User:Jahsonic/AHE/Baroquerotica/The caveman takes a biology class
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- Opening image: Woman seated on the stool, anatomical drawing of Charles Estienne (1504-1564), showing the private parts of a woman. Caption: "the vagina is the tube through which the human race passes from the utter darkness of nothing to the light of day." (Satyra Sotadica)
If we enter the front door of a 17th-century world library, we immediately stumble upon Cervantes and his inglorious knight Don Quixote, who would single-handedly and for once and for all degrade medieval chivalry to a ridiculous phenomenon. Don Quixote is a Spanish nobleman who has lost his mind by reading too many cheap chivalry romances. His addiction to literature is significant: for the first time in history, we are in a literary age.
If we enter that same 17th-century world library by the side door, we find romances written for female readers, L'Astrée, Argenis, Clélie and La Princesse de Clèves, novels which sometimes resemble contemporary psychological novels but often represent no more than damsel-in-distress-is-saved-by-brave-knight and they-lived-happily-ever-after. For men - what else is new? - 17th century literature offers action and adventure. The male reader of fiction finds what he seeks in picaresque novels such as the Spanish Guzmán Alfarache, El buscón and the German novel Simplicius Simplicissimus.
But in order to find books which accompany its heroes into the bedroom we must enter the library via the back door. There, often behind a screen where only special permission will grant us access, we find erotic books. On the shelves we find numerous variations on the theme of the whore dialogue. The by then widely known literary tradition of the whore dialogue is continued with the Satyra Sotadica, written by the French jurist Nicolas Chorier (1612-1692), and first published in Latin under a pseudonym around 1659. Eleven years later, it is translated into French. It appeared in English in the 1680s, variously titled as School of Women and A Dialogue between a Married Woman and a Maid.
The book is conceived as a series of dialogues. One such dialogue takes place between Tullia, a 26-year-old Italian woman, the wife of Callias, who is responsible for the sexual initiation of her 15-year-old niece Ottavia, to whom she says, "Your mother asked to reveal to you the most mysterious secrets of bridal bed and to teach you what you must be with your husband, which your husband will also be, touching these small things which so strongly inflame men's passion. Tonight ... we will sleep together in my bed." (tr. JW Geerinck)
The Satyra Sotadica is more prosaic than its predecessors, and although the writer still uses many botanical, Latin and Greek euphemisms, the facts of life are called by their name and at times the story reads as a biology class. Amongst other things, Tullia describes the male and female genitalia, including a discourse on the labia majora and minora. For the first time - at least as far as I've been able to ascertain - the term 'clitoris' crops up in a fictional work. And appropriately Tullia observes the formal similarity of it to the penis.
This 'bonbon' of love is introduced by Tullia:
"But I forgot to tell you about the clitoris. It is a membranous body located near the bottom of the mound, and appears to be a smaller form of the male rod. As with the male rod, amorous lust straightens it. It itches and heats women even of little lively temperament and at the slightest provocation of the hand they melt into water, often without waiting for the right cavalier. When Callias inflicts his knavery, feeling it, tickling it, this happens often. When his hands are busy playing there too freely, my garden rains a heavy dew. For him the pretext for a plentiful harvest of sarcasm, a wide open field for his jokes. But what can I do? He laughs, I laugh also and blame him for being too vivacious, he accuses me of being too lascivious, we jostle the ball and while we quarrel for laughs, he throws himself on me, pushes me down willingly or unwillingly, forces me to undergo, supine, and the dew that my garden let go, as he laughingly says, he restores it copiously from his, so I do not go complaining to have lost anything by his fault."
Apparently, Nicolas Chorier must have been familiar with the then current medical treatises, but probably he has not read the following outrageous description of the clitoris in Tableau de l’amour conjugal, ou l'Histoire complète de la génération de l’homme (1686) by the French physician Nicolas Venette, first published in France some years after the Satyrica Sotadica. Venette's book was originally published under a pseudonym and the book proved very successful, it is translated in most European languages, in English as The Mysteries of Conjugal Love Reveal'd and has dozens of reprints before the up until the early 20th century.
In this -- by way of its stupidity -- enormously amusing work, Venette accuses the clitoris as the seat of all evil, and even recommends the surgical removal of it in some cases, as a drastic solution to runaway lewdness. He even goes so far as to advise young girls not to wash their private parts.
"The clitoris, fatal organ of the daughters of Eve is responsible for all temptations. This is where nature has placed the throne of her pleasures and delights, as it did in the glans of man. This is where Mother Nature has placed her excessive itching. It is a superfluous organ, unnecessary for reproduction, and in some cases its removal is necessary to prevent serious pathologies that may arise from its continuous excitation [...] It is therefore not necessary; even unwise, to introduce girls to personal hygiene, at the risk of them engaging in investigations that lead seeking impure pleasures. Do young girls and women really need this type of hygiene, there where it is futile and dangerous to linger? [...] Which keeper of the conscience would accept such intimate toilet [...] this sin against decency?" (tr. JW Geerinck)
Tableau de l’amour conjugal devotes no less than ten passages to the clitoris and one of these passages is grotesquely funny. It states that the clitoris can become as large as a goose neck and can prevent access to the "garden", when it is played with too frequently. The testimony of the physician Felix Platter (1536 - 1614) serves as evidence for this bold assertion . Venette fails to mention the results of an all too abundant play with the glans. A pity.
We stay in France, where once more a whore dialogue is worth mentioning. L'Escole des Filles ou la Philosophie des dames, translated into English as The School of Venus is a typical whore dialogue in which an experienced older woman explains the 'birds and the bees' in realistic terms to a young virgin. First published in 1655, it references few existing erotic works such as Ovid and Sappho and is limited to erotic passages interspersed with sex education. Suzanne has just explained to Fanchon the operation and purpose of the male erection:
Fanchon: And when it gets bigger, as you describe, he then puts it in the girl?
Suzanne: Of course, otherwise he would not be able to, but even then there is still fun in seeing how much effort he must muster to enter the girl, because he does not enter at once, as you may think, but bit by bit. Sometimes a boy is bathing in sweat before he can put it in completely, because the girl is not broad enough - but it does bring more pleasure as the girl feels his machine opening her boldly and rubbing hard against the edge of her pussy, giving her exquisite and violent pleasure.
Fanchon: Not me! I would be afraid that it would damage me.
Suzanne: No way my dear. It just gives a girl great pleasure. Obviously, the first blast of the horn, the one to enter her, provokes a slight twinge of discomfort, because the pussy is not used to it, but afterwards it only awakens and supplies the greatest pleasure in the world. (tr. JW Geerinck)
Shortly after its publication, the book is burnt by French officials and its author, Michel Millot, is hanged in effigy.
L'Escole des Filles is also known in England. One of the first reports of masturbation while reading a book is found in the 1668 diary entry of the British administrator Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), who admits to buying it, 'pleasuring' himself with it and then throwing it into the fire. Especially Pepys' description of his 'pleasure' is amusing. As is often the case, diary writers use gibberish consisting of a mixture of Latin, French, Spanish, in short, all the languages that an accidental finder of the journal should prevent to understand it. The journal of Pepys reads: ‘… but it did hazer my prick para stand all the while, and una vez to décharger.’ An attentive reader only needs the word prick and décharger to understand just what Pepys' member has discharged.