Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Masturbating Venuses and other thoughts for International Masturbation Day

We feel that we cannot ignore International Masturbation Month, particularly following a good post on the subject by Scarlett Knight, which generated some interesting comments from (mainly) female readers. We suggested to her that we might look at the subject too (egged on by my friend S who is a particular expert!) from a male point of view, as today is International Masturbation Day, the climax (!) of International Masturbation Month. 

International Masturbation Month grew out of what was originally National Masturbation Day which was first celebrated on 14th May 1995 in San Francisco.  It was originally set up as a reaction to US President Bill Clinton sacking the Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, for suggesting that information about masturbation should be taught to school children.  The day itself is now celebrated on 28th May as part of the month of celebration.  Except, of course, it isn't celebrated at all with only a few online news pages, like the Huffington Post, giving it any profile.  This is, of course, because the whole subject is mired in a web of  embarrassment, shame, derision, and condemnation.  

The world's oldest dildo is presented by a delighted German archaeologist

People have always masturbated (the first reputed dildo dates to 28.000 years ago) and, in fact, the Ancient Egyptian creation myth involves the God Atem.  He was created out of the primordial sludge of the world but when the time came for him to have children he masturbated by the athletic method of sucking his own penis.  He ejaculated into his own mouth and then spat out his semen from which two twin babies, a boy and a girl, were formed as his semen hit the ground  He named the girl Tefnut and she would become the goddess of moisture and dew. 

Atem goes for it

The brother he named Shu who would become the god of the air. . Shu married his sister and they would have two children Nut, the goddess of the night sky, and her brother Geb, the god of the earth. These two would marry also and have children too, so there were strong incestuous elements, as well as masturbation, underpinning the very beginnings of ancient Egyptian mythology. There is no doubt that this was influential and it would be not unusual for later pharaohs to take their sisters as brides.  It also helped give the Ancient Egyptians a very liberal view of sex and masturbation ,which was considered to be a pleasure of life.  Unripe bananas are reported to have been a favourite of Egyptian ladies.

Greek pottery 6th Century BC

The Ancient Greeks considered the practice normal and without shame. Traders in the Ancient Greek city of Miletus sold objects called 'olisbos' for wives to penetrate themselves with when their husbands were away.   Galen, the Greek physician, recommended it for women to relieve bottled up "acrid humours". One Greek legend has Hermes teaching masturbation to his son Pan, as he had failed to seduce the nymph Echo (who because of a curse put on her by Hera, could not tell him how much she loved him - she could only repeat the last part of a sentence) leaving him pent up with frustration.  Pan then taught it to Greek shepherds (which was no doubt less tiring on a lonely hillside than chasing an attractive sheep) and thus it spread around the world.  While Ancient Greek writings considered masturbation a normal and healthy way to dissipate sexual frustration, the more uptight Romans believed it was only appropriate for slaves.

Women in Renaissance Italy used leather dildos (they didn't appear in Britain until about 1500) lubricated with olive oil and rubber dildos were first manufactured in 1850. This all despite the fact that masturbation, according to the Christian church, fell under he sin of non-procreative sex (it carried the death penalty in the seventeenth century puritan community of New Haven, Connecticut).

In Asia, the Kama Sutra does not speak about it other than saying that men shouldn't do it. In Japan, where the production of explicit erotic art for young married couples was common, masturbation pictures in Shunga are rare, however, the depiction of dildos is quite common and examples of Japanese tortoiseshell and buffalo horn dildos have survived.

In China, under Taoism, sex was considered an important part of the path to happiness. Before this thousand years of enlightenment (which ended with the communist revolution) there were times in Chinese history where masturbation was seen as a bad thing for men but was seen as quite alright for women.  Dildos were very common in Chinese erotic art.

Most visual erotica in Asia and Europe concentrated on images of copulation rather than masturbation, apart from a few examples from the late eighteenth century onwards (and many of those are depictions of a, usually female, character observing others copulating).  Written evidence of masturbation is much harder to find, although Samuel Pepys, in his diaries, admitted masturbating (albeit in code), even in church, at the end of the seventeenth century and obviously felt no shame about it.

