lunedì 29 luglio 2013

Sex, pills and peppermint



In the end, everything got started from the offer of an Apple.
This was the first commercial in human history. The ability of the snake seller was not to waste time in praising the taste of the fruit, but to promise extraordinary power to those who would eat it.

Since then, besides media, not much has changed. “Let the dance begin” is, for instance, the winking message of a recent American commercial. In it, a romantically embraced couple on a beautiful beach invites people not to dance, like the message would suggest, but to acquire loving super powers by buying a sort of magical pill: Viagra!

Right, Viagra and his brothers, Cialis, Levitra & Co., revolutionized male sexuality, similarly to what the anti-conceptional pill did to female sexuality. The diffusion of these products worldwide is such that the initial use for necessity has been replaced by abuse for pleasure. In some American states, a special offer for loyal customers gives one box for free every seven box purchased.

The acceptance of this phenomenon, which should be faced more cautiously, encourages men of every age to use these chemical products to enhance their sexual enthusiasm, even when there is not justified necessity. A friend of mean, not very young anymore, but with a natural vitality of which people of my same age should be jealous, expressed his skepticism on this habit, which he sees as laziness and lack of self confidence, as well as a fraud towards women, who want to be responsible for the excitation of their partner’s, rather than a side effect. I agree with him, worried by the fact that such confidence would reduce fantasy, seduction and game. Still, several opinions, not only from males, support the notion that the blue pill is another story! No wasted time, no performance anxiety, no risk to swing and miss!

Psychologists and sociologists have much to say about this, and the topic should be treated with more detail. Now, I would only like to say that looking at the phenomenon from a possibly biased point of view, since I am a woman, patriarchal societies have obsessively adored virility and its symbols for centuries, thus testing men and, instead of confirming their “machism”, putting them in trouble. “Phallocracies” of all times, including ours in spite of the ever more apparent confusion on sexual ambivalences, have accepted all artificial erotic stimulants as true masculine myth, getting rid of the naturalness of the legendary Priapus.

Pills are only the most recent demonstration of the spasmodic quest for the perennial virility, since the study of aphrodisiacs, erotic brews and love potions is a millenary story, fascinating albeit often tragic. What are aphrodisiacs exactly?

According to the Greek mythology, Uranus, the Titans’ father, was castrated by his son Kronos, who threw the father’s genitals in the sea, thus unleashing tremendous waves. From the sea foam (aprhos in Greek) Aphrodite, goddess of love and Eros’ mother, rose to life. The word “aphrodisiac” comes from here, summarizing a concept rather than an object, and indicating a complex alchemy through which libido can be increased, with virility and pleasure.

Isabel Allende, master of magic and eros, describes aprhodisiacs as a “bridge between gluttony and luxury” in her seducing book Afrodita, where the lovers’ imagination is the key, like a tempting demon, absent which love would have no color or taster.

Nowadays, the chemistry of pills has replaced much of the psychological game played by imagination in the past. However, ancient alchemists of Eros had to face many issues, and they would have saved several lives and made men happy, had they know the Viagra or Cialis formula. They studied brews for centuries, going through approximations, confiding in nature with creativeness, intuition and fantasy, and thus leaving us the memory of many grotesque and intriguing anecdotes. Many aphrodisiac recipes actually survived to oral traditions and still surprise us, especially in light of the tragic destiny of many people and animals who were uselessly sacrificed. Some of these formulas are still used in some parts of the world, and continue to feed bizarre popular legends, without competing with modern pills.

It is well known how much a toad’s, Bufo, secretions have extraordinary euphoric and hallucinatory effects, maybe excitatory, but definitely fatal. Still, in some regions of Australia, it happens to hear of some hot-headed (probably without access to blue pills) who lick these big toads, and ending up at the hospital rather than in a love ecstasy.

Also the Spanish fly Cantaride, has a similar story. From it cantaridine was extracted and administered as one of the most diffused, powerful and dangerous love potions, for thousands of years. This substance was extracted from the dried body of Lytta vescicatoria, whose name was due to the fact that it causes skin eruptions and vesicles, which increase blood pressure in genitals, producing excitation, but also sorrowful episodes of priapism. It is similar to the effect of peppermint leaves on the most sensitive masculine genitals, according to a book I read from a young Cuban writer, Gutierrez, who is probably fond of mojito, whose magic touch is given by spicy little branches of “hierbabuena”, or mint. Although toxic and illegal, cantaridine is still sold in some countries with a false name, and it seems that its use is alternative to mint in Cuba.

