A 19th Century History of Lesbianism‏

For many years, the intensely passionate friendships between women in the Victorian era went unexplored as a form of female same-sex desire.  However, many exchanges among women in romantic friendships reveal that passion, love, intimacy, and quite likely sex did occur in these relationships.

Though marketed to heterosexual men, lesbian p...

Though marketed to heterosexual men, lesbian pulp fiction provided an identity to isolated women in the 1950s.

Romantic friendships ranged from: “the supportive love of sisters, through the enthusiasms of adolescent girls, to sensual avowals of love by mature women”.

Often, women in romantic friendships would write ardent love letters to each other, expressing their devotion and admiration for one another.

A similar phenomenon took place among school-aged girls in a behaviour termed “smashing.”  This describes the sending of flowers, gifts, notes, and other items to a girl one wanted to become intense friends with.  Often, poems and locks of hair were exchanged, and when the two girls finally became inseparable, they were said to be smashed.

Another expression of female same-sex desire included what Vicinus calls, the “occasional lover of women.”  These “free women” chose a highly varied sexuality, one that vacillated between women and men.  Regularly, their appearance might signal an erotic interest in women, while at other times they might take on male lovers when playing the role of mistress, courtesan, or prostitute.  However, they were also the first to be seen as a social problem by the vice and moral reformers, because of their gender deviance and their possible influence on male political leaders.

Taken together, these examples encompass a wide range of female same-sex desires, and should be seen less as distinct types of women, but rather as embodying general themes from the 19th century.

We cannot possibly detail or know all the articulations of same-sex desire among women, but we can point to patterns and cultural scripts visible during this time.  These women formed loving and passionate relationships with other women during a period when their behaviour was increasingly becoming pathologized.  In a very real way, they are images of early lesbian desire, as well as highly courageous and often unrecognised women.

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Playing in Blinkers

‘The Finnish psychologist Pertti Saariluoma has identified a remarkably common source of error in chess thought. In simple terms, it happens when you become so fixated on one move or variation that it produces an inhibiting effect on all other thoughts. You start thinking about a temping rook move advancing down a file, and you overlook a more powerful retreat; you are so proud of one piece powerfully established on a strong square that you miss the chance to force a simple win with a sequence beginning with its exchange for a passively placed enemy piece.

These common errors are all connected with the way we perceive chess positions. With up to 32 pieces scattered over 64 squares, and our poor brains generally incapable of juggling more than seven items at the same time, we need to codify the pieces into meaningful subsets. We don’t think in terms of discrete pieces on their individual squares., but instead understand a position in terms of the relationships between groups of pieces. The trouble is that such a process is liable to lock us into particular mind-sets. When, for example, we have a queen and a bishop on the same diagonal, their relationship exerts such a pull on our thoughts that it can blind us to possible moves of the queen or bishop on the diagonals.

The only solution – though difficult to put into practice – is to train yourself to look again at each move of a variation in a fresh and naïve manner. Somehow, you have to put your previous thoughts aside and clear a path in your mind to let radically new ideas come through.’

– Hartston. B. 1997. Better Chess London, United Kingdom: Hodder Headline (2004) p. 72

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Flying Mammal

‘They [bats] are the only mammal to sprout wings and fly, opening up a whole new world of habitats and food sources. Their order name Chiroptera means ‘hand wing’, and their wings remain recognisable as hands, with a thumb and four fingers. If ours grew to match them, it would be almost 7 feet long and thinner than knitting needles. […]

Vampire bats (Desmodus Rotundus) feed mainly on cattle, horses, tapirs and turkeys. If they do dine on humans, they usually go for the big toe, not the neck, but can only manage two table-spoons at one sitting. They are the only mammals that feed exclusively on blood.’

– Lloyd. J., Mitchinson. J. 2007. The QI Book of Animals London, Great Britain: Faber and Faber (2009) p. 14-15

Pederasty in Ancient Greece‏

‘Anal intercourse in general, usually between a man and an adolescent boy’ is the archaic meaning of the word paederasty.

The Greek word paiderastia is an abstract noun of feminine gender. It is formed from paiderastês. Although the word pais can refer to a child of either sex, paiderastia is defined as “the love of boys,” and the verb paiderasteuein as “to be a lover of boys.”

Pederastic scene: erastes (lover) touching chi...

The erastes touching the chin and genitals of the eromenos. Side A of an Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 540 BC.

Pederasty in ancient Greece was a socially acknowledged relationship between an adult and a younger male usually in his teens. It was characteristic of the Archaic and Classical periods.

The words: erastês and erômenos are standard terms for the two pederastic roles.

The erastês is the older lover, seen as the active or dominant partner. Erastês should be distinguished from Greek paiderastês, which meant “lover of boys” usually with a negative connotation. The erastês himself might only be in his early twenties, and thus the age difference between the two lovers might be negligible.

The erômenos was regarded as a future citizen, not an “inferior object of sexual gratification,” and was portrayed with respect in art. The word can be understood as an endearment such as a parent might use, found also in the poetry of Sappho and a designation of only relative age.

Both art and other literary references show that the erômenos was at least a teen, with modern age estimates ranging from 13 to 20, or in some cases up to 30. Most evidence indicates that to be an eligible erômenos, a youth would be of an age when an aristocrat began his formal military training, that is, from fifteen to seventeen.

Vase paintings and an obsession with the beloved’s appealing thighs in poetry indicate that when the pederastic couple engaged in sex acts, the preferred form was intercrural. To preserve his dignity and honor, the erômenos limits the man who desires him to penetration between closed thighs.

