Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) was a London-born physician and author who specialised in research into human sexuality, particularly sexual behaviours that departed from what was considered normal, at least in Ellis’ time. His interest and specialisation in sexuality was ironic, given that Ellis’ own marriage – to suffragist and women’s rights campaigner Edith Lees, an open lesbian – was largely sexless.
Writing in 1903, Ellis detailed his interviews with “GR”, an unnamed officer who had served with the Indian colonial army. “GR” admitted to an active bisexual sex life: from interaction with other boys at school, to encounters with a host of foreign prostitutes, to affairs with his fellow military officers. But when partners were unavailable and “GR” turned to self pleasure, he confessed to making “carnal use” of fruit, specifically, melons and papaya. According to “GR”, masturbating with tropical fruit was “most satisfactory”.
In the same work Ellis also details his discussions with Captain Kenneth Searight, a notorious pederast who was also stationed in India. Searight kept a diary listing his sexual liaisons with no less than 129 local boys, describing their ages, appearance and the number of orgasms with each.
Cotton Mather was a Puritan minister and writer in early colonial Boston, best remembered for his contribution to the Salem witch trials. Mather’s puritanical religious views also informed his understanding of science and medicine. His unpublished book, The Angel of Bethesda, was an account of how physical and mental illnesses were caused by spiritual ailments, such as gross immorality and demonic possession. But The Angel of Bethesda also included practical hints for dealing with sickness, like this one for kidney stones:
“Take the pizzle [penis] of a green turtle, dry it with a moderate heat and pulverise it. Of this take as much as may lay upon a shilling, in beer, ale or white wine. It works a speedy cure! Yea, the turtle diet will do wonders for the stone.”
Cannabis sativa was grown widely in the late Middle Ages and beyond, though not for its narcotic properties. Most cannabis [hemp] was used for rope-making, while commoners sometimes used young plants, seeds and pressed oil for food. Medieval and early modern physicians were aware that eating large amounts of cannabis-based foods could induce delirium or euphoria.
Writing around 1551, the Hungarian physician Paulus Kyr urged caution when nibbling on cannabis:
“Cannabis seeds are bad for the head if eaten in great quantity. [They] create foul humours and dry up the genital seed. They are difficult to digest, but are not harmful if crushed with vinegar and honey.”