Monday, July 20, 2009

Those "sexy" medievals

Elizabeth Chadwick's blog, Living The History  has an absolutely fascinating entry today.  It's all about well, sex, medieval-style.  Which apparently wasn't much different from the modern kind.  Except that there were monks and priests imposing penances for certain kinds.  Like, for example, kissing your husband or wife on a Sunday.  Or "doing it" on the "wrong" day of the week.  Maybe this was a crude attempt at birth control?  Even if the monks in question probably would have been horrified if anyone had pointed that out. 


Still, it doesn't seem to have stopped anybody from having their fun, so to speak, because there seems to have been, as Ms. Chadwick points out, an awfully long list of , um, proscribed activities.  Om the other hand, medieval people seem to have been realistic about certain aspects of this.  You could get an annulment if your husband was impotent.  Ms. Chadwick describes one example where some matrons in England tried to "stimulate" some poor fellow, and he wasn't "stimulated", so they declared him a "fraud".  In other words, marriages were primarily for the  procreation of children, and if one of the other of the couple couldn't "produce", well, that was  Just Too Bad.  Usually, though, women were blamed for this.  It was almost never the man's fault. 


But people could entertain themselves with "innuendo" in various ways.  The Chadwick blog also has a very interesting picture of an object, which apparently is based on an important part of the male anatomy.  I've seen similar "objects", disguised as cup handles(my daughter accidentally wandered into a store selling such items an as I wandered in after her, I saw these things.  I yanked her back out pretty fast, not because I'm especially "prudish" about such things, but because this stuff is pretty much over the head of an 8 year old). 

Finally, medievals, at least in England, in Anglo-Saxon times, were ingenious about inventing ways of entertaining themselves.  Again, Ms. Chadwick gives an example. It's a riddle.  I happen to be familiar with this particular one; it sounds somewhat "pornographic" to the modern eye and ear, but its answer is actually quite innocent.  I'm sure people must have been highly entertained, whiling away their time guessing these riddles.  They had to be, I suppose. because they didn't have TV, movies, the Internet, etc.  Few people could afford books, let alone  read them.  And they invented jokes and riddles that even today, produce smiles!

Anne G


  1. How cruel of you to leave out the riddle!

  2. Jeri Westerson says "There are three sources you should never use to learn about history: novels, movies and the History Channel." I would add a fourth... chroniclers who had an agenda. I mean the Church or whoever won the war. That seems to go for sex too.

  3. Nan:

    The people who wrote these pieces(I can't remember exactly what they are called at the moment), tended to be monks. Some monks were a bit more broad-minded than others, if for no other reason than, if people got married, they were supposed to have children, and the best way to produce that result, or so their reasoning went, was to enjoy producing them. However, I suppose they all had an eye toward Church teachings, too. In any case, it doesn't seem as if a lot of people paid these restrictions all th at much attention unless they were more or less caught in the act, so to speak. The material survies, and gives us a window into some of the ways people thought about these things, but doesn't tell you everything!