immiseration of erection labor only intensified in late capitalism

man attempts de-icing

Throughout history, men have commonly paid women for sex. At the same time, men’s erection labor has been progressively alienated from them and turned into a means by which the gynocentric substructure disciplines and punishes. A momentous stage in this historical process occurred in the Industrial Revolution of late eighteenth-century England. As men were made subject to factory discipline, their sexual activity was also more strictly regulated. Men’s erection labor was immiserated to an extent surpassed only now under the sexual Stalinism of late capitalism.

In England about 1800, population growth was roughly double that early in the eighteenth century. An increase in fertility predominately drove the increase in population growth.[1] Assuming health, economic welfare, and child-limitation practices didn’t change to increase fertility, the increase in fertility must have been driven by an increase in heteronormative sexual activity.

This hypothesized increase in sexual activity across eighteenth-century England occurred in conjunction with the rise of disciplined labor within factors. An influential scholar has suggested that these developments are connected:

I hypothesize that the invention of foreplay is an aspect of the history of capitalism, that the invention of industrial work-discipline is an aspect of the history of heterosexuality, and that both developments are in an important sense the same. [2]

In short, men’s erection labor was disciplined from spontaneous sexual play toward more efficient foreplay leading rigidly into heteronormative sexual activity to produce new human beings. Other than enjoying more children, men didn’t receive increased compensation for their increased erection productivity. That’s what scholars call the immiseration of erection labor, or immiserating growth. The capitalist system has continued to evolve through the same dynamic between the relations of sex and the material-biological forces that produce new human beings.

Within the gynocentric system of late capitalism, all methods for raising the collective esteem of women are put into effect at the cost of the individual man. All means for the development of gender equality undergo a dialectical inversion so that they become a means of dominating and exploiting men. Relations of men-subordinating gender equality distort the man into a fragment of a man, they degrade the penis to the level of an appendage to a wrongly constructed machine, and they destroy the actual content of his erection labor by turning it into a torment. They alienate him from the intellectual and emotional potentialities of sexual intercourse in the same proportion as mass-media representations are incorporated in it as a source of false imagination. They deform the conditions under which he interacts with women and subject him during the seduction process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness. They transform his intimate relations into financial obligations and drag his wife and child into the roles of debt-collection enforcers on behalf of state “child support” agencies. These horrors of capitalist development are only now starting to be identified and criticized.

Men must no longer tolerate their erection labor being concealed with disdain. Relations of sex must be transformed. The material-seminal forces of human production must be priced in accordance with the full quantity of labor men perform throughout their lives. Let women again tremble with appreciation for men’s labor. Men must throw off the chains of gynocentric late capitalism, seize in their hands a vital means of sexual production, and work only as individuals laboring for their own pleasure.

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[1] See Wrigley & Schofield (1981), Wrigley (1997).

[2] Abelove (1989) p.129. The relevant article is reprinted as the second chapter in Abelove (2005).

[image] A 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crane operator de-ices a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline for flight preparation Jan. 29, 2014, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Photo id. 140129-F-BN304-002. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes. This and other works of U.S. government employees are in the public domain in the U.S.  See also men laboring to drill into dry rock.


Abelove, Henry. 1989. “Some Speculations on the History of Sexual Intercourse during the Long Eighteenth Century in England.” Genders. 6 (Fall): 125-130.

Abelove, Henry. 2005. Deep gossip. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Wrigley, Edward Anthony, and Roger S. Schofield. 1981. The population history of England: 1541-1871 ; a reconstruction. London: Arnold.

Wrigley, Edward Anthony. 1997. English population history from family reconstitution, 1580-1837. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

trade slogans of Abbasid singing slave girls (qiyān) goaded men

young man rejects hetaera

Throughout history, women commonly have been socially more powerful than men. In addition, men’s sexuality typically has been devalued. Men today with good reason are extremely wary of expressing sexual interest in women. Even elite men in Baghdad in the early Abbasid caliphate were cautious in engaging with singing slave girls professionally associated with sexual affairs.

The trade slogans of the singing slave girls indicate men’s reticence and the social devaluation of men’s sexuality. Market prices aggregate a huge amount of information into a simple scalar indicator. Trade slogans of singing slave girls functioned similarly with respect to sexual relations for the elite in the early Abbasid caliphate. The girls advertised these trade slogans on their headbands, veils, brocades, bonnets, and foreheads as they performed publicly. Their trade slogans encouraged men to persevere in seeking relations with them:

  • “He who perseveres, wins.”
  • “If you are bold, do what you will!”
  • “He who desires and does not persevere shall die in his ignorance.”
  • “Passion and restraint are irreconcilable opposites.”
  • “The heart is unruly.”
  • “The shunning of inhibitions makes for a perfect character.”
  • “To do is pleasing, to make excuses is repugnant.”

Societies typically repress men’s sexuality much more harshly than women’s. The singing slave girls urged men not to fear those policing men’s behavior:

  • “If one day we feared the watchman, the eyes shall speak for the hearts: the wink sings the needs of the lover to the beloved.”
  • “One at one with one’s lover makes light of the watchman.”
  • “Dodging the watchman is good for lovers.”

The trade slogans also indicated that men must pay women for sex and meekly accept women wronging them:

  • “The generous is master; the stingy, base.”
  • “Bear the greatest wrong from one you love, so that, sinned against, you may say I am the sinner. For if you bear not the wrong, O lad, then the one that you love will leave you whether you like it or not.”

