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.

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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 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”

The Medieval Podcast – Medieval Sexuality with Eleanor Janega

The Medieval Podcast – Medieval Sexuality with Eleanor Janega

I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Danièle Cybulskie on The Medieval Podcast the other week. Have a listen if you want to know exactly, why widows were so sexy, why it can be hard for us to find our LGBT friends in medieval texts, and what the nicest looking dildo in the medieval period was made from.

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On the Objectification of Sex

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Justin on the Meg John and Justin podcast to have a chat about my current work on the concept of the objectification of sex. Highlights include chat about incels, sodomy, and what Thomas Aquinas’s deal is. Have a listen!

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On “the way of carnal lust”, Joan of Leeds, and the difficulty of clerical celibacy

Loves, you may have had the pleasure of being alerted, in the Guardian (which is a SWERF and TERF-ridden rag of a paper, but hey-ho), to the important findings of Professor Sarah Rees Jones and her team at the University of York’s extremely important discovery of the story of Sister Joan of Leeds.

Joan of Leeds, in an OG proof of the fact that you cannot defeat a bad bitch (you just cannot do that), in that in the year of our Lord 1318 got Archbishop William Melton of York’s attention to the point that our boy had to write out a note…

To warn Joan of Leeds, lately nun of the house of St Clement by York, that she should return to her house…

See, your man was straight up MAD that Joan had…

…impudently cast aside the propriety of religion and the modesty of her sex … [and] … out of a malicious mind simulating a bodily illness, she pretended to be dead, not dreading for the health of her soul, and with the help of numerous of her accomplices, evildoers, with malice aforethought, crafted a dummy in the likeness of her body in order to mislead the devoted faithful and she had no shame in procuring its burial in a sacred space amongst the religious of that place…

register
The Archbishop of York’s register, where Joan’s case is recorded.

Why? Well, because she…

…turned her back on decency and the good of religion, seduced by indecency, she involved herself irreverently and perverted her path of life arrogantly to the way of carnal lust and away from poverty and obedience, and, having broken her vows and discarded the religious habit, she now wanders at large to the notorious peril to her soul and to the scandal of all of her order.

In other words, Joan was out to catch some D and she didn’t care if she had to fake her own death and make a dummy to replace her during burial so she could sneak out of her nunnery in order to do that.

Continue reading “On “the way of carnal lust”, Joan of Leeds, and the difficulty of clerical celibacy”