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Stonewall Riots

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By Another Believer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Another Believer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The 60s were a turbulent time. We exited the era of the conservative nuclear family where you fit in at all costs into a decade where people were done with being something other than their authentic selves. Rights movements brought out firebrands for several marginalized communities. There was an overall feeling among groups that had been oppressed and abused that they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Soon after the Stonewall riot, we would see the rise of the gay rights movement.

In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a well-known gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was a haven for the poor and extremely marginalized transgender and transvestite community, as well as prostitutes and the homeless. The gay community didn’t have many public places they could go to socialize much less be out about their sexuality. At the time it was illegal, as was serving gay patrons. It was also illegal to dress in clothing not assigned to your gender. You couldn’t even dance without getting arrested. A few bars catered to the community but the police raided them often.

These bars operated without a liquor license, they were denied due to the illegal proclivities of their patrons. The mafia was often involved and a dance of scratching each other’s back would involve payoffs to police to prevent the business from being closed down. Cops would raid the bars, line up patrons to check IDs, send some on their way or others to the waiting police wagon. The cycle would repeat when the bars would reopen the following night. They sent anyone without proper identification or dressed in clothing of the opposite sex to jail. The rule was men couldn’t look like women and women needed at least three pieces of feminine clothing. If rich and influential patrons were found during the raid they were often blackmailed so their little secret didn’t get leaked to the public. Fear kept the community from fighting back but that would not last.

At 1:20am on June 28th, eight police officers lead a surprise raid at The Stonewall Inn. The police would find this raid was not business as usual. Instead of dispersing, people started to gather outside. Inside, the patrons had had enough of the injustice and harassment so they fight back. Tensions rose, as did anger and frustration. Stonewall wasn’t just a gay bar but a safe place for the drag community to gather. Queens and crossdressers weren’t accepted even among the queer community at this time so the raid was a threat to one of their few safe havens. It was also a place that homeless youth under the drinking age, then 18 instead of the modern 21, could hang out for the price of a modest $3 admission. When the Stonewall was raided, they would lose one of the few places they could go to stay warm and safe rather than sleeping out on the streets.

During a raid, usually bar patrons would be line up by the police then either go home or go to jail. This time instead of a few smart mouths and some back talk, the police started getting more resistance. The police decided to arrest most of the 200 people in the bar but there was a glitch. The police wagons had not arrived yet. During the wait, the group got more violent. Outside more people had gathered along with some of the patrons who had been released to go home. Instead of going home they stayed. By the time the arrested bar patrons were being put into police wagons and police cruisers, the crowd had grown tenfold. When a woman was roughed up and hit with a billy club the crowd surged in anger. The crowd pelted the cops with coins, then bottles, even used a broken parking meter as a battering ram. Soon a small-scale riot had started and the Tactical Patrol Force was called in. They would pin the police down as they continued to push forward; efforts to quell the fray were met with even more resistance. The crowd even tried to flip the police wagon and firebomb the Stonewall Inn.

Even after everyone was violently dispersed, people returned from all over the city the next day. One raid turned into a week of protests. For six days there were chants, kicklines, leaflets handed out, and smashed windows. In true 60s protest fashion fire hoses would be used to disperse the crowd. The protests were a call for freedom and “Gay Power.” While things calmed down eventually, a need to take action had begun. A need had been brewing since the beginning of the 60s and was ignited at this West Village bar. The coming year would see big steps forward in the fight for gay rights, the Gay Liberation Front would be formed which would lead to the Gay Activist Alliance. The battle for gay rights had been around before the events at Stonewall. What could have been just another raid at this unlicensed bar turned makeshift community center for the marginalized among the marginalized became a turning point for gay activism. The gay right movement would no longer fight in the shadows but become a loud voice that demanded to be heard.

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History of the Pride Flag

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By РадужныйФлагКопия2.png: *Rainbow_flag_breeze.jpg: Benson Kua from Toronto, Canada derivative work: Ligth Mehanist (talk) derivative work: Hotshot977 (РадужныйФлагКопия2.png) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By РадужныйФлагКопия2.png via Wikimedia Commons

I remember getting ready to join my friends for my first Pride parade viewing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never seemed to get around to. This time I was invited by a group of friends, which is so much more fun than just going by myself. Everyone was going to dress up in bright rainbow inspired outfits; tutus, striped stockings, t-shirts, wigs, sunglasses, et al. Gothy me took one look in my wardrobe and made a dreadful discovery… I hadn’t a stitch of bright colored clothing and the idea of wearing anything bright and cheerful was downright terrifying.

