia.
In most non-Christian cultures there were gods and
goddesses of power and fertility with exaggerated genitals. Some
cultures liked penis gods so much they had several, for instance the
ancient Greeks honored Priapus, Dionysus and Hermes. The Egyptians
exalted Osiris, Bacchus was the Roman version, and Shiva reigned in
Penis and, less commonly, vulva worship, were
practiced and this was reflected in objects connected with daily living.
Vases in classical Greece were decorated with phalluses. In the ruins of
Pompeii penis symbols were found just about everywhere, on bowls, lamps
and figurines. Pitchers with enormous penis spouts were a unique
specialty of the Mochica culture of Peru. The exteriors of medieval
Irish churches were adorned with sculptures of Shelah-na-Gig, a vulva
icon. In Egypt enormous symbols of penis power – the obelisk – were
erected all over the landscape. Smaller penis symbols in the form of
amulets and bracelets were worn as magical protection against evil in
ancient Rome. In fact, the English word ‘fascinate’ is derived from
‘fascinum’ the Latin word for these magic penis images.
Words describing body parts vary from culture to
culture and often reflect the attitudes we have about them. In India and
China the penis and vagina were approached with respect and awe. Terms
like Jade Flute, Arrow of Love, Ambassador, Warrior for the penis and
Valley of Joy, Ripe Peach, Lotus Blossom, Enchanted Garden for vagina
were used. In the English language however, words are much more likely
to be discourteous: dick, tool, meat, dong and pussy, crack, slit.
Cock and prick are two of the longest-standing
terms for penis in English. Prick was actually a pet name up until the
seventeenth century when times became much more prudish and prick
gradually became ostracized. Now it’s used not as a term of endearment
but of scorn. Cock, another penis word, comes from the name for the male
barnyard fowl but in the late seventeenth century uptight early
Americans were so offended by this that they began calling the bird
rooster. Other common objects also had their names changed to make them
more seemly: haycock turned into haystack, weathercock into weathervane,
and apricock into apricot. Yiddish slang words for penis include schlong,
putz and schmuck. Believe it or not in 1962 comedian Lenny Bruce was
arrested because he used the terms schmuck and putz in his act!
When it comes to penises, many cultures have
considered bigger to be better. But in classical Greece delicate and
small penises were the best. Big sex organs were thought to be ‘coarse
and ugly’. During this time young athletes worked out in the nude. As
protection for his private parts a man pulled his foreskin over the head
of his penis, tied it with a ribbon and then fastened the ribbon ends to
the base of the shaft. This precursor to the modern jock strap was known
as a dog knot.
Other means of protecting and, in most cases,
emphasizing the penis include codpieces, sheaths and even paper
sculptures. Codpieces, which are brightly colored and gaily ornamented
pouches for penis and testicles, were worn by Europeans over tight
breeches and under short jackets during the fourteenth through sixteenth
centuries. Protective and decorative penis sheaths were common among
primitive societies. Made out of everything from leather and vegetable
fibers to bamboo, gourds and shells these sheaths were the mainstay of a
man’s wardrobe. From the ninth to the twelfth centuries Japanese men
packaged their penises inside an animal shaped paper sculpture. This
practice was designed to increase sexual pleasure: the penis would take
on the qualities of the animal it was packed inside and the lovers would
then act out fantasies stirred up by the animal package.
LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH
Although we’ve been fascinated by and have
focused on our genitals since time began, in many cultures there has
paradoxically been a policy of look but don’t touch, at least not your
own. Self-pleasuring, or masturbation, has been vilified for a number of
reasons. For instance the Taoists in China condemned male masturbation
to the point of ejaculation as wasteful because too much ‘yin’ or
masculine energy would be lost with the expelled semen. The Christian
church raised masturbation to a level of damnable sin. Penitential books
published by the church during the eighth century, which outlined
proscribed sexual practices and their accompanying penalties, emphasized
masturbation over any other sexual offence.
From the eighteenth century onward doctors and
scientists joined in the battle against self-pleasuring. Leader of the
pack was Swiss physician Simon Andre Tissot who in 1758 preached that
masturbation would stimulate an increase in blood pressure in the head
thereby damaging the nervous system and causing insanity. Other doctors
quickly joined the battle, blaming masturbation for such ills as: acne,
backache, blindness, constipation, epilepsy, gout, infertility,
nymphomania and vomiting. These were not the opinions of a few quacks
but commonly held beliefs throughout western society.
