By Peter N. Stearns

Be a Man!: men in glossy Society [Paperback]
Peter N. Stearns (Author)

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It is widely assumed-in contrast to what we know about some other civilizations, such as that of India­ that sexual norms in preindustrial Western society were male-centered, involving quick satisfaction ; but there is not a great deal of evidence on this point. )21 He ate mightily and drank hard. He indulged in quick, repeated, and rather gluttonous satisfaction of his senses. Western man still appears thus to a more fastidious Asian. Christianity qualified this picture even in the early Middle Ages.

It was here that women were most readily seen as a threat. One result was the idea that excessive sex was harmful and the widespread belief (until the nineteenth century) that women were far more avid for sex than men. From Elizabethan England came • 36 B E A M AN! the statement that sexual intercourse "harmeth a man more than if hee should bleed forty times as much. " Women, closer to nature, free from man's special responsibilities, had lustier appetites, as Robert Burton lamented in his Anatomy of Melancholy: "Women's unnatural, unsatiable lust .

30 Love, carefully restrained by a code of honor and a sense of beauty, could be expressed. The problem of what women were was resolved by making them the aesthetic mentors of men, inspirers of a pure affection interestingly free from sexual taint. H abits of courtesy developed-the strong male T h e T r a d i t i o n of M an h o o d 37 • doing deference to the woman-that still affect gender relationships in Western culture. But chivalry described only a small part of behavior in practice. It did not really cover the vital role of man as father, save in invocations of a gentle authority.

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