Candles appear quite often in eighteenth century erotic art as convenient dildos, although not usually lit like this French example. We think the engraver is just showing off his skill at depicting lighting effects!  See also our post on the poem Chloe's Candle from 1701.

A few years after Pepy's death in 1703, however, everything changed in Britain with the publication of a series of books, beginning with a pamphlet by a Dutch theologian Balthazar Bekker (or a surgeon called John Marten - the work is anonymous) called Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, And All Its Frightful Consequences which first appeared in 1712 and led to masturbation being seen as physically and not just morally damaging.  By 1745 a British doctor, Robert James, and a Swiss docto,r Samuel-August Tissot, had also published anti masturbation works.  The latter's treatise, in particular, said that men losing a lot of semen would lead to "loss of strength, of memory and even of reason; blurred vision, all the nervous disorders, all types of gout and rheumatism, weakening of the organs of generation, blood in the urine, disturbance of the appetite, headaches and a great number of other disorders"  This was actually not that different from the Ancient Chinese view of male masturbation, as previously mentioned, from around 200 AD and pre the more liberal Taoist view.  Others took this far from scientific publication as fact and we are still living with the fallout of this pernicious nonsense today.

Kellogg: crackers

None were worse than the notorious Dr John Harvey Kellogg (of Corn Flakes fame), a Seventh Day Adventist, who spent nearly a hundred pages of his book Plain Facts for Old and Young (1877) railing against the effects of masturbation and how to cure it.  One of these ways was by eating a plain diet and so Corn Flakes were actually invented to help stop young people masturbating! Kellogg was a follower of Presbyterian minister, Sylvester Graham whose Graham crackers, which were first produced in 1829, were also promoted as a bland food that would discourage carnal urges.  For boys, Kellogg  advocated circumcision (without anesthesia) as one of the ways to stop masturbation, as apart from making the process less pleasurable, the pain and tenderness after the operation would, he hoped, put them off touching themselves and get them out of the habit. If not that, he inserted silver wire around their penises to stop them getting erections.  Girls were dealt with by putting carbolic acid on their clitorises. For children, tying their hands or electric shocks were suggested.  Incidentally, we have only recently become aware that most (around 79%) American men are circumcised.  In the UK the figure is only 15.8% and most of these are from religious groups (Jews and Muslims) or from those born overseas. We can't understand why this barbaric practice continues and wonder whether it is partly the fault of Dr Kellogg and his peculiar ideas.  How do American men masturbate easily without a foreskin?

Personally, we can't remember when we started but it was certainly when we were at junior school. We remember being asked by a local authority child psychiatrist (we have no idea why we were referred to one by our school) if we masturbated.  We must have been no older than eleven but we denied it, of course, although we had just started doing so while probably thinking about the girls at school and their netball skirts, we suspect!  Our denial was so firm and our tone so appalled that the psychiatrist must have known instantly that we were, indeed, already at it. Dr V, the South African psychiatrist, always wanted to talk about sex while all we wanted to do was talk about Airfix model kits.  Being a clever psychiatrist he started bringing Airfix kits in for Triple P to build during the sessions while he talked.  Being a clever eleven year old boy we knew he was giving us the Airfix kits to distract us so we were always on our guard.

"What do you think of girls?"

"Not much."

"You are getting tall, have you noticed the girls at school developing too?"

"Not really."

"Have you noticed them developing breasts?"


And so on.

