I wrote a thing today about Moche sex pots—this is how it starts:

When people come across Moche sex pots, they tend to find them amusing, or gross, or weird, or titillating. Or something that should be squirreled away in an adults-only section of a museum, lest our children's innocent eyes be tainted by their frank depictions of anal sex, oral sex, masturbation, huge erect penises, and occasional huge vulvas.

But what if we take them seriously, as objects that can actually tell us something about people's lives in the past, how they thought about things, and what they valued?

Before continuing, I should say a few brief words on the Moche–they inhabited the North Coast of Peru between about 200 and 850 AD (way before the Inca), they were characterised by high social stratification, and they produced an insane amount of beautiful pottery. Some of this pottery is finely painted with hunting scenes, duel scenes and scenes of ritual sacrifice, as well as stories from mythology. Some of it is shaped to look like agricultural products, animals, warriors, musicians, gods, the faces of prominent individuals, amputees, animal-human hybrids, old men, seashells, mountains, sacrifice victims, labourers, blind people, headdresses, skeletons… and, of course, people having sex.

Not much has actually been written on Moche sex pots–despite the fact that the Moche are very well studied (they're probably the ancient Peruvian culture we know most about, after the Inca), and the fact that they produced something like 500 of these pots, suggesting sex was very important for them. These pots clearly reflect very different notions of sex and reproduction from ones that prevail in the West, and, because of this, a lot of researchers have had trouble making sense of them.

For example, depictions of vaginal sex are extremely rare. Why? For a very long time, of the main theories out there was that Moche sex pots were meant to encourage birth control, by showing how one might enjoy sex without risking babies (Larco Hoyle 1965: 107-112). However, there's something unconvincing about the notion that people had to make hundreds upon hundreds of expensive ceramics, just for the Pre-Coumbian equivalent of a Sex Ed lesson.

If you're interested, and if you want to see what these pots actually look like, read the rest of the post on Unearthing (link NSFW).