Turning Cartwheels as Sexual Display

Discussion in 'The Cesspool' started by River Ape, Sep 1, 2015.

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  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    This is one of the times when we pause to question priorities.

    The symbolism you refer to does exist, yet what makes it any sort of priority to you? This I would leave as a rhetorical question.

    Additionally, we cannot necessarily translate rural African custom and implication so directly; depending on where one is in Africa, or anywhere else in the world, such behavior can have different meanings. Then again, if one insists on sexual focus, Jomo Kenyatta's Facing Mt. Kenya is essential reading, as is Norman O. Brown's summary of Freudianism, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History.

    Also remember the question of thrills; there are perhaps two in play in a Western setting we might pause to consider. There is the sexual, but there is also that of the forbidden, and in modern Western cultures blending the two is nearly inevitable. I cannot, for instance, account for certain behavioral changes I observe in my daughter; her aunt and grandmother―on my side of the family―were hounding her last weekend with the words "bra and underwear" in the wake of an apparent post-Edwardian meltdown at the prospect of actually shopping for underwear. And while there are certain inevitable processes occurring in both mind and brain at the root, the specific shame results from propositions of the forbidden, the taboo, from her maternal grandparents; this is a result of overaccentuation of sexual purity expectations and principles, which in turn results from the grandparents' own neurotic messes―i.e., a matter of priorities.

    It might be that you don't recall much literature on the subject because it wasn't there. While the fetishization certainly exists, like many others it emerges more apparently in the information superhighway; rare pornographies now have astoundingly deep libraries on sites around the world, and girls flashing while doing cartwheels is a genre unto itself that is further divided into subcategories.

    Comparatively, this one is understandable in its basic form. The taboos involved are the same reason we have cheerleaders in short skirts, and seem the only reasons men watch women's ice skating or tennis.

    And there is an identifiable phenomenon by which society seems to find excuses to allow and even encourage taboo behavior; compare a lady's responsibility to her skirts with the expectations toward a female cheerleader―they are inherently incongruous, but people can invent special occasions to license anything.

    But in the case of young girls turning cartwheels in the park, I would indeed look to your own priorities. Nor does this imply pedophilia or anything specifically dark. Nostalgia is powerful; I remember being a young boy and thrilling at a glimpse of brassiere―Holy shit! That one's dark red!―and counting teddy bears on her underwear visible through light-colored pants. But it's also true I can't tell you when it transformed from the generally forbidden―the same reason six year-old boys try to peek in on their older cousin in the bathroom―to the specifically sexual.

    Sorting out why a particular aspect stands out to any individual is a difficult task, but also one I encourage both in general and particular.

    Thus, perhaps your question about an almost sexual thrill is wrongly phrased; one might note Ferenczi's postulated confusion of tongues, in which case the first question becomes whether a thrill derives from the sexual in particular or the forbidden in general. That is to say, perhaps you are observing something genuine, but assigning internalized values to the behaviors instead of considering them according to the fact of other people. That is, perhaps the young girl is tapping some interpretation of sexuality, but is it hers? What if the thrill of the cartwheel is just the risk of being unladylike? Of spreading her legs and maybe someone might possibly be able to glimpse her underwear. Can we be certain it is "sexual", or is it merely the thrill of breaking the rules, which in this case might well be established according to familial standards that happen to include certain foci derived from, say, the parents' sexual outlooks? In the moment she breaks the rules, is it really sexual?

    That, in the end, seems a presupposition that doesn't necessarily fit.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Cool, thanks!
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  5. Secular Sanity Registered Senior Member

    The cartwheel itself as a female sexual display? Boys were doing them long before girls. Did you happen to Google the history of gymnastics?

    "The name was derived from the word gymnos, which is the Greek word for naked because the men generally trained and competed naked. As a result of the nudity, women were not originally allowed to participate in the sport."


    Are you wanting to know if sports can be understood as biologically or culturally invented courtship rituals?