The key issue, of course, was that as a young adolescent male there was no sex education whatsoever for people in junior school (unlike today when it starts at age eight in UK schools).  Our parents didn't talk to us either, of course, about such things. The biggest issue was that you wanted to keep the fact that you were starting to think about sexual things from your parents. You did not want them to know you were growing up, we suppose.  It was a very big thing for  Triple P when he first put up a poster of a girl (Debbie Harry!) on his bedroom wall at home.  It was a declaration, in a way, to our mother that we were now, sexually an adult male.  We were later surprised to see that my younger cousin had put a very provocative picture of a girl astride a motorbike up on his bedroom wall when he was only thirteen.  Triple P had waited until he was seventeen.  We wonder if this wanting to keep things hidden from your parents is one of the key triggers to shame about masturbating at a very sensitive age.  In retrospect, if we had had the conversations Dr V had wanted us to have at eleven we may have had a different attitude to it. We certainly think that Surgeon General Elders had the right idea.  Interestingly, we don't think we ever felt guilty about masturbating just that it wasn't something you should ever, ever talk about and never admit to doing.

As we started senior school we were in a situation where some of the boys were sexually mature and others, in the same class were not.  The more mature ones talked about sex a bit, usually linked to particular girls on TV or in the newspapers (there were a lot of topless women in UK seventies newspapers, thankfully). Within a couple of years we became aware of an underground lending library of men's magazines circulating.  We rememberat school handing over a particular magazine to with the words "satisfaction guaranteed with that one!".  J's father worked for the Paul Raymond organisation which helped a lot.  So there was an acknowledgement by those participating in this trade as to what these magazines were for (sadly, Triple P also read the articles and, particularly, the stories as well!).  However, equally the term 'wanker' (a UK person who masturbates) was also the biggest insult at school.  So there was a dichotomy between those exchange magazines as masturbation aids and those who used the word for it as an insult on the basis that it was a sad and pathetic thing to do and by extension the insultee was also sad and pathetic.

The word 'wank' (still widely used in Britain) was not used so much for the act itself at school.  More popular was the term 'J Arthur' which was Cockney rhyming slang derived from the film company J Arthur Rank.  We have also heard the term Barclays (from Barclays Bank) used too.  Whatever, it indicates one of the key problems with masturbation; that the word itself is cumbersome and overly serious.  It is also a medical word (like penis and vagina) so sounds pompous and unappealing.  It is a word for medical professionals and grown ups (for adolescents) and sterilises the process.  The word is, in short, not fun!  The Victorians and Edwardians used the better term 'frig' for both male and female masturbation but these days 'frig' tends to be used just for women's activity.  We were very amused when Penthouse magazine, some years ago, picked up on the UK use of the word 'wank' and used it a lot to describe women's activity.  We thought, at the time, that they had completely misunderstood it; women frig, men wank!   Incidentally, it is a comparatively recent word.  We have heard it used anachronistically in a couple of recent period dramas on UK TV.  One was in the series Banished, about eighteenth century convicts in Australia, but 'wank' wasn't recorded until the nineteen forties.

The other problem with masturbation, once you can dig yourself out of the remnants of Victorian opprobrium over self-abuse, is that it is largely seen (especially by men) as a sex substitute not a valid activity in itself.  One of the things that is often misunderstood about the Victorians is the idea that they were anti sex (as Dr Kellogg was).  We have seen it written that, for example, men were discouraged from having sex, even with their wives, for fears that the process of giving birth was so hazardous to nineteenth century women that a real gentleman would control his urges to prolong his wife's life.  In fact nineteenth century Britain was awash with books and pamphlets telling women (in particular) how to have a happy and fulfilled sex life.  We have also seen it written that men did not acknowledge that women could enjoy sexual fulfillment or orgasms but, in fact, these pamphlets discuss the importance of orgasm for women and the general idea on the subject was that couples should try to achieve simultaneous orgasm as it was the best (at the beginning of the nineteenth century it was believed to be the  only) way to get pregnant.  Of course, all this was posited on the basis of sex within marriage and any other kind (fornication) was considered sinful (especially if you were a woman).  The prevalence of prostitutes in nineteenth century Britain was a sort of safety valve for frustrated men, as even going with whores was preferable to the evils of masturbating.

