On sexualising the “other”

Friends, we are as ever living in a society that spends a lot of time and energy attempting to uphold what it sees as “normal”. Normality, after all, doesn’t police itself, or even hold up as a concept without strenuous effort from the people invested in it. What we’re thinking about today is that in our society over time if something isn’t “normal” it is probably also sexual. Because sexual stuff is bad and therefore Not Normal and what we in the overthinking stuff game tend to refer to as “other”.

The other can vary from society and society and place to place, but here in Europe and in the areas that Europeans subjugated there is an underlying default, and that is a white straight dude. This was certainly true in medieval Europe, where, as you may have noticed men bossed everyone the fuck around and decided that they were defo the norm.

Continue reading “On sexualising the “other””

On Jezebel, makeup, and other apocalyptic signs

Friends, today is a great day, for it was with deep pleasure that I found a spicy medieval take on women on the twitter TL. Check out Denise with the big medieval vibes:

makeup

Friends, I love everything about this garbage take. As regular readers will note, this is a very medieval way of looking at women because it sees them as sexual aggressors. Here women are Too Horny to FunctionTM and actively going about seducing poor hapless men into impregnating them. On display we also have the medieval idea of sex as an enervating agent that just sort of happens at men. A woman lubes up her legs (???) and next thing you know they have been tricked – tricked I say! – into the good old PIV which results in pregnancy, AKA the only real sex. That’s just how the world works.

What I love about this, and what we haven’t talked about here yet, however, is the connection that your girl Denise is making between makeup and lube (again, deeply, from the bottom of my heart ????) and sexual chaos. (Side note – sexy chaotic is where you’ll find me on any standard Sexy/Neutral/Asexual alignment chart, just so you know.)

This has a nice medieval/biblical connection in the person of Jezebel. For those who don’t hang out reading the bible and medieval preachers all day, Jezebel is your noted foreign queen (love 2 casually do some xenophobia) who married the Jewish King Ahab. Being foreign, she worshiped her own gods as a part of the Canaanite/Phoenician tradition. Obviously, this meant she was probably doing magic and was therefore able to convince her husband to convert to evil gods magic religion or whatever. She then had her neighbour Naboth killed because her husband wanted his neighbouring vineyard. God was not into this, and eventually saw to it that she was thrown out of a window by her courtiers to her death, and her corpse was trampled by horses and eaten by stray dogs. The book of Kings, everyone! Charming.

jezebel fall
The Death of Jezebel from The Hague, MS MMW, 10 B 23, 178 v.

Anyway, hilariously all the neighbour murder is not the thing that people in general have chosen to get mad at Jezebel for. Nah. The real issue was that my girl liked makeup. To whit, in 2 Kings 9:30 Jezebel “painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of a window”. I am as shocked as you are.

Because all of this is clearly very bad the bible also brings Jezebel back in the Apocalypse 2:20-23 (which you might know as the less cool name Revelations), for Jezebel 2: 2 Horny 2 Unrepentant. Yes at the end of time, everyone’s fav sexy witch is back and this time (while there is some reference to the sorcery and what not), pretty much God is big mad about her being sexy. He is angry at the world because:

you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works; and I will strike her children dead… [1]

Cool.

As a result of this, the term Jezebel has come to be associated with women who use makeup and lure men to a disastrous end through sex. See, if Jezebel had never been wearing makeup then poor King Ahab never would have become a pagan and wanted his neighbour dead, or whatever. Also all those dudes at the end of the world wouldn’t want to bang her. It’s that damn pesky makeup that allowed both Ahab and all those other nameless dudes to be swayed. Also, all this sex she’s having? Oh, you better believe it is leading to (evil?) children who God is going to have to smite down.

The makeup here in and of itself is a sort of magic which forces men to take leave of their senses and women to have their way with them. Jezebel, and all women who wear makeup make a decision to wield it as a weapon to get their way with men. Without the makeup the men would remain pure and untainted by the horrors of women’s sexuality.

In the medieval period if a woman was sort of hot and wielded some power it was fairly common to call her a Jezebel. As a result, Mathew of Paris, a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, and big time hater, notably referred to Queen Isabella of Angouleme who married King John of England as “more Jezebel than Isabel.”[2] Burn.

