From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- “All art is erotic. The first ornament that was born, the cross, was erotic in origin. The first work of art, the first artistic act which the first artist, in order to rid himself of his surplus energy, smeared on the wall. A horizontal dash: the prone woman. A vertical dash: the man penetrating her.” Ornament and Crime" by Adolf Loos, tr. Michael Bullock
- "for the Latins especially the whole process of human sex, as well as the male and female organs, constantly presented itself in symbols derived from agricultural and horticultural life. The testicles were beans (fabæ) and fruit or apples (poma and mala); the penis was a tree (arbor), or a stalk (thyrsus), or a root (radix), or a sickle (falx), or a ploughshare (vomer). The semen, again, was dew (ros). The labia majora or minora were wings (alæ); the vulva and vagina were a field (ager and campus), or a ploughed furrow (sulcus), or a vineyard (vinea), or a fountain (fons), while the pudendal hair was herbage (plantaria)."
Shakespeare often incorporated phallic symbols into his plays; swords and knives, for example, were phallic symbols representing the masculinity of their wielders. For example, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus says to his fiancé Hippolyta "I wooed thee with my sword."
Somatopia is an 18th century literary genre which compared women to topography.
19th century research
Before psychoanalysis, works such as Life Symbols As Related To Sex Symbolism (1904) claimed that "Pillars, obelisks, columns, monoliths and shafts have an undoubted phallic origin and as symbols of creative energy they were objects of reverential worship among all ancient races" and that the cross represents "two human figures crossed."
With the arrival of psychoanalysis, sexual symbolism became self-evident for Sigmund Freud and his followers.
In his book The Interpretation of Dreams (here cited from the A. A. Brill translation), Freud and Rank interpret the following dream of a man: "Between two stately palaces stands a little house, receding somewhat, whose doors are closed. My wife leads me a little way along the street up to the little house, and pushes in the door, and then I slip quickly and easily into the interior of a courtyard that slants obliquely upwards."
Freud's interpretation reads: "Anyone who has had experience in the translating of dreams will of course, immediately perceive that penetrating into narrow spaces, and opening locked doors, belong to the commonest sexual symbolism, and will easily find in this dream a representation of attempted coition from behind (between the two stately buttocks of the female body). The narrow slanting passage is of course the vagina."
Furthermore, Freud considered that "All elongated objects, sticks, tree-trunks, and umbrellas ... all elongated and sharp weapons, knives, daggers, and pikes, are intended to represent the male member." and that "Little cases, boxes, caskets, closets, and stoves correspond to the female part." Independent of gender he thought that "All complicated machines and apparatus in dream are very probably genitals ... many landscapes in dreams, especially with bridges or with wooded mountains, can be readily recognised as descriptions of the genitals." Concerning symbols of human sexual acts, he considered that "the symbolism of lock and key has been very gracefully employed ... Staircases, ladders, and flights of stairs, or climbing on these, either upwards or downwards, are symbolic representations of the sexual act. ... 
Male and female
Sexual symbolism as euphemism
- "Speak plainly, and say cu', ca', po' and fo' [two-letter abbreviations for culo, cazzo, potta and fottere] ; otherwise thou wilt be understood by nobody, if it be not by the Sapienza Capranica, with thy rope in the ring, thy obelisk in the Coliseum, thy leak in the garden, thy key in the lock, thy pestle in the mortar, thy nightingale in the nest, thy dibble in the drill, thy syringe in the valve, thy stock in the scabbard, and the stake, crosier, parsnip, little monkey, the this, the that, the apples, the Missal leaves, the affair, the verbi gratia, the thing, the job, the story, the handle, the dart, the carrot, the root and the shit, mayst thou have it! ... I shall not say in the snout, since thou wilt walk on the tips of thy shoes. Well, say yes for yes, and no for no, or else keep it to yourself." --Aretino's Reasonings, tr. Peter Stafford.
- Sexual euphemism
- Sexual ritual
- Human sexuality
- Fertility symbol
- Life Symbols As Related To Sex Symbolism
- Sex symbol
- Phallic symbol
- Baseball metaphors for sex
- The birds and the bees
- Apple (symbolism)
- Forbidden fruit
- Language is full of metaphorical symbols of sex (Havelock Ellis)
- Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 5 (1927) by Havelock Ellis