Anatomy of the osmotic balance between public and private, with a side of morality and law.

It must be the season for fascinating books on the history of sex. After last month’s Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire, here comes The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (public library) by Oxford University historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala — a formidably researched, absorbing, eloquent account of how, contrary to the modern mythology of the 1960s, today’s permissive sexual behavior first developed, seemingly suddenly, some three hundred years earlier, in 17th-century Western Europe. What emerges is a new lens for understanding the Enlightenment as a cultural phenomenon, by connecting this critical sexual transformation to the intellectual, political, and social forces that shaped the period.

The history of sex is usually treated as part of the history of private life, or of bodily experience. Yet that is itself a consequence of the Enlightenment’s conception of it as an essentially personal matter. My concern, by contrast, is not primarily to enter into the bedrooms and between the sheets of the past. It is to recover the history of sex as a central public preoccupation, and to demonstrate that how people in the past thought about and dealt with it was shaped by the most profound intellectual and social currents of their time.


The sexual revolution demonstrates how far and how quickly enlightened ways of thinking spread, and what important effects they had on popular attitudes and behavior.

Rembrandt, The Bed (1646): a rare contemporary illustration of a couple making love, composed around the time that the artist began an illicit relationship with his maid, Hendrickje Stoffels.

These new norms of behavior, Dabhiowala is careful to point out, didn’t affect everyone equally — like other kinds of liberty, they “primarily benefited a minority of white, heterosexual, propertied men.” He goes on to explore how urbanization placed the enforcement of sexual discipline under increasing pressure, making London — the largest metropolis in the world at the time, a hub of political power, literature, culture, and innovation — the epicenter of these shifts. Regulating the newly sexually awakened masses, however, was another matter:

The principle that illicit sex was a public crime was asserted with increasing vigor form the early middle ages onwards.

Indeed, since the dawn of history every civilization had prescribed severe laws against at least some kinds of sexual immorality. The oldest surviving legal codes (c. 2100-1700 BCE), drawn up by the kings of Babylon, made adultery punishable by death, and most other near eastern and classical cultures also treated it as a serious offence: this was the view taken by the Assyrians, the ancient Egyptians, the Jews, the Greeks, and, to some extent, the Romans. The main concern of such laws was usually to uphold the honour and property rights of fathers, husbands, and higher-status groups.


The laws of Ethelbert (c. 602), the Anglo-Saxon king of Kent, stipulate the different fines payable ‘if a man takes a widow who does not belong to him’; for lying with servants or slave women of different classes; and for adultery with the wife of another freeman — in which case, as well as a heavy fine, the offender was ‘to obtain another wife with his own money, and bring her to the other’s home’.


The code of Alfred the Great (c. 893) made it lawful for any man to kill another if he found him ‘with his wedded wife, within closed doors or under the same blanket, or with his legitimate daughter or his legitimate sister, or with his mother’. That of King Cnut (c. 1020-23) forbade married men even from fornicating with their own slaves, and ordered that adulteresses should be publicly disgraced, lose their goods, and have their ears and noses cut off.

If these sound barbaric, the ethos of the dominant Christian tradition was — and remains — hardly different:

‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ was the seventh of [God's] Ten Commandments, and every adulterer and adulteress, he had ordered, ‘shall surely be put to death’. The same fate was to be imposed upon anyone guilty of incest or bestiality, as upon men who had sex with each other: all such people defiled themselves and the community. If the daughter of a priest were to fornicate, she should be burned alive. If a man lay with a menstruating woman, ‘both of them shall be cut off from among their people’. If any man should lie with a betrothed maid, God’s will was that ‘ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of the city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die’ — ‘so thou shalt put away evil from among you’.

The patriarchal philanthropist: Robert Dingley, merchant and founder of the Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes. On his knee, in the frontispiece to the charity’s published Account (1761), rests one of the penitents.

The centuries that followed brought little change and instead further developed what Dabhoiwala calls “this essentially negative view of sex.” Among the most powerful proponents of this view was Saint Augustine (354-430), bishop of the town of Hippo on the north African coast, who Dabhiowala argues has had a more profound impact on Christian attitudes towards sexuality than any other person. He came to see lust as the most dangerous of all human drives and, in a letter to another bishop, summed up his philosophy thusly:

For it intrudes where it is not needed and tempts the hearts of faithful and holy people with its untimely and even wicked desire. Even if we do not give in to these restless impulses of it by any sign of consent but rather fight against them, we would nonetheless, out of a holier desire, want them not to exist in us at all, if that were possible.

