The History of Sex: Paris and Provence -- Now That's What I Call Culture -- (Chap. VII, Pt. 2)

But of course they're au fait with sadism.

For if the Spanish Inquisition proved there was nothing new about fetishizing cruelty, it took a French aristocrat to give it a good name.

The term sadisme swaggered into Western civilization around 1834, twenty years after the death of its namesake, a pornographer with literary pretensions who was reviled in his own time but later venerated as 'the Divine Marquis.'

From the age of twenty-three, the French government locked the Marquis de Sade up for most of his adult life, inadvertently gifting him the time and boredom to crank out such masturbatory epics as 120 Days of Sodom and Gomorrah (penned in the Bastille just before the Revolution).

True to cliché, there's plenty of sex in Sade the ballet.


Like practically every other take on the man who married Madame Slap with Monsieur Tickle, the dance version is based on the porno-philosopher's last years, locked up in a mental hospital on the orders of Napoleon.

To satisfy his theatrical urges, Sade was allowed to produce plays starring himself and his fellow inmates—a case of a 'madman' running an asylum.

And at first, The Theatre of Fools is interesting enough, not least because it features one of France's most beautiful ballerinas, Marie-Claude Pietragalla.

Her small troupe from Paris starts out in tight-fitting asylum-wear—imagine if Danskin did straitjackets—performing poignantly disjointed pas de deux.

This being art, though—specifically, French art of the titillated 21st century—it's only a matter of minutes before the first dildo rears its ugly—well, you know—and the dancers start getting their breasts out.

Now that's what I call culture.

Over the next two hours (sadistically sans intermission), most of the major perversions get a look in, along with a few minor ones: there's lots of bondage gear, riding crops, chains and black leather, some cross-dressing, simulated group sex, rape and sodomy with a smattering of cannibalism and even a bit of ponyboy training, all amid much angsty yammering and stagey madness.

The History of Sex: Paris and Provence -- From Le Marquis to Le Drilldo -- (Chap. VII, Pt. 1)

Chapter Seven
Porn and Perversion in Paris and Provence

'How delicious to corrupt, to stifle all semblances of virtue and religion in that young heart!'

--The Marquis de Sade, on deflowering a fifteen-year-old, 

in Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1795

The prima ballerina has her breasts out, a topless girl's writhing in a cage, a gimp is crawling around on all fours, and a man in a skirt is marching back and forth with a bucket on his head—while another dancer lies naked in a tin bathtub and fake blood drips down the back wall of the stage.

Bienvenue to the world premiere of Sade: The Theatre of Fools or, as I like to think of it, Everybody Spank Now!—billed as the first attempt to tell the story of the infamous marquis through the medium of dance.

But what makes this twist on the myth unique is its setting.

Rather than the jaded confines of a Parisian theatre, we're in a state-of-the-art amphitheatre out in the clear country air of Provence, on the very grounds of the castle where the ignobleman staged his own theatrical extravaganzas—and committed his most unpardonable crimes.

Poster for Sade
with the Marquis' castle in the background

As if that weren't remarkable enough, our host for this evening is Pierre Cardin, the flesh-and-blood brand name who bought the Marquis de Sade's chateau and now owns much of the surrounding hilltop village of Lacoste.

Bizarrely, the rest of the hamlet is roughly divided between natives—some families date back to Sade's time—and New Worlders.

Of all the places in Europe, America's biggest art college (the Savannah College of Art and Design), based in good-ole-boy Georgia, sends its students here for, um, inspiration.

According to one SCAD professor, not all of them know what they're getting into.

'Some of the students don't even know who the Marquis de Sade is when they come here.'

The History of Sex: Seville -- Why Men Are Don Juans -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 16)

Wright ended his night with the 'white slave trader' in the bar where I'm sitting now:

'And in each place, he signed up girls to work in the whorehouses of North Africa.'

Now, as with the Inquisition, it's not common knowledge that Seville was a hub of sex trafficking under Franco, with white católicas willingly venturing to Africa to sleep with dark-skinned Muslims.

How many family homes in Seville must have been bought with the proceeds of prostitution? Granny, where were you in the Fifties?

It's not a particularly polite question to ask a proud sevillano.

And anyway, I'm here to find out about Don Juan.


Alfonso Sanchez played the legendary womanizer in a local theatre production that combined three incarnations of the Don on one stage: Molina's hellbound original, the wise-cracking atheist envisaged by Moliere and the most popular version, Jose Zorrilla's religious romantic, a man who's redeemed by the love of a good (Catholic) woman.

In casting the main character, the director told me that her Don Juans had to look like they'd give a girl 'the best sex in the world.'

I'm not the best judge, but Alfonso is dark and bearded, and what he lacks in height he makes up with poise, carrying himself with actorly self regard.

What's more, Alfonso's an actor with a brain.

Alfonso and a musician
outside the historic Bar Citroen

'I had a bit of a phobia about playing Don Juan, because in my life, it's always been present,' he admits. 'My father is a total Don Juan. So I've lived it. And it has its light and dark sides. I was also a little afraid of confronting my own ghosts.'

While we're exorcizing our demons, I suppose I should confess that there was a time when I was called a Don Juan, though it never seemed much of a compliment, mainly because it sounds synonymous with 'male slut.'

After centuries of cogitation about what makes a man a mujeriego—mother issues, arrested development, being an incurable romantic, etcetera—the best reason I've been able to come up with is far more prosaic: Don Juans cheat because they can.

If men weren't indulged as rogues, victims or sex addicts, if they were stigmatized in the same way that—oh, I don't know—'bad' women have been repudiated for ages—well, I reckon the fanciful Don Juan 'gene' would quickly die out.


Alfonso doesn't disagree with this view, though he reckons there's a strong cultural element to being a Denomination-of-Origin Don.

'In the culture of the south, the myth of Don Juan is ever-present, especially in relationships with women. It turns into a relationship of conquest. Everything is conquest. You go to have a coffee, and you arrive at a moment of conquest. It's as if it makes you more manly—in theory. But it's self-destructive.'

He shakes his head when I mention guides like The Game and its Spanish imitator.

'That's fascinating,' he says. 'It's the opposite of the process I've gone through.'

Instead, he recommends a cure for Don Juanism: playing the Don onstage.

'It forces you to be conscious of your own limitations. Because the things you do without thinking about them, out of a tradition that obliges you to be a Don Juan, or a need for conquest, you realize that isn't the essence of who you are: you're searching for something else.'

'The great tragedy of Don Juan is that he's constantly searching for God—or rather, pure love. And he doesn't find it—until he meets the love of his life.'

* * *

The History of Sex: Seville -- Flamenco and White Slavery -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 15)

Having set the standards for the rest of the world during the Inquisition and launched a mission to save Catholicism under Franco, it seems ironic that Spain should now be so desperate to ape the mores of traditionally Protestant (if largely secular) countries.

Meanwhile, alarmists talk of Muslim immigrants—and Spanish converts—establishing a 'New Al-Andalus' in Spain: the historic stronghold of Granada opened its first mosque since the Reconquest in 2003.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, a Spanish novelist wrote a mock political manifesto outlining how to make Spain 'the most dynamic and innovative service society in the new, global trans-national order:' 

'Spaniards! Those young people who sow their barely adolescent bodies on the curves of our highways every weekend. They're not a problem; they're a solution… Let's not go back to wasting the gold of America… Let's illuminate the world once more with a new Golden Age… Now is the time to convert ourselves into a BROTHEL OF THE DEAD.' 


