We’ve always considered SI readers a notch above readers of other blogs and generally above other bipeds.
So, we’re conducting a simple quiz to test your General Knowledge (as it’s known in India).
With sleep eluding us, we got up from bed a few minutes back, picked up a bottle of Arizona Blueberry White Tea (light brown in color actually) and turned on our inamorata, the iPad.
And lo and behold, we soon came across a rather amusing tidbit in one of the most reputed publications in the world.
So, the question, now, for all you geniasses:
Which was the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified?
The time now is 1:26AM ET. We will post the answer in about 18 hours, i.e around 19:00 ET today.
If a commenter puts forth the right answer, then, of course, you’ll be enlightened sooner.
Needless to say, we wouldn’t be holding this quiz if the answer were not interesting enough. 😉
Spoiler Alert: Clicking and reading beyond this alert will give away the answer. So, if you want to play the guessing game, log in to your favorite blog, go straight to the comments section (but do not read any of the previous comments) and post your answer.
The New Yorker, one of the finest magazines in the world and a weekly that we diligently read, has an interesting book review essay titled Novelty Acts: The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution by Ariel Levy in the September 19, 2011 issue.
The essay, not only takes a look at several books on sexuality but also analyzes sexuality starting from the seventeenth century right down to our own era.
The books Ariel Levy examines include two recent works on sexuality: Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution came to America by Christopher Turner and Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism by Deborah Lutz.
Other books touched upon in the fine essay include The Other Victorians by Steven Marcus, The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord and James Baldwin’s essay The New Lost Generation.
What we have learned from the essay is that contrary to the popular myth espoused in countless books and magazine articles, sexual adventurism or the sexual revolution did not start in the 1960s in our adopted country America. And the Victorian era of supposed repressed sexuality and prudery was anything but.
It seems every age has its ‘shuddering underbelly’ of sexual adventurers and devices designed to heighten pleasure.
And sex in public toilets was not a 20th century invention, no matter what you might have seen or heard. The essay quotes Lutz that “respectable gentlemen” or pillars of society “prowled the night streets of London for young grenadiers to bend them over in a public toilet.”
So, if you schmucks have have done it in a public toilet or seen it done, know it now that you’re hardly a pioneer or the first of your generation, merely a late witness or practitioner of the sexercise.
Bold and adventurous as we are, we’ ve never mustered the courage to bare all in a public toilet but in the old days when we lived in India we’ve espied desperate fellow humans solicit others, perhaps for money, perhaps to sate their libido, perhaps an impulse triggered by misfiring synapses in the brain.
Sometimes, you must sharpen your senses to observe things happening right before you. We had the advantage of having a close friend whose senses were finely attuned to these nocturnal forays. Much to his anger, he had been propositioned a few times fueling his rage and sharpening his observation skills.
In the Victorian era, Levy writes: Sex wasn’t just a favorite recreational activity; it was a primary top of conversation and subject of study.
More so, it’d appear among the upper classes, the vanguard of the sexual revolution. Men like the adventurer, writer and traveler Richard Francis Burton and poets like Algernon Swinburne were more than infatuated with matters sexual. Fie, they were besotted.
It was not mere talk among our forerunners. They developed ingenious contrivances too. Long before the expression pushing the envelope was coined, our forebears were pushing the envelope of sex.
Some of the best-known home appliances like the vibrator go long back. The first electromechanical vibrator was patented in the early 1880s by Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville. Yes, the vibrator was the fifth electrified domestic appliance, after the sewing machine, fan, toaster and the teakettle. Now, there’s your answer to the quiz. 😉
No, Ramadasa it was not the iron! Sweetie, you need to spend more time with those little birds of the night and less perusing the weird, nonsensical preachings of Hindu saints and philosophers.
So, why is the vibrator a home appliance?
In the words of the essay’s author Levy, “it remains the machine most important to a great many smoothly functioning household.”‘ So, the next time you think of a home appliance think beyond your familiar sewing machine, fan, toaster, teakettle or even the iron. Think vibrator. 😉
The essay also mentions forums set up in the 19th and 18th centuries to discuss and focus on matters priapic. The Cannibal Club of the 19th century and Hell-Fire Club of the 18th century were but forerunners, nay harbingers, of current Internet destinations like [no, we won’t tell you]. 😉
Evelyn Lord describes Hell-Fire Clubs and those of its ilk as places where “hedonism ruled in a mix of sociability and rampant sexuality.” Apparently, the membership was draw from the “respectable upper classes.”
So, the next time you see an upper class Indian woman demurely dressed in a Sari that covers every inch of her body and shows not even a wee bit of flesh it does not mean she’s a Sati Savitri nor does a Tamil Iyengar man sporting a big namam (a weird religious paint on the forehead) signal attention only to matters spiritual.
Au contraire, one of our Tamil Iyengar friends boasted of getting his first blowjob from a hooker in a New York City car. On another occasion, he played us a tape of the message a White girl in Cincinnati had left on his voice-mail thanking him for the hot sex-trip the previous night. The Iyengar mind runs deep. Not for them, the frolics in shallow waters given to members of other castes.
If your sexcabulary (that’s our neologism of the day meaning vocabulary pertaining to sexual terms) of devices extends only to dildos and vibrators, it betrays your dismal ignorance.
As early as the late 18th century, some Londoners were romping about on “celestial beds” invented by one James Graham. The 12-foot by 9-foot bed supposedly provided the right angle for sexual congress or copulation in plain English and produced “celestial sounds” whose volume rose with the intensity of the humping.
The vibrator of the 19th century and Wilhelm Reich’s orgone-energy accumulator (a device ‘to trap the potent, healing force of the orgasm’) of the 20th century were only upgrades to the Celestial Bed. Kinda like Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 etc. 😉
Sadly, the interesting The New Yorker essay never references India in what’s surely a glaring omission.
A discussion on sexuality without mentioning the Indian cuntribution is like talking about Ramayana without referencing Rama or discussing cricket without dropping the peerless master blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s name.
After all, aren’t we the land of the Kamasutra, with all those unique positions.
Not just Vatsayana, other authors too have testified to the Indian obsession with sex. French priest Abbe Dubois, a Catholic who spent a few decades in South India starting in the late 18th century, in his book Hindu Manners and Customs, condemns young boys’ preoccupation with sex books.
In parting, we’ll leave you with a fine excerpt from Ariel Levy’s New Yorker essay:
We seem to have a peculiar urge to believe that the way we have sex, the thing that got us all here, is unprecedented. It’s like the familiar difficulty people have imagining that their parents had sex. The reason sex can be revolutionized again and again is that we’re reluctant to believe our ancestors could have known and felt what we know and feel. Yet what has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the covers.
Your favorite blog SearchIndia.com strongly recommends that all ye schmucks read the essay Novelty Acts: The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution by Ariel Levy (New Yorker, September 19, 2011).
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