What is the history of the sex symbol

or - think ahead

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“Sex symbol” or goddess - female figurines from early human history

By Astrid Wehmeyer

Goddess or Sex Symbol?

In September 2008 a hobby archaeologist found a female figure in the karst cave “Hohle Fels” near Schelklingen, whose age is estimated to be around 35,000 years. In its May online edition, Der Spiegel commented on this find as a “beguiling sex symbol” and “fertility fetish” and thus included the find in the gallery of pornographic male fantasies: Big breasts, small head - it’s clear that it’s nothing other than a prehistoric wank template can act. Why else would you bother to carve women's bodies out of rock-hard stuff ?!

It goes without saying that this creation also goes to the account of the otherwise stammering boys with an overbite: They were men who, despite scientifically assumed mental limitations from the Neanderthal from the world, have always had their faces resp. have cut their fantasies into the flesh. So don't be surprised, girls, if it still feels like you're being shot with a club today!

To this day it seems inconceivable that a creator's hand might have designed what even 35,000 years later touched in its expression of self-knowledge and power. At the end of patriarchal history, there may be no other reason for women to expose breasts and vulvae than to “bewitch” one of those drooling Neolithic males. After all, as the gentlemen early and late experts try to convey to us everywhere, it's about reproduction - uh, pardon me, about fertility. Makes tired men perk up, that's the motto, then as now. ´

This also requires a bit of physical effort, lifting a bit of boobs here, a bit of shaving your pubic area ... because how else can the seemingly presentative gestures of the figurines be interpreted, if not to a different, a strange view from the outside? Which logically can only be male. Didn't God create the world in the image of Adam? Well, and what do you like ?! Exactly what Scheens are looking for. Otherwise nothing happens in your pants and your head. Because to be honest: We'd all prefer someone with a little something to it! Or why else should you portray women so plump, sometimes almost exuberantly, disproportionately ?! Right for us.

Back to the future: Read from the pornographic-patriarchal view backwards

The partriarchal pornographic gaze automatically takes possession of everything that falls into its hands. There is nowhere, nowhere, where the engravings and caesuras, the circumcisions and assignments are not made. Women's bodies are there to be looked at. Articles like this one or the so-called research results, which are nevertheless nothing other than a present projected into the past, say that this has always been the case - and therefore will never change. Patriarchy is innate. Porn forever!

It is only interesting that - if we stay in the pornographic context - the know-it-alls omit that part of the body that plays the most important supporting role in the world in every poor pono: namely the phallus, which should not be missing in any moaning opera, in the context of prehistoric “fertility cults” but has not yet been excavated.

For which, on closer inspection, there are actually only two reasons: Either it was not significant enough (“they just had no idea that the man is the sperm donor!”) Or it was made of materials that would be used by a 35,000-year-old Were unable to withstand the stress test (wimps to plowshares). Well, omen is a noun.

The creators probably had something else to do

Much closer, however, is the assumption that our ancestors were not interested in the sexual aspects at all. Certainly they also enjoyed being touched and seduced in a knowing and knowledgeable, above all loving way. But it does not seem to have been the Kama Sutra of the Neolithic Age that the creators of symbolic female power may have considered worth depicting. Because although all over the country lay people addicted to digging and doctoral supervisors are unanimous - even in the Neolithic, I once claim, sexualizing people looked different from these majestically standing (!), Female figures with closed (!) Legs.
The mistake may well be sparked by the fact that men tend to rarely have lustful sexual encounters with women. Then you would have realized your mistake more easily.

The fertility symbols lack fertility

From the inside into the world

In general, all of these speculations only point to one thing: the pornographic spirit of today's, mostly male, viewer. What normal person would otherwise get the idea that there are no more secrets hidden behind their breasts and lap than that of towing a man? No, the world is not made to please the eye of the beholder. She actually takes pleasure in herself, and it is not all for a purpose, but at times sheer self-interest.

And just in case someone still gets the idea to speak of fertility symbols here: All female figures lack the most universal fertility symbol per se! What is it? Yes, exactly, the pregnant belly. Everyone would then understand what the kind of symbols are to be generally understandable. Ergo: the stomach is missing, so nothing to do with fertility. In these mighty tiny figures, the creators refer to something completely different, which is actually much closer.