But it’s Pride so I acquiesced. I went to the store and bought rainbow colored fishnet tights and wore my red Sex Geek t-shirt. That was an explosion of color for me.

I had a great time even though it was insanely crowded. There were fun floats, dazzling dancers, and significant supporters. It was great to see political figures; a few celebrities and proud parents along with the LGBT community celebrate with what seemed like the longest parade I had ever witnessed. I wonder how many of those Pride revelers knew the significance and history of the colors they were wearing. It’s not just about glitter eye shadow, rainbow tights, and tutus. The Pride flag has a history and there is meaning to the colors.

The original flag first flew in the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco on June 25th, 1978. Gay Pride parades had been around for 8 years at this point, starting with the parade on Christopher Street Liberation Day commemorating the Stonewall Riots of the previous year. Gilbert Baker wanted to create flags for the parade but found there really wasn’t a symbol for the movement yet. He came up with the idea of a rainbow to represent all the different gender, nationalities, and races as well as representing the beauty and magic of nature. Baker was influenced by the “Flag of the Human Race” that was popular during world peace demonstrations in the 60’s. It’s also been said he was inspired by the song “Over the Rainbow” Baker learned how to sew to make his own outfits for his drag performances. He brought together 30 volunteers who hand dyed and stitched together the first two flags in the attic of the Gay Community Center.

The first flag comprised of 8 colors, each imbued with a meaning. They are; hot pink – sexuality, red – life, orange – healing, yellow – sunlight, green – nature, turquoise – magic/art, indigo/blue – serenity/harmony, and violet – spirit. Baker then started working at the Paramount Flag Company where he convinced them to manufacture the new Pride flag. It became very popular, especially after the assassination of Harvey Milk in November of 1978. Paramount dropped the hot pink when fabric in the color was unavailable. In 1979, the turquoise strip was eliminated when the flag was hung from Market Street lampposts. They thought three colors on each side looked better than having the pole split the odd numbered stripe down the middle. The Indigo stripe was also changed to royal blue at this time. The flag has remained in this configuration ever since and is traditionally flown horizontally with the red stripe on top

Baker created two mile-long flags to commemorate the anniversaries of Stonewall and the original flag. On the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots the mile long, 30-foot wide flag consisting of the original eight colors stretched down Manhattan’s First Avenue. It was even confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the largest flag in the world. That flag would be dismantled and given to sponsors and activists. In 2003, an 8,0000 foot flag, 15 feet wide, was unfurled in Key West at the “Rainbow 25 and PrideFest” for the 25th anniversary of the first pride flag.

Today the Pride flag is flown all over the world. I hope you remember all the thought that went into this icon when you don your rainbow top hat, knee socks, and booty shorts. A great deal of suffering and strife is behind those bright colors. What’s wonderful about the flag and the overall feeling at Pride parades is that for a day we joyously celebrate life and freedom of expression while remembering the sadness and pain that many have experienced in the history of the movement.

 

 

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Sexuality in Fashion: The Myth of Wet Dresses and the Muslin Disease

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James Gillray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the late 18th to early 19th century, upper class women’s fashion changed dramatically. For centuries, they wore multilayered complicated dresses that often changed their silhouette to something not quite natural. Women were a mystery from the waist down with voluminous skirts and undercarriage that ranged from the tubular cartwheel farthingale to the basket like hips of panniers. It was a time of revolution both culturally and politically. The taking down of the extravagant monarchy in France during the March on Versailles in 1789 brought on a period of “austerity” in fashion. Gone are the grand gowns bedecked with ruching, ribbons, lace, and furs. The new era gowns were often made of muslin a type of cotton fabric. There are other influences that shaped this new silhouette and style. It’s said that the rise of the chemise style gown came about because it was what the women wore while imprisoned during the revolution. The classical style of ancient Greece and Rome becomes extremely popular and is seen in the rising waistline, draping fabric, and Grecian inspired dress trim, accessories, and hairstyles.

