There are some pretty wacky ideas and debates about sex these days, but looking back on Medieval religious and social doctrines makes our sexual culture seem a little bit less complicated. For one, even sexual pleasure within a marriage was considered sinful; it had to be scheduled based on the woman’s menstrual cycle and the church calendar to ensure that both parties experienced as little pleasure as possible.
Another inconceivably absurd and convoluted rules applies to male homosexual sex, which was typically punishable by an impossible 10 years of fasting. If you mistakenly have sex with “an effeminate male” that’s also frowned upon, and one is instructed to fast for 4 years. For comparison’s sake, if you have sex with an animal, you can atone if you fast for 15 years. Jeez; thank goodness over the last hundreds of years we’ve had LGBT activists and sex-positive ideas on feminism and intimacy.
If you’re worried that you’ve sinned in your sex life— and judging by these rules, you probably have— the scholar James A. Brundage has created this handy—and hilarious— little flow chart that’ll let you know if it’s okay to shimmy into the bedroom.
Published February 7, 2014