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Archaic practice evolving even after restrictive laws

Oral sex escapes modern taboos

Wendell T. Harrison, Revelry Writer

Issue date: 4/1/04 Section: Entertainment
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While every generation believes it pioneered new sexual practices like oral sex, the practice of using the mouth to stimulate sexual organs has been "going down" for centuries.

Blowing through History

Historically, the practice of non-procreation sexual activities has been a highly controversial topic among scholars, theologians, politicians, parents and even students.

In fact, one of the earliest sources mentioning oral sex is the Bible, which attempts to explain how the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

According to archeologists Graham Harris and Tony Beardow, in the July/August 1996 edition of the magazine "Archaeology," Sodom and Gomorrah fell around 1900 B.C. From the city of Sodom comes the term sodomy, which describes any sexual act not leading to childbirth, including, but not limited to, masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, and anal sex.

In 1998, French writer/professor Theirry Leguay wrote "L'Histoire Raisonnee de la Fellation," which outlines the course of fellatio through myth, culture and art.

"L'Histoire," whose full title means "The Reasoned History of Fellatio," has not been translated for English production, yet is the only internationally known and published work on the origin of fellatio.

Leguay believed fellatio, the act of orally stimulating a man's penis, can be traced back to the Egyptians. He cited Greek philosopher Plutarch, in the first century A.D., recorded the famous myth of the gods Isis and Osiris. After Osiris' penis was removed, Isis created a replica out of clay and "blew" life into it, allowing Osiris to copulate one last time.

Next, Leguay noted how Romans linked oral sex to power, creating dominant and submissive roles. Cunnilingus (the female equivalent to fellatio) was considered dirty, yet according to bathhouse graffiti, or word carvings in the walls, some male prostitutes were known to wait in the corners of these baths for women requesting their services.

In India, Sage Vatsyayana wrote the ever-popular sexual manual, "Kama Sutra," between 100 to 500 A.D. Leguay stated the guide considers oral sex a minor act but it still included a chapter about it, called "auparishtaka," or oral congress.

In contrast to fellatio, Leguay introduced the progressive monarch, Wu Hu, who reigned from 690 to 705 A.D as the only female Chinese emperor. The T'ang Dynasty empress used her position to decree all visiting dignitaries to pay their respects by performing cunnilingus on her.

John Derbyshire, a writer for the New York Press, an alternative newspaper, wrote an article in June 2001 about the acceptance of fellatio today as compared to his childhood in the '60s. In the article, titled "Playing the Flute," Derbyshire made reference to a book titled "Jin Ping Mei."

"The classic 16th-century Chinese erotic novel 'Jin Ping Mei,' has a character, Golden Lotus, who is especially adept at [fellatio]. The term used is pin-xiao, 'playing the flute,'" Derbyshire wrote.

Sodomy Laws Arise

In many societies, not limited to America, discussing sexual acts were as taboo as practicing them. According to George Painter, in his work "The Sensibilities of Our Forefathers," sodomy laws originated in 1533 under King Henry VIII.

Painter shifts to the colonies, writing about "The Province of Pennsylvania," a Quaker group that felt it important to also create legislation on which sexual acts are abominations. In 1683, the group decided to declare sodomy an "unnatural sin."

By 1960, 300 years later, every state in the U.S. had created anti-sodomy laws, Painter said. Some states specifically punished sodomy if it was between homosexuals, while others included heterosexuals in that scope. The next year, however, Illinois repealed its decision, purposefully omitting sodomy as a criminal act from their legislation.

Painter also points out that sodomy had many enemies outside the United States, especially in the Islamic world, where those found guilty of fornication or homosexuality were sentenced to death. This is a practice that continues to this day.

Recently, on June 26, 2003, all sodomy laws had been found unconstitutional by the outcome of Lawrence and Garner v. State of Texas. Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, 14 states, including Louisiana, still had sodomy laws. The decision basically gave individuals the right of engaging in any sexual act in the private sector.

Media Stiffens Regulations

Even as sodomy laws were constantly debated, Painter said most Americans did not discuss oral sex and many thought of it solely as a homosexual activity.

However, one film in particular changed American opinions on the act.

In January 1973, New York Times film critic Vincent Canby reviewed "Deep Throat," the cult classic pornographic film based on a woman who gained pleasure from performing oral sex on men. He contends the movie helped spread the idea that this sexual practice could be enjoyable.

Canby also wrote about the movie's impact on the era, which predated the Federal Communications Commission and the constitutional laws defining obscenity. While legislators decided it was time to filter what could be shown to the public, American men felt it was time to bring this new concept into the bedroom.

This idea affected more than the general public, as scandals involving public officials and extramarital affairs began to emerge.

In 1977, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was caught having an affair with Anne Manning, a West Georgia College professor's wife, who admits to performing oral sex on the congressman.

Years later he reprimanded former president Bill Clinton for his 1998 indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was impeached as a result of his "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky, which was based on nine separate acts of fellatio, as documented in the "Starr Report."

Today, oral sex is not the taboo it had once been. Especially with the surge of the Internet, many can find resources on health concerns, pleasurable benefits and even techniques of oral sex. However, contrary to early beliefs, oral sex does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea, hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV can all be transmitted through oral sex.

Better oral communication about sex, in all forms, has taken shape through progressive examples throughout history as modern society realizes, it is not the first to engineer the idea behind sex. The focus can be shifted from the mainstream practice onto the protection of privacy and safety of those involved.

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posted 4/02/04 @ 1:38 AM MST

Newt Gingrich was not a member of Congress in 1977. Gingrich was not a member of Congress until January 3, 1979. The article leads readers to believe that Gingrich was a Member in 1977. (Continued…)

Bob Cobb

posted 9/29/07 @ 7:33 PM MST

Vermont never had a sodomy law.

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