Between 1795 and 1799 a new group of fashionistas take the simplicity of the classical style to extremes. With the revolution somewhat in the past, decadent fashion makes a return with the Incroyables and Merveilleuses of the Directoire period. The Merveilleuse wore lighter weight muslin, gauze or linen gowns that were sometimes quite sheer. They did away with the underpinnings and often just wore a pink bodysuit underneath to accentuate the appearance of being nude underneath. Necklines were low and skirts often slit up the side. They wore sandals or lightweight slippers with ties that crisscrossed up their calves to the knee. The dresses worn by the general public were already scandalous even though they were still worn with undergarments that included a corset, petticoat, and even underwear, as long pantaloons were necessary under the less structured dress. This was mostly because the dresses and lightweight petticoat revealed a woman’s figure more than it had in centuries. You could almost see the natural shape of a woman’s legs and posterior! The Merveilleuse would take this to the extreme showing more than a silhouette but the hint of skin.

Unfortunately, I read often about the wetting down of muslin dresses to further expose the body in all its glory. Stories of women coming down with pneumonia which could lead to death, otherwise known as the muslin disease, due to walking around in wet garments. Despite it being repeated on many websites, I could not find any evidence of this actually happening. It looks like many people have taken the words of harsh critics who thought the clingy dresses looked like they were wet down as truth. There are lots of scathing caricatures that exaggerate the style to make fun and criticize. Out of all the images I’ve seen none of them indicate that the dresses were wet in any way. And really, I wonder how long these dresses can stay wet, certainly not long enough to make it through an entire ball I would think. It’s more likely “muslin disease” was just the product of women going out on a cold wintery day with plunging necklines and semi sheer fabric to remain de rigueur.

The wet t-shirt style escapades of the Merveilleuse are decidedly unsubstantiated. It was a short time when women could celebrate their silhouette. This freedom of sexual expression in dress would be short lived. Napoleon would bring on the return of repression and take away the more egalitarian role women had during the revolution. It would be more than a century before the flapper would bring back a similar freedom of dress and sexuality we saw with the marvelous Merveilleuse.

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Early Sex Manuals: An Overview

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Masterpiece1692edition

I remember being a fairly young kid, lets’ say junior high school age, and seeing a copy of The Joy of Sex for the first time. I was over a friend’s house and her parents had a copy on their bookshelf. I found the hippieish couple featured in the book hard to identify with but I was still enthralled with all the things you could do with, or to, other people sexually. Well, licking a hairy underarm pit made Jr. high school me go “eeewww” (and in truth is not something I choose to do today but I won’t yuck anyone’s yum) but most of the stuff looked cool.

You may be surprised to know that sex manuals didn’t start in the free love 60s and 70s. Nor were they limited to the Kama Sutra. You can find them scattered around history, from ancient to Victorian. It not only took a village to raise a child but it often took a village to teach women how to have them, and often even how to enjoy practicing sex in general.

There’s actually too many for me to write in full about each one in one post. Here is a list of some of the more significant sex manuals, up to The Joy of Sex, just to give you an idea of how far back we’ve been writing about sex. I’ll go into depth on each on in future posts.

3BC or 4BC – Untitled manual written by Philaenis of Samos

3BC – The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana Mallanaga

900AD – The Canons of Theodore by Theodore

2nd Century – Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) by Ovid

11th Century – Elephantis by Constantine the African

11th Century – Liber de Coitu by Constantine the African

15th Century – Speculum Al Foderi (Mirror of Coitus) by author unknown

15th century – The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight by Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Nafzawi

16th Century – Ananga Ranga (Stage of Love) by Kalyana Malla

1680 – The School of Venus by Michel Millot

Late 19th century – The Wedding Night and Right Marital Living by Ida Craddock

1906 – Treatise on Cohabitation by Moses Maimonides

1917 – Private Sex Advice to Women by R.B. Armitage

1918 – Married Love by Marie Stopes (Considered groundbreaking at the time)

1926 – Het Volkomen Huwelijk (The Perfect Marriage) by Theodoor Hendrik Van De

Velde English Translation: Ideal Marriage: It’s Physiology and Technique 1930

1963 – An ABZ of Love by Inge and Sten Hegeler

1969 – Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask by David Reuben

1972 – The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

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The Beggars Benison: 18th Century Gentlemen’s Club

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©Trustees of the British Museum

©Trustees of the British Museum

While I was looking for more information about a photo of a somewhat obscene silver platter dated 1732 that popped up while I was doing research (as we do), I came across an article titled “Masturbation Clubs of the 1700s.” In it, I read about the fascinating proceedings of the Scottish Club, The Beggar’s Benison. I also couldn’t stop thinking about something else. Let me get this out of the way right now.

The first rule of Masturbation Club is there is no Masturbation Club.

I couldn’t resist.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Isn’t masturbation like a solo thing?” “Why would you join a club?” Or you might be thinking, Masturbation club? Where have you been all my life?” Either way, group masturbation happens today with Jack/Jill off clubs and group masturbation parties. Check your local listings. What I was surprised to find out is that gentlemen’s clubs focusing on sexuality were all the rage in early 18th century UK. They’ve gone in and out of fashion over the past couple of centuries.

I know, I really shouldn’t be surprised but I was.

I’m not even sure how I came across the photo of the large plate engraved with words, most noticeably “the way of a man with a maid” and “test platter.” Oh and the vulva framing an erect penis and testicles with a little charm hanging from the shaft. The little charm is most likely a sporran or purse but it looks rather odd where it’s placed on the erect phallus. Along the outside rim are etched the words “The Beggar’s Benison Anstruther 1732.” All of this just screamed, “Must google this!” and sent me down a rabbit hole into the libertine adventures of 18th century London and Scotland. I found out that Beggar’s Benison was not really a masturbation club it was more. I also found there were other clubs and lots of lascivious behavior in these “gentlemen’s” clubs. Many clubs with various themes sprung up in 18th century London.

The 1700s saw a change in attitude about sex that had been evolving over time. It was not the change you would think. While sex for pleasure has always been around, attitudes towards it often changed with the times and with social standing. It seems before the age of enlightenment, the middle ages were all about sex for procreation but mostly for the lower classes. The nobility still had to marry and reproduce but often looked for sexual pleasure away from the marriage bed. Sexual promiscuity really depended on wealth, class, and whether you can get away with it. The nobility had been sleeping around for centuries already and prostitution never went away even when Henry the VIII tried to close the brothels to keep fast spreading STDs at bay. Syphilis and gonorrhea were rampant at the time, having spread through Europe like wildfire. This didn’t deter the sexually adventurous, unfortunately, and problems with these diseases continued into the next century.

By the 1700s, it seems that men that possessed wealth and power managed to find new and more exciting ways to party. Reconstruction of the monarchy after 1660 found a society ready to throw away the shackles of puritanism. There is a growth in men’s clubs providing a place for men to act and speak more freely. Open talk about sex and sexuality became popular at some of these clubs. At the same time, prostitutes and brothel madams could hold a celebrity like status. Their published diaries were as sought after then as leaked sex tapes and kiss and tell biographies are today. The libertine lifestyle was all the rage of the day even though people like Tissot were working hard to prove that masturbation was a ruinous hobby that would lead to debilitating illness. Heading towards the 19th century one part of society was trying to develop anti-masturbation technology while the other was putting their penis on a plate and ejaculating into it.

The full name of the club was Most Ancient and Puissant order of the Beggar’s Benison and Merryland. It was founded in 1732 in Anstruther, Scotland. Benison means blessing and Merryland is a euphemism for a woman’s body. Kind of like a sexy amusement park. The name comes from the club’s origin myth that King James, dressed as a commoner, received a blessing from the maid who carried him over a stream. What I find intriguing about The Beggar’s Benison is that the stories may have been exaggerated and even the written documentation may not show the whole truth. Artifacts and records were saved and are currently held in a collection at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. David Stephenson, the author of the book The Beggar’s Benison, looked over the records and finds that some dates don’t match up and they are not written in the proper minutes form, something that rarely if ever happens at the time. It’s speculated that some of these records were either written by someone who wanted to make the club out to be more obscene than it actually was, either to make it seem more interesting or more grotesque. It’s possible the sexual activity was only during the 1730s.

The Testing Platter was used to welcome in new initiates. Surviving documents state that the initiate would enter nude after being prepared in a closet. The initiate approached a table or altar in the center of the room where the Testing Platter awaited. It was apparently necessary to have an erection. Said erection would be placed on the platter with a white cloth placed over it. Then the officers and knights would join the initiate, also placing their erections under the white cloth so that they all touched. Wine was drunk; a passage from Song of Solomon was read, and often a piece of erotica. The documents state usually that “all frigged” which I’m taking to mean they all ejaculated onto the plate. Huzzah for gentlemanly brotherhood. None of this seems to have been thought of as homoerotic, merely celebrating the virility of manhood and sexuality. There are phallic drinking glasses, medals with erotic figures on the back, and some seals with similar imagery.

