[Paleopsych] The Times: Put what where? 2, 000 years of bizarre sex advice

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Put what where? 2,000 years of bizarre sex advice

    Put what where? 2,000 years of bizarre sex advice
    Tight corsets cause nymphomania, orgasms can kill and wasps are a
    turn-on. John Naish looks at the top sex tips over the ages

    Mating. Reproduction. Nothing is more crucial to humanity's survival,
    so it would be logical to expect us to have got it sussed early in our
    evolution. But since the start of civilisation, the fundamentals of
    human sex -- where to put it, how and when -- have been absurdly
    confused by a parade of moralists, pundits and visionaries all
    claiming to know the magic secrets and only too happy to pass them on
    at a very reasonable price.

    Just as every generation thinks that it invented sex, we also think we
    invented lovemaking manuals, or at least based them on a few
    prototypes such as the Kamasutra and Marie Stopes's 1918 Married Love.
    But today's maelstrom of books, videos and DVDs has a far richer, more
    twisted heritage than that.

    The tradition of bestselling love guides goes back to the Ancient
    Chinese. Our earliest known manuals were first written in 300BC and
    buried in a family tomb at Mawangdui, in Hunan province. Recent
    translation reveals the timeless nature of the subjects they tackled.

    Written as Cosmo coverlines, they would look like this: Four Seasons
    of Sex -- and Why Autumn is Hot, Hot, Hot; Wild New Positions; Tiger
    Roving, Gibbon Grabbing and Fish Gobbling; Aphrodisiacs to Keep You Up
    All Night!Plus Exclusive! Your Love Route to Immortality.

    As ever, it was all nonsense: home-made Viagra recipes involved
    ingredients such as beetle larvae, wasps and dried snails. The books
    also promised that any man who had sex with a different virgin every
    night for 100 nights without ejaculating would live for ever (albeit
    rather uncomfortably).

    These odd beginnings set a trend: weird tips from strange authors,
    many of whom became manual martyrs. Ovid, the Roman poet, advised
    women on the best positions to suit their bodies in his poem Ars
    Amatoria. For example: "If you are short, go on top/If you're
    conspicuously tall, kneel with your head turned slightly sideways."
    The prudish Emperor Augustus banished poor Ovid to a chilly outpost of
    empire (a small town on the Black Sea in modern Romania).

    Medieval European sex advice followed the strait-laced trend: most of
    it said "don't". Pleasure paved Hell's roads and misogynistic manuals
    such as De Secretis Mulierum (The Secrets of Women) claimed that
    females used sex to drain men of their power and that some hid sharp
    shards of iron inside themselves to injure innocent lovers.

    A technological breakthrough in the Renaissance put us back on our
    lascivious tracks. The printing press enabled publishers to churn out
    dodgy books faster than the Church authorities could ban them. Readers
    were treated to gems such as Mrs Isabella Cortes's handy hint from
    1561 that a mixture of quail testicles, large-winged ants, musk and
    amber was perfect for straightening bent penises. The era also brought
    us the earliest recorded recommendation of slippers as a sex aid
    ("Cold feet are a powerful hindrance to coition," warned Giovanni
    Sinibaldi in his 1658 book Rare Verities.) But to find history's
    oddest advisers, we must look to the Victorians and Edwardians.
    William Chidley, for example, believed that he could best promote his
    ideas by walking around in a toga. Chidley, an Australian, advised
    readers in his 1911 pamphlet The Answer that heavy clothing caused
    erections, which would lead to sexual overexcitement, illness and
    death, as well as being "ugly things" of which "we are all ashamed".

    He urged people to live on fruit and nuts and to practise a method of
    flaccid intercourse apparently based on horses' sex lives. Yet it
    wasn't his ideas that got him repeatedly arrested, but his silk toga,
    which the authorities thought indecent. After his death, supporters
    continued propounding his theories into the 1920s.

    For the ultimate proof that you don't need relevant qualifications to
    become a world expert, we turn to Marie Stopes. She was married and in
    her late thirties when she wrote one of Britain's most enduring sex
    guides, Married Love. But she was also a virgin.

    Stopes was inspired by her betrothal to Reginald "Ruggles" Gates, who,
    she told a divorce court, had failed ever to become "effectively
    rigid". When Married Love hit the shelves early in 1918 it outsold the
    bestselling contemporary novels by a huge margin. By 1925, sales had
    passed the half-million mark.

    Stopes was a fan of Hitler's eugenics and arrogant enough to offer
    Rudyard Kipling and George Bernard Shaw advice on writing. Her main
    sex-manual innovation was a theory that women have a "sex tide" of
    passion that ebbs and flows on a fortnightly basis -- and woe betide
    the man who didn't understand this. In case her second husband, the
    manufacturing magnate Humphrey Verdon Roe, got it wrong, she made him
    sign a contract releasing her to have sex with other men.

