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Apr

22

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Don't forget...they're LITERARY annuals

Don’t forget…they’re LITERARY annuals

Self-professed romance fan Nadra Rahman attended one of the Book History Colloquium events yesterday evening, titled “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books.” There wasn’t as much romance as she expected.

I was the youngest person in the room by far—the average age of attendee (of which there were six, besides me) hovered at around 60 years old. While I felt out of place, the sense of an intimate environment pervaded; speaker Katherine Harris, ready to deliver her lecture on “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books” easily chatted with guests about her work and such scintillating topics as microfilm (I imagine).

Harris, an Associate Professor at San Jose University, specializes in Romantic 19th-century British literature, the literary annual, and the digital humanities. As she started her presentation, her excitement about literary annuals–published collections of short stories, poetry, and engravings meant to be consumed by young women–was fully visible. The literary annual had been described to me as a 19th-century equivalent of Twilight, and there are certainly striking parallels, in that the literary annual catered to women and was disparaged by critics as being frothy and silly, the “‘cakes’ of literature,” according to one critic as late as 1902.

More froth after the jump

Mar

25

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Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

“City And Landscape in the Ottoman Aleppo: Experiencing Architecture, Narrating Space,” was the next lecture in the Department of Art History and Archaeology’s “‘Islamic Art:’ Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures series,” presented by Heghnar Watenpaugh, professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. We sent staff writer Romane Thomas to check it out last night.

“The art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught,” Watenpaugh began.

Watenpaugh is an expert on architectural history in Islamic societies. Her book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries received the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2006. A polyglot, Watenpaugh attended Rice University and MIT before moving to the University of California. She agreed to visit the East Coast (#Beast Coast) to tell us about her research in Aleppo, Syria.

Avinoam Shalem, Professor of Islamic Art at Columbia and creator of the Focus Aleppo series, introduced Watenpaugh. He pointed out that “The Art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught” and explained that, accordingly, Watenpaugh’s lecture would address the architectural innovations resulting from the Ottoman rule in Aleppo. Before starting her speech, she mentioned that the Syrian War has had a devastating effect on Aleppo architecture. According to her, “the destruction of Aleppo’s patrimony stands for the destruction of her varied social fabric.” Referencing the wreckage of the Minaret of the Great Mosque, Watenpaugh pointed out that as “products of the historical moment that we are in,” we need to reflect on the effect of our actions on centuries of history. The photographs that she was able to show the audience were taken by aerial view or by guerrilla fighters in the area.

She gave a short architectural history of Aleppo. Under Ottoman rule, Aleppo was a thriving hub of commercial exchange. Silk and spices from the East were exchanged within Aleppo’s walls in one of the world’s largest covered Bazaars (now destroyed). The Ottoman Empire had a huge impact on the architecture of the city, of which remains only a few Ottoman-style mosques. The nostalgia in Watenpaugh’s voice was palpable and gave her lecture a story-like character as she described how a foreign traveler would experience coming upon the sight of the great city.

More about the lecture next.

Feb

10

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Iconic.

Iconic.

Sarah H. Cleveland is Columbia Law School’s Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights, as well as the Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute. Her areas of expertise include National Security and International Humanitarian Law, Foreign Affairs and the Constitution, and International Law in U.S. Courts. Last night at 6 pm, she held a lecture on “Human Rights Connectivity and the Future of the Human Rights System,” and Daily Editor (and fellow human herself) Lila Etter was in attendance.

As I made my way up the steps of Low Library and entered the Rotunda, I began to notice that this was not just another lecture. I had thought that I was one of the early birds, and my plan had been to snag a seat up front by arriving a whole 20 minutes early. Little did I know, people had begun flooding in as early as 5:15 pm. The Rotunda was full by 5:45 pm, which is when I realized that the University Lecture only happens once a semester.

