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Thread: Ancient understandings of sex

  1. #1 Ancient understandings of sex 
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    This is a historical question regarding what humans believed caused procreation in ancient times [i.e. Ancient Greece/Rome]. Obviously, they knew sex was necessary, but they didn't know about cells and biology, and the egg and sperm. What did they believe was happening during conception/pregnancy? Was it explained by the divine in most cases [their religion?]
    Thanks for any answers


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    Sex, or "snoo-snoo", as the ancients referred to it as, always had divine mixed with alchemical explanations. Sperm was referred to as "the seed" and so on, and the womb has often been represented as a goblet, chalice etc. able to have that seed grow. The details were filled in by the divine. Of course this is a huge subject. Human sexuality has been one of the more studied topics. Many things around us are representative of the phallus or the chalice. I wonder if anyone here is an expert.


    Last edited by pyoko; August 16th, 2012 at 01:51 AM.
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    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    In sex? I may not be an expert but I have alot of experience.
    In all seriousness though. Human sexuality and procreation were a mystery for thousands of years. It was understood that a woman and a man had to copulate for conception to occur but the details were long a mystery. It was commonly held that a mans sperm or "seed" held a divine spark from the creator and that this spark found purchase in the woman's otherwise empty "field". In many cultures it was considered a sin for a mans seed to be spilled or wasted. It was also a common belief that if a couple were unable to reproduce the fault lay with the woman. Her field was fallow or she had offended a deity.

    THe following article gives a fascinating look at how the ancient Egyptians viewed the entire cycle from attraction of two people through the birth of a child. Procreation in ancient Egypt
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    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    Here is another article that discusses beliefs in pre-christian Rome Fertility and Childbirth in Ancient Rome
    Not all who wander are lost... Some of us just misplaced our destination.

    I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist.
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    anthropologist Ashley montagu claimed that among australian aborigines, although intercourse is in some way associated with preganancy, it is generally considered to be one of the conditions, not the cause. 'the effective cause of preganancy is the intergration of a spirit child from a specific known external source, suh as a totem centre, an item of food, a whirlwind and the like.'

    Some anthropologists have argued against the idea that some primative people are ignorant of the relationship between sex and babies, since these people have experience of animals.

    Even at the begining of the 19th centurary in britain the biological function of intercourse was not understood. There was a deep conviction that sperm alone was responsible for creation of the embryo - a beleif dating back to aristotle. for this reason every naturalist, and indeed every man who pretended to the smallest portion of medical science, was convinced that his children were no more related to his wife than to the wife of his neighbour. the mamillion egg was discovered in 1827.

    (some book i've been reading, 1993)
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    I remember reading about the Margaret Mead hoax. Margaret Mead went to study the Samoans, and wrote 'Coming Of Age In Samoa.' If I recall correctly, one of the things that they told her was that they didn't know where babies came from, but it turned out later on that some of the people who talked to her were hoaxing her and having fun telling her things they didn't really believe, and in reality, they knew exactly how babies were made (although not at the cellular level).
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    Quote Originally Posted by longhairlover View Post
    I remember reading about the Margaret Mead hoax. Margaret Mead went to study the Samoans, and wrote 'Coming Of Age In Samoa.' If I recall correctly, one of the things that they told her was that they didn't know where babies came from, but it turned out later on that some of the people who talked to her were hoaxing her and having fun telling her things they didn't really believe, and in reality, they knew exactly how babies were made (although not at the cellular level).
    Margaret Mead - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In 1999 Freeman published another book, The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research, including previously unavailable material. Most anthropologists have since been highly critical of Freeman's arguments. A frequent criticism of Freeman is that he regularly misrepresented Mead's research and views.[23][24] In a 2009 evaluation of the debate, anthropologist Paul Shankman concluded that:

    There is now a large body of criticism of Freeman's work from a number of perspectives in which Mead, Samoa, and anthropology appear in a very different light than they do in Freeman's work. Indeed, the immense significance that Freeman gave his critique looks like "much ado about nothing" to many of his critics.[23]

