Brian M. Watson

archivist-historian, researcher, linked:data

Category: blog (page 2 of 2)

A Brief History of Dildos

Dildos, for the four people on the internet that are somehow not yet aware of them, are sex toys intended for sexual penetration (of a male or female) during recreational bedroom activities. They are very often phallic in shape—which is to say explicitly penis-shaped—sometimes down to minute detail, but more often in a sort of general, abstract way.

A google search about the history of dildoes will turn up all sorts of =slideshows and pop-culture articles on the internet crediting the invention of dildos all the way back to the Paleolithic era, like these:

Museum Of Prehistory Blaubeuren (Germany)

However, it is far more likely that these Paleolithic and Neolithic dildos were more sacred or religious items, like the Venus of Willendorf, or even similar to the more modern Hindu Shiva-lingam (side note: don’t go saying that the lingam is a phallus today though, it is no longer considered so and has a much more complicated meaning). Sure, it is more than likely that there were ancient or prehistoric dildos or sex toys, but I would argue that in order for something to explicitly be a dildo it has to have a more sexular secular association.

Therefore, in an interesting correspondence with the history of condoms, the first references to explicit sexual dildos dates to around 2300 years ago in third century BCE Asia Minor. Miletus, in what is now Balat, Turkey, was known as the production and distribution center of the olisbos (from the word meaning to slip or glide). These were made of wood or pressed leather and likely smeared with olive oil before use—olive oil being prized for its lubrication as well as edification properties back in the day.

A third-century-BC text by Herodas documents a conversation between two women, Metro and Coritto. Metro has come to borrow Coritto’s dildo, but she has already lent it to her friend Euboula, who then handed it on to their mutual friend Nossis—dildos got around, back in the day. Coritto says

That woman wore me down; she begged me so much that I weakened and gave it to her, Metro, before I had even used it myself. After seizing it like a godsend, she gives it away! If I had a thousand, I would not have given her one, even if it was all worn out.

However, she goes on to explain, much in the way that a nineteenth century teenager might tell another where to get a Playboy, that she bought it from Kerdon, a trader who covers up his illicit olisbos trade by making shoes (perhaps this is the origin of the legend that big shoes mean big…):

But the things he makes, all of them, are worthy of Athena; you would believe that you could see her hand, instead of Kerdo’s. He came here with two, Metro! When I saw them, my eyes nearly popped out with desire. The men certainly have no rams like those… And that’s not all: their smoothness – a dream; and the stiches, of down, not of thread! Hunt as you might, you could not find another cobbler so kindly disposed towards women.

The olisbos is also mentioned in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, but to stop for a moment on Coritto’s comment that “The men certainly have no rams like those” belies one of the things that would follow dildoes from ancient to early modern and even modern times—male anxiety over dildos being used to replace them. This remains a near-constant anxiety until even to modern-day Texas, where it is still illegal to possess or promote the use of (six or more) dildos.

It seems that since the early days of history men have always worried about their penis size and ability to please women with it. Indeed, shortly afterwards we can find references to penis extenders (prosthetic attachments that go over the penis) that the Kama Sutra advises can be made out of wood or leather (which I imagine as the poor person’s choice), buffalo horn or ivory (getting towards middle-class sex toys), silver or gold (for the real high-end consumers). They were meant to go over a male erection to make it look larger and to please a female partner. The Kama Sutra also advises

When a man wishes to enlarge his lingam, he should rub it with the bristles of certain insects that live in trees, and then, after rubbing it for ten nights with oils, he should again rub it with the bristles as before. By continuing to do this a swelling will be gradually produced in the lingam, and he should then lie on a cot, and cause his lingam to hang down through a hole in the cot. After this he should take away all the pain from the swelling by using cool concoctions. The swelling, which is called Suka, and is often brought about among the people of the Dravida country, last for life….

The enlargement of the lingam is also effected by rubbing it or moistening it with oil boiled on a moderate fire along with the seeds of the pomegranite, and the cucumber, the juices of the valuka plant, the hasti-charma plant, and the egg-plant.