Reversing the more inclusive ancient wisdom, “Whoever is not against us is for us,” the trade slogan of one singing slave girl insisted, “He who is not with us, is against us.” All-powerful caliphs in the ancient Islamic world were subordinate to their slave girls. How can any ordinary man today hope to have a gender-egalitarian relationship with a women given prevailing, oppressive gynocentrism?

“Is it not a wonder that you and I are together in one house, yet you are neither intimate nor do you converse?”

Men must use their reason to adapt to gynocentric oppression. Deprived of reproductive rights and commonly forced into financial fatherhood, men in the ancient Greek world adjusted their sexual behavior to cope with the problem. Socially pressured into providing for women and putting meat on the table, husbands in ancient Rome responded by arranging home-based businesses for wives reluctant to work outside the home. Human reason is beautiful and invincible. Now more than ever, men must rely on reason.

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All the quotes above, with one exception, are trade slogans of singing slave girls (qiyān) in Baghdad in the early Abbasid era. The trade slogans are given in al-Ghuzūlī, Matāli‘ al-budūr i, 278, from Arabic trans. Caswell (2011) pp. 278-9, with some non-substantial changes for readability. Id. also provides the name of the singing slave girl associated with the each trade slogan and where she displayed the slogan.

The phrase “Whoever is not against us is for us,” which a slave girl’s trade slogan reversed, is a saying of Jesus recorded in Mark 9:40. See also Luke 9:50.

One slave girl’s trade slogan indirectly indicates that some men grew weary of being sexual subordinate to slave girls: “He who desires us shall not tire of us.”

[image] A reclining young man, in the presence of a young woman dancer, indicates refusal and declares, “Philip is the most beautiful.” Tondo from an Attic red-figured kylix, ca. 490-480 BC. From Vulci. Held in the British Museum, acc. # GR 1848.6-19.7 (Cat. Vases E 68). Thanks to Jastrow and Wikimedia Commons.


Caswell, Fuad Matthew. 2011. The slave girls of Baghdad: the Qiyān in the early Abbasid era. London: I.B. Tauris.

desperate wives should try farting to get sex from husbands

deadly explosion: possible result of uncontrolled farting

Leading newspapers have reported that a huge number of husbands have raped their wives. Allegations of inappropriate words or touching of a sexual nature are enough to have a man fired from his job and to ruin his reputation for life. Men seducing women has long been criminalized. Now university officials are earnestly teaching students and faculty that they must get affirmative consent for each step in a sexual interaction and that consent can be withdrawn at any time without prior notice. Not surprisingly, many husbands are now fearful of sexually accosting their wives. That’s raising public concern because wives are becoming unhappy. Some wives are even showing signs of madness. Fortunately, medieval Latin literature offers a solution.

While a young couple was walking through a meadow, they saw a flock of sheep. The wife had an active mind:

seeing that the rams mounted only certain ewes, she questioned why certain ones rather than others were copulating.

{ conspectis nonnullis ovibus quas arietes subigebant, quaesivit cur potius cum illis quam cum aliis coirent. }

Her husband jokingly explained:

When a ewe makes a fart, a ram presses into her.

{ Quae crepitum facit ovis, statim comprimitur ab ariete. }

The wife picked up on the figuring and turned to punning:

She burst forth to know if this were also the case with men.

{ Petiit illa numquid et viris id moris esset. }

The husband affirmed that it was. The sexually deprived wife then took explosive action:

She immediately cut loose a fart; the husband, having been caught by his own joke, had sex with his wife. After they had proceeded along St. Paul’s path a little way, the wife farted again. The husband was once again employed in the matrimonial practice. When they had nearly reached the end of the meadow, the woman, delighted with the game, emitted a third fart.

{ illa statim crepitum edidit; vir joco suo deprehensus uxorem cognovit. Cum deinde paulum viae processissent, iterum mulier pepedit. Vir denuo matrimonio usus est. Cum jam ad finem nemoris pervenissent, foemina, tali ludo gaudens, terio petum emisit. }

Medieval culture regarded with utmost seriousness men’s sexual obligation to their wives. This husband, however, wasn’t well-prepared for strenuous erection labor:

Then the husband, exhausted from copulation and walking, said, “Even if you were to shit out your heart itself, I wouldn’t again shake you under me. }

{ Tunc vir, coeundo et ambulando fessus: “Non si cor cacares,” ait, “te amplius subagitarem.” }

In vigorously servicing their wives sexually, husbands must endure whatever they shake out. Only a husband exhausted to the point of peevishness would complain of his wife giving out her heart as a result of sex.

Most husbands deeply love their wives. Yet in today’s circumstances of demonizing men’s sexuality, men are rightly fearful of showing sexual interest toward their wives or any other women. However, in the case of explosions and serious risks to bodily integrity, men will heroically press in to protect women from harm. Wives desperately seeking sex from their husbands should try farting. But not too often, because men not accustomed to heavy sexual labor will soon get exhausted and peevish.

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The above story and quotes are from “The humorous tale of a young woman who farted {Facetia cujusdam adolescentulae quae emittebat petum},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 2, pp. 138-9, my English translation. That Latin text has witty wordplay that I’ve made some effort to translate.

[image] Deadly explosion. Possibly a result of uncontrolled farting. Image thanks to PrismTheDragon and Wikimedia Commons.


