04 Feb 5 Most Shocking Revelations About Medieval Dick
The Middle Ages: Horniness Without End and No Way to Google Anything.
This past week, while I was in sunny Miami, an article came across my inbox describing the woes and wants of the sex lives of people in the Middle Ages. The Salacious Middle Ages is a brilliant essay/exploration by Katherine Harvey, and answers every question you never knew you had about fucking and penising in the times before Renaissance Faires.
I feel like I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about how our (basically nonsense) “morality” relating to sexual behavior is a relatively new phenomenon and that the way we view and categorize sex acts (anal, oral, masturbatory) and the people who have them (gay, straight, bi) are exceptionally new and nearly entirely Western in their use and origin. This article was a nice reminder that if you’re getting bogged down with guilt or fear or shame in our modern sex culture, that it wasn’t this way just a few hundred years ago.
If you have the time and inclination, the book Sex Before Sexuality is a great academic primer to all the things nobody thought to teach you about real history. I’ve long planned a full review of that work here, but I haven’t gotten to it yet (which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore it anyway).
Sexuality lays out in explicit detail the commonality of fornication and that it frequently took place between willing partners of any gender without a tremendous amount of hemming and hawing over labels. Men fucked, nuns diddled one another, and the Church’s primary issues with it weren’t that God was concerned about sinning, or that fornication was somehow amoral, that but that extramarital fornication would not expressly benefit the Church (read: the coffers of the Church). The notions of homosexual sex being sinful or that sex in itself was sinful (originally the crux of the “sin” was that one enjoyed the sex. As long as you didn’t have any fun, god didn’t give any fucks about how much seed got blasted in/on/out of you) were ideas conceived much later along the road to serve very clear (usually finance-driven) goals. The Church had a business to maintain, after all.
The 5 Most Shocking Revelations About Medieval Dick:
You gotta wash your Medieval dick so’s you don’t get leprosy. 🧟
“The 14th-century English physician John of Gaddesden suggested several protective measures that a man should take after having sexual relations with a woman he believed to be leprous. He should cleanse his penis as soon as possible, either with his own urine or with vinegar and water. Then he should undergo intensive bleeding by a phlebotomist, followed by a three-month course of purgation, ointments and medication.”
Lesson: You should probably wash your penis anyway. Even if you’re not worried about leprosy. The introduction of foreign bacteria and lube to such sensitive skin can be fine in the shorter term, but maybe don’t sleep with a spermy dick.
All work and no sploosh makes Jack a dull (dead?) boy. 💀
“On the other hand, medieval medical authority held that too little sex presented a medical problem: celibacy was potentially detrimental to health, particularly for young men. Long-term celibacy meant the retention of excess semen, which would affect the heart, which in turn could damage other parts of the body. The celibate might experience symptoms including headaches, anxiety, weight loss and, in the most serious cases, death. Although celibacy was highly valued as a spiritual virtue in medieval society, in medical terms the celibate was as much at risk as the debauchee.”
Lesson: Get that seed out! There’s no reason to hold it in (moral or otherwise), and regular prostate exercise just makes that little guy stronger, healthier and happier.
Are you crying?! There’s no crying in bateball! 😭
“Weeping (for example, the lachrymose prayers favoured by pious individuals) could also serve as an alternative to sexual intercourse, with the blood that would have been converted into semen instead producing tears. Exercise and bathing, both of which produced sweat, were also useful for those who wished to practise long-term abstinence.”
Lesson: You can cry and take hot baths all you want, but we know now that you’re not going to weep or sweat out the sperm building up in your nards. So get to whacking.
Learn when to stop penising, or your brain will shrink. 🧠
“As with sexual intercourse, masturbation was to be enjoyed in moderation. Albertus told of a lustful monk who came to an unfortunate end: having ‘desired’ a beautiful woman 70 times before matins [morning prayer], the monk died. His autopsy revealed that his brain had shrunk to the size of a pomegranate, while his eyes had been destroyed. The manner of his death reflected one of the terrible realities of medieval life: sin was just one of many dangers associated with sex.”
Lesson: The truth is you can do it as much as you want. I promise it won’t shrink your brain. But maybe consider being more mindful about how you do it, so you can go longer and enjoy it more?
Seriously. Just masturbate. It’s what god wants. 👼🏻
“For women lacking regular sexual relations, they offered a variety of treatments, including, stimulation of the genitals (either by the patient or by a medical professional). If such a woman could not marry (for example, because she was a nun), and if her life was in genuine danger, then genital massage might be the only solution, and could even be performed without sin.”
Lesson: Everybody Masturbates. And should.
You can read the whole article on Aeon.co, and it is fascinating on every level. It might help to reframe some of your personal woes and worries about the weight of sexual interaction or private penis time. Or it might just be good for some laughs at the ways we’ve misunderstood the penis and the body for centuries (and often still do!).