medieval education: teaching demonology of men’s sexuality

medieval demonology: Lucifer being judged

Today in higher education, students are taught about the demonic male, the pathology of masculinity, and the oppressive power of the male gaze. Medieval education tended to be of higher intellectual quality. Nonetheless, Egbert of Liège’s early-eleventh-century schoolbook for young boys indicates that, even in the more enlightened medieval period, students were taught demonology of men’s sexuality.

Like Hesiod’s Theogony, demonology of men’s sexuality draws upon the cultural resources of castration culture. Medieval Latin literature addressed castration culture with acute perceptiveness in such masterpieces as Radulfus Tortarius’s Sincopus and John of Hauville’s Architrenius. Medieval authors dared to tell of Ovid being castrated for defying the great mother goddess Cybele. Medieval authors narrated the effects on Percival of his father being castrated. From this well-laden ship of castration culture, Egbert of Liège drew simple, disparaging lessons for young boys.

Silence and castrate yourself. This brutal teaching, so familiar to men today, Egbert drilled into young boys with heroic Latin hexameter poetry:

Cut off the member that impedes you the most, I say.
What is the source of evil? I argue it is these two: the tongue and the genitals.
If you want to be a strong man, use your strength, O conqueror.
If you are willing to cut, then do away with both of them like a man.

{ Hoc menbrum capula tibi, quod magis inpedit, inquam.
Unde mali caput? Haec duo linguam causor et inguen:
fortis et ut vir sis, tum viribus utere, victor,
si capulare velis, extingue viriliter ambo. }[1]

Act like a man! Be a strong man! The social imperatives of gynocentric society presume that men aren’t naturally virtuous. The demonology of men’s sexuality starts with denying men’s birthright. It depends on forcing men to work to be men. Silencing men is necessary to prevent men from speaking out about injustices against men.

Throughout history, some brave men have refused to silence themselves. Juvenal wrote boldly and frankly to dissuade his friend Postumus from marrying. Loqui prohibeor et tacere non possum. They forbid me to speak, and I cannot be silent. Thus Rufinus urged his friend Valerius not marry. Matheolus courageously shared his lessons from the school of hard knocks that was his marriage to Petra. With just a little exposure to masterpieces in literature of men’s sexed protest, even the most dim-witted boy can understand a fundamental lesson: get married under gynocentrism only at grave risk to your well-being.

Men often need to be pressured into marriage. Shaming men — “you’re afraid to get married” — has been a common tactic throughout history to pressure men into marriage. In the Middle Ages, Egbert taught young boys that even a man reluctant to have sex with an ugly woman is a coward. Egbert taught that lesson with a fable about a man and a bear:

A coward was ordered to lie down with an ugly beast.
But after he had kissed the bear, he shunned it.
He was then urged to poke his rod into its bowels.
“Men, I could scarcely bring myself to touch it with my lips. Where are you pushing me?” he said.
“Let no friend ask that I venture greater things after this.
Such terror infused me from what I have already ventured,
I was sure I was going to crap myself with a filthy pile.”

{ Ignavus deforme pecus concidere iussus;
oscula sed postquam libavit, abhorruit ursum.
Cogitur inde, feri ut venabula figat in alvum:
“Labra, viri, vixdum ammovi! quo truditis?” inquit,
“Me maiora audere dehinc ne poscat amicus:
tantus enim invasit terror pro talibus ausis,
certus eram me congerie foedare inhonesta.” }[2]

This fable concludes with the moral it teaches:

One terrified by the smallest things, balks at more serious ones in his fear.

{ In minimis veritus refugit graviora timendo. }

Heterosexual men tend to prefer beautiful, feminine women for mates. Egbert inverted such a female mate with the figure of an ugly, male bear. That simple literary move drills into young boys the lesson that men must be willing to marry any women, or they will be socially disparaged as not real men.[3]

In conjunction with urging young boys to be silent, to castrate themselves, and to go obediently into marriage with violent, ugly, mannish women, Egbert taught them not to struggle against men’s subservience to women. Young boys under Egbert’s tutelage learned that men’s physical strength and intellectual capabilities are no match for women’s actual superiority:

A woman laid low the first man Adam, Samson, and Solomon.
A woman conquered the newly formed man, the strong man, the wise man.
The weak sex struck down the strong one through temptations.