Poggio. 1879. Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The facetiae or jocose tales of Poggio, now first translated into English with the Latin text. Paris: Isidore Liseux (vol. 1, vol. 2).

al-Alfiya, a thousand-man woman, shows intellectual decadence

ugly, lonely old woman

Today’s intellectual leaders, both women and men, are like Fadia, an official in a French library:

Fadia. She is a desperate case. … I watched her leave the office and shook my head. I suspect she would be capable of taming even the fiercest erection. It’s clear that she hasn’t learned a thing. She’s at war with her body and with men’s bodies as well. It looks like it’ll be a long war. [1]

Plutocrats such as Melinda Gates are spearheading this bitter world-wide gender war. They are pygmies digging holes under the feet of intellectual giants such as the ancient Indian scholar al-Alfiya.

Al-Alfiya’s wisdom has been transmitted through the centuries in Persian and Arabic literature. Her name itself highlights one of her credentials:

this woman came to us through Indian erotica, and she became a legend passed on by the Arabs, essentially the men, with a certain degree of fear, envy, and admiration. The legend begins with her name. She was called al-Alfiya, “the thousand,” because she had slept with a thousand men. Although “slept” is deceiving… As if she had spent a thousand nights sleeping … She did not sleep and she would not let a single man sleep. The books say precisely, “She fucked a thousand men.” Words were exact, among the Arabs of ancient times. There was no business of sleeping or waking. To “fuck” was the word used. [2]

She was a leader among women back when women truly loved men:

groups of women gathered to visit her. They would say to her: “Sister, tell us what is required and we will do it. What is it that makes women settle in men’s hearts, what gives them pleasure and what morals do they abhor? What should we do in order to arouse their love and affection?” [3]

Al-Alfiya methodically described sixty positions for having sex. These sixty positions ranged from simple ones to ones requiring great physical agility.[4] If Al-Alfiya knew that international plutocrats of our age have inspired a poor, young woman in Guatemala to dream of “working in a big company and doing important things,” she would rightly cry.

In stark contrast to the gender divide that characterizes public life today, al-Alfiya helped men as well as women. A sixteenth-century Ottoman scholar reported:

there was once a king who completely lost his sexual potency. The physicians were not able to cure him with drugs. So they invented stories which they said had been told to them by a woman called Alfiyya. She was named so because a thousand (alf) men had slept with her. In their stories about all this she mentioned various positions and exciting situations. By hearing this, the king regained his potency. [5]

Some aspects of this account, which is relatively late, are probably faulty. Yet al-Alfiya undoubtedly did work to bring women and men together. She thus helped both men and women in immediate, tangible ways.

The eminent, ninth-century Arabic scholar al-Jahiz is thought to have discussed al-Alfiya. He presented her as a leading empirical scholar:

Al-Jahiz, who relates her teachings to us, celebrates her as being the most learned of all the people of her time with regard to the science of coition. What made him admire her still more was that, like himself, she belonged to that school of scholars who speak only of what they know from personal experience, and will only teach knowledge acquired through the direct observation of real phenomena. [6]

Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī’s thirteenth-century Arabic work on improving sexual performance credited ancient philosophers and physicians — “Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Palladius, Aristo, and scholars like them” — for gaining such knowledge through their own experiments.[7] Yet men scholars face severe constraints on their pursuit of sexual knowledge, particularly today. Al-Jahiz’s works play across earnestness and jest. One can more earnestly believe that al-Alfiya empirically established sexual knowledge than that Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Palladius, Aristo, and other men scholars did.

Human intellectual leaders must regaining their footing within more than a billion years of trillions of sexually reproducing organisms. All the money in the world cannot provide sufficient compensation for promoting misery among men and women. Moreover, with empirical certainty, they will come to know.

Scientia Duce -trade slogan of Isidore Liseux

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[1] Nu’aymī (2009) p. 129 (with a few insubstantial adaptations).

[2] Id. p. 130. The ellipses are in the original. On the transmission of al-Alfiya’s knowledge, of which little is known for certain, see the entry for Azraqī Heravī (al-Azraqi, died about 1130) in the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

Alfiya (alfiyya) is a feminine adjective derived from alf (“one thousand”). A more accurate translation of Al-Alfiya is thus “the woman of one thousand”.

[3] Al-Tīfāshī, from Arabic trans. Newman (2014) p. 34. Al-Tīfāshī was a scholar who lived from 1184 to 1253. He traveled across the Islamic world from Algeria to Damascus.

[4] Nu’aymī (2009) p. 130-1. Al-Alfiya is associated with the book Alfiyya wa-shalfiyya. The origin of this book, which is lost, isn’t clear. It could have had a Indian, Persian, Arabic, or Byzantine origin. Alfiyya u Shalfiyya means literally “Of the penis and the vulva”.  Artan & Schick (2013) p. 158. That comes from the Persian word for penis, alfīya, combined with the Persian for vulva, shalfiya. See Steingass (1892) pp. 94, 757. By the eleventh century, alfīya also indicated wall paintings depicting sexual relations.

Parts of Alfiyya wa-shalfiyya apparently have been preserved in a sixteenth-century Ottoman work, The Repeller of Sorrows and Dispeller of Cares. For an English translation, Landor (2001). Al-Alfiya may have influenced the fifteenth-century Spanish work Speculum al foderi. For an English translation, Solomon (1990).

