Technology & Sex Through The Ages

Somewhere back in the dawning mists of time, technology was born out of our pre-human primate ancestor's discovery that his newly evolved opposable thumb would allow him to grip tools. Next, he discovered it would allow him to grip his own tool. It wasn't long before he found he could grip both at the same time, and the history of techno-sex was begun.With every new gizmo that's come along, from the lowly sheepskin to the Internet, people have more or less immediately developed a sexual use for it. Communications theorist Marshall McLuhan suggests the continual relationship between human sexuality and machines is "born of a hungry curiosity to explore and enlarge the domain of sex by mechanical technique, on one hand and, on the other, to possess machines in a sexually gratifying way." On the other other hand, it may be that sex is very important to people, always has been, and that we're always going to be looking for a way to make it even better than it is. At any rate, we pondered the long, loving relationship between men, women and their favorite technical aids, and came up with this thumbnail sketch of the history of technology and sex.Eleusis, Ancient Greece: 5000 B.C. Celebrating the Eleusinia, an annual festival in honor of the god Demeter, the Greeks discover that a certain potion, now believed to have contained extracts from the ergot fungus (close chemical cousins to the alkaloids in LSD) is capable of producing all manner of ecstacies. They have a great time, but lose the recipe.Trojan War: 1194 B.C. Ah, for the love of a pretty face. The Trojans went to war over fair Helen, but the pent-up manpower rearing to get free from its tight enclosure in that wooden horse remains emblematic of today's Trojans--ribbed for her pleasure, if you please.Rome, A.D. 37-41. Emperor Caligula makes use of lard, kitchen utensils, livestock, a cast of thousands and virtually everything else in conducting legendary orgies.Greece, A.D. 300. Prostitution is an acceptable, if not necessary, part of domestic Greek life. The concubine, the wife and the courtesan made up the holy triumvirate for most men. Maybe Hugh Grant should take a time trip back to ancient Greece.300s. In India, a fourth-century edition of the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana describes a device known as an Apadravya, an early form of a penis extender for men unable to satisfy an "elephant woman." Frighteningly enough, the cited materials for making these "enhancers" included gold, silver, iron, tin and wood.The Dark Ages, 476-1600. Suffering a collective hangover from the Roman Empire, Europe muddles through an era when sex was considered a sinful weakness of the flesh. For hundreds of years, no one has sex.1500s. 16th-century anatomist Gabriello Fallopius devises the first condom, a linen sheath meant to be inserted directly into the urethra.1790s. Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom introduces kinkiness into literature and sadomasochism into mass consciousness.18th century. Legendary lover Casanova is one of the first historical figures to use condoms as birth control, rather than just as protection against disease. 19th century. The invention of photography is also a giant step forward for techno-sex. It leads to the invention of the stroke book (early black and white images of naked people wearing Lone Ranger masks!), which would prove to be the humble precursor to Playboy, Penthouse and Guess! Jeans ads.1948. Alfred Kinsey publishes his reports on the sexual behavior of men and women, based on 10,000 personal interviews. Among the revelations: estimates of homosexuality throughout the population. Shocking!1954. The Story of O, one of the most famous pornographic novels to date, surfaces in Paris. Pauline Reage's novel details "O's" introduction to the world of sadomasochism.1960s. The Pill is approved by the FDA, helping to kick off the sexual revolution. Late in the decade, a new generation rediscovers the joys of ergot alkaloids during the Summer of Love, bringing free love, the Grateful Dead, water beds and lava lamps to middle America.1970s. Sex pioneers Masters and Johnson introduce the world to sex therapy, "based on the premise that sexual behavior is learned and that problems can be alleviated through sex education and improved communication."August 1979. A young woman from the Dominican Republic is admitted to Mount Sinai Medical Center with a mysterious immune deficiency disease. She is one of the first patients to die of what would eventually be recognized as AIDS. 1980s. VCRs bring video porn straight into the home. A burgeoning sex catalog industry puts whips, photos, leather, lingerie and videos devoted to everything from foot fetishes to how to become a gigolo just a phone call and credit card number away.1982. Blade Runner depicts Harrison Ford bedding a sexy mechanical replicant in Ridley Scott's futuristic film. Meanwhile, later in the '80s, "safe" phone sex lines explode, partially in response to the fear of AIDS. "Reach out and touch someone" takes on a new meaning.1992. Future Sex magazine begins; devotes entire issues to getting readers' hard drives going. Meantime, Sexonix, "the world's first Virtual Reality sex company" begins at a 1992 Toronto Christmas Gift Show.1993. Antioch College institutes a sexual policy in which students must ask for express verbal consent before kissing or touching their dates. Nicholson Baker writes Vox, a mainstream novel consisting solely of a mutually masturbatory phone chat in a private room of a phone sex line.1994. NYPD Blue brings nudity to prime-time television. Meanwhile, everybody's talking Internet: it's sleazy, it's hot, it's blow-by-blow sex discussions, dirty pictures galore, and too much heat for some conservative senatorial types to handle. Enter: Sen. Exon and his cybercensors. Nevertheless, sexualized software, including everything from interactive video to CD-ROM pornographic games flood the market. Penile implants begin to take off, pumping up the male member and ego with one blow. Meanwhile, the Reality condom for women hits the market; next step, male pill?June 1995. Men and Porn Group starts the world's first porn help line for those who want to get over their pornography addictions.November 1995. A Duke University study finds that molecules in the nose that pick up the smell of perfume also exist in sperm. Scientists theorize that sperm are drawn to human eggs by smell. (Well, we always knew they couldn't see where they were going.)

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