The Invention of Sex

 

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(which was rather late for me) -

Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban

And the Beatles' first LP.

                      - “Annus Mirabilis”, Philip Larkin.

 

It would seem clear that sex has been around for as long as the human species has existed. After all, how else could we exist without somebody, presumably our parents, having sexual intercourse and conceiving us on an overhasty evening? In fact, most people hate to think about it, simply because there is unequivocal evidence that your mum and dad have actually shagged each other. Thus, many people have read Larkin’s “Annus Mirabilis”, and not had a clue what he was on about. However, Larkin was not a complete dolt: he did have a point to make. Namely, that he never got enough poontang when he was a young man, and any modern gentleman surely feels likewise aggrieved. But, unwittingly, Larkin was hitting on a point that many scholars, until recently, have overlooked. Sexual intercourse was indeed invented. It did begin on a particular year. In fact, one should say that it was re-invented, as it existed when the primitive human species was yet to organise into coherent tribes and groups, but then was lost for thousands of years until around the year 1666 AD, when some unknown couple, fearless pioneers, rediscovered it one awkward and hilarious, but joyous night.

 

I came about this recent revelation on campus: there was a buzz among many of my professorial colleagues - archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, art historians, sociologists, psychologists, medical scientists, biologists, social-biologists, and theologians. The buzz was around a new discovery: the invention of sex. I picked up what I could learn over lunch and wine, and decided to publish my own article on the matter, before any of the scientific and historical journals published their evidences. As such, watch this space, as the proof of my claims is soon to be made public by my irate colleagues, each of them surely to be jealous that I, the Dean of Cultural Studies, have beaten them to the punch!

 

The evolutionary history of sex is a curious one. Sharks were the first to do it apparently. They evolved barbed penises, which could hook onto the females while they injected the sperm directly into the vagina, a method which was a lot more precise and, moreover, less messy, than the previous “spray-and-hope” method. Male sharks bite hard on the female’s neck during sex in order to position themselves, and this is perhaps why many human females enjoy being nibbled and licked around the neck area.

Sex mutated and evolved throughout the animal kingdom, and now most animals, especially those related to sharks, use sexual intercourse, or mating, as their primary way of spreading genes. This includes monkeys and primates and apes, from which, it is well known, we are descended. To view apes having sex, type “bonobo chimps” into YouTube and you will gain much delight from their rampant sexual activity.

But at some point, however, something made human apes change their sexual practices. It is unclear exactly when this happened, but it is believed to have been around the time of the great ancient civilisations in Mesopotamia. A new method of conceiving was developed and this technique persisted until around the year 1666, when a clandestine revolution broke out in bedrooms, first across the Netherlands, and then throughout Europe, the Americas, the colonies in Africa and Asia and Australasia, and, eventually, the whole human planet.

 

Knowledge of the intermediate reproductive technique had, until recently, been lost to memory, thanks, in the most part, to the various religious institutions who resolved to cover the whole thing up as an embarrassment to their churches. The diary of Cardinal Pompino, for so long hidden amongst the countless documents of the vast and secret Vatican archives, was uncovered by a curious librarian bishop, as yet unnamed, who leaked it to experts at universities across Europe. Among the cardinal’s notes on everyday life, performing weddings and funerals and such, he outlined the technique of ecclesiastical sex that has been for so long forgotten.

 

Although Pompino was a Catholic priest, it seems that his knowledge and portrayal of the method is more or less identical to that of other cultures of the time, such as those in Chinese Taoism, Indian Hinduism, Islam, and the manifold local and pagan religions of all the people of earth.

When they wished to conceive, couples in each of these societies would attend a marriage ceremony, managed by the local religious authority. After the exchanging of vows, or whatever was the local practice, the priest, or shaman, imam or rabbi, or whoever was ordained in the community, would take the couple into a veiled enclosure, in which the man and woman were blindfolded, apparently with silken handkerchiefs. The couple would kneel opposite each other in prayer, in order that God may bless the miracle of conception upon them, while incense filled the dark room with aphrodisiac perfume. The priest would then chant a soothing rhythm to relax the nervous couple while he placed his hands in soft cotton (sometimes silk) gloves lubricated with olive oil. Then, often with lightning speed, the expert hands of the priest would coax the man’s penis to erection and, usually instantaneously, the man would ejaculate into the priest’s gloves (sometimes a golden chalice was used). Then, still chanting hymns to the heavens, the priest would tickle his hand up the girl’s wedding dress and slide the semen into her vagina in one quick movement. This done, the priest would sing ‘Amen’, and the couple would reply in kind. In some cultures, at this stage the couple were allowed to cuddle or hold hands, but in most cases not. Usually there would now be a series of ritual prayers or actions that the newlyweds would participate in, mainly for the purpose of allowing them recovery from the strange holiness of the mystic ordeal. At last, the couple would exit the dark veiled place to the cheer of all their relatives and their blindfolds would be removed. Of course, in different cultures, the finer details of the ritual would vary, but, more or less this was how almost everybody in the entire world started a family. And it was surprisingly effective, as the birth rate was as high as in the modern world.

