I have tagged as “love poetry” any poetic expression written by a woman (or in a woman’s voice) to a woman that would be considered love poetry if written between an opposite sex couple.
The association of the name Sappho and the word Lesbian with female homoeroticism is so well entrenched that the question is rarely asked: what evidence do we have that Sappho was a lesbian (in the orientation sense, rather than the geographic one)? And how would such an orientation have been understood in her age and culture? Lardinois addresses these questions from empirical (if scanty) evidence.
The revival of interest in, and knowledge of, the works and life of Sappho as part of the general revival of classical culture in the Renaissance created a major context for discussing female homoeroticism, although the myth of Sappho’s abandonment of women for a fatal desire for Phaon was also popular.
Chapter 1 (Introduction)
A discussion of terminology, some of the cross-cultural problems of defining the topic of the book, and a statement of intent.
Chapter 2 (In the Beginning: 40,000-1200 BCE)
The chapter begins with a survey of the types of published materials that led Lanser to identify the late 16th century as a shifting point in the discourse around sapphic topics. In 1566 a Swiss writer provides an account of a French woman who disguised herself as a man, worked as a stable groom and then a wine grower, married another woman, was eventually unmasked, and was executed. He notes “how our century can boast that beyond all the evils of the preceding ones” and explicitly disclaims any connection between events such as this and the “tribades in ancient times”.
This chapter tackles the question of how "sameness" in the context of same-sex relations reflected and represented concerns about social leveling. It begins by considering an example of the "metamorphic" framing: a 17th c. book of curiosities that included a chapter of 24 instances of persons changing sex. Though the book was reprinted regularly, the sex-change chapter was dropped, perhaps reflecting a shift from an earlier miracle-accepting age to one more concerned with rational explanations.
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.
A satiric poem from a man to his female rival for his beloved, using metaphors such as “you can’t patch a hole with a hole” and “what use is a hammer without a handle?” to argue the superiority of heterosex over grinding.
An anecdote about the female entertainer Bathal who, when singing to a male client, substituted a lyric in praise of "grinding" (sex between women). Her client contradicted her, but then requested that she finish the song and offers more lyrics that are in favor of grinding.
An Appendix of Texts from the Arabian Middle Ages Concerned with Female Homosexuality
”On the Mention of Grinding and Grindings” in al-Yemeni, Ahmad Bin Mohamad Bin Åli (d. 850).
Explains the nature of “grinding” and the vocabulary.
Notes the hadith the equates grinding with fornication.
Gives the story of Hind credited as the first “grinder”.
Gives the story of Rughum and Najda (tragic lovers).
Chapter 4: A close reading of Aĥmad Ibn Yusuf Tifashi’s Nuzhat al-Albab - Toward re-envisioning the Islamic Middle East