{ Primum hominem, Samson, Salemonem femina stravit,
plasma novum, fortem, sapientem femina vicit,
debilis allisit fortem per scandala sexum. }[4]

Misrepresenting women as the “weak sex” is obfuscation in the service of gynocentrism. If women actually were the weak sex, then men wouldn’t be dying from violence four times as frequently as women do, and men wouldn’t be subject to social injustices that are socially deprived of that name. Unlike many professors today, Egbert deserves credit for instructing students in the reality of men’s subservience to women.

While instructing young boys in silence, castration, forced marriage, and subservience to women, Egbert recognized that the quality of knowledge teachers offered students was declining. Egbert observed:

Scholarly effort is in decline everywhere as never before.
Indeed, cleverness is shunned at home and abroad.
What does reading offer to pupils except tears?
It is rare, worthless when offered for sale, and devoid of wit.

{ Ut numquam studium sic friget ubique scolare,
quippe domi sollertia militiaeque negatur;
lectio quid preter plorare ministrat alumnis?
Rara quidem, nauci, cum venerit, et salis expers. }[5]

Compared to Egbert’s time early in the eleventh century, the situation is even worse today. Critical gender theory is produced with little scholarly effort. Truly clever work is shunned and ignored. What pupil wouldn’t be reduced to tears while reading ignorant scholarship proclaiming misogyny? After many expensive years of higher education, a student is firmly indoctrinated in the demonology of men’s sexuality and knows nothing about real sexism.

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[1] Egbert of Liège, The Well-Laden Ship {Fecunda Ratis} 1.1190-3, Latin text and English translation from Babcock (2013) pp. 126-7. These verses are titled “Concerning the more unjust members {De menbris magis iniustis}”. Cf. id. p. x, “that such poison is being fed to children is still disturbing.”

Egbert reflected ideas about castration and violence against men that all humane persons should find deeply disturbing. In his schoolbook, Egbert included the proverb:

My hand is not clean: the dog isn’t cleansed of a testicle.

{ Nec mihi munda manus, canis et non teste solutus. }

Fecunda ratis 1.131, sourced as previously. Egbert or one of his students glossed this proverb with the words:

If anyone has begun to castrate a dog, when one testicle is torn out and the other remains, that person has neither a clean hand nor completed work. In the same way, having wounded an enemy and letting him remain alive, afterward one will experience an avenger of his death, whom he had earlier willingly left behind as a survivor.

{ Si quis canem ceperit castrare uno testiculo eruto, altero dimisso, nec mundam habit manum nec opus impletum. Sic aliquis, (si) inimicum vulnerans vivum dimiserit, postea experietur mortis suae ultorem, quem antea volens reliquit superstitem. }

Babcock (2013) p. 269, note to Fecunda ratis 1.131, with the Latin translation modified slightly, including to eliminate a sexist assumption about the castrator’s gender. This gloss personifies a man’s testicle as both an avenger and a being that can die.

Babcock’s Latin text is essentially that of Voigt (1889). In this and subsequent quotes, I’ve lineated Babcock’s translation to match the Latin text to help non-Latinists to examine the Latin.

Egbert, a cleric in Liège (in present-day Belgium), completed Fecunda Ratis between 1010 and 1026. Babcock (2013) p. xiii, xv. It consists of “2,373 unrhymed hexameter verse in two books.” Ziolkowski (2007) pp. 100. The work has survived in a single, eleventh-century manuscript: Cologne, Erzbischöfliche Diözesanbibliothek, Dombibliothek codex 196, fols. 1r-63r. Liège was within the archbishopric of Cologne. Ziolkowski (2007) p. 101; Babcock (2013) p. xxv, n 1.

Egbert’s Fecunda Ratis provides early Latin versions of influential stories. The earliest known version of “Little Red Riding Hood” occurs in Fecunda Ratis 2.472-85, “Concerning the girl saved from wolf cubs {De puella a lupellis servata}”. For thorough analysis of the history of “Little Red Riding Hood,” Ziolkowski (2007) Ch. 3.

The earliest known version of the story of the peasant and his domineering wife is also found in Fecunda Ratis. It’s 1.1378-84, “Concerning a wife hostile to her husband {De uxore infensa marito}”. The great medieval women writer Marie de France reworked this story to provide the earliest known representation of the inverted v-sign, a sexually insulting gesture that remains common in the United Kingdom today.

[2] Egbert, Fecunda Ratis 1.1419-26, Latin text and English trans. Babcock (2013) pp. 146-9 (including subsequent quote above), with my changes to the translation. These verses are titled “About the man who kissed a bear {De eo, qui osculatus est ursum},” Babcock called this fable “extremely puzzling.” Id. p. 328, n. to 1419-26. It immediately follows verses describing five stages of “flaming love {flagrantis …. amoris}”: sight, speech, touch, kisses, and sexual intercourse. Babcock notes that the fable “would be (and probably should be) interpreted sexually by the reader.” Id.

