The Perfumed Garden, by Richard Burton

Chapter iv

About Women who are to be Held in Contempt

Know, O Vizir (to whom God be merciful), that women differ in their natural dispositions: there are women who are worthy of all praise; and there are, on the other hand, women who only merit contempt.

The woman who merits the contempt of the men is ugly and garrulous; her hair is wooly, her forehead projecting, her eyes are small and blear, the nose is enormous, the lips lead-coloured, the mouth large, the cheeks wrinkled and she shows gaps in her teeth; her cheekbones shine purple, and she sports bristles on her chin; her head sits on a meagre neck, with very much developed tendons; her shoulders are contracted and her chest is narrow, with flabby pendulous breasts, and her belly is like an empty leather-bottle, with the navel standing out like a heap of stones; her flanks are shaped like arcades; the bones of her spinal column may be counted; there is no flesh upon her croup; her vulva is large and cold, and exhales an odour of carrion; it is hairless, pale and wet, with a long hard, greasy clitoris projecting out of it

Finally, such a woman has large knees and feet,57 big hands and emaciated legs. A woman with such blemishes can give no pleasure to men in general, and least of all to him who is her husband or who enjoys her favours.

The man who approaches a woman like that with his member in erection will find it presently soft and relaxed, as though he was only close to a beast of burden. May God keep us from a woman of that description!

Contemptible is likewise the woman who is constantly laughing out; for, as it was said by an author, “If you see a woman who is always laughing, found of gaming and jesting, always running to her neighbours, meddling with matters that are no concern of hers, plaguing her husband with constant complaints, leaguing herself with other women against him, playing the grand lady, accepting gifts from everybody, know that that woman is a whore without shame.”

And again to be despised is the woman of a sombre, frowning nature, and one who is prolific in talk; the woman who is lightheaded in her relations with men, or contentious, or fond of tittle-tattle and unable to keep her husband’s secrets, or who is malicious. The woman of a malicious nature talks only to tell lies; if she makes a promise she does so only to break it, and if anybody confides in her, she betrays him; she is debauched, thievish, a scold, coarse and violent; she cannot give good advice; she is always occupied with the affairs of other people, and with such as bring harm, and is always on the watch for frivolous news; she is fond of repose,’ but not of work; she uses unbecoming words in addressing a Mussulman, even to her husband; invectives are always at her tongue’s end; she exhales a bad odour which infects you, and sticks to you even after you have left her.

And no less contemptible is she who talks to no purpose, who is a hypocrite and does no good act; she, who, when her husband asks her to fulfil the conjugal office, refuses to listen to his demand; the woman who does not assist her husband in his affairs; and finally, she who plagues him with unceasing complaints and tears.

A woman of that sort, seeing her husband irritated or in trouble does not share his affliction; on the contrary, she laughs and jests all the more, and does not try to drive away his ill-humour by endearments. She is more prodigal with her person to other men than to her husband; it is not for his sake that she adorns herself, and it is not to please him that she tries to look well. Far from that; with him she is very untidy, and does not care to let him see things and habits about her person which must be repugnant to him. Lastly, she never uses either Atsmed nor Souak.58

No happiness can be hoped for a man with such a wife. God keep us from such a one!

57 “Feet like a guitar.”—(Rabelais, book iv., chap, ixxi.)

58 Atsmed is antimony, of which an eye-salve is made. The women blacken the inside of the eyelids with it, to make the eyes appear to look larger and more brilliant.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31