A Brief History of Oral Sex

Peter Baltensperger

Nobody knows exactly when and how or why oral sex became
an integral part of the sexual repertoire of the human race.
What we do know is that cave dwellers some 15,000 years ago
or more already engaged in recreational rather than
procreative sex, including oral activities. Some cave paintings
from that time period depict couples in various innovative
positions and activities, indicating that our earliest ancestors
evolved into sexually active and aware people the way we are
now long before most people had ever thought they did.

The birth of civilization and the beginning of recorded history
bear witness to the fact that oral sex was practiced by many
people a long time ago. The Sumerians, the first literate people
living around 5,000 BCE engaged in explicitly sexual rituals.
The Phoenicians, living from approximately 1,500 - 300 BCE,
indulged in oral sex, as did the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

In Greece, only some women performed fellatio on their
husbands and called it "playing of the flute"; most men went to
prostitutes for that bit of extramarital excitement afforded them
by fellatio. The great Cleopatra (69 - 30 BCE) was well known
for her love of fellatio. In ancient Egypt, prostitutes were the
first to wear lipstick to advertise their special talents. Oral sex
was also quite popular in ancient China. In Taoism, cunnilingus
was revered as a spiritually fulfilling practice believed to
enhance longevity.

One of the empresses of the T'ang Dynasty (700 - 900 CE)
created a special custom for herself to elevate the females and
humble the males. She issued a royal decree that required
government officials and visiting dignitaries to pay homage to
her by performing cunnilingus while she stood on a dais with
her skirts hiked up and her legs spread wide for all to see.

Ancient Rome and India as well as Christianity considered oral
sex profoundly taboo. Genitals were considered to be unclean,
therefore oral sex was shameful and humiliating and in itself
unclean. This attitude has prevailed in many societies and
among many people to this very day.

The great Indian classic of the techniques and art of love and
sex, The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana from the first centuries
CE, does devote a whole chapter to "Auparishtaka, or Mouth
Congress". Yet although the book is very explicit and very
sex-positive, the chapter on oral sex makes it very clear that it
is mostly eunuchs, disguised either as females or as males,
who perform fellatio on paying customers. The only women
engaged in this act are "unchaste and wanton women, female
attendants and serving maids". The author also makes it clear
that fellatio should not be practiced because it is opposed to
the moral code.

Later editions of the Kama Sutra have, however, a whole
chapter added, "The Congress of the Crow", which contains
detailed and explicit descriptions of oral sex, referred to as
"sucking the mango". These additions are most likely from
contemporary or at least modern editors, not from any ancient
writers who would have whole-heartedly agreed with the author
and his condemnation of the practice.

In the Christian bible, there's an interesting passage in The
Song of Solomon. Chapter 7 contains a detailed description by
the author of his lover's body. Verse 2 has been translated as,
"Your navel is a round goblet that never lacks blended wine."
This translation doesn't make much sense in the sentence
itself or in the context of the poem, since the navel can hardly
be considered to be a goblet nor does it contain any wine. The
word should really be translated as vulva (or something to that
effect), rather than as navel, indicating that the author of the
Song of Songs was well aware of and fond of cunnilingus.

In more recent times, the Moche culture of northern Peru (100
- 800 CE) is known for depicting fellatio in their ceramics. In the
contemporary Baruya culture of Papua New Guinea, the
women engage in fellatio and swallow the semen when they
require physical strength for one reason or another. This
practice still exists now.

Today, fellatio and cunnilingus are, of course, widespread and
widely accepted practices that enhance the sex lives of
countless lovers around the world as a most enjoyable and
titillating variation of sexual activity. Yet even now, large
portions of the population, especially older people, strict
conservatives, and religious fundamentalists but countless
others as well, still abhor the practice as unclean and
unnatural and would never even dream of availing themselves
of the opportunity to experience something as wonderful as
oral sex. Of course, they also don't know what they're missing.

In several American states, oral sex is still now an indictable
offense punishable, in some cases, by prison terms of up to 20
years. In Canadian law, oral sex was bunched together with
many other so-called offenses under the rather vague and
undefined label of "unnatural sex practices". Nobody knew for
sure exactly what these practices were, and it was pretty much
up to the judge to decide what was and what was not.
Surprisingly enough, these laws were in existence until very
recently, but they were eventually abolished in the early 1960s,
especially after then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau
coined the phrase, "The government has no place in the
nation's bedrooms."

Thank goodness for that. But there are, as has been
demonstrated, more than enough documented examples of
people, cultures, and nations openly condoning and
thoroughly enjoying the art of oral sex. Besides, every sex
manual, every book on sexuality, every erotic magazine and
website talks about oral sex and elevates it to one of the most
pleasurable of sexual activities known to humankind since the
very beginning of our race. We can leave the complaining to
the puritans and continue to do what our most distant
ancestors already knew to be a wonderful, highly stimulating,
erotic variation on the age-old theme of sexual conduct and
physical as well as emotional and mental pleasure.

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Peter Baltensperger is a
Canadian writer of
Swiss origin and the
author of ten books of
poetry, fiction, and
non-fiction. His stories,
poems, essays, and
articles have also
appeared in several
hundred print and
on-line publications
around the world. He
makes his home in
London, Canada with
his wife Viki and their
two cats and a tortoise.