Before the dawn of civilization, sex must have been a pretty dicey affair. Looking at comparables among our animal friends, it’s hardly encouraging. There is one species of ape (the Bonobo) that lives in a sex-crazed matriarchal utopia, and I’ve been told there’s a kind of female lizard that gets pregnant without any help from the male (why leave the house?), but other than those, the wild kingdom doesn’t seem to provide many examples of sex being better for creatures lacking language and neurosis.
The urge to mate is often figuratively called an itch, but early man probably felt the itch in a much more literal sense. The need to reproduce, like a mosquito bite, was there, he attended to it and that was it — drop to the ground, stick it in, jerk it twice, stand up, pull the mastodon skins back up and resume berry-picking.
I’d like to believe that civilization, even in its crudest forms, probably improved things a bit. As the quest for food and water became more organized and predictable, leisure time must have emerged in all its glory. Suddenly, what was previously done simply for survival could be explored for its potential for pleasure. This is not to suggest that early man gave up raw flesh and immediately discovered chateaubriand with bernaise, but maybe there were a few members of Homo Aestheticus who had the time and took the time to learn to shag with style. (Ironically, men’s discovery of the clitoris might well have coincided with the advent of irrigated farming . . . )
In any case, by the time the Egyptians were drawing pictograms on leaves and the Sumerians were figuring out how to scratch characters into clay, sex was clearly a serious business, and women were hoping for more than a simple Wham, Bam. Vases from all around the Mediterranean show that cultures in the millennia before Christ were quite familiar with the wide world of whoopie, employing as many positions as you or I are likely to and bringing a variety of adult aids into play, including cock rings and love lotions. In a sense, it stands to reason that early stages in human development could have facilitated the best sex in history: we were civilized enough to have spare time, but had no TV or Condensed Classics to compete for our attention. If you’ve got a decent amount of time on your hands and there’s nothing else to do but screw, you are likely to get pretty good at it.
My theory is borne out by the earliest works of literature. The oldest book in the Indo-European tradition, the Sanskrit Rig Veda of circa 1000 B.C. (that’s right kids, three centuries before Homer and Hesiod), is positively chock-full of nookie. More than a dozen of its 1000-plus poems concern both wives and husbands trying to get their partners to have sex with them, and there is a near-constant innuendo in the imagery of many of the rest. In the poem below, the god Indra’s wife Indrani is complaining because Indra’s friend (and perhaps son) Vraskapi is trying to bed her. Indra doesn’t seem too worried about it, though, and even invited Vraskapi back to his house in the end (for a seeming orgy). What a happy resolution!