Whenever a couple kissed or held each other tight, it would remind them of the glorious encounter with God, which had come upon them in their wedding miracle. If a man ever had an erection, he would be reminded of the Orgasm of God on the day he had married, and he would say a prayer to praise Him. Women, sadly, did not experience orgasm, but the growth of a child inside them and the rigours of labour were deemed as an adequate Holy Gift. The female orgasm, in turn, is believed to have been invented by Giacomo Casanova in 18th century Venice.

If husband and wife wished to have more children, they could return to the church, pay the relevant fees, and the sacrament would be repeated.

 

As you can imagine, the priest, or holy man, would have to be well-trained in order to perform the operation successfully, otherwise it could end in disaster! As such, Cardinal Pompino clearly illuminates for us that young priests and those in seminary school (or “semenry schools”, as they were originally known), even some altar boys, would practice the ritual with older members of the clergy until they became masters of mutual masturbation. Perhaps this is reason why, in most religions, the monks and members of holy orders are not allowed to marry: their knowledge of carnal acts was too great - there would be too much sexual power in their hands, and it could lead to sexual revolutions the like of which would uproot the sanctity of creation.

 

This is also perhaps from where the hysterical phobia of homosexuality arose in many religions. The priests, terrified that all this sexual practice might make them fall in love with each other, outlawed same-sex love in the hope that this would dispel any perverse desires. Also, the fact that one could orgasm without conception was deeply troubling to priests, who were the only members of society who were aware of such a theoretical possibility. It also suggests to scholars a root cause as to why so many of the clergy are rampant pederasts.

 

But how did such a practise spread so far and wide, across continents and seas? Sociologists are about to claim that the cultural meme perhaps spread and persisted due to the societal benefits that it provided. In a world without effective contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies would be avoided with this very deliberate technique. Also, it upheld family values and prevented rifts in society caused by affairs and adultery. The emotional power of sexual intercourse was perhaps too strong for primitive man, especially when human cooperation was most needed as societies congregated in cities and civilisations. Homer’s texts, The Iliad and The Odyssey, with their preoccupation with sexual infidelity, perhaps provide evidence of ancient societies’ concern with sexual matters, and their willingness to overcome them.

 

Of course, the solution developed by the old religions was still open to abuse. Impious men figured out the masturbation method, some via experiment and some by making certain deductions on their wedding night (especially those men who had returned to church often in the production of manifold offspring). Your average person would not dare touch their genitalia in a sexual manner for fear of grave cosmic consequences, but some tinkers, drunks, and kings were careless enough to experiment on themselves. Remarkably, however, it never occurred to them that such stimulation could be achieved when on one’s own, and a woman was always employed[1] to kneel before a man who wished to masturbate. After ejaculating, he would also spread the semen on the woman’s vagina, as sperm was seen as a terrible thing, something with intense mystic power, and not to be wiped idly on trousers or a rag: who knew what magic might arise from an object thusly stained! The only safe depository was, therefore, a woman’s sheath, and the consequence was often eventual child-birth. Better a human child, which was the property of its parents, than the potentially demonic creation of promiscuous loins!

