In the future, they'll probably wonder why we were so nervous about sex. For instance, they'll probably wonder why every school kid knows who invented the airplane, but not, for instance, who invented the first vibrator, or the first porno movie ... even though they're way more widely used.
But here's the interesting thing: The great men and women lauded by society for mainstream discoveries and the underground smut peddlers who advanced the art of masturbation are often the same people.
For instance ...
#5. William Dickson Invented the Motion Picture, Porn Movie
Cracked nemesis Thomas Edison gets credit for creating the motion picture camera, but it was actually the work of one of his brilliant but unacknowledged underlings, William Dickson. Edison had patented a "motion picture camera," but the device didn't actually exist. So he brought Dickson on to actually figure out how to make the thing. Dickson saved Edison's ass by designing a system to feed celluloid film of 35 mm in width through a camera to create a moving image (if that sounds familiar, it's because Dickson's standard is the same one used today).
One guess as to what that hat was covering up.
This genius Scottish inventor went on to found the first movie production company, made the first talking movies and ... created the first porno film.
Dickson used a close relative of the Kinetoscope, a Mutoscope, to create a set of moving flip cards that could be cranked by hand while the viewer peered in.
Elaborate dress optional, but nevertheless pleasing.
Given the peepshow nature of the Mutoscope, one of its very first (and very popular) films was a classic called "What the Butler Saw."
... penis. We bet the answer is penis.
This film was the first pornographic movie in history. It showed Victorian lovelies in various stages of undress as a lecherous butler (read: you) enjoyed the scene from a keyhole. This Mutoscope reel became so popular that Mutoscopes are colloquially known as "What the Butler Saw" machines.
Because sex is something unmarried women can pretty much take or leave.
We mentioned that William Dickson set up the first movie studio. Well, that studio went on to be the first porn clearinghouse, producing a variety of naughty films under Dickson's watchful eye. While Mutoscopes did show things like horse races, it was smut and violence that made the machines so popular. After all, the Mutoscope was one of the few places where a Victorian gentleman could see a naked woman as long as he was willing to risk having a giant boner in the middle of an arcade.
A quarter? When we were young, inappropriate boners were a dime a dozen.
#4. Hugo Gernsback Invented Science Fiction, Then Published a Sex Magazine
While combining elements of science with fantastical stories is standard now, there was actually a time when such a thing didn't exist, or at least didn't have a name. Hugo Gernsback was the first to realize that women riding robots should be classified differently from women dying horribly in England, aka traditional fiction. Gernsback (who, by the way was also a pretty smart inventor, holding over 80 patents) coined the term "science fiction" and went on to publish the first magazine devoted to the stuff, Amazing Stories.
We're pretty sure the LHC is filled with monkey-men and mountain-boats.
Have you heard of a sci-fi story winning a Hugo Award? Yeah, it's named after him.
He is so well known for his work in science fiction that most people forget his other massive publishing endeavor: the first widespread U.S. magazine devoted to sex, Sexology.
Sex is exactly one-third better than masturbation. Science, bitches.
Keep in mind, this was freaking 1933 here, not an era known for its libertine attitudes toward sex. Yes, illicit girly mags had been around for decades, but Gernsback wanted to put his own, scientific twist on the subject.
Ooh, that's a titillating cover.
In its 30-year run, Sexology didn't just discuss having sex. It went all out and did scientific research on such crucial topics as homosexual chickens, odor fetishists and Hitler's sex life. The topics were written by MDs and PhDs, with everything taken seriously and laid out in a way that was factual and straightforward. Most of the time.
Remember, Gernsback was a science fiction fan at heart. In addition to the relatively mundane stories on chastity devices, one could also find stories that were obviously sensational.
They were at their third human-animal pair-off before someone remembered to take any notes.
Along with the academic articles on sexual dysfunction, you could read about real women with three breasts, the dangers of sexual vampirism and notorious husband poisoners. Come on, how else would he get people to actually buy the thing?
#3. The Real-Life Indiana Jones Brought The Kama Sutra to the Modern World
Most people don't attend a Harrison Ford movie expecting any sort of realism, but the story of Indiana Jones bears a remarkable resemblance to the ridiculous travels of one Richard Burton.
We're pretty sure he can just detach that thing and use it as a bullwhip.
Burton was a swashbuckling Brit whose swash was so large that we're pretty sure his buckle was usually ajar. He embarked on a collection of amazing adventures through Bombay, Brazil and really any other location he could construe as dangerous, mysterious and outrageously sexy. He wrote an elaborate account of his experiences sneaking into Mecca as a European non-Muslim (he became wildly famous for this daring feat, even though Ludovico di Varthema did the same thing 300 years earlier). He adventured to Africa to discover (read: find something while white) Lake Tanganyika, but not before the trip killed off all but one of his expedition.
The elusive lake, seen here from space.
Through his travels, Burton came to study a little-practiced field known as anthropological boning.
By becoming well acquainted with the customs and literature of foreign people, he rapidly acquired knowledge of everything from male prostitution to female circumcision. While these may seem relatively unexotic, remember that this was 19th century England. As a result, his "discovery" of an ancient sex manual known as The Kama Sutra of Vasyayana was nothing short of uncovering a well of sexual pleasure in an unending desert of awkward metaphors.
The art of groping had been lost to England for centuries.
Burton spruced up the work and brilliantly advertised it to the British as a way to challenge the anti-sex status quo. He intended the book to be a primarily educational endeavor that would help people do what he'd been doing for years: have mind-blowing sex.
Either mind-blowing sex or a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.
Burton wasn't done -- he also added more sex scenes and helpful sex tips to The Arabian Nights, which is a lot like revising Hamlet to include a 15-minute instructional scene on anal sex. Hey, whatever you need to do to get the information out there.
It took a thousand and one nights to untangle themselves.