husbands care for their wives’ sexual well-being: two case studies

board: not to be used for protection during sex

Taking upon themselves a crushing burden of performance, husbands typically strive to support their wives’ sexual well-being. Especially with today’s ideal of woman-on-top, husbands feeling the weight of their responsibilities need helpful resources. The following two case studies can help husbands to understand how to do what they must do. Men with courage and endurance have worked strenuous jobs throughout history. Men today should have confidence that, with even just a minimal amount of encouragement, they can do likewise.

The first case study is about a medieval man earning a meager living ferrying persons across a river in his small boat. At the end of a long day in which he had found no customers, one appeared. The ferryman carried him across the river and sought his carriage fee. The man said that he had no money. The man offered instead advice:

“Never,” he said, “transport anyone else unless your fee has been received in advance; and never tell your wife that anyone has a larger penis than you have.”

{ “Ut numquam,” ait, “quempiam transportes de caetero, nisi prius pecunia recepta; tum ut nunquam dicas uxori cuiquam majus genitale membrum quam tibi esse.” } [1]

That’s advice that no man should need. Yet, through faulty education and poor role models, many men today lack such basic wisdom.

The ferryman lacked respect for learning. When he arrived home, his wife pressed him about his earnings. He acknowledged that he had earned nothing. He didn’t ask her in turn how much she had earned. Instead, he told her the advice that he had received:

When the woman heard about the genitals, she asked: “Is is possible, my dear husband, that they’re not all the same size?”

{Mulier, cum ad genitale aurem erexisset : “Numquid, mi vir,” inquit, “non omnes aequa mensura estis?” }

The husband had learned nothing from carrying the passenger without being paid. Wrongly understanding the medieval ideal of conjugal partnership, he responded to his wife as he would to a good male friend:

“Bah!” he responded, “Great are the differences among us. Actually, our priest exceeds all of us by almost half,” and he extended his arms to describe the length.

{ “Vah!” respondit, “magna est inter nos differentia. Nam sacerdos noster dimidio ferme nos omnes excedit,” et brachium extendens mensuram descripsit. }

The husband’s foolishness immediately disturbed his wife:

She immediately burned with desire for the priest, and she didn’t cease until she had experientially verified what her husband had said.

{ Illa statim in sacerdotem accensa, nunquam destitit quoad, vir an vere dixisset, quam primum experiretur. }

Cuckolds historically have been regarded as pathetically stupid. Husbands should learn from the vast, historical literature describing them. Husbands should not belittle their own sexuality.

The second case study concerns Guglielmo. He was a carpenter in the Italian town of Terranuova early in the fifteenth century. Guglielmo had a beautiful penis as large as that of Priapus.[2] His wife told her female neighbors about her husband’s great endowment. After she died, Guglielmo married a young, simple woman named Antonia. She had heard gossip of her husband’s “manly spear {viri telum}”. That gossip initially caused distance in their relationship:

The first night she slept with her husband, she, trembling, refused to embrace her husband and would not permit sexual intercourse.

{ nocte primo cum viro concubuit, tremebunda nolebat herere viro, neque coitum pati. }

Young, simple medieval women were strong and independent enough to refuse to have sex, even with their husbands on their wedding nights. But this woman, like most other medieval women, didn’t desire a sexless marriage. Slowly rising, Guglielmo eventually felt her concern:

The man eventually perceived what was frightening the maturing woman.  In order to comfort her, he told her that what she had heard was true, but that he had two penises, a small one and a larger one. “Now not to hurt you,” he said, “I will use tonight this small one, which cannot harm you; later, the larger one, if you see fit.” Consenting, the young woman yielded to her husband, without any shrieking or any harm at all.

{ Sensit vir tandem quid timeret adolescentula, consolatusque illam, verum esse quod audierat, ait, sed duas se mentulas habere, parvam ac majorem quamdam. “Ne te ergo offendam,” ait, “utar hac nocte parva, quae tibi minime nocebit ; postea majori, si tibi videbitur.” Consentiens puella obsecuta est viro, absque clamore aut nocumento aliquo. } [3]

Men throughout history have acted with loving concern for their sexual partners. The same is true for male primates in general. While men only recently have been subject to tyrannical laws of affirmative, enthusiastic (only for women) consent, most men have always sought to have consensual sex according to a reasonable understanding and practice of consent. Such was the case with Guglielmo and his young wife Antonia.

