Sex In History Essay

1652 words - 7 pages

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.

Body parts
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, worshiped 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 India.

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 ostracised. 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 a rooster. Other common objects also had their names changed to make them more seemly: haycock turned into haystack, weathercock...

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