"My stomach is mine!"

So let's assume that the people of early history weren't bored, so that they got the idea to portray Idel's Lisa in Eve costumes. Let us also assume that our ancestors - unfortunately in contrast to today's contemporaries - were owners of their bodies. "My stomach, my breasts, my vulva - belong to me." This simple sentence should not have occurred to anyone 35,000 years ago. What for? You don't have to postulate something self-evident.

Femininity beyond orientation to the male gaze

So if the plasticization of femininity was not a hint, revolution, resistance and self-assertion, then it was what it is today: the symbolization of femininity. And not that of Inge, Michaela or Claudia - which should make the lack of the head, which was already considered a place of unmistakable individuality in the early days, quite clear.

No, it was about the generalized “representation”, the symbolization of the feminine. And this not, as the wrong word “representation” suggests, for the other's gaze, but in the sense of the accumulation of meaning in a defined place - in the symbolic sense.

Symbols a female culture of “more”

So I claim - based solely on what I see there, minus my post-patriarchal-pornographed conditioning - that these female figures are the first places of an abstract cultural creation. As the general could be detached from the individual, special body of the individual woman - the shamanic tradition speaks here of the “totem”, the essence - and figuratively “gathered” in one place, a “more” emerged which reached beyond the individual . And continues to do so today.

There is consequently more to these figures than the mere image reveals. In them lies a feminine-symbolic self-image, which wanted to be the starting point of a cultural model. That for me obviously has to do with physicality, difference (difference) and abundance.

Your own being as a starting point in the world

An exciting starting point for cultural travel research today: How would we creators of our reality symbolically manifest it today? What would be the starting point and goal of female culture for us?

The women 35,000 years ago - so I claim today - started from the most obvious: their bodies and what they have in common. In figurines, carved from the bones of another living being, they symbolically put them into the world - perhaps to remember what they were, beyond their individual differences? I don't think they needed reinforcement in the sense of shame, as we women today often need portraits of vigorous, naked women. Their bodies hadn't gone through 4000 years of abuse either. Their breasts and their lap were their starting point for culture. It is possible that we can build on this tradition today if we can free ourselves from an understanding of culture that looks at things from the outside instead of living them from the inside.

Then these figures might not be called “Venus von Willendorf”, but “Michaela from Berlin.

Comments on this post

  • The goddess

    Dear Astrid,

    thank you for this great article.

    You write:
    “There is consequently more to these figures than the mere image reveals. In them lies a feminine-symbolic self-image, which wanted to be the starting point of a cultural model. That for me obviously has to do with physicality, difference (difference) and abundance. "

    I believe that the power of creation, the entire world, cosmos, universe is also represented here. The whole being. The everlasting. That which underlies everything. The unfathomable mystery of life and all being. - I think this can only be thought of as feminine.

    Evelyn Rose

  • Hobby archaeologist?

    I heard on the radio today that a student found the female figure. Did the mirror mutate the finder into a man in order to be able to stage his sexist interpretation even better?

  • Women and culture

    That about the Great Goddess and the past women's culture may be a very attractive thought - but I don't think that this corresponds to the facts. Therefore, here is a comment that I have already given elsewhere when a male forum participant wanted to know the definition of patriarchy and whether there ever was / had been: So I think that the whole world / human history is a patriarchy, um to use this much-used term. Ie women / the female / physical / mental / ideal gender have not yet arrived in “being human”, because the man tries, at “expense” of the woman, so to speak, to free himself from his dependence on nature and become a person / man / cultural being to become. At least I think this step was absolutely necessary to get away from animal status. But now we have to take further steps in order to develop ourselves / ourselves from human / male status to something new / still unknown to us. And for this the ideal detachment of the woman from the man is necessary. (Just as in ancient Greece the man broke away from the almighty (goddess) woman and developed a gay boy / male culture and with it, so to speak, set the western / occidental culture rolling.) At this point I want to point out that it might It could be very helpful to deal with the relationship / role structures of gay men, lesbian women, trans men, trans women, because they play / mirror / act wonderfully the heterosexual man / woman power / role relationships ...

