We Have Always Had Needs

Recently, I stumbled across an article entitled “12th-Century Poem About A Virgin Arguing With Her Vulva Uncovered in Austrian Monastery”. I ask you, how could one not be intrigued? I had to read more.

It seems that this is the oldest known copy of this satire, but it is not the only one that has been found. In it, a woman is debating with her vulva about what attracts men more, it, or the woman’s general physical appearance. (I don’t think that question has been answered definitively, even all these centuries later.)

What fascinates me most about this poem is that there was obviously a frank discussion about sexuality even back in the 12th Century. We seem to hold two contradicting notions in our head: Ancient peoples were devoid of morals and self-control, whereas we are more sophisticated (read: prudish) now. But at the same time, we look back at past history, at least in the European, Christian sense, and tend to believe that humans have become more open, less conservative, over time. Clearly neither theory tells the whole story.

I also remember reading an article (which I can no longer find) about a wooden dildo that was found hidden up inside a fireplace niche in Colonial Williamsburg. Well, the “hidden” aspect of it implies there was a source of shame there, but its existence confirms that people have always had needs, and were willing to get creative to fulfill them.

If you look at art through the centuries, you’ll see that there has always been a fascination with genitalia. Most historians nervously attribute these things to fertility, the need to procreate, and take the sexuality out of it.

Hmph.

According to this article, sex toys have been found that date back 28,000 years. So who’s to say that fertility statues weren’t also used for pleasure and visual titillation? I mean, come on. Most of us appreciate a little stimulation now and again. Do we really think pornography originated in the 1900’s? Do we think the more artistic depictions of all things taboo began with Georgia O’Keefe?

We also seem to want to quash the fact that once upon a time, women were considered powerful by more than just those of us who are woke. (Women can create men inside their own bodies. The reverse cannot ever be claimed. That’s magical.)

This article discusses a variety of artistic depictions of female genitalia, including sculptures of the sacred yoni in Hindu art, Venus figurines that are at least 35,000 years old, and Sheela-na-gig carvings of women with exaggerated vulvas that are found throughout Europe.

Further, Baubo figurines were popular in ancient Greece. They were often depicted as a naked headless body with a female face emerging from the torso, and a vulva on the chin. Hmmm.

In the Palauan archipelago, one could often find Dilukai, or carvings of women with their legs splayed open, above the doors of the houses of the chiefs. These were said to be sacred carvings to ward off evil, and symbolize fertility and spiritual rebirth. But missionaries tried to claim they were there to shame immoral women. (I suspect that what went on in the chief’s house had little to do with lessons in morality.)

It is even said that the Vesica Piscis, an almond-shaped symbol that appears all over the place throughout history, including in the ancient Christian fish symbol, is actually a depiction of the female vaginal source of creation.

Personally, I see no reason to cast shame upon those who believe in the sacred female, nor should we feel shame about the body parts that have allowed all of us to walk upon this earth, nor in the urges that have caused us to make use of said body parts. More power to us all.

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A 12th-century Sheela Na Gig on a Church in Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England

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Weird Drawbridge Stuff

Every time I think I’ve seen it all as a bridgetender, something new and surprising happens. The other day, a boat passed under my bridge, and on the bow there was a woman in a hot pink, shiny catsuit, wearing a powder blue motorcycle helmet, complete with visor. I wish I had had time to whip out my camera, but I was too busy standing there, slack-jawed.

I’ve also seen my fair share of nudity and inappropriate acts, and believe me, most of them I wish I could wash out of my brain with bleach. It seems as though the level of one’s exhibitionism is directly proportionate to one’s lack of classic beauty. I would really rather not see your thick carpet of back hair, ma’am, thankyouverymuch.

And then there are the strange things that have floated by my tower: Houses. Lengths of bridge. Airplanes. Submarine periscopes. UFOs (unidentified floating objects). I once opened for a yacht being used by Sir Paul McCartney when he did the halftime show at the super bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. (I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, though.)

Pedestrians can be quite entertaining, too. They often like to sing. And while they tackle it with enthusiasm, as a general rule they shouldn’t try out for American Idol.

Or they dance. We get a lot of dancers. One guy walked down the sidewalk dribbling an imaginary basketball. Another preached a full sermon to the geese on the canal.

People have gotten into fist fights while crossing my bridge. I’ve seen more than one marriage proposal. A sad number walk across, shouting and gesticulating when no one else is there.

I’ve also seen eagles and falcons and ospreys and alligators and nutria and harbor seals and dolphins, to name but a few of the fascinating creatures who share the planet with us. I’ve also seen more lightning strikes and rainbows and sunrises and sunsets than I can count.

I’ve seen enough bizarre traffic accidents to make me wonder if anyone puts any thought into vehicular safety anymore. I’ve also heard every obscenity known to man, and have had a wide variety of objects thrown at me. I’ve also had government snipers on my bridge when presidential nominees were making speeches nearby.

I really do have the most interesting job in the world. I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but somehow I suspect that I haven’t. So watch this space!

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A coworker to a picture of this waterspout as it passed by the bridge. Glad I wasn’t on duty!

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The Hefner Spin

Jeez, Hef is barely cold, and he’s already being immortalized. I just heard something on NPR, for chrissake, that said that his magazine sparked the sexual revolution. I almost choked on my M&Ms.

Okay, I’ll concede this much: His magazine made sex an open topic for discussion. His magazine normalized nudity. And sometimes, at its pinnacle, before it became the joke that it now is, it really did have good articles. Really.

But this spin that he liberated women? Omigod. Where to begin.

Playboy bunnies are seen as great successes by those who are into that stuff, but not for their brains, honey. Not for their achievements or their societal contributions. Not for any other reason than making the decision to shuck off their clothes in their early 20’s, as if the choices one makes at that age are consistently rational. Gimme a break. If anything, that liberated them to become objects.