Similarly, the inimitable Eleanor of Aquitaine was often portrayed as a sort of Jezebel figure by monk chroniclers, an image that historians are still working against now.[3]

Jezebel 2
Jezebel speaking to Ahab in bed, from BL Egerton MS 3277, f. 110v

 

While Jezebel was brought into play to get at powerful hot women in particular, she could also be a stand in for pretty much any woman who dared to paint her face, and therefore dip into the dangerous sexual magic that could damn her and any dudes who were unwittingly forced to bone her. My man the preacher Jan Milíč of Kroměříž warned his audiences that during the Apocalypse Jezebel would return leading an army of painted women who would help to dismantle the world with their sexy sexy ways.[4] That’s right, a bit of eyeliner and BAM you are an active agent in the apocalypse as a part of a sexy lady army. Also that is bad, apparently.

One way or another the message here is clear – any ladies who watched a makeup tutorial in the last week or so are wielding a powerful magic that forces men to have sex with them. And you had better believe these women will get pregnant when they do. Because the only reason sex exists is to have children. After all, just cuz a girl has the forethought to use setting spray doesn’t mean she’s going to remember a damn condom. Our lady brains can only remember one thing at a time. So if you have the temerity to force men into having sex with you by wearing mascara you better be ready to have a kid. It’s the least you can do, you harlot. (Also, God might smite that child down. But you should still do it anyway. IDK, alright?)

This wilful wielding of sexual power is an apocalyptic sign. Women having control over their sexuality and their presentation strikes at the very heart of a society that wants to control women and their sexuality until both they and it only exist to make children for men within the bounds of marriage.

Our society has been built to actively fear and demonise women who are in control of their image and sexuality. It treats women who understand their sexuality and their place under the male gaze as suspicious and actively asking for the worst of all possible outcomes. Women are supposed to simply be beautiful while not knowing that they are. To actively attempt to make oneself attractive and wear a bit of lip gloss now and then isn’t just a simple way of surviving under a patriarchy that places a woman’s looks above everything else about her. NO. It’s sorcery, and the women who engage in it get everything that is coming to them both in terms of unwanted pregnancy, eternal damnation, and a place in the apocalyptic slut army.

Anyway, if you will excuse me, I’m off to lure some unsuspecting men to their moral downfall with a little help from MAC. I’m probably going to skip the leg lube, though. Kisses!

[1] “..quia permittis mulierem Jezabel, quae se dicit propheten, docere, et seducere servos meos, fornicari, et manducare de idolothytis. Et dedi illi tempus ut poenitentiam ageret : et non vult poenitere a fornicatione sua. Et dedi illi tempus ut poenitentiam ageret : et non vult poenitere a fornicatione sua. Et filios ejus interficiam in morte… ” (Apocalypse 2:20-23)
[2] See Nicholas Vincent, “Isabella of Angouleme: John’s Jezebel”, in (ed.) S.D. Church, King John: New Interpretations(Boydell: Woodbridge, 1999).
[3] Michael R. Evans, Inventing Eleanor: the Medieval and Post-Medieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), p. 51.
[4] To see my boy wilding out on a number of apocalyptic topics, see The Message for the Last Days: Three Essays from the Year 1367, eds. Milan Opočenský and Jana Opočenská (Geneva: World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1998).


For more on women in the medieval period see:
On Women and Work
On “the way of carnal lust”, Joan of Leeds, and the difficulty of clerical celibacy
Considering bad motherfuckers: Hildegard of Bingen and Janelle Monáe
On sex work and the concept of ‘rescue’
On the Ideal Form of Women
On women and desire
Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power
Islam was the party religion, or, why it is lazy and essentialist to say that Islam oppresses women
These hoes ain’t loyal – on prostitutes and bad bitches in medieval and hip hop culture
Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 2: on marriage and Sansa

For more on medieval sexuality see:
On Sex, Logic, and Being the Subject
The Medieval Podcast – Medieval Sexuality with Eleanor Janega
On the Objectification of Sex
On Dildos and Penance
On No Nut November
On cuckolding – a thing
On Incels and Courtly Love
On Courtly Love, Sexual Coercion, and Killing Your Idols
The history of penis in vagina as default sex at Bish!
On power and entitlement to the bodies of lower-status women, or, the thing that IS actually medieval about Trump
On Hotline Bling and courtly love

For more on medieval apocalypticism see:
Emergency Pubcast – Why the Pope can’t just say there’s no hell and do me like that
On Mike Pence, Holocaust Memorial Day, and Christian interpretations of Jewish utility
On Jerusalem and the Apocalypse, or, why you should be deeply unsettled right now

On QAnon and Systems of Knowledge

Today at Going Medieval HQ we are excited to have a guest blog by kick-ass art historian working on medieval medical visual culture, and the other half of Medieval Dick Twitter, Dr Sara Öberg-Strådal. Follow her on Twitter for excellent meme action, updates about growing your own medieval pigment garden, and generally correct opinions.

