Monday, 26 June 2017
Sex in the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, sex was regarded as a form of political agreement among noble families, and everyone else it was a spiritual agreement with the Church, viewed as the place closest to God. So couples were expected to be married and have sex only to fulfil making heirs and families. With nobles and peasantry alike, young people were given a similar diet of spiritual teachings that informed them early on that marriage is a part of life. It was decided among families, especially the parents, on who their children should soon one day be married to.
Arranged marriages were done to set aside differences among feuding families, seal agreements, expand ownership of houses and land. Someone could be told the name of their future spouse but have never even met them yet. It could be years before they see their bethrothed. And on the wedding itself, it usually was the first time the couple met.
They would all have been given teachings from the Christian clergy that drummed into their heads the subject of sin. Sex was regarded as a form of evil sin and so the church made strict rules over a married couples private lives. A married couple were told that they should not have sex on certain days of the week,certain times of the month or certain times of the year. The church told couples not to enjoy sex and to have intercourse with just the missionary position.
However, the church was lenient on brothels!
People were raised to fear the wrath of the Christian god, and somehow felt that the clergy were able to communicate with this god, and be told about their breaking of rules in the bedroom. For that reason people feared the clergy who were the voices of God and messengers, or priests that conversed always with this supernatural divinity hidden behind the stained glass windows of the churches.
People of both nobility and peasantry were growing up too worried to do much about this. The general public of the Middle Ages were very much conformist out of mortal terror of this god, so much so that they complied with the rules.With regards to sex, did people ever become too passionate in bed to forget about the rules? Or did they feel too scared to enjoy each other?
We can gather that life was pretty mundane during the Middle Ages.
Yet it has an appeal. It's full of chivalry, romance, poetry, knights, merriment, and even naughtiness. Sexual intercourse itself was reserved strictly for married couples to produce children. But there were many times when people went about in a state of undress and touched one another. There is artistic proof of this, paintings of the Middle Ages for example as shown of men and women naked like modern hippies:
Public nudity and baths Middle Ages
Food, bath and sex
Group witness a couple in bed
Naughty weddings, or should I say weird weddings? After the main saying of vows, the feast, music and cheers, there were dreaded wedding nights that both couples often felt nervous about. Firstly, the bedding ritual (it was custom within all classes of people). The couple would be escorted to their chamber, get stripped of their clothes by guests and then were made to get inside their bed. Then the guests would leave the couple to themselves.
There was an even more nerve wracking custom than this during the Middle Ages. That was for the newlyweds to consummate their marriage in front of witnesses. Those witnesses often included the clergy and officials to ensure that the couple had completed their wedding. Among noble families usually, older relatives such as parents of the bride and groom were regarded as official witnesses to a marriage consummation. This was seen to get proof of a future heir being conceived.
Not only was sex difficult in the Middle Ages but not even private! We have the notion of knights in shining armour sweeping a fair maiden to his castle. Of minstrels being the pop stars of the day, making women swoon and love them. Of lords and princes and sirs on horseback, fighting with swords and arrows. Born from this era are favourite tales we know of including Robin Hood and his merry men, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Guinevere, Maid Marion, Merry olde England, as well as a host of fairytales and nursery rhymes.
With the age of war, torture, famine and plague, the fear of God, fear of the devil, fear of church and kings, and even fear of ones parents. We get mythical Middle Ages and romantic chivalry and beautiful maidens and knights so bold. How can we ever imagine what life was like unless we read books or look at paintings from the era? People of the Middle Ages had all these sets of rules to follow so they had to make do. And they did what they could, despite what the rules told them because we're here as a result aren't we.