You never hear anyone talk about the fact that his magazine helped perpetuate the body shaming that still exists to this day. Very few of us can live up to the standards that his Barbie dolls set. Even fewer of us are in our early 20’s. I actually had to give up on internet dating sites because the men my age are looking for skinny young women. You might be an old sleaze, but that doesn’t make you Hugh Hefner, buddy. Get real.

And by the way, who owned the damned mansion? Not the women whose flesh gave Hugh Hefner so much profit. He might have let some of them live there, and gave them allowances in exchange for unprotected sex, but the fortune and the control was all his. Don’t you think otherwise for a second. And by the way, if they didn’t give him or his friends sex, they didn’t get that “allowance.” That’s not prostitution… how?

The fact that so many women were willing to sleep with this creepy, dried-up 91 year old weasel in exchange for his handouts does not elevate them in anyone’s eyes. That they’d humiliate themselves by dressing up like rabbits (the ultimate breeding machines, lest we forget), does not make them pillars of the community. The fact that they were expected to entertain a revolving door of sleazy celebrities like Bill Cosby and Charlie Sheen should not, I hope, make them the subject of envy. I strongly suspect that none of them have won the Nobel Prize.

I’ve got to admit though, the dude was rife for parody. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Hugh Hefner died. I guess he’ll Miss October.” That did make me laugh.

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The Fremont Solstice Parade

Yesterday I had the quintessential Seattle, Washington day. It was the kind of day that really highlighted the fact that I’m not in Jacksonville, Florida anymore, baby, and I’m sooooooo glad of it! I could never have had a day like this in Florida. Not in a million years.

It’s an annual tradition here, on the Saturday closest to the longest day of the year, that there is a parade that wends its way through the Fremont neighborhood. But this isn’t just any parade. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all! This is a parade in which hundreds of people ride bicycles, and are wearing nothing but body paint.

My friends Paula and Jackson and I were amazed at how creative people were. Naked tigers. Naked Wonder Women. Some people were just flat out naked. I swear I saw more nudity in the space of an hour than I had in the rest of my 52 years.

The artistry and the confidence and pure joy of these people was liberating to me. And I loved that these were everyday people, complete with beer guts and wrinkles and back hair and curves and scars and sags and pregnant bellies. I love that people brought their kids. I love that anyone could participate.

I just freakin’ love Seattle!

After the bicyclists came some amazing floats, including a few very unflattering Trump parodies, and several bands and drum corps dressed in beautifully outlandish costumes. There were also a couple miles of vendors, anything from food to jewelry to hippie clothes to art to face painting and henna tattoos. And best of all, in that crowd of thousands, it was a peaceful and loving atmosphere.

I’ll leave you with some of the photos my friend Paula and I took of the event, and I’ll say it again:

I JUST FREAKIN’ LOVE SEATTLE!!!

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The Mysterious Death of a Decisive Woman

I met one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever known during my sophomore year in college. She shared my major and was extremely intelligent, so it was natural that I’d have been drawn to her. But the more I knew, the more intrigued I became.

I can say without hesitation that she was like no one else on the planet. One day I was to meet her at her dorm room, and when I went in she was sitting at her desk, doing her homework, stark naked. Her roommate was dithering awkwardly on the other side of the room. I didn’t know where to look, and yet we were carrying on a conversation as if nothing was amiss. This was nothing that my New England Protestant upbringing had prepared me for. When it was time to go, she got up, got dressed and off we went.

Another time we had gone out for pizza and we were in her car, waiting to turn left on a divided highway. When she pulled out, she didn’t see the old woman crossing in front of her car from the right. The next thing I knew, the woman was splayed across the hood of her car, cursing us vigorously through the windshield. The woman rolled off the car and walked away, still cursing. My friend drove off. I sat there with my hand over my mouth, and she said, “Well, dammit, she shouldn’t have walked in front of my car!” And that was that.

Another time she asked if I would be willing to do a threesome with her and her boyfriend. “Uh, no thank you.” This was the same week she told me she had made out with a particularly unattractive girl in our dorm just to see what it was like. It wasn’t the fact that she kissed a girl that bothered me. It was that she kissed one that never seemed to wash her hair, and all while having a steady boyfriend. I know, it was a strange reaction, but she brought out a lot of strange reactions in me.

She studied abroad in Mexico the year after I did, and several years later she mentioned quite casually that while she was there she was drugged, kidnapped, and woke up in a Mexico City hotel room, tied to a bed, where she was then repeatedly raped. I asked her how she got away. “Oh, he got bored and let me go.” I asked her if she reported it, and she said it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Er… what?

I can’t say that I agreed with, or even approved of, the decisions she made in her life, but by God I admired how decisive she was! Once she made a choice, she stuck to it. And those choices seemed to be influenced not at all by societal norms. I sort of envied her freedom, even if it brought her to places I wouldn’t have wanted to go.

After college we sort of drifted apart. She got married to Mr. threesome, had two children, and then, decisive woman that she was, she became a born again, charismatic Christian and was therefore almost impossible to talk to. Then one day it became a moot point because she couldn’t talk anymore.

She had a brain tumor. They were able to remove it, but somehow it affected her ability to speak. The doctors were certain this was permanent. She could type and write, and her cognitive skills seemed to be as sharp as ever before, but she was rendered mute. One of her last e-mails to me mentioned her understandable frustration at this development.

A few days later she was dead. Her church announced that she “died mysteriously” and that was all I was able to find out. But I could easily imagine what this decisive woman had done. And as usual, I didn’t approve of her decision. But she certainly made one.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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