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Ancient Sex Pottery of Peru, Part 2: Alternative Ideas About Reproduction

In my previous post about Moche sex pots, I summarised who the Moche were, what their sex pots depicted, and some of the early theories about their use and meaning. I concluded with Gero's (2004) idea that Moche sex pots were metaphors for changing power dynamics within ancient Peruvian society, with dominant men as stand-ins for the rulers, and subordinate women as stand-ins for the "people".

But Gero's was not the only the only theory on Moche sex pots that was published in 2004: that year, Mary Weismantel's "Moche Sex Pots: Reproduction and Temporality in Ancient South America" also came out.

It's worth repeating that, in Moche sex pottery, vaginal penetration is very rarely represented. Instead, depictions anal sex, fellatio, and the masturbation of skeletons/skeletonised individuals are much more frequent. Often, this is interpreted as suggesting that Moche sex pottery was not concerned with reproduction–for example, Larco Hoyle (1965) suggested that these pots were meant to illustrate birth control methods, while Gero suggested that they were meant to emphasise male pleasure.


However, Weismantel points out that, for a lot of cultures, in different parts of the world and at different moments in history, vaginal penetration was not thought of as having anything to do with reproduction. For example, when interviewed by Polish anthropologist Malinowski in the 1920s, the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands, off the coast of New Guinea, claimed that sex between men and women did not lead to babies: rather, when women bathed, they were somehow impregnated by their ancestors. For the Trobrianders, then, depictions of anal or oral sex would have nothing to do with reproduction, but neither would depictions of vaginal sex.

But there are also cultures in which anal or oral sex are absolutely crucial for reproduction. Among the Sambia of Melanesia, at least until the 1980s, it was thought that "[t]he human capacity to reproduce [was] contained in a scarce, precious, and immortal fluid–visible as semen in men and breast milk in women–that must be physically transmitted from one generation to another" (Weismantel 2004: 497). Therefore, for the human race to continue, Sambia boys had to fellate older men, so that they could then pass the reproductive fluids they so acquired to their future wives. And the neighbouring Kaluli had similar notions about anal sex. For the Sambia and the Kaluli, then, scenes of anal or oral sex, either between men or between men and women, would depict important reproductive activity, despite the fact that they would not lead, biologically speaking, to the meeting of sperm and egg.

If you're interested, you can read the rest of this post here (link NSFW).

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