Antonia and Guglielmo enjoyed a passionate sexual relationship as a married couple. Antonia was by no means a passive participant. She freely expressed her own sexual interests:

After a month’s time, her deeds became even freer and bolder. One night, she coaxed her husband, “My man,” she said, “if it’s pleasing, you would use that larger one for us together.”

{ Post mensem vero facta liberior atque audentior, cum noctu viro suo blandiretur: “Mi vir,” inquit, “si libet, majore jam illo socio utaris.” }

Guglielmo had a penis that rivaled in size that of a donkey. Antonia had come to understand that, among its other functions, a penis is an instrument for giving pleasure.

Husbands’ care for their wives’ sexual well-being should encompass care for their own bodies. Men shouldn’t regard their own genitals as junk. Men should see the men-oppressing implications in figuring men’s penises like weapons such as spears. A man shouldn’t belittle his own penis or seek to acquire a longer one. Above all, men must understand that they live in an age of ignorance, anti-men bigotry, and superstition far worse than that which supported Antonia’s initial fear of her husband’s penis. Men need to cultivate an ability to respond with imaginative creativity just as Guglielmo did.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae 175, “Of a pauper who earned his living as a ferryman {De paupere qui navicula victum quaerebat},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 2, pp. 86-8. The quotes above provide my English translations, drawing upon that of id., but tracking the Latin more closely.  The subsequent four quotes are similarly from id.

A wife may know from her own experience that others have larger penises her husband. This can present particular problems as a result of the female gaze. Nonetheless, a husband maintaining his sexual self-esteem is vital for his wife’s sexual well-being.

[2] This story is from Poggio, Facetiae 62, “Of Guglielmo (William) who had a beautiful Priapean apparatus {De Guilhelmo qui habebat Priapeam supellectilem formosam},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 1, pp. 102-4, my English translation. The text of the story refers to Guglielmo as having a “Priapean apparatus sufficiently copious {Priapea supellectile satis copiosus}.” The subsequent quotes above are from id.

Terranuova was where in 1380 the great medieval churchman Poggio Bracciolini was born. Poggio, not surprisingly, associated his hometown with a man who had a magnificently large penis. In honor of Poggio, Terranuova in 1862 renamed itself Terranuova Bracciolini.

[3] Men who have used less literary approaches have encountered considerable pain. Consider the monk Lupo, who lived about 1400 in Piceno in a town called Jesi. He was passionately in love with a young virgin woman. She was afraid. He attempted to allay her fear:

The monk said that he would thrust his spear into a hole in a wooden board place placed between them. Then he sought out a fir board, which was very thin, and soon perforated it. He secretly went to the young woman, having placed in the hole {in the board under his vestment} his Priapus. It was still dormant. When he gently kissed the young woman and sought for the desired nourishment, his vestment began to rise. Soon his rod, so aroused by the charm of her mouth and touching of the lower parts, started to swell completely beyond the size of the hole so that it was greatly constricted. The thing was held so tightly, that it could neither go in nor out without experiencing great suffering. The expected pleasure was converted into suffering, and the monk began to scream and groan, extremely afflicted with torture.  The thoroughly-scared young woman with kisses attempted to comfort the man and push toward the desired end. But this relief of pain only increased the torment, for action that made his rod swell, more tightly constricted it.

{ Monachus tabulam ligneam, per cujus foramen telum mitteretur, intermediam se positurum dixit. Dehinc tabula abiegna, quae pertenuis erat, quaesita ac paulum perforata, ad puellam clanculum adiit, missoque per foramen Priapo, qui adhuc dormiebat, cum puellam deosculari suaviter coepisset, sublatis vestibus cibum concupitum quaerebat. Virga vero, suavitate oris et inferioris partis tactu expergefacta, coepit admodum et praeter mensuram foraminis tumescere, adeo ut valde constricta teneretur. Res ita in arcto erat, ut neque ingredi, neque egredi absque magno dolore posset. Versa in dolorem voluptate, clamare et gemere Monachus coepit nimio vexatus cruciatu. Exterrita puella, cum osculo solari hominem vellet, et rem optatam perficere, in doloris levamen, tormentum augebat; nam cum ea ex re virga tumentior fieret, eo arctius torquebatur. }

Poggio, Facetiae 170, “Of a monk who thrust his Priapus into a hole in a board {De monacho qui misit per foramen tabulae priapum},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 1, pp. 102-4, my English translation. The monk’s penis eventually was rescued through the action of cold water.

