As my friends and I prepared the dinner table last night, the sweet sounds of 1930s blues filled the room. The scratchy, canned recordings of that bygone era masked the lewd lyrics, so it wasn’t until the second verse of Lucille Bogan‘s “Till the Cows Come Home” that we knew for sure she was singing about fucking with a capital “F”.
A sample verse:
If you suck my pussy, baby, I’ll suck your dick
I’ll do it to you honey, till I make you shit
Listen to the song in all its glory:
We stared at each other in total disbelief as she sang of giving her lovers the clap, her floor sweeping pubic hair with “funk from those hairs that will shut the door” and how her two lovers had dicks like baseball bats. There is an extra layer of shock when you discover our predecessors could be just as smarmy as any modern day porno.
We have a preoccupation with sanitizing the past in order to present its occupants in a more noble light, similar to the way we eulogize the dead and forgive them their earthly indiscretions. Hindsight is not only 20/2o; it is also easily manipulated for our own comfort.
Champions of family values often shriek about impending moral doom, holding up copies of Penthouse and rattling off porn sites as evidence for cultural entropy. But the moment you dig below the bleached façade of official history, you’ll find the same old dirty jokes, songs and images. Drawing cocks on the walls is nothing new for humans.
Of course, social sanctions against sexual innuendo and expression are nothing new either. Though the urge to create “dirty” entertainment and art is culturally ubiquitous, the urge to eradicate those creations waxes and wanes. Even the bounds of what constitutes prurience are in constant flux.
Personally, I find it humbling that Ancient Romans scrawled offensive lines on public walls or that medieval writers drew dirty cartoons in religious texts. Perversion is a uniquely human trait and I am happy to embrace bawdiness.