The church took these moral matters into its own hands with the establishment of is permanent courts around 1100, catapulting sexual offenses from the realm of private confession into the increasingly powerful system of public inquisition. The rise of towns and cities imposed yet another layer of punishment, giving rise to new civic penalties against adultery, fornication, and prostitution. By the later 13th century, such sexual and marital legal cases accounted for anywhere between 60 and 90 percent of all litigation. But despite the development of a formal system, punishments a remained crude violation of modern human rights:

In London, Bristol, and Gloucester, they constructed a special public ‘cage’ in the main market-place, in which to imprison and display prostitutes, adulterers, and lecherous priests; elsewhere, cucking-stools were used to punish whores… There also became established elaborate rituals of civic punishment for convicted whores, bawds, and adulterers. Serious offenders were taken on a long public procession through the city, dressed in symbolically degrading clothes and accompanied by the raucous clanging of pans and basins. Sometimes they would also be whipped, put in the pillory, have their hair shaved off, or be banished from the city.

Edward Rigby striking an unrepentant pose in 1703. This print was produced just a few months after his release from prison for attempted sodomy.

But, by the 16th century, these punishments seemed insufficient to a moral-extremist cohort as the Protestant movement began to vocally condemn the Catholic Church — nicknamed the Whore of Babylon — for a lax attitude towards sexual morality, from its lecherous priests who took the ideal of clerical celibacy as a joke to the toleration of prostitution. And yet, the church was thriving in its hypocrisy:

As the morals of the people were left to decay, the church itself grew rich on the proceeds of fines, indulgences, and other tricks it imposed on its hapless flock. In short, there was a direct connection between the spiritual and sexual corruption of the papacy and its followers.

James Gillray’s lurid pun on the name and the role of Dorothy Jordan, longtime mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV

The Origins of Sex goes on to reverse-engineer how modern ideas about sexual freedom and gender equality coalesced out of the stormy sexual attitudes and behaviors of 17th, 18th, and 19th-century England, exposing a rich new layer of understanding humanity’s most intimate mechanism for relating to self and other.

by Maria Popova

Love latex Mistress Tokyo in her clinic… say,  ”ahhhhhhhh…”

Photography by Soul Focus Studio

 THE KNICK: Andre Holland, Michael Angarano, Clive Owen, Louis Butelli, Eve Hewson, Eric Johnson.

Cinemax’s The Knick premiered Friday, and in addition to the show’s dramatic potential and old-timey New York features, it’s important to know one thing about The Knick: It’s pretty gross. The show is almost gleeful in its body horrors — but hey, don’t watch a show about medicine in the year 1900 if you don’t want to see some gnarly primitive surgeries. The following images are pretty graphic, so the weak of stomach should probably avoid. Otherwise, though, here are the bloodiest, grossest, strangest, and WTF-iest moments from the premiere. Cringing ahead.

Owen stars as Dr. Thackery, who — believe it or not — can’t heal himself. He’s a drug addict, and a serious one; serious enough that his easy-to-access veins have collapsed and he has to inject himself in his toes.

The day’s first task: An emergency C-section on a woman with placenta previa. It does not go well. The patient loses too much blood — helpfully collected in charming glass vessels, via hand-cranked suction — and both she and her baby die. Not before we get a few shots of hands rummaging around in her abdomen, though. Gaaaaah.

Thackery’s mentor, Dr. Christenson, does not take the patient’s death well. He heads back to his office and kills himself. R.I.P., Dr. Christenson. You disinfected your beard in a bowl of water before operating, though, and for that, we salute you.

There are a lot of tubes on The Knick. This one’s supposed to help drain a wound. Go ahead and imagine the phrase “drain a wound” over and over again, until you have no human emotions left, only the physical action of recoiling.

Thackery decides to stop using drugs cold turkey, which is why he’s in a miserable state of withdrawal when Nurse Lucy comes by his house to rouse and drag him back to the hospital. She’ll have to inject him to even him out, they agree; after looking at his arm for one second, and then at his foot for half a second, she says he doesn’t have any available veins. He suggests the urethral vein and she agrees. If you’re like, “Urethral vein? Is that like, a dick vein?” the answer is yeah, that’s a dick vein. (Do not Google it. Learn from my mistakes here.) Anyway, here’s Lucy giving the good doctor his medicine, right in the peen.

And now that he’s had his drugs, it’s time for more surgery. Scalpel!