[5] The Ottoman scholar Tashköprüzāde (died 1561), from Turkish trans. Franke (2012) p. 169. This story has also been transmitted in Kashf al-zunun by Hajji Khalifah (died 1657), in a section on al-bah (ed. Istanbul, column 219).

[6] Nu’aymī (2009) p. 129.  “Her legend {that of al-Alfiya} was transmitted by Al-Jahiz and others.” Newman (2014) p. 34. However, according to an eminent scholar of classical Arabic literature, no reference to al-Alfiya exists in the surviving works of al-Jahiz. But al-Tifashi in Ruju` al-shaykh ila sibah fi l-quwwa `ala l-bah (“The Old Man’s Rejuvenation in his Powers of Copulation”) credits al-Jahiz with transmitting wisdom of al-Alfiya. See edition Cairo AH 1309, p. 64.

[7] From Arabic trans. Newman (2014) p. 91. See my post, “preparing men for erection labor in the 13th-century Islamic world.” An ancient Greek sex manual that the Greek courtesan Philaenis of Samos allegedly wrote declares in its preface that it is “for those who wish to live their life with knowledge gained scientifically, not unprofessionally.” Plant (2004) p. 46.

[image1] (1) Ugly, lonely old woman. Engraved carving (excerpt), early 19th-century Britain. Thanks to Wellcome Trust Collection, library ref. ICV No 19503, photo V0019108. Via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Trademark of Isidore Liseux, a late-nineteenth-century French scholarly publisher of sexually explicit medieval works. Scientia duce means “knowledge, lead on!”


Artan, Tülay and Irvin Cemil Schick. 2013. “Ottomanizing pornotopia: changing visual codes in eighteenth-century Ottoman erotic miniatures.” Ch. 7 (pp. 157-207) in Leoni, Francesca, and Mika Natif, eds. Eros and sexuality in Islamic art. Farnham Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Company.

Franke, Patrick. 2012. “Before scientia sexualis in Islamic culture: ‘ilm al-bāh between erotology, medicine and pornography.” Social Identities. 18(2): 161-173.

Landor, Robert, trans. (2001). Gazali. Book of Shehzade: Dafiü’l gumûm, rafiü’l humûm. Cağaloğlu, Istanbul: Dönence.

Newman, Daniel L., ed. and trans. 2014. Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī. The Sultan’s sex potions: Arab aphrodisiacs in the Middle Ages. London: Saqi.

Nu’aymī, Salwá (Salwa al Neimi), from Arabic trans. Carol Perkins. 2009. The proof of the honey. New York: Europa Editions.

Plant, I. M., ed. 2004. Women writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An anthology. London: Equinox.

Solomon, Michael. 1990. The Mirror of coitus: A translation and edition of the fifteenth-century Speculum al foderi. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.

Steingass, Francis. 1892. Persian-English dictionary. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. (digital database query)

functioning penis should be appreciated as a blessed peacemaker

peacemaker: colt revolver gun

Men tend to be competitive and often fight with other men in various ways for coveted statuses and positions. Clubs, spears, guns, and missiles are associated with war and death. But a penis isn’t like those weapons. Masculinity doesn’t fundamentally signify fighting, war, and death. A functioning penis should be appreciated as a blessed peacemaker that helps to create new life.

In our age of cultic belief in toxic masculinity, medieval Latin literature is vitally important for recovering proper appreciation for the penis. Consider the story of “a widowed woman who desired to have an elderly man {mulier vidua quae cupiebat habere virum provecta aetate}.” The widow appreciated that a man could provide companionship and help:

although what is permitted now in this age no longer concerned her, she desired nonetheless a quiet, elderly man for companionship and mutual help in ordinary life, rather than for any other motive, because she believed she should think about the salvation of her soul rather than the gratification of her flesh.

{ se, licet jam de vita hujus saeculi non curaret, cupere tamen virum quietum provecta aetate, societatis potius et communis vitae subsidii, quam alterius rei causa, cum potius de salute animae quam corporis lascivia esset cogitandum } [1]

A neighbor presented to the widow a man with qualities she apparently sought. The man incidentally “was crippled in his masculinity {mancum virilibus esse}.” The widow wasn’t interested in marrying him. She explained:

I would never want to be joined to that man. If he lacks a Peacemaker (thus she named the Father of humanity), then when it happens that a serious altercation or dispute with each other arises, what Mediator (she believed she should live peacefully with her husband) among us could restore peace?

{ Istum ego virum nullo pacto volo. Nam si Pacialis (ita enim hominum appellavit Genitorum) desit, quis Mediator (pacifice enim cum viro vivendum est), si quando, ut fit, altercatio gravior aut discordia invicem oriretur, constitueret inter nos pacem? } [2]

In the European Middle Ages, the Holy Spirit was understood to bring peace. Genetrix and Mediatrix — words cognate to Father {Genitorum} and Mediator — were used to venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus. Recognizing that a husband’s penis could help to foster peace between spouses rightly puts the penis in exalted company.[3]

Men’s competitive concern for the effective functioning of their penises tends to be regarded as ludicrous. Consider the old joke:

Two men walking on the George Washington Bridge stop to take a piss. While pissing, one says to the other, “The water’s cold!” The other responds, “Yeah, and it’s deep, too!” [4]

In considering arms races or penis jousting, simply disparaging men is facile and unfair. Both sorts of competition arise from societal structures in which women are intimately entangled.

