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The relevance of her pleasure

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]

Posted on June 14, 2006
Tags: aristotle
From a discussion in Book X of Aristotle’s History of Animals on the causes of infertility:
There are various signs by which you can tell that the man is not responsible [for a failure to conceive]; and it is very easy to tell this if he has intercourse with other women and produces children. And it is a sign that they do not keep pace with one another if, although all the conditions described are met, he does not produce children. For it is plain that this alone is the cause; for if the woman too contributes something to the semen and to the process of generation, it is plain that the partners must keep pace with one another. Thus if the man ejaculates quickly and the women with difficulty (for women are for the most part slower), that prevents conception; and that is why partners who do not produce children with one another do produce children when they meet with partners who keep pace with them during intercourse. For if the woman is excited and prepared and has the appropriate thoughts, and the man has previously been pained and has grown cold, they must necessarily then keep pace with one another.

I’m having trouble squaring that passage with Book II, chapter 4 of the Generation of Animals, where Aristotle says that conception is possible even if the female does not take the pleasure in sex that she typically takes.


Author: Anne
Date: 2006-06-14

And doesn’t he recommend holding your breath during the build-up to orgasm? I think I remember that being part of his sex advice…

Author: Chris
Date: 2006-06-14

I don’t think so. I think he says that we tend to hold our breath, but that that doesn’t prove what people think it proves (can’t remember the rival theory now). Rather, we often hold our breath when undertaking some major exertion, so this is just a particular example of a general rule. (That’s what I remember. Can’t be bothered to check. I believe the relevant text would be the Generation of Animals, Book II.)

Author: DC
Date: 2006-06-14

So, this Aristotle guy, polymath or just plain weirdo?

Thin line, I suppose.

Author: Chris
Date: 2006-06-14

Um, how about both?

Paul asked a while back if there was anything at all that Aristotle didn’t have an opinion on. The answer is: sure, but not much. I don’t have the reference, but I swear there’s a brief discussion in the History of Animals of . . . oh never mind. Even I have my limits.