When not welcoming initiates, they read erotica and had rather serious lectures about sex. They hired “posture girls” to disrobe and pose so as to get a closer look at the most intimate parts of her body. No touching, no talking, just looking. Documents don’t tell us if this continued during the entire time the club was meeting. They only met about once or twice a year and seem to fall out of favor towards the end of the 18th century. It folded in 1836, just in time for the Victorian era to begin and a century of sexual repression. In it’s time, this band of sexual merry makers, or as Samuel Johnson defined them in his dictionary “An assembly of good fellows meeting under certain circumstances,” spread to Edinburgh, Manchester England, and possibly even St Petersburg. They would also spawn a spin-off group called the Wig Club. Someone would try to resurrect it in the early 1920s but to no avail. At least they left some very interesting collectibles and some scandalous stories behind.

I’ll leave you with the blessing placed upon King James and used among the Benison members (heh, I said members). “May prick, nor purse, never fail you.”

 

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Graham and Kellogg – The Anti-Masturbation Diet

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Rational_hydrotherapy_-_a_manual_of_the_physiological_and_therapeutic_effects_of_hydriatic_procedures,_and_the_technique_of_their_application_in_the_treatment_of_disease_(1902)_(14783149152)

Graham crackers and corn flakes have such a ubiquitous presence in our lives. As a girl scout, I have fond memories of graham crackers oozing gooey marshmallows and melted chocolate. I also loved the cinnamon sugar covered ones. When I had my kids, it seems like all moms carried those wax rectangles of graham crackers from the moment our kids could handle solid food. I have a not so fond memory of cold cracker mush all over my kid’s mouth and hands, and inevitably on my shirt. I’ve also been a fan of corn flakes, although I preferred them with sugar heavily sprinkled on top. Few are unfamiliar with the large white box with the big rooster on it.

I knew that Kellogg was into an unconventional dietary routine (I saw The Road to Wellville) but knew little about Graham. I was surprised to find out fairly recently that they both shared the same idea that spurred the creation of these staples. Simply put, anti-masturbation. Both Graham and Kellogg felt that people’s diet contributed to their sexual urges. Deviant sexual urges like masturbation. First Graham then Kellogg, inspired by Grahams beliefs, wrote prodigiously about the evils of self-abuse and that diet could curb sexual arousal. They were both practitioners of vegetarianism. They both advocated a simple bland diet and abstinence from tobacco and alcohol. Kellogg condemned the consumption of meat, Graham the consumption of white bread. Some of this actually sounds tremendously modern, except for their fervent belief that masturbation was terrible for your health.

Sylvester Graham, a former Presbyterian minister, spent most of his life writing, lecturing, and developing lifestyle and diet plans. Having gotten on the temperance bandwagon during his minister days in the 1830’s, he continued to preach as a lecturer. Temperance groups at this time focus mostly on alcohol and tobacco. Graham felt that sexual excess, including masturbation, was contributing to ill health, both mentally and physically. He also believed that the refined carb and fatty meat-laden American diet of the early 19th century was terrible for your health. He wanted to get people back to their living off the land roots. He felt that the manufactured food of the time had gotten people away from the wholesome tables of yesteryear. It was true that at the time people were consuming processed white bread like never before. This bread often had added ingredients like alum and chlorine to make them more white and last longer. Refined white bread had become a symbol of upward mobility to middle-class society, a status symbol since it was purchased and not made at home. Graham was convinced that these chemical additives made bread unwholesome. He also believed a vegetarian diet could cure people of alcoholism as well as rid them of sexual desires.

Graham lectured often about how this unhealthy diet increased our sexual desires, which lead to our overall ill heath including mental feebleness and insanity. He believed that “venereal excess” should be avoided, not only masturbation and premarital sex but also only engaging in marital coitus once a month. He created a super bland diet that did away with any stimulants like coffee, tea, and seasonings. It was focused on whole grains with fresh fruit and vegetables plus a recommended regimen of exercise, frequent bathing, and fresh air. You weren’t even allowed to use pepper, a point of contention when Oberlin College made the Graham diet part of its dining plan. A professor there was let go for spicing up his food with some pepper. The diet plan was gone soon afterward.