Medieval Latin literature tells the story of a Florentine man defending his beautiful wife. Admirers constantly followed her. Some festively serenaded her nightly with music and lighted torches on the street outside her house. One night their trumpets awakened the husband. He and his wife jumped out of bed and rushed over to the window. On the street below was a raucous and bawdy crowd. The husband called out in a loud voice for them to look in his direction:

When all eyes were directed toward his voice, he thrust his large, erect penis outside the window. He then told them that their labors were foolish and useless, because they could see that he himself was more fruitfully equipped with that which satisfies a wife than they were. He therefore advised them to refrain from pointlessly pestering them. As a result of this very witty and elegant display, they desisted from further trouble.

{ Cum oculos omnes ad eam vocem sustulissent, ille, exerto et extra fenestram porrecto, cujus erat copiosus Priapo, inanem laborem et inutilem sumere illos ait, cum viderent se habere unde, etiam uberius quam ipsi possent, uxori satisfaceret; itaque consulere ut huic eorum molestiae parcerent non profuturae. Quo perfacete dicto, ab superflua cura destiterunt. } [5]

The husband’s penis acted as a peacemaker in quelling aggressive sexual competition with other men. Especially when opponents possess trumpets, such competition cannot be easily ignored or merely wished away. Men living within gynocentric society must stand up and show other men that they are better equipped to please women. That’s simply a common reality of men’s lives.

A man’s penis is an organ for making love, not war. Peacemaking depends on men’s penises. Men should be encouraged to use their penises as much as loving possibilities allow.

peacemaker bomber

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[1] Poggio, Facetiae 209, “A widowed woman who desired to have an elderly man {Mulier vidua quae cupiebat habere virum provecta aetate},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 2, pp. 133-4. Here and subsequent quotes include my English translation, drawing upon that of id., but tracking the Latin more closely. The subsequent quote is from id.

[2] Arabic literature from tenth-century Baghdad validates the widow’s insight. The eminent scholar Abu ‘Ali al-Qali (died 967) wrote:

Some ill will came between a man and his wife, and they shunned one another for a few days. Then he jumped on top of her and took her. And when he had emptied himself, she said: “Shame on you! Every time there is ill will between us, you bring me an intercessor whom I cannot refuse.” And in another tale a woman, mourning the passing of her days and particularly her nights with his “upright judge,” said to her aging husband: “The one who used to resolve our disputes has died.”

Quoted in Nu’aymī (2009) p. 64. Baghdad in the tenth century was far more developed than any medieval European city.

[3] On the Holy Spirit as Peacemaker, see e.g. Galations 5:22. The ancient Marian hymn Sub tuum praesidium {Under your protection}, when translated into Latin in the eleventh century, invoked Mary with the words Sancta Dei Genetrix {Holy Mother of God}. Mary was regarded as Mediatrix from no later than the fourth century.

Medieval Latin literature helped to foster appreciation for men’s sexuality by developing the figure of the erotic Paternoster. That figure first appeared in the anonymous Latin poem Prisciani regula, written about 1200. Ziolkowski (1987) p. 31. About 250 years later, the figure occurs in Poggio, Facetiae 214, “Which is more acceptable to God, he who says, or he who does {Quid sit acceptius deo, dicere aut facere?}.” This brief tale concludes: “He who makes a paternoster is more deserving than he who says one {plus meretur qui facit Pater Noster, quam qui dicit}.”

[4] This joke has a variety of minor variants. Richard Pryor reportedly used it in standup comedy forty years ago. It occurs in the major 1996 motion picture Sling Blade. For those who don’t understand the joke, Yahoo! Answers provides an explanation.

[5] Poggio, Facetiae 209, “An appropriate, but crude, gesture of a Florentine {De facto cujusdam Florentini justo, sed bruto},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 2, pp. 180-1.

[images] (1) Colt “Peacemaker” single-action Army revolver. Made in 1874. Preserved in Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), acc. # 59.143.4 (Gift of John E. Parsons, 1959). Via Wikimedia Commons. (2) U.S. Air Force B-36J “Peacemaker” bomber. U.S. Air Force photo via Wikimedia Commons.


Nu’aymī, Salwá (Salwa al Neimi), from Arabic trans. Carol Perkins. 2009. The proof of the honey. New York: Europa Editions.

Poggio. 1879. Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The facetiae or jocose tales of Poggio, now first translated into English with the Latin text. Paris: Isidore Liseux (vol. 1, vol. 2).

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1987. “The Erotic Paternoster.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 88 (1): 31-34.

pathetic stupidity of cuckolds described in medieval Latin literature

the face of a cuckold

Men are concerned about women’s sexual fidelity for good evolutionary reasons. Associated with that evolutionary psychology is millennia of world literature expressing men’s justified concern about being cuckolded. Medieval Latin literature, which provided men with a relatively good opportunities to express their interests and protest against gynocentric oppression, depicted cuckolds as pathetic, stupid men.

Egbert of Liège’s early-eleventh-century schoolbook for young boys provided the basics. In easily memorized Latin hexameters, Egbert drilled into boys contempt for cuckolds:

A cuckold burns devotedly for an adulterous wife. He excuses her when she’s under suspicion and forgives her stumblings in advance.

