Venus figurines - Erotic Art?

Venus figurines, whatever purpose they were made for or whatever they were meant to symbolize, are found over a significant geographical and temporal range, in Eurasia from the Pyrenees in the west to Lake Baikal in modern-day Russia in the east, from as early as 40,000 years ago to as late as 10,000.

Do you think it’s possible that Venus figurines, rather than being a symbol of a fertility goddess, or in addition to this function, were an early form of pornography whose function was similar in purpose to modern pornography, although limited by the Stone Age level of culture during which they were made?

This is an example of a Venus figurine that looks awfully similar to something else that’s still around…need I say more?

The sad-but-true answer seems to be that sure, yeah, it’s possible, but we just don’t know.

Oh and I don’t think what you linked to counts as a Venus figurine. That’s a dick, not a chick.

Heh, I don’t think it should be either.

I wonder if the dick was ever “used.”

I’ve seen a book by an anthropologist that suggests precisely this.
I’ve also seen it suggested in To Weller’s scandalously out-of-print book Science Made Stupid. What can I say? Great minds think alike.

I strongly suspect that it is the case. The artistic urge comes from somewhere, to satisfy some need. Og knows the cavepeople aren’t doing it for tenure or to sell for beaucoup bucks. Prurient interest seems a pretty good motivating source. Especially when you consider that people are still doing it. I’ve seen obviously sexual sculptures and manques for sale, many of them representing very plump or overendowed women, just as the Venus of Willendorf is. They used to have them in ads in the backs of some men’s magazines (not the major players, like Playboy or Penthouse). Now they have them on the internet.

Maybe they combined religious and prurient motivations in those days…

(I.e. “Oh god, oh god, ooooh god…OOOOOH GOD!”)

Unfortunately, unless we find a cave painting, we’ll never know. Some backwoods european cultures not totally infiltrated by church mores had some very interestingly different attitudes to sexal activity; as did other continents.

One suggestion I read was that the “worship” or idolization of the female form was supplanted by “male gods” possibly as populaton became numerous enough that warrior protection was needed, as agriculture became prominent and homelands needed defending, or perhaps as men discovered the role of sex and paternity (possibly when they took up animal husbandry?).

We beat to death the question of “when did people figure out sex = babies?”. The follow-on to that is the man now had a valid reason to keep other men away from “his” woman.

The trouble with that thesis is that jealousy is too ingrained an instinct to be a sudden discovery 10,000 years ago. And some cultures do have more lax rules or perhaps celebrations (I read once that middle ages Octoberfest, for example, was a pretty raunch time before the Reformation).

So it’s possible that humans simply kept two contradictory ideas in their heads simultaneously - the male protecting his “harem” and the worship of the “you’re a lotta woman, baby” ideal… and made staues of the latter to get in the mood for fun and contemplation. After all, to worship to warrior man ideal, all they had to do is look at their own spear, they didn’t need to make any extra statuettes - except the example in the link.

I don’t remember it being a book, but I’ve also heard the argument. So either an article or television appearance by the same anthropologist or more than one has put forth the proposition.

Meeting of the Tom Weller Fan Club!

It could well be they were some sort of fetishistic sex toys, but it seems far more likely to me that they were objects of worship.

Consider living in a world where you have no rational explanations for weather, climate, crop growth or failure, childbirth, flood, famine…anything. You, being human, like to have an explanation for things and someone to blame when they go wrong. So you invent a god or set of gods to pray to or curse when things go sideways. Then you find you need a place to direct your prayers and requests to. You recall that the plump female down the next cave had a way of bringing forth lots of babies and milk to feed them, so you begin to associate female fecundity with similar traits in the world around you. You enlist your artistic cave buddy to sculpt something shaped like that lady so you can pray to the figurine, rather than go bother the lady next cave, whose hubby doesn’t like you hanging around there to begin with…and so on and so on. Ditto for representations of the phallus, used by both men and women in many cultures as symbols of good luck, strength, virility and, of course, happy times.

Worship might be taking things a bit far, you know.

