Walging door schaamhaar en menstruatiebloed

Order of Release, 1746. John Everett Millais, 1852-1853. Tate Gallery

The Order of Release, 1746 is een indrukwekkend schilderij van de Engelse pre-Raphaelistische schilder John Everett Millais (1829-1896). Het werd in 1853 voor eerst aan publiek getoond.

Het schilderij toont de vrouw van een Schotse Jacobiet, die haar echtgenoot komt ophalen nadat deze gevangen is gezet na de battle of Culloden op 16 april 1746. Zij geeft een Order to Release aan de Engelse soldaat.

Portret van Effie Gray, door Millais geschilderd circa 1853 (dit schilderij werd in 2008 gevonden op een stoffige zolder in Devon)

Voor de vrouw op het schilderij stond Effie Gray (1828-1897) model. Effie was ten tijde van het poseren de echtgenote van de art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), wie zij uiteindelijk verliet voor Milliais. Tijdens het schilderen van de Order of Release raakten Millais en Effie verliefd op elkaar. Detail is dat Effie na vijf jaar huwelijk met Ruskin nog steeds maagd was. Ruskin verklaarde na de scheiding: “It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.” De ‘certain circumstances’ bleken vooral te maken te hebben met walging die Ruskin had voor menstruatie bloed en schaamhaar. Millais had daar klaarblijkelijk aanzienlijk minder moeite mee. Effie en hij kregen samen acht kinderen. Hoogst waarschijnlijk leed Ruskin aan ‘Sexual aversion disorder’, een psychiatrische aandoening die gekenmerkt wordt door een walging, angst, weerzin en ontbreken van behoefte aan direct genitaal sexueel contact. De originele DSM-IV criteria geven aan dat een patient  ‘‘persistent or recurrent extreme aversion to, and avoidance of, all or almost all, genital sexual contact with a sexual partner’’ and that this symptom did not occur ‘‘during the course of another Axis I disorder (other than a Sexual Dysfunction), such as Major Depression’’ (American Psychiatric Association, 1987, p. 293). Ruskin heeft later een negen-jarig (!) meisje ten huwelijk gevraagd, waarschijnlijk vanwege het ontbreken van sexuele behoefte vanuit het kind. Uiteraard ging het huwelijk niet door. Nadien heeft Ruskin nooit meer een romantische relatie gehad.

Op 7 mei 1853 verscheen in het Illustrated London News de volgende review van het schilderij:

The subject is simply that of a wife, with child in her arms, coming with an order of release for her husband, who has been taken in the Civil Wars. The husband, overcome with emotions, and weak from a recent wound (his arm is in a sling), can but fall upon her neck and weep; moan, “firm of purpose,” sheds no tear; she has none to shed; but her eye is red and heavy with weeping and waking; and she looks at the stern and unconcerned gaoler with a proud look, expressing that she has won the reward for all her trouble past. The colouring, the textural execution, are marvellous (for these degenerate days).

John Everett Millais in 1853

Buiten de artistieke schoonheid is het een bijzonder schilderij als men zich realiseert dat de Engelsen na april 1746 Schotse Jacobieten het liefst dood zagen en vele honderden mannen, vrouwen en kinderen wreed hebben vermoord in hun ‘etnische zuivering’ in de Scottish Highlands, maar ook dat het na de Battle of Culloden verboden was voor Schotten om de Highland dress, waaronder de kilt, te dragen. Waarom Millais in 1853 juist het tegenovergestelde hiervan in dit schilderij heeft weergegeven is onduidelijk. Wel heeft het een prachtig schilderij opgeleverd dat heden ten dage in de Tate Gallery te bewonderen is. Ruskin zou nooit hebben toegestaan dat Effie voor Millais zou poseren als hij niet intens gewalgd zou hebben van het schaamhaar en menstruatiebloed van zijn maagdelijke vrouw.