 

And so, somewhere in the latter half of the seventeenth century, somebody, some genius of physicality, rediscovered the sexual intercourse. Who he or she was we may never know. Let’s assume it was a ‘he’, as women were treated as little more than property at that time, and also, as far as we know, had never previously experienced sexual pleasure (as administered via the Church, at least). Well, he was almost certainly a libertine, and perhaps even a psychopath. We have to remember that the idea of putting a male penis anywhere near a female vagina simply did not exist at this time: it must have sounded like the most depraved and repulsive perversion imaginable, something akin to using a crucifix as a suppository. Women were only vaguely aware of male anatomy, and, vice versa, men knew almost nothing of what lay beneath the folds of drapery around a woman’s hips - a trend that curiously still persists to this day. Therefore, the first sex act may have occurred through a disturbing and perverted act of rape. But it is truly depressing to think of the first intercourse and the first rape being linked in such a way. Let us say then that the invention of sex happened as an ingenious expression of love between two caring and freethinking young people.

 

The historical ramifications were enormous. Although the churches did everything in their power to prevent the spread of sex across communities, their efforts were ultimately futile. The greatest difficulty they faced was that by denouncing the act of intercourse they would have to admit its existence, and admitting to its existence would only spread the secret-love faster. It was carnal knowledge that people sought, and once they had it, they were only too ready to let their animal instincts overtake them, and to delight in their bestiality. The church set up witch-hunts for known ‘sexers’, but this had little impact due to the vast numbers of people rapidly converting to Sexualism (the authorities could hardly hang everybody). It was a complete disaster for organised religions across the globe as their main powerhold over populations, the dogma and sacrament of creation, was debunked.

 

As a result, secret councils were held (although this is mostly speculation) amongst the upper echelons of the educated establishment and a reactionary decision was agreed upon in light of the unfolding ecumenical emergency. The major resolutions were as follows:

  1. Cover up all evidence of the sexual sacrament, essentially delete it from history and forget that it was ever practiced, any reference or allusion to it is hereby punishable as heresy, even covert knowledge of it is punishable by death[2];

  2. The focus of doctrine shall now be shifted towards death and the afterlife and the necessity of religion to ensuring a beneficial place for oneself in the ‘Next World’;

  3. Laud and fund artistic works, previous and to come, that focus on the mystery of death, ignore and revile works which joy in the beauty of creation[3];

  4. Ensure that the so-called ‘sexual intercourse’ is considered as sinful but necessary and can only take place lawfully within religious marriage - any overt reference to it should be considered as vulgar in cultured discourse;

  5. Continue to insist that sexual women and homosexual men are inherently sinful and criminalise them;

  6. Conception as achieved when a man ejaculates inside a woman is a miracle caused by God;

  7. Sexual intercourse should only be initiated for reproduction and never for pleasure - sexual pleasure is a sin against God, akin to original sin.

 

These doctrines were put into effect immediately, and generally they were extremely successful. The totalitarian power of the churches was not so easily weakened, and organised religion essentially saved itself from being considered spiritually useless. However, it was, and is, only a matter of time until all of their dogma disintegrates, unless new and ever adaptive dogma is evolved to fit with the prevailing zeitgeist.

 

‘The love that dare not speak its name’, although apparently a ‘secret’, was out among the people: everyone knew that everyone knew about it, and thus sprung the ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ culture of comedic sexual reference, a source of backroom hilarity to this day. One of the earliest examples of this is in Jonathan Swift’s great parody of religious history, A Tale of a Tub, in which Martin says to his brother Jack, “Jack, I take it well you have pumped your Bag before this Journey”: ‘pumped’ at this time was interchangeable with the word ‘packed’, and is often considered as an alternative spelling, but it could also mean, as it still is nowadays, ‘shagged’; and ‘bag’, which meant then, as now, a suitcase or rucksack, was at the turn of the 18th century a synonym for ‘wife’. Thus, this quotation from Swift would no doubt have been hilariously licentious to his contemporary reader as meaning: “Jack, I am glad to see that you have shagged your wife before setting out today.”

 

After the comedy came the ideological change. It is probably fair to say that much of the Enlightenment is directly linked to the discovery of sex. If God was not in control of one’s loins then perhaps he wasn’t in control of our minds - the human capacity to learn and discover and invent was aroused. Modern science therefore was born of sex: Galileo’s theories were unchained and accepted, Newton explained the fundamental laws of physics, and Huygens elucidated the nature of the solar system. Also, the mentally restorative effects of sexual intercourse certainly led to some of the clearest thinking in human history - without sexual baggage, a purity of thought could be achieved and philosophy enjoyed a revival not witnessed since the sexually promiscuous[4] Ancient Greeks. Lucid minds such as Descartes and Hume, Spinoza and Kant were freed to express themselves: some would argue for religion’s place in the heart of man, and some against. Art went crazy: Rococo and Neo-Classicism suggested that over-excited artists no longer knew what to create. Such creative power had already been bestowed upon them with the gift of sex, and so their art resembled an overly-active and overly-inspired mess. And this goes for writers and composers too, who achieved similarly chaotic results in Romantic poetry and music. Elsewhere, able to espouse and thereby extinguish their animal natures in the act of sex, the cerebral matter of political reformers, such as Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Paine, was liberated, and the ideas they formed helped to gradually empower the powerless people of the worlds. Revolutions - American, French, Scientific, Industrial - exploded across the globe in a grand expulsion of energy only truly possible with the emancipating power of the orgasm.