Erotic literature of the time is full of 'frigging', however, albeit some of it is mutual.  We have never really understood the concept of mutual masturbation.  You are either doing it to yourself or you are not.  If someone else is involved it isn't masturbation!  This is different from masturbating with someone, of course.  One of our lady friends learned to masturbate by lying on the bed with her sister in front of a large mirror on the door of her wardrobe.  There was no contact between them, just a happy shared time. They did it quite regularly together for about a year.  We enjoyed watching two young ladies doing this, side by side, while at university.  They were not really sexual partners, although Triple P was involved with only one of them.  They said they quite often used to do it in each other's company, often when reading. Sometimes they would give each other a stroke during their sessions (we suspect they did a bit more of this for our benefit as part of their 'show') but it never led to anything more. We had to masturbate for them afterwards, of course, while they watched.  Fair's fair.  In fact, we have had several girlfriends who liked to watch and this got us very confident about the process and removed any last vestiges of embarrassment about it some time in our early twenties.  This was useful when we had an encounter with an older lady in Rome a few years later.  This episode (in slightly altered form) forms the basis of a forthcoming chapter of our erotic story The Lust World!

In fact it was at university that we watched our first girl masturbate to climax.  We went to see our first proper girlfriend the autumn term after we had broken up at the end of the first year.  She was in her room wearing a white towelling bath robe which she undid and got to work on her lovely ginger pussy while caressing one breast with the other hand.  It took her about ten minutes to come, while we sat there in silence (not wanting to break the spell) watching her in tumescent delight.  It may have been in the nature of a "look at what you are missing" exhibition or even a "come back I have made a mistake" ploy but it was a fascinating and erotic visual experience we can still, some thirty five years later, recall in every detail.

We both moved on to other partners shortly afterwards but we remained sexually involved to a certain extent.  It was she who introduced me to Klimt's erotic pictures.  She used to like Triple P to read to her and she would buy erotic books, such as Emmanuelle, come over to our room and play with herself while we read.   She would then get us to finish ourselves off for her, while she watched intently.

It was Kinsey's studies in the nineteen forties which showed that more people were masturbating than had previously been thought but the first effective reaction against nearly two hundred years of demonisation came from Henry Havelock Ellis in his 1897 work Studies in the Psychology of Sex.  He questioned Tissot's premises and then set out to disprove each of the claimed diseases of which masturbation was supposedly the cause. He concluded "that in the case of moderate masturbation in healthy, well-born individuals, no seriously pernicious results necessarily follow."  Hardly any members of the public read his work (unlike Masters and Johnson sixty years later) but he influenced other professionals who gradually contributed to changing attitudes.  Sadly, Havelock Ellis' own sex life was a disaster and it was only in his sixties that he discovered the secret to curing his impotence - watching women urinate.

So why, nearly a hundred and twenty years after Havelock Ellis is masturbation still so taboo?  Although writers these days talk about 'learning about their bodies' and 'relaxation' there is still a strong general feeling in society that sexuality is best expressed through, well, sex with another person.  So masturbation is, as someone (an Italian man!) once described to Triple P "the loser's option".  You masturbate, he believed, because you cannot get or keep a partner.  It is an inferior product, if you will.  There was a pop song in the UK in 1979 called 'You need wheels', by the mod/New wave group the Merton Parkas, about how a young man had to own a car to impress women (rather like in the Eddie Cochran song Something Else).  "A man's not a man with a ticket in his hand", ran the lyrics.  Likewise a man is not a man with his cock in his hand, perhaps, which is why it might be more difficult to get men to talk about this seriously than women.  Masturbation is an indication of a perceived lack of masculinity.

The UK's second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in Britain, conducted between 1999 and 2001, found, also, that men masturbated more when they weren't in a relationship while women masturbated more when they were in a relationship (increasing from 33% for those not having sex to 47% for those having regular sex).  So, there could be some evidence for saying that masturbation is a substitute for sex for men while for women it is part of a wider suite of sexual fulfillment, supplementing sex with a partner rather than as a substitute for it.  It has been suggested by some writers (Baumeister in particular) that women's sex drives are more malleable than men's:  the more sex a woman has the higher her sex drive whilst men's stay at pretty much the same level whether they are having sex or not.  Certainly, one of Triple P's girlfriends once told him that she had never masturbated until she had started sleeping with Triple P and then she did it a lot. This is also backed up by the findings that the majority of men masturbate to visual images or thoughts of famous women while women focus on their partners or other people they know.  Kinsey, however, suggested that women in relationships masturbate more because, unlike men, they are not achieving as many orgasms through intercourse.

