Juliet Lapidos in Slate:
Italy’s highest appeals court ruled that a 42-year-old workman broke the law by “ostentatiously touching his genitals through his clothing” and must pay a 200 euro fine, the Telegraph reported Friday. The U.K. paper also noted that crotch-grabbing is a common habit among superstitious Italian males, who believe the gesture wards off bad luck. What does the crotch have to do with luck?
It’s the seat of fertility. The crotch grab goes back at least to the pre-Christian Roman era and is closely associated with another superstition called the “evil eye“—the belief that a covetous person can harm you, your children, or your possessions by gazing at you. Cultural anthropologists conjecture that men would try to block such pernicious beams by shielding their genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset: the future fruit of their loins. Over the centuries, the practice shifted. Men covered their generative organs not only to defend against direct malevolence but also in the presence of anything ominous, like a funeral procession.