We can all agree that sex is pretty awesome. But, alas, it wasn’t always this way. In the past, it was seen, at best, as a necessary evil to make babies. At worst, it was a pathway to eternal damnation. Medieval sex (or lack thereof), was about as joyless as it gets… but it wasn’t without its oddities.
After all, the church was trying to look out for everyone’s immortal souls… but sometimes that meant tough love (pun intended). Women in Medieval times had it especially tough. Not only were they not allowed to enjoy it, but if they had it at all, they were seen as damaged goods in the eyes of society and the church. But still, it happened… just under some pretty rough restrictions. Even marriage didn’t give people the freedom to go at it.
Wondering which positions were considered the worst, how people improvised to pleasure themselves, or what would God think of you for going down on your partner? Check out the answers (and even more about weird Medieval sex) below.
Condoms Were Made of Intestine and Linen
Condoms have been around a long time, but they weren’t always made of latex. Back in the day, condoms were made from animal bladders or intestines, and were constantly reused. For some strange reason, though, it wasn’t seen as a mortal sin by the church. Maybe they were worried about STDs spreading.
Missionary Position Was the Lay of the Land
The missionary position is pretty tried and true, but if you were going by the church’s standards, it was the only way to go. Any other position had the risk of confusing gender roles, and no one wanted to see a man outside a position of power. (Insert eyeroll.) One of the worst positions? Having a woman on top, of course.
Erectile Dysfunction Was a Big Deal
Since it was important that people have kids, not being able to perform was a major problem. If a guy couldn’t get it up, their members would literally be investigated by the church. In the end, if procreation was impossible, the couple could be separated.
Women Pleased Themselves with Loaves of Bread
Yes, self pleasure was also a sin. But sometimes, it just has to be done. There were actually wooden toys in the past, but many people just didn’t have that kind of money. So… they used hard loaves of bread.
Anal Was a Sin
There’s really nothing constructive about anal in the eyes of the church. You can’t make a baby with it, so the only purpose would be for pleasure. Since you cannot under any circumstances enjoy the deed, doing it up the butt is a huge sin.
Oral Sex Was Also a Really Big Sin
Like anal, oral was a huge no-no in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, one book called Canons of Theodore pretty much said oral is the worst thing ever: “Whoever ejaculates seed into the mouth, that is the worst evil. From someone it was judged that they repent this up to the end of their lives.”
People Were Pretty Cool with Brothels
Despite all of the fuss about the deed being sinful, women who sold their bodies for money were all the rage in the Middle Ages. In fact, their work was seen as a pretty honest and important profession, all things considered. For a while, the Church didn’t really mind sex workers. After all, if they didn’t exist, a lot of men would get real cranky real fast… and back then that meant a body count. Of course, independent women were looked down upon. If you were part of a brothel, however, then you were a productive member of society.
If You Lost Your Virginity to Your Husband, You Got a Prize
Since Medieval society dictated that non-virgin women had less spiritual worth, losing your virginity – even to your husband on your wedding night — had to suck. To rectify the situation, they came up with the “morning gift,” which the groom gave the bride to compensate for her loss of her precious hymen.
Theologians Ranked Positions Based on Sin Level
Doing the same thing in bed, day in and day out, is just going to get boring. So some of the more liberal-thinking theologians decided to give themselves a little existential wiggle room. They ranked five positions from least sinful to most sinful based on how “natural” they were. The ranking was: missionary, side-by-side, sitting, standing, and “a tergo” (doggy). Yeah, apparently God does not like doggy style.
If You’re Trying to Have a Kid, You Better Not Enjoy It
The only way sex was 100% cool with God, the Church, and the fate of your immortal soul was if it was had in order to make a baby. The caveat was that even then, you could not enjoy it. If you did, that was sinful. They really couldn’t catch a break back then.
If Women Prayed Hard Enough, They Got Their Virginity Back
Since virginity was basically the most important thing for a woman to hang on to, the church made it possible to get yours back. Though it’s physically impossible, you could become reborn as a figurative virgin if you confessed your sins, did years of penance, and spent the rest of your life in a convent. Sounds like a raw deal.
Still on medieval sex…
Looking Was Okay, Touching Was Not
So back in the old days, coveting thy neighbor’s wife wasn’t totally frowned upon, as long as you didn’t do anything about it. You could even pine after a married woman as long as you didn’t take action. In fact, the situation was so familiar to Medieval people that they invented the concept of “courtly love,” which is basically when a knight falls in love with a married woman and dies for her in a war. Still, the minute that knight hooked up with his forbidden love, he was a sinner. Killing for her was fine, though…
Doing It Before Marriage Could End in Death
Priests were obligated by the laws of the church to report anyone having premarital sex or cheating on their spouse. There are stories of guys being caught with their pants down who were publicly disemboweled.
Being Gay Pretty Much Sucked
As we know, the church already hated anal… and that was between a man and a woman. If it didn’t result in a baby, it was no good. Since two men or two women getting together can never result in a baby… that’s about as horrible as it got in the eyes of the Medieval church. As a result, homosexuals were burned, hung, and even starved to death when they were discovered.
Celibacy Was Always the Best Way to Go
In a time when everyone was considered a sinner, virginity made you as pure as you could get. So the longer you remained celibate, the longer you were totally awesome. That mentality has persisted in some forms through to today, since the whole “abstinence first” policy is preached by many modern religious groups.
This Piece On Medieval Sex Was Written by: Aaron Edwards