Sex Ed in Bed

Where’d we get such crazy ideas? (Part 1)
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

Ever heard some of these: Don’t play with your Willy or you’ll go blind, or you’ll get hairy palms, or you’ll have ten years bad luck, or you’ll go to hell? We joke about silly myths like these, but it wasn't too far in our past these ideas were published as facts — really! Furthermore, we are still constantly damaged by similar sex-negative messages from all around us — the media, the church, our government and our families. And we all know what sex experts they are.

Unfortunately for many of us, by the time we realize that we’re being duped, the messages and ill effects have already shaped our basic views of sexuality. However, learning where these myths came from and how ridiculously false they are helps to more easily rid ourselves of that baggage and embrace a positive healthy sexuality. So here is the first of the two biggest historical sources of bad sex information that still influence us today. For further reading pleasure, the below information and situations are from Ray Tannahill’s great book, Sex in History.

Augustine brought body-phobic beliefs from another religion (Manicheanism) into Christianity around 400 A.D. Believe it or not, Jesus was a body-positive guy who gladly broke the law to give a loving and healing touch. Unfortunately, Augustine believed that anything perceived by the five senses was evil, especially sex. He then became what I call the first Bible Thumper, and he banged his book louder than anyone. Augustine was the most popular theologian for a thousand years! That’s like one Pope’s influence times ten. What he believed gradually became church doctrine and then it filtered into the secular law of the Western world.

Thanks to Augustine’s influence, even intercourse between husband and wife was believed to be necessary evil for only the purpose of procreation and even then, it was severely restricted. For example, sexual intercourse was forbidden for three days after the wedding, during a woman’s menstrual period, during her pregnancy, and for several weeks after childbirth. Further, church codes also forbid intercourse on: Thursdays, in memory of Christ’s arrest; Fridays, in memory of his death; Saturdays, in honor of the Virgin Mary; Sundays, in honor of the Resurrection; and Mondays, in commemoration of the departed. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were effectively restricted by a ban on intercourse during feasts and festivals. My friend Jack, who thoroughly researched this says, “With such severe restrictions, times when intercourse was permissible could only be figured out by a mathematician. Most other men visited prostitutes.”

Oh, Yes! The Church’s view that sex between husband and wife for only the purpose of procreation was an easy rule to follow when prostitution was viewed as the lesser of two necessary evils. Thomas Aquinas, one of the many followers of Augustine’s teachings, compared prostitution to a sewer: “Take away the sewer, and you will fill the palace with pollution. Take away prostitutes from the world, and you fill it with sodomy.” Somehow I don’t think they viewed sodomy with as much pleasure as we do today. But wait — it gets even crazier. In the years between 1100-1550, there was actually a Church brothel in Avignon, France where “the girls spent part of their time in prayer and religious duties and the rest of the time servicing customers. Christians only. No Jews or heathens were permitted to cross the threshold.”

Keep in mind, these are our ancestors. Furthermore, our founding fathers partly came to America to practice their own brand of ultra-conservative religion away from the evil, godless Europeans. As Robin Williams said, “How up tight do you have to be for the British to tell you to get in your little boats and go away?” There’s a reason they called themselves Puritans! So it’s not surprising that we still suffer from religiously tight asses. These events in history may seem far removed and inapplicable to today’s standards and yet, the underlying message is often the same as Augustine’s: “The act of intercourse is fundamentally disgusting.”

A second enormous source of sexual misinformation is found just a few generations ago in our own country, which will be explored in the next Sex Ed in Bed column. Would you believe it has to do with corn flakes, Graham crackers and sexual repression? Crazy ideas!

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