That notion is only slightly more offensive than the real reason I've chosen the Bar Citroën to meet a modern Don Juan.

The bar sits on the corner between Seville's Moorish-style Plaza de España and the family park that hides the spot where the Inquisition used to cremate people alive.

Like the Plaza, the Citroën dates from the Spanish-American Expo of 1929: the small, circular building was actually the carmakers' showroom.

Now a pitstop for tourists and pedestrians, the Citroën was more of a nightspot when Richard Wright came here over half a century ago.

A shady compatriot had offered to show him 'enough flamenco to last you a lifetime' but ended up taking him on a club crawl.

As a black American, the author was surprised to find sevillanas throwing themselves at him, saying: 'I you go Africa.'

Laughing, his guide explained the joke: 'I'm organizing these girls to take them to Africa next week. They think that you are the boss. You see, you are dark. They think you own the cathouses in Casablanca.'

'You mean they want to work in the whorehouses in Africa?'

'They are dying to go. I got the pick of thousands. I can't sleep for the women in Seville begging me to take them to Africa. Two years' work over there and a girl can buy a house in Seville.'

Don't twist my arm:
Contrary to pulp fiction,
Richard Wright found that many sevillanas went willingly

The History of Sex: Seville -- 'Ten Tips on Caressing the Female Breast' -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 14)

Given this backstory, it's no surprise that when sexual liberation came to Spain, it arrived with a bang.

Tragically, the country returned to democracy during one of the most vacuous periods in Western history: the Age of Disco.

By that time, Sixties platitudes about bettering society had been all but discarded in favor of full-blown self-fulfillment: it's all about me, baby!

On the same day in 1975 that a democratic Don Juan was named King of Spain, the #1 song in America was 'That's the Way (I Like It)' by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

So when it comes to sex, you can't blame modern Spain for being a bit conflicted: having swung from religious totalitarianism to total secular freedom, who wouldn't be?


'THE PSYCHOSIS RETURNS' declared the TV this morning as a pillow-lipped presenter announced the latest outrage: un loco has tried to molest a teenager in one of Spain's beach resorts.

And while I'm rushing through Seville to meet a modern Don Juan, I do a double-take outside a newsstand not far from the plaza where the Inquisition used to condemn its victims.

It's not the run-of-the-mill porn that catches my eye, but a self-improvement title called Sexologies.

Just above the teaser for '48 Hours of Sex Shopping in London' is the main article: 'Ten Tips on Caressing the Female Breast.'

As opposed to man boobs, I guess.

Buy the magazine, get the vibrator for free

At first, I assume the title is figurative, or maybe I'm misreading it—it's probably more along the lines of 'how to touch a woman's heart.'

But no, the list is literal, including Tips #2 and #3: 'Take Off Her Bra' (always a good start) and 'Look At Her Breasts As If You've Made A Great Discovery.'

Of course, every would-be Columbus of the Bosom has to learn some time.

But if you need a science-lite magazine to tell you how to caress a breast, I'm guessing you're probably not ready for penetration—and you definitely shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a woman with the fuchsia, battery-powered 'Rabbit of Love' that comes free with the magazine.

It's enough to make you say a prayer to the patron of the Internet, St. Isidore, who analyzed sex as the Bishop of Seville way back in the seventh century.

Which is your favorite type of man?
The voting begins!

The History of Sex: Seville -- Land of the Necrophiliac Whorehouse -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 13)

Meanwhile, women were either 'good' or 'bad,' according to a couple of twentysomethings who guided Wright around Barcelona:

'Since they could not have the "good" ones, they frequented the "bad" ones. And since going to bed with either a "good" or a "bad" woman was a sin, it was necessary to be forgiven. Both boys went to confession regularly.'

Eventually, he met one of their girlfriends.

'What does your fiancée do?' I asked him.
Dumbfounded, he stared at me.
'She's a virgin,' he repeated.
Being a virgin, evidently, was a kind of profession in itself.

The Catholic hierarchy estimated that Madrid had a hundred thousand prostitutes, while Wright found that 'Barcelona and Seville literally crawl with hungry women willing to grant access to their bodies for bread or its equivalent.'

Professional virgins?
A Spanish magazine from the Franco era

In Seville, he stayed in a pensión run by an ultra-Catholic landlady, realizing belatedly that it doubled as a 'house of assignation:'

'Spain seemed one vast brothel.'

A decade or so later, a whoremongers' guide to Europe quibbled with that description, claiming instead that 'sexually, Spain is a working hypocrisy.'

Respectable prostitutes would hang a crucifix and a picture of the Virgin over their beds, refusing to use contraceptives: they were 'immoral.'

'Because the prostitute accepts her role in life, she has few complexes or guilt feelings. Her religion does not interfere, for it has told her to accept things as they are.'

In Barcelona, the writer described an establishment that seemed emblematic of the intensely Spanish obsessions with sex and death.

In the 'necrophiliac whorehouse,' a girl would lie in a coffin and play dead. If she moved while the punter played with her, he got his money back.

Not for nothing is the Spanish word for 'kinky'—morbo—akin to 'morbid.'

* * *

The History of Sex: Seville -- How America 'Gave' Spain a Middle Class -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 12)

However, vowing to fight them on the beaches was like trying to hold back the tide.

The US had done a Cold War deal with the devil in 1953, supporting Franco as a bulwark against Communism and effectively giving its blessing to Viva España sunseekers who then did their bit to prop up the Fascist regime.

The Spanish government didn't like their foreign immorality, but it needed their cash.

When the girls at a school for foreigners in Santander demanded to be able to swim without being fined, the authorities marked off a special section of a nearby beach where they could frolic in their navel-revealing, two-piece, Satanic Bikinis.


Naturally, all this mortification of the flesh had the opposite effect, creating a people who were positively—even morbidly—sex-obsessed.

The American novelist Richard Wright opted for a road trip through Spain in 1954, and his little-known travelogue, Pagan Spain, is intriguing mainly because of its time-capsule details and the people he encountered, such as the veteran Spanish journalist who told him 'the real and simple truth' about the civil war:

'We butchered one another and we loved it. The Spanish never had a better time of it in their modern history than they had in that war.'

Or the New Yorker designing the new air bases under the Franco pact:

'What these people need is a middle class. We're going to give them one. These people cannot resist the new stuff that we are bringing in. They try to, but they can't.'

Sexually, though, Spain was still a world apart.

A professional woman who had lived everywhere from Berlin to Buenos Aires said she was shocked by the Spanish obsession with sex.

'When I first came here, I thought that the Spanish had just discovered sex. A Spanish child of six could tell a man of twenty-one in New York things that he does not know.'

Even so, an 'intellectual Spaniard' told Wright that he and his fiancée spoke French in small towns to avoid being fined if he touched her arm in the street:

'Go in the spring and summer into Andalusia and look into the open fields and you'll see the Spaniards fornicating like animals—and the Church has made it like that'.

The History of Sex: Seville -- Beware Satanic Fashions! -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 11)

So it was that students in seminaries and religious colleges were told to beware the 'diabolical serpent' of the penis and the 'Satan's den' of the vagina.

As in medieval times, books on morality divided the female body into three zones: the 'honest' or 'decent' parts (the hands, feet, face and arms up to the elbow); the 'less decent' bits (such as the upper arms); and the downright 'indecent' bits.

