July, 2016 Archive

Sexuality in Fashion: When Men Were Peacocks

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Some time ago my kids and I were visiting a park where the peafowl ran free. I say peafowl because peacocks are only the males of the species; peahens are the females. It was spring so many brilliantly trained peacocks seemed to be everywhere that day, ready to impress. They strutted around with tails fanned out, giving them a shivering shake every now and then, as the smaller neutral feathered peahens seemed to be going about their business nonplussed. Several moms were standing with us in an open field watching nature’s show when I noticed some mom’s referring to the peacocks as “she” and “her.” It seemed they thought the courting male fowl to be female.

It’s always frustrating for me when I hear parents give their children misinformation instead of just saying, “I don’t know” then seeking out the right info. Dare I say something and correct these women in front of their children?

I couldn’t help myself. I had to. For science.

When I pointed out the fanciful birds were indeed male, they were surprised. It was strange to them that the female would be dull colored and the male so extravagantly plumaged. Because I couldn’t shut my mouth at that point, I also pointed out that pretty much the entire animal kingdom is set up that way. I eventually wound up explaining that males are colorful to help attract a mate and females are camouflaged to protect them, important vessels of procreation as they are, from predators. What I didn’t get to is that men have also been peacocks in our past, we just don’t remember. I’m not just talking about the swinging 60’s, the glam 80’s or even the metrosexual new millennium. Men centuries ago have had periods where they rocked wigs, highish heels, makeup, and fanciful dress. These were mostly affluent nobles but a rising merchant class meant the middle-income crowd could also indulge in fanciful fashion.

For most of ancient times, men and women dressed pretty much the same. In the 15th and 16th century, dress in the upper class becomes more elaborate. By the Tudor and Elizabethan time period men are slashed, puffed, sporting thigh high pumpkin hose and stockings. Then the 17th century arrived. Noblemen and aristocrats begin a journey into ostentatious display the likes of which we have rarely seen. The elaborate jewel pearl encrusted Elizabethan era becomes the sumptuous fabrics and ornate lace collars of the Jacobean era. Men are all about the ruff but not in the curled shaped upright ruff, instead, it’s wide, flat and made with exquisitely edged lace. There are even fancy lace cuffs appearing at the sleeves. The leg coverings saw short breeches descend from their height at the thigh, to knee length and full, then relaxing to a more natural form. Sashes and fancy garter ties are now all the rage. The heeled shoe makes its appearance, as does the high-topped boot that soars to such height it become fashionable to have them hang and sag around your calves.

As we head into the 17th and 18th centuries, men are wigged out, wearing makeup, high-heeled, and looking fabulous. Early 17th century Jacobean moves to the jaunty mid-century Cavalier, made popular by the Three Musketeers movies. Cavalier brings long curled locks, fancy long poufy sleeve peeking out from the end of coat sleeves, longer more elaborate coats, ribbon loops, the birth of the cravat and Jabot as neckwear, and petticoat breeches which were so wide they often looked like short skirts.

It culminates with the Restoration era where long curly locks are replaced by bigger long curly wigs, garter ties with bows become festooned with ribbon loops, jackets bloom with more ribbon loops, hats grow wider brims and longer feathers, shoes are heeled with fancily decorated as are the ever widening cuffs. Makeup becomes popular, mostly to hide scars due to smallpox along with the use of beauty patches that also help to cover scars. If you’ve ever seen The British Fops Lucien Callow and Fagan on Saturday Night Live, this is what they were making fun of. The Restoration era is the Fops heyday.

Dandy fashions continue into the rococo period to the early 18th century, but with fewer ribbon loops. The last stand of men’s fashionable extravagance, at least until the 1960s, would be the “macaroni” of the mid 18th century. Trendy men’s court fashion becomes its most metrosexual until it calms down to a more sedate dandyism spearheaded by Beau Brummel. Men’s fashion would become increasingly dull and drab as attitudes towards masculine dress become more rigid in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It’s interesting to note that the times that men are letting their peacock flags fly, are when sexual mores are more relaxed. The renaissance saw an increased acceptance of sex for pleasure, although usually within the confines of marriage. While cheating had to be kept on the down low, mistresses and boys on the side start to become more apparent in the literature of the time. The 17th and 18th centuries find the aristocracy enjoying what seems like a great deal of sexual freedom. Men marry to procreate and pass their fortunes and titles onto their progeny while pursuing mistresses and courtesans for pleasure. There is a sense that men flirted more and sex was more acceptable.

