Podcasts Medieval Sex and Sexuality It may be surprising but many of the modern day attitudes towards sex and sexuality had its origins in the Middle Ages, a period that stretched roughly from the years What were the main attitudes towards sex prior to the Middle Ages? Prior to the widespread imposition of canon Church law across Europe in the Middle Ages, the primary forms of law regulating sexuality were Roman law in areas under the governance of the former Roman Empire and various forms of pagan law in areas that had not been Romanized for example, some Germanic areas and Scandinavia. Roman law differed from canon law in not prosecuting same-sex sex-acts unless an adult male allowed himself to be penetrated by an inferior eg.
In their daily lives, medieval people, especially from the beginning of the 13th century, were subject to sexual regulation from Catholic clergy, civic authorities, members of their families, and indeed, the dictates of their own consciences. Before that time it is harder to establish how much of an effect official strictures on sex and worries about concupiscence and the immortal soul had on medieval laypeople, though anti-erotic discourse had always been part of the lives of monks, nuns, priests, and other clergy.
Furthermore, official and ideologically imposed anxieties were not always adhered to either by laypeople or clergy and did not prevent sexual themes from gaining widespread frank discussion and representation in all manner of written genres and visual arts.
Before the development of modern pornography in the 18th century and after, sexual imagery was deployed variously for entertainment, moral instruction, recrimination, political defamation, or propaganda.
The medieval sexual world was in many respects profoundly different from the modern, despite superficial resemblances. Sexual activity beyond strictly defined bounds of marriage only on certain days, in certain positions, and with the required desire for reproduction was mortally sinful—to varying degrees—and even marital sex with the aim of conception was deemed venially sinful by some Christian writers because of the problem of desire.
Fornication, adultery, rape, incest, and the vice against nature were deemed the main varieties of mortally sinful lechery, though it is important to recognize the medieval meanings behind these terms.
Modern identities of heterosexual, homosexual, and lesbian were not recognized in their current form, though there is plentiful evidence for varieties of same-sex and opposite-sex desires and practices. It is the job of the sexual historian to attempt some understanding of the meanings past peoples attached to erotic desires, practices, and predilections: This article covers the period from Late Antiquity to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and should be regarded as a starting point for research rather than a comprehensive guide.
General Overviews Histories of sex and sexuality have undergone substantial revision since the s. Some earlier works had sought to demonstrate the intellectual value of a history of sexuality and also had to contend with perceptions of the medieval period as highly repressed and censorious.
Bullough pioneered the proper academic study of medieval sex. Flandrin ranges widely in time but in location focuses mostly on France.
Bullough began publishing on medieval sex in the s, though his work is here represented by his collection produced with James A. Increasingly, scholars sought not only to trace changing or diverse attitudes to erotic desire and sex acts, but also to query the basic concepts of medieval sex.
Among the most important developments was the increasing insistence that modern sexual categories such as homosexual, lesbian, heterosexual, and pornography are products of recent centuries the 18th century for pornography, and later 19th century for the othersand that the first responsibility for historians of sex is to try better to appreciate the changing meanings of sex in particular periods and places.
KarrasPhillips and Reayand the essays in Evans largely reflect this shift in basic scholarly priorities, although it is not shared by all current historians of medieval sexuality. The Language of Sex: Five Voices from Northern France around Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society.
University of Chicago Press, Handbook of Medieval Sexuality. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities New York and London: Also in paperback editionand as an e-book Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, Engages well with the most-recent thinking in sexual histories."Common women" in medieval England were prostitutes, whose distinguishing feature was not that they took money for sex but that they belonged to all men in timberdesignmag.coms: 4.
In order to conjure up the sexual practices of our forebears we have to bridge gaps. Gaps in language, time and ways of thinking.
In order to write a history of medieval sexuality we need to know what that sexuality consisted of. It is hard enough to mentally recreate the sex lives of our friends.
Sex and sexuality were matters of intense importance in medieval religion, culture, and society, though only in recent decades have they received much serious study. In their daily lives, medieval people, especially from the beginning of the 13th century, were subject to sexual regulation from.
Useful Links to Resources on Medieval Women and Sexuality. The Christine de Pizan Society Epistolae (Joan Ferrante, Columbia University) Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index (Margaret Schaus, Haverford College) St.
Hildegard of Bingen (Johannes-Gutenberg University) IMS ("The Internet Medieval Sourcebook") (Paul Halsall, Fordham University) The International Joan of Arc Society .
Epistolae: Medieval Women's Letters "Epistolæ is a collection of letters to and from women in the Middle Ages, from the 4th to the 13th century.
The letters, written in Latin, are linked to the names of the women involved, with English translations and, where available, biographical sketches of the women and some description of the subject. Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England tells the stories of these women's lives: their entrance into the trade because of poor job and marriage prospects or because of seduction or rape; their experiences as street-walkers, brothel workers or the medieval equivalent of call girls; their customers, from poor apprentices /5(4).