President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth delivered two separate but equally-praiseful introductions for Professor Cleveland. PrezBo emphasized that there “could not be a more important subject in the world today than human rights,” and after affirming his love for the word “global,” he called Cleveland a brilliant mind and the embodiment of what Columbia stands for intellectually. Coatsworth was similarly complimentary, and for those who knew nothing about Cleveland up until this point (which I’m sure were very few), this opening may have seemed almost adulatory. I myself had known of only some of her numerous accomplishments, including her position as a beloved professor at the Law School, as well as her work with Amal Clooney at the Human Rights Institute. I arrived at the lecture already impressed. But when this semester’s University Lecturer was finally welcomed to the podium, it was immediately clear that she deserved the praise.
Read more about this once-in-a-semester opportunity, after the jump.

Dec

5

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Witchy black hole

Last night in Pupin, the Astronomy Department opened its doors to both the Columbia community and the public for its regular Stargazing and Lecture series event. Bwog has sent writers to cover the last few starry Friday night programs, and this week staffer and Friday Night Lights fan Amara Banks was lucky enough to check it out.

Although Friday nights are usually reserved for EC, 1020 and later Koronets, it should be noted that Pupin, too, could be a place to spend your wild nights. Walking into a lecture room with a projector displaying the words “How to Feed and Care for Your Black Hole” confirmed this. Last night around a hundred people, of varying ages, occupied every seat in the Pupin physics classroom, eagerly eyeing a projector.

Aleksey Generozov, currently a grad student at Columbia, led the lecture. He had an adorably nerdy demeanor, complete with classic glasses and a sometimes uncomfortable laugh. However, his brilliance shined through.

The lesson for the night was on black holes–a difficult concept to truly understand without deep astronomical background knowledge. Generozov was able to break down the concepts and explain them so simply that both the five-year-old in front of me and the 50-year-old behind me could confidently reiterate the information. In fact, when Generozov asked the audience to what size the earth needed to be compressed in order to become a black hole, both of their hands shot up. The little girl answered, “to the size of a peanut,” earning laughs, while the elderly man’s more scientific answer brought impressed brow raises. The correct answer was simply “by a few millimeters.”

Generozov’s PowerPoint was refreshingly basic, its slides comprised of solid black backgrounds with single graphics. On his slide about Tidal Disruption Events, he included the Top Dawg Entertainment XXL magazine cover, because the two share an identical acronym: TDE. This slide merited laughs, as Generozov’s dad pun reminded the audience that they weren’t in a 4000 level class preparing for finals, but instead enjoying the fruits of the Astronomy Department’s Friday-night generosity.

Although the night was about science, my favorite aspect of the event was the diversity of the audience. People of completely different races, ages, and interests had all come together to learn more about a puzzling space phenomenon. As I mentioned, the five- and 50-year olds in front of and behind me were two people in opposite stages of their lives, but to my left and right were two people in nearly identical stages: CU students. This was about their only similarity. The eyes to my left were on his Instagram profile more than they were on the projector, and the ones to my right were closed the majority of the time while he passionately “hmmm”ed throughout the lecture.

At the lecture’s conclusion, a woman from the Astronomy department announced the locations of the post-lecture stargazing and the 3D wall. Find more information about the astronomy department’s next outreach event, on December 18th.

Wintry black hole via Shutterstock.

Dec

2

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The "Thinking of You" exhibit

The “Thinking of You” exhibit

Last night, IRWGS hosted a panel for the opening of a new art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape.” We sent Avid Art Admirer Sarah Dahl to check it out.

Conceptually, a panel and art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape” doesn’t sound…heartening? To be sure, last night’s discussion of how to deal with the effects of sexual violence was heavy, yet it offered a tone of hope, showcasing the creative ways in which today’s artists and academics are addressing rape.

Marianne Hirsch, a professor in Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, introduced and moderated the program; and Columbia Law professor Katherine Franke also spoke. The other panelists were Leora Kahn, the founder and Executive Director of PROOF, the organization behind the Legacy of Rape photo exhibit; artist Patricia Cronin; and sociologist, policy analyst, and New School professor Anna Di Lellio.

What do these speakers think about art portraying the effects of rape?