I do not recommend any of these recipes, nor do I recommend the weird coconut one that was going around reddit a few months back, and please do not try at home—and if you do, I waive all responsibility and hope a fertility god has mercy on your poor choices.

To dip even further east for a moment, there are suggestions that the first double-headed dildo for use between two women was developed in China in the 12th and 13th century, as the below was excavated—but I remain skeptical for reasons already explained above:

Double marble penis (dildo) used by lesbian in ancient days, Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture, Shanghai, China

Double-headed marble phallic item on display at the China Sex Museum.

Regardless, apart from the occasional reference to dildos in Roman and Greek literature, and the obviously untrue urban legend that Cleopatra invented the first vibrator by filling a hollow gourd with angry bees, and a variety of priapic saint legends (Such as Saint Fiacre, Guerlichon or Foutin) the dildo does not manage to crop up again in an innovative way until the Renaissance.

In fact, it was Renaissance Italy that would give us the word dildo—from the Latin dilatare, to open wide, or (more likely) from the Italian diletto, to delight. The first reference to the modern-day dildo originates in Pietro Aretino’s Dialogues, which is very often considered the first literary pornography and Aretino the “father” of pornography. The Dialogues revolve around the life of Nanna, who is an older courtesan agonizing over what to do with her daughter.

Unlike a son, whom she could send off to school or the military, or to anything he desired with her riches, her daughter can only become a nun, a wife, or a whore, so she is stuck in a conundrum. “But,” her friend Antonia asks, “Weren’t you a nun, a wife, and a courtesan?” “Yes,” Nanna replies, but “nowadays nuns, wives, and whores live different lives from what they used to.” “Hah!” exclaims Antonia “Life has always been lived in the same way: people have always eaten, have always drunk, have always slept. . .and women have always pissed through the crack. Now, I would dearly love for you, Nanna, to tell me about the lives of the nuns, wives, and whores of your day, and I will tell you what you should do with your [daughter] Pippa.” In the first dialogue, she talks about how her parents force her into the nunnery because her father did not want to pay for her dowry. She takes her vows and then is led into a dinner feast to celebrate. When she enters the refectory (dining room) of the nunnery, she finds, to her great confusion, that “fresh, gleaming rosy” nuns and “handsome, well-groomed and gay young” monks and friars welcomed her eagerly by kissing her, “even vying with each other to see who could give the most honeyed ones [tongue kisses].”

Still innocent and pure, and unaware of what was going on, Nanna sits down to eat with the nuns and monks, when suddenly, a man appears with a gift for the diners which are the cause of much laughter and appreciation. Nanna relates that, “They were glass fruits made in Murano near Venice to look like a prick. (But I was too innocent to realize that at the time).” She very soon comes to realize it, however, and uses the glass fruit in a fruitful way.

After this, the dildo avalanche is nearly unstoppable. In English it is first introduced by Thomas Nashe in 1592 Merrie Ballad of Nash, His Dildo also known as Choice of Valentines. The narrator of this poem is a young man who courts a prostitute on valentine’s day and finds that he is, well, not up to the task, and after a number of attempts she gets frustrated and gives up and reaches for her little glass friend

Henceforth I will no more implore thine aid,
Or thee for ever of Cowardice shall upraid:
My little dildoe shall supply your kind,
A youth that is as light as leaves in wind:
He bendeth not, nor foldeth any deal,
But stands as stiff as he were made of steel;
(And plays at peacock twixt my legs right blithe
And doeth my tickling swage with many a sigh;)
And when I will, he doth refresh me well,
And never makes my tender belly swell.”