    Block and Dewitte argued in their paper that there are good reasons to view sports as culturally evolved signaling systems that serve a function similar to (biological) courtship rituals in other animals. They did point out, though, that sports serve other functions besides mate selection.

    Darwinism and the Cultural Evolution of Sports (Andreas De Block and Siegfried Dewitte)
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  7. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I doubt that the Greeks invented cartwheels. My guess is that cartwheels were invented before cart wheels.
  8. Secular Sanity Registered Senior Member

    Well, my guess is that they evolved from fitness regimes used by the ancient Greeks.
  9. Oystein Registered Senior Member

    This is pretty sexy . . .

  10. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Well, I can foresee no meeting of minds between Bells and myself, but just let me touch on a few things.

    Bells: A boy kicking a ball to practice football is no different to a little girl practising doing cartwheels.
    Very different. Both are very specific activities and an evolutionary psychologist will seek to understand them in the context of mankind’s long history. Boys games tend to involve more players, more specialisation, more coordination between players, and a greater need for spatial awareness (being in the right place). They are also more combative. The skills honed by boys games tend to be those required by the hunter and the warrior. So thinking along these lines will provide an explanation.

    Bells: What is to challenge? You were talking about cartwheels.
    I have also discussed the issue of cartwheels offline, and since I was insisting that there was always an specific explanation for particular human behaviours, I was asked, “So why do girls skip more than boys?” I thought this was an intelligent question.

    Well, it just so happened that I had once had a conversation with a manufacturer of skipping ropes. The origin of standardised manufactured skipping ropes dates back to sometime around the development of the railway. (I am talking about the UK here.) The reason is not immediately obvious, but the advent of the railway had a big literary impact. It provided the means for the distribution of periodicals and therefore led to the creation of many new ones. In turn, this enabled the mass-marketing of standardised manufactured goods. Skipping ropes were marketed to the new middle class as providing a suitably chaste form of exercise for their daughters. Mothers were anxious that girls should not “cavort” (to use a favourite word of the time). Skipping, as I said before, kept them upright. So girls rather than boys became the prime user of this new manufactured product. Thereafter, boys thought of skipping as a girls thing and were disinclined to take advantage of the equally fine exercise which skipping provides to either sex. I am willing to be convinced by that explanation until I hear anything better.

    My reason for going into this was to demonstrate that specific activities have particular explanations. In my eyes, saying that turning cartwheels is just gymnastics does not sufficiently address the issue. If, for example, some medical explanation could be found for why inversion of the body was especially beneficial to six to twelve year old girls, that would be most satisfactory. The fact that I failed to think of one before looking elsewhere for explanations does not mean that there may not be one.

    I hope the above answers your perfectly reasonable question, Daecon. (Could it be possible that handstands and cartwheels and such are just play behaviours like running around?)

    First Human Use of Clothing
    I said in a previous post that I would address this issue. This is an anteresting topic but a side issue that does not really belong here. If someone would like to open another thread, I would try to find time to respond to it, as I am not overimpressed by some of what I have read on the topic.

    Bells: They [girls] aren’t baboons.
    Well, as one great ape to another, I don’t think I look down on other species as much as you do. Nothing wrong in finding similarities.

    Bells: Have you ever actually studied … how mates are chosen?
    I have not had the opportunities I should have liked if the length of a lifetime were greater. But you seem to be suggesting that competition by girls for the prize hunk does not exist in primitive tribes. I assert that most anthropologists would disagree. Let’s find one!

