Adults Only.

18+ Minors Click Here

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 2

Cast Off Thine Taint and Become Taintless

In which I roll my eyes at Great Thinkers.


We owe a lot to the Greeks.  Sometimes what we owe them is a kick in the junk.

Just saying.

First off, we’ve got Aristotle.

The female is, as it were, a mutilated male.
– from Generation of Animals

I don’t happen to believe that’s the case, but I’m a woman that reads a lot, so it might my wandering uterus talking.

Galen knew about the clitoris, and he took the Aristotelian notion of “vital heat” straight to the genitals.

Before the eighteenth century, ideas about sexual difference were based on the Galenic notion that males and females basically had the same genitals. Women were considered essentially as “men in whom a lack of vital heat—of perfection—had resulted in the retention, inside, of structures that in the male are visible without.”

Kind of makes men sound like magic hot air balloons.  It also equates the vagina with the penis, completely ignoring the clitoris. This scrotal inflationary theory lasted until, ohhhh, the 1700′s or so, during which time the clitoris was “discovered” on a repeated basis.  As late at the 1500′s, though, scholars argued over whether or not it even existed, including Andreas Vesalius, the “Father of Modern Anatomy.”

Aren’t you glad you’re not that guy’s wife?


Vesalius, the Snarkster: “It is unreasonable to blame others for incompetence on the basis of some sport of nature you have observed in some women and you can hardly ascribe this new and useless part, as if it were an organ, to healthy women.”

So, for 2000 years or so, elite, educated men had all the anatomical sophistication of Anastasia Steele.

It was, at least academically, just “down there.”


Let’s just blame the whole, wide world.

There’s a running notion that Western sexual repression can be laid fully on Paul and Augustine.

Asceticism is a Greek word which originally applied to athletic training. It’s not a Jewish tradition. The kind of self-denial you see in the Judeo-Roman world around the time of Christ resembles Hindu and Buddhist practices.  Alexander was a bad ass; the Greeks made it to India, and trade routes spread knowledge as well as wealth. (This is how you end up with mouth breathers in Bible-based megachurches using words like agape in their men’s Bible study groups, as short-hand for the “no-homo” version of having a “relationship” with a Loving Christ.)

The ascetic impulse applies not just to sex, but all physical indulgence. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Speaking, in some cases.

Out into the desert with you, to wrestle with demons and inner narrative.  Give up your attachments to worldly pleasure. Live on Spirit. (Starving saints have traditionally been female. Interpret that however you want.)

The Judgement of Paris, Simonet, 1904

The Judgement of Paris, Simonet, 1904. Helen. Cassandra. Aphrodite. Eve and the Magdalen didn’t exactly have the market cornered.

So, you’ve got this new(ish) Indo-Hellenic aversion to corporeal existence, mixed in with long-standing Greek ideas (read: homosocial) about the nature of “true” affection and magic-balloon-peen, and a Jewish male God that is dead-on obsessed with human reproduction. Add that to Roman constructs of “sex” as being primarily class constructed and entirely penetration-focused, with a number of taboos concerning who did what to whom.  Finish off with a heaping helping of apocalyptic fervor.  The world is always just about to end.

Paul was just a product of his times.

But, really, it’s less about Christianity being specifically anti-sex, than it is about Christian theology being opposed to the human body. Some denominations over the years pretty much advocated for voluntary human extinction.  But, in perspective? Lust is only the first level of hell in Inferno. 

Doctrine solidified. Rome fell.

There’s a dark age for Western orgasms. At least, orgasms on the record.

Mostly, it’s a dark age for record keeping.

By the early modern period, you still have those same insatiable vaginas, throwing a monkey wrench into male plans. Blodeuwedd. Guinevere, Morgan, Isolde.  The Wife of Bath. Witches, even. Women were still perceived as the lustier sex.  The ones that pick the apple and believe the serpent.  Since they, apparently, wanted to steal all that vital heat from male sperm, or at least that’s what doctors thought.

Then, the tide started to turn.

Still to be continued…

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 1

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 3
The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 4

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Florida Dom
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the history lesson. I bet that guy’s wife didn’t get much satisfaction. Interesting how a male dominated culture often tries to deny a woman’s sexuality.


    • Joan
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I really don’t know if it’s “deny” as much as it’s “define.”

3 Trackbacks

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes