"In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking now heaven knows, anything goes."
That Was Then, This is Now
Ancient Rome: To-ga! The toga was the epitome of Roman fashion—and why not? It was ankle-baring, chest-baring, and as an added bonus, it allowed for easy access to one’s naughty bits.
150 years ago: In the 1860s, it was inexcusable to for a female to bare her ankles or elbows in public. Nipples? Them’s just fer feeding the young’ uns. Perfectly okay ’iffen y’all don’t mind sunburned nips.
50 years ago: Woodstock, Baby! Take off your duds and roll in the mud.
Now: Nipples are naughty. Pretty much everything else is perfectly okay, as long as you don’t mind a sunburned pretty much everything else.
STANDARD METHOD OF COMMUNICATION
Ancient Rome: Papyrus scrolls, stone tablets. And if the Emperor didn’t like it, he’d have you publicly stoned.
150 years ago: Letters; Stamps, 3 cents (per half ounce). And if the recipient didn’t like it, they’d secede from the Union.
50 years ago: Telephone. It was a thing you dialed. It was hardwired to the wall. There were actual people, mostly female, known as operators, who would help you place a call.
Now: IM, texting—and if the recipient doesn’t like your IM or text, s/he’ll spread it around the Internet and make a meme out of you.
MEANS OF SELF-EXPRESSION
Ancient Rome: Long, meandering soliloquies, often performed at dusk, under the eaves, and written retroactively by Shakespeare.
150 years ago: Diary. Often intensely personal and self-reflective. Not to be read by others.
50 years ago: Letters to the Editor. “The commie-faggot-nudist-hippies are ruining our once great nation!”
Now: Blog/Twitter/Facebook. Often intensely self-referential and redundant. To be read by everyone and anyone. Navel-gazing at its zenith. The upside is that navels are no longer verboten.
Ancient Rome: Rampant inbreeding among the elites.
150 years ago: Arranged marriages, church or religious functions. And if you didn’t like your selected mate, all you had to do was wait for the next strain of influenza to come around.
50 years ago: Swinger parties, man. Keys in the bowl, everyone. Bob and Carol, meet Ted and Alice.
Now: Online. And if you don’t like your mate, all you have to do is tell them that you have the swine flu.
Ancient Rome: Gladiatorial combat in the coliseum. Lions vs. Christians. Orgies. Selling women into prostitution.
150 years ago: The works of Jane Austen, wherein nobody had sex or thought about having sex; rather, the sexual tension was built on a foundation of thickly layered petticoats and stiff-upper-lipism—also, prostitution.
50 years ago: The boob tube. The Top 20 TV Shows 1969-70: Laugh-In; Gunsmoke; Bonanza; Mayberry, RFD; Family Affair; Here’s Lucy; Red Skelton Hour; Marcus Welby, M.D.; Walt Disney; Doris Day Show; Bill Cosby Show; Jim Nabors Hour; Carol Burnett Show; Dean Martin Show; My Three Sons; Ironside; Johnny Cash Show; The Beverly Hillbillies; Hawaii Five-0; Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour
Now: Reality TV, which is a lot like gladiatorial combat, just with less sharp pointy things. Also, Craigslist’s Erotic Services Adult Services.
ACCEPTED FORM OF SEXUAL EXPRESSION
Ancient Rome: Irrumatio, a.k.a. fellatio without the fun.
150 years ago: Infrequent intercourse—missionary style—and only after marriage, due to lack of contraception.
50 years ago. Vanilla. Limited whipped cream. One cherry per customer. No sprinkles.
Now: Off the hook, on the down low, and in the pocket.
Ancient Rome: The Copae (literal meaning: bar maids) were the serving girls in the taverns and inns and who did not mind being hired as bedmates for the night by travelers.
150 years ago: Kindly family doctors masturbated women to treat their “hysteria” with a number of curious devices. A scant 50 years later, Margaret Sanger, the mother of modern birth control, moves to New York City and begins her work.
50 years ago: Betty Friedan, Beate Uhse, Masters and Johnson.
Now: Violet Blue, Tristan Taormino, Tony Comstock, who talk—and film—sex without censure.
Ancient Rome: While male homosexuality was common, lesbianism was frowned upon.
150 years ago: All homosexuality was frowned upon.
50 years ago: All homosexuality was frowned upon, but it was fine to haze frat pledges by dressing them in women’s clothing and having them make out with each other. And then spanking them. With big phallic-shaped paddles. Nope, no homoeroticism to be found there!
Now: The FCC. Which frowns on boobies, wardrobe malfunctions, the legacy of George Carlin, and homosexuality.
TABOOS & PUNISHMENT
Ancient Rome: Whippings were frequent, harsh, and not a lot of fun.
150 years ago: Whippings were frequent, harsh, and not to be admitted as fun (see Victorians, the).
50 years ago: It’s the ’60s, man. We’re too stoned to get whipped.
Now: Whippings are readily available on every street corner and hook-up site. Punishment is its own fetish.
Ancient Rome: The Goddess Cybele’s most fervent followers—the Gallai—were males who castrated themselves and adopted women’s clothing and lifestyles. They also got to lead orgiastic rites in honor of their Goddess—go team!
150 Years Ago: Numerous reports of women who took on male identities in order to fight in various wars in the U.S. and abroad; the original “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
50 Years Ago: Billy Tipton swings the piano his whole life without anyone knowing he was born with two X chromosomes.
Today: Transgender is a hot topic.