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as more inclined to sexual enjoyment than men. That was, for
instance, the opinion of Tertullian (_De Virginibus Velandis_,
chapter x), and it is clearly implied in some of St. Jerome's
Notwithstanding the influence of Christianity, among the vigorous
barbarian races of medieval Europe, the existence of sexual
appetite in women was not considered to be, as it later became, a
matter to be concealed or denied. Thus in 1068 the ecclesiastical
historian, Ordericus Vitalis (himself half Norman and half
English), narrates that the wives of the Norman knights who had
accompanied William the Conqueror to England two years earlier
sent over to their husbands to say that they were consumed by the
fierce names of desire ("saeva libidinis face urebantur"), and
that if their husbands failed to return very shortly they
proposed to take other husbands. It is added that this threat
brought a few husbands back to their wanton ladies ("lascivis
During the medieval period in Europe, largely in consequence, no
doubt, of the predominance of ascetic ideals set up by men who
naturally regarded woman as the symbol of sex, the doctrine of
the incontinence of woman became firmly fixed, and it is
unnecessary and unprofitable to quote examples. It is sufficient
to mention the very comprehensive statement of Jean de Meung (in
the _Roman de la Rose_, 9903):--
"Toutes estes, seres, ou futes
De fait ou de volunte putes."
The satirical Jean de Meung was, however, a somewhat extreme and
untypical representative of his age, and the fourteenth century
Johannes de Sancto Amando (Jean de St. Amand) gives a somewhat
more scientifically based opinion (quoted by Pagel, _Neue
litterarische Beitraege zur Mittelalterlichen Medicin_, 1896, p.
30) that sexual desire is stronger in women than in men.
Humanism and the spread of the Renaissance movement brought in a
spirit more sympathetic to women. Soon after, especially in Italy
and France, we begin to find attempts at analyzing the sexual
emotions, which are not always without a certain subtlety. In the
seventeenth century a book of this kind was written by Venette.
In matters of love, Venette declared, "men are but children
compared to women. In these matters women have a more lively
imagination, and they usually have more leisure to think of love.
Women are much more lascivious and amorous than men." This is the
conclusion reached in a chapter devoted to the question whether
men or women are the more amorous. In a subsequent chapter,
dealing with the question whether men or women receive more
pleasure from the sexual embrace, Venette concludes, after
admitting the great difficulty of the question, that man's
pleasure is greater, but woman's lasts longer. (N. Venette, _De
la Generation de l'Homme ou Tableau de l'Amour Conjugal_,
At a much earlier date, however, Montaigne had discussed this
matter with his usual wisdom, and, while pointing out that men
have imposed their own rule of life on women and their own
ideals, and have demanded from them opposite and contradictory
virtues,--a statement not yet antiquated,--he argues that women
are incomparably more apt and more ardent in love than men are,
and that in this matter they always know far more than men can
teach them, for "it is a discipline that is born in their veins."
(Montaigne, _Essais_, book iii, chapter v.)
The old physiologists generally mentioned the appearance of
sexual desire in girls as one of the normal signs of puberty.
This may be seen in the numerous quotations brought together by
Schurig, in his _Parthenologia_, cap. ii.
A long succession of distinguished physicians throughout the
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