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Kinky Roots: Definitions of Ancient Kinks

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In the article List of Kinks and Their Definitions, we explore the meaning of various kinks and their classifications before diving into real kinky (and really kinky) stories. Now let’s peek behind the veil of modern culture to hunt worldwide for any and all traces of kink from the past 2,000 years.

You might recognize this article’s introductory image as an outdoor sculpture of Khajuraho temples, the most popular symbol of ancient erotic sculptures and eroticism worldwide. Why are the temples of the Chandela Dynasty decorated with so many sex scenes and dancing apsaras? No one knows. History doesn’t tell us. One theory proposes that the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho serve an educational purpose: architects and sculptors aimed to set an example of sex positivity, freedom of sexual expression and the importance of sexual variety for the next generation. That is to say, creating a kind of sexual education for future generations could have been an unusual kink of the temple’s complex architects.

Other historic portrayals and descriptions of ancient sexual cultures attest to numerous practices, games and methods of delving into one’s sexuality. These methods are also known as kinks.

The sources of kinks can be found all over the map and all across the span of time, so it’s impossible to pinpoint a single “most blissed-out culture” or choose “the sexiest age.” However, we can abandon ourselves in admiration of the ancient kinksters’ infinite range of interests.

Greek contribution to the kink definition

The Greeks weren’t the first kinksters, but they were the first ones whose kinks were preserved in detail in ancient literature. The Greeks take us back to the third century BC, the period when Thais—probably the best-known hetaera—lived. The unique culture of hetaeras would have fit right in these days as well: sapiosexuals preferred the company of hetaeras because they desired not just a lover, but also an educated woman with a well-developed emotional intellect who could play the part of Scheherazade, enveloping sex in an atmosphere of stories and myths. If you want to lose yourself in the magical worlds that Thais so artfully created, read the historical fiction novel Thais of Athens by Ivan Efremov.

In the very same century, Aristotle’s History of Animals asserted that a woman can receive pleasure from sex the same way a man does. This might be the very first recorded statement of a woman’s right to develop her own sexuality and embrace her kinkiness on par with men. History of Animals made Aristotle an authority on future generations’ sexual education.

Later, in the seventeenth century, the anonymously published Aristotle's Masterpiece appeared. Over the next few centuries, the book became all but the only source of sexual education in England that curious kinksters could use as an encyclopedia of theoretical knowledge about the body.

The Kama Sutra’s kinky games

One of the earliest literary sources describing sexual practices—the Kama Sutra—was written sometime between the first and the sixth century AD.

Along with a wide variety of kinky games, the treatise also contains a description of a scene-playing kink called the “love game.” The hallmark of this kink is that all the actions of a man or woman are dedicated to their partner’s arousal, from self-adornment and body painting to nail- and teeth-coloring, and more. The Kama Sutra’s love game started the instant either player took the first step toward creating an image to fit his/her own tastes or a partner’s kinky preferences.

In addition to mentioning one of BDSM’s practice elements, bondage, the Kama Sutra describes the rules of partners’ conduct within the framework of threesome relationships. Nine whole chapters are dedicated to the description of love adepts—hetaeras. Meanwhile, another six chapters of this love bible deal with the culture of allure and captivation as well as couples recovering their desires (that’s the most “popular” problem that twenty-first century clients bring to their sex therapists).

If you get a charge out of genital piercings, you might be pleased to learn that genital piercing was mentioned in the Kama Sutra for the first time: the treatise lauds penis balanus piercing as a source of new excitement for both partners. So someone who chooses to get an intimate piercing today isn’t actually jumping on a new bandwagon or copy-pasting trendsetters; they’re touching on an ancient tradition and reproducing a 2000-year-old ritual.

Striptease – the most ancient kink

Seductive dancing was another essential element of the Kama Sutra’s love game and of Indian history in general, but Hindus weren’t the only ones who practiced the kink of “erotic dancing for seduction.” Many Eastern countries are known for their schools of belly dancing, which were established during periods when their societies encouraged positive attitudes toward sex.

As for Europe, France was the birthplace of the “public luring dance” kink now known as a striptease. The first dancer to undress for an audience did so in the Moulin Rouge cabaret in 1893. Similarly, the cancan was originally a dance designed for seduction. Today, few people are enthusiastic about this kind of kink, but it was very popular at the end of the nineteenth century.

A meaningful kink: the corruption of the Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance is known for its Arentino Poses (or Sixteen Pleasures), the work in which Rafael’s apprentices proved that Europe’s kinksters have existed since the Renaissance. The engravings became a household name and were used in sex communication as part of a specific lexicon and even as a measure of sexual sophistication.

Anyone whose knowledge of sexual poses surpassed those displayed on Arentino prints was a person with broad sexual experience. For some people in those days, the book served as a kind of manual, an introduction to varied sexual practices that went far beyond the missionary position. A kind of European Kama Sutra, the Arentino Poses tempted the readers into repeating what they saw in the picture. The Poses’ author has aced the kink of corruption, so to speak, not only for those who ordered the engravings but for all succeeding generations as well.

Japanese bondage

Japan presented us with the gift of the erotic bondage kink shibari (Japanese for “decoratively tie”). From a historical standpoint, the correct name of said art is kinbaku, which is literally translated as “the beauty of tight binding.” Even the debates over the title’s correctness capture their delicate aestheticism. One theory says that the word shibari emphasizes the usage of artistic aesthetic ropes while kinbaku denotes the artistic, sensual and sexual practice of binding in general.

Historic roots of the vibrator

“Sex toys” have turned to be an extremely old kink: archeologists found a 28,000-year-old dildo in the South of Germany. The “automated” dildos of our days were brought into vogue almost simultaneously by the French, the English and the Americans. Frenchmen were the first to do it in 1734; a hundred years later, inventors in the USA and Great Britain created vibrators that originally had nothing to do with pleasure and were not part of exciting games.

The first vibrators were invented by doctors for a vastly different purpose than what they’re used for today. They made them for their own benefit. After treating female patients’ hysterias, many doctors suffered from aching wrists. Thus, they engineered a device to deal with hysteria better than a doctor’s hand ever could—the vibrator.

Contemporary kinks

It is impossible to draw a firm conclusion about which time is the kinkiest—our time, with a constant flow of information disseminated throughout the Internet, or antiquity, when the culture of sexual connoisseurship was dawning and inspiring immortal treatises about kinky games.

Our generation obviously did not invent sex; no, we’re simply using the pleasure techniques that our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers authored. But if you want to learn more about the kinks that our ancestors never dared to dream of, read Eyes Wide Open: A Guide to Kinky Clubs and Kinky Parties!

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