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Whether females produce sperm.

One inquires further whether females produce sperm.

1. And it seems so. For "sperm is a superfluity of the last food." But the superfluity of the last food exists in females just as in males. Therefore, etc.

2. In addition, the white of the egg is compared to sperm, and the yellow or the yolk is compared to the menstrual blood. But the female can produce by herself an egg that is divided into the white and the yellow. Therefore, the female emits sperm.

3. In addition, the greatest pleasure consists in the emission of sperm. But sometimes females take the greatest pleasure in coition, and this could not be the case if they did not produce sperm. Therefore, etc.

To the contrary. Sperm bears the same relationship to the man, as the menstrual blood does to the woman. But the man emits sperm because he does not menstruate. Therefore, the female menstruates because she does not produce sperm.

In addition, matter and agent do not coincide, according to the Philosopher in the second book of the Physics But the female provides the matter, and the sperm is the agent. Therefore, the female does not produce sperm.

One must reply that, properly speaking, the female does not produce sperm. And the reason for this is that sperm is a superfluity of the last, completely digested food. But the completion of digestion results from a strong heat, whereas females have only a weak heat, and this is why there is insufficient power in the female to generate sperm. Instead, just as a strong heat in the male creates sperm, so a weak heat in the female creates the menses, because menses is a crude and undigested blood.

Nevertheless, one must understand that there can be sperm in a female in some manner, and this is when the heat is kindled in them. Sperm like this is found more often in black women, who have sex more than all other women, and more than white women. Because black women [nigrae] are hotter and particularly dark [fuscae],[1] they are the sweetest for sex, as lechers[2] say, as well as because they have a tempered opening of the vulva so that it embraces the penis very pleasantly.[3] And this is so in thin ones more than in fat ones, since in the fat ones the spermatic superfluity is converted into fat and diminishes the heat, but in thin ones it is the other way around.

And this must be understood concerning digested and globular sperm. If, however, we mean by "sperm" moisture that is white, watery, and undigested, this is how sperm is more abundant in white women than in black ones, as the Philosopher says.

Nevertheless, one must observe that the sperm that is found in women is not suited for generation in accord with the proper sense of "sperm," because in sperm, properly, there is an active power and one capable of forming the members and of introducing soul, and this power exists only in the male's sperm. Therefore, the female serves generation only through her menses. For when it is digested further by means of the power of the male's sperm, it can receive the form of a fetus [conceptus] while a second part of it can be converted into its nutriment.

Thus one must respond to the question in brief that females, universally, do not produce sperm as males do and, if they do produce sperm, they do not create sperm that is as digested or as powerful for the sperm's operation, as males do.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that the superfluity of the last food can be of two types: either completely digested or undigested. If it is digested, it is sperm; if it is undigested, then it is menses. And this must be understood to concern the superfluity which it needs.

2. To the second argument one must reply that the white of the egg is not compared simply to sperm, because the chick arises from the white and is nourished by the yellow or yolk. Therefore, the female's menses is analogous to or corresponds to both the white and the yellow in the egg, because the fetus is formed materially from one part of the menses, and it is nourished by another part. Thus it is for the egg.

3. To the third argument one must reply that pleasure during coition does not arise only from the emission of sperm. For children and old people, who cannot produce sperm, take pleasure in coition; instead, pleasure arises from the contact of the male's sperm with the womb or from contact of the penis with the vulva, and not because the woman produces sperm.

  • [1] Cf. Song of Songs 1.4-5: nigra sum sed formonsa . . . nolite me considerare quod fusca sim"I am black but beautiful . . . do not consider that I am dark."
  • [2] Leccatores flatterers, lechers. See Petrus Alphonsi, Disciplina clericalis 3 (PL 157: 678B): clericipro sapientia sua non sunt honorati, undefacti sunt leccatores, et ad magnum venere [= venerunt] honorem.
  • [3] "Pleasantly": reading suaviter for suavitur. Suavituris in fact a verb, meaning "it kisses," but if it is to be read here we must supply an "and" between the two verbs.
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