De hele affaire is prachtig verfilmd in de derde episode van de BBC serie ‘Desperate Romantics‘.


Therapeutic use of the Scottish kilt (3): prevention and treatment of pruritis ani

Pruritis ani is the irritation of the skin at the region around the anus, causing a desire to scratch. The condition is very common. The irritation can be caused by anal perspiration. Wearing tight clothes that compress the buttocks may aggravate moisture in the anal cleft. It is very important to dry the anus thoroughly. Alexander-Williams stresses in the British Medical Journal (Alexander-Williams J. Pruritis ani. BMJ 1983; 287: 159-160) that nudism is ideal in treating and preventing of pruritis ani but, sadly, often impracticable. He mentions that he has no evidence to confirm or deny the belief that the strict adherence to traditional Scottish kilt wearing is a sure protection against pruritis ani. Many men wearing the kilt in a traditional (‘regimental’) way mention the pleasant prevention of moisture in the anal cleft and cooling of the buttocks and genital parts.

There was a widespread prejudice in England that Scotland was a country of rampant lousiness and scabies infestation, where the national partiality for open dress (kilts) was brought about the need for constant manual access to pruritic private parts. From the eighteenth century onwards Scotland was known by the English as ‘scratchland’. The imagined bare buttocks of the Scots was associated with their alleged propensity to publicly display and attend to their itches. But this points more strongly to the cultural and historical struggle between the English and the Scots, than it does to a confirmation that Scots generally suffer from generalized pruritis.

So patients suffering from severe, treatment-resistent, pruritis ani can try to cure their horrible condition by wearing a kilt

Therapeutic use of the Scottish kilt (2): for relief of pain

The 35-year old Scotsman Stuart Collie is suffering from a very rare disease, Dercum’s disease, or adiposis dolorosa. Adiposis dolorosa, characterized by multiple, painful lipomas. These lipomas mainly occur on the trunk, the upper arms and upper legs. The diagnosis of Dercum’s disease implies a long, chronic pain syndrome of debilitating nature. The exact cause of Dercum’s disease is unknown.Dercum’s disease was originally described in the medical literature in 1892 by the American neurologist dr Frances Xavier Dercum. The tumours are benign but can be excruciatingly painful because of their closeness to nerve endings.

Stuart Collie, who lives in Oban, Scotland, is suffering from a mass of painful tumours on his legs and abdomen. And the only clothing he can wear with any comfort is the kilt.

So to relief his pain Stuart Collie decided to wear a kilt on a daily basis. Collie : “The kilt is the most comfortable by far.” His wife Sarah said: “Stuart tried to wear jeans again recently but got cuts from where they have been rubbing on the tumours.”

Therapeutic use of the Scottish Kilt (1): treatment of hypothermia

A Scottish kilt can be a life saver to treat hypothermia

Scot whips off his kilt to save a man’s life (UK News, 21 May 97)
A Scotsman saved the life of a stranded hillwalker on a remote mountainside by taking off his kilt and wrapping it round the shivering man. Bare-bottomed Andy Young, 43, braved the elements as he stripped down and used his kilt and thick cotton shirt to keep the hypothermic man warm. Mr Young cuddled close to Tom Mitchell, 41, and sang him traditional Scottish songs while they waited two hours on chilly Sron Ghorm, near the Aultguish Inn, Wester Ross, for a helicopter. Mr Mitchell, of Collynie, Methlick, near Aberdeen, went for a lone hill walk on Monday but did not return to the inn. Friends were particularly concerned because he is an epileptic. Mr Young said: “It was all I could think of because he was shivering so much. I cuddled in close beside him and I think our body heat kept us alive. I sang songs to him to keep his spirits up. I sang MacPherson’s Rant, the Skye Boat Song and Pittenweem Joe over and over again. “When the helicopter arrived, I took my kilt and shirt back and looked on as he was winched into the helicopter. I did not want to have to walk into the inn naked.”