Some of History’s Scariest Sex Facts
October is Halloween themed! That means it’s time to shiver. For the sex positive activist it can often be tempting to look at attitudes towards sex and relationships around the world with a degree of despair. However the very fact that sex positivity is a movement that exists and is thriving shows just how far we’ve come as a society.
Attitudes towards sex are changing for the better (especially in the western world) and slowly but surely things are improving. Don’t believe us? Just take a look back. By exploring some of history’s scariest sex facts it becomes apparent just how far we’ve managed to come in recent years.
It has been speculated that Cleopatra had a rather unconventional form of masturbation involving bees and a gourd. Apparently the ancient ruler used to take a colony of bees and place them in to a gourd, making them angry enough to buzz around furiously inside of the gourd. She would then apply this gourd to her clitoris as a sort of make-shift vibrator.
Although undeniably inventive we can’t help but think of how badly things could have gone should that gourd have ever broken or the bees escaped in some ways. A swarm of angry bees swarming arounds one’s vulva sounds like something from a horror movie!
Back in the 18th and 19th century a diagnosis of Syphilis (a bacterial infection that we now treat with a short dose of antibiotics) was tantamount to a slow and painful death sentence. But oftentimes it was uncertain whether this was due to the disease itself or its supposed ‘cure’.
Before major breakthroughs in medicine were made doctors used some rather risky treatments methods to try and cure the disease. One such method was mercury. Mercury has horrific effects on the body—causing neuropathies, kidney failure, and severe mouth ulcers, loss of teeth, and death. In fact even at the time the treatment’s risks were infamous enough to popularize the cautionary phrase ‘A night with Venus, and a lifetime with mercury’.
It’s a rather well-known fact nowadays that the first vibrators were invented in the 19th century to help doctors treat female patients suffering from a condition known as ‘female hysteria’. This hysteria was essentially sexual frustration, as women’s needs were not being met at home. As such when a doctor would ‘treat’ this condition he was basically bringing her to orgasm before sending her off until the hysteria inevitably returned. Talk about a hands-on treatment!
For many the invention of the early vibrator and its link to female hysteria has led to the condition being seen in a positive (and sometimes even amusing) light. However many people neglect to mention the fact that the worst cases of hysteria were actually treated with forced asylum admissions. Time spent in these asylums would involve involuntary electric shock sessions, surgical procedures, and sometimes even hysterectomies. While many savvy women were undoubtedly using the asylum system to gain free room, board, and orgasms, others suffered horribly in the name of ‘science’.
Not-So Special K
Many people love a bowl of delicious Corn Flakes and milk in the morning, but the origins of this cereal are not as innocent as its box would imply. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of Corn Flakes, was actually a very strict anti-sex Christian who linked sex to many of society’s ills and considered masturbation to be an abhorrent sin and the cause of many sicknesses of the mind and body.
Alongside this belief Dr. Kellogg theorized that meat and spicy food inflamed a person’s passions and so advised that a devout Christian avoid any flavoursome food. Corn Flakes were made as part of this initiative and were meant to help reduce sexual desire through their bland taste. Dr. Kellogg also encouraged parents to shame their children, subjecting them to forced chastity, and even to perform circumcisions and clitorectomies on those who had been caught masturbating (without pain killers, of course), and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. Perhaps it’s time to change cereal brands.
A Cultural Split
In the Gulf of Carpentaria the Lardil people of Mornington Island, Queensland, had a rather peculiar rite of passage for anyone who wanted to learn their ritualistic dialect. In order to gain the right to learn the language adolescent boys had to go through a penile subincision. This involved the underside of the penis being cut and the urethra slit open lengthwise. The Lardil people believed this would liken the penis to the vulva and would even engage in ritual bloodletting in a semi-replication of menstruating.
It was only when this incision was completed that young initiatives could gain the right to the ceremonial language of Damin. In modern times we should perhaps be grateful that the language has now died out—as no penis-slicing has occurred in the area for half a century. However many other indigenous cultures still practice this strange ritual, showing that sometimes there really is a cultural split at play as well as a historical divide.
A Legal Lifetime
Yes, we’ve come a long way in recent years, but we’re also not that far from our own scary sex facts. For example did you know that same-sex sexual activity was only made legal in the UK in 1967? Meanwhile same sex marriage has only just been permitted by the US and UK last year!
Even more horrific, the act of ‘Miscegenation’—known as the marital union of individuals of different race—was considered taboo from 1691 onwards and remained illegal in some states until 1967. That’s less than 50 years ago. Less than a life-time!
What Can We Learn From These Historical Horror Stories?
As this article has shown there have been many horrifying practices when it comes to the history of sex but perhaps the most unsettling is just how close our own time is from laws and acts that we would now consider to be unthinkable.
So hold on to these historical horror stories and use them as a motivational tool as you continue your own personal endeavours to champion sex and love. Together we can move away from adding any more terrifying tales for the history books.