[image] Fir board with hole. Image adapted from photo of a Douglas Fir cutting board. Jameson Fink generously released that photo on flickr under a Creative Commons By 2.0 license.


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).

Swift shows social failures of men’s literature & enlightenment

Strephon and Chloe

Drawing upon a highly respected epic of the ancient Roman poet-scholar Lucretius, Jonathan Swift early in the eighteenth century continued the long literary effort to enlighten men. Swift wrote poems about Cassinus and Peter, and Strephon and Chloe. Though brilliant, they were social failures.

Cassinus and Peter were sophomores at the University of Cambridge. Witty young men steeped in classical learning, they enjoyed idle friendship, playing flutes and smoking pipes with each other in their rooms and discussing beloved women. One day Peter found Cassinus disheveled and distraught. With deep concern, Peter sympathetically inquired about Cassinus’s troubles. Cassinus explained that his beloved Caelia had betrayed him:

Oh Peter! Beauty’s but a Varnish,
Which Time and Accidents will tarnish:
But, Caelia has contriv’d to blast
Those Beauties that might ever last.
Nor can Imagination guess,
Nor Eloquence Divine express,
How that ungrateful charming Maid,
My purest Passion has betray’d.
Conceive the most invenom’d Dart,
To pierce an injur’d Lover’s Heart. [1]

Cassinus was preparing to die from Caelia’s betrayal:

Yet, kind Arcadians, on my Urn
These Elegies and Sonnets burn,
And on the Marble grave these Rhimes,
A Monument to after-Times:
“Here Cassy lies, by Caelia slain,
And dying, never told his Pain.”

Before telling of his pain, Cassinus adjured Peter to the most solemn confidence:

The Secret thou shalt ne’er impart;
Not to the Nymph that keeps thy Heart;
(How would her Virgin Soul bemoan
A Crime to all her Sex unknown!)
Nor whisper to the tattling Reeds,
The blackest of all Female Deeds.
Nor blab it on the lonely Rocks,
Where Echo sits, and list’ning mocks.
Nor let the Zephyr’s treach’rous Gale
Through Cambridge waft the direful Tale.
Nor to the chatt’ring feather’d Race,
Discover Caelia’s foul Disgrace.
But, if you fail, my Spectre dread
Attending nightly round your Bed

Then Cassinus boldly revealed the secret that made him mortally deranged:

And yet, I dare confide in you;
So, take my Secret, and adieu.

Nor wonder how I lost my Wits;
Oh! Caelia, Caelia Caelia sh——. [2]

In other words, Caelia was a human being who performed the same bodily function that men and other animals do. She was not actually a goddess. For ignorant and benighted men and women, the revelation that women are not better than men shakes them to the core of their understanding.

Misunderstanding the nature of women and men destroys marriages. Consider the marriage of Strephon and Chloe. Chloe was widely regarded as a woman-goddess:

Of Chloe all the town has rung,
By ev’ry size of poets sung:
So beautiful a nymph appears
But once in twenty thousand years;
By Nature form’d with nicest care,
And faultless to a single hair.
Her graceful mien, her shape, and face,
Confess’d her of no mortal race [3]

As men historically have been compelled to do, Strephon won Chloe’s hand with the promise of providing material resources to her:

He blew a Settlement along:
And, bravely drove his Rivals down
With Coach and Six, and House in Town. [4]

That’s all that was known about Strephon before he married Chloe. Chloe, in contrast, attracted public attention even with intimate details of her life. That’s how gynocentrism functions.

Strephon was anxious about his performance on their wedding night. They had arranged for Chloe a lavish, expensive wedding fit for a goddess. Could he subsequently fulfill her?

Strephon had long perplex’d his Brains,
How with so high a Nymph he might
Demean himself the Wedding-Night:
For, as he view’d his Person round,
Meer mortal Flesh was all he found:
His Hand, his Neck, his Mouth, and Feet
Were duly washt to keep ’em sweet;
(With other Parts that shall be nameless,
The Ladies else might think me shameless.)

Like many men, Strephon under-valued his penis. He imagined that his body was impure and detestable relative to his wife’s body:

Can such a Deity endure
A mortal human Touch impure?
How did the humbled Swain detest
His prickled Beard, and hairy Breast!

