Book Notes: Fruit of Knowledge

Juan Herrera
5 min readApr 24, 2024

Here are some of the notes from the book by Liv Strömquist, Fruit of Knowledge.


  1. If you like what you read here, please consider supporting the artist and buying her books.
  2. Don't take any statement below for granted, check the references. They are widely available in the book.
  3. My own notes are written in italics

From women as sinful to women as prude

  1. Religion has historically portrayed eroticism as sinful, often placing women at the heart of this narrative.
  2. As early as the 5th century, Saint Augustine championed this perspective, promoting the idea that women were inherently lustful and prone to uncontrollable desires.
  3. On the other hand, greek thinkers saw men as self-controlled and rational beings.
  4. Over time, women generally adopted a more modest demeanor, potentially driven by two underlying factors:
  5. Theory A suggests that religious judgment significantly impacted women’s behavior, instilling a sense of restraint.
  6. Theory B argues that challenging working conditions limited women’s opportunities for a decent living, compelling them to marry for financial security. Given limited options, they might have used sexual restraint as a bargaining tool.
  7. As time passed, the Enlightenment era brought new perspectives. Thinkers and researchers observed the behaviors of men and women and mistakenly concluded that women were less inclined toward sexual desire.
  8. The “lustful” label previously associated with women began to disappear, and they were instead granted a social “promotion.” Women were now perceived as restrained and infrequently interested in sex, in contrast to men.
  9. It was widely believed that women valued intimacy over sex, while men were seen as primarily driven by physical desire. This notion was encapsulated by the saying, “Women have sex because they want relationships, and men have relationships because they want sex.”
  10. However, this shift came with a significant burden for women. The new label placed upon them — portraying them as inherently pure and chaste — became a crown that they couldn’t easily remove without risking harsh criticism.
  11. Any sign of sexual interest could result in labels like “whore” or “slut.” Even women’s masturbation began to be viewed as something unsavory or improper (My mom confirmed this view. Ask yours!).
  12. Now, fast-forward to today, and reality is not so different. The terms whore or slut are some of the most derogatory terms you can call a woman.
  13. Ironically, there's a bunch of people also criticizing women for being too prude, calling them antiquated or old-fashioned.
  14. So it seems like no matter what they do, they'll be wrong (as nicely described by this meme):

Author's Notes

Judgement for Men: Although men generally have more leeway with their sexuality, they are not immune to judgment and criticism. In Colombia, there’s a derogatory term for men who sleep with many women: “Perro” (Womanizer). I remember growing up, I never wanted to be perceived that way. Women tended to avoid those men. At the same time, you can't imagine how much pressure I faced — from family members, friends, and society — for still being a virgin at 21.

Latin Dances: I believe one reason Latin dances are popular among women is that they allow them to be sensual without being quickly labeled as sluts.

Female Genitalia as a hole

  1. The Enlightenment’s view of men and women as opposites extended to their genitalia.
  2. The image of the penis fitting into the vagina was romanticized to the point where women were seen as empty, hollow, or lacking self-esteem because they didn’t have what men did. This perspective casts women as incomplete, like a puzzle missing key pieces, with men positioned as the ones to “complete” them.
  3. This reductive view relegated the clitoris to a state of invisibility and irrelevance, a belief that lingered for years. The realization that the clitoris actually resembles a small penis was quite a dissapointment.
  4. Additionally, people often referred to the entire female genitalia as the vagina, overlooking the vulva, a habit that continues today, further reinforcing the limited understanding of female anatomy.
  5. This perspective significantly influenced the practice of clitoridectomy, a procedure in which the clitoris was surgically removed. It was often done to “cure” a range of ailments, such as hysteria, headaches, and depression.
  6. The last known case of clitoridectomy for these reasons occurred in the 1800s on a 5-year-old girl.
  7. Freud famously suggested that clitoral orgasms were a sign of immaturity, appropriate for girls but not adult women.
  8. Furthermore, it was commonly believed that women who could not achieve orgasm through vaginal intercourse but could through clitoral stimulation were “frigid” and in need of psychiatric intervention.

Additional Notes on Female Genitalia

  1. It was thought that the inner labia of civilized women had shrunk, therefore, an elongated labia meant racial inferiority.
  2. Today women can feel ashamed of having big lips. In 2022 one gynecologist in Colombia suggested to one ex of mine to do aesthetic surgery to reduce the size of her labia. It's called labiaplasty
  3. During the witch trials, they checked the sex organs to tell apart witches. A big clitoris was seen as witchy.
  4. When NASA sent information about humans to space, they removed the vulva from the women because they were afraid NASA’s leadership would not approve.
  5. The visible part of the clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg. The organ extends itself up to 7–10 centimeters
  6. In the 20th century, female ejaculation was treated as a form of urinary incontinence.

Notes on Female Orgasms

  1. In the past, it was thought that the female orgasm was necessary to get pregnant. So there was a strong incentive to ensure women's pleasure. It was even believed that men and women had to come simultaneously.
  2. The female orgasm is seen as complicated, hard to achieve, and not necessarily important for the woman, whereas the male orgasm is easy to achieve, indisputably desired by men, and taken for granted as part of having sex.
Picture from the book

Notes on the Period

  1. Women are often ashamed of letting others know they have their period. I saw this growing up. There was a lot of taboo about this. I remember being incredibly ashamed one day when my mother or sister asked me to buy sanitary pads for them.
  2. There’s a theory that in the Stone Age, the period was seen as divine because bleeding typically occurred only when injured, but women weren’t wounded. Not to mention it can synchronize.
  3. The period at some point was used as a love potion.
  4. The period was often used as an excuse for women from attaining jobs, studying, or obtaining roles in society reserved for men. But it was never a reason to stop women from caring for children.
  5. It was believed that the period is simply a surplus of blood and that men have the period as well when they bleed through their noses.