Graham didn’t create the graham cracker as we know it today. He invented his “Graham flour,” which consisted of specially ground whole-wheat flour where the bran and the germ are ground and combined. This he used to make Graham bread and by 1829 a Graham flour based cracker. He had quite a following, at first, attracting a fan base that was referred to as “Grahamites” who practiced temperance, abstinence from alcohol, and who adopted his rigorous diet and lifestyle plan. He was also ridiculed and threatened with bodily harm, mostly from bakers and butchers who were not happy with his ideas about purchased bread and a meatless diet. At one point there were even boarding houses of “Grahamites” but as Graham’s own ideas became more radical and vocal, and geared more towards abstinence than temperance, his follower lost interest and dispersed. But some carried on his ideals, one such person was John Harvey Kellogg

JH Kellogg took many of these ideas (vegetarianism, whole grains, exercise, fresh air, temperance, and abstinence) and applied it to the regiment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium as a way to gain a longer and healthier life. He was the chief medical officer of the sanitarium while his brother Will was the bookkeeper. He one-upped this with some interesting ideas about enemas, basically water followed by yogurt enemas. He also ascribed to the idea of using bland foods to curb sexual desires. Together with his brother they created a bland yet crunchy corn flake cereal in 1878 that would live on for years under the ubiquitous name of Corn Flakes. JH’s brother wanted to add sugar to better market the cereal but his brother was too busy trying to fight against the depleting effects of masturbation and sexual excess to see the business opportunity here. It’s also rumored that C.W. Post was a guest at the sanitarium and stole the recipe idea for the corn flake then went on to create the Post cereal empire. Will Kellogg would eventually go off on his own and create a company that would later be known at the Kellogg Company we know today. He and his brothers fought about it for years.

Kellogg was an even stronger advocate against masturbation and sexual excess than Graham. He not only believed that a diet and lifestyle stripped of stimulants would lower the desire to self-pollute, he also advocated things like special circumcisions and surgeries to prevent masturbation. He’s been quoted to recommend sewing a silver suture into the foreskin to prevent it from pulling back from the glans thus preventing erections. He also suggested using phenol, an acid, to curb the use to self-pleasure. He recommended everything from cages, administering blisters on genitalia and electric shock. This man would stop at nothing to stop you from rubbing one out. He was adamant in his cause because like Graham he believed that self-abuse, or venereal excess, as Graham called it, would lead to disease and insanity.

Kellogg’s cereal is slightly different today than in the early days. JH’s plain flakes of corn now have some sugar, malt, high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients. The company also makes sugar-laden cereals like Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies. Graham’s crackers changed a lot after the company changed hands. The crackers are now made with white flour and contain sugar. I was quite fond of the cinnamon sugar covered ones when I was a kid. Reverend Graham would be horrified to see what is now considered a graham cracker, especially when marshmallows and chocolate bars are sandwiched between them. You can find healthier options made of whole grain with low or no sugar at health food stores but what you find in a grocery story is not the tool against onanism from back in the day. We’ve also thankfully learned that masturbation is healthy and can help with many of the ailments it was once blamed for.

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Sexuality in Fashion: Split Drawers to Crotchless Panties

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I remember the first time I bought a pair of crotchless panties. I went to Fredrick’s of Hollywood and bought a set that comprised of ruffle-trimmed nipple-less bra and crotchless panties in a shiny black fabric. It seemed sexy at the time. I had imagined buying them ever since I saw them in Fredrick’s magazine ads when I was younger. When I put them on the fabric was a little cheap and uncomfortable. Don’t think I had them on for very long. I eventually found wearing a sexy pair of panties over a garter much sexier. That wouldn’t be the last time I wore crotchless undergarments. I would soon get into the world of historical reenactment and find myself wearing crotchless undergarments nearly every week, in the shape of Victorian drawers.

The idea of drawers being open at the crotch did not have the same erotic intention of the modern crotchless panty. In fact, up until the late 1700s women just wore a long chemise that went down past her knees under her dress, corset, and petticoats. Nothing was worn underneath since the skirts were long and the chemise and underskirts provided enough coverage. Undergarments that consisted of two legs that tied at the top but left the crotch area uncovered show up in the 1700s. It was thought that only prostitutes and women of questionable morals wore them. When dresses moved to a more natural shape at the end of the 1800’s this idea is discarded and pantalettes or pantaloons become acceptable. There was some reluctance to accept them at first as having something on underneath that resembled pants did not meet with immediate approval.