The 18th century is a time where a more modern attitude towards sex takes root. When sex gets tightly buttoned up in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (19th to early 20th century) men’s dress becomes less ornate. During the sexual revolution of the 60s, we see the return of the dandy and a blurring of the gender lines in fashion. It makes me wonder if the absence of the metrosexual in preference for the more conservatively adorned hipsters has something to do with the current clash of sexual identity. Only time with tell. I’m hoping the peacocks return to parade and shake their stuff again.

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History of the Sex Doll: The Era of Plastic

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By Dollfriend (here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dollfriend (here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I remember seeing ads in my younger days for sex dolls. The photos always showed a very realistic looking woman that seemed to hint that this doll would be incredibly life like. You too can have your very own sexy maid or luscious girlfriend. Even back then I knew this couldn’t be possible since most of the blow up dolls I had seen were less than life like pieces of plastic. Even today, blow-up dolls based on famous porn stars have a misleading real photo on the box. When you see what they look like inflated, thanks to a handy site that inflated them and posted pics, there is much room for interpretation. The disclaimer by the manufacturers often states that the doll is based on the model show in the photos. (There isn’t even fine print to tell you that most of the time) We’ve progressed too much more life like dolls since those early days but the simple inflatable doll that barely looks human is still sold and enjoyed by their purchasers. Science helped us go from cloth and leather to rubber then vinyl starting in the mid 19th century

Vinyl and plastic have not been around for very long if you consider how long humans have populated the earth. Rubber has been around for a while but before the advent of vulcanization, it quickly became brittle and would gum up if heated. Around the 1840s, the process of vulcanization was developed paving the way for a more versatile and long lasting material. There is very little information to be found about early sex dolls made out of rubber. Iwan Bloch wrote about sex dolls in 1908, stating they were made out of rubber and other plastic materials, in both female and male form, and that some were made more true to life with the ability to simulate vaginal lubrication and even ejaculation.

Sarah Valverde’s thesis makes mention of an ad in a 1902 Paris circular that was translated by Henry Carey about a custom made doll. It suggests that they were capable of making something quite close to nature. I couldn’t find the source material for this but this is what is quoted in the thesis: “All moves, arms, legs, buttocks, head, eyes; a perfect likeness of the person whose photograph is sent…the complete apparatus, guaranteed against breakage, man or woman, 3000 francs”

I’d love to see how close this perfect likeness was. I’m thinking it may not be as life like as we see with modern love dolls.

Polyvinyl chloride was discovered in the 1870’s. Vinyl or PVC in its plasticized form is lightweight and flexible. It’s also cheaper than rubber, latex or silicone and allows the doll to be inflated. The blow-up doll was born. It’s hard to know how early vinyl blow-up dolls were created since the Comstock Law made it illegal to advertise or send via mail anything of a sexual nature. In 1968, the law had lost its last foothold and we start to see the first ads. Blow-up dolls can be made of welded vinyl or latex, which was invented in 1920. These dolls barely look human with simply shaped arms and legs that often don’t have fingers or toes. The head is often just a bulbous shape with a wide-open mouth lined for your pleasure, although not all of them have an open mouth. The doll will also have one or two other orifices for vaginal and/or anal penetration. The breasts will often have nipples painted on but very little else adorns the body. A head of hair can be painted on or can be just a crude wig. They usually don’t last long as they pop after repeated use. Ads in the 70’s and 80’s show dolls that can be ordered with different color hair and sometimes even different hairstyles to suit the customer’s tastes.

