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If a woman so much as pops out a boob on prime-time TV, the government issues fines, and boycotts ensue. Decorate your child's crib with dildos, and somebody will call the cops. Civilization, we tell ourselves, is all about keeping genitals out of view.

This was not always the case. When you go sifting through the shockingly explicit artifacts left behind by great civilizations, you find that we're the weird ones ...

6
A Woman Shaves Her Pubes In An Ancient Italian Monument

Giovanni Dall'Orto

Fun fact: In 2007, the entities in charge of Scottish tourism paid $250,000 to create a new slogan to welcome visitors at their airports. The slogan they decided on was "Welcome to Scotland," because every few years, you need to set a quarter of a million dollars on fire simply to keep people on their toes.

Still, that's better than what greeted visitors to Milan for hundreds of years:

Giovanni Dall'Orto
Milan Fashion Week has changed somewhat since then.

For four centuries, every single soul entering Milan had to walk beneath the Porta Tosa, a.k.a. the Door of the Shaving Lady, until some prude took it down in the 15th century. That's right; for all that time, the city of Milan would welcome weary travelers with a carving of a woman spontaneously shaving her pubic mane.

The Lady is now on display in a museum, and although nobody's entirely sure of its purpose, there are several interesting theories. The most prevalent story describes the heroic deeds of a young Milanese woman who, when Frederick I Barbarossa attacked in 1162, calmly climbed the city walls, hitched up her skirt, and trimmed her fun parts in defiance of the approaching conquerors. Upon seeing this, the enemy troops were so shocked that they turned around and ran the hell away. Among other things, this suggests some huge oversight in their battle training.

D. Boucard
Makes you wonder what Disney would have done if Mulan had chosen that option.

Of course, there's a chance this story may be slightly exaggerated, because historical records bluntly state that the Milanese totally lost that battle, and the city was stormed and burned. Another explanation is that the sculpture may depict a fairly progressive fertility goddess ... or Frederick I Barbarossa's wife (as a personal little "fuck you" from the Milanese to the guy who ruined their city).

Bodleian Library
Aside from the hair, nose, lips, jaw, and eyes, the resemblance is uncanny.

Yet another theory is that the carving depicts one of the city's prostitutes, who were encouraged to shave their pubic hair to promote "sexual hygiene." You see, the gate faces Constantinople, whose emperor refused to help the Milanese rebuild their city after Barbarossa stomped a mudhole in it. So the Milanese were essentially shaking their genitals at the emperor as they swept up the rubble that used to be their houses. Whatever the case, the Door of the Shaving Lady seems to have been carved for the explicit purpose of pissing people off.

Giovanni Dall'Orto
Though few were more pissed off than the woman taking garden shears to her genitals.

5
Peruvian Sex Pottery

Museo Larco

You know those novelty items sold at gift stores for people who have clearly given up on life, such as dick-shaped ice cube trays and boob vases? Turns out that they're not exactly a modern invention. Ancient Peruvian cultures, like the Moche and Inca, had a habit of producing the kind of pornographic pottery that would make even the most jaded porn store clerk do a double take. The vast range of sexual activity they display is mightily impressive, to the point where the Moche basically had their own ceramic Kama Sutra. Here's a guy getting it on with what appears to be a sphinx, which looks mildly surprised by this turn of events:

William Dellenback
"Oh, we're doing butt stuff now? Cool, I guess."

This clay woman is tugging on Death itself and planting big sloppy kisses on his rictus teeth:

Unearthing
"Don't Fear Fuck The Reaper"

There's oral sex being performed by yet another person, who looks blindsided yet compliant, as if they knew oral sex was on the schedule, but had the start time confused with a later meeting:

Everywhereist
So that's two meetings they'll have to blow off.

And here's a woman who appears to be the final obstacle on a miniature golf course:

Unearthing
It's where Tiger Woods goes to relax.