The old male anxiety comes on fast, of course:

Poor Priapus, thy kingdom needs must fall,
Except thou thrust thus weakling to the wall;
Behold how he usurps in bed and bower,
And undermines thy kingdom every hour:
And slyly creeps between the bark and tree,
And sucks the sap while sleep detaineth thee:
He is my Mistress lake at every sound,
And soon will tent a deep intrenched wound;
He waits on courtly nymphs that are full coy,
And bids them scorn the blind alluring boy;
(He gives young girls their gamesome sustenance,
And every gaping mouth his full sufficiance.)
He fortifies disdain with foreign arts,
While wantons chaste delude all loving hearts.
If any wight a cruel Mistress serve,
And in despair full deeply pine and sterve,
(Curse Eunuch dildo, senseless counterfeit,
Who sooth may fill, but never can beget:
But if revenge enraged with despair,
That such a dwarf his welfare should impair,)

The next reference is within a couple years, with the lute song “Will you buy me a fine dog,” with the fine lyrics of:

Will you buy a fine dog, with a hole in his head?
With a dildo, dildo, dildo;
Muffs, cuffs, ribatos, and fine sisters’ thread,
With a dildo, dildo;
I stand not on points, pins, periwigs, combs, glasses,
Gloves, garters, girdles, busks, for the brisk lasses;
But I have other dainty tricks,
Sleek stones and potting sticks,
With a dildo, diddle, dildo;
And for a need my pretty pods,
Amber, civet, and musk cods,
With a dildo, with a diddle, dildo!

Hear it here:


It is likely Shakespeare was referencing this particular song or one like it in The Winter’s Tale where there is a call out to a “burden (refrain) of dildos.” And it’s not just Englishmen—the French obscene novel L’Escole des Filles ou la Philosophie des dames has the two young women discussing a wooden pump action dildo that allowed for milk or cream to be ejaculated from the tip at the appropriate moment—it would have looked like this:


Used ivory dildo with plunger in the back, likely 18thC French.

By now, dildos are being made of wood, metal, glass, and stone.  They are banned from many countries, but are still smuggled in by enterprising men and women, such as John Wilmot, the Earl or Rochester, who wrote perhaps the finest ode to dildos in any language, Signior Dildo. Written in 1673 as a biting satire against the women of the King’s Court, both mistresses and higher class women like the Duchess of Cleveland. As a result, it starts off with an address to “You Ladyes all of Merry England / Who have been to kisse the Dutchesse’s hand,” and asks them “Pray did you lately observe in the Show / A Noble Italian call’d Signior Dildo?”  Unlike his Ramble in St James’ the poem jauntily specifies courtly ladies and their relation with ‘Signor Dildo:’

The Countesse of Falmouth, of whom People tell
Her Footmen wear Shirts of a Guinea an Ell: [very expensive shirts]
Might Save the Expence, if she did but know
How Lusty a Swinger is Signior Dildo.
. . .That Pattern of Virtue, her Grace of Cleaveland,
Has Swallow’d more Pricks, then the Ocean has Sand,
But by Rubbing and Scrubbing, so large it do’s grow,
It is fit for just nothing but Signior Dildo.
The Dutchesse of Modena, tho’ she looks high,
With such a Gallant is contented to Lye:
And for fear the English her Secrets shou’d know,
For a Gentleman Usher took Signior Dildo.
. . .Doll Howard no longer with his Highness must Range,
And therefore is profer’d this Civill Exchange:
Her Tee th being rotten, she Smells best below,
And needs must be fitted for Signior Dildo.

Signor Dildo is such a good and tireless lover that he unseats many lords and men of the court, whose insecurity Rochester satirizes in the poem by calling them by the name ‘Count Cazzo’ [Count Prick]. And there was, in fact, a great deal of masculine insecurity surrounding the dildo, as it was banned in England for centuries. The end of the poem comes when ‘a Rabble of Pricks’ becomes upset that they are no longer getting laid:

A Rabble of Pricks, who were welcome before,
Now fin ding the Porter deny’d ’em the Door,
Maliciously waited his coming below,
And inhumanely fell on Signior Dildo.
Nigh weary’d out, the poor Stranger did fly
And along the Pallmall, they follow’d full Cry,
The Women concern’d from every Window,
Cry’d, Oh! for Heavn’s sake save Signior Dildo.