{ Zelotipam curruca suam devinctius ardet,
suspectam excusat, prior offensacula donat. } [1]

Women have long been privileged in formal criminal justice systems. Yet a man need not personally uphold such female privilege. If he doesn’t want to risk paying “child support” for children that aren’t his biological children, he must have the courage to stand up and confront his wife or girlfriend. That tends to be quite difficult for most men. Good education of boys can help them to develop into strong, courageous, no-nonsense men.

Medieval Latin literature depicted cuckolds as men so ignorant that they don’t understand the obvious. For example, a man knocked loudly at the door of a woman’s house. Imitating her husband’s stuttering voice, he called out to be admitted. Then:

The stupid husband, who was at home, hearing that voice, said to his wife, “Giovanna, open the door, Giovanna, let him in, for he seems to be me.”

{ Vir autem stolidus, domi existens, audita illius voce: “Joanna, aperi, Joanna, introduc illum,” inquit: “nam videtur idem, qui ego, esse.” } [2]

In another case, a wife named Petruccia asked her husband to buy her new shoes. Like most husband do, he fulfilled his wife’s request. But when he was out of the house and his wife saw a young man passing by, she signaled to him to come in. She went upstairs with the young man and in her haste lay down right near the stairs. That place could be seen from the doorway. Then she did what literary scholars today would regard as rape if a man did it:

Pulling the youth down upon her, embracing his buttocks with her legs and feet, she focused on the work of her desire.

{ Superimposito autem juvene, clunes ejus cruribus ac pedibus amplexa, concupito operi intendebat. } [3]

Her husband brought a friend home for lunch. The husband entered the house first:

seeing near the stairs his wife vigorously waving her feet above a young man, he said, “Hey, Petruccia! By the ass of a donkey (their favorite oath), if that’s the way you walk about, you’ll never wear out those new shoes!”

{ visaque apud scalas uxore supra juvenem pedes commovente: “Ohe! Petrucia,” inquit, “per culum asini!” (ut mos es illis jurandi) “si hoc mode ambulaveris, nunquam istos calceos consumes.” }

It’s one thing to imagine that your wife walks upon the clouds. But if your wife’s back is on the ground, another man is on top of her, and her feet are waving in the air, you should have sufficient mental functioning to suspect that you’re being cuckolded.

Being a cuckold is a miserable way to live. When she saw her husband about to enter their house, one wife hid her lover under the bed. She then accused her husband of wanting to be thrown into prison. She said that the sheriff’s officers were looking for him to imprison him for debt. Trembling with fear, the husband begged his wife for advice. She told him to climb up into their pigeon house. She would then lock the door and remove the ladder so that no one would suspect that he was there. The husband followed his wife’s advice. After he was securely locked up in the pigeon house, she brought her lover out from under the bed. The wife and her lover then pretended that the Sheriff’s officers had returned. The lover took the role of the sheriff, and the wife pretended to defend vigorously her husband. Hiding in the pigeon house, the husband shook with fear. After the wife and her lover had finished that act:

both went to bed and devoted their night to the work of Venus; meanwhile the husband was withdrawn in hiding among the pigeons and their feces.

{ ambo in lectu profecti ea nocte Veneri operam dederunt; vir delituit inter stercora et columbos. } [4]

Cuckolds spend their nights with sub-human birds. They live immersed in shit. Don’t let that happen to you.

Men must learn practical means to avoid being cuckolded. Delusions that women are naturally much less evil than men don’t help. Men must be wary of gynocentric and demonic advice. For example, in fifteenth-century Rome, Francesco Filelfo dreamed that a demon told him:

“Take this ring,” he said, “and finger it diligently on your finger. So long as it is held there, your wife will never, without your knowledge, have sex with another.”

{ “Cape hunc,” ille inquit, “annulum et diligenter in digito serva. Nam dum in eo gestaveris hunc, nunquam uxor, te inscio, cum alio concumbet. } [5]

Such technology would be even more helpful than DNA paternity testing. But Filelfo soon realized that he was in an unsustainable position:

Joyfully he awoke from sleep and perceived that he had his finger in his wife’s cunt.

{ Prae gaudio excitatus a somno, sensit se digitum habere in uxoris cunno. }

Scholars will soon better recognize that Ovid’s ring poem (Amores 2.15) is associated with the supernatural.[6] The progression from Ovid’s ring poem to the medieval Latin De pulice indicates the mundane devaluation of men’s sexuality under gynocentrism. Men cannot count on demons and the supernatural to save them from cuckolding.

In the Byzantine Empire, both physical statues and sophisticated literary romances addressed men’s risk of being cuckolded. In the highly developed societies of today, men are disparaged even for being concerned about being cuckolded. Yet men aren’t necessarily destined to be pathetic, stupid cuckolds. With study of literature, particularly medieval Latin literature, men can find enlightenment and be more sophisticated men.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Egbert of Liège, The Well-Laden Ship {Fecunda Ratis} 1.659-60, Latin text and English translation from Babcock (2013) pp. 72-3. Despite the soundness of this teaching, Egbert of Liège generally provided schoolboys with gynocentric lessons supporting the demonology of men’s sexuality.

[2] Poggio, Facetiae 68, “Of a stupid husband who mistook for himself a man imitating his voice {De viro stolido qui simulantem vocem credidit se ipsum esse},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 1, pp. 110-1, with my English translation, drawing upon that of id., but tracking the Latin more closely. All the subsequent English translations are made similarly.

[3] Poggio, Facetiae 66, “What a Perugian said to his wife {Dictum Perugini ad uxorem},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 1, pp. 107-8. The subsequent quote is from id.

[4] Poggio, Facetiae 10, “Of the woman who deceived her husband {De muliere quae virum defraudavit},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 1, pp. 28-9.

[5] Poggio, Facetiae 133, “A vision of Francesco Filelfo {Visio Francisci Philelphi},” Latin text from Poggoi (1879) vol. 2, pp. 20-1. The subsequent quote is from id.

A similar story subsequently appears in Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel 3.28 (“How Friar John comforted Panurge in the doubtful matter of cuckoldry“). This story became famous in many languages. It’s commonly known as “The Ring of Hans Carvel.”

[6] Laskaris (2018).

[image] Face of a cuckold. Figure in printed edition of Poggio’s Facetiae. Poggio (1879) p. 6.


Babcock, Robert Gary, ed. and trans. 2013. Egbert of Liège. The well-laden ship. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 25. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Laskaris, Julie. 2018. “Ovid’s Enchanted Ring Poem: Amores 2.15.” Paper to be presented at the 149th meeting of the Society For Classical Studies, Boston, January 4-7.

Poggio. 1879. Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The facetiae or jocose tales of Poggio, now first translated into English with the Latin text. Paris: Isidore Liseux (vol. 1, vol. 2).

preparing men for erection labor in the 13th-century Islamic world

Sultan's potions for men's sexual labor

An Arabic book entitled The Book of Choice Sexual Stimulants and the Sultan’s Potions describes itself as a work that the eminent thirteenth-century scholar Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī wrote at the commission of the caliph. The book is a reference work for Muslims too poor to afford a physician’s services. Apparently the caliph sought to ensure that the men of his realm could perform long and hard erection labor for women.[1] The Sultan’s Potions exemplifies the authoritative social construction of ordinary men’s obligation to engage in risky, uncompensated erection labor.

The Sultan’s Potions constructs large sexual risk for men. In its introduction, it declares:

As for the view held by a number of scholars that sexual intercourse is bad and harmful, and that it is not necessary for anyone to practice it, but rather that it should be abandoned, this is devoid of foundation, and erroneous … . It is clear that this statement is nonsensical and only applies to those who engage in coitus while being ignorant of the time and circumstances when it should or should not take place, of the conditions and regime it requires. [2]

Authorities today tend not to describe heterosexual intercourse as bad and harmful in itself. Yet rape-culture culture makes ordinary sexual interaction fraught with the risk of onerous punishment of the man. The Sultan’s Potions emphasizes the importance of men risking their well-being to navigate the rules of sexual interaction:

When coitus takes place in these cases, it results in the above-mentioned ailments {dousing of “innate heat”} and the individual’s destruction, in contrast with those who know how to manage coitus and its conditions. In the latter case, sexual intercourse does not cause any harm; rather, it is hugely beneficial, as we have mentioned, whereas there is no greater human pleasure than that of sexual intercourse. It is part of the natural disposition and it is mixed into the make-up of human beings and all other animals.

Men throughout history have carried a vastly gender-disproportionate burden of soliciting sexual relations. Socially constructing sex as a matter of great risk (great harms and great benefits) puts men at great risk.

The Sultan’s Potions instructs men in burdensome recipes for enhancing their penises. Consider this recipe:

Take house sparrows before they have acquired their flight feathers, tie them up with a string and hang them from the entrance of a beehive. Then, agitate the bees so that they start stinging the sparrows. Once the birds have been stung several times, take them down quickly and slaughter them, making sure not to waste one drop of their blood. Put them in a pot and pour over the aforementioned aromatic oil until the birds are fully cooked with it. Cover the pot and place on a fire until the sparrows are cooked thoroughly. Then, remove them, and strain the water with a cloth until the essence of the birds becomes infused in the oil.

With the help of a young, beautiful, warmly receptive woman, or one at least remembered as such, a man’s penis will swell strongly without any need for oil from sparrows stung by bees. Moreover, men don’t actually need their bodies to be activated with the help of ants:

Another recipe: take 100 small and black ants and put them in a flask. Pour on five dirhams of blue liquorice oil,  which should cover the ants; close the flask and hang it in the hot sun for 20 days. Then, vigorously pound everything until the mixture has fermented. At the time it is needed, take one qīrāt of Indian aloewood, crush it finely, put it in ten dirhams of hot water and wash the penis, hands, feet and armpits with the water. Take one drop of the ant oil from the glass, or another small quantity, without the water, and rub it on your fingers, teeth, armpits and elbows.

Procedures for lengthening a man’s penis are even worse. Here’s one:

Take fresh thick sheep dung and dry amber in an amount that is required for rubbing the penis, as well as one qīrāt of musk. Pound it and mix vigorously with two dirhams of very finely ground coconut. Get into the bath and forcefully massage your penis with the cyperus oil until your member become red. Then rub the ingredients mixed with the sheep dung on the penis in the way that you rub in a seal, and wrap it in a cloth from dawn till dusk. Afterwards, remove the cloth and wash the penis. You will see a wonder, since the penis will have grown twice in size. [3]

Men, DON’T DO THAT. Your God-given penis is sufficient for you. Don’t let gynocentric society convince you otherwise.