If you’re blessed enough to not have heard about QAnon. Congratulations. You should leave this post right now and go and do something nice for yourself.

QAnon is a super strange radical internet cult that believes that Donald Trump is a divine saviour who is working against the Deep State to save America. Every other day there is a new coded message, a so-called “Q Drop”, predicting mass arrests and explaining that MS13 are bad because they are funded and run by Democrats. IDK. At best it is borderline incomprehensible, and at worst it is also super racist. Followers of Q will interpret any aspect of Trump’s presentation and twitter presence (his back-combed hair signified coming mass arrests) and personal biography (see the fairly fringe belief that Trump can time travel and did so to get his uncle to write some shitty children’s books to predict his rise to power).

Continue reading “On QAnon and Systems of Knowledge”

On Women and Work

Another week, another chance for the world to be a misogynist hellscape. (Just, endless sighing. Amiright?) One of this week’s horrors has been brought to you by right wing rag extraordinaire and Suzanne Venker, a self-described “feminist fixer” who claims to “Free Women From Feminist Lies So They Can Find Lasting Love With Men” [sic]. Our intrepid anti-feminist in question has a particular mark this week – the millennial woman (Hey boo!), drowning in debt from “piling up” degrees (relatable!) which are “supposed to help them get established for marriage” (less relatable!) and are now sad.

millenials

According to the luminary mind in question, all of this means that millennials are the “first generation” of women to do such a thing and, whelp, not so much.

What do I mean by that? Well, women – married and otherwise – have been working throughout the entire course of human history, and historically women have always been expected to work in various capacities, from farm work to highly-skilled trades. (As per usual, as a Europeanist, I’m going to focus on European societies here, but world-wide women have certainly been working and still are. I just lack the specialism to speak about that and I stay out of things when I don’t know what I am talking about, Suzanne.)

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Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones part 3: Holy Roman Imperial Edition

Ugh, Game of Thrones. Am I right? No. Collectively we are now all wrong about it.

As we draw a once great television series, that now has all the gravitas and world building of an eighties hair fantasy on fast forward to a close, there was one little thing that made me laugh and then laugh again.

Was it Sansa telling her sad-ass uncle to sit down? Yes, but also no. It was the fact that the theoretical response to preventing dynastic war in Westeros is to create an elective monarchy. That right there is just a chef’s kiss piece of poorly understood history.

As always, to understand why I think this is funny we’re going to need to unpack some stuff, and the first thing is probably what an elective monarchy is.  I regret to inform you of  the fact that it ain’t some sort of advancement away from other monarchical systems. It’s just a bog-standard type of medieval monarchy and you find them in such places as: Macedon, Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire (shout out to a real one), Venice, and my people in Bohemia – just to name a few.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones part 3: Holy Roman Imperial Edition”

On Sex, Logic, and Being the Subject

This week in the godforsaken wasteland that is Twitter where I hang out for some reason (?), the public has been treated to the absolute gift that is a bunch of dudes insisting that women, in their experience do not like sex. No, they do not see this as linked to their person, and it is as fucking hilarious as you are imagining. WITNESS:

Brad

Or how about your boy Scott?

Scott

These responses came as a woman sensibly pushed back against the Alyssa Milano’s proposed Sex Strike (I know.) to protest the new and draconian abortion bills in Alabama and Georgia. (That is a whole other mess for a whole other day, because there is already so much to unpack here.)

Now you and I can see that these dudes are out here straight telling on themselves, but they simply do not see it that way. Why is that? Well aside from being world-class douche nozzles, I would make the argument that there is a historical and philosophical basis for this particular way of seeing things, as wild as it is.

Continue reading “On Sex, Logic, and Being the Subject”