The Archbishop of Toledo issued a dress code declaring that 'it's against modesty not to wear stockings,' while posters warning against the evils of MODERN DANCES showed a besuited young man waltzing unknowingly with a horned and winged devil, as a woman in a dress does likewise.

('YOUNG PERSON… AMUSE YOURSELF ANOTHER WAY' it commanded, though it must have been a toss-up between close dancing and masturbation.)

All the media were censored, and most magazines and newspapers hired touch-up experts to doctor photos.

Rita Hayworth above, Ava Gardner below:
both before and after the censors

Gone With the Wind wasn't shown until 1950—eleven years after its debut—and even Biblical fare like Samson and Delilah had to be made decent for los españoles (the temptress' midriff was covered up in posters).

However, just as Goya had dodged the old Inquisition by painting a double portrait of La Maja (one nude, the other clothed), Spanish filmmakers found a way around Franco's censorship: shooting two versions of the same scene.

In The Return of Clint the Stranger, one of many spaghetti Westerns shot in Spain, the international version included a scene with a blonde lying on a bed, exposing everything from her breasts to the top of her pubic triangle.

In the Spanish edition, a sheet covers her up to her armpits.

What with modern Spain's fame for 'Ibiza Uncovered'-style debauchery, it's hard to fathom that one of the main battlefronts in the war on sin was the country's beaches.

Up until at least the Fifties, many swimming areas were divided between the sexes: boys would have to bathe separately with their fathers, and girls with their mothers.

In Las Palmas, the bishop ordered his priests to deny absolution to anyone who insisted on playing on la playa in mixed company.

As late as 1976—a year after Franco's death—a religious magazine in Valencia denounced 'Satanic Fashions:'
Bikinis and tight trousers
Mothers sin by buying them for their daughters.
The girls sin by using them.
Men sin by looking at them.
A modern condemnation of 'infernal fashion':
Woman: 'Hey! Why are you cutting my dress?'
Demon: 'It's to make you more attractive...
but especially to send men to hell!'

The History of Sex: Seville -- Rape as a Weapon -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 10)

That claim that would have appalled the late 'Generalissimo of Spain' and self-styled 'Leader of the Last Crusade and of the Hispanic World.'

Not that he was a big fan of Don Juans.

Francisco Franco's father had been a womanizing military man who was often away from home (has anybody seen my daddy?), leaving the future Fascist to cling to his devout, bourgeois Catholic mother.

Like most dictators, Franco wound up running his beloved Motherland into the ground. But it wasn't meant to turn out that way.

In launching his coup against Spain's anti-Catholic government in 1936, Franco's goal had been to restore España to its glory days as a global power, adopting the 'Catholic Monarchs' who founded the Inquisition as his role models.

The Last Crusade: Fascist propaganda from the Civil War
Franco vowed to make Spain the 'Spiritual Guide of the World'

The Fascists aimed to bring about not just a political and economic revolution, but also a moral one, rejecting liberalism—particularly the relativism of Rousseau—and restoring the Church to the center of Spanish life.

Decadent Italy and the Vatican might be the Pope's home, but Franco's Spain aimed to implement the purest form of Catholicism on the planet.

And right from the beginning, sex was a weapon.

Seville was one of the first cities to fall to Franco's coupmongers, and the officer who conquered it bragged about the rapes committed by his troops.

For men who viewed women as either virgins or whores, of course, violating a godless Communist wasn't really rape at all: she was already a whore.

After the war, these false ideals became the focus of the Fascist regime.

'In the Spain of National-Catholicism, the accent on immorality fell almost exclusively on sexual sin, so much so that the multiple forms of theft and corruption were forgotten,' according to a fascinating history of Sexual Repression in Franco's Spain, which argues that 'the autarchy's sexual repression also had its Torquemada:' the Minister of Information and Tourism, a 'super-Catholic' who supposedly kept fiscal accounts of how many souls the Fascist regime saved each year.

Spanish Civil War poster:
'Avoid venereal diseases: They're as dangerous as enemy bullets'

The History of Sex: Seville -- Was the Original Don Juan Gay? -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 9)

Other men like Moliere and Mozart quickly turned the Latin lover into a universal archetype, but there were specific reasons why Don Juan premiered in Inquisition Spain, where sex was literally a matter of life and death.

As in the rest of Europe, the ancient Roman rules about shame and honor had never really died out; if anything, they'd probably been crystallized by eight centuries of Islamic rule, particularly in the Moorish south.

'There is in Seville a class of useless, idle people usually known as men about town,' wrote the novelist Cervantes, a man who'd done time in the city's jail himself before giving the world that other product of Inquisition Spain, Don Quixote.

One of these gadabout sevillanos was just a toddler when Tirso de Molina's play made its debut in Madrid, but he grew up to embody the stereotypical Don Juan.

Fortunately, Miguel de Mañara's life had a happy ending.

Staggering home through the Old Town one night, he bumped into a funeral procession.

De Mañara snuck a peek at the corpse—and saw his own dead face staring back at him (other versions claim his wife's death straightened him out).

De Mañara forsook his sinful ways, gave his riches to the poor and genuinely became a force for good. 

However, the more likely real-life inspiration for Don Juan met a sticky end.


The Count of Villamediana—Don Juan de Tassis y Peralta—was murdered in Madrid in 1622, having offended so many people with his satirical poems that his killer was never caught.

One theory is that Villamediana had peeved the king by consorting with the queen.

But a far more intriguing theory maintains that the 'real Don Juan' wasn't a ladies' man at all.

Now, as with the rumors about 'Osman' in Istanbul, the homosexualization of historical figures is practically a cottaging industry in its own right. In modern life, you're no one until you've been outed in death.

Still, the 'Gay Don Juan' story is a good 'un: according to this conspiracy theory, Villamediana was killed while riding in his coach with a teenager who was also a relative of the king's right-hand man.

What's more, shortly after Villamediana's demise, the Inquisition seems to have found evidence linking the count's household to a ring of homosexuals: two of his servants were burnt as sodomites, alongside a duke's page, a black slave… and a 'pet dwarf.'

Not this dwarf: a court buffoon from around 1626

Unfortunately, this account is based on research dug up by a Spanish historian over three centuries later, in 1928.

When a British successor, Robert Stradling, tried to find the same source material in the archives in 1986, he discovered that 'the papers had vanished:'

'The evidence had been removed, evidently by an authority… concerned to preserve intact the myth of Don Juan. A gay Don Juan evidently threatened the integrity of every Spanish male, even the identity of Spain itself. It had to remain a state secret. I had encountered a case of cultural cover-up.'

Or an administrative cock-up.

But Stradling is convinced—in italics—that if the 1928 account was accurate, 'no doubt can exist that the accepted prototype of Don Juan, most potent of all myths of heterosexual male seduction, was a promiscuous homosexual.'

* * *

The History of Sex: Seville -- Tricksters and Conquistadors -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 8)

Though prone to corruption, a devil's advocate could argue that the Inquisition served as a check on decadence during Spain's 'Golden Century.'

Even after England thrashed the Spanish Armada in 1588, Spain ranked as a global superpower, with vast territories encompassing Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida, California and the southwestern US (without forgetting the Philippines).

The Spanish Inquisition also influenced fashion throughout Europe, though Continentals eventually ditched the rich-but-dour look for more revealing styles (even as the Spanish bizarrely took to binding their daughters' chests with lead plates to make their breasts 'as flat as a sheet of paper,' according to a French contemporary).

