Civilisation and sex
Is there any difference between barbarian sex and civilised sex?
And is there any difference between barbarian nudity and civilised nudity?
This question is a difficult one to answer, because sex as we know it today in the Western world is the offspring of Christian sex and Christian sex is very odd indeed. Indeed I think you can say that Christian sex is one of the most deviant sexes in the world.
It is difficult to know the reason for this. Some of it may have been inherited from the Jewish antecedents. More is possibly due to the character of the founder of the religion whose birth was, as we should say, somewhat unorthodox, His life too, going out into the desert with 12 disciples, does not seem to have included any sex – or indeed any women. And then there is the strange character of St Paul, who did so much to form the early Christian beliefs, and whose attitude to sex was distinctly odd.
By contrast, Mohammed was distinctly normal: he had a normal first marriage and then when his wife died he married his second wife Aisha. Admittedly she was only 9 or 10 when she was married but it was a long and loving marriage. He is said to have had a dozen wives in all, which was not abnormal by the standards of his day. It is only in the last couple of centuries that Islam has become even more hostile in its attitude towards sex and nudity than Christianity; but I think that Islam inherited this from Christianity.
What then is normal in sex? Sex in the West has been entirely overturned by the advent of the pill, and perhaps even more so by the advent of the abortion pill. Today there is little reason for anyone not to have sex providing one takes suitable precautions. When I was young, and was growing up in the swinging 60s, I imagined that 50 years hence sex would be entirely different. I envisaged that nudity would be entirely accepted, that bathing costumes would be obsolete, that everyone would swim in the nude, and that pyjamas would have been consigned to museums of the quaint. Yet pyjamas and bathing costumes are still in fashion, and if ladies bikinis have become if anything even briefer than before, men’s costumes are now worn down to the knees, proof that men have become the sexual under-dog. And though in marriage, it is now perfectly accepted that the couple should have lived together for a trial period before marriage, most people only seem to have two or three partners before marriage.
But what happened in the past? And what is normal? I hope to look at these questions and to record the aspects of sex and nudity in some of the leading societies in the past. I hope that this will provide some kind of standard by which we can assess our own attitudes towards sex and nudity today.