Although dildos (and sex toys generally) would face prosecution and band from the 1600’s on, they remained largely available and in use from the 1700’s on. In the United States it took until the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision for the ban on sex toys to be fully lifted, and in England and most European countries there was never a full legal ban on the books like there was with other items like condoms or birth control. Today, dildos and sex toys are a $15 billion dollar market that is accessible from nearly any place, online or off.



My book: Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad

Kamasutra, translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton

In Bed with the Ancient Greeks, by Paul Chrystal

Nashe’s Choice of Valentines:

Will you buy me a fine dog?

Signior Dildo, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester,

A Brief History of the Condom

Today, the strangely-elongated bell shape of a condom is instantly recognizable. Condoms are the most-used sexual devices in the world, and in studies of sexuality and sex practices the vast majority of people report being familiar with condoms or have used one recently. The standard modern condom is made from latex and is used to prevent pregancy (with 98% effacacy if used correctly) and to act as a protection against most STDs. Polyurethane and lamb intestine condoms also exist for people allergic to latex or looking for a different experience, though the latter is not an effective barrier against STDs.


Unfortunately, we have not always been blessed with easily-accessible and affordable condoms, and the history of condoms as a barrier device is a history spotted with many strange inventions, failures, and, well, babies.


There are records of glans-style condoms (which just go over the head of the penis) going back to the late third century BC, specifically one discovered at a funeral site in what is now Turkey, made of gold and silver.


Condom made of silver and gold, with geometrical reliefs, probably funeral. Alacahöyük, Bronze Age, late 3rd millennium BC. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara.(wikimedia)

Additionally, there is some research to suggest that use of oiled paper, leather or tortoiseshell condoms were common in China and Japan. But the real history of condoms kicks off in the late 1400s when the French army invaded what is now Italy and came face to face (or genitals to genitals) with the massive syphilis epidemic that was just beginning to kick off there. The returning troops spread the disease across Europe and it has haunted us since then (but is much more treatable now).

The Italian anatomist and physician Gabriele Falloppio was the first to undisputedly discuss condoms in his tract called The French Sickness (1564), which ended up being published two years after his death–likely for it’s frank (heh) discussion of birth control and condoms. Falloppio’s condoms were made of linen and tied onto the erect penis with a string. They would have looked like these:


You can imagine how unfortunately these would have felt for both the wearer and the person it was being used on. Regardless, Falloppio claimed that he had run experiments on his rudimentary condom by having and patently-absurd number of 1100 Italian men fitted with the devices, instructed on their use and then commanded to go out and Genesis 9:7 the earth. As he expected, none of them caught the disease. While it is unlikely that Falloppio’s experiment would have held up to modern scientific scrutiny, it did introduce the idea and use of condoms to somewhat-general knowledge.


Either way, Falloppio’s condoms (can we call them floppy condoms?) made their way across Europe and the English Channel at the very least, as they begin appearing in the diaries of British libertines and rakes–they make various appearances in Lord Rochester’s surviving records,and we begin to see quack doctors selling condoms alongside herbal erection treatments. By the way, the old tale about the name of the condom coming from a Dr. Condom providing them to King Charles II to help the king avoid children is a legend–Charles should have been trying harder for a heir, not avoiding it! English soldiers were known for using condoms made out of sheep and lambs intestine, and there was a privy dig that found examples going back to 1648.