Dec

2

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Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

With talk of replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a historically famous woman, Barnard hosted a discussion with US Treasurer Rosa Rios to talk about the process. Currency Connoisseur Betsy Ladyzhets headed over to the lecture and reports on the event.

Yesterday evening, US Treasurer Rosa Rios sat down with Barnard economics professor Anja Tolonen to discuss the current ongoing process of redesigning the ten dollar bill with a woman at its forefront. This process spans years of planning and a complicated series of bureaucratic steps, but ultimately, it aims to put women where they belong: in a place of recognition for their contributions to American history.

Rios herself is the 43rd treasurer of the US, part of a legacy of all-female treasurers since 1949. Her background in public service facilitating economic development prepared her for her role in advising Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, but her strong commitment to representation for women came later. Rios describes herself as an “accidental feminist,” who realized later in her life that feminism was not the strongly biased viewpoint she’d been taught it was. Now, she’s committed to promoting financial literacy and education, as well as intersectional representation both inside and outside government.

When? How? Who?

Nov

25

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"We'll always have Paris."

“We’ll always have Paris.”

129 murdered in Paris on November 13th, 43 killed in Lebanon one day earlier, and hundreds more killed since the beginning of 2015 – all these deaths were at the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS. As the dead were mourned and awareness of the bloodshed spread, the Islamic state only gained more power world-wide.

Yesterday, SIPA hosted a panel called “ISIS after Paris” which discussed ISIS’s ever growing influence despite the western world’s plans to contain it. Although the panelists were all very knowledgeable about the subject, the discussion stayed fairly broad and hypothetical.

What were the conclusions of the panel?

Nov

18

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John Lennon said it first; "A working class hero is something to be"

John Lennon said it first; “A working class hero is something to be”

On the evening of November 17th, Schermerhorn’s typically spooky vibe was replaced with that of strongly opinionated women ready to discuss a heavily loaded question: is feminism Jewish? A panel comprised of Michelle Goldberg, Vivian Gornick, and Catha Pollitt deliberated on the topic before an audience of about twenty women, most of them elderly. Although the discussion was supposed to be led by Goldberg, the audience members pitched their own questions as they came to mind.

There are two correct answers to the question at hand; the first of which is no, feminism is not Jewish. Gornick strongly defended the secularity of the second-wave feminism movement, claiming that there was no feminism in the history of Jewish life until our generation. She believes that the feminism movement belonged to women, not Jews. This movement, along with the labor movement and other 20th century revolutions, was entirely secular. Gornick expanded on this, claiming, “the labor movement was not Jewish. It was Italian, Irish, it was the working class!” A lot of women in the audience reacted negatively to her point and vocalized their disagreement. One yelled, “a lot of those immigrants in the unions were Jews, it’s okay to admit that Jewishness had some impact on the labor movement, and the feminism movement, too!” Gornick believes that growing up as a girl, an immigrant, and a part of the working class all contributed to her outlook during the revolution, but not being Jewish.

Could the answer be yes, too?

Nov

13

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The work in question

The work in question

The first thing I noticed when walking into the East Gallery of Buell Hall (which I learned was also the Maison Francaise upon looking up the venue) was just how many people had packed into the room. I knew The Meursault Investigation, named after the book which was to be discussed that night, was going to draw a crowd, but I wasn’t expecting almost every glass chair (much fancier than any chairs I’ve seen Columbia roll out in the past) to be filled filled.

After exchanging my CUID for a pair of headphones, which allowed us non-French speakers to listen to a live translation of the book discussion and Q&A, I sat down and played around with the volume settings. I could hear a smattering of English in the room, but most of the conversations occurring around me were in French. A faint scent of tobacco hung in the still air as we waited for Kamel Daoud, author of the award winning novel, to take his seat on stage.

Daoud’s novel, for those unfamiliar with the name Meursault, is a response to Albert Camus’ famed 1942 existentialist novel, The Stranger. In The Stranger, a French man in colonial Algeria, identified only as Meursault, essentially kills an Arab in cold blood. The novel is told in first person perspective, following Meursault through his love life, interactions with his neighbours, the killing of the Arab, and his subsequent criminal trial.

