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Sex in the Middle Ages

Journey back to the Middle Ages to see how something as private and personal as sex affected medieval society at every level, from the king to the common man.
Sex in the Middle Ages is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 30.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from NOT about sex for middle-aged people I thought this was going to be about sex for people in their 40s and 50s, but it wasn't.
Date published: 2024-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Middle Ages live on Let's try this again. I can't use the word sex in my review without generating a Profanity flag? It's a good course. If you enjoy history, give it a try.
Date published: 2024-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from An easy A The question: should a professor receive a paycheck for paraphrasing a story from the Decameron?
Date published: 2024-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Real Great Course A great course on a subject that is misunderstood and avoided from being discussed.
Date published: 2024-02-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very Preachy This course can best be summed up by a comment my wife made just after the last unit finished, “I am not sure I learned very much that was new.” That was pretty much where I was at. I would not describe either of us as historians, especially medieval historians, our education backgrounds are elsewhere. History, though, is an interest that we share. I found the course more than a little preachy in places. Anyone that is likely to be watching a Wondrium offering is certainly aware that in the past there was much gender and class discrimination. While the situation is better today it still exists, and certainly uneven around the globe. It is one thing to point that something was an example of gender discrimination; it is another to go on a bit rant to audience that is already aware of the issue. It came across as a bit of a joke, and maybe not as a joke, but the presenter when talking about abortion in medieval times mentioned that there were not references in the Bible against abortion except perhaps one the 10 commandments – Thou shall not kill. Joke or opinion, she should not have gone there. While the presenter did not use the word cancel, I had the impression that she would have been more than okay with “cancelling” Chaucer if could have been proven that he sexual violated a servant. Turns out it was more a misunderstanding of legal maneuvering in a trial against Chaucer over a female contract worker’s loyalties. If we go around cancelling every historical figure or author that has had a problematic life, who would we will have left? The same presenter seemed to have a problem with gratuitous nudity in the various video formats. She seemed especially exercised by a Netflix series that featured a lot of undressed Asian women. She saw this as exploitation of that ethnic group. In may well have been, but gratuitous nudity and bad language is epidemic in our movies and television programs, and at least from my point of view, seems to include all racial groups. I just found all this “wokeness” way too much. Then there were certain production practices that bothered me. One was the placing of music behind the speaker. A couple times we could not actually distinguish what was being said as the music was so loud. The music is a distraction that adds nothing to production value of the presentation. And then there is Wondrium’s current infatuation with talking head presenters. They focus in so closely on the lecturer that I spend way too much of my time preoccupied with their physiognomy and grooming practices. Very few folks look good when the camera zooms in that close. Again it is super distracting. Interestingly enough as I am trying to post this review it is flagging me for profanity. Truth is I can cuss in 3 languages, and I will be hog tied if I can find a profane word any where in my offering. Given the subject matter, a review invites the use of certain words I suppose are trigger words for some people... the times we live in. I would recommend a hard pass on this course.
Date published: 2024-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No punches pulled Jennifer McNabb and her associates put together a course identifying differences in many religious sexual beliefs and much medical sexual knowledge during the Middle Ages compared to the present day, but the sameness in many sexual practices and religious sexual beliefs that spread across to the present age. This course accomplishes that without pulling any punches. Sexual medical advancements of today, make parts of this course seem like fantasy, but the writings from the Middle Ages show thatn this course is far from fantasy. Congratulations on a job well done.
Date published: 2024-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was a very interesting course I enjoyed much more then I thought I would. Thank You.
Date published: 2024-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hopefully not a preview of what's to come Professor McNabb was pretty good and professional, but some of the female contributors, had quite a biased and where struggling to stay objective and not condescending, and keep their political views a bit more to themselves..
Date published: 2024-01-30
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Overview

In the 12 episodes of Sex in the Middle Ages, Professor Jennifer McNabb and a panel of experts in medieval history and literature will take you back to the period between the fall of Rome and the rise of the Renaissance to explore the ideals and realities of sex and sexuality. As you’ll learn, the rise of Christianity as not just a religion but a powerful political institution irrevocably influenced both the practical and moral dimensions of sex for centuries. And you may be surprised to see how much medieval views of sex continue to influence us today.

About

Jennifer McNabb

In my years as a scholar of Europe, I’ve peeled back layers of legend in search of the complex reality of life.

INSTITUTION

University of Northern Iowa
Jennifer McNabb is a Professor of History and the head of the Department of History at the University of Northern Iowa. She received her PhD in History from the University of Colorado Boulder. She has published and spoken widely on the history of sex and marriage, and her articles have appeared in The Sixteenth Century Journal and Women’s History. She won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for curriculum development and served as president of the Rocky Mountain Medieval & Renaissance Association.

