We've got a year!
Even though some holdouts insist that society has been going to hell in a handbasket only since Alfred Kinsey invented sex, some of the more history-minded of us looked at the evidence and concluded that people have been fucking a lot longer than that. Clearly we need to roll back social reform back way more than a mere 60 years. The question is just a matter of how far?
Well, we are closer than ever to an answer. Sotheby's just auctioned off the oldest known pornographic book by a certain Earl of Rochester, who wrote it sometime in the 1670's. And as we all know that people didn't know anything about this lewd sex stuff that permeates our culture until sick pornographers gave them ideas, then we can safely say that this play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery is the beginning of a Western civilization's slow descent. Clearly, we need to roll back social progress to some point before this book was published. It seems to me that the period of English history when this man was the ruler is probably a good time to model our new Gil-, I mean, America on. (We just have to find a way to trick the Catholics into agreeing.)
In all honestly, Rochester wrote some of the most fun poetry I've ever read, especially this poem lamenting a bout of impotence where he chastises his cock for its dismal performance.
Thou treacherous, base deserter of my flame,
False to my passion, fatal to my fame,
Through what mistaken magic dost thou prove
So true to lewdness, so untrue to love?
What oyster-cinder-beggar-common whore
Didst thou e'er fail in all thy life before?
When vice, disease, and scandal lead the way,
With what officious haste dost thou obey!
Like a rude, roaring hector in the streets
Who scuffles, cuffs, and justles all he meets,
But if his king or country claim his aid,
The rakehell villain shrinks and hides his head;
Ev'n so thy brutal valour is displayed,
Breaks every stew, does each small whore invade,
But when great Love the onset does command,
Base recreant to thy prince, thou dar'st not stand.
Indeed. Far more humorous than any football-themed Viagra ads, I dare say.
Edited to add: Damn, today is a great day for lit majors-cum-bloggers who hate censorship. As soon as I finished typing this, I decided to go check out Jesus' General, since I sort of stole his schtick to make sure that he didn't cover the exact same story. Lo and behold, the story he's covering today is obscenity in a movie version of Merchant of Venice! Apparently, frolicking cupids in a painting in the background of the scene are just too much for American viewers, who prefer their cupids to be sans penis. (How do penis-less cupids pee on your shirt when you're changing their diaper?)
I suppose this is just the sort of thing we can expect to see after the success of The Passion. 16th century plays that bash the Jews? Sounds like good movie-making! 16th century Venetian art that depicts naked Greek gods? Pornography! More from Digby.