More after the break!

Oct

16

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Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

In this LectureHop, Staff Writer Nadra Rahman puts on her politics hat and attends a talk at Lehman Auditorium with several important guests who came to speak about Central America’s social and political world.

In introducing the symposium (titled “The surge: Politics, violence, and children in Central America and Mexico”), Professor José Moya noted that the recently publicized issue of unaccompanied minors’ migration in Central America is particularly timely because of the “real refugee crisis” occurring all over the world. According to Professor Moya, the crisis is one that has existed for a long time, but has come to the forefront now “not because the intensity of suffering has increased, but because the richest countries are now affected”.

The first two speakers contextualized the “surge” of unaccompanied minors crossing Central and North American borders in 2014, speaking about the “Northern Triangle” made up of the three Central American countries that produce the most immigrants: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These countries have seen the most migration, but they are also the ones most affected by migration.

Gun violence, domestic violence, and deepening poverty are the major factors that have pushed citizens out of the Northern Triangle. Father José Idiáquez, Rector at the Universidad Centro Americana, described the deaths of six Jesuit priests and the constant presence of gangs, death, and kidnapping. He said the “population lives in terror,” and often children left behind by their emigrating parents find themselves sexually and physically abused.

In describing the consequences of migration in these societies, Idiáquez said that, on a familial level, effects can include depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and a loss of identity, particularly when families are uprooted from their homes or scattered. On a socio-cultural level, there is a widespread rejection of religious and familial customs in favor of European and American ones (English, for example, is preferred to Spanish).

Read more about the lecture after the jump!

Oct

10

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Gary Johnson lookin' hot back in 2012

Gary Johnson lookin’ hot back in 2012

Daily Editor Betsy Ladyzhets braved the wilds of the free market for a talk with Gary Johnson, libertarian candidate for President and apparently very fit for a sexagenarian.

When the president of the Columbia Libertarians introduced Gary Johnson last night, she described him as a man who believes in “liberalism in its truest sense.” This might sound strange, considering Gary Johnson was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 (and is likely to be the Libertarian candidate again in 2016.) However, throughout his talk, which was cosponsored by the Columbia Libertarians and Columbia Voting Week, Mr. Johnson proved that his standpoints and ideas are much more liberal than one might expect, and explained the flaws he sees in America’s current two-party system.

Mr. Johnson started by talking about himself and his family and their accomplishments. He mentioned that he and his fiancée (of seven years) are both competitive bikers, even at the ages of 62 and 63 respectively. He mentioned that he achieved his lifelong dream of climbing the highest mountain on each continent. He said that he had paid for everything he owned since the age of seventeen (including his entire college tuition, which was about 200 dollars a semester.) And finally, he told us that he believes the hardest thing a person can do is fire someone – but that he still believes firing people is crucial to keeping a business running effectively.

“We elect a whole bunch of people who have never hired and fired,” Mr. Johnson went on to say – thus effectively segueing into the topic of government and the main body of his talk.

Mr. Johnson talked about his own political experience, which comes from one position: that of governor of New Mexico, which he held for two terms. He paid for his campaign himself, up until the primaries, at which point the bulk of his funding came from individual contributions.

During his time as governor, Mr. Johnson didn’t add a penny to the state’s taxes, reduced the number of state employees while not firing anyone, and vetoed more bills than all of the other governors in the country. Most of those bills, he claimed, were related to unnecessary spending and unnecessary regulation. “One of my favorite bills that I vetoed,” he said, “was a dog and cat bill that required pet stores to exercise dogs and cats a certain number of times per week.”

Keep reading for more libertarianism

Oct

9

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Democracy: simple in theory, complicated in practice, man.

Democracy: simple in theory, way more complicated in practice, man.

