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.
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:
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.
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!
For those who have managed to escape the morass that is the twitter hellscape, a brief recap before we get on to making a historical point™. Burchard of Worms was the Bishop of Worms, which was an extremely influential Holy Roman Imperial city, and which we generally think of now in relation to the Diet of Worms, where Martin Luther (who is just a second-rate Jan Hus, but whatever), was tried. Burchard, however, was working five blissful centuries before Luther came on the scene, i.e. at the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh centuries, and he was massively influential in making canon, or Church, law. He is also very well known for making his own penitential.
My loves, I am very sorry, but we have to talk about No Nut November. Why, you may ask, would I say something like that to you? And you would be right to do so. Why would I ask you to contemplate a month-long abstinence exercise for men propagated on reddit? The answer to that, sadly, is because the whole misguided, misogynist, pseudo-science binfire has all the hallmarks of medieval medical and theological thought on sex, and that is my job. I take no pleasure in saying this, because as you know, I think it is very important to be careful when using the word “medieval” to describe something. Yet, here we are.
For the up-until-this-point blissfully ignorant out there, No Nut November, (or NNN), was brought to us by the genius minds of Reddit, and the stated goal of these gentlemen is not to “nut” AKA orgasm for the month of November. (Yeah I’m not going to link this for you. It;s too weird.) Initially this idea spawned when some bright spark got a hold of one (1) study that showed a period of abstinence from masturbation in ten healthy men lead to a spike of testosterone production in the subjects. (Don’t even get me started on the sample size here.) This apparently is seen as a definitive good, and some dudes decided that they would refrain from jacking it for a month in order to get this extra hormone rush for some reason. (IDK. YKINMKATOK, I guess.)
The world around us has become so persistently unhinged that it’s sometimes hard to focus on just one terrible/weird thing at a time at this point. There’s a sexual assaulting game show host as president of the United States, escalating unapologetic white supremacy world-wide, and your friends openly liking hentai on the Twitter TL. We’re all inured at this point.
One of the millions of weird things that has come to be in the hellscape of social media (other than the hentai) is the joyful use among the white supremacists of the word “cuck” as an insult. Those of us who live online, and even those of us who are just forced to exist in this squalid farce of a society, are sadly aware that “cuck” is a foreshortening of the word “cuckold”, and what these sad little men (it’s always men) mean is that the person in question is being cheated on by their female partner. (Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t start it.)
I, like all the best people, have spent the last month or so being absolutely amazed that there was a time before Janelle Monáe’s ‘Dirty Computer’ existed, and that apparently there was music before now. It’s a lot to deal with, you know? Obviously, this album is important for a number of reasons, the most pressing of which is that it BANGS. However, it is also an amazing record of queerness and female auteurship in a male dominated society.
Because the world is a garbage place, unfortunately this week suddenly a few more people are aware of what Incels are, and that said Incels are capable of killing people because they are simultaneously incapable of getting play.
Now this is hugely upsetting, disappointing, and all-around disgusting. Also, like pretty much every disgusting thing about our society’s relationship to sex and love, we can trace its roots to the horrifying ideas of relationships and love enshrined in the concept of courtly love.