Giacomo Casanova, by the way, discusses how strongly he dislikes condoms in his diaries, where he referrs to them as ‘french letters,’ a common turn of phrase:

we set off to renew our voluptuous orgy. On the way he talked about modesty, and said,—
“That feeling which prevents our shewing those parts which we have been taught to cover from our childhood, may often proceed from virtue, but is weaker than the force of education, as it cannot resist an attack when the attacking party knows what he is about. I think the easiest way to vanquish modesty is to ignore its presence, to turn it into ridicule, to carry it by storm. Victory is certain. The hardihood of the assailer subdues the assailed, who usually only wishes to be conquered, and nearly always thanks you for your victory. . .
We found the three girls lightly clad and sitting on a large sopha, and we sat down opposite to them. Pleasant talk and a thousand amorous kisses occupied the half hour just before supper, and our combat did not begin till we had eaten a delicious repast, washed down with plenty of champagne.
We were sure of not being interrupted by the maid and we put ourselves at our ease, whilst our caresses became more lively and ardent. The syndic, like a careful man, drew a packet of fine French letters from his pocket, and delivered a long eulogium on this admirable preservative from an accident which might give rise to a terrible and fruitless repentance. The ladies knew them, and seemed to have no objection to the precaution; they laughed heartily to see the shape these articles took when they were blown out. [EPISODE 15 — WITH VOLTAIRE / CHAPTER XIX]

Boswell also documents his struggles with using a condom versus not with prostitutes. In this one account he talks about feeling good about using them:

Tuesday 10 May 1763
At the bottom of the Haymarket I picked up a strong, jolly young damsel, and taking her under the arm I conducted her to Westminster Bridge, and then in armour complete did I engage her upon this noble edifice. The whim of doing it there with the Thames rolling below us amused me much.

But frequently for him he would forget or the prostitute would ask him not to use them (because of how uncomfortable they were), and he would scold himself for a week or more in his diary.

By the mid-to-late eighteenth century, however, condoms begin to become a problem. Well, they become a problem for upper-and-middle-class religious reformers. The focus now started to become on the use of the condom for contraceptive rather than protective purposes. First the Catholic Church, and then a number of Protestant figures, followed by secular doctors came out against the use of condoms as contraceptives. Part of this hysteria was a new emphasis on having sex over the perceived dangers of masturbation, the other part of it was that moral reformers recoiled at the thought of working class men and women purchasing condoms, which for years had been unaffordable to them (as they could cost up to a week’s worth of pay). Prices began to sharply fall with the introduction of rubber condoms by the 1850’s. These weren’t quite up to the level of quality as we would expect, as they often had a long seam down the middle that could cause chafing on the male member. They were also stiffer, which meant less pleasure but more reusability.


By the 1860’s in England and by 1873 in the United States (with the passing of the Comstock laws), the public campaign again condoms was in its full swing. In the United States it was against the law to mail even information about condoms through the federal mail system. And god forbid you mailed actual condoms–one way or the other Anthony Comstock and his Law would (and did) come down incredibly powerfully on the educators, manufacturers and distributors of contraceptive devices — by the end of his reign he had destroyed hundreds of thousands of these devices, and chased sexual reformers like Victoria Woodhull out of the country and hounded others to death. It wouldn’t really be until World War I where governments began to see the risk of STDs to their (young and straight male) soldiers and embraced condoms as a prevenative device while at the same time educating the recruits on the dangers of STDs.


In the United States, a Supreme Court decision in 1918 in favor of Margaret Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood) allowed condoms to be distributed and used by the general public, and by WWII anyone could get a condom from newly-invented vending machines.The 1950s and 60s saw the availibility of condoms increase when they were moved over the counters in stores and no longer hidden. The last remaining state laws and regulations against condoms collapsed in the face of the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, and by the 90’s (only 20 years ago!) you could finally purchase condoms just about anywhere and the stigma against them was beginning to disappear.



The Humble Little Condom: A History Aine Collier

The history of the condom. — Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine — H Youssef.

The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 1725-1798. Complete by Casanova —


Why and when did masturbation become an issue?

This also appeared on’s Sexual Wellness Project [SFW link, NSFW URL].


Often times, when people are growing up–depending on their parents–they are told that masturbation is unhealthy, sinful, or just plan immoral. This is still a very widespread attitude, especially in parts of the United States and Europe that are more conservative or religious.


