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The poor’s revenge on the powerful: sex and taboos

SOCIETY-PAOLO-BRANCA[2]smileChildren’s nursery rhymes, popular sayings and jokes have always been the way the poor have taken at least some revenge on the powerful, often and at times going beyond the limits that otherwise common sense, decency and even the precepts of religious laws would deem insurmountable.
Physiological needs and religious questions, as we have seen, are not absent from the repertoire, but it is certainly the sexual sphere that exercises the greatest attraction, multiplying the comic effect thanks to the strength of the taboos.

“A man complained about a boil that was giving him great discomfort. ‘And what’s more it’s right on the most despicable part of my body!’ he concluded. ‘That’s funny, – came the reply – we can’t see anything on your face!”

After having made love to the maidservant, a master told her not to say anything to his wife. ‘Of course not! – the girl answered – She’s been having it off for five years with so-and-so… how could I complete with her for just one fling!”

A pious man ended up in a red-light district and was forced to go  with a prostitute, Very embarrassed, but fearful of the consequences that he would have suffered if he refused to do the deed with her, he suggested pretending, but he heard the girl answer him: ‘What sort of a pious man are you? You suggest lying and today’s Friday!’”.

A caliph was wondering whether to buy a slave. ‘Are you a virgin or what?’ he suddenly asked her. ‘My Prince… I am what’. And he took her for her cleverness”

An absent-minded servant placed his hand on his master’s thigh. ‘What are you doing!’ he exclaimed. ‘I’m sorry, Your Excellency – the servant replied – I though it was the mistress!”

Two characters in particular, the first dear to Arab tradition (and common throughout the Mediterranean with similar names) Joha, the other, better known in Central Asia, Nasreddin, are the prototype of the simple man but not without a certain cunning, always ready to prove the gullibility of the poor and ignorant inhabitants of the country or their shrewdness, capable of saving them in the nick of time in harebrained and embarrassing situations.

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