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The Middle Ages

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Western University
History 2185
Monda Helpern

Oct, 22, 2012 The Middle Ages th th -Deals with the 10 century to the 14 century and there is a transition from marriages that were pragmatic economic arrangements to the idea of romantic or courtly love and the church did not approve this -Was a contradiction in the prescriptive literature of the church versus actual sexual behaviour of everyday people -The status of women was low in these times and they were seen as the root of all problems and this attitude stemmed from Genesis and they were seen as sexually voracious, lustful, and predatory and the church couldn’t forgive their ultimate betrayal in the Garden of Eden -They were regarded as property and they could be beaten within certain bounds -Women’s menstrual blood was seen as evil and containing female seed that needed to be expunged from the body each month and it if was not it was thought the blood would suffocate their uterus and this would lead to many illnesses like fainting and madness -They didn’t understand anatomy so pregnancy was a desired thing but it stopped the blood from coming out and this was a bit of a contradiction but they did not see it this way -Getting rid of the blood was necessary for the safety of the women and their husbands (thought it was poison) and it was believed if her blood flowed to her eyes her stare could kill someone -They were very superstitious and they believed fanatically in religion and they also believed in magic -The attitudes about women translated into a very weak status for wives and girls got married at a very young age around puberty and this is because people were not living long at all (average was 30’s) -They also married young because death was very common for all age groups (time of the plague) and it’s estimated in a village of 100 households there would be one funeral a week (superstition explained deaths) -Marriages had little to do with love early on and they were economic alliances between families and they were regarded in property as part of the dowry (most money made the girl more attractive for marriage) -Investigated and scrutinized before marriage by the local clergy and they actually inspected all aspects of her body and then they would write reports of their findings (health, proportions, attractiveness, suitable for child birth, etc) -Church was highly intrusive in sexual and marital lives of their followers and women who had a previous reputation for being a sinner were especially scrutinized -It is true that women as the church suspected did not always follow the dictates of the church and neither did men in terms of sexual behaviour but women were punished much worse -Practiced contraception even though it was banned because child birth was their leading cause of death -Some methods were to drink the intestines of a rabbit, wearing a pack of herbs around the neck, but the most affective way was abstinence and drinking a mans urine would put you off men and turn off the man as well -It was believed if they swallowed a bee they would never conceive but none of these methods worked and they were based on wives tales not science -The interesting part is that women instigated contraception and not men but at this time this was not something for single women but a means for married women to control family growth -The church wasn’t impressed with the control they had over their own bodies and there were strict dictates -Sex was only allowed to happen in a marriage, only with a man and a woman, and only for procreation but this was not followed by the public so to enforce the dictates the church became obsessed with punishing people who engaged in different kinds of sex with different types of people -The obsession got worse because it was trying to regulate and punish what it saw as deviant sexual behaviour and this was seen as intensifying with courtly love -Courtly love emerged in the 12 century and it was a revolutionary shift in the way people thought about love and sex especially among the elite and it originated in southern France where travelling musicians and poets began to talk about women and love in a new way and they were called troubadours -They were talking about women and love in a way that was romantic, passionate, and sensual instead of talking about them in marriage and economics and they placed them on a pedestal -They spoke of men yearning for women and missing them and there were new ideas about falling in love -These new ideas were circulated by these people but one woman really popularized this and her name was Mary de Champagne who was the daughter of Louis XII and she embraced these ideas about courtly love (love popularized in the court and monarchy) and she promoted this among the elite and turned it into what was seen at the time as a fad Oct, 22, 2012 -Soon the notions were wide spread among aristocrats across Europe but people spoke of love before this time but they talked about it less in romantic terms and more in spiritual terms (love of god and religion) -There was a new generation exploring this new kind of love through writings assuming that if man felt emotion for a woman he would do anything for her -Courtly love was seen as dangerous to the church because they did not create it and it was from the secular world -A common theme was unrequited love where the man did not end up with the woman he loved -Created a new standard by which people measured their own relationships and sexual behaviour and this was in contrast to the marriages of the preceding era -The church did get on board to a certain extent and some argue that some clergy said men and women were supposed to treat each other well and both had to take responsibility for the success or failure of a marriage -Marriages were often the site of much abuse focusing mostly on women because they were a patriarchal society -The church knew the ideal they preached did not match the reality of many people but one of the main things the church couldn’t reconcile with was the argument that true love couldn’t exist in marriage and that it only flourished outside of marriage and this was very unconventional and seen as threatening social stability -Huge backlas
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