From the 1850s until the 1930s thirty-three
patents were issued in the U.S. to inventors of anti-masturbation
devices. These painful and humiliating gadgets included such items as:
spermatorrhea bandages, which bound the penis so tightly to the body
that erection was not possible; a spike-lined ring which drove sharp
metal points into a penis that was becoming erect; sexual armour,
clothing with metal crotches which had holes through which urine could
escape but which had to be unlocked at the back for defecation; the
“Stephenson Spermatic Truss”, a pouch which tied the penis back and
down between the legs; and a harness which would ring an alarm and give
an electric shock when a penis attempted to enlarge! It wasn’t until
Alfred Kinsey, in his ground-breaking research about sex that began in
the 1930s, proclaimed that over 90 percent of men admitted to
masturbating at least once that attitudes began to relax.
Most likely because from the Neolithic period
(10,000 – 4,000 BC) up until the late 17th century it was believed
that men alone were responsible for producing children through the magic
of their semen, women ranked second in just about everything including
sex. Women were viewed as childbearers and as objects for male sexual
satisfaction. Often it was not the same woman who filled both roles.
In almost all cultures from ancient Egyptian,
Babylonian, Greek, Indian, Asian and on, women belonged to their fathers
when they were young and then to their husbands when they reached
marriageable age. Their behavior, particularly sexual, was most often
highly restricted. The ancient Hebrews stoned women to death for
adultery. Early Romans could kill their wandering women as well. Later
they were simply obliged to divorce them as were husbands in classical
Greece. Europeans kept their women from straying through the use of
chastity belts which first appeared there during the 12th century and
became quite popular during the 1400s and 1500s. Many chastity belts
were secured by padlocks, some had rigid metal bands which could be
tightened or loosened depending on the mood of the husband.
Ironically, it was female members of the so-called
‘oldest profession’, prostitution, who in many societies had a
certain amount of freedom and even influence. In Sumerian times (2,000
B.C.) prostitutes were respectable members of the temple. Through sex
with a sacred prostitute Sumerian worshippers paid homage to their gods.
Part of the prostitutes’ value was that their earnings contributed
substantially to the temples’ income. Temple prostitutes were common
in Greece and Rome, India, and even early Christian Europe. In Avignon,
France there was a church brothel where the women divided their time
between servicing clients and carrying out religious duties.
Top-level courtesans enjoyed a more liberated
status than other women during many eras, ancient Greece, Confucian
China, 15th century Rome, Louis’ France, and a few were able to become
very successful women in a man’s world. They often received better
education, had more social freedom and wielded influence in politics.
For as long as people have been engaging in sex
they’ve been inventing unique means of preventing it’s frequent
result: pregnancy. The most commonly used form of birth control over
thousands of years has been good old fashioned ‘coitus interruptus’
or pulling out before the explosion, but there have been many other most
interesting approaches. The precursors of modern birth control emerged
in Egypt about 300 B.C. There they used mechanical and chemical methods
that foreshadow modern diaphragms, cervical caps and spermicides. Their
versions included lint pads soaked in honey and acacia tips, and
crocodile dung compacted with auyt-gum, both to be inserted into the
vagina as a barrier to semen.
Some Romans of the 4th century decided that the
best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy was to diminish a wife’s desire
for sexual intercourse. Specific methods included: mouse dung liniment;
swallowing pigeon droppings mixed with oil and wine; or rubbing her
loins with the blood of ticks off a wild black bull.
Condoms began to come into their own during the
eighteenth century. They were usually made of sheep gut, or sometimes
fish skin and were originally introduced not for prevention of pregnancy
but as a protection against syphilis.
Finally, here are a few interesting tidbits of
• In the 1600s Christians who lived in Turkey
had to pay a tax. Tax collectors often required people to show their
circumcision in order to determine who was taxable.
• John Harvey Kellogg invented corn flakes in
1898 as part of his diet for decreasing sexual desire and masturbation.
• The first electrical dildo was sold in 1911.
• The term homosexuality is derived not from the
Latin homo, “man,” but from the Greek homos, meaning “the same”.
• During the 1920s many homosexuals were given
electric shock therapy to heal what was then considered a disease. It
wasn’t until 1973 that homosexuality was officially removed from the
American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders.
• Alfred Wolfram set the world kissing record in
1990 by kissing 8,001 women in 8 hours, that’s one kiss every six
• Wilt (the Stilt) Chamberlain is credited with
the most famous and well-used penis in sports history. He boasted of
having sex with over 20,000 women.
• Some male members of Australian tribes still
shake each other’s penis as a ritual greeting.
• More than 8,000 adult videos are produced
every year. That’s almost 22 per day!
• In 1999 over $4 billion was spent on phone
sex, but more than 50 percent of callers didn’t pay their 900 number
Al Link and Pala Copeland own and
operate 4 Freedoms Relationship Tantra. They regularly host Tantra
Sacred Loving weekends near Ottawa Canada, and weeklong retreats in
exotic locations around the planet. For more information call toll free
from Canada or USA: 1-800-684-5308 International long distance:
1-819-689-5308. Visit their website http://www.tantra-sex.com/
or send email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Their book, Soul Sex: Tantra for Two, is published by New Page Books,
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