marnanel: (Default)
While looking through back issues of the Times for etymological citations, I discovered a rather strange classified ad for 23rd May 1786:


"This day is published, price 1/6, a letter to John Hunter Esq., FRS, [...] respecting his treatise on the venereal disease; shewing him to be highly erroneous in his observation of impotence, and more particularly pointing out the absurdity and immorality of his doctrine in favour of onanism or masturbation. By Duncan Gordon, MD."
 
Of course, I went to find out what Dr Hunter had said. Earlier that year, he had published a book about venereal disease, which made some shocking claims: masturbation is generally harmless, and the worst thing you can do is worry about it.

"OF IMPOTENCE: This complaint is by many laid to the charge of Onanism at an early age; but how far this is just, it will in many cases be difficult to determine; for upon a strict review of this subject, it appears to me to be by far too rare to originate from a practice so general.

How far the attributing to this practice such a consequence, is of public utility, I am doubtful, particularly as it is followed most commonly at an age when consequences are not sufficiently attended to, even in things less gratifying to the senses; but this I can say with certainty, that many of those who are affected with the complaints in question are miserable from this idea and it is some consolation for them to know that it is possible it may arise from other causes.

I am clear in my own mind that the books on this subject have done more harm than good. I think I may affirm that this act in itself does less harm to the constitution in general than the natural. That the natural with common women, or such as we are indifferent about, does less harm to the constitution than where it is not so selfish, and where the affections for the woman are also concerned.

Where it is only a constitutional act it is simple, and only one action takes place; but where the mind becomes interested, it is worked up to a degree of enthusiasm, increasing the sensibility of the body and disposition for action; and when the complete action takes place it is with proportional violence; and in proportion to the violence is the degree of debility produced, or injury done to the constitution. In the cases of this kind that have come under my care, although the persons themselves have been very ready to suppose that the disease arose from the cause here alluded to; yet they did not appear to have given more into the practice than common; and in particular, the worst case I have ever seen was where but very little of this practice had ever been used, much less less than in common among boys or lads. The only true objection to this selfish enjoyment is the probability of its being repeated too frequently."

Hardly surprising that it raised a furore!

marnanel: (Default)
"Mikrokosmographia" by Helkiah Crooke (1576-1635) was the first book in English to use the word "clitoris". Oddly, there's not much of the book online [edit: there's a blog!] But here's page 238, where he explains about orgasms, lesbians, and squirting. I've modernised the spelling a bit.

"Although for the most part it hath but a small production hidden under the Nymphes [==labia], and hard to be felt but with curiosity, yet sometimes it groweth to such a length that it hangeth without the cleft like a man's member, especially when it is fretted with the touch of the cloaths, and so strutteth and groweth to a rigidity as doth the yard of a man. And this part it is which those wicked women do abuse called Tribades (often mentioned by many authors, and in some states worthily punished) to their mutual and unnatural lusts.

The use of this part is the same with the bridle of the yard [==the frenulum of the penis]; for because the Testicles of the women [==ovaries] are far distant from the yard [==penis] of the man, the imagination is carried to the spermatical vessels by the motion and attrition of this Clitoris, together with the lower ligatures of the womb, whose original [==the cervix] toucheth, cleaveth and is tied to the leading vessels of the seed. And so the profusion of their seed is stirred up for generation, for which business it was not necessary it should be large. Wherefore although by this passage their seed is not ejaculated, yet by the attrition of it their imagination is wrought to call that out that lieth deeply hidden in the body, and hence it is called "aestrum Veneris" & "dulcedo amoris". For in it with the ligaments inserted into it is, the especial seat of delight in their veneral embracements, as [Renaldus] Columbus imagineth he first discovered.

For Nature [...] hath given to all creatures both the instruments of conception, and hath also infused into them a strange and violent kind of delight, that none of the kinds of the creatures should perish but remain ever (after a sort) immortal. And truly it was very necessary that there should be a kind of pleasant force or violence in the Nature of mankind to transport him out of himself, or beside himself as it were, in the act of generation; to which otherwise (being master of himself) he would hardly have been drawn; which ecstasy (for it is called a little epilepsy, or falling sickness) is caused by the touch of the seed upon the nervous and quick-sensed parts as it passeth by them."
marnanel: (Default)
Q: How does the term 'dolorous stroke' fit into the stories surrounding the search for the Holy Grail?