A woman isn’t a deity. Masculinity isn’t toxic. Men are wonderful. That includes men with beards and men with hair on their chests. Yet men struggle with men’s sexual obligations combined with criminalization of men’s sexuality and pervasive misandry:

Strephon, who had been often told,
That Fortune still assists the bold,
Resolv’d to make his first Attack:
But, Chloe drove him fiercely back.
How could a Nymph so chaste as Chloe,
With Constitution cold and snowy,
Permit a brutish Man to touch her?
Ev’n Lambs by Instinct fly the Butcher. [5]

Men are socially constructed as “brutish.” Men’s sexually is socially constructed as an “attack” like that of the butcher cutting up lambs. Is it any wonder that many women spend many nights in the company of only their cats?

Chloe, a woman strong and independent enough to say no to her fiancé, had good reason for declining to have sex. She had drunk twelve cups of tea shortly before retiring to their wedding bed:

Twelve Cups of Tea, (with Grief I speak)
Had now constrain’d the Nymph to leak.
This Point must needs be settled first;
The Bride must either void or burst.

She reached out and brought a piss-pot into their bed. Then she used it as it’s meant to be used:

Strephon who heard the fuming Rill
As from a mossy Cliff distill;
Cry’d out, ye Gods, what Sound is this?
Can Chloe, heav’nly Chloe ——?
But, when he smelt a noysom Steam
Which oft attends that luke-warm Stream;
(Salerno both together joins
As sov’reign Med’cines for the Loins)
And, though contriv’d, we may suppose
To slip his Ears, yet struck his Nose:
He found her, while the Scent increas’d,
As mortal as himself at least. [6]

Women piss and fart just like men do, except for a slightly less convenient and less vulnerable apparatus for the former. Men should be taught these facts of life from an early age. Kept in ignorance under the veil of gynocentrism, Strephon learned true facts of gender equality only in his marriage bed:

But, soon with like Occasions prest,
He boldly sent his Hand in quest,
(Inspir’d with Courage from his Bride,)
To reach the Pot on t’other Side.
And as he fill’d the reeking Vase,
Let fly a Rouzer in her Face. [7]

Men who finally learn the truth about women will fart in the face of gynocentrism.

The lesson for Strephon and for all is fundamentally gender equality. Woman and men must have a shared view of a shared privy:

O Strephon, e’er that fatal Day
When Chloe stole your Heart away,
Had you but through a Cranny spy’d
On House of Ease your future Bride,
In all the Postures of her Face,
Which Nature gives in such a Case;
Distortions, Groanings, Strainings, Heavings;
‘Twere better you had lickt her Leavings,
Than from Experience find too late
Your Goddess grown a filthy Mate.
Your Fancy then had always dwelt
On what you saw, and what you smelt;
Would still the same Ideas give ye,
As when you spy’d her on the Privy. [8]

As a high-school student working a summer job at IBM, I remember being awe-struck by the protruding feminine beauties of a young, revealingly dressed secretary. An old hand in the department, noticing that I was being sexually harassed, said to me, “I bet she doesn’t look so hot bent over taking a shit!” Only much later in life did I realize what a learned man he was.

Jonathan Swift understood Lucretius’s De rerum natura {On the nature of things} far better than most scholars in today’s age of ignorance, anti-men bigotry, and superstition. Lucretius, an Epicurean, rejected the view that mortal women were immortal goddesses. Lucretius urged men to avoid being enthralled in erotic subservience to women. He instead favored a Epicurean life of tranquil friendship. In Swift’s story of Cassinus and Peter, when Cassinus was deeply disturbed with the reality of Caelia defecating, Peter failed to pull his friend Cassinus away from ignorant turmoil. Instead, Peter offered to join Cassinus in that turmoil:

But now, by Friendship’s sacred Laws,
I here conjure thee, tell the Cause;
And Caelia’s horrid Fact relate;
Thy Friend would gladly share thy Fate. [9]

In the story of Strephon and Chloe, Jonathan Swift in his authorial voice offered much better advice:

On Sense and Wit your Passion found,
By Decency cemented round;
Let Prudence with Good Nature strive,
To keep Esteem and Love alive.
Then come old Age whene’er it will,
Your Friendship shall continue still:
And thus a mutual gentle Fire,
Shall never but with Life expire.