    Bells: … gymnastics, which included doing cartwheels, was invented in ancient Greece. And no, it wasn’t for women, but aimed at men.
    Uh! I think people were performing exercises since forever. The Greek word γυμναστική did not refer to gymnastics in the sense we understand it today. It referred to military training for men. What is your evidence that it included doing cartwheels? As one who lived practically opposite the British Museum for more than twenty years, I have no recollection of any Greek urn depicting an inverted man. It would be a rarity, I think. Below, however, is an inverted ancient Greek woman!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Well, that will have to do for tonight.
  11. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Tiassa, Thank you for your post. I will reread it at leisure and may have more to say. But as you remark on my apparent special interest in this subject, I think I should mention that cartwheels have been big news in the UK recently. One school banned them as dangerous. At another, a head teacher attracted massive controversy in the social media, including an extraordinary degree of opprobrium, for ordering girls to wear shorts under their skirts if they intended to do cartwheels in the playground.
  12. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    When does this disturbing thread get flushed to the cesspool?
  13. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Cartwheeling up mount Olympus to attack the gods.
    Long ago we were united man and woman with 4 arms, 4 legs and 2 heads. We were the Androgyne. With 4 arms and 4 legs, we were very good at cartwheeling, so one day, we decided to cartwheel up mount Olympus and conquer/displace the gods. And so we started turning and turning ever faster then up onto the lower slopes of the mountain of the gods.
    The gods, it would seem, were a bit alarmed. We seemed to have picked the wrong fight with the wrong gods. So, Zeus split us in half, then took the extant skin and pulled it into a knot and created our belly buttons. We missed our other halves terribly and felt loneliness. So we were doomed to run about hugging each other in a perpetual quest to find our other halves-----our soul mates. And, to this day we continue to search for an end to our loneliness.

    Sexy enough for you?
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  14. Oystein Registered Senior Member

    I fear that this "thesis" is far from complete and besides, I don't think this dude has exhausted his grant money yet -- they have to waste every last penny of taxpayer dollars you know.
  15. Secular Sanity Registered Senior Member

    Here's an inverted male. From what I gather, the female pyrrhic dancers were impersonating the males and mimicking the war dance to entertain.

  16. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    From Crete:

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    OK it ain't no cartwheel.
    Are the depicted humans male or female?
  17. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member


    So is the bovine.
  18. Bells Staff Member

    That would be because there is no scientific support for your thesis.

    And you are yet to do so.

    I am thinking along those lines and you are still failing to support your claim.

    Let's have a look at actual hunter gatherer societies and most importantly, the role of children and the role of play in those societies.

    Children in hunter gatherer societies play. That is all they do. They have a lot of freedom.

    And not unexpectedly, the children's play mimic the adults around them. This point is vitally important:

    Hunter-gatherer children are never isolated from adult activities. They observe directly all that occurs in camp—the preparations to move; the building of huts; the making and mending of tools and other artifacts; the food preparation and cooking; the nursing and care of infants; the precautions taken against predators and diseases; the gossip, discussions, arguments, and politics; the songs, dances, festivities, and stories. They sometimes accompany adults on food-gathering trips, and by age ten or so, boys sometimes accompany men on hunting trips. They pay attention to the adult activities around them. In the course of their daily lives, they see and hear everything that is relevant to becoming a successful adult in their culture, and they have the opportunity to explore all of this and incorporate it into their play. They play at the activities they observe in the adults around them, and they become good at those activities. As they grow older, their play turns gradually into the real thing. There is no sharp division between playful participation and real participation in the valued activities of the group.

    Our survey question about the forms of hunter-gatherer children’s play elicited many examples of valued adult activities that were mimicked regularly by children in play. Digging up tubers, fishing, smoking porcupines out of holes, cooking, caring for infants, climbing trees, building vine ladders, building huts, using knives and other tools, making tools, carrying heavy loads, building rafts, making fires, defending against attacks from predators, imitating animals (a means of identifying animals and learning their habits), making music, dancing, storytelling, and arguing were all mentioned by one or more respondents. The specific lists varied from culture to culture in accordance with differences in the skills that were exemplified by adults in each culture. All of the respondents said that boys in the culture they studied engaged in a great deal of playful hunting. The two respondents who studied the Agta—a culture in which women as well as men regularly hunt—noted that girls as well as boys in this culture engaged in playful hunting. In their study of peoples involved in both agriculture and foraging, Bock and Johnson found that the proportion of boys’ playtime devoted to a game of aimed stick-throwing, which seemed to enhance hunting skill, correlated positively with the degree to which their households gained subsistence through hunting.78

    Apparently, when children are free to do what they want, they spend much of their time playing at the very activities that they see from direct experience are most crucial for success in their culture.79 Their conscious motive is fun, not education. It is exciting for children, everywhere, to pretend that they are powerful, competent adults, doing beautifully and skillfully what they see the adults around them doing. From an evolutionary perspective, it is no coincidence that children function in such a way.