The reason split drawers are open at the crotch is to make going to the bathroom easier. When you have a corset and several layers of petticoats and skirts you can’t pull down underwear to sit. It’s easier to hike up your skirts and squat. Having been there and done that I can attest to the easy of the open crotch drawers. I once made the mistake and wrestled with my underwear in a bustle dress in a way that was completely exhausting and made me worry the underwear would win. My long cotton split drawers never once felt remotely sexy, even ones with pintucks, lace, and ribbons at the hem. My chemise came down to nearly my knees so nothing was exposed. In fact, I walked around in my skivvies in front of people often when I demonstrated how the Victorian woman dressed for a history event. One young gentleman found it difficult to talk to me in my underthings even though not a bit of skin below my sans cleavage neckline was exposed. Just the idea of me being in my underwear was enough to make him uncomfortable with my relative state of undress.

It interesting to see how we can go from going commando being perfectly acceptable but wearing tubes of cloth around our legs is immoral, to the idea of wearing a dress without panties bringing about a hefty dose of slut shaming. But then again we’ve gone from a glimpse of stocking being something shocking to the string bikini in less than a century. Our concept of what is considered scandalous in our clothing, even undergarments, can change in ways that seems odd to our modern sensibility. The idea of a certain style of underwear being acceptable while women of questionable morals only use another seems to be common in western dress. I imagine in several hundred years we may find what is acceptable under our clothes will change again.

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Onanism: From Coitus Interruptus to Self-Pleasure

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Tintoretto,_Jacopo_-_Giuda_e_Tamar_-_c._1555_-_1559

Merriam-Webster defines Onanism as 1. Masturbation 2. Coitus Interruptus 3. Self-gratification. Onanism at its most basic is the withdrawal of the penis in sexual intercourse thus ejaculating outside of the vagina. While the original use of the term was for coitus interruptus, it was more widely used in reference to masturbation. Use of this term became more complicated over the ages. The concept of Onanism was used to support the religious idea that masturbation is against God’s will. It was the impetus behind a great many anti-masturbation movements, some of which were fairly extreme. Onanism was derived from bible verse in the Old Testament, Genesis chapter 38 to be more precise. A little story about Onan and his dead brother’s wife.

That is the wife of his dead brother, not the dead wife of his brother… now that I’ve cleared that up the bible story is no less of an uncomfortable read.

Onan was the second son of Judah. Upon his elder brother Er’s death, he is ordered by his father to sleep with his late brother’s wife so that she may produce children. It was his duty as her brother-in-law to raise up offspring for his brother. Since Er was first born, the children he would have with his wife, Tamar, would be considered his late brother’s, not his. Onan apparently was not too happy about these kids he would be fathering not technically being his. He decided to get around this by sleeping with her but pulling out and “spilling his seed upon the ground.” The Lord was not too thrilled with this and supposedly killed him for it.

Oh, and Er died because he was “wicked in the sight of the lord” just like Onan. Seems like an issue in this family.

Before we move on to the wackiness that is getting killed by God for not fathering children with your brother’s wife, let’s talk about why this was a thing. It’s called a levirate marriage, Yibbum in Hebrew. The idea behind a levirate marriage is that a brother is obligated to marry his brother’s wife if said brother dies before producing children. The children produced by the union of the brother-in-law with his brother’s wife were then considered the children of the deceased brother. Since Er was the older brother, this meant that all rights and properties he had as eldest would pass on to his children, and the children his wife had with his brother, not passed on to Onan and his progeny. The origin of levirate marriage was most likely so that the widow would not be left without a husband to care for her and also to keep the widow within the confines of the tribe. It also assured that the son of the eldest child received the inheritance due him when the eldest child dies and not pass on to the next surviving sibling. Levirate marriage occurred in other cultures around the world in places like Turkey, Africa, Indonesia, and even England.

Onan seemed none-too happy to bear children with his brother’s wife that he would have to care for yet receive zero of the inheritance. Instead, he sort of half assed his obligation. He didn’t refuse to sleep with her but went through the motions and prevented pregnancy from occurring. The story continues with Tamar, Er’s widow, being promised Judah’s youngest son when he was old enough. Either she was tired of waiting or Judah reneged on his deal because Tamar felt she had to take things into her own hands to produce this heir. She disguised herself as a prostitute so she could trick Judah to lay with her thus producing an heir. He offers her a goat but will gladly pay her Tuesday for a roll in the hay today. She takes some of his possessions as collateral, which she uses later to prove that she didn’t technically prostitute herself since she never took the goat and the father is actually her husband’s father.

