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Elisa Groff (Exeter) It is the Mind that must be cured: Asceticism as Medical Treatment for Female Satyriasis in St Mary of Egypt

The fact that women did experience sexual pleasure puzzled men of medicine and religion in Antiquity. The story of St Mary of Egypt (traditionally included in the “Lives of the Harlots of the Desert”) about a prostitute who was not a prostitute but a woman affected by unrestrained sexual desire beautifully embodies this dilemma. This paper will look briefly at the Life of Mary of Egypt and Aetius of Amida’s chapter on satyriasis (77 Zervos). It will illustrate that ancient medicine and religion spoke the same language when it came to women’s sexual pleasure. Indeed, they shared the diagnosis of “female satyriasis” and its cure: a removal treatment to remove 1) an overly enlarged clitoris (clitoridectomy), 2) blood (phlebotomy), and 3) external inputs through isolation, sexual and food abstinence (asceticism).

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Amory B106