My changes to Babcock’s translation help to make clear the fable’s relevance to the gender oppression of men. Babcock translated concidere as “slaughter” and venabula figat in alvum as “stick his lance in the belly of the beast.” I follow Babcock’s suggestions for sexual meanings of these terms. The idiomatic phrase “belly of the beast” seems to me to have misleading connotations here; moreover, the Latin doesn’t repeat the noun “beast {pecus}” from the first verse. For audere / ausis, I use the verb “venture” rather than Babcock’s “dare” to be more consistent with the sense of the man’s reluctance. For “defile myself with a filthy mass,” I use more concrete, colloquial diction consistent with the Latin.

[3] Not understanding the fable’s meaning and corresponding literary device, Babcock misconstrued it with an excessively literal reading: “the bear, like the coward, is male, so it would be anal sex that is implied.” Babcock (2013) p. 328, n. to 1419-26. On a husband’s reluctance to consummate a marriage, see, e.g. the Vita of Galaktion and Episteme and John VIII Palaiologos’s behavior toward his wife Sophia of Montferrat.

[4] Egbert, Fecunda Ratis 2.515-7, Latin text and English trans. Babcock (2013) pp. 230-1. In discussing Solomon, who in Solomon and Marcolf showed malice toward men, Egbert’s work carries forth the understandable frustration and anger of men suffering under long-standing gynocentric oppression:

How many cups, always bitter, does this sex serve up?
The first man fell by this disease, and Samson and Solomon.
What wonder could this poisonous snake not topple?

{ Hic sexus quota pocula semper amara propinat!
Primus homo hoc morbo, Samson ceciditque Salemon —
quid non precipitet haec ydra venefica mirum? }

Fecunda Ratis 2.539-41, trans. id. pp. 232-3. Men deserve compassion for their personal suffering. But at the level of social structure, men share equal blame for the injustices of gynocentrism.

[5] Egbert, Fecunda Ratis 1.1093-6, Latin text and English trans. Babcock (2013) pp. 116-7. These verses are titled “Concerning Poor Scholarly Effort {De malo studio}”.

[image] Excerpt from Lucifer being judged by Christ in majesty. Illumination on f. 067v of Livre de la Vigne nostre Seigneur (Bodley Library, Oxford, MS. Douce 134). Created in France, c. 1450-1470. Image thanks to the Bodley Library’s Luna system. Here’s a brief review of medieval demonology.


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

Voigt, Ernst, ed. 1889. Egberts von Lüttich Fecunda Ratis, zum ersten Mal herausgegeben, auf ihre Quellen zurückgeführt und erklärt von Ernst Voigt. Halle A.S.: M. Niemeyer.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2007. Fairy tales from before fairy tales: the medieval Latin past of wonderful lies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

women’s superiority: the silliness of talk about gender equality

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus

In 384 GC, the Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory of Nazianzus wrote to the young bride Olympiada. She was a wealthy descendant of the Roman imperial family. Gregory knew her personally and acted as her spiritual father. As a wedding gift, he gave her a 111-verse poem of fatherly advice. That poem shows that an extraordinarily wise man recognized, about 1600 years ago, that talk about gender equality is silliness relative to women’s actual gender superiority.

Gregory’s poem for Olympiada indicated the extraordinary privilege of elite women relative to ordinary men. While ordinary men commonly worked on the verge of starvation, elite women led lives of luxury and feminine vanity. Gregory warned Olympiada against adorning herself with gold, precious stones, fancy dresses, and cosmetics. He urged her to distinguish herself from other elite women:

The expensive and fancy dresses must remain for those women that have no desire for the life beyond and do not know what the meaning of spiritual struggle and attainment of virtues is all about; this type of woman cannot possibly comprehend the spiritual radiance and brilliance of a life in Christ. You have aimed towards greater goals and for a higher purpose for your life. … Stay away from conceited and ostentatious women whose mind is preoccupied with external appearances and social circles, all for the purpose of vainglory and public display.

Such women today write about patriarchy and men’s oppression of women. They do so to gain public attention and fashionable intellectual status. Women who truly care about social justice speak out on behalf on men.

Gregory explicitly described women’s superiority to men. He bluntly told Olympiada:

Set aside the silliness of equality among the sexes that some of your contemporaries preach, and attempt to comprehend the obligations of marriage. … You must surely be aware of how easily anger overtakes men. They cannot maintain their temper, and they often appear as wild lions. It is at this exact moment that a woman must remain stronger and display her superiority. You must play the role of the lion-tamer. What does a lion-tamer do when the beast starts roaring? He becomes even calmer than usual and through kindness and persistence he overcomes the lion’s wrath. He speaks to the lion kindly, in a soft but firm voice, he caresses it, he attends to it, he pets it, and little by little calmness is restored.

Historically, men have been disparaged as dogs, pigs, wolves, and animals sexually inferior to donkeys. Not all men are like that. Gregory, who was a highly learned theologian, stated merely that men “often appear as wild lions.” More importantly, Gregory recognized that, in general, women are stronger than men and superior to men in social position and social power.

While Gregory never produced a treatise on gender theory, his kindly, fatherly words to Olympiada suggest that he had a sophisticated understanding of intersexual dynamics. He urged Olympiada to love her husband according to the Christian model of love:

In your marriage, fondness, affection and love must be strong and persistent for him whom God has selected to be your life partner. This man is now the eye of your life and the delight of your heart. And if you ever perceive that your husband possibly loves you more than you love him, do not take advantage of his feeling by attempting to gain the upper had in your marriage. That is plainly wrong as it is totally against the writings of the Holy Gospel!

The leading medieval theologian Peter Lombard recognized that courtly love puts men in a subservient position relative to women. Men’s inferiority to women in identifying biological offspring has enormous implications for social inequality. Yet gender inequality ultimately has even deeper roots. The fundamental gender equality is this: men typically love women more than women love men. That inequality in love allows women to gain the upper hand over men. The Christian model of love, as well as women of great culture and learning, challenge prevalent inequality in love between men and women.

Gregory told Olympiada the truth about gender equality rather than the conventional lies so prevalent throughout history. A woman can free herself from criminal justice by baring her breasts to a jury. When a woman claims rape, men foolishly limit themselves to listening and believing and acting to punish and even kill other men. A woman’s tears overwhelm any public reason. Rome was explicitly founded on the principle of the Sabine women’s social superiority. Almost all other societies have been based on belief in women’s superiority to men. Gregory of Nazarianus deserves extraordinary praise and honor for speaking truth about gender power.

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The quotes above are from Gregory of Nazianzus’s letter to Olympiada in 384 GC. The translation is from the Orthodox Christian Information Center’s website. The name of the translator isn’t given. I’ve made some non-substantial changes to the translation. The Greek text and Latin translations (prose and verse) are available in Patrologia Graeca (PG), vol. 37, p. 1542.

Gregory of Nazianzus was an eminent theologian and church leader who lived from about 329 to 390 GC. Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nyssa are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. With Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nazianzus is regarded as a Holy Hierarch. He is also regarded as a saint. He is one of only three persons generally known by the epithet “the Theologian.” For more information on Gregory and a translation of some of his poems, Dunkle (2009). Here’s a large collection of Gregory’s writings. Although widely revered, Gregory’s insightful contribution to gender theory has been almost totally ignored.

[image] Excerpt from icon of Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian. Made in 1408 and attributed to Andrei Rublev. Originally in the Dormition Cathedral, Valdimir, Russia. Now in the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), inventory # 19725. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Dunkle, Brian P. 2009. Gregory Nazianzen’s Poems on Scripture: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. S.T.L. Degree Thesis. Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

reconstructing ancient songs for schoolboys: Juvenal vs. sugar & spice

Surviving manuscripts in Europe from the tenth through the twelfth century include musical notation for Latin texts by Virgil, Lucan, Horace, Juvenal, Statius, and Boethius, and other classical authors. The musical notation seems to have been intended to help medieval schoolboys learn how to recite classical Latin verse.[1] Today those classical works are read as literary poems. Schoolboys singing Juvenal’s satire 6? That’s inconceivable today. Any schoolboys doing that would be immediately expelled from the gynocentric-totalitarian educational complex and probably incarcerated for committing gender-transgressive singing crimes.

Modern scholars have imagined medieval men singing Latin classics in a highly orthodox way. An eminent scholar at Cambridge University and a world-class performer of medieval music have reconstructed medieval songs based on poems from Boethius’s sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy. Those poems were written with musical notation in the eleventh-century manuscript Carmina Cantabrigiensia.[2] A portion of their musical reconstruction is available on YouTube (see below). It’s music for these Boethian verses:

Verses I made once glowing with content;
Tearful, alas, sad songs must I begin.