The porn star dolls have been around for a long time and often take a very active imagination to see any similarities. I couldn’t find any information on the very first porn star dolls although the Linda Lovelace doll that came out in the 70’s comes up. In fact, I can’t even find any information about who made the very first blow-up doll. Unfortunately, when you do a search for first blow-up doll or who invented the blow up doll you get a thousand hits for Hitler. Rumor has it that Hitler came up with the idea for an inflatable sex doll to keep soldiers from mixing with non-Aryan women. The Borghild project was also supposed to save Nazi soldiers from rampant cases of syphilis when visiting Parisian bordellos. A few photos that were purported to be evidence of these dolls turned out to be a hoax. Some say the soldiers were too embarrassed to be found with these dolls if captured by the enemy. The best part of this myth is that the prototype of this doll would be the inspiration for the Barbie Doll but Barbie was derived from the Bild Lilli doll fashioned to look like a popular comic strip character named Lilli.

A game changer for the sex doll would be artist Matt McMullen’s desire to make a mannequin that had more realistic curves. While he was developing these prototypes made of hard latex with an interior skeleton, many people asked if they would be anatomically correct. A light bulb went off in Matt’s head as he realized the idea of just making a more lifelike mannequin was not where he should be heading. People would actually pay for his fully anatomical dolls, thus the Read Doll was created. Latex turned to silicone and Matt’s decision to switch from using tin cured silicone to platinum cured was taken up by the entire industry. The first female RealDoll was introduced in 1996, the first male doll in 2008.

In the 20 years since the first RealDoll was created a whole culture of iDollators has become a worldwide phenomenon. All this is a far cry from the false advertisement of those first vinyl dolls. Blow-up dolls continue to be made and sold, most likely because RealDolls and other high quality realistic love dolls are very expensive and very heavy. Sex doll technology is always improving as companies strive for a more realistic and more interactive experience.

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History of the Sex Doll: Before Plastic

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By Dvortygirl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dvortygirl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Sex dolls have come a long way in the new millennium. They’ve gone from a homemade companion to odd inflatables to the Real Girl. The need for artificial female companionship (the penetrative kind) has been around for centuries. For some the accompaniment of their own had is simply insufficient. Before modern silicone technology made the real doll possible, most sex dolls were made of vinyl or plastic. But what did we do before the advent of vulcanized rubber in the 1840’s and polyvinyl chloride in the 1920’s? We did the best we could with what we had, apparently.

It’s hard to find much documentation about dolls used for sexual acts before the 20th century. Most likely because those early dolls did not survive the test of time due to the materials they were made out of. Also, people just didn’t document that sort of thing. Stories have been told but not much solid written or printed evidence. We have to go on hearsay and there’s very little of that too.

Cloth was a material used to create dolls for centuries, sex dolls included. There are stories of dolls made of cloth or leather and stuffed with straw or bits of cloth as early at the 15th century. Most notably is the Dames de Voyages (or Damas de Viajes) said to be used by French and Spanish sailors of the 17th century. They may not have been the only sailors to use them. Lonely sailors were looking for “companionship” during long voyages on the high seas of this era. Women were not allowed on board ships as they were thought to be unlucky. Instead, figures were fashioned out of fabric and stuffed to give fullness. At the same time, the Dutch were traveling to Japan. The Japanese gave the name “Dutch Wives” to the dolls supposedly made of leather the Dutch sailors had with them for their long journeys to the east. The term is used even today as slang for sex doll.

The Japanese may have been inspired by the Dutch Wives to make their own sex doll. The Azumagata Ningyo (substitute wife/woman doll in Japanese) was written about in the 18th century but images or written records no longer exist. It may have been sold as early as the mid 17th century. It’s said that this doll made of tortoise shell; cloth and leather could be purchased in Ryogoku, a popular shopping district. I also found mentions of a sex doll referred to as a do-ningyo. This doll was in the shape of a young girl with a velvet vulva. Tahi-joro (traveling whores) was another term for these dolls. I’m somewhat unsure if the azumagata ningyo is shaped like a person or is just a pillow shape with an entry area that is lined with tortoise shell and velvet, silk or leather. Ningyo means doll in Japanese so I’m leaning towards a female shaped doll of some sort.

