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Female bodies attract male attention. Men spend plenty of time thinking about them, describing them and trying to explain them. They do across Britain and America today, they did throughout Greece and Rome more than two millennia ago.

That's the basic premise of Giulia Sissa's important new book. Sissa, an expert in the technique of comparative literature, has a sharp eye for debunking politically motivated revisionism in studies of classical culture. In this case, Sissa's target is the modern obsession with Greek homosexuality.

Male-male eroticism, she argues, has been greatly exaggerated by classicists, and she surveys a mind-bogglingly broad range of classical and Christian literature to demonstrate the centrality of heterosexual concerns to ancient, male, writers.

Certainly, the Greek medical writers described male and female bodies as two halves of a necessary unit. A woman's body was a male in negative: the ovaries were testicles, the womb a scrotum and the cervix a penis, almost as if they were male genitalia that had literally been turned inside out by the force of penetration.

Aristotle took issue with Hippocrates over whether females emitted semen - but only because he doubted whether women could produce anything worthwhile at all. In his asymmetrical biology, a woman's body was a man's without the best bits. To others, it was one that had been weakened and flattened.

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