Apart from the enhanced sexuality due to a relationship argument, we knew one girl who could only masturbate to climax standing up as she had first done it in front of a full length mirror and just got used to it.  She used to do it last thing at night to help her sleep, which is one of the key reasons for masturbating given to researchers in a 1994 Chicago study, along with relieving sexual tension, obtaining physical pleasure, or relaxing.

On the Vintage Erotica Forums, a few years ago, someone asked if the members (no sniggering at the back) masturbated.  This might seem an odd question for a site made up entirely of pictures of naked women but some people got quite old fashioned about it: "Why do you feel the need to reveal something which in essence is a private thing on a public forum? I wouldn't reveal something like that," said someone, huffily. There were other similar replies and a lot of jokey ones trying to trivialise the subject.  So even on a site devoted to (mainly) men looking at pictures of naked women the number of sensible, replies were few and far between.

This, despite the fact that nearly all men masturbate. University College London produced a paper on masturbation in the UK a few years ago, using the large amount of data (over 11,000 responses) from the UK's second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes. This found that 95% of men admitted to masturbating at least once in their lives compared with only 71% of women.  This discrepancy reflects almost every other study on the subject. This isn't just a recent phenomenon.  Interestingly, one survey of women conducted in the US found that 60% of unmarried women had masturbated (and 33% of married women) and this survey was conducted in 1929!

We have no idea why a higher proportion of women don't seem to masturbate but we have had relationships with several women who have never done so.  Reasons given were "it's dirty" (relating to her genitals -"men's things are less icky" she said)  to "what's the point, it's like tickling yourself, It doesn't work." We had one girlfriend who would masturbate but only by pulling fabric backwards and forwards between her legs: usually her knickers but sometimes other soft fabric too.   She wouldn't touch herself with her fingers (she was a Catholic so worried about it  a lot).

We have heard the "it's too much me" argument a number of times from women about using their hands on themselves.  Maybe this is why sex aids are so popular with women (there is a sex shop chain aimed at women, Ann Summers, selling vibrators and dildos on every British High Street) and internet sales in the UK are huge: the UK's biggest online sex aid retailer, Lovehoney, sells over 200,000 vibrators and dildos a year.

So where are we now?  Recently we have seen something of a return to the great panics about masturbation seen in the nineteenth century, with the great threat coming from, of course, internet porn. The biggest concern being to protect children of course.  This, despite the fact that many children, even less sexually mature ones, enjoy the odd rub, often from a much earlier age than their parents think.  But rather than let them enjoy this it is all about protecting their 'innocence'. Protecting children from evil predators is one thing, stopping them enjoying their own bodies is quite a different thing.

Going back to the Shunga pictures of Japan, masturbation is most likely to be depicted when someone  catches a couple in full flow and watches them. These voyeuristic figures are quite often depicted as youngsters, (the lack of pubic hair being the give away) suggesting that masturbation was acceptable for those who weren't deemed as adults (fourteen in Japanese society at the time).  Some even feature children (and not just young adults) watching adults having sex and not just making amusing comments (Shunga picture captions contain quite a lot of humour - the Japanese approach to sex was commendably amiable) but  masturbating too.  Japanese ideas of what children might acceptably see were different from what we (or the Japanese today - there has recently been pressure on Manga and Hentai producers to be careful over the depiction of young teenagers in sexual situations) might find acceptable now.  It must be borne in mind, however, that Japanese people lived in paper walled houses with unlockable sliding doors so the family sex life would be less private.