Just think of Christmas. Billions of people who don’t actually believe in Santa Claus nevertheless spend trillions of dollars on trees, stockings and fake beards. How many future anthropologists would guess that we just think it’s fun? That we spend so much time and resources for no other good purpose?

I’m not sure I’d go as far as calling Venus figurines or stone phalluses pornography, either. They’re rarely all that graphic. But people from all time periods like looking at artistic nudes. Ancient people may have felt there was some “lucky” or “magical” connection, but there really isn’t any reason to think they were so different from modern humans.

Why can’t it be simple aesthetics? I’ve known plenty of guys who had erotic art, like nude female statues, in their dwellings and as far as I know they neither worshipped nor masturbated to them. They were just for visual enjoyment.

I do not think that, in these ancient cultures (or even in some of the primitive cultures that still exist in remote parts of the world today) there is necessarily a sharp distinction to be drawn between religious and erotic matters. Our Western culture (and I guess, also Islamic culture) draws a sharp distinction between the religious and the sexual, and strongly de-eroticizes religion and desacralizes sex. But not all cultures and religions do that. (Even today, aspects of one major religion, Hinduism, can be fairly sexy.)

Getting turned on by these figurines (maybe getting turned on in general) might have had a religious significance for the people who made and used them, and I do not think that the anthropologists who label them as religious artifacts mean to imply that eroticism was not part of their function.

So yes, they may well be meant to be sexy, and even maybe used for masturbation, but that is not necessarily a separate thing from their religious significance.

Then you have to explain why they are so non-representational. And non-representational in the same overtly hypersexual way, with faces - something with known high aesthetic value - always blurred or missing. It’s not like ancient peoples couldn’t manage representational art. But this particular distorted form is wildly overrepresented across a wide variety of times and cultures. That makes mere aesthetics much less likely.

Well, how big is it? If it’s somewhere between 6-12 inches on the dildoey end, I think it’s safe to assume it’s a sex toy.

If it’s 4 inches or 40 inches, it was probably a display piece. Why? There’s absolutely no way of knowing for sure, only educated guesses.

Actually I think that points to them being art, very possibly with religious meaning.

As for them being stylized in the same way, well look at ancient cave paintings. Are they accurate to the human form? Stylization is as old as art.

I just can’t imagine that ancient people used a small rock carving to get aroused, I mean does anyone have an example of this in more modern but still pre-photographic times or cultures?

Rule 34.

Look up to my post. I’ve seen frankly erotic statues of women with exaggerrated sexual features for sale, precisely as erotic stimulation, not as aesthetics, or as ironic commentaries. It’s not pre-photographic, but that fact points out, I think, just how powerful it. is.
If you’re looking for erotic art from any age, there are plenty of examples of it. There are entire books collecting such work from all periods of history and most parts of the world.

I can’t see there being a definitive answer to Erotic, aesthetic, or Religious. How could you tell? Indeedc, would these concepts even be separated in the minds of the artists? Maybe these were monuments, both prorient and spirital, to what Ezra Pound called “The Sacrament of Sex”

There are proportionally very few human forms in cave paintings, another reason not to think of them as aesthetic. But the depictions of animals are often stunningly accurate.

I don’t know either, but I do know a question with asks for opinion. Moved from GQ.

samclem, Moderator

Uh, so by your reasoning, you think virtually all artistic works created today are crypto-porn? Because artists certainly aren’t normally getting tenure or money for their work for the most part.

Frankly, the idea that ancient this and ancient that are porn (and especially these Venus figurines) is not just silly, it’s fucking tired. Come up with something that we haven’t all heard a thousand times before.

These Venus figurines are found in a pretty circumscribed part of the globe, during a definite period. It’s not like equivalent objects are found in all stone-age cultures across all times and places. Which makes it seem like, in fact, they probably are markers of one particular culture.

We may have different definitions of wide, but while not world wide, there is a long and diffuse distribution of them.

There may be some continuity from the beginning of this period to the end, but they are certainly defined as different cultures.

I must confess, your logic escaes me. So you think people think that everything is porn? I do not wish to subscribe to your newsletter. And if you think that you’ve heard it a thousand times before (I haven’t), I don’t ant to subscribe to the ones you’ve been reading.