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Lesbian Historic Motif Project: #102h Habib 2009 "On the Literature of Grinders and their Grinding" in Tifashi, Ahmad Ibn Yusuf (c. 1250)

Full citation: 

Habib, Samar. 2009. Arabo-Islamic Texts on Female Homosexuality: 850-1780 A.D. Teneo Press, Youngstown. ISBN 978-1-934844-11-3

Publication summary: 

This book makes a good companion volume to Habib's other works as it provides a comprehensive set of the texts she's working with. (The relevant parts of them, at least.) It also includes the text of two lectures that provide background and context for the texts themselves.

Historic Texts: "On the Literature of Grinders and their Grinding" in Tifashi, Ahmad Ibn Yusuf (c. 1250)

Tifashi is another of the more prolific medieval Arabic authors on the topic of "grinding" (sex between women). The most intriguing information he provides concerns evidence for a sub-culture of same-sex activity between women, including code-words (calling each other "witty ones") and perceived stereotypical behaviors. He also includes several detailed descriptions of sexual techniques.

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He calls grinding an “illness” and offers various possible causes, including having an “inverted womb” (a variant on the clitoral hypertrophy motif), or a mis-match between the shape of a woman’s vagina and the shape of the penis. Another possible cause he lists is the mother’s diet during breast-feeding. Some women pick up the habit from having sex with concubines. Another explanation is that grinding is a natural appetite, derived from a variant of humoral theory.

There is an extensive discussion of grinder sub-culture where they identify themselves as “witty ones” (Tharaf) and use this as a code word for discussing other grinders. They romance each other more intensely than men do and are lavish with gifts. They use a great deal of perfume and are fastidious in their clothing, furniture, food, and other possessions.

There are a couple of extended descriptions of specific sexual techniques and their associated behaviors, especially sweet-talk and other verbal behaviors such as groaning and screaming at orgasm.

An anecdote is given of an Egyptian judge who spied on a pair of grinders and wanted to join them, but they played a trick on him and humiliated him.

A joke about a man who wanted to know “how grinders do it”, who was told to sneak quietly into his own house to find out.

Mention of the fear of pregnancy as a motivation.

Quotations from a famous poet, Warda, who praises grinders and their activities. More excerpts from poetry, referencing how grinding is better than the risk of pregnancy and disgrace.

A selection of poetic and philosophical discussions between grinders and their former loves who turned to preferring men.

Condemnation of grinding from men, using metaphors of incomprehension, such as “shield against shield” and “a house without a pillar” or “patching a hole with a hole”.

Time period: 

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