Thursday, December 14, 2006

Medieval Porn


That's a Sheela-na-gig flashing her naughty bits.

Sometimes called the divine hag or the witch on the wall, this grotesque from Kilpeck in Herefordshire is one of the many unusual figures found in wood and stone on bosses, pew ends and other areas of ornamentation in old English churches - everything from a dog scratching itself to a man killing a pig.

Naturally, many and varied are the learned dissertations which seek to explain her presence and her significance.
Everything from an image of in-your-face carnality to a representation of the otherworld portal via some ancient Celtic fertility goddess. From a representation of the sin of lust to a sneaky inclusion of pagan ritual to a reflection of vagina dentata.

Even the etymology of the name is uncertain.

Considering the exaggeration of proportion, I have to wonder if the icon might represent - besides the dangers of windburn - not what might enter but what might emerge, ie. birth symbolism.

Nevertheless, one might also recognize the pose as similar to one adopted by do-me models on various porn sites.

So the question of the day is: what turns you off?
Have you read sex-scene descriptions of some action or physical characteristic of either the hero or the heroine that immediately took you out of the story?

48 comments:

Ric said...

Lesbian sex. Don't get it, don't understand it, don't want to know it happens.

Jaye Wells said...

Windburn.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Well, now! Isn't this a cute little statue? :-) I wonder, did the Australian word "sheila" originate from this here figure?

There are certain words that will pull me from a sex scene. Unfortunately, they're rather common adjectives in sex scenes, so I usually end up skimming to avoid seeing them.

So, where can I get me some medieval porn? :-)

Bernita said...

Nor me, Ric.
Do you feel the same about M/M?

Short but not sweet, Jaye?

Possibly from the same root word, Sonya.
Examples? Is it literary taste or suspension of disbelief?

Ric said...

Bernita, - actually no, M/M doesn't bother me. Have no explanation for this dichotomy. Perhaps years and years of therapy would help, but many folks have suggested that.
Over graphic (like Erik, bless his heart) - I tend to agree with Sonya. Certain word pictures take me out of the scene, or I skim it.

Jaye Wells said...

B-It's just your comment about windbrurn made me choke on my waffles this morning. And I figured, yeah, windburn would definitley turn me off.

EA Monroe said...

I definitely need to upgrade from what I've been reading to more "adult content." Shifting povs bouncing back and forth, and adjective-laden purple prose take me out to lunch. I am trying to learn how to be naughty.

Bernita said...

Was wondering, Ric, which causes the take-out - the clumsiness or clichees by the writer or the specific action? ie. what things are not sexy?

I hoped it might be that, Jaye.

So with you, Liz, it's all about the writer's technique, not the characters.

ORION said...

I guess my age shows. I seriously revert back to pubescent idiocy and embarrassment when details get in the way.
For me the most erotic sex scene takes place in Gone with the Wind (the book) when Rett and Scarlett "do it."
No actual anatomy parts are mentioned. No sweating heaving bodies, but you know EXACTLY what is happening.
bernita - I'm glad you enjoyed my sentences!

Bernita said...

Definitely chortle-worthy, Orion!

Ric said...

I really don't need to see (word pictures) engorged staff of life thrusting

I mean, we all know what happens (though there might be some question with SOME of your commenters) - I don't need graphic descriptions - I want to know what the characters are feeling.

In other words, I agree with Orion.

Bernita said...

OK, some feel all graphic description is icky.

Recently, I was told that unsuspected body-piercings, for example, caused wilt.
So I was curious.

Ric said...

unsuspected body-piercings?

now, THAT'S interesting. You must elaborate, now that our curiousity is piqued.

Dave said...

The "c" word turns me off.
The lack of finesse turns me off - like boy meets girl, boy likes girl, They have sex in vulgar, hackneyed language.

It's like why is Audrey Hepburn in that little black dress so atractive? Because she is not naked. Just as clothes make the man, so do clothes and the proper removal (or non-removal) of them make the sex scene.

Demeaning language is another turn off. Sex is love and not insults or screaming nastiness and vulgarities with a cigar chomped in your mouth or an epithet on your tongue.

I laugh at "master/slave" sex. "lick my boots" give me the hysterical giggles.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I sorta echo Ric, but go a little further...Gay sex. Don't get it, don't understand it, don't want to know it happens!

That wood carving reminds me of a joke from my younger days...LOL!

Humongously large woman (like one of the Butt sisters!)having sex with small guy. She inhales, he gets sucked completely in. He comes to, and sees another guy. "Where are we?" he asks. "I don't know," replies the other guy, "But if you help me find my tractor, we can drive out!"

Oh Lord...I don't believe I told that!

Bernita said...

Apparently, in the labia, Ric.
Also, tattoos are a turn-off for some, it seems. Don't understand that, unless they were weird or excessive, suggesting psychological problems.
Of course, it might be disconcerting, depending on location.

Tend to agree with you, Dave.
There's a line between dominance and abuse, as well.

Bernita said...

~What have I done?~
I'm having trouble believing it too, Bonnie!

Ric said...

I bet that's a joke that won't show up on Bonnie's site.

Bad Bonnie - Bad Bonnie

still.....it is pretty funny.

Thanks for the clarification, Bernita - had no idea where you were going with that line.

Piercings of any kind don't do much for me - too much self-mutilation - same goes for tattoos.

Rick said...

K-less Ric is just opposite to me (and, if the modern porn industry and 19th c. Orientalist art are anything to go by, a lot of guys). Lesbian sex is salaciously tasty, M/M sex vaguely gross.

A handy word that has come out of the fanfic world is "squick," meaning strong distaste - even revulsion - toward some form of sexuality, but without any connotation of moral disapproval. What a useful concept! How much human misery could be avoided by the simple recognition that "grosses me out" != "immoral."

But this also raises the very interesting craft challenge of writing scenes of people having a great time doing things we wouldn't want to do at all. I haven't written an M/M sex scene (nor F/F, for that matter), but I have written an M/F scene from the gal's POV - which naturally required that she be getting all hot and bothered over her male partner, who would not appeal to me at all.

S.W. - "Sheila" is a Gaelic name, apparently derived from "Cecilia." I don't know if there's any connection, but perhaps the modern Strine usage of "sheila" has old roots.

Bernita said...

Now I wonder where you thought I might be going, Ric!

A useful word, Rick, to emphasize the simple subjectivity of it all.

Read a book where the guy kept waving it around. I begin wondering about his possible self-love and lost interest in the scene.

archer said...

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind." --Shakes.

Anyone who remembers this will be happy in the heat of passion, whether in life or in writing.

December Quinn said...

I read a book I otherwise enjoyed where the hero kept referring to his penis as "him." Like, "Suck him," etc.

Made me go yuck. A grown man should think for and own all the parts of his body, and should not refer to separate bits as separate individuals.

archer said...

Oh, all right--will be less at risk of shipwreck.

J.H. Bográn said...

First the pic...I think we are missing something here: she's putting her arms under her legs to grab whatever she is grabing instead of on top. Could it be there is something/someone underneath?

My turn off into a sex scene is when the author is making the participants look like catalog models or way too perfect to be believable.
One of my fav authors is Ken Follet and he always manages to include at least one erotic scene into his stories, and I think he does a good job considering he even tackles heroine POV.

Bernita said...

Getting prissy, Archer?

Agreed, December. First, it sounds cutey juvenile; and second, crowded.

The collective opinion, Jose, is no.It's the standard position.
There seems to be no disagreement among architectural iconographers that a vagina is what was intended to be portrayed.

I don't mind the model aspect - mainly because I don't want to read about characters with pimples on their behinds. But then I don't find physical beauty, in its various forms, at all unbelievable.

writtenwyrdd said...

Reaching back to dusty memory, I seem to recall the Sheelanagig is representing the primordial womb, or the divine feminine. It's not pretty, but it's powerful.

As I symbol, I've always found her rather empowering. Like the Tower in the tarot deck, the process of birth tears away the veil we cast upon our lives. In many tribal societies, women were not seen as needing to have rites of passage, because birth and menstruation did that. Men needed the nudge of ritual, but women had their own 'out of the box' (to make a bad pun.)

Bernita said...

"...representing the primordial womb"

I like that, Writtenwyrd.
Of course, it happens to accord with my take.

MissWrite said...

Oh my, that pic is just... wow, it's like 19th century playboy... in a CHURCH? That just blows my mind. Yes, it does remind me of the modern day equivalent of 'do me' pics.

What pulls me from a sex scene are unnecessary vulgarity, or graphicness just for 'shock value'. Scenes just thrown in there to up the 'heat' level of a book without the content to back it up.

MissWrite said...

ROTF at Bonnie's joke

Bernita said...

Yup, Tami.
Sex alters relationships. Think that should be reflected in both the scene itself and subsequently.

Candice Gilmer said...

For me, I think what turns me off is when i lose the visual. When I read something and think "they're doing what? How is that physically possible?"