Answer (by me):

The Dolorous Stroke was when Sir Balin stabbed King Pelles in the genitals with a spear. This was even more unfortunate than it sounds, because the spear had also been used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion, and was therefore magic, and Bad Things begin to happen.

Pelles becomes unable to have sex, and he is therefore unable to have a son to be the next king. However, he has a daughter named Elaine, and he decides he'll use her sexuality instead.

Elaine has been trapped in a bath of boiling water by a sorceress. Sir Lancelot arrives, being all heroic, and gets her out of the bath, "naked as a needle" as Malory puts it. Pelles and Elaine get Sir Lancelot drunk, and Elaine uses her magic ring (honestly) to trick Lancelot into having sex with her. "Wit you well that Sir Launcelot was glad, and so was that lady Elaine that she had gotten Sir Launcelot in her arms." says Malory.

Next morning, Lancelot is angry because he thinks his strength depended on his being a virgin. I have no idea why-- girl cooties or something. Elaine then "skips out of bed all naked" (Malory is getting quite excited here) to tell Lancelot that she's pregnant. Pregnancy tests have evidently become less quick and reliable since the days of King Arthur.

Lancelot jumps out of the window and runs off. Nine months later, Elaine bears a son, Galahad, who has the same hangups about virginity as his father, and is insufferably priggish in every version I've read.

Elaine then vanishes from the narrative, since she's just a plot element. I would have said that the story was only interested in you if you have a penis, but then again there's Pelles.

Anyway, Pelles is frustrated and sad and infertile, and because of the magic, the kingdom starts becoming frustrated and sad and infertile as well. So Pelles has nothing to do except sit outside his castle fishing, and holding on to his long wooden rod all day. This is why Pelles is called the Fisher King.

When Galahad grows up, he becomes a Knight of the Round Table, and goes in search of the Grail along with all the others. Guess what? Pelles was actually looking after it the whole time. Lancelot and Galahad both find it, but Galahad gets to keep it because he's a virgin.

Now we find out why Pelles wanted Galahad to be conceived:

Galahad finds the same spear as before, which is now bleeding. He cures Pelles by thrusting the spear into the wound between his legs. No, seriously. Suddenly Pelles is no longer sad and frustrated, and the land becomes fertile again, and everyone's happy. But Galahad is still totally a virgin, of course.

(Bear in mind that these stories have been told over and over again for a thousand years, and the details change in the telling. Sometimes it's Percival rather than Galahad who finds the grail, for example.)
marnanel: (Default)
Sex advice from days gone by, according to an old book I have from the 1950s. It's alarming to think that this was being presented by medical professionals as fact. TW for possible mention of rape.

scan of book, text below

"...The main difference is that with boys the sexual urge awakes spontaneously together with the beginning of the function of the testicles. Not so with girls: the woman's sexuality remains dormant until it is awakened by a man. Not by any man, but by the right one, and many a woman grows up, becomes the mother of children, and still remains a Sleeping Beauty. A normal girl whose physical urge has not been brutally stirred up need not and does not masturbate at any time in her life. Masturbation with women is always abnormal. This is not a pious postulate, but a fact; women say they are not interested in it, it means nothing to them, they truly dislike the idea..."
marnanel: (Default)
I wish Bible translators would avoid double entendre. Two cases in point:

Psalm 16:11. The Episcopal psalter renders this as: "in your right hand are pleasures for evermore."
Luke 18:5. The NIV renders it as: "because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming."

I suppose I have a dirty mind, but it's really, really distracting, at least to me. I stop thinking about the text and start thinking about the double entendre instead.

Edit: After I posted this, I thought of a case where I've seen translators deliberately duck such a misreading: Luke 11:7. The Greek has the man saying his children are *with him* in bed. This is open to misinterpretation in our cultural context, so different from the original context where a household might only own one bed. As you can see in http://bible.cc/luke/11-7.htm there are translations which work around this by saying "My children and I are in bed"; I'd be surprised if this wasn't a conscious choice to depart slightly from the Greek.
marnanel: (Default)
I am reading a Utah website reporting on the fact that the Cambridge Union has decided that this house believes that porn is a good thing. One of the commenters says:
I would like to invite all members of Cambridge [University] to view porn on a regular basis and see how long their marriages/meaningful relationships last. It is a university after all: time to test the hypothesis.
Do you know, I think this experiment may possibly be already underway...

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