Last Week's Article

The History of Bondage

Part I -- Origins!

copyright 2001 by Pat Powers

Thanks to modern scientific advances in the fields of anthropology, sociology, paleontology and knotology1, it's now possible to make a few reasonable hypotheses about the origins of sexual bondage practices.

For example, anthropologists now know that across all cultures, primitive hunter-gatherers tended to band together in tribal groups of 20 or 30, which are loosely allied in "nations" of 400 or so people.

Such groups almost invariably practiced exogamy (marriage outside the tribe or nation). Exogamy undoubtedly arose because it gave a considerable competitive advantage (in the form of a healthier gene pool, resulting in more kids, and healthier kids) over those that didn't.

Although exogamy as practiced by most modern hunter-gatherers involves arranged marriages, barter, etc., there's considerable evidence2 that many primitive peoples practiced marriage by capture as the preferred form of exogamy, kidnapping young women from other tribes or nations as brides. Vestiges of such practices are still seen in modern marriage customs -- for example, the Western custom of the groom carrying the bride across the threshold is clearly a holdover from marriage-by-capture days.

Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that among primitive tribes, a woman spent a considerable portion of her honeymoon tied up. In fact, this practice in a sense originated with women, since it's extremely probable that rope was invented by a woman. And it's also very possible that sexual bondage was invented by a woman. Here's why:

Cultural anthropologists now make all sorts of claims about modern behavior based on the notion that women do the berry picking, and men do the hunting among hunter-gatherers4. What do berries grow on? Vines? What are vines noted for? Being tangly.

So here's the scenario. Oogla is out picking berries with the kids and the other gals, but she keeps getting her hands tangled in the vines. Several times she really has to work to get herself out of the vines. As she picks berries, she's preoccupied. Her daughter in law Minka was lawfully captured by her son Unk, but Minka is a bad bride - she keeps running away, no matter how often Unk does her. The traditional solution of letting her run away and see if anyone else feels like capturing her is too painful for Unk, who's crazy about Minka.

There must be some way of getting Minka to stick around, even if she doesn't want to. Just then, her hand gets really tangled in some vines. She can't get away, and has to get one of the kids to help her untangle.

ALSO FROM PAT POWERS
And then she has the great idea. If Minka is tangled in vines, she can't get away, either!

Presto! She gets some of the kids together, they track Minka down and drag her over to the vines and tangle her up in them big time, wrapping the vines around her many times and pulling them around and through and so forth.5

"Now you will stay for Unk," Oogla says with satisfaction.

"Well, now that you've invented vinedage6 how about inventing a toothbrush and giving one to Unk," says Minka.

When the men got back from their loafing, er, hunting expedition that afternoon, around 4:15 p.m.7, Ookla proudly shows Unk and her husband Mok how they have restrained Minka in some berry vines.

"Ungh!" said Mok and Unk, meaning "great idea." Then Unk dives into the vines and does some stuff with Minka that shakes the berries right off them.

4:308Mok grabs a spare berry vine and drags it and Ookla back to the cave, where he ties her up.

"Oh, Mok, it's just like a second honeymoon!" Ookla cries.

"Second honeymoon?" Mok grunts in alarm.

In a very short time, all the men are tying up their wives in vines, discovering in the process that stripping off the leaves and berries helps, and that some ways of wrapping the vines work and some do not.9

Pretty soon the other women in the tribe get alarmed and realize that Oogla's inventiveness poses a possible threat to them, so they invent writing so they can pass a note to her as she sits bound in the cave.

It says: Ooogla: Rope good. But for God's sake, don't invent gags. Now, please invent fire so you can burn this before Mok can develop reading skills.

Thus we can safely conclude that sexual bondage led directly to the development of rope, fire, and writing. The rest is history.10

Footnotes

  1. Thanks, everybody
  2. Lots of magazine articles
  3. Western Europe isn't very far from such practices, either. Just a thousand years ago, Danes were still appeasing the gods by giving sickly young girls a strangling-with-dignity and dumping their bodies in the swamp, a custom that still survives in New Jersey. See P. V. Glob, The Bog People.
  4. Even more magazine articles, plus some PBS programs, and Tim Allen does a pretty good riff on this in his stand-up act, if you can stand his constant belching and flatulence jokes.
  5. Probable origin of the "granny knot."
  6. Probable origin of the word bondage - fr. Vinedage #vindage #vondage #bondage.
  7. REALLY ACCURATE radiocarbon dating makes this time most probable
  8. Ibid. Youbid. Weallbid.
  9. Probable origin of the word "knot." Work not. Can not. Cnot. Knot.
  10. See history books

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