    In 1996 Martin Orans examined Mead's notes preserved at the Library of Congress, and credits her for leaving all of her recorded data available to the general public. Orans concludes that Freeman's basic criticisms, that Mead was duped by ceremonial virgin Fa'apua'a Fa'amu (who later swore to Freeman that she had played a joke on Mead) were false for several reasons: first, Mead was well aware of the forms and frequency of Samoan joking; second, she provided a careful account of the sexual restrictions on ceremonial virgins that correspond's to Fa'apua'a Fa'auma'a's account to Freeman, and third, that Mead's notes make clear that she had reached her conclusions about Samoan sexuality before meeting Fa'apua'a Fa'amu.
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    Interesting. So the 'hoax' might not actually have occurred, or, at the very least, it might not have been as bad as I've been told. Since I haven't read Mead's book, I don't have my own impressions of it, and have only heard all of this secondhand. I don't even know exactly what Mead did say about the Samoans' explanations of sex.
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    I can't count on both hands how many things I've heard in my life that turned out to not be accurate. Like the Ten Percent myth or Mr. Rogers being a Marine Sniper and wearing sweaters to hide the tattoos on his arms or Mattel making the M-16 for the Army- all wrong.

    Always check everything.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    I can't count on both hands how many things I've heard in my life that turned out to not be accurate. Like the Ten Percent myth or Mr. Rogers being a Marine Sniper and wearing sweaters to hide the tattoos on his arms or Mattel making the M-16 for the Army- all wrong.

    Always check everything.
    I've heard about the 'Ten Percent of the Brain' myth, but I've never heard the one about Mr. Rogers or the M-16. I will go check those myths on google to see if they really exist. You might have just invented a couple of new myths out of thin air to hoax me.
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    Well, I found both myths, but I'm getting the impression that a company named Mattel might possibly have made plastic parts of real guns, if not the metal parts of the guns, so I'm not sure the debate is settled yet on whether this is a myth.

    I don't think I could invent a new myth on purpose if I wanted to. What are the attributes of a good myth? There has to be something unexpected, something that isn't what it seems. It has to be something we're all familiar with and take for granted. Mr. Rogers seems like a nice guy, Mattel seems like a harmless toy company, Margaret Mead seems like an idealistic naive utopian who is easily hoaxed, but who actually turns out to be a competent scientific researcher who got it right.

    I heard that McDonald's hamburgers were made of kangaroo meat, but I have no objection to eating kangaroo meat, so I don't care if the myth is true or not.

    I probably should not contribute to any further derailing of this thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by longhairlover View Post
    Well, I found both myths, but I'm getting the impression that a company named Mattel might possibly have made plastic parts of real guns, if not the metal parts of the guns, so I'm not sure the debate is settled yet on whether this is a myth.
    Try Snopes.
    Mattel had made a toy gun that the soldiers in 'Nam compared the M-16 too. That seems to be the origin.
    Quote Originally Posted by longhairlover View Post
    I heard that McDonald's hamburgers were made of kangaroo meat, but I have no objection to eating kangaroo meat, so I don't care if the myth is true or not.
    That might fly in Australia... But I doubt they import it to here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    I can't count on both hands how many things I've heard in my life that turned out to not be accurate. Like the Ten Percent myth or Mr. Rogers being a Marine Sniper and wearing sweaters to hide the tattoos on his arms or Mattel making the M-16 for the Army- all wrong.

    Always check everything.
    ...and GI Joe doesn't really exist?...
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    Quote Originally Posted by efbjr View Post
    ...and GI Joe doesn't really exist?...
    I hope you weren't counting on his help with anything important.
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    I think people have known what the results of sex has been for years,centuries, milliniums even.... As long as man has hearded and penned animals this has fell true.... And also I feel that society has tried to for their own personal reasons to hide/alter those facts or spread falsehoods to attempt to gain notoriety or power over others simply because it doesn't work every time you have sex "getting pregnent" due to the cycles a woman passes through....
    Isn't it funny how nature sends you the signals that when 2 bodies collide that something new is created and yet some don't conceive that notion that this is how nature works in its entirety....

    I'm pretty sure that man thought so much of himself that he beleived that he put his seed into a woman and in truth the seed was already there in part due to facts that a lot times the child comes out to look like the father if male and like the mother if female.... Which probably puzzled them big time when that didn't happen "which we know sometimes occurs....
    (warthog) an ugly little animal in Africa that is hunted, killed and eaten by lions.

    Sorry i'm no scientist so don't expect me to use those terms which scientist use
    to explain things.... I am only an observer of things....