    Now, apply this standard to modern society.

    Boys play football, baseball, etc, in parks, they are simply mimicking what adult males do, well the adult males they wish to be like. The same with girls who go into gymnastics, for example. It is because they wish to be successful at gymnastics, so they practice and it is incorporated in their play.

    Children mimic and they always have. That is how they learn and in that sense, play becomes a vital component to these children learning. So a girl doing cartwheels is not learning to attract a mate. She is practicing to be good at it as the adults she may think are good at it. Just as boys who play soccer in the park every day, are mimicking adults who play soccer because that is what they want to do.

    Had you read the links provided in my previous post, this answer would have been very obvious.

    All children skipped rope and it was because it was cheap and easy form of play for children.

    I would suggest you refer to "Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society, Volume 1", page 342, which deals specifically with skipping ropes and its history as a toy or something that children played: https://books.google.com.au/books?i... of Play in Today's Society, Volume 1&f=false

    In other words, the facts do not support your story. If you have actual evidence that states otherwise, please link it.

    Remember, this is a science sub-forum. You are expected to support your claims.

    Turning cartwheels is just gymnastics.

    Just like kicking a round ball towards a goal is just soccer.

    Please stick to science and not bizarre whimsy that you dream up when watching little girls do cartwheels.

    You have yet to support your claims that cartwheels is a form of sexual training for girls to try to attract boys.

    You have been provided with numerous links explaining the history of gymnastics which literally explain why you are wrong and how. If you have evidence to the contrary, then it is for you to post it.

    You were the one who brought it up to begin with and it was addressed and you were proven wrong.

  19. Bells Staff Member

    Firstly, a baboon's mating behaviour varies widely within the species and there are no similarities, unless you are going to claim that a female baboon presenting her swollen rump to the face of a preferred or dominant male is the same as a little girl doing cartwheels, in which case I would again demand you support it with evidence.

    Secondly, baboons flash their very bright and colourful backsides for a multitude of reasons. One of which is to show they are ready to mate.

    That does not mean a little girl doing cartwheels is practicing to do the same.

    Finally, girls tend to stop doing cartwheels in parks or as forms of play once they reach puberty, unless they are furthering their gymnastics as a sport or continue to be interested in gymnastics.

    In other words, when girls mature out of that 'play' phase of their lives, and start to become interested in boys, they are not out there doing cartwheels in front of boys to show they are interested in them.

    That depends on the tribe.

    I would suggest you read up on the matter before presenting any thesis.

    In some communities, for example, girls would be kidnapped and taken to a neighbouring tribe. In others, partnerships or what we see to be 'marriages' would be determined by the parents, and a price paid. Links were provided in the previous post to explain this. Perhaps you can start there and actually read up on the subject first.

    What they have found is that parents have a very big role and say in the matter. Here is some more reading for you:

    "Evolutionary History of Hunter-Gatherer Marriage Practices": http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0019066

    "Sexual selection under parental choice: the role of parents in the evolution of human mating": http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513807000517

    "Sexual selection under parental choice in agropastoral societies": http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513809000634

    It actually referred to exercising while naked. Something men and males did in ancient Greece.

    You can read about it more here: http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/Content/205128/16_STUDIES_18_4.pdf


    Do you know what "Pyrrhicists" means? They were dancers. And had you provided the whole image and description underneath, that would have been clear:

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    The following woodcut, taken from vases, shows three Pyrrhicists, two of whom with shield and sword are engaged in the dance, while the third is standing with a sword. Above them is a female balancing herself on the head of one, and apparently in the act of performing a somersault; she no doubt is taking part in the dance, and performing a very artistic kind of tumbling. Her danger is increased by the person below, who holds a sword pointing towards her. A second female may be providing music or be a spectator.

    Can you please explain why you left all of that out?

    And for further clarification, "Pyrrhicists" are dancers who dance the Pyrrhiche. It is a weapon dance, or a war dance, that originated in Crete.
  20. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Bells, I have long known enough Greek to know that gymnastics referred to nakedness. Gymnastics was not simply exercise but the practice of battle skills. You seemed to be saying earlier that gymnastics (by which, in the absence of clarification, you presumably meant something akin to modern gymnastics) began in Greece, involved only men [true], and that therefore turning cartwheels began with men. You have presented no evidence that Greek gymnasts performed cartwheels. I am sure it must have happened now and then, but it is not a skill useful on the battlefield! There are innumerable urns depicting life in ancient Greece, including gymnastics, but I cannot recall seeing anyone turning a cartwheel. The nearest I could get in three or four minutes looking was the female in the woodcarving. I left attached to the illustration just enough to indicate that the figures were Greek. BTW, are you sure that Pyrrhicists were not travelling performers who took their name from the acrobat Pyrrhikos rather than from the dance he is credited with creating? I think you may underestimate their repertoire. (Just a suggestion; not a claim -- and scarcely worth pursuing anyway.)

    Bells: All children skipped rope and it was because it was cheap and easy form of play for children.
    You mean, like it has always been easy to find a piece of rope? I don't think so; that's why there was an opening for the manufactured skipping rope. But I am sure there were rope substitutes and that you now know more about skipping from the dawn of time than I will ever know. I do not need to be persuaded that skipping is equally suitable for both boys and girls.

    But in my youth in Britain, skipping was almost exclusively a girls thing. Do you challenge that assertion or require some sort of scientific proof? The explanation given to me by a Dundee rope manufacturer -- that this was because parents saw skipping as a suitably safely chaste form of exercise for girls -- was one I found convincing. Do you have a better one?

    More when I can find time.
  21. Bells Staff Member

    River Ape, I have provided numerous links, which deal with each and every single claim you have made, including the history of skipping ropes, from when ancient Egyptians did it with vines, to modern day skipping rope, as well as providing information on how it was mostly a boy's sport and play and girls adopted it in the last few hundred years as a form of play. Perhaps you should read them instead of asking for more.

    If you persist in doing this while failing to support your claims with any evidence, then I will Cesspool this thread.
  22. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Bells: Can you link these periodicals where Victorian mothers were advocating skipping ropes as presents for girls?
    Unsurprisingly, they have not been digitized. Nor do I have a recording of my conversation with the rope manufacturer. ("Tuppence worth of rope; ha'pence worth of handles; and you had a shilling shipping rope. A nice little earner.") It may be possible to find out online when the skipping rope became a mass-produced manufactured product. But nothing I have read about the Dutch or the use of vines, etc, seems to impinge upon the British experience. I can quite believe there was a revival in the fifties, but that has no particular relevance. In skimming what the web has to offer, I have not yet hit upon an explanation for why skipping became more popular with girls than boys, especially when boys are the more given to physical pursuits. I give up. Tell me!

    I apologise for not responding more quickly to many points that have been raised. Be patient! My small business keeps me busy for many hours a day.
  23. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Tiassa: "Also remember the question of thrills; there are perhaps two in play in a Western setting we might pause to consider. There is the sexual, but there is also that of the forbidden, and in modern Western cultures blending the two is nearly inevitable."
    Absolutely right! And not only do thrills need to be considered, there is also teasing.

    When my erstwhile botanist friend recounted his experiences in Malawi (I think it was), his wife was present. Addressing us both, he laughed: "I thought to myself, I don't know what my Sue would say about this." Sue responded with what I thought was a very apposite comment. She suggested immediately that the cartwheeling girls were teasing because they were quite safe from anything coming from it -- but they probably enjoyed the thrill.

    But the girls had to be aware that it was sexual behaviour and not just "playing and laughing and showing off" as Bells suggests. They did, didn't they? Bells asks me to be scientific, but sometimes one can only make an appeal to what seems reasonable.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
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