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sexual/romantic desire

This tag is used broadly when there is discussion of erotic or romantic desire between women, whether or not specific activities are mentioned.

LHMP entry

This article looks at the Middleton and Dekker play (1608) The Roaring Girl based on the life of Moll Frith. One of Frith's several claims to fame was her habit of going about London openly wearing male clothing. That is, she made no effort to pass as a man or to use the clothing as disguise, but rather adopted it as a form of personal expression. The theatrical depiction of her similarly challenges gender expectations and anxieties, but obviously in a more self-conscious way.

Edition and English translation of a 13th c. French Arthurian romance. Roche-Mahdi has a brief preface giving the history and context of the manuscript and a brief synopsis of the major themes.

In considering various types of transgressive cross-dressing (e.g., for theatrical purposes), Schleiner begins by looking at some literary models available within that context that focus around logistical gender disguise.

In the 5th century CE, Taese and Tsansno**, two women living in a monastery in Southern Egypt were chastised for "running after" other women in "friendship and physical desire". This instance--with its unusual specificity of details--is part of a general discourse on women's homoerotic activities in Late Antique Egypt that is shaped by the (mostly) male monastic writers whose records survive. While this material dates from a fairly late (and geographically peripheral) part of the Roman Empire, enough continuity can be identified to use it as a window on broader Roman thought.

Ovid's Iphis & Ianthe (in the Metamorphoses) raises questions about Roman views of female homoerotic relationships. Iphis, born female but raised male, falls in love with Ianthe and then is transformed into a male body in order to marry her.

For sheer soap-opera fascination, the trial of Katherina Hetzeldorfer in 1477 in Speier explodes a number of potential myths about lesbian activity in medieval Europe -- whether that there was none, or that it was given no official or legal notice.

As the article title indicates, this primarily focuses on men. The bulk of the article focuses on a treatise on love titled “The Dove’s Neck-Ring about Love and Lovers”, written by Ibn Hazm in 10th century Spain. Ibn Hazm includes a scattering of anecdotes and discussions of love between men in a greater preponderance of heterosexual material, but also contains a single reference to love between women. The item is short enough to be worth invoking fair use and quoting Crompton’s paragraph in full:

Levin looks at the motif and expression of the apparent desire of one woman for another in the late 16th century Arcadia and considers whether and to what extent that representation reflected the everyday experience of romantic--and potentially erotic--female friendship in Renaissance England. Were such friendships viewed as acceptable because it was assumed they could not be sexual? Or despite a fear that they might become sexual? Or was the possibility of sexuality between women not considered problematic?

The increasing divide between the derided image of erotic sapphic relations and the praiseworthy image of female domesticity, epitomized by non-erotic woman+woman couples, is played out in attitudes toward certain couples. The “Ladies of Llangollen” (Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby) were firmly established in the popular imagination as the model of non-sexual romantic friendship.

Lanser emphasizes again that this study is not looking for historical lesbians--particularly given that the majority of the texts she examines are by men--but for ways the image of the lesbian is used public discourse.

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