Pederastic courtship. Detail from side A of an...

Pederastic courtship; detail from a black-figure Attic hydria, ca. 540 BC.

Anal sex may be depicted, but far more rarely. The evidence is not explicit and is open to interpretation. Some vase paintings show the erastês seated with an erection and the erômenos either approaching or climbing into his lap. The composition of these scenes is the same as that for depictions of women mounting men who are seated and aroused for intercourse.

As a cultural norm considered apart from personal preference, anal penetration was most often seen as dishonorable to the one penetrated, or shameful. A fable attributed to Aesop tells how Aeschyne (Shame) consented to enter the human body from behind only as long as Eros did not follow the same path, and would fly away at once if he did. Oral sex is likewise not depicted, or is indicated only indirectly; anal or oral penetration seems to have been reserved for prostitutes or slaves.

The myth of Ganymede’s abduction by Zeus was invoked as a precedent for the pederastic relationship, as Theognis asserts to a friend:

There is some pleasure in loving a boy [paidophilein], since once in fact even the son of Cronus [that is, Zeus], king of immortals, fell in love with Ganymede, seized him, carried him off to Olympus, and made him divine, keeping the lovely bloom of boyhood [paideia]. So, don’t be astonished, Simonides, that I too have been revealed as captivated by love for a handsome boy.

Greek myths provide more than fifty examples of young men who were the lovers of gods. Pederastic love affairs are ascribed to Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Orpheus, Hercules, Dionysus, Hermes, and Pan. All the Olympian gods except Ares had these relationships, which are adduced by scholars to show that the specific customs of paiderastia originated in initiatory rituals.

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17/iv mmxiii

Goldfish have perfectly good memories and are smart enough to be trained to swim through hoops.

English: An image of a Common goldfish

Carassius Auratus Auratus or Common Goldfish

Most goldfish are not gold.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is estimated to have had an IQ of 185.

The ancient Greek word tragomaskalos means ‘with armpits smelling like a he-goat’.

According to tradition, Jimmu was the first emperor of Japan reigning between 711 BC and 585 BC. His father was the god Ugayafukiaezu, short for Amatsuhitaka-hiko’nakisatake-ugayafukiaezu-no-Mikoto.

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Cultural Attitudes Towards Cunnilingus‏

There are numerous (cultural) slang terms for cunnilingus, some are downright offensive, some are whimsically subtle. For instance, plucked from the relative obscurity of the Victorian era is the expression “tipping the velvet” to describe the oral stimulation clitoris.

Fresco from the Suburban baths depicting cunni...

Fresco from a Roman suburban bath depicting cunnilingus

In the course of history, cultural attitudes towards giving or receiving cunnilingus range from disgust to reverence. It has been considered taboo, or at least frowned upon, in many cultures and parts of the world.

Despite the clitoris being the female’s most sensitive erogenous zone and the primary source of sexual pleasure, cunnilingus is – as far as one can measure – not widely practised in a number of social and cultural settings.

People give various reasons for their dislike or reluctance to perform cunnilingus, or having cunnilingus performed on them: some regard cunnilingus unnatural or wrong because it does not lead to procreation; some cultures attach symbolism to different parts of the body, leading some people to believe that cunnilingus is ritually unclean or humiliating. This has been more or less the case in Christian and Sub-Saharan African cultures and other modern religions.

In Tantric yoga, the same emphasis is placed on the retention and absorption of vital liquids and Sanskrit texts describe how the male semen must not be emitted if the yogi is to avoid falling under law of time and death.

Conversely, cunnilingus is accorded a revered place in Taoism. This is because the practice was believed to achieve longevity, and the loss of semen, vaginal, and other bodily liquids is believed to bring about a corresponding loss of vitality. Conversely, by either semen retention or ingesting the fluids from the vagina, both male and female can conserve and increase ch’i, or original vital breath.

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Intermediate Mistakes (iv)

Source: Swan. M. 2005. Practical English Usage Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press (2011).

Practical English Usage lists over a hundred common mistakes in the English language. Listed below are a number of mistakes that intermediate students of English often make according to Swan (2005).

“He’s married with a doctor.” = He’s married to a doctor.
(449) The most common combination is: marriage to; get/be married to (not with).

“Can you mend this until Tuesday?” = Can you mend this by Tuesday?
(602.6) We use until to talk about a situation or state that will continue up to a certain moment. We use by to say that an action or event will happen at or before a future moment. (117.1) By can mean ‘no later than’. Compare: I’ll be home by five o’clock. (= at or before five).

“There’s a hotel in front of our house.” = There’s a hotel opposite our house.
(402.1) We put the adjective opposite before a noun when we are talking about one of a pair of things that naturally face or contrast with each other.

“I like warm countries, as Spain.” = I like warm countries, like Spain.
(326.1) We can use like or as to say that things are similar. Like can be a preposition. We use like, not as, before a noun or pronoun to talk about similarity. Compare: like + noun/pronoun.

“Please explain me what you want.” = Please explain to me what you want.
(198/449) After explain, we use to before an indirect object.

“When you come take your bike.” = When you come, bring your bike.
(112.1) We use bring for movements to the place where the speaker or hearer is, but we use take for movements to other places.

“My brother has got a new work.” = My brother has got a new job.
(148.3) Work is an uncountable noun, whereas job is a countable noun. (66.1) We do not normally use an indefinite article with plural and uncountable nouns.

“He’s Dutch, or better Belgian.” = He’s Dutch, or rather Belgian.
(491.4/104.2) People often use or rather to correct themselves.

See other: Notes On English Grammar