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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.