The Healing Arts: A Medical Inspection. Or Miracles Will Never Cease.

Click for full size. As you can see, all effort was put into making Joanna Southcott as awful as possible. Ms. Southcott was a self-styled prophetess, and claimed to be pregnant at 64 years of age, and died shortly afterward. It would seem she was held to be nothing more than a con by the medical establishment, with little consideration that she might actually believe all the nonsense she preached. The depiction of her is certainly nothing at all like her actual appearance (there’s a photo at the link.)

A Medical Inspection. Or Miracles Will Never Cease. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1814. Subject: Obstetrics, Prophesy, Pregnancy, Anecdotes, Religious Mania, Joanna Southcott (1750-1814).

A Medical Inspection. Or Miracles Will Never Cease. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1814. Subject: Obstetrics, Prophesy, Pregnancy, Anecdotes, Religious Mania, Joanna Southcott (1750-1814).

Behind the Iron Curtain part 10 – Sex Ed

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


This is another one of the issues where the current US divide between left and right amuses me greatly. If you ever saw the movie “Red Heat” you will probably remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in his role as a Soviet agent turning on TV in a cheap American hotel and upon seeing porn uttering the word “Capitalism!” with utmost sneer in his voice. That scene rings so true to me.

The regime’s attitude to sex and sex education was abysmal. You see, sex is pleasurable to the individual, and as such informing the populace about how it is supposed to work could not be easily spun into a way to advance the greater good. Pornography was illegal and erotica very strictly regulated. And sex education almost non-existent.

Well, that is not entirely true. Sex ed was compulsory. But non-existent at the same time.

In the seventh class of elementary school, the biology classes were focused on human anatomy. Towards the end of the year part of the curriculum was about sexual and reproductive organs and some sex education thrown in.

The sex education part was gender segregated. Girls were shown some educational video whose details I do not know. Some boys tried to listen at the windows and from them I know that it probably consisted mostly of information about expected changes in body chemistry and shape during puberty, and nothing more.

Boys had even less informative session, which I missed completely due to illness. All I know from highly bemused accounts from my schoolmates is that instead of the rather good diagrams in books the whole issue was explained on a picture of a tulip. Really. Bees and flowers. At school. In 1980s.

At no point whatsoever were the “technicalities” of sex mentioned. No mention of consent and how it is supposed to work, no mention about how condoms are used and what other options of contraception there are, no mention of how the body parts actually fit into each other. So all of this info had to be learned from surroundings, either from family members or from peers. Which has of course led to great variation between individuals.

Info about consent came mostly from media and from peers, with all the masculine garbage that is the stupid “yes means yes, no means try harder”.
Use of condoms had everybody to gleam from rare articles that might be written in some magazine for adults or to figure out for themselves. Oh, and the stupid “it’s woman’s responsibility to not get pregnant” was part of the package too.

How the sex itself is supposed to work everybody learned from pornographic magazines smuggled in from west. People who did not get lucky to see porn or grow up in the country  might end up completely unable to actually perform sexual act properly, as was attested in the book Lidská sexualita (Human sexuality) by sexuologist Ivo Pondělíček and his wife Jaroslava Pondělíčková-Mašlová, who bemoaned that in the 1970’s multiple adult pairs came through his office who were unable to conceive child and during the courses he learned that they did not even know that for a woman to conceive the penis must enter the vagina. At least one such pair were people with university diplomas.

All in all it is no wonder that in my relatively small social circle I knew two girls who became pregnant shortly after the age of consent (15 years) and that it was all too common that girls got pregnant and married quite young. There are no precise statistics, because the regime did not keep tabs on things that reflected on it unfavourably, but I would not be suprised if today’s Texas came out better in this regard.

The Healing Arts: Macassar Oil, An oily Puff for Soft Heads.

This is the oil which birthed Antimacassars. My great-grandmothers and grandmother had antimacassars on everything. Click for full size!

Macassar Oil, An oily Puff for Soft Heads. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1814. Subject: Macassar Oil, Rowland's Oil,Alexander Rowland,baldness,hair Tonic, Hair Oil,Proprietary Medicines.

Macassar Oil, An oily Puff for Soft Heads. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1814. Subject: Macassar Oil, Rowland’s Oil,Alexander Rowland,baldness,hair Tonic, Hair Oil,Proprietary Medicines.

Life Is Not A Ringing Bell.