At the same time, Spain popularized the Cult of the Virgin, forcing women back up on an even higher pedestal.

Seville still prides itself on being MUY MARIANA: VERY MARIAN.

At least two centuries before the Vatican made it official, the home of Don Juan touted Mary's Immaculate Conception, a doctrine that took the concept of female purity to the extreme: not only had the Mother of God been an eternal virgin, she'd also been conceived sans original sin.


Crucially, the riches that made this age 'Golden' for Spain weren't so much earned as stolen, with the conquistadors taking far more from the New World than they put in.

Consider the settlers of New England versus New Spain.

The former were Calvinist nonconformists who risked their lives for an ideal: to be able to practice their beliefs free from religious persecution.

In contrast, the semi-literate brutes who conquered 'New Spain' (like the English fortune-seekers who settled the American South) risked their lives solely to get rich or die trying.

The mountains of gold and silver they shipped back via Seville fostered generations of aristos with no real purpose but to waste their fortunes and amuse themselves by exploiting others.

It's this decadence that produced the character of Don Juan.

Miguel de Manara, often cited as the 'real' Don Juan

The original Trickster of Seville was a straight, wages-of-sin cautionary tale, penned around 1630 by Tirso de Molina, a monk turned playwright.

Don Juan Tenorio is a rich young blade who gets his kicks tricking women into bed.

Catholic to the core, he seduces and double-crosses his way from Naples to Seville, cynically boasting that he'll seek God's forgiveness with his last breath.

The supernatural twist is that the ghost of a man he's murdered—the father of a dishonored woman—kills Don Juan and drags him off to hell before he can repent.

The History of Sex: Seville -- The Bible's Saucy Bits -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 7)

To their credit, Torquemada and Co. also cracked down on the clergy.

According to one expert on the Inquisition, of the 1,735 cases tried by the Tribunal of Barcelona between 1578 and 1635, nineteen percent were for crimes by the clergy.

In Seville, a priest was prosecuted in 1603 for claiming that sodomy wasn't a sin so long as you paid your partner—something he often did while alone with boys in confession.

In fact, complaints about predatory priests were a major reason for the invention of the confessional as we know it: a box that physically separated priests from penitents.

One noteworthy case involved a monk and the most erotic book in the Bible (which, not coincidentally, is also one of its shortest).

In 1572, an Augustinian was hauled up in Valladolid for having translated The Song of Solomon into Spanish.

An auto da fe in front of the Cathedral of Valladolid
in the Covent Garden Opera's production of Don Carlo

Of course, the Church frowned on allowing commoners to interpret the Word of God for themselves, but Fray Luis de León had actually translated the raciest bits into language that any fornicator could understand.

Even some of the translation-happy 'heretics' of Geneva had taken issue with The Song of Solomon and declarations of love such as:

'Your breasts (are) like clusters of fruit… I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.'

Curiously, De León told the Inquisition that he'd translated these fruity passages as a favor for a nun.

However, his cleaner—a fellow monk—found the work in his room and copied it in secret.

The Spanish Song of Solomon soon began circulating as religious samizdat, spreading to Portugal and as far away as Peru.

De León eventually got off with a warning—after five years in jail.

* * *

The History of Sex: Seville -- Sodomy and the Abominable Sin -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 6)

Forever in search of new kindling, the Inquisition soon expanded its remit to sex crimes.

And the Spanish were definitely sexually active.

An English traveler was probably exaggerating when he claimed that 'for fornication and impurity they are the worst of all nations.'

Notably, though, he made that remark having already visited Naples.

The Inquisition judged sexual mores based on the ancient Stoic-Christian rule of thumb: any sex act that couldn't produce a baby was a sin 'against nature.'

So sodomy among men was 'the abominable sin'—classed with bestiality.

Spank me!
In this cartoon by Bosch, birds fly out of a sodomite's bum
while a buffoon spanks him with a lute
-- a symbol of lust
(University of Seville website)

Girl-on-girl action was sinful but largely overlooked because no sperm was wasted—unless, of course, the rubbing got out of hand and the women 'wanted to be more masculine than nature permitted.'

In one case in Seville, two lovers were sentenced to 200 lashes and exile for using a strap-on dildo made of sheepskin.


In the main, though, male sodomites caught the worst of it because the authorities believed that once you got a taste for anal sex, only the flames could cure you: once you had back, you never went back.

A Jesuit confessor in Seville's prison documented 114 prosecutions for sodomy over thirty-eight years, including the tragic case of two mule drivers who were passing through the city when one of them fell ill.

His co-worker found him in bed in the tavern and asked him what was wrong.

'Close the door,' the man replied, explaining that that he'd taken a dodgy purgative that left him with 'abrasions on his secret bits.'

So his friend sat down on the bed to inspect his sores. 

'For God's sake, don't hurt me!' the patient yelped.

Unfortunately, a maid had been snooping on them through the keyhole.

And when she saw the one man sit on the bed between the other's naked legs—'Don't hurt me!'—she ran to inform the authorities.

The men were tortured until they confessed and were burnt to death for a crime they hadn't committed.

The History of Sex: Seville -- The Church of Me, Myself, and I -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 5)

The Holy Office of the Inquisition got its start in Seville in 1478 after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella—the self-styled 'Catholic Monarchs'—became convinced that their newly united kingdom needed to be saved from fake converts to Christianity: namely, closet Jews and Muslims.

Conveniently, the men who convinced them were Dominicans, members of the order that had been founded by a saintly Spaniard but later racked up loads of expertise on How to Persecute Your Opponents.

The so-called 'Dogs of God' had burned the Cathars into oblivion two centuries earlier, and armed with the same how-to manuals on terror and interrogation, they resolved to do the same to heretics in Spain.

What's more, as Protestantism spread throughout Europe—with its very own 'Rome' in Geneva!—Spain's 'Modern' Inquisition increasingly served as an inspiration for the Catholic fightback known as the Counter-Reformation.

Detail from The Inquisition Tribunal by Goya

To be fair, just as Luther and Calvin had good reasons for reforming the Church, Rome's backlash wasn't just about preserving its earthly perqs.

Devout Catholics must have divined that once you start attacking the foundations of any institution, there's a danger the whole edifice will come tumbling down.

In that sense, the crisis in England was a warning of things to come, with a cretin like Henry VIII—as debauched as any Borgia—personally denouncing Luther yet setting himself up as the pope of his very own breakaway 'Protestant' church and murdering his wives because he couldn't father a healthy son.

It was even more perverse that the English should celebrate him as a jolly rogue—or at worst, a sympathetic monster—rather than a woman-killing tyrant.

And if King Harry could break away, it was just a matter of time before every Tom-and-Dick Commoner would end up worshiping at their own Churches of Me, Myself and I.

So for followers of the old faith, heresy had to be stamped out.

Like its European, Portuguese, American, and even Goan imitators, the Spanish Inquisition was so complex that historians still can't agree on body counts or how universally its diktats were applied.

At best, it seems to have tolerated transgressions so long as you didn't brag about them.

At worst, it fostered a culture of spying and informing on your neighbours, torturing and murdering innocents, and then stealing their estates to feed the killing machine.

As one man put it, 'if the Inquisitors don't burn, they don't eat.'