But this hasn’t always been the case–in many places and times masturbation was seen as relatively harmless and painless, not particularly dangerous for an individual. So what changed?


Beginning in the late seventeenth century (late 1600’s), changes in family life and marriage began to occur in the middle and upper classes, moving towards a more recognizably modern style. The biggest change was the identification of children as a special group, different from adults, with their own sorts of institutions like schools or playgrounds. From around that time, adults began to go to increasing lengths to protect children from the knowledge of sex and death, both of which were seen as dangerous or frightening to them.


What’s more, is that many of the first schools for children were church-sponsored or run. In England, this meant they were often controlled by the Anglican Church, in Germany by the Lutheran Church and in France in Italy, the Catholic Church. But all three shared ideas of the purity and innocence of the child against a corrupt and dangerous world. Theologians and teachers decided that the only hope of preserving and improving the world would be to focus on the correct discipline and education of children. Thus, in a particularly backwards way, the rise of spanking at home and in school became the first sign of increasing respect and love of children.


However, the biggest influence on creating the idea that masturbation was incredibly bad was a book called Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self Pollution and all its Frightful Consequences, in both SEXES Considered, with Spiritual and Physical Advice to those who have already injured themselves by this abominable practice. And seasonable Admonition to the Youth of the nation of Both SEXES.


Even by the standards of the time, it was considered a best seller, and there were hundreds of thousands of copies sold and it was was wildly successful in those editions as well, despite, as Lawrence Stone puts it, its “vapid moralizing and implausible stories of resulting disease.


By the late 1700’s, the book and its idea had convinced even scientists and doctors. One such doctor, the famous Dr. Tissot, gave the masturbation problem medical recognition. He wrote about (likely exaggerated) cases of masturbating girls and boys becoming victims of fatigue, epilepsy, convulsions, boils, disorders of the digestive, respiratory or nervous systems, and even death. Following his book, nearly every doctor and preacher spent a lot of time warning about the dangers of touching yourself.


It was not until the second half of the last century (1950s onward) that doctors and others began to question and criticize the idea that masturbation was unhealthy and dangerous, and to instead point out that it was a normal part of sexual development and a healthy sexual lifestyle.

Thoughts on Deepfakes

One of the most interesting recent developments in programming, the internet, celebrity culture and pornography is the recent explosion (and following suppression) of deepfakes. This development has all sorts of implications for the media, celebrities, politicians and, of course, just general reality. What interests me the most however, are the parallels with what we might term the Revolutionary Deepfake.


Before I get too far ahead of myself though, a brief primer. Deepfakes allow essentially anyone with a powerful-enough graphics card, computer, and enough archival data to edit a video on the fly, superimposing one face upon another. Gaurav Oberoi at Hackernoon has an essential primer with examples where he swapped the faces of John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon on to each other with quite convincing results. He notes that there are (currently) some limitations to these deepfake models:

  • It only works if there are lots of images of the target: to put a person into a video, on the order of 300–2000 images of their face are needed so the network can learn how to recreate it…
  • You also need training data that is representative of the goal… In general, training images of your target need to approximate the orientation, facial expressions, and lighting in the videos you want to stick them into.
  • Building models can get expensive: it took 48 hours to get ok results, and 72 to get the fair ones above.


As this is the internet (and because the software appeared on Reddit first) this software was quickly used to superimpose the faces of celebrities onto pornographic models. Because of the popularity of Game of Thrones, and because HBO’s sex scenes are apparently not sexy enough (??!?), Emilia Clark was a popular target, and her face was quickly superimposed onto the bodies of blonde pornographic models. Another celebrity target way-too creepily popular among reddit users was Emma Watson, whose likeness was involuntarily used to create pornographic movies:


The effect of these movies is to create disturbingly involuntary pornography that becomes increasingly convincing as the technology progresses. This is disturbing for all sorts of reasons, not to mention the use of someone’s face in a sexual way–a consent violation if there ever was one, and it was quickly recognized as such and the material and the propagators and creators of it were quickly banned from Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. Pornhub said that it had cracked down on this material, and that it would not allow it going forward, but even a simple google search belies that fact, and it will become even harder in the future for pornhub and other pornographic sites to control this material.


