Sex in the Middle Ages with Jenna Jaxon
Welcome my friend Jenna Jaxon. She’s here promoting her newest release, the first story, Betrothal from her Time Enough for Love Trilogy.
Thanks, for having me, Casea.
The medieval period is well known for its courtly love. Knights and ladies, chivalry, honor. It also, however, was a time for some pretty interesting sexual shenanigans.
Did you know…
People in medieval times believed that women needed to experience an orgasm in order to conceive. Galen, a prominent Roman physician, insisted that a woman must be aroused and brought to climax–preferably at the same time as her partner–in order to release her “female sperm” and allow a child to be created. To aid in this, there were actual medieval manuals providing detailed instructions for bringing a woman to climax, including suggestions for foreplay.
Because the Church regulated everything about sex, they decreed that the “missionary position” was the correct, sin-free position to procreate. But because people would simply not remain “sin-free,” a German bishop, Albertus-Magnus, came up with a list of the five least objectionable sexual positions and the ones least likely to send you to hell: 1) missionary; 2) side-by-side; 3) sitting; 4) standing; and 5) a tergo (from behind). I wonder what they would have thought about the Kama Sutra?
Oral sex was punishable by three years of imprisonment.
Fashion was an indicator of sexual prowess: the length of a man’s long, pointy shoes (called poulaines) supposedly indicated the length of his penis. Also, the codpiece was a major fashion statement, made to fit over the man’s genitals and sometimes making the man look like he had a hard-on.
If a woman lost her virginity, but wanted to deceive her groom, there were several methods available for her to “fake” virginity. The Hebrew Book of Women’s Love “take myrtle leaves and boil them well with water until only a third part remains; then, take nettles without prickles and boil them in this water until a third remains. She must wash her secret parts with this water in the morning and at bedtime, up to nine days” or, if that will take too long, to “take nutmeg and grind [it] to a powder; put it in that place and [her virginity] will be restored immediately.”
There were various and severe penalties for people who had sex outside of marriage. In 1314, King Phillip of France discovered his three daughters-in-law where having affairs. This scandal, called the Tour de Nesle Affair, resulted in two of the daughters-in-law being found guilty. Their heads were shaved and they were sentenced to life in prison. The two knights with whom they had the affair, Gautier and Philippe d’Aunay, were found guilty, tortured, castrated, and drawn and quartered.
Literature of the period, such as The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, encourage adultery. A “wise woman M., Countess of Champagne, declares that true love cannot exist between a husband and wife.” She also writes the “a precept of love tells us that no woman, even if she is married, can be crowned with the reward of the King of Love unless she is seen to be enlisted in the service of Love himself outside the bonds of wedlock.”
Dildos were known to be used in the middle ages, although the evidence we have is due to the Catholic Church’s setting down punishment for their use. They provide that if a woman made “a device in the shape of the male member of a size to match your sinful desire… you shall do penance for five years on legitimate holy days.”
They just didn’t want you to have any fun!
In the medieval period, it was a custom for the man, after taking his wife’s virginity, to present her with a “morning gift” to compensate for the loss.
This is considered an old wives tale, even in the middle ages, but probably at one time it was thought that men could only sire one child at a time, therefore if a woman gave birth to twins, she was thought to have slept with two men.
Thanks for accompanying me on this little tour of Sex in the Medieval City. So were the “good ole days” really that good, at least in the sex department?
Lady Alyse de Courcy has fallen in love with Lord Braeton, a nobleman in King Edward III’s court and a man to whom she has barely spoken. Fate, however, has decreed her betrothal to his best friend, Sir Geoffrey Longford—a handsome and imposing knight, yet hardly the man she wants to wed.
When Sir Geoffrey is bound in betrothal by his father, he could not have expected the beautiful stranger to win his heart the moment they meet. Nevertheless, the fascinating Lady Alyse has done exactly that, and his feelings for her only grow as he learns more of her gentle yet spirited nature. But Alyse’s infatuation with his friend casts doubt on whether she can ever return his regard and their wedding day is fast approaching…
Will he have time enough to win her love?
Excerpt for Betrothal:
“What do you require of me, Majesty?” Her mouth so dry she could taste sand, Alyse fought to speak in a normal tone. With a sigh of relief, she dropped into a deep curtsy, hiding her face in the folds of her skirt. If only she could remain bowed thus before His Majesty for the remainder of the evening.
King Edward laughed. “Obedience, Lady Alyse, as I require of all my subjects. As your father requires of his daughter.”
Her heart thumped wildly in her breast. That could mean but one thing.
“Rise, my lady.”
She did so on unsteady feet. “I am ready, as always, Your Majesty, to obey my father as I would you.”
Holy Mary, let it be Lord Braeton.
King Edward lifted an eyebrow toward Alyse. “A very pretty answer, my lady. And are you ready to accept your father’s decree for your betrothal? His messenger has today reached me with the contract, as I am to stand in his stead in this matter.”
Alyse took a deep breath and hoped her voice did not tremble. “Yea, Majesty, I will obey my father.”
King Edward nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Queen Phillipa, who sat beside him, heavy with their twelfth child.
Mere seconds before she learned her fate. She could scarce affect an indifferent pose before the court when inside every inch of her quivered with anticipation of the name. His name, pray God, on the king’s lips.
In her mind, she heard the word.
The king straightened, glanced at her then at the man by her side.
“What say you then, Sir Geoffrey? Does the lady not speak fair? I vow she will make you a proper wife and a dutiful one as well.”
Alyse turned, until that moment unaware that Geoffrey Longford stood beside her. Chills coursed down her body as the king’s words echoed in her mind. The sensation of falling backward assailed her, as though she rushed away from the tall man at her side even as his figure loomed larger and larger in her sight.
Not Lord Braeton.
Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband. Geoffrey Longford.
God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.
Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.
Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.” His eyes held hers as he paused.
Dear God, does he mean to renounce me here before the entire court?
Alyse stared at the man beside her, willing herself to remain upright, despite the waves of ice and fire alternating through her body.
“Now I find I would rather play the ardent lover.”
An amused murmur ran through the Hall at his words. Sir Geoffrey grinned, his eyes sparkling with humor and something more. Despite the uneven light, Alyse saw an unfathomable promise in their dark depths. She took a shaky breath and looked away.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance, Only Scandal Will Do, the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction. She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published this summer as a series of three novellas. The first book, Betrothal, released on April 19th.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.