31 January 2010
Take one image - possibly a woodcut of a young lady, sitting at her dressing table, or a gentleman on a beach, drying himself with a towel. Note that the image has cut-out regions: the young lady's legs appear to be missing, and the gentlemen's buttocks have been replaced with a suspiciously-shaped hole.
Having read the instructions, place one's hands appropriately behind the image, filling the gaps, as directed, with skin. Mmm... sensuous, realistic, strokable skin! Well, actually we all know it's just fingertips, but to the repressed and easily-amused Victorian masses a gentleman on the beach sans knitted swimsuit was akin to hardcore porn. As for the lady, her legs nicely filled in with a pair of fingers, the knuckles cunningly forming her knees... well, it certainly brought a giggle to after-dinner proceedings, and led quite nicely to the suggestive songs about coconuts.
The practice, unsurprisingly, was a subject of much controversy. The Reverend F.B. Cummings got into quite a stew over the practice, declaring forcefully 'The hand was not meant for this, Sir'. Others disagreed and a range of high society members proclaimed its virtues, even as the practice dwindled.
Strangely, furtling lives on. A good source of history is The Naughty Victorian Handbook: Furtling: The Rediscovered Art Of Erotic Hand Manipulation by Burton Silver and Jeremy Bennet. Alternately, the internet can be relied on, as usual, to produce a range of people who think furtling is more fun than a barrelful of monkeys.
A gallery at www.xenophilia.com features such diverse individuals as Sarah, 23, who runs an ostrich farm, and Bill, 30, an Egyptologist, who are all keen to show you their 'finger buttocks'.
Also, there are exciting things afoot at Fentiman's, with only the slightest ulterior motive. I tried the ginger beer once, and I must say I wasn't entirely impressed.