therapeutic intercourse

It turns out that Natalie, one of our young readers in New York, is quite precocious. Heres her most recent letter to MM.com:

right now i’m reading a book about lovesickness in the middle ages and its treatment as a medical condition. the disease shared many characteristics with that of melancholy, and some called it love-melancholy. the author has included portions of medical guides from the period. here is a french doctor’s recommended treatment (circa 1180):

“This disease cannot be perfectly cured without intercourse and the permission of law and faith. For then the faculties and the body return to their natural disposition. Before it is established, therefore, consider there may be burning of humor; if there is, purge it. Then administer lengthy sleep, humectation, and good nourishment, and freshwater baths. Occupy the patients with various things, so that they are distracted from what they love. In this, moreover, the counsel of old women is very useful, who may relate many disparagements and the stinking dispositions of the desired thing. Also useful is consorting with and embracing girls,
sleeping with them repeatedly, and switching various ones. Hunting and various types of games also help.”

doctors don’t recommend “therapeutic intercourse” or purges anymore, they prescribe serotonin re-uptake inhibitors instead, which are not nearly as
diverting.

How would you like to get a prescription with, “Also useful is consorting with and embracing girls, sleeping with them repeatedly, and switching various ones,” written on it? I know that 1180 must have been pretty bad otherwise, but something like this might make up for the thirty-year lifespan and the plague. (Im wondering if the medical profession would still be churning out theories like this it were still an all-male occupation.)

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