"Making the beast with two backs" - where from?

Rereading some old trashy fiction this weekend and one of the characters used the phrase “making the beast with two backs”. Now I’ve known for more than 50 years that the phrase is slang for two people having sex.

But I got to wondering, how did the phrase originate? I can’t think of a position that from any angle of observation would appear to be a beast with two backs.

What are your thoughts on this weighty matter?

I’m almost certain it’s mentioned in Othello - pretty sure it’s in the first act as well. Someone (forget his name) tell’s Desdemona’s father (forget his name) that Desdemona and Othello are making the beast with two backs. And also that the “black ram is tupping his white ewe”.

The phrase goes back at least as far as Shakespeare: Iago in Othello says, “I am one sir, that come to tell you, your daughter, and the Moore, are now making the Beast with two backs.”

And here I thought this was going to be a thread about the next installment of Futurama. It is titled The Beast With a Billion Backs if you are curious. I was also aware of the phrases origin.

The missionary position is the beast with two backs. Man and woman facing one another, locked in an embrace, so all you see are their backs.

Yes, you see their legs as well as the backs of their heads. It’s a metaphor.

It’s actually in Rabelais, which predates Shakespeare by a good bit. En son eage virile [Grandgousier] espousa Gargamelle, fille du roy des Parpaillos, belle gouge et de bonne troigne, et faisoient eux deux souvent la beste à deux doz

That’s about 1534, and if the saying predated Rabelais, I wouldn’t be too surprised.

Pretty weak metaphor. Kind of like looking at clouds, you see what you want to see.

Interesting that it goes that far back in history. For some reason I assumed it was 20th century drivel.

Oh well, on to the next mystery of the universe.
Judge Crater, oh Judge Crater, come out, come out wherever you are!

When we were studying Othello back in high school one guy tongue-in-cheek suggested that “The Beast With Two Backs” referred to a camel.

Humans don’t have sex like people making porn, trying to show off their body parts to the camera.

Man lies on top of woman. There are lots of other positions, of course, but man on top of woman is about as common a position as can possibly be. Their fronts are pressed together. An observer - and in most peasant, poor, urban, tribal and whorehouse situations, there were never any shortage of viewers - sees backs.

What could be more obvious than the beast with two backs? It’s a phrase from a variety of cultures and hundreds of years. It’s about as obscure as calling breasts “melons” or a head a “bean”.

Or am I being whooshed?

Would you get it if someone said, “the beast with two backs, the back of two heads, and the backs of 4 legs.”

Maybe it’s a Maine thing. Think of it like “making the beast with the back of a man, and the front of a sheep.”

Futurama did an earlier joke (in the episode Spanish Fry) about a $1.99 Sex Shoppe called “The Beast With Two Bucks”.

If I remember my high school Shakespeare correctly, there is another play in which this precise pun is made (i.e. referring to the presence of a camel, inferring that a “beast with two backs” was involved, i.e. a couple having sex). I don’t remember the play, it might have been Much Ado About Nothing.

Well sir, we usually just ride the camel into town.

Twenty dollars?

Although the phrase is Shakespeare’s, you might also say the concept goes back to Plato (5th C. BCE), in a sense. In the “Symposium,” the character of Aristophanes offers a humorous explanation for…

(From Wikipedia.)

I believe that’s called “making the beast with one Briston.”

and here I thought that was just a glam rock song

Same as in town.

Would I?

I wondered the same thing–it seemed pretty obvious what Iago was trying to say when I read the play…and I was a naive young virgin when I read those lines. (Well, okay, once it was pointed out to me that it was a sexual innunendo. The image does just kind of jump into your mind.)

Which is why a suitable alternative euphemism is “the eight-legged aardvark.” Though I doubt Shakespeare used that one.