Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Venus Unmasked

My dearest Readers,
Prior to the prudery of the Victorian era that then smudged and suffocated and warped our present way of thinking about sex, passion and pleasure, there was a world that frolicked in endless bawdy ways. Prior to the Victorians, views toward pleasure was held in a more lush and flavorful light. There was an edgier sense of freedom that even we ourselves lack today.

One of my favorite books to reflect that bawdy playfulness I am referring to is VENUS UNMASKED which was compiled by Leonard de Vries and Peter Fryer. The book is well out of print (1967) but if you ever happen to get your hot little hands on it, you'll be in for quite a treat and it's worth whatever money you spend on it. This salacious 225 page book contains the most popular literature to have been scribed, read and shared by Londoners throughout the 1700's. The most fascinating aspect of this book is it echoes what people loved to read most about. And what do you think that was??? Love and sex. Lots and lots of sex. Think of the modern historical romance (such as what I write, with sex and all) being written by novelists back then, though set in their 'contemporary' world. These works included MEMOIRS OF A WOMAN OF PLEASURE (1749...also known as Fanny Hill), PAMELA (1740), and CLARISSA (1747) -- to name a few. Heroines found themselves compromised by heroes and villains alike and anyone else who happened to be passing by, lol.

People were fascinated by sex. When they weren't *doing it*, they were *reading it*. And the 1700's wasn't really the starting point...it was actually a boiling point that peaked into the early 1800's and was crushed by moralizers and quacks. Prior to the 1700's itself, there were various "sexologists" who published sex manuals for the public to purchase and learn from and have fun with. One of the most popular sexologists of his time was Nicolas Venette (1622-1698). And yes, he was French. His work 'Tableau de l'amour considere dans l'estat du mariage' which was published in Amsterdam in 1687. He was a royal professor who specialized in surgery and anatomy who had studied medicine in France and then found his way into Portugal and Italy. Needless to say, his visits to Italy is what *inspired* him (no surprise). He came across various medical manuscripts that had been published and circulated in the Dark Ages as well as sex manuals that had been published by a certain Sinibaldi in Rome in 1642. Nicolas was inspired to mesh all of them together while giving his own take on sex. Only the guy decided not to put his name on it. Instead, he published it under the name of Salocini (yeah, blame it on those Italians, seeing French are always so bashed). It was a huge success, being translated into German, English and Dutch and going into several print runs. It was published in English as THE MYSTERIES OF CONJUGAL LOVE REVEALED and the author was simply known as 'The Gentleman.' (Heh...yeah...right).

The popularity of the book, however, demonstrated that people really, really REALLY wanted to know more about sex. Women and men alike were buying the book in droves. Although people started to bitch that the results weren't quite what they expected...(and personally, I don't blame them). Are you curious to know what was in his *sex manual*? But of course you are. Are you curious enough to want to read excerpts? But of course you are. Should I make you beg?? No. You won't have to (it's not worth it).

So here it is (brace yourself):
"Too long or too big members are neither proper for copulation (so big is bad? You have to wonder if Nicolas was, you know, LACKING), so that for convenience a man's part ought to be middle sized."

He goes on:
"Admitting it true what physiognomists say, viz. that men with big noses have also stout members (damn...this is still circulating even after hundreds of years!), as also that they are more robust and courageous than others; we have no reason to wonder at Heliogablus's making choice of big nosed soldiers, that he might be able to undertake great expeditions with small numbers (no comment) and oppose his enemy with great vigour. But at the same time, he did not take notice that well-hung men are the greatest blockheads and the most stupid of mankind (jealous much?)"

And he goes on:
"At what age a young man and a young woman ought to marry? Count a man perfect at 25 and a woman at 20, for such a man wants nothing at that age to content a woman (what?). His seed is fertile and will be able to get a woman with child even against the will of the owner (where the freak was his editor?! Editor!!!)."

And he goes on:
"When we caress a woman after dinner, we recruit in some measure our forces at supper, and increase them with sleep the ensuing night. Whereas if we kiss after supper, we have nothing but the night's rest to reimburse us of what we are out of pocket. (Sigh...I don't get it). The greater the pleasures are, the more pain they cause. I have known men, who not being entirely recovered from illness, have died after caressing their wives (dude, stop, stop!). However, if we must commit an error, 'tis better to do it upon a full than empty stomach."

And he goes on and on:
"How many times one may amorously caress one's wife in a night (can we get some female perspective in on this please?). Vanity is a passion natural to man (AMEN). Whence I am apt to believe that the efforts we are able to make near a woman in one night cannot amount to above four or five times (so there you have it...let your husbands know that 4-5 times a night is a respectable number Nicolas approves of).

And last but not least (because honestly, he's beginning to annoy me):
"Whether the man feels more pleasure in enjoyment than the woman. There is no doubt that our privy parts are more sensible than those of woman, whereas the women's parts are fleshy and less sensible (book burning anyone?). We also have a firmer mind, and stronger fancy than women. The filaments of our brain are more stretched and hard, and when we love, 'tis with greater force and spirit. Women to the contrary are of a more inconstant mind, and weaker fancy. The fibres of the brain are softer and more flexible, and though they appear to love more ardently, they do not feel as much as we do. (I'd like to bring this guy back from the dead and introduce him to the modern woman and see if he ever gets any ever again)."

There are pages and pages and PAGES that go on just like this. And this manual was supposed to *help* people. It was no wonder people started turning to fiction....ehm.
And on that note, until next time...
Cheers and much love,
Delilah Marvelle