Gender and Libidopost by NancyLebovitz · 2011-07-03T14:20:40.660Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 60 comments
But the one we’re concerned with is that women’s libidos went from being considered as powerful or more so than men’s to being essentially erased. Pre-Renaissance examples of horny ladies abound, from the Greeks onward; make your own list, but do include Chaucer. He’s such fun. This change in attitudes appears to have been religiously motivated, and based on the idea that women are more spiritual and sacred than men, meaning less horny. Again, make your own list of contemporary leftovers of this attitude; there are plenty.
By the 18th century, it was taken as read that a woman who did experience (or at least express) sexual desire was suffering from a disorder. One important 1775 study of the subject linked the problem to “secret pollutions”, i.e. wanking, and (I swear I am not making this up) eating too much chocolate. I guess that’d go a ways toward explaining this advertisement. Women were diagnosed with, treated for, and often operated upon for “nymphomania”, the dread condition that causes a woman to want sex. (Talk to your doctor; you may suffer from it yourself!) And yes, by “operated upon”, I mean clitoridectomy. And yes, that’s fucking appalling.
I find this very odd. How could a major cultural lineage be wrong about something so much a part of ordinary experience?
When I say wrong, I don't necessarily mean that we're right, or the ancients were right, though there's a lot of evidence that the Victorians were wrong.
My favorite theory is that people's amount of desire for sex varies sufficiently that there's enough noise to make it easy to see patterns that aren't there. I leave the possibility open that there was a change (possibly dietary) which affected libido levels differently between men and women.
People are sufficiently punitive about sex that there's going to be lies and misdirection to support the current theory about how people are supposed to be.
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