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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sex with her indoors 16th century style
Apologies for the non-PC heading but it serves a purpose. Well, two. The first is to garner some attention and the second is to point to the fact that times haven’t changed much since Montaigne wrote the essays for which he is now remembered. I am basing this on Sarah Bakewell’s excellent book: How to Live which is a sort of discursive biography of the man.
Though he apparently loved his wife (more as time went on) the very idea of having raunchy sex with her was not on the ticket. He would have been sick at the thought. In France in the 16thcentury it was a cultural no-no. The belief was that if you decided to try the various positions one might find in the Kama Sutra you could easily turn your wife into a nymphomaniac. Sex had to be sober and a duty rather than a pleasure. If you wanted a bit (well, a lot) on the side you should find it elsewhere in affaires or pleasure houses.
Montaigne liked sex very much, even if beset by the small problem of his diminutive penis. Nevertheless, amusingly,  he had much to say about female ardour. If a woman’s heart is not in it he says that she ‘goes at it with only one buttock’.  In similar vein he addresses the lover whose mind is not on the job but is fantasizing about another man altogether; ‘What if she eats your bread with the sauce of a more agreeable imagination?’  He points out that the graffiti daubing the walls of stately homes, which show male appendages at three times life size, have the dual effect of raising unrealistic hopes on the part of passing women while making men cower in low self-esteem.
The realization for any sociologically minded person in the 21st century that the place of sex in society is largely determined by convention rather than the result of some universal verity, should be enlightening and lead to more challenge of what is regarded as the norm. The assumption of what is unacceptable is rarely universal. Religions reveal their shaky foundations as they try to proscribe certain sexual acts. Governments likewise. Travel round the globe and cross not just national boundaries but sexual ones too. Or dip into history.
For various depictions of sex, from the unvarnished to the highly embroidered, you could try my various books, some of them free at:

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