On Dildos and Penance

Last week on twitter I had a little chat about the presence of dildos in the penitential of Burchard of Worms, which raised some questions.

For those who have managed to escape the morass that is the twitter hellscape, a brief recap before we get on to making a historical point™. Burchard of Worms was the Bishop of Worms, which was an extremely influential Holy Roman Imperial city, and which we generally think of now in relation to the Diet of Worms, where Martin Luther (who is just a second-rate Jan Hus, but whatever), was tried. Burchard, however, was working five blissful centuries before Luther came on the scene, i.e. at the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh centuries, and he was massively influential in making canon, or Church, law. He is also very well known for making his own penitential.

For those who were not raised Catholic, a penitential is – more or less – a book that gives guidance to priests who are giving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was known as the Sacrament of Penance in the medieval period. This is where Catholics (aka any non-Orthodox Christians in the medieval period) go into a little booth and tell a priest what sins they have committed. The priest then tells them what penance they have to do in order to be forgiven of the sins and reconciled with God.

Continue reading “On Dildos and Penance”

Advertisements

On No Nut November

My loves, I am very sorry, but we have to talk about No Nut November. Why, you may ask, would I say something like that to you? And you would be right to do so. Why would I ask you to contemplate a month-long abstinence exercise for men propagated on reddit? The answer to that, sadly, is because the whole misguided, misogynist, pseudo-science binfire has all the hallmarks of medieval medical and theological thought on sex, and that is my job. I take no pleasure in saying this, because as you know, I think it is very important to be careful when using the word “medieval” to describe something. Yet, here we are.

For the up-until-this-point blissfully ignorant out there, No Nut November, (or NNN), was brought to us by the genius minds of Reddit, and the stated goal of these gentlemen is not to “nut” AKA orgasm for the month of November. (Yeah I’m not going to link this for you. It;s too weird.) Initially this idea spawned when some bright spark got a hold of one (1) study that showed a period of abstinence from masturbation in ten healthy men lead to a spike of testosterone production in the subjects. (Don’t even get me started on the sample size here.) This apparently is seen as a definitive good, and some dudes decided that they would refrain from jacking it for a month in order to get this extra hormone rush for some reason. (IDK. YKINMKATOK, I guess.)
Continue reading “On No Nut November”

On cuckolding – a thing

The world around us has become so persistently unhinged that it’s sometimes hard to focus on just one terrible/weird thing at a time at this point.  There’s a sexual assaulting game show host as president of the United States, escalating unapologetic white supremacy world-wide, and your friends openly liking hentai on the Twitter TL. We’re all inured at this point.

One of the millions of weird things that has come to be in the hellscape of social media (other than the hentai) is the joyful use among the white supremacists of the word “cuck” as an insult. Those of us who live online, and even those of us who are just forced to exist in this squalid farce of a society, are sadly aware that “cuck” is a foreshortening of the word “cuckold”, and what these sad little men (it’s always men) mean is that the person in question is being cheated on by their female partner. (Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t start it.)

Because I am a medieval historian this is, to me, what we in the business like to refer to as “fucking hilarious”. Why is that? Well, because the same people bandying about the word cuck are the same ones who are frequently harping on (and on, and on) about how the trouble with our society is that we need to refer to “traditional values”, as we have lost our way.

Continue reading “On cuckolding – a thing”

Considering bad motherfuckers: Hildegard of Bingen and Janelle Monáe

I, like all the best people, have spent the last month or so being absolutely amazed that there was a time before Janelle Monáe’s ‘Dirty Computer’ existed, and that apparently there was music before now. It’s a lot to deal with, you know? Obviously, this album is important for a number of reasons, the most pressing of which is that it BANGS. However, it is also an amazing record of queerness and female auteurship in a male dominated society.

And of course, all of this is rather like the work of Hildegard of Bingen.

Continue reading “Considering bad motherfuckers: Hildegard of Bingen and Janelle Monáe”

On Incels and Courtly Love

knight and chad

Because the world is a garbage place, unfortunately this week suddenly a few more people are aware of what Incels are, and that said Incels are capable of killing people because they are simultaneously incapable of getting play.

Now this is hugely upsetting, disappointing, and all-around disgusting. Also, like pretty much every disgusting thing about our society’s relationship to sex and love, we can trace its roots to the horrifying ideas of relationships and love enshrined in the concept of courtly love.

Continue reading “On Incels and Courtly Love”

On Courtly Love, Sexual Coercion, and Killing Your Idols

Presumably, there will come a time when we will no longer need think pieces on how courtly love as a construct has poisoned romantic and sexual interactions – especially straight ones. Unfortunately, today is not that day, and we have learned once again, and to our sorrow, that our favs are problematic and our idols must be sacrificed. So, we’re gonna talk about it.

I am here to tell you that any time you hear about men being super pushy about sexual advances and not taking no for an answer, you can pretty much trace the enshrinement of said behaviour back to the OG problematic bin-fire, Andreas Capellanus.

We’ve talked about Andreas several times before because he has a lot to fucking answer for. For those new to the game (and sleeping on my insights about Hotline Bling), Andreas, was, as his name suggests a chaplain. Obviously, he was therefore uniquely suited to giving out romantic advice. He wrote an actual guide on the rules of love, called De Amore, which is really something fucking special.
Continue reading “On Courtly Love, Sexual Coercion, and Killing Your Idols”

Sex and the (medieval) city: social hygiene and sex in the medieval urban landscape

I gave a talk for the London Science Museum Lates on medieval sexuality and the ways in which cities responded to what were considered the competing needs for sex and a harmonious Christian landscape.
Included: swearing, manuscript pictures of penises, and a lot of talk about sex work.
Enjoy!


For more on sex work in the medieval period see:
These hoes ain’t loyal – on bad bitches and prostitutes in medieval and hip hop culture
On sex work and the concept of ‘rescue’

For more on sex and attraction in the medieval period see:
On women and desire
The history of penis in vagina as default sex at Bish!
On incels and courtly love
On courtly love, sexual coercion, and killing your idols
On the ideal form of women
On power and entitlement to the bodies of lower-status women, or, the thing that IS actually medieval about Trump
On Hotline Bling and courtly love