From the By Abraham Riesman and Margaret Lyons

Pablo Picasso once said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” And while art has evolved dramatically, the classic fundamental of anatomy remains the same. Czech sculptor Monika Horčicová creates ornate installations with polyester resin skeletons as her medium. Some might call her work morbid, others a beautiful reimagining and application of the human form. Her technique requires a keen understanding of anatomy before she can manipulate it- and her work is not just an abstraction. She’s walking a line between natural construction and purely artistic expression.

Some of her sculptures look like they could move correctly; expanding spheres, ornate wheels and barrels made of femurs, and so on. Other works are strangely emotional, as in her “Cycle of Communication” series, where 3 fused-skeletons huddle together as if for comfort. In their companion piece, torsos connected at the shoulder form a circle, the symbol of a common center and meaning. There are a thousand ways her works could be interpreted but each has something in common. We are looking at bare ‘bones’ bereft of a soul, yet Horčicová has created something very much alive.


During the second world war in one of the palaces of Tsarskoye Selo, a group of Soviet soldiers found a room decorated in a frank erotic style. According to witnesses , one of the walls was entirely hung with wooden phalluses of various shapes, a range of chairs, desks, and screens all decorated with pornographic images supplementing the whole appearance. Soldiers didn’t loot anything or destroy anything there, on the contrary, they made a dozen of documentary photos.

Most of the pictures were lost in the fire of war, but some of Hermitage personnel also confirm the existence of the parlour, noting that Catherine the Great even made a bodouir for Platon Zubov, but it’s unlikely that it could reached the 20th century. It is also known that the collection of erotic art belonged to the Romanov family was catalogued in 1930s . The evidences indicate that the objects were only shown to a selection of visitors. But the catalogue was lost. Like the whole entire collection, it was allegedly destroyed in 1950. However this small selection of photographs still exist:

Steven Soderbergh’s medical drama looks better than anything on TV, but otherwise resembles every medical drama on TV.
By Willa Paskin
The Knick
Clive Owen in The Knick.
Steven Soderbergh’s new TV series, the medical period drama The Knickseems like it should be proof of détente in the bogus yet heated conflict between television and movies. Soderbergh, a film director who in recent years has had some very complimentary things to say about television, is, no fuss no muss, making television, and he has even drafted a movie star to help him do so. Forget TV vs. film—what we have here is a co-mingling, TV and film trading ideas, influence, and talent.

The Knick, which begins Sunday night on Cinemax, is supremely, impressively attentive to aesthetic questions that television often ignores. Simultaneously, it is indifferent to advancing long-running TV themes, conversations, and ideas. It is, as an aesthetic object, outstanding; as a medical drama, satisfying; and, as a piece of art, totally disappointing. It is as if a Michelin-starred chef entered a contest for pineapple upside down cake and expected to win even though his flour-to-butter ratio was all messed up, just because his cake was beautifully, perfectly assembled. Imagine what the guy could have done if he cared what pineapple upside down cake actually tasted like.

The Knick stars Owen as Dr. John W. Thackery, a surgeon working at New York City’s Knickerbocker hospital in 1900, the bloody, gruesome dawn of modern medicine. In addition to being brilliant and innovative, Thackery is a hopeless cocaine addict who takes the edge off long days at opium dens. He is also a racist.The Knick has taken Dr. Gregory House, the gifted, ill-mannered, undeniably alluring, pill-popping physician of Fox’s House, turned him into Clive Owen, and plopped him into a time machine headed for 100 years in the past and the outskirts of premium cable.

There are many TV series still trying to wring insight and pathos out of the very well-wrung antihero.  But there is something almost insolent about The Knick’s approach to this cliché, and how little care it takes to advance it, while simultaneously expending so much energy to advance other more classically cinematic concerns. A kind interpretation might be: Soderbergh thinks the antihero trope is so effective, all it really needs is to look much, much better, which, after all, is his purview as both director and cinematographer. But that’s a very unsophisticated understanding of the antihero from a director, who, in his movies anyway, has a very sophisticated handle on archetype and genre. The Knick seems unmoved by the very thing that makes television television: the long, revelatory play of story and character. If, as the saying goes, movies are a director’s medium and TV is a writer’s one, it feels as though Soderbergh thinks he can change that just by being Soderbergh.

He almost pulls it off. The camera shoots from noticeably low angles, suggesting just how close to the ground—the filth, the murk, and its origins—modern medicine and its practioners are. The blacks and whites—the hank of Owen’s hair, the white of his sleek leather shoes—are crisp and clear while the other colors are leached if not downright absent. Against this palette, the few colors there are—a blue bicycle, and, more importantly, all that dark, red blood—jump out.

