Even the oldest Babylonian texts inscribed on stone tablets describe women’s sexual escapades, including tales of secret or open infidelity where women were helped by their friends, and even left their husbands.
Priestesses wrote about their preferences for same-sex relations to avoid the risk of pregnancy, while young girls prayed to their goddesses that their lovers would last longer in bed and learn how to please them.
In Ancient Greece, women turned the fact that men didn’t know about their bodies to their advantage (women were only ever medically examined by each other).
Ancient Greeks believed that women also had semen that played an equal role in the conception of a child. Female semen was only released through orgasm, so men had to pleasure their partners if they wanted children.
Roman women didn’t like pregnancy or children. To make sure they could still enjoy sex they castrated their best-looking male slaves.
In the Middle Ages, women’s sexual freedom depended on their social status. Eleanor of Aquitaine, for example, had extra-marital affairs without her husband (King Louis VII) being able to do anything about it.
It was the same story in later periods in history, too. An aristocrat protected by King Louis XIV in the court of Versailles could cheat on her husband as much as she liked, and could even send him out to the provinces while she indulged in her illicit affair.
As for young girls, medieval theologists thought that it was acceptable for them to caress themselves as soon as they began to think about men and sex.
Phallic objects were allowed to calm their passions and ensure they remained chaste. Otherwise, it was feared that girls would give in to their baser instincts and have sexual relations with men before they were married.
The importance of sexual satisfaction
Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies, set in the Rennaissance period, is an account of the many sexually liberated women the hero encountered. He researches female arousal by studying early pornographic images of women astride their husbands or lovers.
The images include women using objects as sex toys and caressing themselves and other women. Women were also depicted mocking their lovers who couldn’t keep up with them in bed.
According to teachings of Christian theologists in the same era and later on, women had to pleasure themselves in order to maximise their chances of becoming pregnant.
Men had to do all they could to make sure their partners climaxed, beginning again if they ejaculated too soon or caressing their partners instead.
If this wasn’t enough, women had to pleasure themselves after to make sure they got pregnant. Not doing everything they could to reproduce was considered a sin.