Yesterday, the Columbia School of Journalism hosted a two-hour long discussion on “The American Dream” in the context of modern democracy — a broad topic of conversation that could cover anything from immigration to belonging. Wooed by the prospect of knowledgeable speakers, open debate, and free lunch, Staff Writer Asya Sagnak dutifully skipped a midterm revision session to check it out.

“Awakening Our Democracy” was the first installation in a new conversation series on the race, ethnicity, and justice issues at the forefront of America’s consciousness. Held in Pulitzer Hall, the event featured a wide array of speakers from different backgrounds: TED Fellow and vocal Muslim-American comedian Negin Farsad, Columbia University Assistant Professor Van C. Tran, and Dream Action Coalition Co-Director Cesar Vargas, with Al Jazeera analyst Duarte Geraldino serving as curator. Although the title of the lecture prioritized democracy, the speakers were very clearly focused on current attitudes towards immigration — how have they evolved with time? How does language impact our point of view? Armed with personal experiences of injustice, they provided us with an understanding of not only different forms of oppression but also different strategies to combat that oppression in our day-to-day lives.

Farsad started the discussion with a simple statement: “So… guess who just crushed the MTA?” Her excitement was clearly uncontainable, and she waved her arms around her head as she elaborated on the federal lawsuit she had recently won against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As an avid “social justice comedian” (a term Farsad uses to label those like herself who seek political action through the use of satire), Farsad tried to counter Islamophobic subway advertisements by creating her own series of satirical response advertisements that aimed to normalize the word “Muslim” in American society. The day they were scheduled to go up, the MTA banned “political viewpoint messages” and rejected her proposal. Farsad sued over violation of her First Amendment freedoms.

“They proved our point,” she explained. “Our ads were meant to be about how everyday messages could be politicised or made violent just through the inclusion of the word “Muslim.” Examples of Farsad’s ads include posters saying The Ugly Truth About Muslims: They Make Great Frittata Recipes! and Fact: Muslims Invented Justin Timberlake. She went on to clarify: “Funny stuff, dirt bag comedian stuff – nothing charged. Either that, or I’ve missed some sort of recent food scandal, and frittatas are now a hot button political issue.”

More on the American Dream next.

Sep

19

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Richard Wright

Richard Wright

On Friday afternoon, the Heyman Center Workshops with CRPS Workshop Series presented a lecture featuring Dr. Tommie Shelby discussing Richard Wright and the Westernization of the world. We sent new Bwogger Juliet Larsen to check out the lecture.

On an otherwise sleepy Friday afternoon on campus, Schermerhorn was buzzing with graduate students and professors alike, gathered for an intense two-hour discussion about race, religion, and Wright.

The event began with a presentation by Dr. Tommie Shelby, author best known for We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity, and professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University. Discussing his paper, “Richard Wright: Realizing the Promise of the West,” Dr. Shelby examined controversial African-American author Richard Wright’s most famous works (including Uncle Tom’s Children and Black Boy), a

nd their relation to the worldwide Westernization of non-Western culture. Joining Professor Shelby were Columbia’s own Professor Robert Gooding-Williams, Professor of African-American Studies, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor Josef Sorett, Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies and the Associate Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

Shelby opened his lecture with one of his paper’s key points,that Africans and people of African descent were forced to assimilate to Western culture “in a very rapid fashion…as opposed to evolving over many centuries.” As an expert in religious studies, Professor Sorett offered commentary on the state of religion during Wright’s time and included his observations of Wright’s religious philosophy. Sorett explained that while Wright considered himself as as philosopher of religion and psychology, he developed a “greater ambivalence” towards religion over time, eventually “calling on writers to replace preachers.”
Regarding the Jim Crow Laws that prompted Wright to begin writing, Shelby respectfully stated that he didn’t “want to be overstepping my bounds,” but that he believed Wright did not want African-American people to “be passive and submit in undignified ways.”

Another point discussed in the lecture was the mystery of Wright’s influences. Despite drawing comparisons to Sartre and Nietzsche, and even explicitly citing Nietzsche as one of his inspirations, Wright does not mention any other Black thinkers as his influences, leaving room for controversy as a Black philosopher himself.