The blood gets further showcase in the nauseating, brilliantly directed scenes in the operating theater. In the pilot, Thackery and his mentor, Dr. Christenson (Matt Frewer), the man who introduced him to cocaine—indeed, the two shoot up before surgery together—prepare to operate on yet another case of placenta previa. all their previous attempts have resulted in the death of mother and child, but they keep trying to better their method and the outcome. Showily talking to the assembled spectators—it really is a theater—they slice into the woman, and blood begins to flow in ever-increasing torrents. Medical dramas often show you flashes of blood and guts as a kind of gross-out thrill. Here the blood isn’t funny, it isn’t lurid, it isn’t just red. It collects in bottles, the terrifying volume of surging life a horrifying reminder of what is really at stake, of how bodies are bags of blood—of how close surgery can be to slaughter, an operating room an abattoir.

All the care that Soderbergh has taken with the colors, the camera, the blood—all his masterfully deployed aesthetic choices—stand in stark contrast to the care taken with the scripts. (The Knick is written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, whose previous credits include the Kate Hudson film Raising Helen.) Nothing in the story other than those nearly wordless operating scenes comes close to illustrating the tension between innovation and death. Thackery’s drug addiction is presumably meant to illuminate the same tension: medicine, which cocaine was at the time, as poison. But The Knick gives addiction a very glamorous cast. Cocaine is essential to Thackery’s energy, his ability to go on for hours and hours, and yet it does not seem to interfere with his skills. He may have blown out of all of his veins, but his hands are supremely steady. Even high out of his mind, and in the company of two naked women, he makes medical breakthroughs. His addiction makes him alluring and mysterious, especially to a young, watchful nurse (a very good Eve Hewson, daughter of Bono), who finds him going through withdrawal in the pilot and is drawn to him like a gorgeous young woman to a middle-aged head case—the moth to the flame, unfortunately, of both TV and film.

As the series begins, a black, Harvard-educated surgeon, Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland), joins the staff of the hospital at the insistence of the head of the board, Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) and her father. Dr. Edwards grew up in their home, the son of their maid and chauffeur. Edwards, like Thackery, is a surgical genius with no small ego, but Thackery treats him abhorrently, all but refusing to work with him. Edwards responds to being shut out of his calling by opening a secret clinic, which he largely funds himself, in the basement. When it is inevitably discovered by Thackery, as Emily Nussbaum put it in her New Yorkerreview, “game recognizes game.” Thackery not only agrees to work with Edwards, by the next episode he is running out into the street to stop a black man from being beaten in a race riot, permitting black people into his hospital, and working endless hours to help them in an emergency, his unrepentant racism apparently not so unrepentant after all.

The Knick, like so many medical procedurals, can be gripping, but gripping in the way of other less handsome, less credentialed, totally enjoyable series, from ER toHouse to Grey’s AnatomyThe Knick’s historical element adds curiosity—all those surgeries with bare hands! All those noses destroyed by syphilis!—and the show’s pedigree and look give it a tony patina, but the predicable (if satisfying) beats are still numerous. It may be 1900, but there is still occasion for a doctor to perform that old standby, the emergency tracheotomy. Physicians’ loved ones are still taken ill at a rate disproportionate to the regular population. Near-miracles happen. Staffers sleep around. And an antihero physician still knows how to heal everyone but himself.



Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

They were the cure for whatever ailed you.

The above photos show an interesting looking model circa 1920 demonstrating the usage of a violet ray machine, which was a personal electrotherapy device first invented by Nikola Tesla around 1890. Tesla was way ahead of his time, and some of his electrical applications were simply amazing. For instance, he successfully generated wireless power—i.e., he lit phosphorescent lamps by sending electricity through the air. Think about that next time you trip over one of the twenty power cords you have snaking around your place. Of course, genius occasionally comes wrapped in a bit of lunacy, so in the interests of full disclosure we should probably note that Tesla also spent many years trying to build a teleforce weapon, which he claimed would “bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation’s border and cause armies to drop dead in their tracks.”