Men should study and learn Jonathan Swift’s Epicurean wisdom. Most men haven’t done so. That reflects the success of gynocentrism and the social failure of men’s literature.

Men on bended knees asking women to marry them, men opening doors for women, men last into life-boats, to say nothing of men’s enormous gender protrusion in violent death and incarceration, and keeping silent about men totally lacking reproductive rights — the present testifies to the social failure of men’s literature. More than two millennia ago, the learned poet-scholar Lucretius satirized love-besotted men ignorantly abasing themselves to their beloved human goddesses. Despite much additional, brilliant literature of men’s sexed protest since Lucretius’s time, men continue to be subservient to women. The past was female. The present is female. Female supremacists prominently proclaim that the future is female. If nothing changes, they will be right. That would continue a colossal failure of enlightenment.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Jonathan Swift, Cassinus and Peter: A Tragical Elegy ll. 51-60, from Jack Lynch’s online edition. Subsequent quotes from Cassinus and Peter are from that edition. Swift wrote this poem in 1734.

[2] For those unable to complete the rhyme, the final word in the above quote is “shits”. Gilmore rightly recognized:

Cassy is a comic gem, flawless in fecklessness, “confirm’d,” like Dryden’s Shadwell, “in full stupidity.”

Gilmore (1976) p. 39. Gilmore didn’t recognize the extent to which gynocentric society urges upon men’s Cassy’s stupidity.

[3] Jonathan Swift, Strephon and Chloe ll. 1-8, from Jack Lynch’s online edition. Subsequent quotes from Strephon and Chloe are from that edition. A quarto pamphlet that Roberts published in London in 1734 was titled, A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed. Written for the Honour of the Fair Sex. To which are added, Strephon and Chloe. And Cassinus and Peter. Schakel (1978) p. 137. That’s the first known publication of all three poems. The description “Written for the Honour of the Fair Sex” may allude to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu vicious attack on Swift in her poem, The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to Write a Poem Call’d the Lady’s Dressing Room. Montagu’s poem follows the conventional anti-meninist line of attempting to silence men through ad hominem accusations of sexual desperation, sexual impotence, and sexual frustration.

[4] Lynch notes, “Coach and Six, a coach drawn by six horses, used only by the very rich; House in Town, a London house, again available only to the rich.”

[5] “audentes Fortuna iuva {Fortune favors the bold}” occurs in Virgil, Aeneid 10.284.

[6] For those unable to complete the rhyme, the line “Can Chloe, heav’nly Chloe ——?” is “Can Chloe, heav’nly Chloe piss?” Swift noted, “Vide Schol. Salern. Rules of Health, written by the School of Salernum. Mingere cum bumbis res est saluberrima lumbis {to piss while farting is very healthy for the loins}”. Medieval Latin literature had a relatively liberal approach to describing bodily functions.

Men throughout history have commonly believed that idealized women don’t fart. See, e.g., the early fifteenth-century story, De mercatore qui, laudando uxorem suam, asserebat eam munquam crepitum edidesse {Of a merchant who, in lauding his wife, asserted that she never farted}, Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae 184, in Poggio (1879) vol. 2, p. 99.

[7] A “Rouzer” is a fart.

[8] In Jonathan Swift’s poem, A Panegyrick on the D–n, in the Person of a Lady in the North, a lady praises Swift (Dean of St. Patrick’s Church in Dublin) for building privies. The criminalization of men’s gaze is an obstacle to following Swift’s privy wisdom for loving. The Lady’s Dressing Room ll. 119-20 declared:

Vengeance, Goddess never sleeping
Soon punish’d Strephon for his Peeping

Strephon in this poem was peeping into the stinking mess of a lady’s dressing room. The first published version of this poem (1732) included the line, “Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!” Swift’s A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed (1734) is similar in theme to The Lady’s Dressing Room, but the former is completely gynocentric.

[9] Swift was familiar with Epicurius and Lucretius. Swift’s A Panegyrick on the D–n, in the Person of a Lady in the North declares:

Good lord! what can my lady mean,
Conversing with that rusty Dean!
She’s grown so nice, and so penurious,
With Socrates and Epicurius!

