Nuzhat al-Albâb fîmâ lâ Yûjad fî Kitâb (The Diversion of the Hearts by What is Not to Be Found in Any Book) (Ahmad Ibn Yusuf al-Tîfâshî)
There is a long tradition, starting with the ancient Greeks, of attributing particular sexual tastes to specific astrological alignments. This wasn’t as simple as heterosexual versus homosexual, but included things like whether one preferred sex within marriage or outside of it, what type of partner one preferred in terms of class, age, etc., whether one preferred to take a sexual role that aligned with social expectations or contradicted them (in terms of active/passive participant).
Amer begins by tackling the Whorfian-tinged assertion that the lack of a specific terminology for lesbianism in medieval Europe contributed to a lack of modern scholarship about same-sex desire between women in that era, by noting that the existence of a diverse and specific vocabulary for the topic in medieval Arabic (sahq, sihaqa, musahaqat, al-nisa’, sahiqa) hasn’t resulted in a vibrant field of study. This is particularly disappointing given the significant surviving literature on the topic.
Several of the articles in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages look outside the European sphere that the phrase “Middle Ages” normally implies. Malti-Douglas looks at the language and discorse around lesbianism in medieval Arabic texts, particularly as contrasted with the treatment of male homosexuality which is mentioned extensively in medieval Arabic/Islamic texts.
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.
Chapter 4: A close reading of Aĥmad Ibn Yusuf Tifashi’s Nuzhat al-Albab - Toward re-envisioning the Islamic Middle East