adu
Credit to http://www.odee.com.

The medieval ages were a sexually diverse time. On the one hand, the spiritual authority of the Church denounced lust and everything/everyone associated with it, especially women. On the other hand, the medieval literary conception of “Courtly Love” cherished femininity as well as the idea of “falling in love”. Marriage in medieval times was a political affair, love was often sidelined. Women always felt the pressure to produce  heirs, particularly males, and were considered men’s property. Marriage proposals were often decided when women were at the tender age of 9 or 10. Therefore, most women and men were involved in adulterous affairs. As a result of this, medieval lovers who wanted sex but not its consequences turned to medical experts who then developed exotic contraceptive techniques for women. The practice of drinking a man’s urin or of swallowing a bee were adopted by women of these times. By scrubbing cedar oil on their womb, women, according to medieval experts, would have prevented contact with the male sperm during sex. Coitus interruptus was also a popular contraceptive method used during the Middle Ages, though an ineffective one. Wrapping herbs in linen and letting them hang from a woman’s neck among her breasts was also a curious contraceptive technique of the time. Lastly, if a woman ate sage cooked for three days, she wouldn’t have been able to conceive. As you can see, medieval medics only had a very basic understanding of the human body and how it functioned during reproduction. They relied instead on Humorism, a system of medicine adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, of balancing the vital “humors” that were present in the body. Medieval women’s main ideological adversary was the Catholic Church. In fact, priests believed that women, descending from Eve, were the carriers of the “Original Sin” and therefore the ones who were overcome by lust and sexual desire and ultimately responsible for seducing men and leading them to sin. Sex was viewed as a filthy and scandalous affair by the Church, and therefore presented as taboo. As a result, virginity was considered to be the highest virtue a woman could possess. This concept was in direct contradiction with the image of femininity and the idea of “Courtly Love” spread by the troubadours of Southern France. In fact, this tradition and the related movements which sprang up throughout Europe, portrayed women as angelic beings, pure and kind, who were pursued and worshipped by their extramarital lovers.

carina
Credit to http://www.irishhistorypodcast.ie.
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