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October 13, 1989

Sexuality and Medicine in the Middle Ages

JAMA. 1989;262(14):2023-2024. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430140141046

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Sexuality and Medicine in the Middle Ages, which originally appeared in 1985 under the title Sexualité et savoir médical au Moyen Age (Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France), is a unique presentation with essentially three themes. On the general level, there is the attempt by the authors to show how the discipline of medicine in medieval Western Europe adapted itself to the prevailing theological attitudes regarding human sexuality. More specifically, a second theme deals with the ancestral fear of women experienced by the Western European male because of his anxiety concerning the sexual act. The influence of Arabic culture, whose approach to copulation was far more open and erotic than that of the West, represents a third theme, one that has a distinct bearing on the resolution of the previous two.

In dealing with the first of these themes, Jacquart and Thomasset return to the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville