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The Arab Strap

6 oz Strong Black Coffee
2 Cardamom Pods
1 Twist of Orange
2 Demerara Sugar Cubes (2 tsp)

1 oz Pusser’s Rum
0.5 oz Molasses

Pinch cardamom pods to slightly break outer hull
Add coffee, sugar, and cardamom to a small sauce pan
Twist orange peel over pan and add to coffee
Heat to boil, then remove from heat, setting aside for a few minutes

Combine rum and molasses, add to a coffee cup
Return coffee in pan to boil, then add hot contents to the coffee mug
No one will begrudge you a dollop of whipped cream and/or some nutmeg

* * *

Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless gods who are for ever, those that were born of Earth and starry Heaven and gloomy Night and them that briny Sea did rear. Tell how at the first gods and earth came to be… These things declare to me from the beginning, ye Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, and tell me which of them first came to be.
– The Theogony of Hesiod, 700BC

The answer to that question – which among the Greek gods came first, springing from chaos along with the Earth and the Underworld – was Eros.  Yup, once the place was in place, the first order of business was to get busy.  The same thing is true in the Bible.  God creates man and woman and immediately instructs them to make with the babies.  For our forefathers, it seems, sex was at the top of the honey-do list.

As humans have been roughly anatomically the same for about 100,000 years, it’s a safe bet that what feels good today felt equally good back then.  But feeling isn’t the only consideration; the mores of our community have always had a profound affect on what we – and those around us – deem appropriate.  University of Toronto psychologist Edward Shorter in his “Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire” tells us:  “…what people actually experience is always a mixture of biological and social conditioning: Desire surges from the body, the mind interprets what society will accept and what not, and the rest of the signals are edited out by culture.”  But what if the mind refuses to accept the prevailing societal norms?  Well, that’s when things get interesting.

As the Industrial Revolution lured more and more people to the cities, the close proximity of all those bodies led to the first real modern sexual revolution.  Not only did the late 1800s see the birth of a more liberal attitude towards sex in general, it also saw the rise of clinical studies of the subject.  In 1886, Austrian Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing published his “Psychopathia Sexualis: Eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie” (Sexual Psychopathy: a Clinical-Forensic Study), which explored the concepts of deviant behavior from a very medical-legal-Catholic point of view (if it didn’t lead to making babies, it was most likely deviant).   One English translation subtitles the book “Contrary Sexual Instinct”, which pretty clearly states what’s inside.

Krafft-Ebing divided abnormal sexuality into four basic groups:  Paradoxia (sexual excitement occurring independently of the period of the physiological processes in the generative organs), Anaethesia (the absence of sexual instinct), Hyperanaethesia (increased desire), and Paraethesia (perversion of the sexual instinct).  All four, Krafft-Ebing declared to be psycho-pathological cerebral anomalies, and as mentioned, Krafft-Ebing’s personal point-of-view and belief system is prominent throughout.  Consider:  “The aim and ideal of woman, even when she is sunken in the mire of vice, is, and remains, marriage”  or “A man of right feeling, no matter how sensual he may be, demands a wife that has been, and is, chaste”, or “Under all circumstances a dandified man is ridiculous.”  As we said, if it didn’t make babies, Krafft-Ebing placed it in the deviant column.

Where “Psychopathia Sexualis” really gets moving, however, is in Part III with chapters like “Sadistic lust-murder” and “Violation of corpses”.  Not that we’re advocating such behavior – after all, we’re just here for the drinks – but as Krafft-Ebing’s finding were based on case studies, there are some pretty graphic descriptions therein.  Which leads us to believe that the Victorians weren’t as uptight and together as we’re prone to believe.  But while Krafft-Ebing focused on the psychosis of the individual, others, such as Alfred Binet (inventor of the IQ test), promoted the idea that it was nurture – or circumstance – not nature that lay at the heart of our erotic ills.  Binet’s work was primarily in fetishism – or stimulation from outside objects – so, it’s clear why he would perceive external stimuli as central to sexual disorder.  For better or worse, the work of both Krafft-Ebing and Binet would soon be challenged by the growing voice of Sigmund Freud and the invention of psychoanalysis.

