“In 1068, a group of Norman women demanded that William the Conqueror release their husbands from military service so that they could return home and satisfy their wives’ sexual needs. Four centuries later, the Catholic Church determined that the Virgin Mary had conceived her son through her ear and decreed therefore that this organ be covered in public. Sex is a function of its time. Throughout these thousand years, views on woman’s sexuality have reflected the ebb and flow of morality, science and religious thought. Some of the following observations will seem remarkably advanced, some familiar, some bizarre. But when it was proclaimed, each rang with the confidence of truth.
A woman experiences ”three delights in intercourse: one from the motion of her own sperm, a second from the motion of the male sperm and a third from the motion or rubbing that takes place in coitus.” — From ”The Canon of Medical Knowledge,” a compendium by Avicenna, the Arab physician and philosopher, circa 1030 (translated into Latin in the 12th century)” ”Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force…or influence.” — St. Thomas Aquinas, 13th century
”If the suffocation [of the uterus] comes from a retention of her sperm, the woman should get together with and draw up a marriage contract with some man. If she does not or cannot do this, because she is a nun…or because she is married to an old man incapable of giving her her due, she should travel overseas.…” — John of Gaddesden, of the faculty of medicine at Oxford University, 14th century
”In order to enter, the man must give many caresses…and consider the readiness of his wife; then, he must move in and out, in this way he will succeed. Then he must attempt to release all his sperm in one burst, not in dribbles, nor must he raise or lower himself, as is commonly done for pleasure, but instead remain fixed in the hole so that the air cannot enter and corrupt the seed.” — From the Italian physician Michele Savonorola’s guide to pregnancy, 15th century
‘Ohime! The devil knows how to do so much between husband and wife. He makes them touch and kiss not only the honest parts but the dishonest ones as well. Even just to think about it, I am overwhelmed by horror, fright and bewilderment.… You call this holy matrimony?’ — From ”Rules of Married Life,” by Brother Cherubino da Siena, 15th century
”Let’s not even mention wives who constantly ask for payments on the conjugal debt.…We’re talking about women who want to grind night and day, all the time, who in the end unwittingly lead us to acquire the virtue of temperance.” — From Grappa, the nom de plume of an Italian writer, lampooning the tyranny of conjugal debt, 1545
‘Womb-Furie is a sort of madness, arising from a vehement and unbridled desire of Carnal Inbracement, which desire disthrones the Rational Faculty so far, that the Patient utters wanton and lascivious Speeches.’ — Lazar Riverius, a French authority on anatomy and medicine, describing what came to be known in later centuries as hysteria, 17th century
”The clitoris is a sinewy and hard body.…This is that which causeth lust in women, and gives delight in copulation, for without this a woman neither desires copulation or hath pleasure in it, or conceives by it.” — From ”A Directory for Midwives, or a Guide for Women in Their Conception, Bearing and Suckling Their Children,” by Nicolas Culpeper, an English herbalist and medical authority on rearing children, 1651”