So what does this have to do with masturbation, you might ask? It’s sort of a loose interpretation by those reading the bible. Spill seed on ground became less about birth control and more about self-gratification. Spilling seed in any way that did not result in creating progeny was wicked in the eyes of God. It was first seen in writing about the perils of self-pollution in the early 18th century. 19th century proponents of anti-masturbation would use it often. People like Tissot, Kellogg, Kant, and even Twain wrote papers about the perils of masturbation. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century where studies by people like Kinsey, followed by the sexual revolution, changed people’s minds about Onansim.

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Sex and History: An Introduction to Sexual History Tour

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V0047298 Various sex aids, including dildos, artificial vulva, penis Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Various sex aids, including dildos, artificial vulva, penis supports etc. Colour woodcut, ca. 1830. Published: [ca. 1830] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Colour woodcut, ca. 1830. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images http://wellcomeimages.org

I must confess… I have a fetish. It’s an obsession, an itch I have to scratch, a passion that cannot be contained.

I have a thing for research. Not just a simple search engine pass over something, I mean I dig into every bit of thick minutia until I’m rolling in so much knowledge I can barely contain myself. I love large heaps of information; deeply descriptive documentaries, epically explained examinations, audio books, magazine articles, not just Google search but every kind of search engine (yes, I’ve been known to Bing). My dedication to research often knows no bounds so just trying to find out the best deal on a new fridge, the best brand of running shoes or even does a high quality body safe silicone ejaculating dildo exist will become hours of leaving no stone unturned. I find learning everything from the results of archeological investigations into the building techniques of the Sphinx to when was the first brassiere developed can lead us to think about the past differently. It can make us look at our lives right now differently too.

When I started writing about sexuality years ago I found myself writing an article detailing how we’ve changed as a culture when it comes to sexual repression and sexual freedom. Dealing with conservative wing nuts that want to take control of our sexuality is not surprising. I know that people think our evolution should be farther along when it comes to sexual expression but it really hasn’t been that long of a journey for us and we’ve gone back and forth many times. I reminded people that we’ve had times that were more open (Hellenistic Era, Renaissance Era, Post-Revolutionary France, Jazz Age, the 1960s) and times where repression ruled (Late Middle Ages, Puritanical Colonial Era, Victorian Era, the 1950s). It’s been a tug of war across the ages, a pendulum swing, an ebb and flow.

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Sexuality in Dress

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CorsetPullHardStereo

Sometime in my distant past, I was part of an education program about life in the Victorian era. We dressed in reproduction clothing and talked about life, culture and architecture around the turn of the century. One of the presentations I did was on how upper middle-class women dressed at that time. I would start with just my “unmentionables on” which were my split crotch drawers, a chemise that went down nearly to my knees and a partially laced corset. Under my drawers, I had on some thick tights since it was always cold in that room. I had a maid who dressed me while I talked to the guests. She tightened my corset, helped me put on my corset cover, then my petticoat, followed by a skirt then the matching bodice of my gown. I did this over and over again as groups came through at regular intervals.

In another part of the house (this was in a renovated historic home) other reenactors talked about courtship, running a household, local business, and the “fads” and “new innovations” of the day. Before we began to receive guests, I was called into the parlor by another reenactor who wanted to introduce me to his friend who was new to our merry band of history players. I was waiting for our first group to arrive so I was in my chemise, drawers, and corset. Since it was winter I had a long velvet shirt I brought that looked somewhat like a short dressing gown. It was not buttoned up in front so I could just throw it off when our visitors arrived. I was introduced to the new addition and we began talking about our day and what it’s like to speak in character in front of guests.

I began to notice the new recruit seemed to be avoiding my gaze. I have a tendency to look people in the eye when I talk but not in an aggressive way, just in a connecting way. His body language seemed to broadcast a bit of unease and he kept turning away and spending most of the time just looking at the other gentleman. Finally when I asked a question that required a long answer from him (not intentional since I wasn’t really sure what was going on) the oddest thing happened. When he turned to talk to me, he raised his hand and kept it outstretch as if I had a blinding light coming from me and he had to shield it. He then laughed nervously and said he just couldn’t talk to me dressed like that. It was very distracting and it felt wrong looking at me while I was undressed.

Undressed??

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