A Brief History of Sex and Love
Sex has been on our minds and in our loins forever — all throughout human existence. Though most of us relate to sex from our own relatively limited perspective, many varying attitudes have been present throughout history. Even today there is a wide range of acceptability when it comes to human sexuality.At the Dawn of Civilization
Early humans didn't know that it took a man's sperm to fertilize the woman's egg to create a baby. Whether they thought the gods, spirits, or the woman herself created the baby, they didn't connect the act of sex with procreation. Family units as we know them today didn't exist, and few human societies had the monogamous relationships we now know as marriage.
By the time the world's cultures had developed writing, women's status had diminished tremendously. Men prevailed in most aspects of the culture, with a few rare exceptions.
When you think about it, the heavens must be a romantic place, as they seem to be filled with many different deities who focus on love. Eros, the ancient Greek god of love, is equivalent to Kama, the Hindu god of love. (Kama is often depicted as a young cherub type of creature, armed with a bow and arrow, so he's very similar to our idea of Cupid.) Psyche, or Soul, is the Greek counterpart to Shakti, the supreme Hindu goddess.
India and most of the Far East were essentially patriarchal societies, but women were held in higher regard than in other cultures of the times. The woman was the initiatress and the energy behind the sexual life force. In Eastern culture, sexuality achieved the status of an art form.
As a result, ancient treatises on love like the
After the fall of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity, sexuality became limited to procreation. The romantic, courtly love of the Middle Ages is well known for its purity and piety. The troubadours pined for their true love in beautiful songs but didn't do much more about it. Sex and morality were, for the first time in history, converging.
The Christian church put many dampers on the family, sex, and even having children. Strict theologians went so far as to recommend abstinence on Thursdays, in memory of Christ's arrest; on Fridays, in memory of his death; on Saturdays, in memory of the Virgin Mary; and on Sundays, in honor of the Resurrection. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays were often religious holidays and fasts, so intercourse was banned on those days as well. Good Christians were not supposed to have sex during Lent, which lasted forty days, or on Christmas or other religious holidays and fasts. All of those restrictions meant the number of days you weren't allowed to have sex far outnumbered the days sex was permitted.
It wasn't until the mid-1600s that Europe began to transform. Within a few short years, sanitation, science, life expectancy, and the nuclear family all began to flourish.
Organized religion played a great role in the formation of one partner and one family. Great constraints were placed upon couples and society to conform to the moral imperative of the times. Our modern perception of sex as sinful arose during this time.
The age of modesty, imposed leisure, and protection from the dangers of the world put middle-class women into a long period of forced subservience during the Victorian Age. Menstruation was considered a disability and sexual desire was not appropriate for a virtuous woman. Men were the superior gender. And yet, during this time of restraint, prostitution flourished, both in Europe and America. Men would go to prostitutes so as not to bother their delicate wives. This was a time of misguided virtuous behavior.
The advent of World War I brought women into the modern world with work opportunities and a bit more independence. By 1920, women in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and America could vote. They were beginning to join the work force and they were gaining new freedom.Sexual Liberation
This was the start of the feminist movement and the beginning of a new sexual liberation for women. Through the struggles of the last century women have come to a fresh, modern perspective. Today, both men and women are finding their way through the maze of new relationship and gender problems and opportunities that are characteristic of modern society.