The Perfumed Garden, by Richard Burton

Chapter xii

Concerning Sundry Observations Useful to know for men and Women

Know, O Vizir (to whom God be good), that the information contained in this chapter is of the greatest utility, and it is only in this book that such can be found. Assuredly to know things is better than to be ignorant of them. Knowledge may be bad, but ignorance is more so.

The knowledge in question concerns matters unknown to you, and relating to women.

There was once a woman, named Moarbeda, who was considered to be the most knowing and wisest person of her time. She was a philosopher. One day various queries were put to her, and among them the following, which I shall give here with her answers.

“In what part of a woman’s body does her mind reside?”—“Between her thighs.”

“And where her enjoyment?”—“In the same place.”

“And where the love of men and the hatred of them?”—“In the vulva,” she said; adding, “to the men whom we love we give our vulva, and we refuse it to him we hate. We share our property with the man we love, and are content with whatever little he may be able to bring to us; if he has no fortune, we take him as he is. But, on the other hand, we keep at a distance him whom we hate, were he to offer us wealth and riches.” “Where, in a woman, are located knowledge, love and taste?”—“In the eye, the heart, and the vulva.”

When asked for her explanations on this subject she replied: “Knowledge dwells in the eye, for it is the woman’s eye that appreciates the beauty of form and of appearance. By the medium of this organ love penetrates into the heart and dwells in it, and enslaves it. A woman in love pursues the object of its love, and lays snares for it. If she succeed, there will be an encounter between the beloved one and her vulva. The vulva tastes him and then knows his sweet or bitter flavour. It is in fact, the vulva which knows how to distinguish by tasting the good from the bad.”

“Which virile members are preferred by women? What women are most eager for the coitus and which are those who detest it? Which are the men preferred by women, and which are those whom they abominate?”— She answered, “Not all women have the same conformation of vulva, and they also differ in their manner of making love, and in their love for and their aversion to things. The same disparities are existing in men, both with regard to their organs and their tastes. A woman of plump form and with as hallow uterus will look out for a member which is both short and thick, which will completely fill her vagina, without touching the bottom of it; a long and large member would not suit her. A woman with a deep lying uterus, and consequently a long vagina, only yearns for a member which is long and thick and of ample proportions, and thus fills her vagina in its whole extension; she will despise the man with a slender member, for he could never satisfy her in coition.”

“The following distinctions exist in the temperaments of women: The billious, the melancholy, the sanguine, the phlegmatic, and the mixed. Those with a billious or melancholy temperament are not much given to the coitus, and like it only with men of the same disposition. Those who are sanguine or phlegmatic love coition to excess, and if they encounter a member, they would never let it leave their vulva if they could help it. With these also it is only men of their own temperament who can satisfy them, and if such a woman were married to a billious or melancholy man, they should lead a sorry life together. As regards mixed temperaments, they exhibit neither a marked predilection for, nor aversion against the coitus.

“It has been observed that under all circumstances little women love the coitus more and evince a stronger affection for the virile member than women of a large size. Only long and vigorous members suit them: in them they find the delight of their existence and of their couch.

“There are also women who love the coitus only on the edge of their vulva, and when a man lying upon them wants to get his member into the vagina, they take it out with the hand and place its gland between the lips of the vulva.

“I have reason to believe that this is only the case with young girls or with women not used to men. I pray God to preserve us from such, or from women for whom it is an impossibility to give themselves up to men.170

“There are women who will do their husband’s behests, and will satisfy them and give them voluptuous pleasure by coition, only if compelled by blows and ill-treatment. Some people ascribe this conduct to the aversion they feel either against coition or against the husband; but this is not so; it is simply a question of temperament.

“There are also women who do not care for coition because all their ideas turn upon the grandeurs, personal honours, ambitious hopes, or business-cares of the world. With others this indifference springs, as it may be, from purity of the heart, or from jealousy, or from a pronounced tendency of their souls towards another world, or lastly from past violent sorrows. Furthermore, the pleasures which they feel in coition depend not alone upon the size of the member, but also upon the particular conformation of their own natural pars. Amongst those the vulva called from its form el morteba, the square one, and el mortafa, the projecting, is remarkable. This vulva has the peculiarity of projecting all round when the woman is standing up and closes her thighs. It burns for the coitus, its slit is narrow, and it is also called el keulihimi, the pressed one. The woman who has such a one likes only large members, and they must not let her wait long for the crisis. But this is a general characteristic of women. “As to the desire of men for coition, I must say that they are also addicted to it more or less according to their different temperaments, five in number,171 like the women’s, with the difference that the hankering of the woman after the member is stronger than that of a man after a vulva.”

“What are the faults of women?” Moarbeda replied to this question, “The worst of women is she who immediately cries out loud as soon as her husband wants to touch the smallest amount of her property for his necessities. In the same line stands she who divulges matters which her husband wants to be kept secret.”—“Are there any more?” she is asked. She adds, “The woman of a jealous disposition and the woman who raises her voice so as to drown that of her husband; she who disseminates scandal; the woman that scowls, the one who is always burning to let men see her beauty, and cannot stay at home; and with respect to this last let me add that a woman who laughs much, and is constantly seen at the street door, may be taken to be an arrant prostitute.

“Bad also are those women who mind other people’s affairs; those who are always complaining; those who steal things belonging to their husbands; those of a disagreeable and imperious temper; those who are not grateful for kindness received; those that will not share the conjugal couch, or who incommode their husbands, by the uncomfortable positions they take in it; those who are inclined to deceit, treachery, calumny and ruse.

“Then there are still women who are unlucky in whatever they undertake; those who are always inclined to blame and censure; those who invite their husbands to fulfil their conjugal duty only when it is convenient for them; those that make noises in bed; and lastly those who are shameless, without intelligence, tattlers and curious. “Here you have the worst specimens amongst women.”

170 Note in the autograph edition. — This is a parenthesis introduced by the author in the discourse of Moarbeda, giving vent to his indignation. This paragraph, the preceding one, and the two that follow, are not to be found in some of the Arab texts, and on close examination we are convinced that they are interpolated.

171 Note in the autograph edition. — The text says four, the author, no doubt, not taking the mixed temperament into account. It has been considered right to make this slight modification in the translation.

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