The History of Sex: Seville -- Home of the Spanish Inquisition... and Don Juan -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 4)

So our thrifty anti-hero decides to change his luck with women by tanning himself 'dark as a Zulu,' switching to contacts, depilating and sculpting his body, learning how to dance and perfecting his 'devastating smile:' 

'Simply put, I was adorable.'

And I can vouch for that, having marveled at his author's photos and online videos, revealing a guy so cute, he probably poos curlicues.

In fact, as muy macho as he and his manicured brethren no doubt are, whenever I read about these avowed womanizers, I can't help but wonder if their braggadocio isn't a form of protesting too much.

I reckon it's only a matter of time before one of these DIY Don Juans, these 'polyamorous' young men comes out and confesses, 'Y'know, what? I actually prefer taking it up the bum—and I don't mean with a strap-on dildo.'

Funnily enough, there's also a theory that the real-life inspiration for Don Juan liked men more than women, a notion so offensive to Spanish masculinity that it supposedly inspired a governmental cover-up (though Don Juan did make his debut around the same time that Castilian dandies adopted their lisp).

However, the main shock for me is that Spain's famed lotharios would need a 'Bible for seduction' at all.

Are Western men so maladjusted that even Spanish ladykillers need help?

* * * 

The modern capital of Andalusia is loud and proud about being the fictional home of a murderous heartbreaker, but Seville is uncharacteristically quiet about a far more important fact from its history.

Up until the opening of a museum on the subject, you could live there for years without stumbling across the city's dirty secret.

But it's true: the city of orange blossoms, flamenco and Don Juan was also the home of the Spanish Inquisition.

And being Torture HQ was no small thing.

Next to the Reconquest—the epic battle to expel the Moors from their last foothold in Western Europe—the Inquisition was one of the institutions (if not the institution) that made Spain and the Spanish what they are today, uniting the country religiously and politically for more than three-and-a-half centuries until a succession of foreign rulers finally put a stop to it.

The Spanish Inquisition was effectively a law unto itself, setting the moral code for Spain and a precedent for the rest of the globe, from Europe to Latin America and even Asia.

As one of the world's great powers, Inquisition Spain cemented the link between sex and sin (if not death) in Catholic culture and revived the virgin-whore dichotomy, exporting all these beliefs via Columbus and the conquistadors.

Importantly, the home of the Inquisition became the gateway to the New World; paradoxically, it also produced 'the world's greatest lover:' Don Juan.

The History of Sex: Seville -- Has Anybody Seen My Daddy? -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 3)

Of course, this isn't the first time in history that the leader of a newish movement says one thing (like 'give up your riches and follow me') and his followers do another (viz. the pre-Reformation Popes).

The problem is, once you start teaching people to bend the rules, there's no telling where they'll stop.

The Game has fathered at least one TV series, countless DIY Don Juans and—perhaps most surprisingly—even a Spanish imitator.

Like the original, which was published as a Bible lookalike in America, its Latin copycat also has a black jacket and purports to be nothing less than 'the Bible of Success with Women.'

In addition, the cover of Sex Code: El Manual Práctico de los Maestros de la Seducción sports a female silhouette in the crosshairs.

As with American MPUAs, the author of Sex Code tries to justify his actions by regurgitating sub-Darwinian gobbledygook from celebrity philosophists like Richard Dawkins, with plenty of supporting parables from pop-culture sources like The Matrix.

In the beginning, you see, evolution hardwired us to crave certain traits in mates ('The Promiscuous Woman Does a Disservice to Her Genes' declares one heading), but scientific advances like the Pill have made our bodies outdated replicating machines, transforming 'the battle of the sexes' into nothing but 'a game.'

Though it may defy logic, brethren, we can have our cake and eat it. Evolution is all-powerful, but we're so clever we can also outwit it:

With this knowledge, ye shall be as gods! 


Whereas The Game is constructed as a typical underdog-to-topdog story—Strauss is just a little guy pursuing the American wet dream—Sex Code begins with the author explaining why he's 'consecrated his life to the study of seduction' (I was going to serve the poor but instead I consecrated myself to poonanny).

The scene-setter is straight out of a B movie: Mario Luna wakes up with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a woman in the other.

While he's smoking, the girl stirs, so he rolls her over and pulls down her panties.

And as our hero ties off yet another used condom, the girl tells him: 'That'll be €120.'

'I'd paid to fuck—again,' he muses.

Then he adds, in case the reader has mistaken him for a missionary:

'There wasn't anything altruistic about my behavior. Blowing my salary on whores didn't have anything to do with charity. I knew perfectly well what had driven me to waste my savings on prostitutes: my low self-esteem.'

Has anybody seen my daddy?

Did You Remember the Pill?

From the archive: 2010

Like most men, I should be enormously grateful for the Pill, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. 

However, I can't help but think the benefits have been largely one-sided.

For one thing, I doubt the male doctors who invented the Pill really had women's liberation in mind when they came up with a way to have condom-free coitus.

If they had, we'd surely have a male equivalent by now.


An excellent article on the dark side of the discovery notes that the Pill was initially tested on poor women in Puerto Rico because they had less legal protection.

And it turns out that a woman named Seaman -- yes, really -- wrote a book highlighting the risks of the contraceptive in 1969: The Doctors' Case Against the Pill.

One thing the article doesn't mention is the tragic personal life of 'the Father of the Pill,' Carl Djerassi, who fathered his only daughter during an affair the year before he invented the contraceptive.

At the age of 25, his daughter decided to be sterilized, and she committed suicide three years later.

You can read a revealing interview with him here.

The History of Sex: Seville -- A Pox Upon Your PUAs -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 2)

'Style's' sexploits climax with him acquiring a 'harem' of ten and coaxing a couple of girls to have a threesome in which they spitball his sperm between their mouths.

He also hobnobs with celebs in LA ('Tom Cruise was teaching me more about inner game than my father ever had') and finds true-ish love in the form of a rocker girlfriend who keeps his penis hard (for a while—they've since broken up).

Towards the end, he even reaches a cod-epiphany of sorts (though notably after a teary encounter with another male PUA): 'Perhaps it was really shared emotion and experience that creates relationships, not seven hours of routines followed by two hours of sex.'

Ya think?

But because this is inevitably 'Coming to a Multiplex Near You'—it must have been like this in the Middle Ages, waiting for the plague to hit your village—Strauss is keen to keep reassuring you that deep down, he's not a sociopath; he's a really nice guy: 'All I wanted was an evolutionary edge.'

We geeks should get to pee in the gene pool, too!

And he really loves women. Kinda like Jack the Ripper loved prostitutes:

'One of the tragedies of modern life is that women as a whole do not hold a lot of power in society,' he empathizes out one side of his face, then adding out the other: 'Sexual choice, however, is one of the only areas where women are indisputably in control.'

And me and my buddies are doing our best to take even that away!

Having been among the first to cash in on the trend, Strauss can then afford to take the high ground, proclaiming himself shocked—shocked—that teaching other pretend-men to 'neg' women and treat them like 'targets' causes them to, well, have a negative attitude and treat women like targets!

It's uncanny, dude! I keep pumping rubbish into these men—and they turn into rubbish men!

Poseurs or PUAs?
VH1's reality show for pretend-men

The History of Sex: Juan for the Boys: Sex and Death in Seville -- (Chap. VI, Pt. 1)

Chapter Six
Sex and Death in Seville 

'Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave:
The coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.' 
--The Song of Solomon, translated into Spanish c1560 

If only the car nerds could tap into some of that old Don Juan-ismo.