From rq, a most beautiful art work: So out of that comment conversation earlier this morning/today, I made some art that looks completely unrelated but came out of the emotions. Also it is called “Life is Not a Ringing Bell” and I have decided to dedicate it to Rick. Such a beautiful piece, filled with quiet emotion and love. Life is not ringing a bell, but it is having a partner who loves you enough to nag you into doing what you should, and having a friend who can express that so well. Thank you is so very inadequate. Click for full size.

© rq, all rights reserved.

The Healing Arts: Medical Report of the Walcheren Expedition.

Click for full size.

The Winding Up of the Medical Report of the Walcheren Expedition. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1810. Subject: Lucas Pepys (1742-1830), Robert Jackson (1750-1827), Thomas Keate (1745-1821), Dr. James' Fever Powder, Chelsea Hospital, Walcheren Campaign, Military Medicine, Medical Boards, Drugs.

The Winding Up of the Medical Report of the Walcheren Expedition. Thomas Rowlandson, Etching coloured, 1810. Subject: Lucas Pepys (1742-1830), Robert Jackson (1750-1827), Thomas Keate (1745-1821), Dr. James’ Fever Powder, Chelsea Hospital, Walcheren Campaign, Military Medicine, Medical Boards, Drugs.

Walcheren Campaign:

The Walcheren Campaign involved little fighting, but heavy losses from the sickness popularly dubbed “Walcheren Fever”. Although more than 4,000 British troops died during the expedition, only 106 died in combat; the survivors withdrew on 9 December. […] Along with the 4,000 men that had died during the campaign, almost 12,000 were still ill by February 1810 and many others remained permanently weakened. Those sent to the Peninsular War to join Wellington’s army caused a permanent doubling of the sick lists there.

As for ‘Look Ass Peeps’ (Lucas Pepys):

In 1794 Pepys was made physician-general to the army, and was president of an army medical board, on which it was his duty to nominate all the army physicians. When so many soldiers fell ill of fever at Walcheren, he was ordered to go there and report. As a consequence the board was abolished; but Pepys was granted a pension.

CC Notes: I’m Not Sorry.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.

Okay. I’m going to start with reiterating that what I write here is about my experience with cancer treatment, and my feelings about it, it’s in no way general or applicable for painting with a vague and broad brush.

I am not sorry in the least little bit for not celebrating the first round of chemo being done. I am not sorry for viewing this as a completely non-celebratory event, nor for feeling this way. There was relief, and a fleeting sense of being free. That last one didn’t last long. As usual, the chemo has left me feeling half past dead and seriously dehydrated. So, I’m back again today for IV fluids. I’m only going because Rick refused to let up asking about going in for fluids. These days, he easily recognises the signs of dehydration, so I conceded. Right now, I’d rather deal with being half past dead than going back to 7. (In my hospital, the infusion suite is on the 7th floor.)

It doesn’t feel to me as if I’ve finished; there’s always something dragging you back, and even if I could manage to stay away from 7, appointments and schedules arrive by mail and phone, and of course there’s preparation for the next round of treatment. There’s also the knowledge that you’re going to get completely battered down again, which leaves you with a deep desire to simply stay the fuck away from hospitals altogether.

This all ties back in with the ever relentless positivity business. There’s the bell, which is in infusion/chemo suites all over, you’re supposed to ring it the same number of times as your cycles (in my case, it would be eight), while everyone else in infusion applauds; for me, that’s a hellish notion, and I was more than relieved in managing to slip out quietly. I learned that other infusion/chemo suites have a certificate/diploma thing, which is even worse than the damn bell. Most of us don’t require false encouragement, we all have our own reasons to keep showing up for treatment, even when we are past sick of it, and long to walk away and forget. You experience resignation soon enough in treatment, and simply getting through one phase is just that, nothing more. What most cancer patients are looking toward is the final door, that light at the end of the fuckin’ tunnel, when you get to walk away for real. For other cancer patients, there is no exit door, they’ll be in treatment until they die, and in such cases, it’s really callous and rotten to get all positive and celebratory over a single phase of treatment. Chirpy, trite sentiments do not help in the least, and they give people something empty to say without having to expend any thought on the actual person and their situation. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say, and that’s okay. Silences don’t have to be filled every single time, and silence is better than a perky positivity landing in compleat awkwardness.

This is not to say I don’t understand someone having joy over getting through one phase or being happy for me; it’s that I don’t feel that joy myself. I’m still looking at months worth of treatment and pretty much the rest of this year being dominated by cancer. I want my life back, and if I get that, then I’ll celebrate. Quietly.

And now I have to get ready to return to 7.