Bad History, diseases, remedies, sex, virginity, vulva

Making a disease from a remedy: Trotula and vaginismus

  Here’s a particularly fine case of Bad History, showing that while it’s bad enough to modify an ancient text to make it into a precursor of a modern condition, it’s even worse to misread a remedy as a symptom in order to make a historical text do what you want it to do! Trotula… Continue reading Making a disease from a remedy: Trotula and vaginismus

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God, language, virginity

The Language of God

I’m fascinated by the automatic fill-ins which search engines provide. For ‘Am I still…’ ‘Am I still a virgin?’ is a classic, along with ‘Am I still pregnant?’ and ‘Am I still in love?’ In all these cases I suspect that, if you need to ask, the answer is probably ‘No’. I was recently doing… Continue reading The Language of God

sex, virginity

Peeing like a horse?

I was recently re-watching Peter Greenaway’s movie The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). Set at the end of the seventeenth century, it opens with a series of landed gentry types gossiping, often aiming to shock. After telling them a story from her childhood, one of the beautifully-dressed women states confidently “I used to pee like a horse.… Continue reading Peeing like a horse?

gender, menstruation, pregnancy, sex, virginity

Diana, Callisto and Philip II

Between 1553 and 1562, Titian painted a number of mythological scenes for Philip II. Among these was a painting of Diana and Callisto. In the story, told most famously by the Roman poet Ovid, Callisto is one of the unmarried girls forming the virgin goddess’s entourage. Jupiter catches sight of her, and disguises himself as… Continue reading Diana, Callisto and Philip II