Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church

Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church

Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church

Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church

Synopsis

"Sexual Practices and the Medieval Church" analyses the Christian assumptions about sexuality, chronicles the early institutionalisation of these assumptions, and explores the theological debate of the meaning of marriage and the role of sex in marriage. The theological conception of sex, including issues such as rape, seduction, impotence, and prostitution, is then examined as it came to be developed by canon lawyers and justified by medical and scientific writers. The book concludes with an overview of late medieval sex practices as seen in the literature of the period and in demographic studies. Professor Vern Bullough, the well-known researcher in human sexuality, and Professor James Brundage, a historian of the Medieval period, have combined their scholarly talents to develop an in-depth analysis of sexual attitudes and practices during the Middle Ages. Skilfully blending readability and scholarly thoroughness, this is a volume general readers as well as professionals recognise as a major contribution to the study of medieval sexuality.

Excerpt

Though sex and sex activities have been and remain a major force in human history, the subject, until recently, has been ignored by scholars. Since there is and was a demand for information about sex, the interested reader generally has had to either search out the information for himself or herself, or rely upon popular works that have often perpetuated erroneous beliefs. Misinformation about sex, however, is more likely for some periods than for others. Of all periods in Western history, the most neglected and most distorted has been the Middle Ages. This neglect and distortion is due not only to the difficulty in getting at source materials, but also to our general attitude toward our "Christian heritage."

In much of Christian thought sex has been regarded as sinful, except for the purposes of procreation. Thus, many of the superficial historical accounts of sexuality have ignored the Middle Ages on the assumption that nothing happened. Giving impetus to this viewpoint was the lack of source materials in popular vernacular languages. Though the ancient Jews and the classical Greeks and Romans did not write in English, much of what they wrote has been translated. Moreover, the classical writers served as the base of the educational curriculum until fairly recently. In fact, knowledge of Latin and Greek distinguished the educated from the noneducated.

Thus, almost any reader of the Bible has come to realize that sex was a powerful force among the ancient Jews. Sex was at the core of such stories as the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the sins of Onan, the story of Tamar, or the difficulties of David over Bathsheba. No . . .

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