Tesla’s violet ray device became a major fad during the Great Depression. The contraption consisted of a portable box encasing a discharge coil that produced a high frequency, ozone-generating electrical current. That current was channeled into a bakelite-handled, glass-tipped wand, the business end of which was applied to the recipient’s skin. One company that manufactured these devices was called Renulife, and their pitch went like this: Electricity from your light socket is transformed into health and beauty-giving Violet Ray—powerfully effective, yet gentle, soothing, perfectly safe. Voltage is raised from ordinary lighting current to thousands of volts, giving tremendous penetrative force. The irresistible revitalizing powers of Renulife Violet Ray are carried at once to every nerve, cell, fibre and part of the body.

Violet rays were touted as the cure for a long list of ailments, including fatigue, congestion, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, catarrh, brain fog, aging, and so forth, but by the 1950s Tesla’s device had fallen out of usage in the U.S. While it would be easy to dismiss violet rays as quackery, something physical was clearly happening. Consider this: the Chicago Police Department used a violet ray device to torture suspects between 1973 and 1984. Also, it’s worth noting that similar devices are still used today, most notably the High Frequency aesthetic machine you find in beauty salons, and the violet wand, used in BDSM. And modern medical research has shown that electricity can speed the healing of wounds, slow muscle atrophy, and modify brain impulses. So give Tesla his props—looks like he was right yet again. Good thing he never wrote down how his teleforce weapon worked.

Prosthetic Limbs Get Real With Lifelike Features


PHOTO: This lifelike thumb prosthetic was custom designed by stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh.

A German company has created prosthetic limbs so lifelike that most people have trouble spotting them.

Christoph Braunstamos of Stamos and Braun Prothesenwerk said the company considers each silicone prosthetic a work of art.

“All the work is done individually,” he said. “We try to catch the right colors from the patients and transfer them to the prosthesis.”

Braunstamos said the company works hard to get all the little details right. For instance, they craft fingernails and toenails from acrylic, the same material used in nail salons, so people can paint them.

“That’s often important to women,” he said.

PHOTO: It is difficult to spot the prosthetic toe designed by stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh.
stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh
PHOTO: It is difficult to spot the prosthetic toe designed by stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh.

Braunstamos admits that the realistic looking appendages don’t function as well as prosthetics with built-in bionics, but the fingers are flexible enough for someone to play the piano. The artificial arms and feet can also perform basic tasks, he said.

PHOTO: A lifelike arm prosthetic designed by stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh.
stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh
PHOTO: A lifelike arm prosthetic designed by stamos + braun prothesenwerk gmbh.

Each prosthetic costs between $2,500 and $8,500, depending on the size and the level of customization. However, in Europe where most of them are sold, the majority of the cost is picked up by insurance, Braunstamos said.

Anatomy students work on life-size virtual cadaver at University of Edinburgh

virtual cadaver

The virtual cadaver has been created from CT scans

Anatomy students are to work on a life-size virtual cadaver at the University of Edinburgh.

The new 3D device – one of the first of its kind in the UK – will allow students to investigate the human body by virtually dissecting it.

It has been created from CT scans allowing the body to be seen from front to back, side to side and upside down.

Teachers say the digital Anatomage Table offers different opportunities to working on a real corpse.

Unlike a real dissection, in which body parts can only be removed, students can add or remove organs, veins, arteries, nerves or tissue.

virtual cadaver

virtual cadaver

virtual cadaver

virtual cadaver

The new device joins another novel teaching tool at the university – a life-size 3D anatomical hologram which is the largest of its kind in the world.

Prof Gordon Findlater said: “The beauty of the Anatomage Table is that you can rotate and view the body in all three planes in a unique 3D experience.

“Although it will never, I believe, replace the experience of dissecting and handling a real cadaver, it will allow students to handle a virtual cadaver without all the legislation that accompanies the use of a real one.

“So far we have received a lot of good feedback from the students and surgeons who have tested it out.”

It’s always interesting when artists explore intimacy because of how it affects us all on a primitive and emotional level. Japanese student-artists Ayako Kanda and Mayuka Hayashi have created a prize-winning series of images that explore our relationships with each other in an interesting way – by using x-ray images to strip away the skin, hair and flesh that we usually associate with intimate contact.  

Kanda and Hayashi used full-body x-ray imaging and CT scan systems to picture four different couples as they rested intimately together. The result is a series of ghostly white skeletons tangles in loving embraces. The images are so striking because the poses they strike represent recognizable human intimacy and closeness, but the x-ray images represent death or clinical, medical coldness. We are trained to take the intimacy we share with our doctors when they x-ray our bodies for granted, which is perhaps why it’s so unsettling to see x-ray images capturing actual human intimacy.


The revealing and exploratory work was part of these students’ thesis project at Musashino Art University. The students also won the Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Award.