And, eventually, came Darwin’s realisation of evolution as the driving force of life, perhaps simply the inevitable conclusion derived from the invention of sex. Perhaps, it was not until Darwin arose, with Marx and Nietzsche reinforcing his churchless conclusions ideologically, that the matter was settled once and for all: God did not create us, and the world is not a miracle.

With new freedom in the early 20th century, sex was recreated in new curious and interesting ways and the invention of the blow-job coincides almost exactly with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as does the proliferation of cunnilingus with universal suffrage. After these final spurts of creative energy, the whole affair started to cool down when Sigmund Freud realised that sex carried lots and lots of psychological baggage. Perhaps the teenage lustiness of the 18th and 19th century could only be logically followed by the anxious and self-protective hatreds of the aging 20th century - a personality crisis in the history of man. As we grew older into the angsty 20s, sex no longer seemed quite so exciting.

 

I suppose one should end a narration of a remarkable revelation with a moral note - so here it is. Could it be said that the wars, the nuclear explosions, and the genocides of the 20th century were the inevitable outcome of the invention of sex? Perhaps it was from this, in their infinite and far-seeing wisdom, that the churches of old were trying to protect us (their shrewd logic realising that homosexual behaviour (and its like) would eventually lead - cause following effect - to the holocaust). Or perhaps, we simply haven’t embraced our animal desires fully enough; perhaps the excesses of the previous century were symptomatic of a final spirited denial of our bestial selves. Then, should we not embrace sex, instinct, and evolution to save our society and ourselves? Perhaps, we should, like the bonobo chimps, envelop sex more fully into our society and strip it of all its ill-gotten fetishes and darkness. The dark side of sex exists because we keep it dark - we fetishise that which should not be done, rules which are prohibited by society; figures of authority who seem beyond sexualisation are always sexualised. When we see ourselves as the animals that we are, animals driven by sexual instincts, our fantasies of power and domination will dissipate and we will at last be free of the evils of penis envy and be able to embrace each other without fear of judgement or weakness. We are terrified of the id, of our unconscious, but it is our essence: our futile denial of this stirs irrational fears which breed irrational hatreds. Perhaps, we should express our sexual selves as that forgotten couple did all that time ago, sometime in the latter half of the 17th century. Perhaps we should accept the beast, the social beast of humankind. If man is an animal then all men are animals; none are sacred, none divine, all exposed to disease, all frail, all are capable of ignorance, all are equally complex, all equally simple, all capable of doing good, of love, and such things exist outwith ourselves…

 

Perhaps we should just accept this sexy beast.

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] A prostitute. The word derives from the latin verb prostituere, or ‘pro’ - ‘statuere’, i.e. a statue before you. This is because prostitutes, kneeling, as they did, in front of their clients, resembled statues of praying saints, and, especially, the statues of the Virgin Mary as she prayed while the Angel Gabriel pronounced the Annunciation.

[2] Although none of these religious leaders would ever speak of the ancient practise again, each of them was of course ‘covertly knowledgable’ of it. The implication of the new doctrine - that they should all therefore kill themselves - seems to have been ignored.

[3] Thus Shakespeare’s tragedies were brought into intellectual prominence, and Shakespeare began to be considered as the greatest ever writer. Also there was greater focus on the perfection of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement as opposed to his “cartoonish” Creation of Man in the Sistine Chapel. Later prestige for works such as Mozart’s Requiem and Goethe’s Faust resulted from this doctrine, however, eventually, the dogmatically imposed trend started to buckle and new vivacious styles began to take hold of art. 

[4] (in terms of mutual masturbation, the Ancient Greeks did not, of course, have sexual intercourse)