Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Potty Training and Sex Education ....but not together...

I’ve been thinking a lot about potty training lately. And sex education. No, the two don’t go together necessarily unless one is into some sort of fetish behavior, or bizarre multi-tasking, but I’m thinking more of the philosophical concept attached to either one or the other of the two and how we have come to be where we are, and how it is that we have become collectively idiotic about it along the way.

There was a time, long ago before indoor plumbing and multi-room dwellings where people, couples, families and extended families sometimes, all lived and breathed under one rather cramped roof. There was no such thing as a private bedroom, let alone a private privy, and if one lived in the urban center, one did not even possess the luxury of an outhouse. The urban dweller was relegated to relieve him or herself in the porcelain (or tin) chamber pot usually located under or next to the bed. If one lived with other people, they would use this same chamber pot in front of others – or sit in the hole they made in the wall, or hang out the window over the unsuspecting passerby below, etc….the point being, there was no privacy.

As respects the concept of Sex, that too, was without much privacy, since everyone lived under the same roof. Any lovemaking that was to be done, was more than likely done in the same room and hopefully the kids were asleep. If one went to a hooker, rest assured they would probably be doing the deed outside in a doorway in plain view of passersby.

The reason I bring all this up is because during this fabulous time of no plumbing or privacy, people spoke plainly to one another. Shame about farts or shit or piss was just plain silly and SEX was not a taboo or shameful subject at all. There was no point, since all were in the same circumstances and there were no secrets.

Enter indoor plumbing and the private bedroom. Suddenly there was a closed door! Privacy at last, and with privacy, at least where the bedroom is concerned, arrived the element of SHAME. Forget original sin and the apple, it was the bedroom that did it. What went on behind closed doors was something never to be spoken of unless it was in the confessional or while repeating a dirty joke. By the time the Victorian era rolled around, we were so completely undone by all the privacy and what we could DO in the confines of that privacy that SEX became something so dirty, naughty and forbidden that many people stopped having it altogether. At least with people they respected.

How many thousands of women were treated by their physicians for HYSTERIA during this time? Which, if you’re not up on your Victorian history was a treatment whereby the physician massaged the vulva of the patient until she had an orgasm. They ended up treating so many patients for hysteria that the first vibrator had to be invented – a table that the woman laid upon face down while a steam powered rotating sphere gave her pleasure. Neat. That of course made its evolutionary way to the hand held model that was eventually sold in Sears and Roebuck catalogue.

I guess what I’m saying here is that indoor plumbing and multi-room dwellings, while fabulous sources to indulge one’s decorating hobby, didn’t do much for us in terms of a healthy approach to THE SEX. Now we have “family” organizations that throw apoplectic fits if the subject is remotely hinted at, let alone discussed frankly. And we can forget about any sort of education on the subject unless one lives on either of the coasts.

I wonder how much the FCC would fine Geoffrey Chaucer today for his writing? In the latter part of the 14th century, Chaucer wrote a little collection that came to be considered one of the finest works of early English literature. I refer to The Canterbury Tales, and would like to quote a little excerpt from the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, and then the Miller’s Tale. I’ll use the translation, rather than make anyone slog through the original English dialect.

First, on God, Marriage and Virginity:

When did you ever see, in any sort of age,
that high God forbade marriage
By express word? I pray you, tell me;
Or where did He command virginity?
I know as well as you, without a doubt,
The apostle, when he speaks of maidenhood,
Says that he has no precept about it.
Men may counsel a woman to be single,
but advice is no commandment;
He left it to our own judgment
For if God had commanded maidenhood,
Then He would have condemned marriage along with it;
And certainly, if no seed were sown,
Where would virgins come from?

Heavens! What would Focus on Family say to THAT?

And from The Miller’s Tale

...This Absolon got down on his knees,
And said,” I am the lord in every way,
For after this I hope that more will come.”
Sweetheart, your favor, and sweet bird, your kindness!”
She unlatched the window quickly,
”Go ahead,” she said,” come and do it quickly,
In case our neighbors should see you.”
This Absolon began to wipe his mouth dry;
The night was dark as pitch or coal,
And out the window she put her hole,
And as for Absolon, it happened no better nor worse
But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse
Most enjoyable, before he realized what he was kissing.
back he started, and thought something was wrong,
For he well knew women don’t have beards;
He felt a rough and long-haired thing,
And said,”Fie! Alas! What have I done?”
“Tehee!” said she, and slammed the window shut,
and Absolon went off in a sorry state...

Chaucer of course was parodying members of society of that time to make a point, but do you think anyone could get away with doing that now? They’d latch onto the literal text out of context, and it would be all over the news. “Celebrated English poet Geoffrey Chaucer is reported to have been hiding pornography and anti-Christian sentiment in classic literature! Will he be fined? Tune in! News at ten!” Now, since the FCC has not been very clear on what is offensive, other than to say that if anyone is offended by anything, it can be considered offensive and thereby subject to a fine upwards of $500,000 dollars – PER OFFENSE - I ask you – how much do you think Chaucer would be fined today by the FCC for one of the great works of English Literature?


Blogger Laura said...

Ooh, that Chaucer was a naughty one, wasn't he?

Personally, I'm glad of a little privacy in the bathroom, although I still get precious little as my kids still think nothing of walking right in.

16 March, 2005 05:54  
Blogger Jet said...

I don't believe I could get past the smells. It all sounds a bit bawdy, nice and earthy, and then my over sensitive nose kicks in, and I'm doomed.

Those damned deoderant companies have really done a number on me.

17 March, 2005 16:37  
Blogger Whymrhymer said...

That was a wonderful trip back to Victorian times. Deliciously naughty and done so well.

Chaucer would, alas, be in bankruptcy court in the a.m.

17 March, 2005 23:15  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

I think Shakespeare would rise the ire of the FCC as well, with his sinfully witty tales of all sorts of bawdy sex and mischief.

Alas, shall he too be banned?
They'd have to pry his works from my cold fingers!

21 March, 2005 20:22  
Blogger R said...

Yep. Chaucer Rocks it. That victorian cure for hysteria?!! I had no idea! Now you see...this is what happens when men rule the world by themselves. Did no one ever think to ask the husband in and TEACH HIS ASS how to cure what he probably brought on in the first place? Or maybe I'm missing something. If your doctor was really hot...I could see going in for a "Cure" or five thousand. Facinating as always Frstlymil!!!

27 March, 2005 01:25  
Blogger TrueJerseyGirl said...

Oh no, I think I am feeling hysterical! I need a "cure"!

Great post and interesting take on the topic!

09 April, 2005 20:44  
Blogger Catharine said...

I'll take the closed bath/bedroom doors every time. Otherwise, I'd never be BY MYSELF in my own house. Solitude is a wonderful thing.

(One more year before she turns 18, I tell myself.)


06 May, 2005 12:21  

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