Saffron massage! Thigh-fencing!
I’m reading Crossing Borders: Love Between Women in Medieval French and Arabic Literatures by Sahar Amer for story research (a brief break from reading about Alexander legends in Armenia and the Caucasus for my MA thesis!) and she’s used a really interesting epigraph for one of the chapters that I thought others might want to read:
A willingness to descend into that alien territory split-space of enunciation may open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism or multi-culturalism of the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity. (Homi K. Bhabha, Location of Culture)
Sahar Amer’s own words are also very interesting. I heartily recommend her article “Medieval Arab Lesbians and Lesbian-Like Women” (JSTOR access required – I found it hosted elsewhere online for free last year but that seems to have disappeared, so if anyone can’t get into JSTOR or any other academic resource, I’m happy to email the PDF), especially the quote about “the saffron massage” from the writing of the male poet Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Tifashi, who says of scissoring: “This operation is dubbed “the saffron massage” because this is precisely how one grinds saffron on the cloth when dyeing it.”
Meanwhile, in Crossing Borders, she quotes the Anglo-Norman Etienne de Fougères on lesbian sex:
In twos they do their lowlife jousting
And they ride to it with all their might;
At the game of thigh-fencing
They pay most basely each other’s share.
Euphemisms for lesbian sex are the best ever.