Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages, even today?

By Carlos Galvez Otoño
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
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Development of sex practices from the Middle Ages

Some of the sex practices from the Middle Ages still exist today. Other medieval approaches to lovemaking have justifiably not made it into modern times. Especially when it comes to sexual punishments, everyone should be glad that such things no longer exist today. Nevertheless, the sex practices from the Middle Ages have their charm, and not just for nostalgics.


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Sex that was not aimed at producing offspring was considered fornication and therefore shameful. Anyone who now suspects a certain influence from the Catholic Church is right. Officially, sex was an act of procreation. You were allowed to have fun and enjoy yourself, but that was not the main reason for sexual encounters. Marriages without sex did not exist either; this could even be sued in a church court.

Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages
Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages

In the twelfth century, the reigning pope proclaimed that a woman had to be sexually available to her husband even if he had leprosy. This right applied to both spouses. Women could also demand the sexual duties of their husbands, although it was probably more often the case the other way round. In general, enforcing these marital obligations was not dissimilar to collecting debts. And just as simple.

Prudish Middle Ages? My ass

Anyone who thinks that things were rather chaste in the good old days is mistaken. Even back then, people knew how to bend the law to avoid possible punishments. The main deciding factor was the definition of sex practices from the Middle Ages. In order to constitute sex, the man’s member had to have penetrated the woman.

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This circumstance ensured that oral sex developed into one of the most popular sex practices from the Middle Ages. The only drawback, at least from today’s perspective, is the lack of hygiene. Washing or even bathing was frowned upon until the seventeenth century. People preferred to work with fragrant herbs to disguise their own smell.

Gays and lesbians also took advantage of the fact that penetration was required as sexual proof. Because same-sex unions were punished more severely than sex with animals. Homosexual acts were forbidden, but they first had to be proven in a court of law. If the appropriate aid, such as a medieval dildo, was missing, the burden of proof was virtually impossible. In dubio pro reo.

Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages
Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages

Incidentally, an American president adopted this approach to sex practices from the Middle Ages in the 1990s. Here, too, the court confirmed that a blowjob is not a sexual act and therefore cannot be prosecuted.

Medieval punishments

There were not only sex practices from the Middle Ages, but also a sexually oriented form of punishment. Punishments have always been appropriate to the offense, even if they were much harsher back then than they are today. Adultery and other sexual offenses were punishable by castration. This cruel form of punishment was also common for prisoners of war so that they could not spread impure blood. In comparison, the expected sentences for rapists were rather lax, if they were convicted at all.

Rape in the Middle Ages

For a long time, rape was not primarily understood as a violation of the woman, but as an offense against the male patron. Ultimately, they lost the possibility of a virgin marriage. In general, the church regarded rape as a form of sexual intercourse. The main thing was that the marital duties were fulfilled.

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How exactly this happened was irrelevant. Very often the women were accused of not having defended themselves sufficiently or not having expressed their displeasure loudly enough. In some cases, the woman’s behavior was even tested in court in front of all those involved. Even if the woman hesitated to press charges out of shame or fear, this was interpreted negatively.

Of all the sex practices from the Middle Ages, rape was something that was more or less accepted and socially concealed. Although things have improved in the meantime, this problem still exists today.

Other sex practices from the Middle Ages: prostitution

The oldest trade in the world naturally also flourished in the Middle Ages. Prostitutes were not outcasts, they were part of the cityscape. Even the church encouraged its faithful to visit the sex workers. This was more in the spirit of the church than the premature seduction of good, marriageable women.

Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages
Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages

The whores’ knowledge of sex practices from the Middle Ages was appreciated by many. In some cases, the future wives of men asked the prostitutes how they would prefer to be satisfied. Some of the medieval whores were even invited as expert witnesses in court when it came to sex.

Nuns on pilgrimage had to offer their bodies for sale from time to time to cover their travel expenses. This led to various controversies, as nuns were not allowed to own property at this time. The income from their horizontal activities was thus transferred to the church. Acquiring for the Catholic Church? An interesting idea.

The myth of witchcraft

At that time, women’s menstruation was generally referred to as the lunar flow. During this time, women were considered impure and were often said to have magical powers. During the flow of the moon, the girls were supposedly able to manipulate the weather and make men ill. The duration of menstruation was set at seven days in the Middle Ages. Men who still carried out sex practices from the Middle Ages with these girls during this time were also considered unclean.

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In general, women, especially redheads, were under general suspicion of witchcraft. If there were sexual problems within a marriage, it was easy for the man to blame the woman. After all, she was bewitched by him, and only to steal his potency. Accusations of this kind sound very far-fetched today, but were commonplace in the Middle Ages.

Sex practices from the Middle Ages were somewhat rougher than today

Nowadays, the consent of both partners is a basic requirement. But that wasn’t always the case. In the darker times of the Middle Ages, women had far fewer rights than they do today. As a result, sex practices from the Middle Ages were primarily tailored to the needs of men. Cuddling, exchanging caresses and romantic love positions are among the things that women prefer and are therefore secondary. Men usually like rough sex, which can sometimes hurt.

Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages
Unusual sex practices in the Middle Ages

Sex is also a great way to demonstrate power. When one country occupied another, it was practically good form to have the soldiers rape the women of the enemy. A tactic that is now considered a war crime, but is still used far too often.

Did sadomasochism originate in the Middle Ages?

The invention of SM is often attributed to the Marquis de Sade, born in 1740. In his books, he describes sexual preferences that are nowadays acted out by thousands of SM fans. However, sex practices from the Middle Ages suggest that sexual power games existed much earlier. Women had far fewer rights back then than they do today and men were in charge.

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Not only in bed, but of course this fact was also exploited by the masters of creation during sex. Or to get a not-so-willing girl to have sex. The penalties for rape were, as described above, rather lax and the woman had the problem of proof. Men who previously had no dominant tendencies got a taste for it. It was not for nothing that there were a series of legal and ecclesiastical regulations that supported the rights of men.

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As the women of the time had to come to terms with this situation, the first submissive tendencies may have developed. The ladies of that time would never have dreamed that centuries later girls would turn themselves into slaves for fun. Even when looking at an SM studio, certain comparisons to the Middle Ages cannot be denied. The good old pillory, the cages and the chains on the walls are not an invention of our time.

The term torture chamber, which is often used in SM today, also harks back to old medieval castles. Did perverted torturers use nefarious sex practices from the Middle Ages? Possible and definitely enough material for various books and films.

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