The winning article by Professor King, Professor of Classical Studies at the OU called Galen and the widow, questions existing orthodoxy on the history of masturbation as something practised by doctors on women in the ancient world and beyond.
Professor King challenges assumptions made by Rachel Maines in her book published in 1999, The Technology of Orgasm. Maines argued that therapeutic masturbation had a very long history even before technological change enabled the development of the object at the centre of her research, the vibrator.
“I have found that Maines’ work obscures female agency,” Professor King said. “She uses a translation of Galen’s text from which female healers and midwives are absent. Galen presents women’s desire as based on expelling their ’female seed’: Maines too assumes that this is all about an orgasm modelled on the male, playing into a male fantasy of passive women waiting for men to give them pleasure.”
The Women’s Classical Caucus was founded in 1972 to foster feminist and gender-informed perspectives in the study and teaching of all aspects of ancient Mediterranean cultures and classical antiquity. Based in the USA, it works to advance the goals of equality and diversity within Classics. For further information, visit: http://wccaucus.org/
Find out more:
- Access Professor King’s paper, Galen and the Widow. Towards a history of therapeutic masturbation in ancient gynaecology
- Classical Studies at the OU