It's easy to think of perverted art as an enlightened modern invention, like electricity or Smirnoff Ice. Without the Internet warping young minds, our ancestors were probably perfectly content to do it but once a year, through a hole in a sheet, while the whole village booed and threw rocks at them. But in reality, people being gigantic perverts is possibly the only thing that's remained consistent throughout the whole of human history. Just look at some of the art we used to turn out ...
NOTE: These texts could be considered NSFW in some circles, but the authors who made these works have been dead for centuries, so we've passed the event horizon from "prurient" to "educational."
Fellas, don't you hate it when your wife promises she's only with you for your money, but you can't help suspect it's because of your internationally acclaimed pump-action megaschlong instead? Well, apparently that was a major worry in Medieval France, where they wrote a hit poem about the situation. The fabliaux were a genre of short comedic tales popular during the 13th century. One of the most famous was The Fisherman of Pont-sur-Seine, which tells the story of a fisherman whose wife declares she loves him "because you buy me shoes and clothe me." However, the fisherman insists that it's really because his hard-pumping steam train derails into Satisfaction Gulch every night. He didn't phrase it like that -- it was 13th century France -- but you get the drift.
But no matter how much the fisherman talks up his electric King Kong Rockin' Johnson (again, not the exact phrase used in the poem), his wife stubbornly insists that "there's nothing else I find more foul ... [than] your little hanging bit of bowel." He's out on the river pondering this dilemma when he notices a giant penis floating by. Apparently, a priest was engaged in a steamy affair with a local riverbank lady when her husband burst in. The priest tried to flee, but his massive erection weighed him down and he had no option but to jump in the river, where he drowned. His dead body then drifted down the river, with his bloated death-boner sticking in the air like the mast of some mighty warship.
The fisherman, finding himself in the shade of this alarmingly free willy, realizes it could be the solution to all his problems. After cutting off the dead priest's boner (this probably took a team of lumberjacks three days), the fisherman races home and shows it to his wife. He claims that a group of knights attacked him and forced him to choose which body part they cut off. Naturally, he chose his penis, declaring that this wouldn't inconvenience his wife one bit. However, his wife immediately announces she's divorcing him. Which is the correct response to your man dropping waterlogged genitalia on the carpet, but she insists her decision is actually unrelated, declaring:
I'll say what I've said repeatedly:
Your thing doesn't mean a thing to me.
Your loutishness is what I abhor.
I won't sleep with you anymore.
The fisherman is surprised, but agrees to give her half their money in the divorce settlement. He then invites her to reach into his pocket and take it. But instead of money, she feels the fisherman's man-oak. Overjoyed, she calls off the divorce at once, and everyone celebrates by giving each other a doughty tug (the traditional fairy tale happy ending).
The Four Wishes of Saint Martin is another fabliau from Medieval France, apparently history's steamiest period. The story starts innocently enough, with a humble French peasant who often prays to Saint Martin. One day, he's out in the fields when the saint himself appears and promises to repay the peasant's devotion by granting him four wishes. The guy rushes home to tell his wife, who asks him to give her one of the wishes, since that will still leave him with three. The peasant insists that he couldn't do that, since she might wish for some silly female nonsense, like yarn. This demonstrates that he doesn't understand his wife, who is quite possibly the most terrifying psychosexual fantasist in human history.
The peasant eventually agrees to give his wife a wish, and she immediately wishes that "there spring up penises galore, over your body, aft and fore!" Aware that wishes often go wrong, she also helpfully clarifies "and let them not be limp or slack: let each be furnished with its sack, and let them stand stiff and upright! Then won't you be a horny sight!" The situation goes downhill from there:
So anyway, the poor guy somehow has enough blood left to ask his wife why she would wish for this. Horrifyingly, she's delighted with the whole thing, exclaiming "I'll tell you why! Your one prick couldn't satisfy, just hanging limply like a stole of fox, but now I have a wealth of cocks!" But the peasant has three wishes of his own left, and decides to use them to make things even worse. Reminder, this story is taught in comparative literature courses across the land:
So the peasant and his wife are now horrible crotch monsters, blundering around the room and howling, looking like the bad guys in a truly upsetting Power Rangers XXX parody. Naturally, they decide to use one of their remaining wishes to wish that all the alarmingly non-private parts were gone. Unfortunately, they word this badly and end up with no genitals at all, including the ones they started the day with. With only one wish left, they have no choice but to use it to restore everything back to normal and "return to our former state, no poorer off at any rate." The lesson here is supposedly "don't listen to your wife," although it should actually be "Saint Martin needs to start screening wishes before granting them."
The last two fabliaux were pretty negative about women, but fabliaux had female heroes too, and none more famous than the heroine of Berenger of the Long Ass, who outsmarted her cowardly husband, got her salad tossed in the woods, then retired to bang a hot Italian boytoy in a castle. That's every girl's dream, and she somehow pulled it off in 14th century Europe, where the average woman spent her life trying to chase the bubonic plague away with a stick before dying of scabies at age 23.
Although French in origin, the story is set in Italy, "where men are not very brave," because some stereotypes never die. The hero is an unnamed proud woman unhappily married to a particularly wimpy knight who "loved repose." The lady eventually takes to loudly talking about all the brave deeds other knights have done, at which point her husband gets upset and insists "I am a knight without peer ... If I can find my enemies, tomorrow you will see the proof." He then dons his shiniest armor and rides off into the forest. But once out of sight, he beats his own shield with his sword until both are covered in dents, then rides home boasting of fighting an amazing battle.
