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      A TO Z OF SEXUAL HISTORY: FREAKS

      January 7, 2010

      By Cameron King

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      If you were born with three legs, four breasts and two vaginas, it would make sense to consider a profession in prostitution. After all, you have been gifted with a plethora of input options. As was the case with Blanche Dumas, who, after being discovered by a so-called freak-hunter in 19th century Martinique, gave up the world of sideshows to become a popular Parisian courtesan. Both of Blanche’s vaginas (now known to be a condition called dipygus) were in good working order, but two of her four breasts were rudimentary nippled appendages. Her vaginas were thought to make her doubly rampant, so when she heard of a man with three legs and two penises, obviously the penetrative possibilities piqued her interest. Rumor has it she tracked down Portuguese Juan Baptista Dos Santos and began a genitally superfluous affair. Juan, the more famous of the two, was a handsome man, who, on top of his two fully formed functioning penises, had a malformed stub of a leg, which hung loosely out of no man’s land. He agreed to exhibit himself in medical circuses and be perused by sideshows. He was said to use both penises in bed, or when one tired, swap to the other. Although, medically, this is unlikely. Blanche was not the only resourceful woman who turned her "freak" status into erotic employment. To supplement the touring life of the carnival, some found men curious to copulate with whatever unusual bodily concoction they had been born with. Much evidence is in the comprehensive (if medically full of shit) Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, written at the height of freak fervour in 1890s. One prostitute described had labia and external genitalia, but no vagina, uterus, or ovaries. She let men take her up the urethra, which, by the time she turned 18, had become saggy, with a grim future of urinary incontinence lurking around the corner. There is a similar tale of a Hindu prostitute who was born without arms--just fleshy protuberances--but apparently, the toe-job isn’t a total myth. Even without direct prostitution, there was an erotic undertone in displaying people’s bodies for others’ perverse pleasure. Human "marvels" have been put on display since the early 1600s, when there was little understanding of congenital deformities or rare diseases. By the 1800s, freak shows became so popular that freak-recruiting was a full-time career option, and men would scour the world for new attractions. It was a way for someone who could otherwise become a social outcast to make a living, with the most famous earning several hundred pounds a week, while others were unsurprisingly exploited. Many of the displays were semi-pornographic, such as the hermaphrodites or hairy women (sufferers of hypertrichosis) who were made to pose half-naked, which is of course what everyone wanted to see. Acts were displayed in husband-and-wife couples, encouraging the audience’s minds to boggle with the ins and outs of their awkward sex life. Some were faked, such as the World’s Tallest Man act alongside the World’s Smallest Woman. Percilla "The Monkey Girl" was promoted with her real-life husband Emmitt Bejano, "The Alligator-Skinned Man" (a condition called ichthyosis) as the World’s Strangest Married Couple. She said men would shout at her, "When are you going to take your dress off?” and "Whatcha got underneath?" To which she would reply, “Well, uh, not what you got, man”. Some freak shows eventually faced charges in the 1970s for pornography--as in explicit, exploitative and indecent display--though many of the acts contested this. Some women became celebrities in their own right, like conjoined twins the Blazek sisters, and Myrtle Corbin, the Four-Legged Girl (who also had two vaginas), and would receive many offers of marriage. Mexican Julia Pastrana was born around 1830 possessing full-body hair and a jutting jaw, as well as poise, intelligence, and a buxom figure. She was bought from her mother and exhibited on Broadway as the The Marvelous Hybrid (or Bear Woman). Despite her appearance, she received over 20 wedding proposals in her lifetime, so to protect his investment, her "handler" Theodore Lent forced her to marry him and kept her locked in his house between shows. She got pregnant but both her and her son--who also suffered from hypertrichosis--died while Julia was giving birth. In a necrophiliac's macabre fantasy, Lent mummified the dead bodies of his wife and son, and displayed their pickled remains to curious onlookers for a shilling. Eventually, to meet demand, tour operators began faking freaks, and sideshows were soon seen as dark and seedy institutions associated with fraud, crime, and prostitution. By the 50s, the public abandoned these shows with demands for acts to be treated with dignity, and instead the world began building its own freaks. Poor old Lola. CAMERON KING e-left

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