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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

Women’s health, men’s rights: contradicting notions of sexuality in early Islamic discourses


Dr. Pernilla Myrne (University of Gothenburg)

Date and Time

November 26, 2019, 6:15 - 8 pm


Early medieval Islamic physicians relied on androcentric Greek theories of sex differentiations, agreeing that women are biologically inferior. Nevertheless, they accentuated the importance of women’s sexual fulfilment, which they considered a health issue as well as essential for reproduction. This emphasis was underpinned by erotology and entertaining literature, which often portrayed female protagonists with strong sexual agency. Early juristic discourse focused instead entirely on the sexual rights and pleasure of men, something that had a long-lasting impact on Islamic jurisprudence. In this talk, I will discuss the weight put on women’s pleasure and desire in early Arabic literature and medicine, arguing that the position of the jurists can be considered an anomaly, clearly in opposition to contemporaneous discourses on sex.


University of Zurich, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, Room RAA G15, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Islamic Studies

MUBIT - Inter-University Doctoral Cooperation in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Basel / Zurich


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