Warning: this article is kind of about pornography. It's for grown-ups. And while none of the authors of the pages I've linked to would consider their pieces "adult", I would.
I recently read an article entitled 5 Ridiculous Sex Myths From History (You Probably Believe) published on the massive humor/entertainment site Cracked.com. Besides the occasional small factoid (Roman women used fennel as an abortive), there was really nothing new to me in the article. I say that not so much to laud my own historical knowledge, but to bemoan a social context that allows the children of the enlightenment to be so provincial and thoughtless that they could actually believe these things. Our people seem to think they discovered real sex. The Ridiculous Sex Myths were these:
- Victorians were repressed and sexless.
- Puritans were puritanical.
- Jews had sex through a sheet.
- Feudal lords could legally rape peasant wives (like in Braveheart).
- Contraception and knowledge of the female orgasm are new.
It takes an immense ignorance to believe the last one. Number four is excused as the general myopia that every age and society labor under. The third is stupid, but I tend to think anyone born after the Baby Boomers would dismiss it as an urban myth; 'cause we're all cynical and stuff. The last two are the most egregious examples of era-ism ( you like that? just made it up). I could go on for hours about it, but I just want to point out one blind spot that this massive modern myopia causes.
First, as a semi-aside, there were a couple of themes that emerged through the article, although not, I think, on purpose. The first is that life as a religious person seems to be full of the ol' slap-n-tickle, and is actually a little bawdy. The second theme is babies. People sure do love to f***, and they know it makes babies. In fact, it seems as if people wanted to make babies, not as a pseudonym for f***ing, but to actually make babies. And these two themes are not unconnected.
But onward to the point of this post!
So the very first item on the list, the myth that's serious enough to be included but is seen as the weakest, the one to be culled out first, is "Victorians were sexless and repressed." You can almost hear the writer winking at the reader, tossing him a gimme: "you and I know the Victorians weren't really repressed. We saw Sherlock Holmes. Besides, 1880 wasn't that long ago."
The proffered proof, I rejoice to tell you, that Victorians were not sexless and repressed, was this.
It's true that Victorians weren't exactly into halter tops and assless pants. In public, that is. In private, they made up for it by producing extraordinary amounts of porn. And not just any porn, but the type of porn that would make the most seasoned Internet deviant blush and cover their table legs. We're talking incest, rape, pedophilia, orgies, BDSM ... and that's the normal stuff.
We live in a sexually sophisticated society, right? Pornography can be a couples-friendly sex aid. More likely it is something the man does on his own time; as a hobby, like, and that's cool. The sophisticated wife, the polite wife, tolerates its presence. It's just part of living life in a non-repressed society!
The proof that Victorians were not sexless and repressed is that they consumed huge amounts of pornography?! We're being serious here? A vice that leaves me sweating alone in the dark, as opposed to frolicking with my mate, is supposed to not be "sexless"?
Pornography is everywhere in our society. Every class, every church, every pay grade. Where do the happy sexually liberated folk of our land think all this pornography comes from? (The foot fetish porn, the dominatrix porn, the goat porn, the kiddie porn) It comes from the alienation. From the aloneness. From the inability to express anything real to anyone through sex. It twists us up; it turns us in on our own darkness; it makes sex about power, lust, and weakness.
We're not doing sex right. If we can't express, it is we who are repressed.
Masturbation is the highest form of sex we have; it's what we dedicate all our sex art and craft to. So of course all other forms tend toward it, shaping themselves to it. It's that Alfred Kinsey idea that the orgasm, the getting off, is the be all. The apex of our age's sexual achievement leaves a man alone and a woman alone. Our age, and that man and that woman, don't even get to boast of being degenerate and indulgent.
The author of the 5 Ridiculous Myths makes fun of the idea that the female orgasm was a mystery in the West until recently, the idea that "until the rise of modern feminism, men pretty much used sex as an elaborate form of masturbation". But that way of sex is a historical reality, there has been a time and place where sex was used as an elaborate form of masturbation. It's happening right now.
There's no orgiastic degeneracy and indulgence. Nothing to boast about. As a society, we're a bunch of losers. One can only imagine what other generations will have to say about our sex lives. "They sure loved their porn."