Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From a Review of "The Sultan's Sex Potions: Arab aphrodisiacs in the Middle Ages"

Nasir a-Din a-Tusi
Arab aphrodisiacs in the Middle Ages
Translated and edited by Daniel L. Newman
256pp. Saqi Books.

Review by Robert Irwin, The Times Literary Supplement (May 23, 2014), p. 26:
The Sultan's Sex Potions is an edition and translation of a work whose full title is The Book of Choice Sexual Stimulants and the Sultan's Mixtures. It was commissioned from al-Tusi by Abaqa [Ilkhan in Iran starting in 1265], who had worries about about his son's sexual prospects. (The boy suffered paralysis of the lips.) The translator, Daniel L. Newman [,] provides a lengthy and interesting introduction to Islamic erotology. He has this to say about the subject: "The erotological corpus runs the full gamut of sexuality and erotology, generally combining ars amatoria and scientia sexualis: types and  positions of intercourse, penis size, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, hermaphroditism, impotence, nocturnal emissions, priapism, anilingus, cunnilingus, voyeurismm, bestiality, sadomasochism, hymen restoration, contraception, prostitution, festishism and so on'.
After these grandly libidinous horizons, it is a little surprising to find that al-Tusi's actual treatise reads like a cross between a cook book and a pamphlet on healthy living. ...
[T]here is little overlap between al-Tusi's prescriptions and the main repertoire of Western aphrodisiacs: oysters, asparagus, cantharides and so on. Al-Tusi concentrated exclusively on improving male performance and pleasure. ...
It seems that this is the first in a series of planned translations of Arabic erotology. There is wilder stuff to come.
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