Intriguingly, in his book, Kellogg puts part of the the blame for the spread of masturbation down to "wicked" children's nurses, thus acknowledging that children react to sexual stimulation:  "In those cases in which the habit is acquired at a very early age, the work of evil is usually wrought by the nurse, perhaps through ignorance of the effects of the habit. Incredible as it seems, it is proved by numerous instances that it is not an uncommon habit for nurses to quiet small children by handling or titillating their genital organs. They find this a speedy means of quieting them, and resort to it regardless or ignorant of the consequences."

There is a danger that the witch hunt against pornography will transmute into a witch hunt against masturbation as religious puritans seek to demonise all sexual pleasure.  Masturbation will be driven back into the shadowy world of shame and guilt.  We will be back to the days of sex for procreation only, if we don't fight back against it.

So, three hundred years after the publication of Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, many people still can't talk openly about this tricky subject.  Triple P would argue that women now find it easier than they did in the past to discuss this, given the open treatment it gets in women's magazines, primarily, but for men it is still largely a taboo subject as they do not have the same access to serious discussions and material on sexuality as modern women do.  Women are now encouraged to explore their own bodies but men, who can't keep their hands off their sex organs (after all, unlike women, we touch them many times a day when we urinate), have no real equivalent, perhaps because male masturbation is rather straightforward whereas women have rather more options.  Discussing masturbation for women is all about empowerment, self confidence and sensual pleasure.  For men it is still a rather embarrassing and demeaning joke subject.  Even half way through writing this we had a failure of nerve about publishing it and needed a phone conversation with S in Canada to get reassurance!

Finally, for those that have got this far (and you can tell that we have been writing a number of research papers for the last three weeks), one of the key reasons that we produce our various blogs is to incite sexual arousal, as we think it is a force for positivity in life (if not quite in the Star Wars The Force or the William Reich orgone sense).

We once attended a dinner party with a former model who had posed for a number of men's magazines when she was younger. "Don't you feel disgusted at the thought of what men do looking at your pictures?" asked another woman there.

"Not at all!" she replied.  "I love the idea of all those erect penises spurting sperm as I made them aroused and happy!"


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Italian Venus: Cristiana Capotondi, Giro madrina for 2011

As the Giro d'Italia finished this weekend it is time for the last of our Giro madrine, Cristiana Capotondi, from 2011.

As usual, she had to be on duty for the launching of the Giro jerseys as well as pose in the leader';s maglia rosa and the usual pink evening dress for the official launch event,  

Cristiana is not like most of the other madrine we have featured in that she isn't a showgirl/model who does a bit of acting but is a proper actress in leading roles on film and TV.  Her charms are more subtle than obvious but we think she is delicately lovely.

Cristiana was born in Rome in September 1980 and did a communications degree at Sapienza University in Rome.  This is one of the oldest universities in Europe and was founded in 1303.

She got her first acting role at the age of thirteen in the Italian TV series Amico Mio.  She appeared in many TV series over the next few years and appeared in her first film in 1995 at the age of fifteen.  

It was nine years until her next film role, although she continued to appear in TV series and commercials, but from then on was a regular in both supporting and leading roles.

In 2009 she took the title role in the lavish Italian mini-series Sisi, where she played Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  In 2006 and 2011 she was nominated for  David di Donatello awards; the Italian Oscars, so she is not just a model who acts, like some of the other madrine we have featured.  In 2014 she made her directorial debut with a short film.

In August 2006 she made a rare glamour magazine appearance (compared with some of the other madrine we have featured) for Max magazine.

Her pictorial was photographed by Giovanni Cozzi, who has shot other pictorials for Max (including their 2005 calendar).

This is our favourite shot of her, which showcases her lovely face, fine hip/waist ratio and perky bust. 

Cristiana was the second in the current incarnation of madrine (which began in 2010).  The first, Yolanthe Cabau, wasn't Italian (every subsequent madrina has been) so we won't include her here this week but will post her shortly, as she is lovely but in  amuch more assertive way than Cristiana.