{ Carmina qui quondam studio florente peregi,
Flebilis heu maestos cogor inire modos. } [3]

This surely isn’t the sort of music schoolboys would enjoy.

For a sense of what schoolboys sang within medieval Latin’s relatively broad freedom of expression, modern trends provide considerable insight. About 1820, the English poet Robert Southey wrote the verses:

What are little boys made of
Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
And such are little boys made of.

What are young women made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice [4]

By the mid-twentieth century, nearly identical lines formed a well-known nursery rhyme. By 2017, the U.S. mega-corporation Nike drew upon that nursery rhyme in an attempt to influence Russian popular culture and Russian consumer behavior. Contempt for boys and men and celebration of girls and women are winning themes in gynocentric society.[5]

At the margins of gynocentric society are boys’ and men’s voices of sexed protest. Medieval schoolboys were forced to endure oppressive lessons such as those in Egbert of Liège’s eleventh-century Fecunda Ratis. But perceptive and compassionate medieval writers understood the suffering of fathers’ deprived of custody of their children, poignantly lamented a non-functioning penis, and vigorously protested structural injustices against men. They would have sought to boost boys’ rebellious spirits. They would have taught boys to sing verses from Juvenal’s Satire 6:

this is the moment of pure Woman —
the shout’s repeated in unison from the entire grotto:
“Now’s the time! Send in the men!” If the wife’s paramour is asleep,
she’ll tell his son to put on his hood and hurry along.
If that’s no good, there’s an assault on the slaves. If no prospect of available
slaves, they’ll pay the water delivery man to come in. If they
can’t find him and there’s a deficit of humans, not a moment passes before
she voluntarily offers her ass to be mounted by a donkey.

{ tum femina simplex,
ac pariter toto repetitus clamor ab antro
“iam fas est, admitte viros.” dormitat adulter,
illa iubet sumpto iuvenem properare cucullo;
si nihil est, servis incurritur; abstuleris spem
servorum, veniet conductus aquarius; hic si
quaeritur et desunt homines, mora nulla per ipsam
quo minus inposito clunem summittat asello. } [6]

Schoolboys throughout the ages would relish singing such verses. More importantly, such verses would teach schoolboys that they are no more intrinsically stupid and evil than girls are. That’s a lesson that boys need to learn, especially today.

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[1] Ziolkowski (2007) provides a seminal scholarly review of musical notation in classical manuscripts.

[2] The Cambridge scholar is Sam Barrett. The leading medieval musician is Benjamin Bagby, co-founder of Sequentia and director of Sequentia’s Lost Songs Project. Sequentia has produced an album of reconstructed medieval music, Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper.

Carmina Cantabrigiensia includes Modus Florum and Modus Liebinc. Both of these songs might encourage boys to challenge gynocentrism. See my post on Modus Florum, especially note [11].

[3] Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy 1.1-2, Latin text and English trans. from Stewart, Rand & Tester (1974) pp. 130-1.

[4] Opie & Opie (1997) p. 117. When writing about women, Southey took care to indicate that not all women are like that (NAWALT):

What are some women made of?
Bell metal mouths and leathern lungs
Goose’s brains and parrot’s tongues.

Id. In 1846, Edward Francis Rimbault, an English musicologist, included no such qualification in disparaging young men:

What are young men made of?
Sighs and leers and crocodile tears.
What are young women made of?
Ribbons and laces, and sweet pretty faces.


[5] In a highly popular related video, the Powerpuff Girls take on the Rowdyruff Boys. The boys are depicted as sinister. Moreover, the boys are associated with crime and incarceration. The girls prevail in the end with the tactics that medieval literature of men’s sex protest recognized: the tactics that brought about the downfall of Adam, Samson, and Solomon.

[6] Juvenal, Satire 6.327-34, Latin text and trans. (adapted non-substantially) from Braund (2004) pp. 262-3. Munk Olsen reported that Juvenal’s Satire 88.79-84 and 8.88-89 are neumed (notated with musical notation) in Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, MS B.P.L 82, fol. 59r. That claim hasn’t been verified. Ziolkowski (2007) p. 257. In his De doctrina spirituali, Otloh of St. Emmeran in Regensburg (c. 1010-1070) described Horace, Terence, and Juvenal as three authors “to whom the worldly school is devoted {quos sectatur schola mundi}.” id. p. 35. Moreover, the eleventh-century Lexicon prosodiacum included examples from Juvenal. Id. Juvenal is among the classical poets represented most frequently in surviving medieval manuscripts. Id. p. 36. Medieval schoolboys plausibly sung Juvenal’s Satire 6.327-34.


