Log on to your computer, go to Google and type in the name of any civilization and the word “sexuality” into the internet and Google will return a multitude of results, from the garishly outrageous images from Pompeii to the more discrete Maya and Chinese. The Egyptians had erotica as did the sophisticated people of India, the inventors of Karma Sutra. Today’s youth seems to regard sexuality as a non-issue however, even just 20 years ago fights almost broke out in an auditorium during a speech I gave at school over gay rights. Humans have always been fascinated by our own sexuality and we have found various ways to represent that fascination. Hays-Gilpin states that rock art gives us a ...view middle of the document...
Gender studies can gain us further insights into social relationships and belief systems by interpreting and identifying the purpose and context in which art was created (Hays-Gilpin 2004).
History: Learning From the Past, or Did We?
Smith points out in his article that before the 1880’s there was no mention of sexuality in written texts possibly because we had no understanding of the term sexuality (Smith 2000). The current era’s classification of all people of one gender who have sex with others of the same gender as “homosexual” has its origin in the “medico juridical field of sexology” in the late nineteenth century (Voss 2008). Wilson explains that from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century historians thought of sexual acts are more of “an index of the moral status” for the higher class of various societies and cultures (Wilson 2003). Further, Smith states that sexuality is now a function of ideology and social manufacture that varies with place and time. Different cultures throughout history have had different concepts of sexuality (Smith 2000) and identifying what is sexual to a people in a different time and culture can be a challenge because what is seen as sexual in one culture may not be seen as sexual in a different culture- sexual images are fundamentally vague (Voss 2008).
Venus- How Lovely Is Thine Form
There has been a lot of mystery surrounding the Venus Figurines centering on the purpose of the Venus’s and who made them. I found three main theories on their purpose: pornography; the beginning of a sexual revolution; and women making the Venus’ in their own image. Regardless of theory, there has been a general consensus for caution in order to avoid misinterpretation of purpose and context.
Some believe the Venus Figurines could have been seen as more than just fertility charms and actually have been used for pleasure; essentially man’s first pornography, Kettlewell describes these figurines as on the same lines as a Playboy centerfold. Further, he claims that the Venus’ context: the material she is made out of; the red ochre she was painted with; her actual small physical size; her apparent, well fed size; her nakedness; her ambiguous and exaggerated features, all lead to the conclusion that the Venus figurines function is that of a erotic stimulant or sexual substitute. Kettlewell argues that the intellectual ability of the Venus makers is that of the typical readers of playboy today and he states that the making of these nude females could be considered the creation of human impulse (Kettlewell).
Voss states the exaggerated woman features of the goddess figurines could have encouraged early man to think about bodies in a “sexual way” and could have been from a period of sexual revolution; however, she also cautions that context is critical. Voss implores that not all objects that represent sex are erotic, there needs to be an understanding of who made the object and why, and the researcher needs to remember that the...