1. Prehistoric Wet Dreams

When semen is milk.

We might have evidence for attitudes towards erotic dreams at the 17,000 year old Scene At the Well in Lascaux. We see a figure on its back with an erection. Is he dead? Is he asleep? Maybe he is in a trance or a dream. His head is a bird signifying he may be in flight even if his body is not. And the bull floating above could be the dream image, depicted as more real and solid than his body. The bull or minotaur could even be the erotic partner, with the spear and vagina symbol floating to the right, pointing to sex. This may be a depiction of an erotic dream! And what is all that white stuff floating around?

Prehistoric people may not have even had nocturnal emissions, though, because they probably had enough opportunities to empty their testicles during the day. If our bonobo primate cousins tell us anything about ourselves, it’s that we masturbated plenty in prehistory.

But even if prehistoric people had wet dreams, frequently, how wet were they? I mean, how shameful, how sticky, how bed-wetty “wet,” were they? How feminine, or how challenging to a man’s identity, were they? Maybe not at all.

Prehistoric men, and this is an important point, didn’t know about paternity yet, a knowledge most likely gained in Egypt and elsewhere with the domestication of animals (see Gordon and Schwabe). So there wouldn’t have been this historic anxiety about spilling or wasting semen. Like all body fluids, prehistoric semen may have been mysterious, sure, but it was also like any other squirt— puss, snot, spit, sweat. It was an oily secretion that appeared after intense physical bliss. Was is a byproduct of bliss?

Men were not “men,” and semen wasn’t important. The archaeological evidence from prehistory supports this view: there are virtually no male icons because there are no ‘fathers,’ no warriors, no priests — there are no male gender roles tied to male lineage. Instead there are thousands of female figurines, and some incredibly beautiful animals. Marija Gimbutas argues that the omission of male icons is evidence for a “civilization of the goddess” and for early monotheism. She says the goddess icon found all over was a unifier, an agent of culture, who kept the peace, birthed the people, and helped us survive for tens of thousands of years. The great art historian, Marilyn Stokstad, also noticed that the use of the female icon rose whenever climate conditions were the most brutal. Stokstad also points out that as a material agent, these icons would have drawn strangers together, who would want to examine the other’s “creator” carried or worn as a pendant around the neck, building trust. An international ID card.

The female body in general must have been seen as Creatrix and Leader, and male bodies were underdeveloped females who could’t give birth or feed babies. Because we saw both male and female bodies come from the female, her body must somehow contain both.

And look! The Venus of Willendorf’s unnaturally thin arms make her breasts look like penises, and archaeologist Rosemary Joyce points out that figurines like the one to the right of Willendorf can obviously be viewed in two ways. She is the object of desire and is also the phallus. Another secret about how prehistoric people felt about semen reveals itself when we notice the visual rhyming of the breasts and male genitalia in the clay figurines. There is an association between milk from the penis and milk from the breasts, which is fantastically expressed in Murakami’s 1998 fiberglass sculptures and recent paintings. So, we can infer that semen may have been considered a food (like it still is in some contexts today). But, like food, it may have also been, in the end, associated with feces and other bodily wastes.

As recorded history begins, Afro-Asiatic languages will associate semen with other alarming substances like poison, and we will see Egyptian, Jewish, Christian worldviews maintain a confusing position. Semen is bliss, food, spirit, and poison.

Takashi Murakami, Hiropon; Lonesome Cowboy. fiberglass. 1998