Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980–1037)
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Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna, was an Islamic philosopher and theologian whose writings decisively influenced medieval Christian thought. Like other Islamic men of letters, Ibn Sina was also a physician, and his most studied work proved to be his Qanun or Canon of Medicine. The Canon was a standard textbook in European medical schools from the thirteenth century through at least the sixteenth, attracting dozens of commentators and critics. In the Canon, Ibn Sina discusses same-sex desire in several passages. He distinguishes between active or insertive desire and passive or receptive desire. Insertive copulation he treats along with heterosexual activity as a general topic in hygiene, even while he recognizes that it is prohibited by Islamic law. Receptive desire, the desire to be “passive” in anal intercourse, Ibn Sina regards as a pathological condition. He reports that some authorities considered it to have physical causes. The reference is to a doctrine that goes back to Greek medicine, holding that some men are attracted to anal intercourse because of an abnormal arrangement of their seminal ducts. This abnormality makes it difficult or impossible to ejaculate except when they are penetrated. But the anatomical hypothesis is then confused with a claim that the desire also derives from a psychological aberration. Whatever he holds about possible cause or causes, Ibn Sina rejects the suggestion of his predecessor, ar-Razî, that medical therapy can cure someone of this condition. Mark D.Jordan


Rosenthal, Franz. “Ar-Razî on the Hidden Illness.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 52 (1978): 45-60.