In 2005, fourteen fragments of siltstone were discovered at a dig in Germany. When they were assembled, they turned out to be a highly polished 7.8 inch long dildo. When it was dated, it turned out to be nearly 30,000 years old. I don’t expect that this would be particularly troubling to Young Earth Creationists. Since the earth didn’t exist 30,000 years ago, the only logical explanation is that Satan himself crafted this instrument of evil, imbuing it with properties that would fool naive scientists and anyone else heretical enough to use logic.
To more thoughtful Christians, this ought to pose some real problems. The sluts… er… early females who used this instrument to pleasure themselves were clearly not aware that Yahweh gets really pissy when women have orgasms. After all, Yahweh, in his infinite wisdom, was still hiding from man. It would be another 27,000 years, give or take a few hundred, before Yahweh would speak to Moses from a burning bush (I always wondered… was Moses just talking to a naked redhead doing a headstand?)
Oh, and for you skeptics out there, I know what you’re thinking. ”That’s not a dildo. It’s an instrument of worship, or a part of a religious ceremony, or a doorstop. You can’t prove that it was put…. in… that place!” I grant you that the artifact didn’t come with an operating manual, and we can’t be one hundred percent certain that this anatomically correct (if somewhat exaggerated) and highly polished item — which would work perfectly as a dildo — was actually used as a dildo. However, I dare anybody reading this to tell me that they have never used something far less ergonomic for the… um… task at hand.
In any case, people are people, and we have no reason to suspect that the ancients, with brains that were remarkably similar to ours, weren’t interested in getting themselves off. After all, primates with far less intelligence than us have figured out that masturbation is fun. Why would our ancestors have been the exception?
So let’s admit the obvious. This is a dildo. While we’re at it, let’s admit that anyone who’s been to enough museums has chuckled quietly while looking at a Greek or Roman relic of “unknown purpose.” We know that the Greeks in particular were fond of their sexuality, and routinely invented interesting ways to gain pleasure from sex. It’s now apparent that the practice goes back much farther — close to the Dawn of Modern Man.
So what’s up with Texas?
This is a copy of the release form from a sex shop in Austin, Texas. Between 1973 and 2008, it was illegal to buy a sex toy in Texas. (According to Wikipedia, the matter is still somewhat contentious, but buyers and sellers are currently safe from prosecution.) There have been similar laws in other states, and conflicting rulings from different federal courts. In other words, the matter is clearly not laid to rest.
I’m sure there are lots of blogs out there extolling the virtues of sex toys and the empowerment they give to women. While I am (ahem) firmly on their side on this matter, it’s not what I want to address today. Rather, I want to contemplate why God would care so much about our sexual pleasure. A review of the history of Christianity might as well be called a review of sexual repression, particularly for women. If you have not read Part II of my three part series on sex and the Church, now would be a good time.
I suggest that the answer is very simple if we understand a simple principle of human nature. We are not “higher beings” trying to rise above our “base drives.” We are not “above” our sexuality. On the contrary, our sexuality literally is our humanity. Everything we hold dear in our culture — art, music, literature, architecture, love, science, virtue, heroism — all of these things are intrinsically linked to our sexuality. Not only are they all products of sexual selection, they are all part of our highly complex mating rituals.
Yes, humans have mating rituals, just like every other species. Ours are much more complex, however, because our society is much more complex, and our sexuality has evolved to be at least as important for cultural cohesion as for reproduction. We cannot escape our sexuality, and we cannot rise above it, for it is literally what we are.
Now, we can return to the question: Why would the church be so obsessed with our sexuality?
Hopefully the answer is obvious. Whether they realized it or not, early church fathers found the most effective way to control and brainwash people. Since literally everything “human” is tied to our sexuality, the most obvious way to have complete control over a person is to control how, when, and with whom they have sex. You can take away a person’s career, and they can find another one. You can take away their family, and they will make new friends. You can change their standard of living drastically and they will adapt. The thing is, if you take away their sense of sexuality, you literally take away their sense of self.
Sexuality is at once one of our most public and most private activities. Marriage, such as it is, is a very public display. When we see a marriage ceremony, we are seeing two people proclaim to the world, “WE HAVE SEX WITH EACH OTHER!” When men and women go out to bars, they dress to impress. They show off their physiques, their money, and their sense of style. They are advertising, loudly and clearly, “I WANT SOMEONE TO HAVE SEX WITH!”
On the other hand, when a man wakes up with an erection, goes into his shower and masturbates before going to work, he is engaging in his own private fantasy world. When a woman gives herself her first orgasm, she is experiencing a sublime sense of fulfillment. In fact, many sex experts feel that masturbation is an essential part of the sexual discovery process in young people, and an immensely useful tool for stress release, general health, and emotional well being in adults. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, in study after study, it’s becoming apparent that people who masturbate more are healthier, happier, and better adjusted than those who don’t.
Is it any surprise, then, that a religion which teaches that masturbation is a horrible sin would immediately have a vice-grip on a person’s sense of self? It literally creates its own problem, and then claims to solve it, though in reality, it perpetuates the mental enslavement. Like so many other elements of religion — and Christianity in particular — we find that the element of sexual mind control is really a tool for breaking down a person’s humanity, not building it up or bringing it to a new, higher level.
Let’s face it. We are sexual creatures, and the evidence from science is nearly incontrovertible. We are “meant” by natural selection to have sex — with others, and with ourselves. Like all innate drives, our sex drive ought to be subservient to our knowledge of logic. (Read about Sugar Cravings to understand what I mean.) However, before we start tossing around prohibitions on this or that behavior, we ought to be scientific about it if we intend to reach a reliable conclusion. We must start with a blank slate. We must collect data about human sexual behavior and examine it for correlations with both good and bad consequences. If there is no evidence that a particular behavior leads to anything bad, there is absolutely no reason we ought to prohibit it.
To my knowledge, there is no reliable data indicating that masturbation is bad. None at all. In fact, all the evidence I’ve seen points squarely at masturbation as almost a necessity if we are to acheive a fully realized sense of self-actualization. States like Texas are stuck in the age of patriarchy, repression, and destruction of self. Societies like ours are entrenched in the belief that our private sex lives are embarrassing, and should not be admitted to in polite company. We are convinced that our particular fetishes are perverted or unnatural. Perhaps it would be beneficial for us to realize that long before we ever invented cities, we’d invented huge artificial cocks. Contrary to the notion that society has perverted sexual practices, it appears that society has perverted the idea of sexual practices into something rather… boring.