Now that we're well into the new millennium, it's becoming clear that the leitmotif of many a twentieth-century thumbsucker—the son's archetypal (and often self-pitying) conflict with his father—has begotten an even more desperate twenty-first-century descendant: the son versus his virtually non-existent father (has anybody seen my daddy?), a void that's spawned countless surrogates offering to turn boys into men.

For a price, naturally.

Enter The Game by Neil Strauss, an American journalist who uncovered a secretive brotherhood of 'pick-up artists' united by the Web and a love of acronyms.

Strauss' previous contribution to the culture was How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, a memoir by Jenna Jameson that spent six weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.

In The Game, then, Strauss starts out as a poor little bestselling author, a mere AFC or 'average fucking chump' who transforms himself into 'Style,' a globe-hopping 'Master PUA' who cons women into bed largely by preying on their weak spots.

A key tactic is to insult or 'neg' a 'target:' 'the purpose is to lower a woman's self esteem.'

And that's just the beginning.

The History of Sex: Geneva -- How Not to Pick Up a Booth Babe -- (Chap. V, Pt. 18)

Rather than force me to walk round and round to talk to them, the Skoda girls suggest I hop in the backseat, with Nikolina 'driving' and Jessica riding shotgun.

'You must get lots of guys hitting on you,' I venture.

'With guys hitting on us, it's easy, because we have security here, so they ask them kindly to go. But you get these—weird people.' Jessica wrinkles her nose.

'We had an experience with a man who was French, and he had some food left on the side of his mouth. And he was with his son and his friend. And he was talking to me so nicely. And his friend was trying to take a picture, and his boy was getting into the picture, and he was yelling at his son—'"Francois, get out of the picture!!!"'—she switches back into nice-guy mode, nodding attentively—"Yeah, yeah, I work in Bern, it's really nice"—"Francois, get out!!!" And when he turned his face to me—he was so—so friendly!'

She giggles.

'And he was also spitting.'

'A lot of guys say, "Where are you going tonight?"' Nikolina adds. 'And I always give answers like, "Somewhere you're not." Or "I don't speak French," "I don't speak English"—Whatever. I don't want to be rude. We smile, but it's not so easy all the time.'

'Do you ever get any corny pick-up lines?' I ask.

Jessica groans. 'The one everyone says is "Are you included with the car or do we have to pay extra?"'

'We usually say we'd be too expensive. You couldn't afford it.'

As the convention crowds continue to revolve around us, I mention that I've been surprised the atmosphere isn't more, um, glamorous. Without putting too fine a point on it, where have all the babes gone?

'You should've come the first two days, the press days, which aren't open to the public,' Jessica explains. 'Every car label has its models, it's only press here, and then there's really a bit of glamour. Then, when it starts to open to the public…' she shakes her head and smiles '…it stops.'

Tomorrow is the last day of the Motor Show, when thousands will forego church to spend their Sunday lusting after earthly goods in the erstwhile Protestant Rome.

As I step out of the revolving Skoda, I can't help but recall an oft-repeated phrase in Geneva: poor old Calvin must be spinning in his grave.

* * *

The History of Sex: Geneva -- The Skoda Girls of the Geneva Motor Show -- (Chap. V, Pt. 17)

In fact, keeping the West-Country Mechanic in mind (I don't think I'll ever be able forget him), you can't help but suspect a lot of guys here would try to get off with a car, too, given half the chance.

Maybe that's the real reason why the lights are so bright at motor shows: any lapse in illumination, and the car nerds would drop their elastobands and start buggering the Bugattis, fellating the Ferraris and rimming the Alfa Romeos.

After barely an hour of soaking up this 'atmosphere,' even Lena's depressed.

'This is ruining the dream,' she grumbles. 'Cars for me have gone from sexy to sad.'

She points over the barrier at a gentleman who's carefully ratcheting his hips into the racing seat of a Ferrari.

'See—that's the problem with that kind of car. The kind of people who can buy them aren't the kind of people you can enjoy them with.'


As we head dejectedly to the bar, I finally find what I've been looking for: two fabled 'booth babes' frolicking in the back of a car.

'It's a Skoda,' Lena notes, rather uncharitably.

That may be, but Skoda's never looked so good.

Being an oft-ridiculed East European carmaker, the company seems to have realized it needs to go that extra mile to get people's attention.

Not only is the new Fabia supermini mounted on a slowly spinning dais, but it also has two leggy brunettes doing their best to look comfortable while sitting crammed in the rear of the hatchback, gamely smiling and laughing for photos.

As I make my approach, Nikolina and Jessica have just fended off the amorous enquiries of a drooling Claude.

Nikolina kept flinching every time he spoke.

'He was spitting on my arm!' she laughs. 'It was disgusting!'

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Does My Penis Look Big in This? -- (Chap. V, Pt. 16)

But Lena's knowledge of cars borders on the carnal.

Spotting the new Pagani, her eyes gleam as she starts stroking her hair, as if the inanimate object itself is going to flirt back at her.

While she's bouncing from exhibit to exhibit, clearly excited by seeing the world's top cars in the flesh, I have to admit I'm more interested in seeing the flesh than the cars.

I'm a car-show virgin, and I'm geared up for the full-on, testosterone-charged, cars-as-sex experience.

Even the display mounted by Ford (that ol' stiff-necked Protestant) is blasting the bump-and-grind bars of 'Freak Like Me' across the showroom floor.

Mais quelle deception!


For starters, the flash cars sit in artificial pits created by low walls, so you have to wait your turn to step up and pay homage to all their manufactured glory.

If you actually want to sample one of the luxury cars (or more truthfully the sponsor's champagne), c'est impossible! without a VIP pass.

So most people end up peering over a wall, oohing, aahing and occasionally even ooh-lah-lah-ing at the unattainable objects of their desire.

Worse still, unlike the official website—and pretty much every car-show photo you've ever seen in your life (even if you don't subscribe to Auto-Wank Weekly)—there's an appalling lack of 'booth babes.'

Sure, the Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini showcases have some female accessories on display, but they're mostly doe-eyed and diaphanously-robed, as if they've just stepped out of a dodgy chocolate ad from the Seventies.

They're living mannequins who waft it rather than work it; nice girls in too much makeup doing their best to approximate sexy without really getting it.

Lena reckons they're just the type of doll a man who buys a Flamberati goes for. I suppose they make a change from the blow-up variety.

Instead of wall-to-wall models, the motor show is one big traffic jam of pedestrians.

For the most part, the crowd's made up of overgrown boys with cameras who've somehow managed to convince their long-suffering wives and girlfriends to accompany them to a car show—the slippery end of a slope that culminates with 'Honey, why don't we visit a swingers' club so I can film you getting gangbanged?'

The guys happily pose for fantasy photos of themselves pretend-driving cars as they banter manfully about how the new Longhodongo's 4.0-litre V8 engine can bash out 453.6bhp and blow off a whopping great 351.2lb ft of torque.

Which is all code for: 'Does my penis look big in this?'

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Why Car Nerds Aren't Cool -- (Chap. V, Pt. 15)

So in the same spirit as Chris the West-Country Mechanic, if not exactly Jean & Jean-Jacques, I feel compelled to make a confession of my own: I don't 'get' cars.

At least not in the way most men do.

Don't get me wrong: I appreciate a well-designed car as much as a well-designed egg beater, but I'd never lust after one, let alone be tempted to stick my bits in it.

