Pernilla Myrne, "Female Sexuality in the Early Medieval Islamic World: Gender and Sex in Arabic Literature" (IB Taurus, 2020)

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In this episode, I talk with Pernilla Myrne about her exciting and excellently researched book Female Sexuality in the Early Medieval Islamic World: Gender and Sex in Arabic Literature, published with IB Taurus in 2020. Pernilla Myrne is an Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and History at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where she also earned her PhD in 2008. Her research interests include the representation of women in pre-modern Arabic literature, attitudes to sexuality in medieval Islam, and women as creative subjects.

In today’s discussion, Myrne shares with us the origins of her book, some of its findings, and the process of collecting the many, many sources she used to make this book an essential resource of many a thing female sexuality, including pleasure, sexual comedy, and women’s bodies. Among Myrne’s impressive range of sources are medical, Islamic legal, literary, and entertainment sources. Contrary to popular and even scholarly expectations, medieval erotic literature emphasized female sexual satisfaction, including via teaching male readers how precisely to ensure that their female partner reaches an orgasm. Other specific themes we discuss in today’s interview include the Greek influences on Islamic writers writing about sex and sexuality, female desire, the two-seed theory, female orgasm, and lesbian love. The book would be welcome by anyone interested in gender and sexuality, medieval literature, and female representation in various genres, such as medical, erotic, and religio-legal literature.

Shehnaz Haqqani is Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. Her primary research areas include Islam, gender, and questions of change and tradition in Islam. She also vlogs on YouTube; her videos focus on dismantling the patriarchy and are available at here. She can be reached at haqqani_s@mercer.edu.

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