Mother Nature denounced promiscuous maidservants exploiting men

sexy maidservant

Nature urges most men to have sex with women. The learned twelfth-century Latin work Architrenius recognized this reality. It has Mother Nature state:

Our decree forbids man to wither on the barren bough, bury his talent in the ground, or prevent conception by blocking its channels. Natural religion bids a man exercise the seminal power entrusted to him and give rise to a long procession of offspring, lest he remain ever virgin, reduced to the state of the barren alder or plane true, ever virgin like the laurel

{ Sanctio nostra virum sterili marcescere ramo
Et fructum sepelire vetat, prolemque negantes
Obstruxisse vias. commissi viribus uti
Seminis et longam generis producere pompam
Religio nativa iubet, ne degener alnum
Induat aut platanum, semper virguncula laurus } [1]

Gynocentric society, however, tends to devalue men’s sexuality. The problem is not just the criminalization of men seducing women and absurd claims about men raping women. Sex is more generally socially constructed as a good that men lack and women possess. Men must then work to get sex from women.

Only rarely have voices been heard protesting the devaluation of men’s sexuality. In ancient Greece, the wise law-giver Solon sought to support publicly men’s sexual welfare. In the U.S. today, an obscure, crack-pot blogger has advocated for men being paid for their erection labor. Overall, medieval Latin literature has provided the strongest voices in support of men’s sexuality. Whether it’s protesting women devaluing masculine sexual acts of reproductive type, protesting men’s exhausting sexual service to their wives, or protesting corporal punishment of men for impotence, medieval Latin literature leads in humane compassion for men.

Mother Nature in the medieval Latin Architrenius warned men against having sex with promiscuous maidservants. Mother’s warning figured heterosexuality with amplified agricultural and maritime metaphors. More importantly, it perceptively denounced exploitative sexual economics and validated men’s need for pleasurable embraces. Mother Nature declared:

The body of a maidservant that has performed a wife’s office for many men does not make for pleasurable embraces. Such ground is plowed by oxen of all sorts, and does not know how to reject the crudest of farmers. Her skiff is greedy for a crowd; her common carriage serves a filthy clientele; she will somehow force into her full vessel any steersman whatsoever. And however many she takes on board, she fleeces them all by her frequent tolls, robbing them of everything over the course of repeated voyages. Over her long career she has forgotten how to give a free performance. Immune to shipwreck, she never founders in the waves, but smiles as she is buffeted by the rising storm.

{ Nec facit ad sapidos amplexus nubile multis
Ancille gremium. variis hec bobus aratur
Terra nec indecores scit fastidire colonos.
Vulgi cimba rapax, carpentum vile, palustri
Accurrit populo, vix plena inviscerat alno
Vectorem quemcumque ratis, nauloque frequenti
Quot capit expilat. iteratis omnia carpit
Navigiis, usuque vices impendere gratis
Dememinit longo, nulloque innaufraga fluctu
Occumbit, tumidam ridens concussa procellan. }

The most extraordinary feature of this passage is the implicit assertion that a woman should perform sexually for a man without the expectation of payment. Whether it’s expecting a man to pay for her dinner on a Tinder date, or expecting a man eventually to give her a diamond ring, women commonly expect to be compensated for having sex with men.[2] In the Architrenius, Mother Nature herself denounced this oppressive social construction of heterosexuality.

The wisdom and learning in medieval Latin literature remains vitally important today. For the sake of humane civilization and social justice, it must be conveyed to the present and passed on to future generations.

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Notes:

[1] Johannes de Hauvilla, Architrenius 9.242-7, Latin text and trans. adapted slightly from Wetherbee (1994) pp. 238-9.  The subsequent quote is from 9.250-9, Latin text and English translation, id. On “bury his talent within the ground,” cf. Matthew 25:14–30 (parable of the talents).

[2] As the folktale motif “lover’s gift regained” makes clear, men’s disadvantaged position in the sexual economy is longstanding. Corrupting effects of greed and money is a central theme of the Architrenius. See Wetherbee (1994) pp. xiv-xx.

[image] A sexy maidservant doing laundry. Painting by Henry Robert Morland, 18th century. Held in Denver Art Museum as Berger Collection #52. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

Reference:

Wetherbee, Winthrop. 1994. Johannes de Hauvilla. Architrenius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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