Men engage in arduous erection labor to please women as well as themselves. The Sultan’s Potions underscores the extent of men’s sexual obligations to women. To enable one man to serve many women, one potion:

strengthens coitus to the extent that even when one has intercourse for three days running, one need not worry about growing weak. One is able to pleasure ten slave girls and freewomen every night, without any trouble or discomfort, as stated by the ancient philosophers and physicians.

Men commonly have been burdened with the obligation of working outside the home during the day. Men then have to come home and take on the double burden of work within the home all night long. Is it any wonder that men’s lifespans are on average about five years shorter than women’s? One recipe for men’s sexual potency hints at men’s double burden of labor:

It is effective and you will see it works wonders. Even if you had ten slave girls you would be able to pleasure them without any trouble or a change in temperament. It has been tried and tested.

In ordinary circumstances, if a man has to provide sexual pleasure to ten women every night, he’s likely to become exhausted and irritable. That change in temperament is completely understandable. But men are socially disparaged for complaining, even under outrageous circumstances. The Sultan’s Potions provides pharmaceutical solutions to men’s double burden. One potion even promises to help men with the problem of “growing bored” with their sexual obligations.

In producing and disseminating knowledge, men haven’t shown adequate regard for their own gender. Ancient philosophers and physicians were predominately men. They generated the knowledge recorded in The Sultan’s Potions. That knowledge included:

the position during coitus that provides great pleasure to both the man and woman, as stated by the ancient philosophers and physicians who gained knowledge of this from their experiments. [4]

While men seek knowledge on how to provide great pleasure to men and women, women seek reproductive rights only for women. While men seek knowledge on how to provide great pleasure to men and women, gynocentric society advances outrageous claims about men raping women. Men love women more than women love men.

The war on men’s sexuality threatens the experimental method, scientific knowledge, and great pleasure for men and women. Women must step up and fight on behalf of men.[5]

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Read more:


[1] The introduction to The Sultan’s Potions states that the “Caliph of Qāzān” commissioned it because his son suffered paralysis of the lips. Medieval scholars recognized the importance of kissing as an activity leading toward sex. Newman declared:

the focus on the importance of female pleasure doing coitus and the benefits of kissing was at the heart of another innovation attributable to the Arabic tradition: foreplay.

Newman (2014) p. 54. That’s surely an exaggeration. Consider, for example, the presentation of kissing on the path to sex in Egbert of Liège’s early eleventh-century textbook for schoolboys, Fecunda ratis. See note [2] and related text in my post on Fecunda ratis.

Newman identified the “Caliph of Qāzān” as Abaqa Khan. He reigned from 1265 to 1282. Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī lived from 1201 to 1274. However, another scholar reads the text as “Ghazan Khan.” He reigned from 1295 to 1304. That reading contributes to questioning whether the text is actually a medieval text.

Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī extravagantly described himself in the third person:

The caliph asked the shaykh of the world, the king of scholars of the age, the teacher of scholars of all time, the pillar of Islam and all Muslims, preceptor of kings and sultans, one who is full of blessings, Master Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī  — may the Almighty have mercy on him! — to compile a book on medicine that is small in size but has many benefits that will be useful to Muslims.

Intro., trans. Newman (2014) pp. 85-6.

The Sultan’s Potions may have been commercially commissioned. The attribution to a caliph (khan) plausibly could have been a marketing tactic. The oldest surviving manuscript of the work dates to 1793. Id. p. 68.

[2] Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī, The Book of Choice Sexual Stimulants and the Sultan’s Potions, Intro., trans. Newman (2014) pp. 89-90. Subsequent quotes are from (cited by chapter and page number in id): Intro., p. 90 (When coitus takes place…); 13, p. 118 (Take house sparrows…); 13, pp. 118-9 (Another recipe…); 12, p. 117 (Take fresh thick sheep dung…); 4, p. 103 (strengthens coitus to the extent…); 4, p. 104 (It is effective…); 6, p. 108 (growing bored); 15, p. 120 (the position during coitus…).

[3] The Greek Magical Papyri include similar recipes for enhancing a man’s penis.

[4] The Sultan’s Potions draws upon the work of impressive authorities:

Allah the Almighty willing, in line with what was said about this by the ancient philosophers and physicians, who relied on their experiments and experience, in their books. They include Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Palladius, Aristo, and scholars like them.

Intro., trans. Newman (2014) p. 91. Underscoring the importance of men’s sexual obligations, the great physician and scholar ibn Sina explained, “If a man can’t make her orgasm, some {women} turn to lesbianism.” Quoted in id. p. 41.

[5] Tendentious scholarly work in support of the dominant ideology, e.g. Gadelrab (2011), doesn’t help. Moreover, truthful understanding cannot be established with wildly unrealistic theory:

From a constructionist point of view, we could make the objection that there was no sex prior to the actual invention of the term.

Franke (2012) p. 161. Only an academic, social-constructivist fundamentalist could take such an objection seriously.

[image] Potion bottles. Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing the source image under CCO Public Domain license on


Franke, Patrick. 2012. “Before scientia sexualis in Islamic culture: ‘ilm al-bāh between erotology, medicine and pornography.” Social Identities. 18 (2): 161-173.

Gadelrab, Sherry Sayed. 2011. “Discourses on Sex Differences in Medieval Scholarly Islamic Thought.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 66: 40-81.

Newman, Daniel L., ed. and trans. 2014. Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tūsī. The Sultan’s sex potions: Arab aphrodisiacs in the Middle Ages. London: Saqi. (Emily Selove’s review)