Not exactly an egg-beater: a handle-powered vibrator from Germany
(from the Prague Sex Machines Museum)

To me, an excessive love of things that go vroom is symptomatic of the same quasi-autistic streak that drives other men to spend their free time logging the comings and goings of choo-choo trains.

And whereas it's commonly accepted that trainspotters are to be pelted with stones and driven from their homes with burning torches, I've never understood how a 'motorhead' who can bore the chrome off a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz is celebrated as 'a man's man'—muy macho.

If anything, it seems to me that train anoraks are more endearing than car nerds because
a) they're self-aware enough to realize they're crazy and even a bit sad; and
b) there are fewer of them so there's less threat of them breeding. 
Indeed, what's frightening about the Geneva Motor Show is just how many car-nerds there are—the official tally this year is 730,736 (minus one) over ten days!

I'm clearly missing a kink in my chromosomes.

Which is why Lena the Latin South African is here.

With her curls and curves, she's got enough kinks for both of us.

For starters, she lets me in on the secret psychology of auto-nerds: 'It's not what you know about your car; it's what you know other people know about your car.'

Frankly, I wouldn't know.

The History of Sex: Geneva -- The Man Who Has Sex With Cars -- (Chap. V, Pt. 14)

Nowhere is modern Geneva's mix of luxury and lust, of mammon and mammaries, more apparent than its annual Motor Show, another unlikely byproduct of Calvin's internationalism—and a development that no doubt would have horrified Rousseau, whose last book was Reveries of a Solitary Walker.

For the best part of a century, Switzerland has provided neutral turf for rival automakers from around the world to seduce the public with their latest models, usually posing in front of a new car.

To tempt you into attending, the Motor Show's official website has a photo gallery entitled 'Atmosphere:' snapshots of young things come-hithering while the suits around them stand a-dithering.

If the businessmen were actually sitting in the cars, it could be a convention for working girls and the suits who use them.


Of course, ever since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line, you can bet that one of Henry Ford's newly empowered workers was plotting how and with whom to exploit the semi-privacy of its upholstered backseat.

But it's taken our era, empowered by the invention of the World Wide Web, to create entire global communities devoted to actual auto-erotica like 'dogging' or the logical culmination of the much-vaunted 'love affair with the auto:' people who have sex with their cars.

In what seems like April Fool's come early, Britain's Sun tabloid has alerted the world to the case of thirty-eight-year-old Chris Donald, a mechanic from England's West Country who boasts that he's had sex with more than thirty different (car) models, as well as two motorboats and a jetski.

Of the BMW 520i V6 he says gallantly: 'It wasn't all sex. She was a great drive, too.'

Chris has his very own website, including a manual on 'How to Make Love to a Car or Other Vehicle.'

Tip No. 3: 'Leather interiors on luxury vehicles work rather well for humping. I've seen vanilla folks enjoy this as an alternative to lady palm and her five fingers. Cleans easy, too!' 


As with so many of the world's ills, Chris reckons his fetish is David-Hasselhoff-related; apparently, he spent too much time watching the Hoff's talking car in Knight Rider.

Sure enough, The Sun has a photo of the corpulent mechanic with his kit off, 'humper to bumper' with a recent conquest.

'Some men prefer boobs and bums, but I prefer curvy bodywork.'
Chris the West Country Mechanic putting the moves on his latest conquest
(The Sun)
Chris claims he's in a long-term relationship with a girlfriend (see 'lady palm' above) and says he knows more than 500 like-minded souls.

Most of them masturbate while they video Chris 'exhausting himself.'

'Some even like to taste mechanical fluids, but that's going too far,' he clarifies.

Likewise, he cautions against inserting one's privates in an exhaust pipe while the engine is running: 'Never fuck a car hot!'

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Weeding Out the Weirdos -- (Chap. V, Pt. 13)

As for Rousseau, his love-hate relationship with his hometown is reciprocated to this day.

A little island in the middle of the Rhone is named after him, but the even tinier Espace Rousseau museum is chronically underfunded, consisting of just two small rooms.

And as scientists increasingly question whether we have souls ('Is the Genome the Secular Equivalent of the Soul?,' asks a boffin at the University of Geneva), the notion of the soulmate still haunts the popular psyche like a ghost in the machine, summoned up in countless personal ads—even if some modern lonely hearts, like this twenty-nine-year-old in Geneva, come across as anti-soulmates: 

'Just a man searching for attachments-free good sex. Why? Well, i don't believe in love anymore, so i am looking to enjoy life until the end, and that's all.' 

Notably, this guy's online photo, obviously snapped in an internet dive, reveals him to be bug-eyed, eggheaded and bushy-browed.

Online, though, he's 'OrigPussyLicker:' aka 'Don Juan de Marco.'

'More like Don Juan de Weirdo,' Lena observes.

To help weed out the weirdos, a Dutchwoman in Geneva has launched an upscale dating agency that marries atavistic Calvinism with modern materialism.

Trea Tijmens is a former corporate headhunter who charges 4,000 francs—around £2,000 (upwards of $4,000)—to introduce professionals to potential merger candidates, or 'life partners,' as she tells me in a local café: 'I think everyone hopes that their life partner will be their soulmate.'

The full-service SuccessMatch membership fee lasts for eighteen months, with each arranged date costing a further 250 francs.

It includes professional headshots, an in-depth interview and a Myers-Briggs personality test, with clients signing a contract and non-disclosure agreement swearing that they've told the truth.


So having NDAed them and Myers-Briggsed them, I ask, 'What about sex? Do you ask them what they're looking for in a relationship?'

Trea starts to laugh nervously, as if I've mentioned something unmentionable.


Well, yeah, I shrug. I'm shocked that she's so shocked. She's even blushing.

'You're Dutch for God's sake!' I tease her.

'That's the only thing I don't talk about. We speak about money. We speak about religion. We speak about past relationships. We speak about their whole childhood—what type of family they had and where they grew up. I know them better than their own friends and relatives. The only thing I don't speak about is'— She can't even bring herself to say the word again.

'Why is that?'

'Well, probably because I wouldn't be comfortable speaking about it. Because I'm very Calvinist. That's how I was raised. Very prudish. So I probably wouldn't be comfortable speaking about that.'

A cultural Calvinist to the core, Trea also urges her clientele to be pragmatic about love.

'Some clients have this idea that once they meet the right person, they'll sweep them off their feet and live happily ever after,' she laughs. 'I don't want to scare them off, but it isn't easy to make a relationship work. It's a lot of hard work.'

* * *

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Calvin and 'The Woman With Beautiful Breasts' -- (Chap. V, Pt. 12)

The latest attempt to breathe life into the Old Reformer is the $3.4 million International Museum of the Reformation that opened in 2005 in a neoclassical mansion right next to the cathedral.

Built on the spot where Geneva's leaders officially adopted Protestantism, the maison itself actually dates from the city's age of decadence—in fact, the merchant who built it was accused of flouting laws against extravagance.

Even more gallingly for Calvinists, the museum's first director is a Lutheran, though she's also the moderator of Geneva's Company of Pastors, the first woman in the post since Calvin himself created it nearly five centuries ago.

As if the 21st-century mandate of making history 'fun' weren't daunting enough, the Reformation Museum also has to overcome the modern ignorance of religion.


What's more, the early Protestants weren't big on the visual arts; their focus was always on the Word.