    Every dream i've dreamed isn't the life I live in....
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    Quote Originally Posted by longhairlover View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by efbjr View Post
    ...and GI Joe doesn't really exist?...
    I hope you weren't counting on his help with anything important.
    Well...Joe has been instrumental in thinning out the population of giant, mutant, killer squirrels!
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  18. #17  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pyoko View Post
    Sex, or "snoo-snoo", as the ancients referred to it as, always had divine mixed with alchemical explanations. Sperm was referred to as "the seed" and so on, and the womb has often been represented as a goblet, chalice etc. able to have that seed grow. The details were filled in by the divine. Of course this is a huge subject. Human sexuality has been one of the more studied topics. Many things around us are representative of the phallus or the chalice. I wonder if anyone here is an expert.
    no kidding. it seems any product that comes in a bottle and is marketed towards women has a high chance of having a phallic shape. For instance, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner.
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    no kidding. it seems any product that comes in a bottle and is marketed towards women has a high chance of having a phallic shape. For instance, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner.
    how about coke bottles ? are they directed towards a female customer base ?
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  20. #19  
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    as much as GI Joe with a kung fu grip is targeted at lonely men.

    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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    Many things around us are representative of the phallus or the chalice. I wonder if anyone here is an expert.
    Far too many people want to see representations or similarities in lots of things. Freud took it to ludicrous lengths by couching such things in long words and made-up "systems". But it's the universal human propensity not just to see, but to seek out, patterns and similarities in all kinds of things.

    Ancient herbal theory 'works' on this basis. 'Lungwort' is named, not for its observed efficacy in dealing with respiratory illnesses, but because of the similarity of the leaves to lung tissue. Even if were shown to be helpful for lung problems, it would not be because of its visual appearance. It would be mere chance. 'Mandrake' was named because the oddly shaped roots look, to the imaginative eye, a bit like the limbs of a human. It's only "medical" use was as a narcotic.

    There are a few that are named for genuine efficacy. Comfrey, for instance, is commonly known as 'knitbone'. It is very efficacious as an external poultice for bruises, sprains and minor breaks.

    For sexual imagery, anyone who wants to can see phallic or female sexual likenesses in the natural or built world can find them anywhere and everywhere. Just look at a basket of a dozen different vegetables - once you're inclined to look at stuff through this distorting lens, you'll see what you're looking for all over the place.
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  22. #21  
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    long ago and far away,
    up the street from house of the woman who became my wife
    was an old church whose belfry had been shingled over with green asphalt shingles which matched the roof
    and she used to call it
    "the church of the big green weenie"

    ....................
    "eye of the beholder" and all that
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    Walking down the street
    I saw a stone that looked a bit odd
    how it is that a stone could look like a bone OH MY GOD!
    it's neither a stone nor a bone but a toy that simulates meat.

    that's both sad and bad, dad

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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Many things around us are representative of the phallus or the chalice. I wonder if anyone here is an expert.
    Far too many people want to see representations or similarities in lots of things. Freud took it to ludicrous lengths by couching such things in long words and made-up "systems". But it's the universal human propensity not just to see, but to seek out, patterns and similarities in all kinds of things.

    Ancient herbal theory 'works' on this basis. 'Lungwort' is named, not for its observed efficacy in dealing with respiratory illnesses, but because of the similarity of the leaves to lung tissue. Even if were shown to be helpful for lung problems, it would not be because of its visual appearance. It would be mere chance. 'Mandrake' was named because the oddly shaped roots look, to the imaginative eye, a bit like the limbs of a human. It's only "medical" use was as a narcotic.

    There are a few that are named for genuine efficacy. Comfrey, for instance, is commonly known as 'knitbone'. It is very efficacious as an external poultice for bruises, sprains and minor breaks.

    For sexual imagery, anyone who wants to can see phallic or female sexual likenesses in the natural or built world can find them anywhere and everywhere. Just look at a basket of a dozen different vegetables - once you're inclined to look at stuff through this distorting lens, you'll see what you're looking for all over the place.
    If you ever watch the movie called "The number 23" with Jim Carrey in it, the special features on the dvd has psychologists covering this phenomenon pretty extensively. The movie is about a guy who gets obsessed with the number 23 and he sees it everywhere. The psychologists on the special features were saying that if you look for something or some kind of pattern you will find it, even if it's not really there. I believe him but did discover a situation where it doesn't work. I looked for $100 bills regularly and haven't seen any since, and its been years.
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    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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