See what questions and critiques the audience had next.

Apr

15

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The panel

The panel

Yesterday evening, Barnard hosted an intimate panel in the Diana Event Oval called “Beauty and Aging.” We sent Cosmo Craver Courtney Couillard to hear what President Debora Spar and her fellow panelists had to say about the biting issue all women face at some point in their life.

Having spoken intensively in her writing about women’s relationship with beauty, President Spar moderated last night’s event on the topic of beauty and aging. The panel also featured the following leading women in the beauty fields: Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, Joanna Coles; Founder and CEO of Women One, Dayle Haddon; Cosmetic Dermatologist, Dr. Rhoda Narins BC ’62; and the author of “The Beauty Myth,” Naomi Wolf.

To begin, President Spar explained the relevance of having this conversation about beauty and aging at Barnard College. As the college has coined the term “bold, beautiful, Barnard women,” President Spar shared she has received flack for referring to Barnard students as ‘beautiful.’ However, President Spar defended the slogan as most Barnard women are indeed beautiful, and the term ‘beautiful’ should be considered in a diverse way. She then went on to point out the struggle women face between being proclaimed feminists while also falling victim to the beauty standards of society. President Spar even joked, “wrinkles are illegal in the borough of Manhattan.” However, she challenged the panel as well as the crowd to consider what relationship feminism has with beauty, and whether a woman’s attempt at making herself look beautiful should be considered a product of her society or a liberating, personal choice.

But how do we handle beauty and aging?

Apr

11

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Down the rabbit hole

Down the rabbit hole

Ever wanted to explore the origins of the friend(s) you keep in your desk drawer? Well, you missed the main event, but doge of the dildo Lili Brown has captured the main thrust.

“I wonder how many times I can use the word ‘came’ tonight”

GS Alliance hosted a talk with GS Advising Dean RJ Jenkins on Thursday night that covered a topic unconventional to Dean talks on an unconventional form of a furry little rabbit. Dean Jenkins, given his expertise in Victorian poetry, presented a pictorial history of vibrator technology (and we hear the rabbit vibrators are the best these days), which primarily (and surprisingly) took off during the close-legged time of Victorian Europe.

He began by showing the trailer to a well-casted film called Hysteria, but we didn’t have the sound to accompany it in Schermerhorn 467. The technical difficulties enhanced the intention of showing the trailer; the faces tell it all and I promise it’s funnier Charlie Chaplin style. The “hysterical true story” is both Hollywood and historically true and proves Dean Jenkins’ association with vibrator technology and the Victorian age. But we’ll get to that point in the chronology later.

“If you don’t know what a double dildo is, google it”

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We can do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel

First things first, one of ancient civilization’s less-discussed contributions to modern society was sex toys. “People have always liked to have sex,” and shaking up the situation with a stone-age dildo wasn’t uncommon. The ancients used what materials were available to them, for the double dildo pictured is made 100% of jade. Such a high-class toy today would only seem proper for really quality porn or for artistic display in Hugh Hefner’s mansion.

A question asked at the end of presentation clarified the intended use of these early sexual technologies. The placard (covered by a head in the photo) claims that the double-dildo was exclusive to use “by lesbians,” but Dean Jenkins clarified that sexual relations were divided rigidly into two camps during “the dawn of time:” reproductive and pleasurable. Heterosexual activity served the reproductive purpose, and homosexual activity served the pleasurable purpose, which doesn’t just limit lesbians to the use of the double-dildo. As he said, google it.

Hysteria: “You might as well make getting to Jane’s house a little bit of a situation”

The accessibility of vibrator technology and use that we know today stems from its medicalization and industrialization that came with the Victorian age. These bourgeoisie men were obsessed with inventions, which matched with the change in medical discourse during this time. Many upper-class women were diagnosed with hysteria to categorize their “over-sensitivity” and “emotional variability” into a medical term, and this mysterious disease for a mysterious gender accrued a variety of probable remedies.

What came next?? (heh)

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