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Lesbian Historic Motif Project: #102f Habib 2009 "From “Al-Muhalla” by Ibn Hazm Al-Andalusi (d. 1064)"

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: From “Al-Muhalla” by Ibn Hazm Al-Andalusi (d. 1064)

Today's text sheds an interesting light on the socio-legal basis for prohibitions about sex between women. In a context of complete silence, or argument only by analogy from male issues, there is room for a great deal of uncertainty and conjecture, both about what the attitudes of the times were, and whether there is a historic basis for modern attitudes. The fact that these debates were specifically about women, and about the special social and legal concerns pertaining to women, is a refreshing change from trying to guess whether medieval European sodomy laws had anything to do with women at all.

* * *

An extensive legal/religious discussion/debate on the question of whether grinding [sex between women] is forbidden. The debate is largely framed as a discussion by “the father of Mohamad”.

He reviews various positions on whether female homosexuality is forbidden or permitted. Is it fornication? Is it worse than fornication? Is it not fornication at all? The conclusion is that it isn’t fornication because fornication is specifically define as unlawful penis-in-vagina sex.

The prohibitions against grinding are ascribed to tradition and not to God. But the discussion continues to argue that sex between women is prohibited under the general concept of male rights to a woman’s body (and especially her genitals). So, for example, a woman’s genitals should be exposed only to her spouse (or hypothetical future spouse) and therefore she should not expose them to another woman during sex. Similarly, the right to see a woman’s skin belongs exclusively to her Mahram (close male relative or husband). Sex between women violates this exclusive right, but also creates the potential for one woman’s husband to vicariously “see” his wife’s female lover’s nakedness if the wife describes it to him.

There is also a discussion of prohibitions on “resembling” the opposite sex, presumably including cross-dressing.

Time period: 

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