Although initially impressed, the lady soon starts to wonder why her husband doesn't seem tired or bruised after dueling his enemies all day. So the next time he rides out, she dons some spare armor and rides after him. She quickly comes across her husband in a clearing, battering away at his own shield. After rolling her eyes so hard they almost open a stargate, she lowers her visor and charges into the clearing, shouting "Young man, young man! What is this folly ... I'll be cursed if you escape me without being cut into pieces!" Terrified by this strange new knight, her husband instantly drops to his knees and begs for mercy. But the mysterious knight insists "Either you joust with me ... Or I will dismount on foot, and I will bend over and you will come and kiss my arse, exactly in the middle, if you please." This is a more common theme in Medieval art than you'd imagine.
He chooses the second option and the lady bends over and hoists up her robe. To add to the humiliation, the husband, after first failing to recognize his wife's voice, now completely fails to recognize her genitals either. Instead, "he looked at the crevice of the arse and the quim, and it seemed to him that it was all one," leading him to exclaim that he had "never before seen so long an ass." Still terrified of the strange knight, he "kissed her with a hearty kiss, in the manner of an evil cowardly man, right at the hole there." We assume this was all witnessed by some confused woodcutters, who really didn't expect to stumble across the local landowner tongue-blasting his armored wife in a glade. Either way, the lady eventually leaps back on her horse and rides away, but not before declaring "I am called Berenger of the Long Ass. Who puts all cowards to shame."
She rides all the way back home and jumps into bed with a sexy local man. When her ashamed husband finally returns, he is outraged, but she warns that if he takes any action against her she will simply complain to her new friend, the brave Sir Berenger of the Long Ass. The husband is so terrified of Berenger that "he did not dare to say anything against her. He felt himself discomfited and defeated; And she did what she pleased" for the remainder of her days.
We all know that Victorian England was a very repressed time. Merely seeing a glimpse of ankle was enough to send people blind from erotic hysteria, while the clitoris was generally considered a legend used to lure sailors to their doom. Most sex was conducted by letter, and even masturbation had to be preapproved by at least three doctors and a justice of the peace. A man in Portsmouth once gave his wife a firm handshake in public and the whole city had to be evacuated by dragoons after panicked rioting broke out. At least, that's the popular image. Behind the scenes, the whole country was deeply obsessed with spanking porn like Lady Bumtickler's Revels, an erotic play featuring Miss Belinda Flaybum, Lady Harriet Tickletail, and Master Loverod.
Lady Bumtickler was written by John Camden Hotten, a respected publisher and journalist by day, who led a double-life as the publisher of filthy pornos like Madame Birchini's Dance and An Exhibition of Female Flagellants. His prose could charitably be described as "bad" and uncharitably described as "evidence for prosecuting the entire English language." And in a way it's quite comforting to know that even in the 19th century literary world, nobody bothered to put more effort into their porn than modern writers do into "the pizza guy rings the doorbell and then has sex with somebody, ideally on camera."
But this isn't just something one guy was doing. The Victorians were so deeply obsessed with spanking porn that they produced hundreds of works like The Whippingham Papers or The Magnetism of the Rod, many of them written by Nobel-prize nominated poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. A breakdown in The Toast attributes the trend to "Etonian upbringings, where adolescent sexual awakening occurred concurrently with (and sometimes brought about) whippings" or "a need to present a hyper-controlled, dominant face to society, leading to a parallel desire to lose control and be punished." Either way it seems pretty harsh that Oscar Wilde got fired out of a cannon just for pronouncing "doily" correctly, when the judge at his trial probably went home to have his wife dress up like his old geography teacher and turn his glutes into foie gras.
The Internet has ensured you can find a sexy version of everything, even cartoon characters. Want to see Rick Sanchez getting plowed by Homer Simpson, probably in a little Mr. Plow hat? Well, that's just a few clicks away, presumably (we're not checking). Even Cracked.com started life as a forum for King of the Hill hentai, before a lawsuit-induced pivot changed us forever. But surely this is a modern phenomenon? There's no way your great-grandpa sat through Steamboat Willie and emerged thinking "I wanna see that mouse get laid." Right? Right?!
Welcome to the wonderful world of Tijuana Bibles, the erotica of choice for 1930s hobos. They were little eight-page comic books, crudely printed on the cheapest paper possible, featuring a wide variety of movie stars, politicians and cartoon characters having some of the nastiest sex ever conceptualized. They basically invented Rule 34 decades before the Internet, with a Tijuana Bible for virtually every scenario you could think of. One features Joseph Stalin promising that under Communism, all women could share his junk equally. Others featured Cary Grant, Al Capone, Popeye the Sailor, and the Bazooka Joe mascot. But perhaps the most popular subject was Walt Disney characters, as seen in the mind-bendingly NSFW comic "Donald Duck Has A Universal Desire."
The comic starts when Donald declares that he's a duck and he'd like to ... engage in sexual intercourse. So he goes to see "that dog pimp" (never a good sentence), who turns out to be "Pluto the dog: White Slaver" (what?). Long story short, Donald meets up with a lady duck, but is shocked to discover she's actually sporting a non-biologically correct duck penis. This is a very old and harmful trope, one that we honestly never expected to see in duck form.
But Donald is just too riled up to not ... uh, sorry, some nice men from the Disney corporation have come through the window and we have to go have a long discussion with someone called "Mr. Crowbar" about what historical art should remain buried to the sands of time.
Top image: Via Worthpoint, via Pinterest