There are certain phrases spoken in sex scenes that turn me off too -- one of the big ones being a man calling a woman "baby." I don't know why. But it bugs me.

I'm sure there's some deep psychological reason I don't like that word, (I'm guessing, though I can't remember, I had a boyfriend that called me that or some such...), but that's just one of my quirks.

However, regardless of the pairing, m/f, m/m, f/f m/f/m, f/m/f, as long as the reason the pairing is there, and it makes sense in the story, then I'm good.

If it's just there for random sex, or random erotic tastes, then, uh, well, I'm not interested.

Sela Carsen said...

I still haven't figured out why the Green Man is on the baptistry font at the medieval church in the English village we lived in!

As a romance writer, I don't mind a well-written sex scene, complete with bits and pieces. I just have a problem with sex scenes that appear for titillation's sake alone or sex that doesn't bring the characters closer emotionally.

Dave said...

Considering the image:
There is a strange old line from a collegiate party song (interpret that as drunken fraternity brothers singing naughty lyrics in front of the girl's dorm) that goes:
"And Barnicle Bill said, my girlfriend was so big, I dove in in July and never came out until spring."

The drunks never appreciated the pun.

Bernita said...

Never remembered it until now, Candice, but calling her "baby" bugs me too.

Some of these carvings were considered ecclestiacal prompts for contemplation.Some are considered mysterious, because the reference that made them elegible has been lost.

I'm not drunk, Dave, just dim. Where's the pun?

Dave said...

ooops, it wasn't a pun.
It was something else that "I can't think of the name right now". But there's nine months from July to spring and if the man went in in July and then came out in spring, well ...

Hey, I didn't sing this stuff. You never want to hear me sing, never, never, never. I was stuck in the room directly above and across from these singing fests and I have a good memory for any musical lyrics.

Gabriele C. said...

We're totally corrupting Bonnie. Poor girl. But I promise, I'll keep my naughty boys under a link should I post one of those scenes on my blog. :)

Funny enough, I love m/m slash but can't stand f/f. Mixed couples are ok, and I don't mind kinky. What turns me off is vulgarity - there's a fine line between 'turgid manhood' and 'fuck me hard' but an author should be able to thread it. Don't care about gratuitous sex, either (Ayla/Jondalar, anyone?) and leave part of the scene to the reader's imagination is just fine with me.

Bernita said...

Ah, thank you, I got the 9 months bit.
Then you know "North Atlantic Squadron," Dave?

I find vulgarity a real turn-off too, Gabriele.
Sometimes it's hard to define though.

Robyn said...

Honest to God, the frist thing that came to mind when I saw the picture was Britney Spears. A lot of young celebs flashing their ladybits these days.

Anal sex is enormously squicky. Just thinking about what naturally comes out of the anus is enough to totally turn me off of putting anything in it. Ew.

Robyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gabriele C. said...

Robyn, it's funny. I don't mind reading about it but I'm not sure I'd do it. I definitely would not do (or want to receive) oral, it's eeew, but I don't mind to read m/m oral. I'm weird, I know.

spyscribbler said...

Bernita, you're extraordinarily hard to top, but in this one instance, the comment thread has been very interesting!

Dave, I like the Master/slave thing, but the lick my boots thing makes me laugh, too. I'm silly the other way, Rick. F/F is yummy to me, but M/M? Er.

Erotica is truly in the eye of the beholder. What squicks one person turns another on.

Bernita said...

Robyn, you read my mind!
And when I read about anal sex, my first reaction is WTF?

Spy, the post is merely prologue for the comments.

Dave said...

Do you know: "North Atlantic Squadron,"?

Nope, The only one I really remember with any clarity are words to alternate verses of Finiculi Finicula that begin with "last night I stayed up late to masterbate." I use it to shock people who think that I'm a virgin or a monk.

Other than that it's just bits and pieces or phrases from music.

Bernita said...

You should look it up.
Some hilarious lines/rhymes.

M.E Ellis said...

You fascinate me in what you see in pictures. I hadn't thought of the birth idea until you said.

:o)

Bernita said...

Think that art and writing are twins, Michelle.

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita,

I was just reading about the Sheela-na-gig a couple of weeks ago - here is a website with a guide to the locations of various ancient sheela-na-gig carvings.
http://www.sheelanagig.org

Fascinating symbolism.

As to what turns me off - well, anything that hurts or pinches or sounds like it might...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Kate.
She is not an isolated instance, it seems.

Yes. Simple organism that I am, I don't associate pain with pleasure either.