They even had joke pottery that wouldn't be out of place in a Spencer's Gifts. Here's an ancient gag coffee mug with a ceramic dong in the middle, slowly revealing itself to stare you squarely in the eye as you work through your drink:

Artemis Gallery
Peekaboo!

Scholars wax on about how this ancient sexed-up pottery is indicative of the Peruvian culture of warrior potency, and symbolizes their patriarchal society. At least one fine arts columnist has gone on record saying that they clearly "revered sex as a powerful and holy life-giving force with spiritual connections." All of that may certainly be true, but they also made teapots with giant dicks on them:

Museo Larco
It doubles as the world's greatest way to pour warm milk.

There's no way they weren't laughing their asses off when they made those.

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4
The Greeks Loved To Sculpt "Baubo," A Giant Vagina With A Person's Face

Wiki Commons

Greece is the birthplace of democracy, the touchstone of western civilization, and home to a cornucopia of classic art, including hordes of terracotta vulvas with human faces. Behold:

Wiki Commons
Notice how the vagina is cunningly disguised as a cleft chin.

These things, which would probably have gotten mightily along with Giotto's 14th-century crotch-face devils, hail from Priene, an ancient Greek city located in what is now Turkey. The story behind them involves Demeter, the Greek goddess of corn, whose daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades. Filled with grief and depression, Demeter roamed the Earth in search of Persephone. One day, an elderly woman named Baubo recognized Demeter and noticed that she needed some cheering up. When food and drink didn't work, Baubo's chosen method of clownery was to expose her naughty bits to Demeter, which surprised the goddess so much that she bellowed out a hearty "I just saw a surprise vagina" laugh.

Naturally, Baubo was forever after represented in painting and sculpture in the classiest way possible: as a giant, kindly vagina.

Wiki Commons
Leg fetishists everywhere have quit reading and are now touching themselves.

Fussy academics, with their stuffed shirts and their notebooks, like to explain that the story is meant as a metaphor for the female life-giving power. Artists, on the other hand, understood that the story was really about a woman flashing her moose knuckle for the purposes of an expertly-timed joke, and they went hog wild creating their tributes to the old lady who cheered up the goddess of the harvest with her nudity.

3
Ancient People Would Buy Dick Curse Tablets

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Throughout history, there have been people whose ended relationships have left them embittered enough to plot vengeance. Jilted lovers in 7th-century Cyprus were no exception. However, instead of leaving lit bags of poop or embarrassingly long-winded paragraphs of Facebook vitriol, angry ex-lovers could walk to a vendor and purchase a curse tablet specifically designed to destroy their ex's genitalia. The most famous and to-the-point of these curses reads straightforwardly: "May your penis hurt when you make love."

The Schoyen Collection
In the BDSM community, they use that as a blessing.

Of course, Cyprus didn't hold a monopoly on oddly specific curse tablets. One from Roman Britain calls down an interesting punishment for a temple thief: "May [the thief] neither urinate nor shit nor speak nor sleep nor have well-being nor health unless he bring [what he stole] to the temple of Mercury."

Stuart McKie
"Wait, so all I can eat and drink, without having to use our whack-ass bathrooms? Sweet!"

But it wasn't only jilted lovers seeking to bust balls, or angry high priests raining doom on the Tomb Raiders of the era. Different curse tablets were so much in demand that they were mass-produced, and all that a buyer had to do was fill in the name of the victim. As is expected from such a large market, there was a significant amount of specificity in the curses. For instance, here's a tablet that calls on a deity to crush the soul, buttocks, and assorted innards of a veterinarian named Porcello, because apparently someone was really dissatisfied with his practice and Yelp hadn't been invented yet:

Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna
"He didn't cure my dog's worms, and thus must die an agonizingly slow and painful death,
and must be awake and screaming the entire time. Four out of five stars."

A particularly creative tablet was aimed at a Roman senator named Fistus -- who, despite having the name of someone Skeletor would have on speed dial, was a real person. Fistus's curse tablet features a crude drawing of a snake-headed deity with an eight-pointed star in place of the genitals. Sharp-eyed readers might notice that this is metal as fuck. The tablet's inscription lays out the details of the curse in unmistakable language: "Crush, kill Fistus the senator ... May Fistus dilute, languish, sink, and may all his limbs dissolve." Holy shit, Fistus. What did you do?

Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna
Note to all politicians: This is how you campaign negative.

Of course, not all curse tablets were bad. People would also purchase them in an attempt to bargain divine favors for themselves, such as this person petitioning the gods for eternal sex. Say what you want about ancient people, but they wished and cursed with equal grandiosity.

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2
Hermaphroditus -- Aphrodite With A Penis

Boboli Gardens

Archaeologists keep digging up Greek statues from the 4th century onward which appear to clearly depict Aphrodite, the goddess of love. They also keep getting surprised when they ship these statues back to the university or wherever and dust them off, only to discover that Aphrodite is playing a particularly eye-catching game of peekaboo:

Lady Lever Art Gallery
Yes, that's a dick.

That handsome, boner-wielding lady is a statue of Aphroditos (or Aphroditus, depending on who you're asking), who was worshiped on Cyprus as a be-donged and often bearded spin on Aphrodite. His/her followers would cross-dress during worship rituals, which presumably culminated in a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Francette Pacteau
They could never get through the "Great Scott" scene without somebody getting stoned to death.

Aphroditos was also known as Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology. According to legend, he was so beautiful that a nymph named Salmakis fell madly in love with him. When Hermaphroditos fought off her obsessive embrace, she prayed to the gods to be united with him forever. Because the Greek gods were, above all else, massive shitheads, they responded to Salmakis' prayers by merging Salmakis and Hermaphroditos into one androgynous being. When he realized what had happened, Hermaphroditos prayed in turn that anyone who bathed in the nymph's pool would also be turned into a hermaphrodite. The gods decided this request was dickish enough on its own, and granted it without any additional spin.

Another version of the myth states that Hermaphroditos was born with the "charm and delicacy" of a woman, but the "energy and virility" of a man. So in other words, a pretty lady with a breathtaking yogurt cannon. Whatever you want to call it, Hermaphroditos, we won't judge.

1
The Flying Dicks Of Ancient Rome

Vassil

Many cultures have their own specific symbols for warding off evil spirits. English folklore has horseshoes, the Greek and Turkish have the nazar evil eye stone, and the Romans had a bunch of giant winged dicks.

Naples Museum of Archaeology
Some of which had tails.

The flying phallus was known as the fascinus, and its wings were meant to represent the "divine embodiment of the phallus." Since they were a symbol of protection against evil, the Romans put them absolutely everywhere -- above doorways, on walls in marketplaces, on wind chimes ... wherever demonic entities might have emerged, Romans hung these babies up, ready to wag their divine embodiment in the face of evil.

UCL Institute of Archaeology
Don't nail one to your door when kids are trick-or-treating, unless you want a visit from CPS.

Strangely, despite being a giant freaking dick with wings, the symbol (and other objects of similar nature commonly found in Roman households) was not considered erotic. In fact, these angelic ding-dangs were considered so unassuming that they were routinely used to protect children -- especially boys, because Rome firmly believed that dicks watch out for each other.

Some of the holy dong amulets have tails instead of wings (or in addition to wings, as above), and the tails are usually in the shape of another dick. Some have legs, with yet another elongated dick peeking out between them, giving many of these guardian dick creatures no fewer than three different meat hoses to flop around as they soar majestically above your child's bed.

The Barakat Gallery
Wait ... is that a regular tail above the dick tail?

Some of these noble creatures even have riders, because at this point, why the hell not?

Naples National Archaeological Museum
This one has rabbit legs and a fox tail. There are no rules here.

Laura H's hobbies include reading, writing, and disappointing her parents. Follow her on Twitter.

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Turns out our ancestors were way cooler than us, despite not having ever listened to Mastadon. See what we mean in 6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World. And see how we've butchered ancient cultures in 5 Insane Sports We Brought Back (In The Worst Possible Way).

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