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sex between women


This tag is used for any general discussion of erotic physical activity between women or one where more specific terms are not mentioned.

LHMP entry

This article provides a brief historic survey of evidence regarding love between women in Islamic societies. Classical treatises on sexual transgression discuss tribadism (sahq) from a male perspective. There are occasional comparisons to male homosexuality, but in general the two are considered distinct, except generally as vices. Popular imagination, (especially in western accounts) considered lesbianism common in harems.

The author is looking through 18th century civic records from Hamburg, Germany for data about same-sex relationships, primarily in legal contexts. The majority of the article covers male topics, but one particular example involving women is explored in some depth. The case of Ilsabe Bunck and Maria Cäcilia Jürgens initially appears in legal contexts, but later became sensationalized and is often treated in a moralizing or voyeuristic way.

Although this article concerns itself with evidence from 20th century ethnographic work, a number of researchers have suggested that the evidence of folklore and earlier historic references indicate that a recognized role of this type previously existed much more widely in various European cultures. (See, e.g., Clover 1995 covered previously.) The “sworn virgins” represent a trans-gender role, although one expressed with a broad range of variation in gender expression and identity.

As the article title indicates, this primarily focuses on men. The bulk of the article focuses on a treatise on love titled “The Dove’s Neck-Ring about Love and Lovers”, written by Ibn Hazm in 10th century Spain. Ibn Hazm includes a scattering of anecdotes and discussions of love between men in a greater preponderance of heterosexual material, but also contains a single reference to love between women. The item is short enough to be worth invoking fair use and quoting Crompton’s paragraph in full:

This is a sourcebook of excerpts (in translation) from historic documents relating to France during the 16-18th centuries that relate in some way to same-sex relationships. The documents cover court records, personal correspondence, religious commentary, medical opinion, satire, and political polemic. While most items take an external point of view, some are (or purport to be) from the point of view of homosexuals themselves.

This article looks at the language of personal love and affection between medieval cloistered women. This social context provides an interesting window expressions of female same-sex desire due to three intersecting factors: the gender-segregated nature of their communities, the relative autonomy (economic and intellectual) women enjoyed within these communities, and the high degree of literacy among cloistered women (allowing us glimpses into their lives via their own words).

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.

The category of acts understood under the label “sodomy” in the Middle Ages is confusing and difficult to define. The difficulty of definition is not helped by a tendency among medievalists to ignore entirely how the category might relate to women and to activities that women participated in. The medieval textual evidence adds the further confusion of whether “sodomy” did not apply to women, or whether it did but nobody cared about what they were doing.

Lanser examines the conjunction of the novel as a genre with "modernity" as defined in this work and considers its relationship to sapphic themes, despite the superficially overwhelming heteronormativity of the genre. One hallmark of the novel is the way in which it explores the contradictory imperatives of self-determination and socialization. The focus of the novel on the formation of couples and the subjective nature of desire opens the conversation--as previously seen with political and social conversations--to the inclusion or exclusion of sapphic subjects under that rubric.

In France in the later 18th century there arose the motif of secret societies of sapphists "more mysterious than the Freemasons" that existed to initiate women into lesbianism, to serve the pleasures of their members, and to achieve unsavory political ends. The existence of these formal organizations was purely fictitious. Their alleged membership typically included unpopular political and social figures. And their alleged purpose was ostensibly to disrupt the heterosexual organization of society, as an allegory for disrupting other social frameworks.


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