So you split with your girlfriend eight months ago. And you've gotten laid twice since then. The last time was almost six months ago. Your friends are teasing you, saying you've been revirginated. You're about to celebrate your 20th birthday with the five knuckle shuffle. You're in the prime of your life and your virility is being wasted. Wasted.
Well buck up, young man. Go to the mirror and say to yourself; "I'm lucky to be alive in a place and time in history when it is amazingly easy to get laid." OK, there have been easier times. The brief flowering between the sixties feminist sexual awakening and Reaganism may have been the high water mark for getting your nut off. But in spite of the recent success of virginity clubs, the specter of AIDS and the sneaking realization amongst feminists that they'd been duped when it comes to casual sex, the good times are still rolling.
But it's worth asking, if only in idle speculation, what it was like to be young and horny at different times and places in history. Did serfs get serviced? What relief was available to toga tenting Roman teens? Were the Puritans as pure as they would have us believe? Over the next couple of weeks I'll do my best to answer these questions.
Let's start at the beginning; The Stone Age. We don't know much about sexual practices during this time but we can make inferences about probable behavior by observing contemporary Stone Age cultures. We can also make inferences based on our own self-observation. If we evolved with certain inclinations, it's a good bet that we followed those inclinations whenever circumstances permitted. So was the Pleistocene a good time to get laid?
Well, that depended on the living arrangements. Exhibitionists aside, humans have a demonstrated preference for sexual privacy and given that most Stone Age tribes lived communally, it's likely that sex would have been conducted in the dark or on the sly. According to Clause Levi-Straus, the French anthropologist who lived amongst the Yanomamo of Brazil, most sex took place in hammocks at night. Sex could be heard but it was rarely seen. If you wanted some afternoon delight you needed to sneak away into the trees at the risk of snakes, predator attack and poison ivy. And you thought doing it in the back seat of your parent's Voyager was a hassle.
There was also the very real possibility of getting murdered. Humans are only nominally monogamous. After the glow of initial infatuation fades we tend to cast our eyes about again in search of new partners. Which while fine for you and the new partner, it's not so good for the old partner. Jealousy is an evolved instinct. If we feel it now, we felt it then. And life was a whole lot cheaper back then.
There is also a growing body of evidence that tribal populations were controlled at least in part through female infanticide. So, despite the male death toll from wars and murder there was often a shortage of women. Among contemporary Stone Age tribes in the Amazon and New Guinea wars were fought principally to procure women.
But it's probably safe to say that the caveman was getting lucky at least as much - if not more - than our 21st century brethren. The reason: monogamous lifelong marriage is a relatively recent development. For most of human pre-history, serial monogamy was the norm. Relationships tended to last only long enough to ensure the survival of whatever child was produced (roughly 4 years). After this period, both partners would go there own way. Given that the average couple will have more sex in the first 12 months of a relationship than in the next 12 years, it seems fair to say that whoever revisits this first year most often, gets luckier. Whatever the hindrances to carnal play, Pleistocene man was getting his share.
Alas, it all went downhill from there. When humanity began to settle down, property became important. Women became property and marriage as we know it, along with the laws and the mores to uphold it, gradually developed. These laws and mores varied greatly from culture to culture but polygamy appears to have been more the rule than the exception. With property came the concentration of property. Some guys got rich. More guys didn't. Guess who got the babes.
Now I know what you're thinking; "A harem, man. Now that's where it's at!" But before you start yearning for the good ol' days remember that every girl who goes to some guy, doesn't go to another guy. If one guy has ten, nine others have none and you have a 90 percent chance of being in the latter group. To be sure, not all these women were faithful, but getting caught was even more perilous than in the Stone Age. Add to jealousy the insult of property violation and the means to employ thugs to slice your dick off and feed it down your throat and you have a serious disincentive to mess around.
Which bring us to the world's oldest profession. Recorded references to prostitution can be dated to 4000 BCE and it seems likely that it existed from the beginning of the market economy. But women generally prefer marriage to prostitution and the pool of women willing to prostitute themselves has always been limited. The lower the supply the higher the price. The higher the price the lower the demand. In the parlance of economics, nookie became a scare commodity.
As sexual opportunity became concentrated in a smaller group of people, so did STDs There were no condoms in those days. And no penicillin. Not only did sex cost money, it left men peeing pus and in many case dying a horrible syphilitic death. Suffice to say that the Bronze Age was a bad time for getting laid.
And then we invented religion and it got even worse.
Next week: God steps in...
The Virginity Trap
The Raunchy Origins Of Valentineís Day
Canít We Just Cuddle?
Monogamy Unnatural in the Natural World