Similarly, the bizarre habit to eat alive beetles, very common in South-Eastern Asia, or to eat triatomines, or kiss bugs, in Mexico, is based on the same legendary principles. In some Arab countries ambreine, extracted from the digestive system of sperm track, is used because it increases the concentrations of hormones, notably testosterone, thus inducing men to copulate intensely, innocently like rabbits. This is though a certified stimulant, also used to fix perfumes, and it was tested on rats in laboratory, making them true stud bulls. It is too bad that sperm whales are quiet animals at risk of extinction.

The more legendary myth from the vegetal world is that of absinth or “green fairy”. Since the Greek epoch this liquor extracted from the homonymous plant was considered erotic, although its toxicity in some versions was such that France, prohibited it in 1915, although it was the favorite drink of intellectuals and artists from Place Pigalle, since it was thought to evoke marvelous muses. It actually caused muscular and gastric spasms, and an excessive consumption brought to paralysis and even death, not before (maybe) conceding wonderful pleasures to those who drank it.

The Green Fairy has left a fascinating legacy in literature and art, especially in Decadent France, and its revival was allowed by the movie “Moulin Rouge”.

Asiatic Ginseng is healthier, although less spectacular. It directly acts on the central nervous system, and through it on genitals, thanks to the release of nitric oxide, like Viagra. Ginseng is also a natural product which improves physical performances and resistance to stress and aging, if used with moderation. Its virtues are apparently beaten only by “gingko bilboa”, the Chinese tree source of an extremely powerful anti oxidant, which improves blood circulation, memory and concentration. Neither needs medical prescription, while this is necessary for a similar natural stimulant, “yohimbina”, which comes from the yohimbé cortex.

All these natural substances, and several more, do not compete with Viagra, Cialis and Co., but have something in common with them: they exasperate the sexual vigor, only in males. Still, without inventing unlikely pink pills, I got to know that women too can benefit from a natural excitatory substance, the “L-arginine”, an amino acid from which nitric oxide can be derived: it seems that it is an effective regulator of smooth muscle tone, and of blood flow in all areas of circulation, including the most intimate ones...

Still, I am not an expert, and doctors, scientists, neurologists, psychologists can bring more competent opinions. I would go back to what Isabel Allende considers the essence of erotism both for men and women: imagination, the only true and free aphrodisiac without side effects, able to turn on our very first sexual organ, the brain!

I may be superficial but imagine a romantic dinner: the intimacy of candle lights, the soft music, his perfume, her whispers, eyes which meet, fingers which brush against each other, feet which touch, the wait for the conquer which increases the excitation with moderate decency...

If conversation is the sex of soul, like somebody said, the look is the petting and the courting at the table is for me one of the most powerful and healthy aphrodisiac concoctions of all times. Food is strategic because it nourishes body and desire too, without necessarily being sinful, like the Apple! Why not to play more often with your own lover, taking advantage of all natural stimuli arising from sharing tastes, smells, aromas, and using imagination to increase excitation, instead of surrendering to chemistry and science?

There are aphrodisiac foods per se, for substances they contain. More often, the aphrodisiac effect is due to allusive shapes, like with an oyster, which recall feminine intimacy, or the asparagus, which evokes the male intimacy. Other foods are considered aphrodisiac as a suggestion, like those animal parts which evoke the magic and little perverted idea of acquiring their virility, their brutal and primordial energy. Without the need to eat bull testicles or to spend tons of money in coquillage, it is easy to imagine an erotic menu with the simplest food: avocados, bananas, figs, grapes, almonds, apples, asparagus, cabbage, celery, artichokes, peppers and red pepper, eggs, cheese, chocolate, oil, wine, honey! All of them, without being snob or elegant, has an intimate aphrodisiac alchemy, able to turn on the erotic desire, if fed by imagination and its flame.

Believe it or not, one of the truly aphrodisiac food, thanks to its organoleptic virtues, is the main enemy of kiss: garlic. Garlic was considered erotic, sacred and tonic by Greeks, who recommended it to athletes before the Olympic Games. Today we know that allicin in the more intensely smelling cloves of garlic increases blood flow to genitals, thus intensifying the libido in men and women.

The problem is to counteract the unavoidable inconveniences. It is recommendable to share equally its consumption, and maybe at the end of the dinner, to have a couple of peppermint pastilles, before getting started with the dances. If a man were not really convinced and would not like to offer his partner a good plate of spaghetti with garlic, oil and red pepper, with peppermint drops for dessert, preferring the blue pill, he should at least remember the ancient fathers’ wisdom, which always recommended caution with all human things. As they used to say “Cum grano salis”, which might become, in a modern interpretation, “Cum grano cialis”. Well, Cicero would say: “O tempora, o mores!”

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