Sunday, May 06, 2007

Blame it on Barry White...

I don't often post about sex, an odd thing considering how much of my published work has touched on the subject, but this was too good to pass up.

Penis snatchers. It is perhaps a poor tribute to my maturity that the term alone provokes evil little snickers that some might confuse with man-hating glee. It's not that at all, of course, just a momentary surprised amusement at the very concept that people once believed that women were out to snatch men's penises.

Then, one remembers Freud's theory of penis envy and the sway it held well into the twentieth century. It isn't that surprising at all, is it? The bread kneaded by a woman's buttocks is far more surprising, at least.

For centuries, men were considered the very center of sexuality. Women weren't supposed to want or like sex, but were, of course, supposed to be perfectly serviceable in ensuring a man's arousal and satisfaction. Sex was a surrender to wifely duty, nothing more. The very idea of a lesbian was unthinkable, because female sexuality simply did not exist in the absence of a man. This myth saved many a lesbian charged with sexual crimes. (There really should be an evil laugh here.)

In the Victorian era, the frustrated female sex drive (which couldn't be fully satisfied in a world where female sexuality was believed non-existent) was often "treated" medically as "hysteria." Treatment involved a doctor using a "dildo" or later, an electric vibrator on the woman's genitals until she reached "paroxysm." Women actually went to the doctor for this. Really. For a Victorian woman, expecting her husband to satisfy her or even admitting she had that need would have been unladylike and, in the culture of the day, a bit whorish. So, instead, she got all of her paroxysms from the friendly family physician. (My theory is that this is where women's obsession with doctors began.)

Incomprehensible to those of us raised in the post-Sexual Revolution era, but true nonetheless and rearing its ugly head still today in far less overt ways. So, while reading this rather interesting review of the history of impotence, keep in mind that men were at least permitted sexual desire and satisfaction.


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