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A History of Sex

And the evolution of the human condition

For many people, sex is something of a mystery, an obsession, highly pleasurable but also highly regulated. Some say that sex is a part of our primal nature and akin to the essence of life itself in part because every second, millions of cells are being born within our bodies.

Sex is elemental to life without which we would not exist. We turn to sex in the desire to breed, sharing joys, relieving sorrows and despite all the different moral codes around the world, and all ways of relating over our history, sex is not well understood and often badly performed.

Sex is one of the most obvious features of our dualistic world and apart from a few creatures able to reproduce without another sexual partner, almost all of life on earth is dependent on sexual reproduction for continued existence. If humans and most other species were to stop having sex, those species would become extinct within a very short time.

The real problem that humans have is that sex like so many other things, seems very confusing. It's not so much the sex that's confusing, its the societal attitudes and controls which confuses the minds of individuals making the acquisition and enjoyment of sex difficult. For anyone growing up in a society where sex is described as being sinful or even criminal outside of certain parameters, where there is no socialisation or learning of appropriate sexual behaviour, avoidance (fear) or antisocial sexual behaviours such as incest and rape increase.

Modern myths

In the book Sex at Dawn, the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality, renegade researchers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá debunk almost everything we “think we know” about sex and show how our promiscuous past haunts our current struggles regarding monogamy, sexual orientation, and family dynamics.

Weaving together convergent, often overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, Sex at Dawn shows how far from human nature sexual monogamy really is and unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.

The arrival of patriarchy

Anthropological evidence suggests that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era with social and technological developments such as agriculture and domestication. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE) the concept of fatherhood and male dominance took root marking the beginning of patriarchy which came to dominate civilisation.

Human nature

Men have an inbuilt biological drive to mate with any willing female and so pass on his seed. Women on the other hand have a similar inbuilt biological drive to mate but they prefer to do so with a male who has some acumen, some prowess or even dominance over other men in the community.

When we reduce sex to that base animalistic level, we are evolving in a process of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Such raw sex often involves male aggression and some innate desire within women to be subjugated to his service. In terms of relationship, the man is the hunter gatherer and the woman is the breeder and servant. Even within today's society, there are many woman who like to be possessed, to be owned and controlled. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the majority woman within Islam do not protest because in effect they are sex slaves and baby makers, subject to chastisement and some part of their nature enjoys that whereas many modern women like to have more control.

The vagaries of human nature are too many to list and while monogamy is thought of as being the ideal relationship, polygamy and polyandry exist to fulfil particular social needs in terms of relationships. Yet sex is not always about a long-term relationship, sex can be momentary because the fundamental role of sex is impregnation. Therefore like many animal species, the act of copulation may only last a few seconds while a modern ideal is prolonged indulgence.

You could say that the boundaries of sex have been well explored and perhaps even extended with the elevated status of homosexuality, incest and paedophilia. Even though incest and paedophilia are regarded as crimes in most countries, they along with the trafficking of sex slaves are becoming more common mostly due to population increase and opportunity. In terms of sex crimes and sexual misadventures, these have been shown to be reduced where factual sex education is provided but are more rampant where sex education is lacking.

In the ancient world, attitudes towards sex varied greatly. Across much of Asia and the Pacific, sex was a recreational pastime without many clear boundaries. There are many stories of early European sailors arriving to be greeted and promptly seduced by the younger women of the tribes.  At the time disease was virtually unknown though the Europeans bought sickness and death along with STD's which decimated communities ending an era of free love that may have endured for thousands of years.

In the story of Gilgamesh, we see an example of the harlot and how feminine sexuality was sacred and powerful in ancient times. Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s counterpart was taken out of the wilderness and through sexual relations with a temple harlot (priestess of Ishtar), he was elevated from a beast to a wise and sophisticated man worthy of city existence. Later on in the epic tale, Enkidu fell deathly ill from a wound he had gotten fighting the bull of heaven. Enraged and agitated from the pain he had been suffering for days, Enkidu cursed the name of the harlot because he (incorrectly) blamed her for his condition. He would ask his god, the sun god shamash, to make sure she slept in shit, only slept with her clients in places defiled by the vomit of drunkards, and never have a place to call her home. Instead of hearing and answering Enkidu’s prayers, he stops Enkidu and reminds him of all the wonderful things the harlot has done for him and how he would still be a wild animal drinking from the carcasses of dead sheep and wallowing in filth for all the days of his life if it weren't for her kindness and divine assistance.

It’s mind boggling to see how backwards patriarchal societies are. The work of a prostitute was deemed holy, sacred, life changing, vitally necessary, and revered and respected by the gods themselves. Now “whore” is used as an insult and the profession is looked down upon. How pitiful and ignorant we have become as a general society.

As Europe emerged from primitive tribalism to an agricultural society, the Greeks adopted a patriarchal culture whereby the women (wives) were expected to stay at home and remain sexually faithful to their husbands who were free to fornicate with anyone except another man's wife. Sex between men and boys was common as was sex with any unattached women.

The Romans generated the wealth and leisure to explore sex and take pleasures of the flesh to a whole new level. Oral sex was not on, in fact it was almost a crime but erotic art flourished. Homosexual relations between men was common with the person  of status and prestige taking the top penetrative. They also developed many potions and activities to maintain virility as much as men do today but like the Greeks, Roman wives were supposed to remain faithful to their husbands.

Mesopotamian depiction of beer and sex,
circa 2,000 BC. Israel Museum

Originally in the Christian church, priests were married as per the Jewish tradition, but from around 600 A.D. one of the popes who was perhaps a homosexual ordained that priests had to remain celibate and unmarried. This immediately led to an increase in homosexuality and paedophilia within the church.

Some of the Europeans were rather more pragmatic, they constructed brothels beside the churches for use by the clergy and parishioners. This was a lucrative business for the church and to ensure the church was full, the brothels were closed during services. It's reported that the German priest Martin Luther was invited to Rome at a time which coincided with the Pope's birthday. The highlight of the party was the invited priests and cardinals having an origie with dozens of young boys. Martin Luther was so horrified that when he went back to Germany, he expressed his criticism of the church which led to the Reformation and Protestantism.

Sex is the greatest pleasure

When something goes wrong in life, adults seek consolation is each other and this often turns to sex. Conversely, when celebrating, sex is the icing on the cake, the grand finale, coup de grace to suffering and the pleasure to restore harmony and joy.

Sexual pleasure as much as any other pleasure drives civilisation and there are many who will risk all for pleasure. Some chase money and power because power and money attracts sexual partners which is a primary human desire.

The bottom line is that promiscuity has been the norm whereas monogamy is a social adaptation to circumstances within a limited gene pool from which to choose.

Links:
Hollywood paedophiles
Paedophiles run the government
Links referred to in the paedophilia video
Sex at Dawn
Marriage is Not a Social Prescription

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3 comments to A History of Sex

  • Mike Hedge

    hey y’know it seems we’ve gone from squirting over eggs like the fishes to the deliciousness of penetrative intercourse and now we’re headed for test tubes and artificial breeding cos were getting incapable

  • Effie

    Hey I’n not sure f the relevance but before the arrival of the 20th century, few people ever wore knickers. Some wore layers of undergarments but most women were easy access despite the skirts

  • Rosemarie Randall

    A fascinating discussion and worthy of comment. I think that you need to publish more on this subject matter, it might not be a taboo subject but usually folks don’t discuss such topics. Cheers!!

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