Braund, Susanna Morton, ed. and trans. 2004. Juvenal, Persius. Juvenal and Persius. Loeb Classical Library 91. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Opie, Iona Archibald, and Peter Opie. 1997. The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stewart, H. F., E. K. Rand, S. J. Tester, ed. and trans. 1973. Boethius. Theological Tractates. The Consolation of Philosophy. Loeb Classical Library 74. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2007. Nota bene: reading classics and writing melodies in the early Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols. (introduction)

social construction of sexual culpability in classical Arabic poetry

medieval Baghdad underground

An extraordinary work of classical Arabic literature from early eleventh-century Baghdad subtly critiques the sexual oppression of men. The towering, central figure of this work is the eminent littérateur Abū al-Qāsim. He had strong, independent sexuality like that widely celebrated for women in high-income countries today. Despite his great literary sophistication, Abū al-Qāsim himself, like the leading fourteenth-century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, internalized the social construction of men’s sexual culpability.

At a lavish, elite banquet, Abū al-Qāsim celebrated the vibrancy and dynamism of his penis. After asking a professional singer to play music for a specific Arabic poetic meter, Abū al-Qāsim jumped up and began to dance and recite poetry. He poetically exulted:

The hardness of the prick and the softness of the shit
In the ass: the two together are what please me

O affliction, O the evil of my luck — but how
Sweet are the two to me when they get together

My prick’s insistence has refused to
Waver in its versatility in fucking

Not at all homophobic, Abū al-Qāsim enjoyed having sex with both men and women. Moreover, he was unafraid to speak of the sexual attractiveness of sexually attractive persons. He even expressed openly, in the presence of witnesses, his own sexual desire, even as an old man, for sexually attractive persons. In many high-income countries today, Abū al-Qāsim surely would be subject to a mass public campaign of shaming and demonization, as well as severe public punishment through loss of employment, asset stripping, and incarceration.

Despite Abū al-Qāsim’s cultural sophistication and expressive courage, he attributed culpability for moral wrong to the penis and exonerated the vagina. After reciting the above poem, Abū al-Qāsim recited another, deeply telling poem:

God is the one asked for help
By my wife’s pussy and my prick

The two have burdened me with fucking
That has almost broken my back

But I say in regard to what
You see is my heart’s preoccupation

In my opinion, there is no reason
For rebuking the pussy

Nor can it be blamed for sin,
Not even for a single day in time

It’s the prick — my prick — that you should curse
For indeed it’s a dog’s prick!

A prick that yearns to fuck
Every hairy pussy

Men’s sexuality has been socially disparaged and devalued throughout history. From the persecution of men for adultery in Code of Hammurabi written about 4,000 years ago to the French Revolution’s failure to provide men with legal paternity choice, to deeply gender-biased current public discussion about men raping women, men’s sexuality is socially constructed as a destructive force requiring strict social control. Can human reason even recognize this fundamental social injustice? Abū al-Qāsim continued dancing until he fell to the ground “from breathlessness and too much drinking.”

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All the quotes above are from the Arabic Ḥikāyat Abī al-Qāsim {The Imitation Abū al-Qāsim}, attributed to al-Azdī. This work probably was written in early eleventh-century Baghdad. The English translations are from St. Germain (2006) pp. 401-2. I have made some non-substantial changes to St. Germain’s translation for ease of readability for the general public.

The twelfth-century Byzantine novel Drosilla and Charikles seems to provide a redemptive perspective on Abū al-Qāsim through the dancing old woman Maryllis.

[image] Dual perspective on the public world of medieval Baghdad. The Tigris River represents the divide between the dominant, orthodox perspective on gynocentric space and the upside-down reality of men’s oppressive social position. By Nasuh Al-Matrakî, an sixteenth-century Ottoman artist-scholar. From illuminated manuscript held in Topkapi collection, Bilkent University. On Al-Matrakî, see the well-documented article Ayduz (n.d.). The specific copy of the manuscript illumination is from a Smithsonian Magazine article that provides no attribution for the image.


Ayduz, Salim. Not dated (n.d.). “Nasuh Al-Matrakî, A Noteworthy Ottoman Artist-Mathematician of the Sixteenth Century.” Muslim Heritage website, Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation.

St. Germain, Mary S. 2006. Al-Azdī’s Ḥikāyat Abī al Qāsim al-Baghdādī: placing an anomalous text within the literary developments of its time. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Washington.