    So that's our sexual forebears, a weird lot with funny ideas. Compared
    with them we might appear at the zenith of sexual enlightenment. Our
    age is remarkable for the sheer volume of sex advice being consumed:
    one woman in four now owns a sex manual, says a survey by the
    publishers Dorling Kindersley. Everyone from porn stars to the
    car-manual firm Haynes has one out. Well, I wonder. In 50 years' time,
    I foresee the students at a university faculty of s exual semiotics
    studying the early Twenty-Ohs with the same mirth, incredulity and
    horror that shake us when we consider our ancestors' obsessions.
    Perhaps they will wonder why we bought so many manuals, videos and
    DVDs but seemed to have so little time or energy left for sex. Maybe
    they will link our obsession with orgasms to our endless need to go
    shopping. They might also connect our avid consumption of sex advice
    to our growing terror of personal embarrassment and "getting it
    wrong". They may even have a name for us; perhaps the erotic

    Put What Where? Over 2,000 Years of Bizarre Sex Advice, by John Naish
    (HarperElement £9.99), is available from Times Books First at £9.49
    p&p free. Call 0870 1608080 or visit

    Wisdom of the ancients

    How to pull
    "Pick the woman's worst feature and then make it appear desirable.
    Tell an older woman that she looks young. Tell an ugly woman that she
    looks `fascinating'." Philaenis, papyrus sex manual (2BC)

    Go blondes!
    "All women are lascivious but auburn blondes the most. A little
    straight forehead denotes an unbridled appetite in lust." Giovanni
    Sinibaldi, Rare Verities: the Cabinet of Venus Unlock'd (1658)

    Buns and corsets cause nymphomania
    "Constricting the waist by corsets prevents the return of blood to the
    heart, overloads sexual organs and causes unnatural excitement of the
    sexual system. The majority of women follow the goddess Fashion and so
    also wear their hair in a heavy knot. This great pressure on their
    small brains produces great heat and chronic inflammation of their
    sexual organs. It is almost impossible that such women should lead
    other than a life of sexual excess." Dr John Cowan, The Science of a
    New Life (1888)

    On the other hand . . .
    "The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled
    with sexual feelings of any kind." Dr William Acton, Functions and
    Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1858)

    Indian enlargement
    "Rub your penis with the bristles of certain insects that live in
    trees, and then, after rubbing it for ten nights with oils, rub it
    with the bristles as before. Swelling will be gradually produced. Then
    lie on a hammock with a hole in it and hang the penis through the
    hole. Take away the pain from the swelling by using cool concoctions.
    The swelling lasts for life." Kamasutra, translated by Sir Richard
    Burton and F. F. "Bunny" Arbuthnot (1883)

    Climaxes can kill
    "Fainting, vomiting, involuntary urination, epilepsy and defecation
    have occurred in young men after first coitus. Lesions of various
    organs have taken place. In men of mature age the arteries have been
    unable to resist the high blood pressure and cerebral haemorrhage with
    paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse
    with young wives or prostitutes has caused death." Havelock Ellis,
    Psychology of Sex: a Manual for Students (1933)

    How often?
    "The ordinary man can safely indulge about four times a month. More
    than that would be excess for a large majority of civilised men and
    women." Lyman B. Sperry, Confidential Talks with Husband and Wife: a
    Book of Information and Advice for the Married and Marriageable (1900)

    Single-handed signs
    "Look at the habitual masturbator! See how thin, pale and haggard he
    appears; how his eyes are sunken; how long and cadaverous is his cast
    of countenance; how irritable he is and how sluggish, mentally and
    physically; how afraid he is to meet the eye of his fellow, feel his
    damp and chilling hand, so characteristic of great vital exhaustion."
    Dr Henry Guernsey, Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects (1882)

    Never marry these women
    "Redheads. Any girl named after a mountain, a tree, a river or a bird.
    Ones with rough hands or feet. Ones who sigh, laugh or cry at meals.
    Any girl with inverted nipples, a beard, uneven breasts, flap ears,
    spindle legs or who is scrawny. Girls whose big toes are
    disproportionately small. Girls who make the ground shake when they
    walk past." Koka Shastra, The Indian Scripture of Koka (12th century)

    And, if you can't find it, don't worry
    "The clitoris, while important, is not nearly as important as many of
    us have been taught or led to believe." Edward Podolsky, Sex Technique
    for Husband and Wife (1947)

    But whatever you do ...
    "Never fool around sexually with a vacuum cleaner." Dr Alex Comfort,
    The Joy of Sex (1972)


    John Naish will be available on Times Online to answer your questions
    on his book. Send your e-mails to him and read the answers [4]here


    4. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,616,00.html

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