[Plura-list] Eleanor Janega's "Once and Future Sex"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Jan 17 08:34:53 EST 2023

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2023/01/17/ren-faire/


This Thu (1/19) at 1530hPT, I'm joining my co-author Rebecca Giblin and our host, Brad Stone, for an Internet Archive/Coil livecast about our book Chokepoint Capitalism:



Today's links

* Eleanor Janega's "Once and Future Sex": The true, weird, horny history of medieval gender and sex.

* Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.

* This day in history: 2013, 2018

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading


🪐 Eleanor Janega's "Once and Future Sex"

*The Once and Future Sex* is Eleanor Janega's new history of gender and sex in the medieval age, describing the weird and horny ways of medieval Europeans, which are far gnarlier and more complicated than the story we get from "traditionalists" who want us to believe that their ideas about gender roles reflect a fixed part of human nature, and that modern attitudes are an attempt to rewrite history.


If you'd like an essay-formatted version of this thread to read or share, here's a link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:


Janega is a fantastic and hilarious medievalists whose blog, "Going Medieval" is essential reading, offering a well-informed and profane counterpoints to the ideologically driven, just-so stories that get rolled out to explain why progressive ideas are doomed. Some of my favorite installments:

* I assure you, medieval people bathed


* On courtly love and pick up artists


* If you’re going to talk about the Dark Ages, you had better be right


* On putting sex work on the map


* On women, pleasure, and semen


* On conflating drag, (and femininity), with sexuality


* On medieval kink (part one)


* On medieval kink (part two)


* A medieval abortion reading list


*Once and Future Sex* is one of those very excellent blogger books that takes all the ideas that the author has developed through short pieces reacting to current events, takes all the reactions *to* those pieces, including the squeals of outrage from less-informed people desperately invested in a certain vision of medieval life, and synthesizes them into a single consistent narrative.

Books like these are the comedy specials of blogging: the author has road-tested their material, tried it in front of audiences up and down the land, polished it to a high shine, and now brings it all together in a triumphant, confident bravura performance.

Janega's overarching point is that gender and sex are *contingent*. Our obvious, "biologically determined" ideas about sex - for example, that men are sexual aggressors and women are generally uninterested in sex - are relatively modern, and millions of people once believe the exact opposite, with equal confidence.

This extends in all directions: whether women did hard physical labor, whether beauty ideals are eternal, whether women went to war, or ruled, or engaged in scholarship. When someone claims that the "hip to waist ratio" for women has an evolutionary determined ideal that is found everywhere, Janega's work lets us counter with the fact that for hundreds of years, the ideal female body was one with small breasts and a prominent pot-belly.

Janega's point is by no means that the medieval era was a golden age of gender equality - rather, it's that the problems of gender were *very different* from our own. If, as a society, we are capable of believing that women are sex-crazed monsters, *and* capable of believing that women are frigid and sex-averse, then perhaps we could find some happy medium, like "Some women like sex a lot. Others, not so much. Still others: it depends."

But while *Once and Future Sex* has a point and a narrative, it is also a bouquet of delightful grace-notes and weird facts from the age - from the belief that horny women tricked their men into having sex with them by putting live fish in their vaginas, then cooking and serving them, to the criminal hijinx of oven-for-hire bakers who stole their customers dough by means of a hole in the table.

The past is a different country. Our understanding of the past is always changing - and that's not new, either (after all, many of the ideals of the medieval era's ruling class were based on revisionist beliefs about life in ancient Greece and Rome). Janega is a thoroughly modern medievalist, able to inform and contextualize while entertaining and amazing.


🪐 Hey look at this

* Harpercollins Union Strike Fund Posters https://www.etsy.com/listing/1392531215/harpercollins-union-strike-fund-posters (h/t Super Punch)

* On women who talk, and also write books https://going-medieval.com/2023/01/17/on-women-who-talk-and-also-write-books/


🪐 This day in history

#10yrsago FBI responds to ACLU FOIA request…with 111 blank pages https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/fbi-to-aclu-nope-we-wont-tell-you-how-when-or-why-we-track-you/

#10yrsago Michelle Bachmann stiffs her campaign staff, they retaliate by ratting to the feds https://www.startribune.com/ex-bachmann-aide-alleges-campaign-finance-violations/187048461/

#5yrsago Neither Huxleyed, nor Orwelled: living in the Phildickian dystopia https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/henry-farrell-philip-k-dick-and-fake-humans/

#5yrsago A newly discovered strain of Android malware contains never-seen surveillance features https://securelist.com/skygofree-following-in-the-footsteps-of-hackingteam/83603/


🪐 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Friday's progress: 512 words (94995 words total)

* The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW

* A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

* The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. REVISIONS COMPLETE - AWAITING COPYEDIT

* Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION

* Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Daddy-Daughter Podcast, 2022 Edition https://craphound.com/podcast/2022/12/12/daddy-daughter-podcast-2022-edition/

Upcoming appearances:

* Internet Archive livecast on Chokepoint Capitalism with Rebecca Giblin and Brad Stone, Jan 19, 1530hPT

* Library Learning Experience/American Library Association (New Orleans), Jan 27-30

* Chokepoint Capitalism: Can It Be Defeated? (UCL Faculty of Laws), Feb 1

* Future of Arts, Culture & Technology, ACMI, (Melbourne), Feb 14

* ANU/Canberra Times Meet The Author (Canberra), Feb 16

* Australian Digital Alliance Copyright Forum (Canberra), Feb 17

* Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy (Brussels), Mar 2

Recent appearances:

* The Majority Report with Sam Seder

* Decoder:

* Plutopia

Latest books:

* "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.

Upcoming books:

* Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023

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