The satirists shared a talent for making other individuals feel uncomfortable, particularly by making them aware of their own moral inadequacies. They used irony, derision, and wit to attack human vice or folly. One method the satirist utilized to catch their readers' attention, while also making them feel uncomfortable, was to describe those things that were deemed inappropriate to discuss openly in society. The classical example of a topic that was discussed behind closed doors, yet the satirist used freely, was sex. Mention of such things as sex can always bring a giggle, excite feelings of hidden passion, or make one's cheeks rosy from embarrassment. John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, and Jonathan Swift, were two satirist that were noted for using perverse language and graphic depictions to elicit desired emotions from their readers and to wage their attacks on human folly.
To understand Rochester's use of sex in his work, one must understand his distaste for reason. This can be seen in his poem, A Satyr Against Mankind, when he comments:
"Women and Men of wit, are dang'rous tools, and ever fatal to admiring fools." Rochester viewed reason as a vice rather than an admirable trait in man. When man followed a course of action that was advised by reason he turned into a coward who often betrayed his ideals, his family, and his friends.
Rochester believed that to enjoy true happiness one must follow a course dictated by passion. Unlike reason, the passions do not betray one's senses and ideals. According to Rochester, the passions define who an individual is because the passions encompass one's emotions and desires. Reason cannot fully comprehend such a thing.
Rochester highlights this belief in his poem's with tales of lust and sexual innuendoes. He uses perverse language and topics not only to mock those that believe reason is the human faculty that can bring about self-satisfaction, but also to describe to his readers that sensual pleasure is the highest pleasure because sensual pleasure is derived from passion, not reason.
Rochester's poems rarely discuss love in the traditional sense; rather, he discusses it in a bodily context. Naturally, this would bring about the ire in any moralist. His poems make reference to ancient figures that draw on images of mass orgies and debauchery. He often uses language that elicits images of human genitalia. In his works, he even discusses how an individual's sexual drive cannot be satisfied or how an individual cannot perform sexually.
In Rochester's Upon His Drinking a Bowl, Rochester joins the aspect of alcohol with that of sex:
Cupid, and Bacchus, my Saints are,
May drink, and Love, still reign,
With Wine, I wash away my cares,
And then to Cunt again.
This attitude of sex and drunkenness is often associated with the ancient Greeks and Romans, who Rochester makes reference to through Cupid and Bacchus. The wine serves as a tool to rid oneself of their grasp on reason. It...