Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Servants of the Devil. the Demonization of Female Sexuality in the Medieval Patristic Discourse

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Servants of the Devil. the Demonization of Female Sexuality in the Medieval Patristic Discourse

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

The sexuality of women has been much theorizing about the nature, characteristics and alleged deficiencies. Such theories are based on an androcentric view of sexuality in the Middle Ages revolves around two core beliefs. First, the imaginary medieval sexuality perceived as an activity linked exclusively to reproduction and sexual pleasure. Second, female sexuality is projected symbolically as a phenomenon endowed with negative connotations and even destructive defined in terms of greed, insatiability and animalism. The article analyzes the perceptions of female sexuality in the late Middle Ages through the medical treatises, hygienists and theology, its relation to the Complaint of Women and its association with anthropological concepts of transgression and monstrosity

Keywords: sexuality; demonology; patristic; transgression; monstrosity

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch"

{Exodus 22,18)

1. Building Monsters. The Demonization of Female Sexuality

The sexuality of women has been much theorizing about the nature, characteristics and alleged deficiencies. Such theories are based on an androcentric view of sexuality in the Middle Ages revolves around two core beliefs. First, the sexuality is perceived as an activity linked exclusively to reproduction and no to sexual pleasure. Second, female sexuality is projected symbolically as a phenomenon endowed with negative connotations and even destructive defined in terms of greed, insatiability and animality.

Both beliefs are based more immediate ideological patristic discourse, i.e., in a Discourse of biblical inspiration that projects an image of women deeply misogynist based on the biblical figure of Eve and her role in the Edenic fall. The medieval mentality shapes the feminine nature in terms of alterity and otherness so that women make up the back of masculinity. The women project all that is not men who are projected as a mirror image of the Christian deity. The Discourse gives patristic principles of rationality, morality and intellectuality to men so that women are defined, following the principle of otherness, as irrational, immoral and visceral. This view of feminine nature, supported ideologically on the supposed natural inferiority of women under the Edenic fall, is radicalized throughout the Middle Ages and especially from the thirteenth century.

Late Medieval patristic radicalized the discourse about women's nature due to religious factors, social and political among which the social and ideological significance of the movement known as the Women's Complaint. The Complaint is a social, philosophical and political, launched after the publication of the Book of the City of Ladies (1405) by Christine de Pizan, highlights the discrimination faced by women in all public areas especially in relation to their alleged innate inability to acquire scientific and theological knowledge. Public events and claims that arise related to the Complaint authors of Women, such as Isabel de Villena, Teresa de Cartagena, Beatriz Galindo, Juana Maria Mendoza or Cazalla among others, arouses the suspicions of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the sociopolitical system together with the ability of women to occupy spaces traditionally banned sex.

In this context of two overlapping female claim addresses to delegitimize women: the patristic discourse inherited from the Fathers of the Church, and the dogma demonological establishing an association between innate female sexuality and evil issues. Demonological beliefs play a role in late medieval discourse because it intensifies the classic linking women with diabolical matters and the Edenic fall.

The medieval demonology reaches a remarkable impact in the Middle Ages thanks to the proliferation of demonological treatises since the thirteenth century was published in Western Europe. The great medieval demonological treatise is The Malleus Maleficarum published between 1485 and 1486. It is the paradigm of demonological works because, despite not being the first treaty of its kind, comes under the approval of Pope Innocent VIII through the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus that encouraged the investigation and prosecution of crimes of witchcraft. …

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