Love and sex can often seem like another language. Understanding each other’s desires and denials is often a case of reading the signs and appreciating the gesture.
‘If you don’t like my peaches, why do you shake my tree?’
Popular in the 1970s, this also applies to bandanas and flags. Normally associated with gay men, the system made it easier to recognize each other in bars, parks, the street and clubs. Colour and how the hanky was worn would indicate sexual interests, partners and the possibility of casual sex. Apparently, the code was originally used during the Gold Rush in America, when, due to a lack of women, men had to dance with each other. The bandanas would signify which partner was taking the lead and which was in place of the girl. Today, the hanky’s position in the back pocket reveals a preference of ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ and the kind of sex sought.
Left: ТОР/GIVES Right: BOTTOM/WANTS
4 Albania: ‘Sworn virgins’ are women who dress like men and live their lives as men.
4 Brazil: Homosexuality is signified by an earring in the left ear for men and a left anklet chain for women. r 4 Egypt: The ancient Ankh "] represents life and the power of the sun, but it is also suggested by many to be sexual – the stem as the male organ holding the circle at the top as the female sex organ, and crossed by children.
4 France: Napoleon issued monetary fines of 35 francs to men who lifted women’s skirts to the knee: raising them to the thigh cost 70 francs.
4 Germany: Apparently, there are 30 words for kissing and a word for the ones that haven’t been invented yet Nachkuss.
4 Italy: In 15th-century
Venice, prostitutes had to display their breasts when they were visible from open windows, so they could not be confused with the general female public.
4 Java: In some areas, couples have
sex in fields to encourage crops to grow.
4 New Guinea: The reason some elderly men are missing fingers is because the custom was to give a girlfriend a lucky digit to wear around her neck before a fight. Meanwhile, on the island of Trobriand, biting off a woman’s eyelashes is a passionate activity.
4 USA: In California in the 1940s, some drag queens pinned signs to their dresses saying ‘I’m a boy/ to avoid the law against serving alcohol to a homosexual or a man wearing women’s clothing. Technically, they were dressed as a man.
Wales: It is said that in the 18th century men gave carved wooden spoons to show their love for a woman, which she would wear around her neck or hang in a window to show she felt the same. ф Zambia: When greeting women, eye contact is avoided by men to prevent the possible miscommunication of desire. By the same token, women are not expected to shake hands.
‘Love is just a system for getting someone to call you darling
after sex/ Julian Barnes, Talking It Over, 1991
• The male gender sign is represented by the shield of the god Mars, with an arrow pointing northeast • The female gender sign is represented by a circle and cross symbol said to be the hand mirror and comb of the goddess Venus
‘No type of attitude is more fundamental and more indicative of the
trend of Personality than are attitudes to sexual matters.’
Gordon Rattray Taylor, Sex In History, 1954
‘Being a sex symbol was rather like being a convict.’ Raquel Welch
Research has found that 34 per cent of Americans with tattoos feel sexier, with 42 per cent being women as opposed to 25 per cent of men, while 26 per cent revealed that their body art made them feel more attractive. However, of those without, 42 per cent felt people with tattoos were less attractive and 36 per cent said they were not
as sexy. Popular designs include the Venus symbol, and many have meanings behind them, such as the devil which implies a desire for sex. The rose means fertility, a wolf fidelity and a unicorn represents chastity.
‘Once they call you a Latin Lover, you’re in real trouble. Women
expect an Oscar performance in bed.’ Marcello Mastroianni
Sex gods a nd goddesses