Judith Bennett has done some interesting work on English peasants and on leyrwite which is a fine levied not by the Church but by manorial lords on peasant women who had sex without being married. Some of them were crazy ideas and some of them were downright hilarious. Legally, if a woman were to dress like a whore, she could be codified as one. Thus she feels pleasure and reaches an orgasm first. Interestingly, prostitution thrived during the Middle Ages and was generally ignored by the Church, or at worst considered a necessary evil, as scholar and saint, Thomas Aquinas thought:
When the man pulls up his own robe above his knee, he means to poke with the head of his hanging thing that familiar hole of matching length which he has often filled before. Way to put that bun in the oven. A woman selling sexual services during the Middle Ages was, in theory, frowned upon by the Church as committing a sin, but in principle and in practice, the authorities believed that prostitution was a necessary evil and a public utility for preventing men from worse sins. If he is a boy and does it often, either he is to fast 20 days or one is to whip him…. During the Early Middle Ages, Penitentials, books that set out church rules and the penance done for breaking them, were popular works. People have studied rape as a crime, but there is probably more to be done on it. So people give their testimony and they talk about what words the couple said to each other, and who was there, and when they went to bed afterwards, where were they. If you were the active partner, you were playing the masculine role, if you were the passive partner, you were playing the feminine role. There are a lot of similar tin badges, which may or may not have been given on pilgrimages, that have things like flying phalluses. Michel Pastoureau explains that cherries were a symbol of love, as was red apples, if given by a man. We can know about sex from the guides for preachers, for example. The seventh-century Irish penitential of Cummean, for example, banned oral, anal and inter-formal sex, as masturbation and bestiality. We have handbooks for priests, guides to writing sermons,with collections of little stories to include. There was real concern about Muslim men having sex with Christian prostitutes in Spain, and the prostitutes were held responsible. And, I imagine that sex has gone through a huge change simply from a cultural perspective, and perhaps we'll keep going in that direction. Sex was all about the role. There were some churchmen who preached a stricter line than others, there were some people who were more concerned with sex than the others were. Regular customers probably came from the wealthier classes. Sex in the Middle Ages February 14, by Medievalists. Before latex came around, condoms were made of animal parts or cloth. Menstruation was universally seen as a means of purification and as the blood supplied to the fetus and the blood converted to breast milk for nursing. I would argue that the close connection between sex and reproduction really is not broken until the availability of effective contraception, which means we are talking about the second half of the 20th century. First of all, let me just say, women were warriors back in the day. You get classical themes, like the Rape of Ganymede, you get the stories of adulterous women being tortured in hell by having snakes and frogs sucking on their breasts. One of the metal things that survives are tin badges that people wore on their clothing. There is literature that talks about sex, poetry and prose, especially poetry. People identify as gay, as lesbian, as bisexual, and so on today.
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