So the museum has done its best to make religious history comprehensible to the TV-minded: Calvin and Luther pop up in mirrors as talking heads, an imaginary dinner party ropes in the competing opinions of Jean and Jean-Jacques, and a jukebox cranks out Protestant hymns.

In trying to make Calvin's brand of Protestantism palatable, though, they've watered it down so that he comes across as being mainly about respect for the individual, a fundamental love of democracy and other smiley-faced concepts.

The museum shop peddles Calvin's grave image on everything from busts to umbrellas.

They even sell Calvin-branded beer, Reformation ashtrays and bonbons stamped with the ascetic's face, which is akin to putting Gandhi's mug on shotgun shells.

As of this writing, there are no Calvinator sex toys on sale, but I wouldn't rule it out.

The new musee won the Council of Europe's Museum Prize in 2007, causing some embarrassment: the statuette is an abstract by Miro with a terribly specific title: La femme aux beaux seins, or The Woman with Beautiful Breasts.

While drinking a Calvinus with a museum board-member and an official Friend of Calvin, I mention that their founder condoned death for adultery.

They look bewildered.

'I don't think they killed people who committed adultery,' the museum official blusters. 'Witches were burned, but that was everywhere at the time.'

So even modern Calvinists are a bit sketchy on Calvinism.

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Kicking Apostate Posterior -- (Chap. V, Pt. 11)

Not even the secluded Old Town is spared the sensual onslaught.

A dive called Le Petit Palais offers mixed strip shows 'for him and her,' and behind St. Peter's Cathedral, a neon girlie bar competes for business with the Lutheran church just a couple of doors up; at the top of the same street stands the Palace of Justice and a police station—but who are they to judge?

The big story this week is a police sex scandal, including allegations that Geneva's cops have been, well, copping off at headquarters.

On the very street where the Reformer lived, the Rue de Calvin, an art shop displays nudes alongside prints from Pompeii.

O Calvin, where art thou?
Geovanne Preite, a Colombian contender
for the title of 'Miss Fetes de Geneve'

And throughout the elevated heart of the city, amid the winding stone streets, sculpted parks and tiered dwellings are stores tempting you with everything from antiques to scented candles, beautifully aged meat to chocolate that's as intoxicating as any drug.

A standard joke about Geneva's old Protestants is that they invite you home for tea and ask if you want 'une sucre ou pois?'—'one sugar or none?'—but you can hardly blame them for keeping a tight lid on largesse.

After a few days in this environment, you realize that you most definitely could get used to a life of Genevese luxury.


Before you know it, you, too, would be coveting that 140-franc (£60 or $90) rhinestone collar for your dog with matching bling-tastic togs for yourself.

In fact, with all the money in the world, and no Calvinist self-restraint, you wouldn't make it out of Geneva alive.

You'd end up ODing on fondue and chocolate on a yacht on Lake Geneva, with a stripper on each limb and a bouquet up your backside (or you might end up like this guy).

Ironically, it's partly old-fashioned Protestant values—all those shalt-nots about idols, wasting money and showing off—that have made Calvin virtually unknown in the city once created in his image.

Back in the nineteenth century, Genevans considered building a giant statue of him out on the lake as an anti-libertine Statue of Liberty, but that was deemed, well, a bit much, so eventually his supporters had to make due with a hundred-meter Reformation Wall below the Old Town.

Geneva's godly Gang of Four stand front and center, led by Calvin with his sleeves rolled up like he's raring to come down and kick some apostate posterior, starting with the skateboarders and students snogging shamelessly in front of him on the very university campus he founded.

And as much as Jean praised music's ability to inflame men's hearts, you wonder what he'd think about the rock concerts inflaming their loins during the annual Fetes de Genève in front of the Reformation Wall.

The History of Sex: Geneva -- A Decadent Playground -- (Chap. V, Pt. 10)

Strolling through Geneva today, you'd need the eyes of a Protestant sin-spotter to glimpse its puritanical past—or its Rousseau connection, for that matter.

Every December, the city celebrates the defeat of a Vatican-backed attack on its walls in 1602, but the Pope eventually had the last laugh as the city continued to welcome refugees and immigrants.

By 1863, Geneva was majority Catholic.

That year, one of the city's Protestant elite founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, inspiring the first Geneva Convention on the tercentenary of Calvin's death—and the formation of its Muslim counterpart, the Red Crescent, some sixty years later.

Geneva is now home to the largest United Nations' office outside New York, the World Council of Churches, the headquarters of more than fifty multinationals and countless NGOs, as well as CERN—the research center where the World Wide Web was invented and physicists have conducted experiments in search of the 'God particle.'

These are all the legacies of Calvinism, even if the tourist bumf is reluctant to link them to the dour, foreign God-botherer who believed in self-sacrifice, torture and the eternal hereafter.


And as hard as it is to make Geneva sound sexy, that doesn't mean the city's boring.

On the contrary, my advice is: Don't go there at all! Save your eternal soul!

For Geneva's stately grey architecture and restrained elegance hide all the makings of a decadent playground, depending on your bank account and sense of self-control.

Every creature comfort can be catered to, with countless vices to stave off boredom.

Modern Geneva really is a 'Petit Paris,' without the poor to nag your conscience.

In fact, if it weren't for the atavistic Calvinism, Geneva would probably be Sin City.

Prostitution and gambling have been legal for years, and strip bars and casinos brazenly advertise on billboards and bus stops, including posters for a joint called Moulin Rouge showing a woman's naked legs and backside, accentuated with red stilettos and a bloom clutched somewhere that doesn't naturally smell of roses.

The History of Sex: Geneva -- Rousseau and the Soulmate -- (Chap. V, Pt. 9)

Two centuries later, all these conflicting elements crystallized into one contradictory philosopher, a proud 'Citizen of Geneva' who applied Calvin's doctrines about fate and destiny to sex and romance and also invented the celebrity kiss-and-tell.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau didn't actually coin the term 'soulmate'—Plato famously claimed that Zeus had bisected humans so that we would spend our lives searching for our 'other half'—but he did give it legs.

Born in 1712 to a Genevese watchmaker, Rousseau claimed his parents had such 'a natural sympathy of soul' that they were destined for one another.

In his bestseller, Julie, or The New Heloise, Rousseau updated a true story of castrated love from the age of the troubadours to tell of two lovers on Lake Geneva who are kept apart by civilization's conventions.

In modern talk-show parlance, It's like, society's hang-ups mean they can't be true to themselves, y'know? 

Tragically, Rousseau had more than a few hang-ups of his own.

Rousseau, aged about 54

Toward the end of his life, he bared his soul in an autobiography far more introspective than the saucy anecdotes recorded by contemporaries like Casanova.

In his Confessions, Rousseau admitted to indulging in masturbation, exhibitionism, masochism and homosexuality, as well as borderline incest with his surrogate maman.

He also forced his lover to abandon all five of their children to an orphanage.

Nevertheless, he still found time to tell his beloved Genevans where they were going wrong, preaching against the corrosive effects of vice and luxury.

When Geneva banned his writings on religion, Rousseau mocked the city's pastors for having gone soft: 'One knows not what they believe, nor what they do not believe, not even what they pretend to believe.'

James Boswell, who met Rousseau during his Grand Tour, had a similar reaction when he visited Geneva in 1764 and saw men playing cards on a Sunday—with a minister among them:

'O, Calvin,' he wrote, 'where art thou now?'


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...