    Anyway, I think that these female figurines were actually created by men (and not by women) who then projected the great goddess / fertility / world and the wonder of being into the woman. Because art is a culture / human / male performance that sets it apart from animals - and women, as already mentioned, have not got that far. Your chances are in the future, and only there, everything else is a nice gimmick and pure wishful thinking.

  • Neither nor

    All speculation presupposes that tens of thousands of years ago people already thought, and could even think, as we do today. That is totally unlikely!

    It is not even likely, let alone certain, that they had developed something like 'language' so early at all, something that went beyond shouting and shouting out any sounds or sequences of sounds and would have allowed them to think about thoughts, To be able to exchange ideas or even just memories, let alone about ideas that would have gone beyond what was immediately meaningful.

    Linguistic historical fact is that expressions for 'inside' such as feelings, thoughts, ideas etc. only appeared in historically tangible time, namely a good three to three and a half or four thousand years ago, when the estimates of Julian Jaynes in his classic ' the origin of consciousness ... 'apply even roughly. Until then, people could only tell each other ‘stories’, sagas ’and fairy tales, so myths that were then further embellished in the course of time in the manner of whisper mail and thus became more and more imaginative’ and more and more fantastic ...

    The emergence of ‘religious’ ideas will therefore have taken place in a completely different way and much later than is generally imagined to this day. As far as I know, Julian Jaynes is the first scientist to date who has designed a psychologically plausible scenario for it. His considerations are still not outdated to this day: they have simply never been seriously scientifically discussed, followed up, checked and, if necessary, further developed.

    Psychological thinking about inner experience and “spiritual” activities of ours is still in a difficult position even today!

  • Thinking beyond bounds

    Dear Mr. Kittel,

    True: Thinking about the spiritual, about inner processes that include the whole person and his and her integration into a comprehensive creation - that is still unusual today. Not for nothing did we initiate this forum here.

    As interesting as I find your comments, one thing irritates me: Although you repeatedly point out how difficult it is from today's point of view to speak about a “past”, that is, a time that eludes personal experience or testimony Do just that with verve: Assertions, conjectures and hypotheses.

    Certainly it is as you say: we know - unfortunately - almost nothing about our early history. But what we do know, or rather we have to know, is that our early history is marked by underdevelopment, a lack of self and world knowledge, “onomatopoeic” language and a mystified worldview. It is the Neanderthal man who appears from your spiritual corner. And as a rule “scientific” is supplemented by the “fighting monkey” - to make us believe that human history is a linear one from the rudimentary humanoid cretin to today's oasis of consciousness of the civilized Homo sapiens sapiens while cultivating his genetic drive for survival. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth - or “Only the strongest monkey survives”.

    If we - if I defend ourselves - in my article against the establishment of a prehistoric find as a sex symbol, then we / I do it in your favor: today's standards, no matter how low, to apply them to the past is nonsense. We just don't know. That is why it is all the more stupid when researchers - scientists - today allow their frighteningly perverted imagination to travel backwards through time and claim nothing other than what you rightly defend yourself against: people - especially men - have always been like that mentally circumcised like today's specimens.

    I oppose this to the science of active “not knowing” and open seeing. What do you think this figurine is but a symbol made matter? And if you are into linguistics, then you are certainly not far from Marija Gimbutas, who in her standard works has presented very scientifically and meticulously what symbolic creative power - the power of the symbolic - is and means.

    I do not believe that if we curtail ourselves in the way you suggest in your comment, we are doing justice to ourselves and our history. Personally, I want to think openly about the past, present and future. And take into account that there may be a completely different kind of world understanding, cultural creation and being than the current religious impetus of the “sciences” suggests.

    Communicating about it is interesting, but it assumes that we are ready to let go of our mental prejudices and judgments. And to think outside the given grid. Which is difficult enough, since we all suffer from a patriarchal disguise, the main destructive feature of which is the division of the world into body and spirit. Overcoming this division, which is really a historical and not a biological one, is one of our concerns here. Thinking differently and thinking differently, that's what we're all about.

    Because maybe this figurine is none of that, neither goddess nor (sex) or fertility symbol, nor symbolic in the sense of the representation of a not-easy-to-speak being ... but just herself.