Brown judges that Lucretius’s De rerum natura 4.1171-91 undoubtedly inspired Swift in Cassinus and Peter, The Lady’s Dressing Room, and particularly Strephon and Chloe. Brown (2017) pp. 37, 39-40. In addition, an allusion to De rerum natura 1.86 exists in a note glossing The Lady’s Dressing l. 56 as “Prima Vivorum.” An allusion to Lucretius also exists in The Journal of a Dublin Lady ll. 184-5. Karian (2016) p. 48, n. 32.

[image] Strephon and Chloe, captioned “Sentimental Courtship”. Engraving by W.H. Bunbury, July 1, 1801. Via Wikimedia Commons.


Brown, Robert D. 2017. “Lucretius’ malodorous mistress (De rerum natura 4.1175).” Classical Journal. 113 (1): 26-43.

Gilmore, Thomas B. 1976. “The Comedy of Swift’s Scatological Poems.” PMLA. 91 (1): 33-43.

Karian, Stephen. 2016. “Swift as a manuscript poet.” Ch. 1 (pp. 31-50) in Bullard, Paddy and James McLaverty, eds. 2016. Jonathan swift and the eighteenth-century book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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).

Schakel, Peter J. 1978. “Swift’s Remedy for Love: The ‘Scatological’ Poems.” Papers on Language and Literature. 14 (2): 137-147.

wives disparaging husbands with female privilege: the case of Humayda

man shitting loose stools

Ḥumayda bint Nu‘mān ibn Bashīr (Humayda), who died in 684 GC, was a daughter of a Companion of the Prophet. Humayda was a woman close to the ideal woman of our time: “She was a poet with tongue, contrariness, and evil, and she would satirise her spouses.” She had at least three husbands. In disparaging her third husband, Humayda sounded common notes of female privilege and viciously applied them to abusing him.

Humayda’s third husband was named Fayd. That name literally means in Arabic “overflowing.” It’s typically understood in the sense of generosity. Fayd’s wife Hamayda declared in Arabic poetry:

Your name is Fayd but you overflow with nothing
Save your excrement between door and dwelling

That’s like calling your husband a piece of shit. At least such abuse doesn’t disparage men for their gender disadvantages. However, Humayda also declared in Arabic poetry:

Fayd does not overflow with gifts for us
Rather he is overflowing with loose stool for us
A scowling ill-tempered lion when he sets on us
Yet in wars he is timid of bosom and menstruating

Men commonly give women material gifts and money in the hope of getting in return sex and love. Women seldom do the same for men. Wars are institutionally structured as men-on-men violence. Ancient Arabic poetry records women assailing men’s masculinity to incite them into violence. Even to this day, about four times more men than women die from violence. Humayda in essence disparaged her husband for not sufficiently supporting her female privilege.

Overturning female privilege starts with breaking the gynocentric conspiracy of silence and speaking obvious truths. Classical Arabic poetry tells of the original understanding of chivalry before it became men-degrading love servitude. The classical Arabic poet Layla l-Akhyaliyya wrote poems poignantly representing men’s social disposition. Nazhun’s muwashshah provides an astonishingly perceptive guide for men seeking sex with women without unequal gift-giving. Studying classical Arabic poetry, and talking and writing about it, can help to overturn female privilege.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


The quote characterizing Humayda is from Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’s tenth-century Kitāb al-Aghānī {Book of Songs} 16:38 (ed. Beirut, 2004), from classical Arabic trans. Hammond (2005) p. 257. The poems come from a ninth-century collection of Ibn Tayfūr (Ibn Abī Ṭāhir Ṭayfūr), Balāghāt al-Nisā’ {Eloquence of Women} 97-8, part of Ibn Tayfūr’s Kitab al-Manthur wa al-Manzum {Book of prose and poetry}. On Ibn Tayfūr, Shawkat (2005). The English translations from classical Arabic are those of Hammond (2014) pp. 260-1. Whether Humayda actually wrote these poems, or they are just attributed to her, is uncertain. The poems at least attest to a public perception of Humayda’s character. In the second poem, the word ḥayyāḍ {menstruating} occurs only in Ibn Tayfūr’s version of the poem. Hammond convincingly argues that other redactors mis-corrected the Arabic text. More generally, women’s abuse of men tends to be socially obscured.

[image] Man suffering from diarrhea (non-bloody stool). Image created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for identifying symptoms of Ebola. Via Wikimedia Commons.