A fascinating thing that came up often in my research was that these dolls seemed to be reserved for those of higher rank in nearly every culture that used them. They were reserved only for those of a high rank, those higher up the chain of command or higher up the social ladder. These dolls sound extremely rudimentary so it’s hard for me to imagine a low ranking sailor or lower class citizen couldn’t enjoy the comforts of a rag doll with strategic openings. One wonders at the hygienics involved in something that may not ever get washed, or washed well, especially after a lengthy time of being repeatedly used. Did many share them or did you have an exclusive relationship with your raggedy love doll? If they were shared there is a certain “ew” factor when it comes to cleanliness and I don’t even want to think about the ease of transmitting STIs among your shipmates.

The French, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese probably weren’t the only ones to come up with this tool for fornication. It paved the way for more realistic looking dolls once rubber is improved with the invention of vulcanization. It’s a shame none of these earlier dolls survived. It would be amazing to see what level of detail, or not, was given to the cloth doll. Unfortunately, we will probably never know what they really looked like or how they were made. Sex with simulacra will continue to evolve along with technology. It will be interesting to see where this this technology takes us.

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Arnold Kegel: The Man Behind the Movement

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Arnold Henry Kegel, M.D. Photo by Gladser Studio.

Arnold Henry Kegel, M.D. Photo by Gladser Studio.

One of the most helpful muscle toning workouts doesn’t even require weights, or even an energetically colored spandex workout outfit. You can do it in your car, waiting in line, while watching your favorite TV show, or just about anywhere. It benefits both men and women. If you’re a woman of a certain age and/or have had children, you are indebted to the person who thought of these little low intensity muscle tighteners. If it weren’t for those regular Kegel exercises you’d probably be dreading every sneeze, cough and belly laugh. It’s one thing to “laugh so hard you pee your pants,” but it’s another thing entirely to pee because a sneeze snuck up on you. I’ve had those, and I’ve had coughing fits that required a mini wardrobe change. My husband knows what the embarrassed and tense looking pause is after I laugh, cough or sneeze. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often thanks to Arnold Kegel.

Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist, was an assistant professor of gynecology at University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. He discovered that incontinence and prolapse of the uterus, especially after childbirth, was the result of a weakened pelvic floor muscle. Up until this time, the only way doctors could help was with surgery to tighten the vaginal canal. Unfortunately, the surgery rarely lasted with symptoms reappearing a short time later. Kegel did an 18 years study to find a reliable way to help women strengthen the pelvic floor. He found through dissecting cadavers that the Pubococcygeus muscle, which runs from the pubic bone to the tailbone, was usually in a severe state of atrophy rendering it nearly incapable of performing its function. They looked at dissections, surgeries, even animal experiments and found PC muscle strength to be vital and that this muscle was important to nearly every area of the pelvis including the urethra, vagina, and rectum. He had to find a nonsurgical way to strengthen the muscle since surgery from both above and below didn’t give access to the muscle nor did surgery have lasting effects.

Kegel developed a way to measure the strength of the pelvic floor muscles. The Perineometer measured vaginal air pressure to determine the strength of the muscle. He developed ways of squeezing the pelvic floor muscles as a form of exercise for the PC muscle. Using the perineometer he could tell if his exercises were having any effect. The results of his study were published in 1948 as “The nonsurgical treatment of genital relaxation; use of the perineometer as an aid in restoring anatomic and functional structure.” in the Annals of Western Medicine and Surgery. Kegel mentions in his study that the pelvic floor can regain physiologic tension and is able to recover function after years of disuse and partial atrophy. His exercises not only helped with incontinence and genital prolapse but also provided an unsuspected bonus, it improved sexual pleasure especially after childbirth.

Today we have electromyography perineometers that measure electrical activity in the muscle rather than air pressure. Kegel exercises are highly recommended today for help not only for incontinence but also to help your sex life. It can help with better orgasms post childbirth and help post-menopausal women increase the blood flow to help with the loss of elasticity and increase natural lubrication. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure you’re exercising the right muscle. Even in Kegel’s day he found that some women were tightening their abdominal muscles or their rectum instead of their PC muscle. Much has been learned since those early days of Arnold’s research. We now have special sex toys to help strengthen the PC muscle but what still remains effective are those basic muscle-tightening techniques from nearly 70 years ago. Thanks, Arnold!

 

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