Another implication that has been talked about in several publications  are the political implications. When this becomes easy enough and cheap enough and convincing enough, it would be easy for someone to make a video of Barack Obama or Donald Trump saying something they had not and triggering a worldwide conflict or disturbing real-world consequences. Some members of the Trump family have already been used in this way:



Many of the discussion around the topic of deepfakes has rotated around the disturbing applications and pointing at certain doom and gloom and the unprecedented nature of this technology. Indeed, in recent history it is hard to identify something similar. But if you reach just a little bit further back to the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth you hit on the original Revolutionary Deepfakes–also known as The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France as Robert Darnton has named them.


Darnton’s book has been praised, critiqued, and commented upon in several places, so I don’t intend to go into great depth here (though I will note that I’m a little critical of Darnton’s over-dependence on one archive and that some of his conclusions are a bit dated now and could be updated, but it still remains a valuable contribution to the field). The significance for our discussion here, however, is that Darnton points out that there were dozens (and perhaps hundreds) of popular books that chronicled the scandalous and dissolute life of the monarchy. These books, tracts, and pamphlets, he argues, undermined the trust and the legitimacy of the royalty and the government in the eyes of the common people by “showing” in graphic terms what was “really going on” behind the closed doors of Versailles and elsewhere. The loss of trust and legitimacy that was created through these ‘fake-news’ pornographic texts eventually lead to people forming their own negative opinions about the church, the state, and the royalty and incited them into revolution.


There is indeed a precursor to pornographic deepfakes and fake news, and the last time it happened–fueled by the tipping-point popularization of the printing press and widespread literacy–it lead to the entire death of the ancien regime. It also lead to mass death, starvation, war, and destruction. Of course this is an overly-simplified argument, but you get the idea. What remains to be argued is how systems of governance, the media and ‘reality’ regained legitimacy after the shakeup of the revolution. What remains is that the media, government, and society needs to find a new way of claiming, gaining, and maintaining legitimacy in this tumultuous age.


Where did the ideas of homosexuality and heterosexuality come from?

This was previously published here, on Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness and Education site.


Too often it is taken for granted that everyone in the world falls into the different camps of heterosexual/straight or homosexual/gay/lesbian. Whether it’s when you’re signing up for Facebook or a dating app, you’re asked to choose on the spot if you’re into men or women. It splits the sexual world down the middle.

Then there is “everyone else” on the sexuality spectrum – which includes groups who use terms as far-ranging as bisexual, asexual, or others that make people feel like they fall outside of the two ‘accepted’ sexualities and which can lead to struggles with identity. For a long time in the West, and still in many places in the world, it is not seen as okay to be homosexual – you’re only allowed to be straight.

But what if I told you that for the vast and overwhelming majority of the human race throughout history, and even throughout the history of Western civilization, this was not the case?

In fact, these ideas about sexuality are only about 150 years old—that’s a whole 100 years after the founding of the United States!

The terms heterosexual and homosexual weren’t even invented by a professional: they were first used by an Austrian poet in 1869 to describe people he saw as being perverts.  Our understanding of heterosexuality and homosexuality is overly dominated by a group of men working in the late 1800s that called themselves sexologists, including Sigmund Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and Havelock Ellis.

These sexologists believed that the only proper sort of sex was sex between an aggressive and dominant man, and a “normal and properly educated woman” who would ideally have no sexual desire of her own. According to them, any sort of sex that was not meant to make babies – fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, homosexuality, BDSM and anything else – was perverted and the people who practiced these activities were to be treated by psychologists. This is why today, we are sometimes scandalized by talking about these things or being interested in them, even though there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with them.