By This Professor

Renaissance: The Transformation of the West
854
Sex in the Middle Ages
854
Sex in the Middle Ages

Trailer

The Ins and Outs of Sex in the Middle Ages

01: The Ins and Outs of Sex in the Middle Ages

McNabb discusses the foundation for medieval views of sex and sexuality. You’ll consider the influence of Christianity as it became the dominant religion of Europe and why many sexual taboos can be traced back to “Original Sin” as told in the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

28 min
Let’s Talk about Medieval Sex, Baby

02: Let’s Talk about Medieval Sex, Baby

The medieval Church set the rules for sex, and the number-one rule was that it was solely for procreation within the bounds of marriage. Consider medieval ideas about procreation and see how everyday people thought about their own bodies and how they worked. Also, look at some of the medieval techniques to increase fertility or to prevent pregnancy.

23 min
Breaking the Rules of Medieval Sex Taboos

03: Breaking the Rules of Medieval Sex Taboos

Find out what medieval people did behind closed doors, as you examine the ways they often broke the rules about sex and what could happen to them when they got caught. From masturbation and prostitution to unmarried sex and homosexuality, there were a great many ways for someone to get in trouble with the authorities.

28 min
Sex and the Medieval Church

04: Sex and the Medieval Church

Much of what we know about the lived experience of sex for medieval people comes from people who weren’t supposed to be having it: the Christian clergy. Consider the influence of the Church, the clergy, and clerical lawyers on marriages and sex lives of the ordinary people that sought their help.

29 min
Sex, Status, and Violence in the Middle Ages

05: Sex, Status, and Violence in the Middle Ages

Add further depth and nuance to your understanding of medieval sexuality. Dig deeper into issues of status and gender as you consider forbidden liaisons and sexual violence. Look at the divides of class, gender, and religion and consider how the power dynamics of the Middle Ages further complicated matters of sex and marriage.

29 min
Medieval Fabliaux and Obscene Literature

06: Medieval Fabliaux and Obscene Literature

Medieval literature plays a powerful role in shaping modern perceptions of life in the Middle Ages. Turn to what might be the less familiar form of medieval storytelling: the fabliaux, which offered medieval people, as it offers us to today, a bawdy, explicit vision of sex and physicality in the Middle Ages.

25 min
Medieval Romances and Courtly Love

07: Medieval Romances and Courtly Love

Continue your examination of medieval literature by studying courtly love, focusing on some of its most famous characters and stories: Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Then, turn to an author writing in the English vernacular—Geoffrey Chaucer—who gloried in sex as both a plotline and a punchline.

26 min
Sex Lives of the Medieval Rich and Famous

08: Sex Lives of the Medieval Rich and Famous

For the elites of the Middle Ages, marriage was not only a way to avoid the sinful nature of sex, but it was also a way to shore up political alliances and economic security. Examine the rules—and double standards—of sex among the monarchs and aristocrats and meet some of the most famous (and infamous) medieval couples to learn about the ways sex defined relationships and could affect entire kingdoms.

24 min
Sex in Medieval Christendom

09: Sex in Medieval Christendom

Sex may have been the cornerstone of medieval marriage, but it certainly wasn’t limited to the bounds of holy matrimony. Explore the realities of sex among a variety of medieval people, from the everyday trade of brothels to the sex lives of intellectuals, including the famous story of Abelard and Heloise.

25 min
Sex beyond Medieval Christendom

10: Sex beyond Medieval Christendom

Widen your perspective on medieval sex by looking beyond the bounds of Christianity’s rules. Learn about the approaches to sexual activity in other cultures and regions throughout Europe. Medieval Europe was never homogenous in its ideas about sex, nor were the boundaries ever stable between peoples of different faiths and cultures.

26 min
Medieval Mythbusting: Sexual Odds and Ends

11: Medieval Mythbusting: Sexual Odds and Ends

People in the Middle Ages held some very interesting theories about the human body and sex. Examine some of the myths and legends in the Middle Ages associated with sex. Learn why numerous ideas about medieval sex have had a lengthy afterlife, even when they have little basis in fact or are anachronistic.

26 min
Legacies of Sex in the Middle Ages

12: Legacies of Sex in the Middle Ages

Explore the ways in which our own culture—pop and otherwise—takes inspiration from medieval ideas about sex and relationships, even as we wrestle with some of the darker elements of their legacy.

26 min