Of course, despite great advances in the field of human psycho-sexuality, Victorian women were still pretty much considered non-sexual, baby-making machines.  In “Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs” (1865), Dr. William Acton concluded that women had no need for sex.  Similarly, Dr. Mary Wood Allen, who wrote “What a Young Girl Ought to Know” (1897), espoused that the platonic embrace was the high point of any adult relationship.  Dr. Allen was, you should know, World Superintendent of the Purity Department,Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (a title I am promptly going to add to my LinkedIn profile).  So, if women weren’t capable of sexual feelings, what exactly were those strange rumblings down there?

In recent years, much has been made of the Victorian doctors who would “cure” women of their “hysteria” via manual stimulation of their, well, hysterical parts.  Many claim that this wasn’t as widespread as some would have us believe.  Still, in 1869, American doctor George Taylor patented the “Manipulator” – the first vibrator to be used for “female disorders”.  Not only did the Manipulator, which was sold to spas and physicians, come with instructions that patients should always be supervised for fear of overindulgence, it was steam-powered (yup, just like a train).  Of course, when there’s demand, innovation comes quickly, and by the early 1880s, the first battery powdered vibrators had hit the market.   At the Paris Exposition of 1900, more than a dozen such devices were on display, and by 1918 vibrators aimed at women’s home use were not only featured in many of the prominent periodicals (Modern Woman, Hearst’s, McClure’s), they had made it into the Sears catalog.  In a section entitled, appropriately enough, “Aids That Every Woman Appreciates”, motor-driven and portable vibrators are featured alongside electric fans, radiators, mixers, and buffer-grinder attachments.

But, of course, sexual aids were nothing new.  Scientists have discovered what they believe to be early versions dating back as far as 26,000 BC, which makes one ponder if – when the word was sent out from on high that we should all get busy with one another – everyone didn’t just start fiddling with their own bits first.  Which brings us to the Arab strap, the namesake of today’s drink.

We’re told that the Arab strap is an erection-prolonging device consisting of metal rings and leather straps.  I say “we’re told” because I can find no documented use of the term in that manner prior to 1995, which is when the Scottish band, Arab Strap, first broke onto the scene.  Of course, if you already know that fact, then you know that what really placed the question “What on Earth is an Arab Strap?” on the tongues of indie music fans around the world was the 1998 release of the Belle & Sebastian album “The Boy with the Arab Strap”.  The title and titular song make reference to the band Arab Strap, not the sexual device, although it is apparently the device which originally lent its name to the band.  Confused?  Here’s the easy version:  sex device begat name of Scottish band which inspired the name of a song/album of another Scottish band, which hit it big and made “Arab Strap” an indie household term.

In drink parlance, “strap” means blackstrap molasses, but we’ve appropriated it here for regular old molasses.  The impetus of the drink was to round out our Valentine’s offerings with a nice after-dinner quaff which not only relaxes but invigorates, should the night still be young.   Both Lesley and I have been fans of Turkish Coffee since my brother returned from the first Gulf War with a cache, and here is a drink that evokes those Eastern flavors – cardamom, orange peel, and dark, strong coffee – along with the molasses and rum of the Caribbean.  It’s got “Arab” qualities (loosely, we know) and “strap” – so, there’s the name for you.  We hope that the drink is a welcome addition to the spiced coffees of New Orleans and the Caribbean regions and well as those of the East.  It’s dark and complex, finishes sweetly, and should promote just enough relaxation and vigor to keep the evening going strong.

Should you choose to serve the Arab Strap, our only advice is to pick the appropriate origin story – either the male enhancement device or the Scottish indie rock scene, as conditions warrant.  Or, simply leave your company wondering, “What on Earth is an Arab Strap?”  Unless, of course, you’ve already shown them yours.

Esoterica: The 1904 Cadillac of vibrators, the Chattanooga, cost $200 plus shipping.  It was advised for use on both sexes.  If you are so inclined, pictures can be found here.

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