Before the sexologists, there was a much more casual acceptance of what we would call bisexuality, and very few defining factors or terminology when it came to sexual identity. Men who chose or preferred to sleep with other men would be seen as sinning against the church and some of the rules of society, that is true, but there was no such thing as homosexuality as it came to be understood – things fell more on a spectrum, like the Kinsey Scale.

It was seen as common that a child’s first sexual experiences might be with people of his own gender, or in the case of men, between an older man and younger boy. When puberty hit, and the boy became a man or a girl a woman, it was then that they were expected to perform like regular heterosexuals.

Not until 1895 with the trial of Oscar Wilde, was the idea of a “homosexual man” developed. After this period of time, there was a new understanding of homosexuals who had a homosexual identity, personality, and did exclusively what were categorized as homosexual activities (not just sexual). Wilde was seen as flamboyant, interested in interior design, acting like a woman, and everything a man should not be. This is where many of the stereotypes of a gay “type” of person came from.

At the turn of the 20th century, many psychologists and therapists saw homosexuality as a choice and as something that could be cured, and they tried all sorts of horrible ways to ‘fix’ people that were, in retrospect, not broken at all.

We have come a long way since the early 1900s, and have established that it’s completely normal to be homosexual or heterosexual,  and there is an increasing acceptance in society of people of different sexualities. We too often forget that these categories of homosexual and heterosexual are more or less made up or disproven ideas, and that there is a lot of room for the various flavors and types of sexuality out there!

How did porn become porn?

Fresco from the House of the Centurion, Pompeii, first century BCE

Fresco from the House of the Centurion, Pompeii, first century BCE


This was previously published here, on Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness and Education site.


What is porn? This seems to be a silly question, because the answer seems so obvious—you ‘know it when you see it.’ But you’d be surprised about the amount of ink spilled and the amount of time wasted over this topic. In fact, the more you think about it, the less clear it becomes!

The first possible answer is that porn is just depictions of naked men or women, which would seem to make sense… until you consider that millions of people go to art museums every year where there are paintings of naked or scantily-clad men and women and those paintings aren’t considered pornography!

So then, is it videos or pictures of people having sex? That would exclude a lot of porno mags that just focus on women or men, but if we went down that route, it would seem to make even sex-ed videos that are surprisingly un-sexy into pornography, which is the exact opposite of what is trying to be done there.

Maybe the answer is in the dictionary! The Oxford English Dictionary defines pornography as “the explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings.” Going by that definition, then, means that if the creator’s intent was to turn somebody on, then it is thereby porn. Of course this definition has its own problems too—what about voyeur porn or other types that aren’t necessarily created to turn people on, like instructional videos?

What’s more, the word pornography itself was only invented about 150 years ago to talk about the prostitute-drawings (or in Greek porno-graphos) that they were digging up at Pompeii. But we’ve been making dirty pictures since the time we lived in caves – the earliest cave art in Chauvet, France is a vagina. And books that even modern readers would consider straight-up porn like Fanny Hill were written a hundred years before the word pornography was invented!

One of the earliest works that included dirty pictures alongside erotic poetry was I Modi, which was made in Italy In 1524, almost 500 years ago. To a modern eye, these pictures would definitely be considered porn, but the creator’s intent wasn’t to arouse the viewer. Instead, the creator, Pietro Aretino and Marcantonio Raimondi, wanted to make fun of the Catholic Church, which they thought was full of priests that didn’t live up to the Bible—there were a lot of priests having children and fighting in wars. Other poets, like Lord Rochester, wrote poems about the King of England spending all his money and time on prostitutes.

The Church and the King didn’t like this sort of work. It was personally insulting and they didn’t want people to laugh at them, so they started to go after this type of work, banning it, censoring it, and arresting the people that wrote it. It wasn’t the sex that was the problem to them, it was the mocking of the Church and the King. But the more it got banned, the more that the sexual content was seen as a problem that needed to be controlled.

Eventually, laws forbidding erotic pictures, books, and movies were created and the idea of pornography as a dirty or dangerous thing was established – an idea that is thankfully now evolving.

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