Hammond, Marlé. 2014. “The Foul-Mouthed Faḥla: Obscenity and Amplification in Early Women’s Invective.” Ch. 15 (pp. 254-265) in Talib, Adam, Hammond, Marlé and Schippers, Arie, eds. The Rude, the Bad and the Bawdy: Essays in honour of Professor Geert Jan van Gelder. Warminster: Gibb Memorial Trust.

Toorawa, Shawkat M. 2005. Ibn Abī Ṭāhir Ṭayfūr and Arabic writerly culture: a ninth-century bookman in Baghdad. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Poggio Bracciolini’s vital, lost insight into husbands’ sexual failures

Jacob asked Laban for Rachel, but was bed-tricked into taking Leah

The great medieval churchman Poggio Bracciolini made a much more important contribution to world culture than merely recovering from obscurity an ancient manuscript of Lucretius’s De rerum natura. Poggio recorded for posterity Facetiae. Poggio’s Facetiae are towering monuments to medieval freedom of expression and a lost age of critical engagement with prevailing orthodoxy. Despite great medieval reverence for mother Church, Poggio even dared to write words that risked offending women.

Consider Poggio’s sexually edifying tale of the Florentine knight Rosso de Ricci and his wife Telda. Rosso de Ricci was a great man who was both spirited and serious. His wife was vindictive, scheming, and verbally abusive toward him. She was also old and far from beautiful. Not surprisingly, Telda and Rosso had a sexless marriage. Rosso naturally began sexually harassing a servant girl working within their home. Medieval servant girls were strong, independent woman fully capable of immediately reporting sexual harassment to a supervisor. This servant girl immediately reported Rosso’s sexual harassment to her supervisor, the mistress of the house, Rosso’s wife Telda.

Telda exploited for her own interests Rosso’s sexual harassment of their servant girl. Telda instructed the servant girl to engage in inappropriate action:

She advised her to assent and to arrange an assignation with Rosso at a specific time in a dark place. Then Telda would secretly bring herself in place of the servant girl.

{ Suasit ut assentiretur, ac certo in loco subobscuro horam Rosso assignaret, in quem pro ancilla se Telda clam contulit. }

Telda’s scheme fooled her husband Rosso, but didn’t succeed:

Arriving at the place, Rosso spent much time fondling the woman whom he thought was the servant girl, but his drooping penis would do nothing.

{ Accedens ad locum Rossus, ac mulierem pro ancilla diutius tractans, tandem, demissa mentula, nihil agere potuit. }

Telda characteristically responded with abuse:

Then his wife shouted: “Ey,” she said, “you horse shit, if the servant girl had been here, you would have raised up rightly to have her.

{ Tum exclamans uxor: “Eia,” inquit, “Eques merdose, si hic ancilla extitisset, recte cum ea rem habere potuisses.” }

Rosso then politely explained to his wife the genius of a man’s penis:

Then the knight: “Oh! Telda my dear, by God!” he said, “this companion of mine is wiser by far than I am. For even after I, in my ignorance, embraced you as the servant girl, he immediately knew that you are bad flesh for putting out, and for that reason he shrunk back into his normal position for me.

{ Tum Miles: — “Oh! Telda mi, per Deum!” inquit, “hic meus socius prudentior admodum est quam ego. Nam postquam te pro ancilla ignarus attigi, statim ille malam carnem te esse cognovit, ac propterea retrocedens me restituit.” }

Men today are commonly disparaged as thinking with their penises, their little heads. That continues a long, sordid history of disparaging men’s penises. As the great medieval churchman Poggio Bracciolini recognized, men’s penises are amazingly smart. Men’s penises deserve respect. They are jewels, not junk.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


The story above is from Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae 85, Faceta jocatio militis Florentini {A fine jest of a Florentine knight}, Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 1, pp. 136-7. The quotes above provide my English translations, drawing upon that of id., but tracking the Latin more closely. Men historically have faced burdensome obligations of bodily performance.

[image] Jacob asks Laban for permission to marry his younger daughter Rachel. From Foster (1897) p. 46, via Wikimedia Commons. Laban tricked Jacob by substituting the older daughter Leah for Rachel in Jacob’s bed. Showing admirable manly vigor that is important in both the Jewish and Christian religions, Jacob took both as wives and produced children with both women. See Genesis 29-30.


Foster, Charles. 1897. Bible pictures and what they teach us. Philadelphia: Foster Pub. Co

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).